Discovering the Joy in Learning…The Joy School

I visit schools regularly as a consultant, and every so often, I come across a school who’s name speaks volumes about it’s mission. The Joy School is that kind of school. The school was started by a team of educators who recognized that not all students were being served in the mainstream school sector. Those with learning differences could not be accommodated in the classroom and were hence being left behind. As a result, those students would feel frustration and disenchantment with their learning environment, and would essentially give up hope. We have all been around students who have given up- their self confidence takes a nose dive because no one is able to help them be successful in the classroom…The teacher and the class take off full speed through the curriculum without them. As I entered The Joy School, the first thing I noticed was bright, colorful walls and accents in a beautifully constructed new building. I saw kids in brightly colored uniforms- much like the colors of the rainbow. Kids were engaged with their teachers and smiling. This school serves students in grades K through 8 who have been “underprivileged” in traditional learning environments. They are typically average to above average in learning potential, but they may have  learning differences that are preventing them from being successful in the mainstream school. The goal of The Joy School is to help students overcome and or manage their learning difference so that they can mainstream. Each group of students and teachers are carefully put together based on what type of instruction the group benefits from. This is a very unique perspective and it is completely child focused. I saw the usual middle school signature traits: lockers, science labs, technology, middle school dance advertisements and other campus events. The Joy School may very well be the most academic school for children with learning differences. These students leave the school at various grade levels ready to mainstream into good schools all around Houston. What did I see at The Joy School? Pure Joy: Bright Colors…Happy, Motivated Kids…Caring Teachers…Active Learning…Success. What a great experience! Please do check it out!Joy School

My visit to Xavier Academy

Yesterday, I had the privilege of touring Xavier Academy, which is nestled in the lovely neighborhood of West U. Director of Admissions Julie Pomerantz gave me a lovely introduction and background of the school. Xavier was started by a gentleman named Mr. Richard De La Cuadra who was an extremely gifted tutor in the area and who changed his students lives for the better. A few parents of the children he served encouraged him to put his gifts to further use and to open a school. Xavier serves students in grades 5-12 who are average to above average in intelligence. It is a nontraditional, small group setting where students really get to know their teachers. The campus is spread out through a couple of buildings which have been leased out to Xavier, and I felt like I was on a small college campus as I saw small groups engaged in learning all over the place. Xavier has hired a full time therapist, dyslexia specialist, a life coach, and a full time college counselor. Students are allowed to go through the curriculum at their own pace- some ahead of their peers and others behind. The Xavier student may be the outstanding athlete that needs a flexible learning environment so that he can maintain his level of athletic competition…or the child who has been bullied for years and has a broken self confidence…Or how about the anxious child who is stressed out by the big school environment…Or perhaps the child who struggles in school because of dyslexia or ADD.

I witnessed several classes in action- All students were engaged. There were English classes where students were working on writing essays. I saw students working closely with their teachers to better understand their assignments. I saw calculus problems on the dry erase board and students and teacher engaged in discussion and problem solving. What a comfortable, yet collegiate, environment! Check out last year’s graduating class!Xavier Academy

Visit to St. Francis South Campus

I recently visited the new “South Campus” of St. Francis Episcopal Day School. As the security gate opened for me, I was in awe at the acres of land that appeared before my eyes. I have driven on South Piney Point for years, and I never knew this acreage existed! I parked my car and took my three year old daughter with me to sign in for a tour. As I approached the building that housed the Primary School office, I took note of the beautiful surroundings: I felt like I was on a ranch way out in the country…beautiful. Lots of open space and areas to play. Athletic fields at the front of campus…The Primary School cottages mimic the style of the existing buildings on campus, which have historic significance. As we walked through the buildings, we took note of the perfectly designed furniture and decor, suiting the Primary School-aged child to the “T”. The tour began with a walk through the library, which was neat, tidy, and colorful. A central focus was the large FAO Schwarz clock, which St. Francis purchased years ago when the store closed in Houston. We walked through the spacious motor and drama rooms- I loved the stage and lighting available for these budding actors and actresses! Spanish and religion classes also have their own rooms, so the kids are sure to be on the move between specials. Each grade level is in its own building, with a central pod for “centers” play. My daughter had a ball in this area, playing in the brand new kitchen and climbing the fort in the center of the pod. The classrooms enclose the pod, and each classroom was neatly and beautifully designed with age appropriate furniture and decor. There is a kitchen in each building, and the catering service brings a hot, healthy lunch everyday for the kids to enjoy. Outside, in the back of the buildings, there are several areas for the children to run and play. My daughter enjoyed her tour thoroughly and did not want to leave! St. Francis Primary School has always ranked the best in the city…If you haven’t seen South Campus, you must put it on your to-do list for sure!

Recent visit to The Shlenker School

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting with Gail Rovinsky, Director of Admissions, and Casey Suter, Elementary Principal, at The Shlenker School in the Meyerland area. I was pleasantly surprised with the open, spread out feel of the school, the colorful classrooms and halls, and the “Backyard”. This area is behind the school and is a wooded preserve that houses local flora and fauna. The school uses this beautiful space for teachable moments spanning all disciplines, from science to religion. Although Shlenker is known as a Jewish day school in town, what many may not know is that the school has a big secular culture that is inclusive and welcoming of all faiths. All teachers are GT certified and I sensed an overwhelming sense of teacher retention and longevity. There are many unique qualities about Shlenker, including a first grade opera, all school musical, and something called genius hour where fifth graders are encouraged to pick a topic of study and use internet research to learn more about the topic. Rising graduates of Shlenker have good test scores and attend top notch private middle schools all over the city every year. I met a lovely third grade student who was comfortable, confident, and proud to show me her school. There are leadership opportunities for the students, and there is a big emphasis on kindness and citizenship. Shlenker has a great after school and summer program with numerous offerings for students. Come check out Shlenker, which serves children ages 15 months through 5th grade some wonderful opportunities!

Impressions of Regis School of the Sacred Heart

My boys began life at a new school this year. My older son was ready for a change and my younger one went along for the ride out of family convenience. I have to say that I have been continually impressed with what goes on behind the wrought iron gates of Regis School of the Sacred Heart. I am greeted graciously by young men ages 3 through 14 every day. A couple of months ago, I joined a couple of other new moms in serving cupcakes to 240 boys after mass on a feast day. I anticipated mass chaos and then some leading up to and after the cupcake distribution. Boy was I proven wrong! I witnessed a sea of gentlemen escorting their “little brothers” to the table to first pick a cupcake out for the younger child before taking one for themselves. We received 240 verbal thank you’s that morning…Truly gentlemen. Since that day, I have seen my boys grow in self confidence, chivalry, and academic enrichment. My boys feel a warm sense of brotherhood from their peers. The teachers work hard and choose to teach at Regis because they love working with boys! Come check this school out- you will not be disappointed!

Dalal boys first dress uniform day at Regis

Dalal boys first dress uniform day at Regis

St. Mark’s Episcopal School

Monday, November 9, I had the pleasure of spending my morning at St. Marks Episcopal School, which is nestled between West University and Bellaire. What a hidden gem it is! I walked in to a scene of happy preschoolers enjoying the newly refurbished astroturf playground located in the center of campus. I enjoyed conversation with Director of Admissions, Matt Burgy, who shared with me that although the school celebrates the uniqueness of every child, it has made huge strides to incorporate a more collaborative learning style- which includes design thinking. Students engage in group projects and they will make use of the brand new building at the back of campus, which you won’t see from the parking lot. I walked into this building and was in awe of the modern architecture and decor, and the resources available to students. This building houses four classrooms and Middle School leadership offices. I saw middle school students seated in ergonomically-sound chairs working on lessons using their own ipads. I also saw a room called the Idea lab, where students create everything from new ideas to videos using a green screen. If you haven’t met the student ambassadors, I highly encourage you to come to an open house or tour- the next one is tomorrow, November 11! Check out details at You will find St. Marks student ambassadors easily able to represent their school. They are comfortable and confident leaders in this growing school. In the coming years, the school plans to expand their already diverse athletics program as well! Come check out St .Marks!

Emery Weiner School Visit


Hallway (1 of 1)

On October 14, I visited Emery Weiner School. Gracious host and Director of Admissions Caroline Sarnoff took me on a tour of the beautiful, well-laid out campus. The new facilities and abundance of space make for a very nice school experience for kids in grades 6 through 12. Emery is a community school with a college prep curriculum. Student life was evident as I passed uniformed students in the hallway wearing everything from tennis shoes to western boots. Students casually enjoyed a game of ping-pong in the senior lounge. There was an overall sense of comfort and joy among everyone I passed. Emery is not to be thought of as just the Jewish school anymore. It’s approach to Judaism is historical and inclusive of students of different faiths. The school is fully staffed with college placement counselors, guidance counselors, and credentialed faculty of various faiths.If you haven’t seen this school, I highly encourage you to take a walk around campus with Ms. Sarnoff!