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Making the Right Choice: Headmaster Offers Tips

WHEELING — With a plethora of educational options in the Ohio Valley, parents often find themselves facing a difficult decision when it comes to selecting the best school to fit their child’s needs.

Justin Zimmerman, headmaster at The Linsly School, frequently gets questions from families about how they should go about choosing the right school. Zimmerman suggests key qualities parents should look for when selecting a school.

“First, look for a supportive, safe community where your child will be known as an individual,” Zimmerman said. “Students learn best when they’re in a safe environment and feel known and supported. Adult and peer-to-peer connections are critical to adolescent growth and development. Students need to know they belong. Teachers should be able to identify your child’s strengths, unique abilities, and special areas of interest.

“When teachers know their students, they can connect learning to the students’ interests, identify areas for improvement, and engage students in meaningful learning. Communities with smaller class sizes tend to promote these positive relationships.”

Zimmerman recommends finding an environment where talented and passionate teachers interact with your child on a daily basis.

“The best schools with the best teachers invest in regular professional development, fund teacher training, and expect teachers to discuss and research best teaching practices and methods,” Zimmerman said. “Your children deserve to be in an environment where teachers continually improve and model what good learning looks like.”

He suggests you ask how often teachers engage in professional development. When making a schooling decision, ask about the school’s expectations. For example, parents should ask, “Do the discipline policies align with my expectations as a parent?” and “Does the school actively uphold high expectations for behavior and expect students to be kind, respectful, and appropriate inside and outside of the classroom?”

What gets modeled and enforced for children at home and in school has a huge impact on their personal decisions. Zimmerman encourages parents to consider extra-curricular opportunities available as well as preparedness for life after high school.

“We know that meaningful engagement inside and outside of the classroom is important. Experiences outside of the classroom help shape a child’s experience. Will your son or daughter be able to participate in those things at their school? Do you see your child attending a four-year college or university? If so, what resources does the school have to prepare your child for such an opportunity? Will the school help you navigate this process as a family?”

Zimmerman urges parents to make the best informed decision possible.

“Explore your options. Visit schools, observe classes, speak to administrators, and make sure you make an informed decision. The education you provide your children is the greatest gift they will ever receive from you.”

The Linsly School in Wheeling was founded in 1814 and is the oldest school of its kind west of the Allegheny Mountains. Linsly began the transition from a military school in 1978 and became co-educational in 1988. Linsly, a college preparatory school serving both young men and women in grades five through 12 for both boarding and day students, now has an enrollment of 440 students. The school is accredited by The Independent Schools association of the Central States.

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