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How Working from a Place of Rest Led to Conference Time and Python

February 07, 2024
By Sophia Berger, class of 2025

Student life dramatically changed when Rockbridge Academy implemented Conference Time at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. Now, all students in grades seven through twelve enjoy a 30-minute period after the 20-minute lunch break and 15 minutes set aside for recess, mentoring, or service. Conference Time was designed for students to be used as a built-in study hall, an opportunity to make or attend clubs, and an ideal meeting time with teachers. In the past, students could only meet for clubs and with teachers during lunch, which would take away time that could be spent with friends, eating, or recharging for the upcoming classes. With the development of Conference Time, students can enjoy more freedom and opportunities to connect with others from different grades and stages of life. 

According to Mandy Ball, Upper School Principal of Rockbridge Academy, one of the inspirations behind Conference Time was the idea of “working from a place of rest,” one of Rockridge Academy's core values. She went on to say that this designated time in the school day allows for students “to do things necessary for flourishing and not just surviving.” The administrators hope that Conference Time allows students to experience a break from the busy school day and the ability to expand their own areas of interest through clubs. 

Students have the option to use Conference Time as a free period for taking a break during which they can decide for themselves the wisest way to manage their time. This could include using the time as a study hall, which was one of the main reasons for its implementation, so that students have the daily opportunity to relieve work from their busy schedules. The time can also be used to meet up with teachers, which I assure you can be very helpful when answering last-minute questions before a Chemistry test! In addition to using it for school related activities, it can be used to simply take a break by chatting with friends, drawing, or perusing the library. Conference Time gives students more freedom, yet also allows them to practice time regulation. 

Conference Time has been instrumental in the growth of clubs which, in turn, allow students to grow themselves in ways that differ from their academics. Rockbridge now boasts over 15 unique clubs for students in the dialectic and rhetoric years (7-12). These clubs give students the opportunity to bond over hobbies and interests that might not otherwise be covered in the Rockbridge curriculum, allowing friendships to flourish regardless of age differences. These clubs span topics such as sports, food, art, and communal prayer time, all working to make Rockbridge a more well-rounded learning environment. 

A new development for Conference Time this year is a secondary rhetoric Python programming elective which takes place during Tuesday and Thursday Conference Times. This rhetoric elective is open to students in the calculus math track and taught by upper school teacher, Daron Lawing. Mrs. Ball said that the school has been trying to include a secondary elective for some time now, but it was difficult because of the early dismissals for sports on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She stressed that this elective is a pilot intended to test whether students will be able to handle another elective in their busy schedules.

Many students were excited about the programming option and its reflection of the growing STEM programs at Rockbridge. Python was chosen because it shows the application of math to the real world and how the realms of math and language intersect. Mrs. Ball also made the important clarification that, just like all Rockbridge science classes, the goal of this program is “not STEM for STEM’s sake but for looking at all of God’s creation.” This elective gives students the chance to learn the basics of coding and to further explore the unique designs of our Creator. 

The entire development of Conference Time has been a blessing to the Rockbridge community, allowing growth in every area of the school and providing the ability for students, as well as staff, to have a more communal and holistic school experience. Through these changes, Rockbridge students have benefited from the freedom to participate in clubs, new electives, and a quiet break from the day which allows for a healthier learning environment where students can truly work from a place of rest. 


Sophia Berger (class of 2025) is in 11th grade and currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper, The Rockbridge Reporter. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, playing the flute, and going on walks.

The Roots of Rockbridge Academy

January 24, 2024
By Olivia Reardon, Class of 2022

Like most great things in this world, Rockbridge Academy was born out of a problem. In 1994, a few like-minded couples with children reaching school age began to ask the question, “How are we going to educate our kids?” These parents desired a Christ-centered education for their children, yet as they surveyed Maryland's education landscape, they found it severely lacking. Not willing to settle when it came to their children, and especially their children’s relationship with the Lord, these couples set out upon a journey that led to the founding of the school we know and love today. Out of prayerful consideration, dedicated work, and God’s faithfulness, Rockbridge Academy came to be.

Out of prayerful consideration, dedicated work, and God’s faithfulness, Rockbridge Academy came to be.

Rockbridge Academy was founded by Rob and Laura Tucker, Dave and Kim Hatcher, and Mark and Kathy Lease: six parents with strong faith and a clear mission. One of these founders and mother of two Rockbridge graduates, Laura Tucker, says she and the other parents “desired to have a Christ-centered education for [their children] and godly training that reflected their training at home.” Tucker imagined a situation in which the training her children received at home and at school flowed seamlessly together, all pointing toward Christ. Jana Trovato, a parent of five Rockbridge graduates who became a part of the Rockbridge family in its third year, explains that this would look like “subjects taught under the Word of God, from teachers and staff that love God, who loved what they taught, who were aiming to live faithfully to him and to encourage their students in their relationship to Christ.” Clearly, an education in which Christ is foremost was important to Rockbridge founders and early families.

Clearly, an education in which Christ is foremost was important to Rockbridge founders and early families.

With this mission in mind, these parents began to prayerfully consider their options. Trovato cites Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning by Douglas Wilson as a resource that greatly influenced the start of Rockbridge. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning provides a practical approach to the principles of classical education as outlined by Dorothy Sayers in her essay “The Lost Tools of Learning.” Trovato explains that Rockbridge is “classical in the sense of teaching all subjects via the Trivium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages, consistent with the ages of the children and their development stages, in giving the students tools of learning, a love for learning, for life-long learning.” These concepts come straight from Sayers’ essay. Additionally, classical education is focused on educating the students’ hearts and minds. Heidi Stevens, who began teaching at Rockbridge in 1997 and is now a board member, says that “the emphasis on human formation that runs through classical education's content-rich curriculum invites students to seek wisdom and virtue while maturing as whole and able people.” Here was the model of education that would both teach their children academics and nurture their character in submission to God. Now that these couples had their mission and their plan, all that was left to do was pray that if it be His will, God would provide the means to build a school.

Here was the model of education that would both teach their children academics and nurture their character in submission to God.

As one might imagine, starting a school from nothing and no money takes much time and hard work, and the path to establishing Rockbridge was far from straight. Nonetheless, God provided at every turn. Tucker explains that “in July before Rockbridge Academy opened, God provided three teachers with one as a Head of School, and they knew they were not promised a paycheck. Nonetheless, they were convinced that classical Christian education was crucial, and they desired to be a part of it.” One of these teachers was Jen Schingeck, who was convinced to join forces with these founders by reading Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning. In addition to teachers, the founders were searching for a building to house their school. Schingeck explains that the Baldwin Educational building was willing to rent the bottom room of their building to Rockbridge, but it needed renovations. So Rockbridge met at Riva Trace Baptist Church until the renovations were complete. Tucker says, “God provided everything just in time for the doors to open in September 1995. It was truly His work, and He made it clear by keeping the six founders on their knees until the last minute asking Him to provide.” Through the hard work of these founders and God’s faithful hand, Rockbridge Academy opened its doors in 1995 with 23 students K-4th grade.

Through the hard work of these founders and God’s faithful hand, Rockbridge Academy opened its doors in 1995 with 23 students K-4th grade.

Although this was a momentous occasion, it did not mark the end of difficulty and hard work. The first year proved exhausting for these teachers as they taught many subjects and grade levels and developed curriculum. And the teachers were not the only ones sacrificing time and energy for this school; it truly was a community endeavor. Tucker comments that “throughout the first year, [parents] volunteered to sweep the floors and clean the classrooms because they were grateful and delighted to watch their children learn in this classical Christian setting.” But in the midst of these hardships, God continued to provide. He provided people happy to serve their children and their community, the resources needed for the students to continue learning, monthly paychecks for the teachers, and enough students to keep the doors open. In fact, by the second year, God had tripled student attendance. And Rockbridge only continued to grow from there.

Now, 29 years later, it is easy to look back and see God’s faithfulness throughout the life of Rockbridge Academy. The Lord faithfully provided our own campus where over 400 students now learn and fellowship together. Trovato echoes the six founders' vision when she says, “From the beginning, the desire and vision was to build a school that would be for generations, not only for our children, but for our children's children; for generations to come.” Mr. and Mrs. Trovato are able to see the beginnings of this vision as they have a grandson currently in 3rd grade at Rockbridge. Additionally, the Lord continues to provide amazing faculty and staff who all desire to train up the next generation in submission to Christ, of which Jen Schingeck and her husband, Bob, are still a part. The Schingecks’ five children now attend Rockbridge, and Jen notes that “one of the sweetest most amazing things was realizing that in those years that I sacrificed my time and resources to the Lord by working at Rockbridge, the Lord’s plan was for my children to eventually benefit from that work.” God’s faithfulness is always at work, often in ways that we cannot even imagine.

 “From the beginning, the desire and vision was to build a school that would be for generations, not only for our children, but for our children's children; for generations to come.” 

These founders’ vision, mission, and hard work as upheld by God’s faithfulness are the roots of Rockbridge Academy. Although the founders’ idea began as a little mustard seed, their tender care and God’s providence sent its roots down deep and branches high. As our branches continue to soar heavenward, as Rockbridge continues to minister to God’s people, it is my prayer that we never forget the roots that uphold us, for without them this school would never be. In the midst of the Lord’s abundant blessings, let us remain on our knees forever, thanking and praising God for His faithfulness.

 As our branches continue to soar heavenward, as Rockbridge continues to minister to God’s people, it is my prayer that we never forget the roots that uphold us, for without them this school would never be. In the midst of the Lord’s abundant blessings, let us remain on our knees forever, thanking and praising God for His faithfulness.

 

Olivia Reardon, class of 2022, currently attends Messiah University where she studies English, education, and dance. When she is not tutoring at the Writing Center or performing with Messiah's dance ensemble, she can be found reading, spending time with friends, and eating ice cream.

Posted in School Culture

Recent Posts

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11/8/23 - By Dr. Marc LiVecche

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