By Mike May
When it comes to education options in Wellington, parents have many choices beyond traditional brick-and-mortar schools. In Wellington, there are several private schools that specialize in providing an individualized educational experience for parents and students looking for this type of learning environment. Among these schools are #1 Education Place, Score at the Top and the Wellington Collegiate Academy.
#1 Education Place
The driving forces behind #1 Education Place are Judy Blake and Anita Kane. Together, they started this private school more than 20 years ago. They began as tutors with clients from the equestrian world. Now, they operate a full-fledged private school with clients from all walks of life.
At #1 Education Place, located in the original Wellington Mall, the teaching model is not what you find at regular schools. “We are a Montessori school,” Blake said. “And we are open 12 months a year.”
The “big picture” focus at #1 Education Place — which teaches children in grades 1 through 12 — is to emphasize independence and executive function.
According to Blake, when students are taught executive function, they learn organizational skills, personal responsibility, how to organize their day and how to master life as an adult. They also learn all the core subjects taught in conventional schools. At #1 Education Place, there’s a major focus on core communications. “We have a big emphasis on writing, especially in high school,” Kane said. “We also focus on cursive writing, penmanship, grammar, spelling and English comprehension.”
Rather than a teacher-directed environment, like in traditional schools, #1 Education Place implements a student-directed educational atmosphere.
According to Kane, teachers at the school encourage each student to follow his or her interests and passions. The teaching environment is peaceful and filled with purpose.
“We have all open spaces, no closed doors and there’s freedom of movement for everybody,” Blake said. “Here, students are interested in doing, learning and accomplishing. There are no rewards or punishment, but plenty of positive reinforcement. In many cases, we provide a few minutes of instruction and then let the students do the work.”
At #1 Education Place, homework is not a regular occurrence. “Our students have a life outside of school,” Kane noted.
The school also offers flexible arrivals and departures for students. According to Blake, flexible schedules are important for students who have serious interests in other endeavors, such as tennis, golf and equestrian sports that require unique travel and practice time.
For the elementary school and middle school students at #1 Education Place, they do get 30 minutes of recess every day and occasionally go on field trips.
#1 Education Place is located at 12794 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 23. For more info., call (561) 753-6563 or visit www.1educationplace.com.
Score Academy, the private school component of Score at the Top, with a location on State Road 7 in Wellington, is also an option for families that require flexible scheduling because traditional schools don’t work for them. Score Academy teaches NCAA-approved core courses and is a SACS (Southern Association of Colleges & Schools) and SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) approved school.
“We are your pathway to academic success, virtually or locally,” said Maggie Alexander, the center director and head of school. “You don’t have to be in Wellington to attend Score Academy.”
At Score Academy, you can learn on site or remotely. According to Alexander, one of the appealing aspects of Score Academy is that many classes are one-on-one with a teacher, and no class has more than four students. Some classes feature a student connected via Zoom, who is joined by a student and teacher in one of Score’s classrooms. “Our classes are live, synchronous and face-to-face,” Alexander said.
Many of the students at Score Academy are serious equestrian competitors — hunters, jumpers or dressage riders. Many other students are tennis players, golfers, water skiers, figure skaters and dancers. Because of different and changing schedules, students who compete in equestrian pursuits are enrolled at Score Academy for classes throughout the day.
The academy accommodates a significant number of international students, as the school has the ability to provide I-20 visas for students who want to study and reside in the United States.
Besides catering to full-time students, Score at the Top also provides SAT and ACT prep workshops, as well as tutoring in all subject areas. You can also register to take a regular, honors or AP class at Score Academy, even if you attend a different school.
The emphasis at Score at the Top is to provide each student with a quality education. “99.9 percent of our students have been accepted to their top choice colleges and schools,” Alexander said.
For students looking for this type of program, Score Academy is worth the investment.
Score at the Top is located 1035 S. State Road 7, Suite 118. For more info., call (561) 333-8882 or visit www.scoreatthetop.com/wellington.
Wellington Collegiate Academy
The students at the Wellington Collegiate Academy (WCA), located in the original Wellington Mall, currently range from kindergarten through eighth grade. However, the school will soon be educating students through 12th grade. Beginning this fall, the WCA will add one high school grade each year.
Right now, there are 90 students enrolled at the school.
“We offer traditional and innovative ways of learning,” said Juan Carlos Valdez, WCA co-owner and principal. “We try to cater to the specific needs of every student. We encourage students to progress at their own speed.”
According to Valdez, who operates the school with his wife, Jessica, the teacher-student ratio is low, which guarantees that each student gets plenty of attention.
“We have eight to 12 students per teacher,” Juan Carlos said. “There’s a great deal of relationship building between students and teachers. Our students know that they have the support of their teachers.”
At the WCA, there is a significant emphasis on the arts. The arts are the specialty area of interest for the Valdez husband-and-wife team. He’s a professional animator, while she is an opera singer.
Once a year, the WCA’s students conduct an acting or musical performance.
“This year, our students performed “The Wizard of Oz,” Juan Carlos said. “In recent years, our students presented Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. In December, we have our Christmas concert.”
When it comes to music education, that’s Jessica’s specialty.
“I oversee all the music classes,” she said. “We want them to experience all forms of music, which includes music from the 1960s, 1980s, jazz and Mozart.”
One of the biggest musical opportunities for WCA students will take place in June 2023 when a school choir will be traveling to England to perform during the London Band Week.
Every year, WCA’s musical troupe performs at Walt Disney World, and there’s a reason that they are invited to return annually. “When people hear us sing, they stop and listen,” Jessica said.
A key aspect of WCA’s approach to education is connecting the textbook with reality. For instance, the students learning marine biology are taken on a field trip to the Miami Seaquarium. The school also takes students on educational field trips to the Kennedy Space Center, St. Augustine, the Palm Beach Zoo, local farms and the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg.
“It’s one thing to learn about a place from a book, and it’s another thing to see it live and in person,” Juan Carlos said.
The school also understands the importance of recess and physical activity breaks for its students during the school day. “Giving students recess breaks helps support their imagination and helps create innovation,” Juan Carlos said.
The Wellington Collegiate Academy is located at 12794 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 14B. For more info., call (561) 784-1776 or (561) 701-3462, or visit www.gowca.org.