Creating Independent, Happy Learners.
By Meghan Levi Photos Kimberlee Miller
One step into Brynlee Academy and you know you are somewhere special. Bright, colorful, and bursting with joy, every inch of the schoolhouse sparks imagination. “When you come to Brynlee Academy you see teachers who love teaching and students who love learning” remarked co-owner Brenda VanHorn. The idea for Brynlee Academy started as a simple playground conversation between Brenda and co-owner Gloria Nagel. Each an avid researcher, they had a shared educational philosophy – create a space for children to learn on an individual level, make one-on-one learning a reality. Brooke Winchester joined the team as the third owner, and pulling from their research of the Finnish school system, years of teaching experience, and visits to like-minded academies, Brynlee Academy was born. As Brooke puts it, they are “creating an education per student, not per classroom,” a belief that is on full display at Brynlee Academy.
Class sizes are small, never more than 12 children, allowing the students to create and participate in unique project-based learning. Historical figures are researched and then brought to life through a wax museum exhibit. State history is studied through the creation of toys and tools used by the native tribes of Idaho. Teaching life skills is an important focus at Brynlee Academy as well. Students create their own products and present them to community leaders Shark Tank® style. Gloria teaches her fifth graders the mechanics of running a small business using play-based education. “Learning through play doesn’t need to stop in the older grades, we learn with our hands, we are moving, we are visiting local small businesses, and we are having so much fun.”
Community service is also infused into the curriculum at Brynlee Academy. Brenda shares “we teach our kids to be a joyful part of their community and to understand how valuable a healthy community is for everyone.” The students have raised funds for the Eagle Fire Department and the City of Lights, sang at Grace Assisted Living, and sent care packages to overseas troops. Fostering a love of giving back and caring for others pays tribute to Brynlee Academy’s namesake. Brenda’s daughter, and Brooke’s sister, Brittany died in a motor vehicle accident with a distracted driver. Brittany was nine months pregnant with her daughter Brynlee. The accident happened just one day past Brittany’s due date. Tragically, Brynlee also did not survive the accident. Naming the academy after Brynlee was Gloria’s idea, and a way to showcase how deeply cherished each child is at Brynlee Academy. “We love the family culture our great teachers work so hard to foster. Parents can be involved in their child’s education and our kids are super happy. We never hear complaints about going to school” commented Brynlee Academy parent Megan Stevens.
Prospective families can check out Brynlee Academy by attending an open house on May 10th 3:00pm-6:30pm, May 11th 11:00am-3:00pm, June 21st 3:00pm-6:30pm or June 22nd 11:00am-3:00pm. For more information visit http://www.brynleeacademy.com.