Pathfinder, initiator, trailblazer; a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area, or to develop or be the first to use or apply a new method, area of knowledge, or activity.
Springs are sources of fresh water, and also symbols of fresh and new ideas too. However, springs carry additional significance to the North Mecklenburg’s history that our school wishes to honor. The fresh water springs located near the heart of old Cornelius, Tanning Springs and Virgin Springs, attracted pioneers, soldiers, and travelers to our community long before our towns existed, and even before our country was formed.
Year one at Pioneer Springs consists of one kindergarten and one first grade class with a maximum of 20 students each. Each school year, an additional grade will be added to Pioneer Springs. We consider small class sizes and a low student/teacher ratio essential elements of our classroom environment. Pioneer Springs provides additional instruction in five special areas of study: art, music, Spanish, PE, and nature connections. Called Connects, these classes meet weekly and are taught by specialists.
August 1, 2012 marked our official opening as a low-tuition private school. Pioneer Springs is in the process of becoming a 501c3 non-profit entity. The Founders plan to apply for a NC Public School Charter. The tuition cost is $550 per month or $5500 annual tuition; $11,000 worth of financial aid is available per class. Financial aid will be provided as a first come-first served, need-based award.
Pioneer Springs Community School was created to give more families the opportunity to be a part of a community school built on the Basic School principles of Dr. Ernest L. Boyer. At Pioneer Springs, we believe a school can:
- Keep the urge to learn burning bright in every student through individualized, hands-on exploration of an integrated curriculum.
- Foster the growth of the whole student: physically, emotionally, creatively, socially, as well as academically.
- Function as a true community of learning in which students, parents, teachers, and staff all work together to achieve common goals.
Pioneer Springs Community School strives to embody the ideas of the late Dr. Ernest L. Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, as outlined in his book, The Basic School: A Community for Learning. The Basic School provides a new vision of the role formal education can play in the lives of students; one in which the various languages of learning are used to gain insight into the human experience, and which addresses all aspects of students’ development to prepare them for lifelong learning and success. The touchstone for decision making at Pioneer Springs will always be: “Is this best for children?”
According to The Basic School by Dr. Ernest L. Boyer, there are four building blocks to promote each student’s learning.
1. The School as Community – At Pioneer Springs, we seek to create a true community of learning in which students are respected and taught as individuals, teachers are empowered to lead and inspire, and parents are included as essential participants in their child’s education. In the classroom, collaborative problem solving and respectful conflict resolution set the tone for a lifetime of successful peer interaction.
2. A Curriculum with Coherence – The rigorous curriculum at Pioneer Springs has as its minimum standard the Common Core State and NC Essential Standards. However, at Pioneer Springs, this curriculum is organized to highlight connections across various fields of study, with an emphasis on universal and defining human experiences. In this way, students not only become literate in a variety of disciplines, but are also well-equipped to apply their knowledge to the multi-faceted world outside the classroom.
3. A Climate for Learning – A Pioneer Springs classroom is a safe, happy, engaging environment filled with resources that allow students to learn in ways to which they naturally respond. We maintain a low student/teacher ratio, student grouping arrangements are flexible, and movement and exercise are built into the daily schedule. Opportunities for learning extend outward to include the greater community and natural world that surrounds us.
4. A Commitment to Character – The Pioneer Springs experience is designed not only to support learning, but purposeful living as well. Seven core virtues identified by Dr. Boyer: honesty, respect, responsibility, compassion, self-discipline, perseverance and giving, are instilled in students both in the classroom and in real-world service opportunities. We believe these core virtues apply not only to our relationships with others, but also in our stewardship of our natural environment.
Jill Partridge, Kindergarten
Jill Partridge has taught on both coasts, and worked in both public and private schools. But after moving to Lake Norman and volunteering at the Community School of Davidson, she knew she had found the environment she wanted to teach in. Says Jill, “I immediately identified with the style of teaching the Basic School philosophy enables. The integrated curriculum allows children to explore and learn in their own way, and things make more sense to children when lessons in different subjects relate to one another. This is how I was trained to teach, and I am thrilled to be at Pioneer Springs, where I can embrace this teaching style again.”
Jill received her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education along with a minor in Spanish from the State University of New York in Oneonta. She has taught in New York, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and most recently, Charlotte/Mecklenburg.
Jill, her husband John, and their children Pamela and Alex have lived in the Lake Norman area since the mid-2000′s. Jill enjoys playing tennis, racquetball, bowling, biking, walking her dogs, and reading.
Mary Mix, First Grade
Living abroad has shaped the way Mary Mix teaches, whether it’s the children of diplomats in Moldova or her first grade class at Pioneer Springs Community School. “We moved a lot growing up, and that hasn’t changed now that I have a family of my own,” says Mix, who taught for two years in Moldova while her husband was stationed at the U.S. embassy there. “It’s important that we think globally and incorporate our whole world into our educational experience. The Basic School philosophy we follow at Pioneer Springs relates curriculum to real-life human experiences that are shared across cultures, so learning takes on a whole new dimension for students.”
Mix graduated from the University of South Florida and is currently pursuing a Masters in Science. In addition to teaching in Moldova, she has also taught elementary school in Florida, the Wake County Public School System, and Community School of Davidson. When asked what first attracted her to Pioneer Springs, Mix said, “I believe in the Basic School philosophy, and I love Pioneer Springs’ historic setting and emphasis on our natural world.”
Mary and her husband Craig have three children, Samantha, Davis, and Brent. The Mix family has called Lake Norman home for the past 16 years. In her spare time Mary enjoys gardening, cooking, and raising chickens.
Cheryl Demers, Director
Cheryl Demers didn’t set out to start a new school. However, after reviewing her family’s options as her son prepared to enter first grade, she decided to do something positive to make a difference. “The schools in our area we were most excited about were charters with holistic educational philosophies,” she explains. “However, the waiting lists were so long that it was next to impossible to get in. It became clear to me that our area needed more schools like this to keep up with the demand.”
Cheryl is a certified Handwriting Without Tears specialist, and in addition to her role as Pioneer Springs’ Director, she will assist in the classroom with individualized handwriting support. Cheryl will also oversee the Health and Natural Connections area of the school’s curriculum.
Cheryl holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Tennessee and a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Communication. Her previous work experience has been as a yoga instructor, a Hospice social worker, and an Ombudsman to residents of long-term care facilities. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Schoolhouse in Huntersville, where her son attended preschool. Cheryl was also a leader with the La Leche League in the Lake Norman area for many years. Cheryl lives in Huntersville with her husband Brian and their son Sage. Cheryl’s current favorite quotation is: “Children are great imitators. Give them something great to imitate.” -Anonymous
Abigail Jennings, Financial Director
What can you do with a fine arts degree? For Abigail Jennings, the answer is creatively and successfully operating the oldest real estate firm in the Lake Norman region. Since 1998, she has served as president of Lake Norman Realty, one of the largest brokerage firms in the greater Charlotte region.
The impact of Abigail’s leadership is felt not only within the real estate industry, but in her community as well. One of her favorite quotations is by Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and her commitment to creating positive change is apparent throughout her community. Abigail is a founding board member for blueharbor bank, a community bank serving the Lake Norman region. She is also vice-president of the non-profit economic development organization, SICDC (South Iredell Community Development Corporation). Furthermore, she is founder and president of the Lake Norman Lucky Cat Program, a local non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of stray and feral cats through TNR (trap-neuter-return). Most recently, Abigail has assisted in the creation of Pioneer Springs, serving on the Pioneer Springs Board of Directors as an advisor for the school’s finances and facilities.
Abigail graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a Bachelor of Creative Arts degree. She and her husband, Randolph Lewis, live in Cornelius with their daughters Genevieve and Ia, and their adopted cats. Abigail enjoys being with her family, gardening, and painting. In 2012 her artwork was featured in a two-woman exhibit at the Iredell Museum.
Randolph Lewis, Assistant Director
Randolph Lewis is a musician, potter, and writer living in Cornelius, NC. In addition to helping organize Pioneer Springs, he will also take an active role in the classroom as music teacher. Randolph graduated from Davidson College with a Bachelor of Arts in English. A professional musician for over twenty years, he currently performs as a guitarist and vocalist with the Mike Strauss Band and the Mike Strauss Trio. He has produced albums for Mike Strauss and Lindsey Ryan. Randolph is also a faculty member of the Community Arts Project, where he teaches ceramics classes and youth summer camps at the Cornelius Arts Center. In his own work in ceramics, he specializes in bonsai containers, and his pots are featured in the bonsai collection of the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville.
Since 2008 Randolph has served as a Parent Volunteer at his daughters’ co-operative preschool, The Children’s Schoolhouse, spending one day a week in the classroom aiding teachers and working with students. Randolph is also the secretary and newsletter editor of the Bonsai Society of the Carolinas. His past community involvement includes serving on the Architectural Review Board and the Historic Preservation Commission for the Town of Cornelius.
Randolph lives with his wife, Abigail Jennings, and daughters, Genevieve and Ia, in the Old Mt. Zion Methodist Church Parsonage, a local historic landmark in downtown Cornelius. His hobbies include bonsai, gardening, and helping his daughters with creative projects.
Erin McDonald, Assistant Director
Erin McDonald’s introduction to making a difference in children’s lives came on an Operation Crossroads Africa trip to Zimbabwe, where she spent the summer working with local children and renovating schoolhouses. Now that she has a family of her own, Erin continues to find opportunities to be involved in the lives and education of children, only now she focuses her energy a little closer to home.
In 2011 Erin was elected President of the Children’s Schoolhouse Cooperative in Huntersville, where she has also served as a parent volunteer, assisting the teachers in the classroom. She remains on the Children’s Schoolhouse Board of Directors for the 2012-2013 school year as Vice President as well as serves on the Board of Trustees. In 2006 she founded an Annual Food/Charitable Donations Drive which continues to donate to families in need every holiday season. As a runner, Erin has also participated in numerous Run for Your Life events, two marathons with Team in Training, the Mud Run at Rural Hill Farms, and most recently the Ramblin’ Rose Women’s sprint Triathlon. In addition to her role as co-founder of Pioneer Springs, she will also be joining the faculty as the P. E. teacher.
Erin holds both a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In June 2010 Erin and her significant other, Erik Giles, became co-owners of Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt in the heart of Charlotte’s Dilworth community, where Erin is the Director of Marketing and Community Outreach. Erik and Erin live in Huntersville with their children Taylor and Harper. Erin spends her free time with her closest friends and family, creating, traveling, spending time in both her children’s classrooms, practicing yoga and running.
”A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank, but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child.” Forest Witcraft
Our Board of Directors
Mary Coppola, K/1st grade teacher at Community School of Davidson and Educational Consultant
Tanya Chartier, Adjunct Lecturer in Education for Davidson College and Educational Therapist at The Davidson Center
T McLeod, Owner and Manager of McLeod Organics
Kristin Clewell, Pediatric Occupational Therapist at Community School of Davidson, Integrative Therapy Concepts and Team Therapy
Mark Barsoum, Assistant Professor of Biology at Davidson College and Director of the Math & Science Center
Abigail Jennings, President of Lake Norman Realty
Sandra Knox, Attorney at Law
Dr. Susan Massengill, Medical Director of Pediatric Nephrology at Levine Children’s Hospital
Chris Stigliano, Director of New Business Development & Corporate Innovation of Lowe’s Home Improvement