An Array Of Educational Options The Original Wellington Mall Is Home To Three Unique Private Schools
In addition to its six public elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools, Wellington is also home to a number of charter schools and private schools. A small cluster of these private schools can be found in one building — the original Wellington Mall at 12794 W. Forest Hill Blvd. These include #1 Education Place, the Wellington Collegiate Academy and the Children’s House of Wellington.
The heart and soul of #1 Education Place is its founders Judy Blake and Anita Kane. They started the private school more than 20 years ago. They got their start in education by working together as tutors.
Early on, most of their students were affiliated with Wellington’s equestrian industry. Now, while there are still many equestrians, the students come from a wide array of backgrounds, ranging from first grade to 12th grade. Student numbers vary, from as many as 100 students during the equestrian season, to a low in the 50s at other times of the year.
According to Blake, the teaching model at #1 Education Place produces great results. “We are a Montessori school,” Blake said. “And we are open 12 months a year.”
Teachers at #1 Education Place emphasize independence and executive function. According to Blake, when students learn 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 at conventional schools.
Blake explained that students who attend #1 Education Place spend time learning about 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.”
In most schools, teachers set the course and direction for the school day. At #1 Education Place, the students are given more freedom to pursue their own areas of interest.
“We have a calmer environment than many other schools,” Kane said. “Also, we make a point of addressing the needs of each student as an individual. Nobody gets left behind.”
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 punishments, but plenty of positive reinforcement. In many cases, we provide a few minutes of instruction, and then let the students do the work.”
#1 Education Place also supports flexibility when it comes to arriving at school and leaving school later in the day.
Blake explained that flexible schedules are important for students who have serious interests in other endeavors such as tennis, golf and equestrian sports, which require unique travel and practice time.
For elementary and middle school students, physical activity breaks are an important part of the school day, which includes 30 minutes of recess daily. From time to time, students get to go on field trips.
Upon graduation, most of the students continue on to higher education. According to Kane, several of this year’s high school graduates will be attending Hofstra University (and playing tennis), the University of Kentucky (and playing polo), Florida Atlantic University and Palm Beach Atlantic University.
“A high percentage of our students get accepted into their first-choice universities and colleges,” Kane said.
To learn more about #1 Education Place, call (561) 753-6563 or visit www.1educationplace.com.
The Wellington Collegiate Academy (WCA) educates children from kindergarten to eighth grade, enrolling 70 to 75 students. As of mid-May, it’s under new ownership, led by the husband-and-wife team of Horatio and Yaa McFarlane.
“We are looking forward to creating our own vision of education,” Yaa said. “Here, children will love to learn and feel amazing about themselves. I want to develop independent thinkers.”
“We’re excited to be adding to the lives of our students and supporting them in their education,” Horatio added.
While not teaching, Yaa will have a strong presence at the school.
“I will have a presence in the office, in the classroom and on the playground,” she said.
Yaa was born, raised and educated in England at a grammar school. She intends to bring a few English educational traditions to WCA.
“Our students will learn about William Shakespeare, and I want them to know who Charles Dickens was,” Yaa said.
While there will be some changes to the curriculum, many WCA traditions will remain the same.
“The main subjects such as English, mathematics, world geography, science and a language, such as Spanish, will continue,” Yaa said. “We are thinking about adding another language, as well.”
In addition to traditional subjects, there will be a strong emphasis on physical education, home economics, music and the arts.
“Physical education will include dance, team sports and running,” Yaa said. “We need to get our children running and incorporate P.E. into the daily curriculum.”
The students will also be introduced to gardening. “Children need to learn where foods come from,” Yaa noted.
Right now, the school has 10 teachers on the staff, and there are plans to add more for the upcoming school year.
The school’s commitment to music — which was a focal point of attention of the previous owners Juan Carlos and Jessica Valdez — will remain the same. In fact, Jessica Valdez, previously the choral director, has pledged her assistance to find an equally talented successor. “Music is so important as it helps the brain develop, improves a child’s ability to learn, be more creative and sleep better,” Yaa said.
Another aspect that will not change is the student-teacher ratio. In recent years, it has been eight to 12 students per teacher. That will remain the same.
Yaa is not a newcomer to the school, as she served as a teacher from 2016 to 2019, when the school’s founder Anna Oaks operated the school.
“Anna was looking for a ‘right-hand’ person, so I was asked to join her, which I did,” Yaa said. “I am still aligned with her vision of a small, faith-based school.”
Over the summer, the McFarlanes will be busy marketing and promoting the school to parents of current and prospective students.
“We are building a new web site, and we plan to offer a one-week summer camp program to current and new students,” Yaa said. “We will teach math, science, arts and crafts. We will possibly work with robotics and computers. There will also be lots of time for recess and sports.”
To learn more about the Wellington Collegiate Academy, call (561) 701-3462 or (561) 784-1776, or visit www.gowca.org.
The Children’s House of Wellington, co-owned by Catherine Williams and her daughter Jeri Williams, is a Montessori preschool now finishing its 20th year.
“I was at a Montessori preschool in Palm Beach Gardens,” Catherine recalled. “After it was sold to a new owner, they started to stray from core principles of the Montessori Method. I decided that if I wanted to continue doing what I love, I needed to open my own school.”
While the Children’s House of Wellington is licensed to teach as many as 44 students, they prefer to have fewer, capping out at about 40. Students range from age two-and-a-half to age six.
The big difference between a conventional school and a Montessori school is the overall approach to education.
“One of the hallmarks of Montessori education is that children of mixed ages work together. Groupings are based on the Planes of Development as identified by Dr. Maria Montessori,” Jeri explained. “Multi-age groupings enable younger children to learn from older children and experience new challenges through observation. Older children reinforce their learning by teaching concepts they have already mastered, develop leadership skills and serve as role models. Because each child’s work is individual, children progress at their own pace. There is cooperation rather than competition. This arrangement mirrors the real world, in which individuals work and socialize with people of all ages and dispositions.”
When it comes to the flow of the school day, there’s a great deal of thought given to what is done at any given time.
“The teacher prepares the environment of the Montessori classroom with carefully selected, aesthetically arranged materials that are presented sequentially to meet the developmental needs of the children using the space,” Jeri said. “Well-prepared Montessori environments contain appropriately sized furniture, a full complement of Montessori materials, and enough space to allow children to work in peace, alone, or in small or large groups.”
Montessori classrooms are designed to encourage children to move about freely and choose their own work, within reasonable limits. Those limits are the classroom ground rules and enable children to exercise their own free will while ensuring that their chosen activities are respectful of others.
“Within the prepared environment of the Montessori classroom, children are taught to complete a work cycle, which includes choosing an activity, completing the activity, and, perhaps, repeating the full sequence of the activity multiple times, cleaning up and returning the materials to the proper place, and experiencing a sense of satisfaction to have fully completed the task,” Catherine said.
A common trait of a Montessori school is a focus on social skills.
“In Montessori schools, children are formally instructed in social skills that they will use throughout their lives. For example, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ interrupting conversations politely, requesting rather than demanding assistance and greeting guests warmly,” Jeri said.
Students also learn about Mother Nature. “We are fortunate to have a garden at our school,” Jeri said. “The children plant seeds, bulbs and bedding plants. We harvest and enjoy the beauty of what grows. A respect for all living things is important to learn early.”
At the Children’s House of Wellington, students are given a regular dose of physical activity on the school’s playground.
“Playing outside is important,” Catherine said. “Learning to play with friends without hurting them and still having fun are skills that can only be learned by doing.”
To learn more about the Children’s House of Wellington, call (561) 790-3748 or visit www.childrenshousewellington.com.