September 5, 2008

High School Pioneers Hitch Up Their Wagons


Regent Prepara-tory School's first graduating class begins its fresh-man year.

In several ways, Regent Preparatory School's ninth-grade classes are different from most in public schools.

It's only the first week of school and teachers already know all the students' names, but with only eight people in the freshmen class, that's not too difficult.

Group discussion is encouraged, even in geometry class, where theological themes are used to emphasize the definitions of lines, rays and segments.

It's also the first time Regent has had a freshmen class. These freshmen will be the first seniors when Regent graduates its first class in four years. Each year, the private school at 8621 S. Memorial Drive will add a grade, until 2012, when it becomes a prekindergarten-through- 12th-grade institution.

"It feels like we're the pioneers," said freshman Olivia Caruthers, who has attended Regent since first grade. "It feels great to be the first ones to do everything, plow the way for the other grades."

Freshman Isaac Sappington, who has attended Regent since third grade, said it's a big responsibility to be the first graduating class.

"Everyone looks up to you," he said.

Headmaster Andrew Shapleigh said Regent opened in 2000 with 61 students in prekindergarten through third grade. It has expanded to 335 students and has started the final phase by adding high school this school year.

"It's phenomenally exciting to think to graduate a class," he said. "We've hired a guidance counselor. It's exciting to think about them going to university."

What makes Regent unique is the classical and Christian model it follows, Shapleigh said. Younger children, at the grammar level, learn factual information and memorization. In the middle school years, students move into the logic stage, where class discussion and questions are encouraged.

Finally, in high school, students are in the rhetoric stage, where they learn better communication skills.

Shapleigh said school officials have tried hard to give the new freshmen the high school experience, complete with rotating classes and lockers.

Being in a small class setting also has advantages because teaching is more individualized and teachers get to know the students, he said.

That's something Sappington especially likes about Regent.

"The teachers here, they connect with the students. It's more than teachers teach, students learn. They get to know you more," he said. "They're doing what they love. It comes through in their teaching."

Another aspect of a typical high school experience is Friday night football, which Regent is participating in for the first time this year with an eight-man team of middle and high school students.

Academics, not athletics, is the focus of Regent, but sports has been something that has grown over the years, Shapleigh said.

"It has come largely from the population," he said. "Students have talents, and they need that outlet."

The school is in the middle of a capital improvements campaign to build a gymnasium, field and separate high school building.

The new building will be needed in several years, when elementary and middle school classes, each with 30 more students, move into high school.

Sara Plummer 581-8465

[email protected]

Originally published by SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer.

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