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Randee Ayres

            Twenty years ago my second grade daughter became a Heritage student.  With great eagerness she became part and beneficiary of the unique learning culture that Glen and Elaine Olsen crafted.  As a professional teacher myself, I recognized an opportunity for my daughter that was just not available anywhere else.  Elementary school years lay the foundation for all that follows, but a challenging, meaningful education that holistically addresses the multi-dimensional aspects of learning is difficult to create and harder to sustain.  What I saw in Heritage was just this possibility - and I was not disappointed.  My daughter did in fact thrive – by balancing creative and analytical thinking, by fostering both intellectual curiosity and investigative process, by expanding basic skills and the application of those skills to interesting topics of study, by pursuing personal goals along with co-operative group projects, and by developing an awareness that all learning naturally serves right social action. 

When my daughter left Salem and Heritage at the end of sixth grade, she was well prepared for all the years of higher education that followed - due to an embedded confidence and abilities fostered by her experiences at Heritage.  Her life path now decided, she has started her third year as a medical student at OHSU.  I have watched her take on a most difficult educational challenge – and to this day I see her implementing the very same skills she was introduced to at Heritage as an elementary student.  The truth is that what Heritage offers students are skills for life, carefully understood and carefully nurtured by two teachers who are experienced, steadfast, and passionate about what they do.

As for myself, I also found a home at Heritage. I started as a participating parent and grew in my role to a part-time art instructor.  It quickly happened that I could not resist becoming more and more involved in the visual arts program.  The reason is simple. There is no other curriculum model that I am aware of that not only gives recognition to the important role arts education has but actually provides the time and the means to carry it out.  It is an art teacher’s dream to practice their craft in such a climate.  Irresistible in fact!   Glen and Elaine exhibit a respect for the arts just as they do the other disciplines.  And consequently the students do as well. Visual art is sometimes integrated into general studies and at others it is a separate focus entirely.  This interweaving makes both experiences all the richer and students respond with an openness and enthusiasm for personal exploration and expressiveness that is a joy to see.  It is just the way things unfold at Heritage.

 And so after twenty years of association with Heritage School I am able to offer a unique perspective as both parent and instructor.  I have seen the long-term benefits for my child and experienced the best of all possible worlds as a dedicated art teacher. Glen and Elaine Olsen have truly created a most unique setting in which young people may grow and thrive.      

                                                                        Randee Ayres, MA, BFA . 

Randee teaching art

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