-We are so happy (our child) is in a place where the people who care for him truly see him and hold him in their hearts, as you so obviously do.

-I have been a Salmonberry parent for seven years.  We have one child.  I would do absolutely anything for him and I could send him to any school, anywhere.  I choose to have him at Salmonberry School.  And his experience at Salmonberry just keeps getting better and better.  Again and again, as he grows and changes, the program adjusts to meet his needs.

-Salmonberry School is an important steward of our community’s future. Not only has the school challenged my son with his strengths and completely engaged him in his own natural sense of inquiry, the school’s experiential learning focus nourishes all of our futures. As an instructor at the local community college, I hear from many freshman students who were raised in the San Juan Islands. I’m constantly shocked by the number of these young adults who, when asked to write about their fears, write about their fear of the outside world. Many have been sheltered in these safe islands and somehow adopted the belief that anywhere else is unsafe to be. They fear a simple day trip to Seattle or Bellingham. They are uncomfortable being around people of color and nonnative English speakers. They lack experiences that would allay their fears, and it severely narrows the choices that they see for themselves in the future. As a teacher who uses multicultural literature and issues of ethnicity, class, and gender as the basis for my curriculum, I was sure my child would escape this fear even while being raised on remote Orcas Island. It came as a huge surprise when in the car on the way to his first Seattle field trip with Salmonberry my six year-old said, “I don’t like people who don’t speak English.” I nearly slammed on the brakes and spat out my coffee. This from my son? Of course, it prompted a conversation we will revisit again and again, but simply nothing I could say would have given him the same learning as his trip to the Global Dance Party at the Moore Theatre in Seattle that very day with Salmonberry School. He came back wanting to know more about people who were unlike him, and that is the most essential learning that exists, in my opinion. Without it, empathy cannot exist, and fear of other pervades. Thank you for committing to experiential learning for these young islanders.

-We moved to Orcas Island July 2010 because we wanted our girls to thrive and grow up in the natural surroundings the island as to offer. We wanted them to  inherit the sense of community that we discovered on Orcas many years ago. We started exploring options for school. We tried the public school for a few months. That said, we were drawn over and over to the magic of the Salmonberry community and school. It became clear to us that the quality of education at Salmonberry was light years ahead of any other option we had either here on Orcas but also (and more strikingly) in Seattle which is where we moved from.  The ratio of student to teacher is only one of the reasons our children seem to be learning so quickly but it certainly helps. 7:1 allows our oldest to really get deep instruction that the public school, even with the best of intentions, could not ever offer. I feel very good about our decision to have our kids attend Salmonberry School. Tuition is small in comparison to what they offer.

-My son gets up in the morning excited to go to Salmonberry school and often says that he “loves to learn.” The school leadership is intelligent and caring; they have a clear a vision for the future of the school as well as its student body. The faculty is knowledgeable and accessible and participates in all aspects of the educational and social environment. In addition, attention is paid to developing kindness toward one another and awareness of the world at large.

-Recently, our daughter Paris, my wife Kristen and I were in rehearsals for a musical at Orcas Center.  One school night, rehearsal lasted quite late.  We didn’t get to bed until nearly midnight.  Kristen told Paris that she could sleep in and go to school late the next morning.  Paris said, “No thanks!”  Instead, she set her alarm for 7:20 a.m., got up and practiced piano for 30 minutes, had breakfast and got to school early.  She didn’t want to miss out on anything at Salmonberry!

I cannot tell you how much it means to me to know my child is in a place where she is known and held with such love.  The two-page progress summaries that I receive twice each year are clear evidence of a teaching staff that truly knows and cares for my daughter.

-We tried sending our daughter to a different school for Kindergarten.  She was so burdened with the weight of what she was expected to be.  Since enrolling her at Salmonberry last year, I feel like we have gotten our daughter back.

-Salmonberry is a place where kids are allowed to be kids, in an environment that’s safe and it’s safe to be yourself.  They give kids the gift of time; you don’t need to feel pressure to fit in.  We really value that about Salmonberry.

Alumni Parents on children’s learning and Salmonberry’s Programming…

-Salmonberry is a place where my child was able to learn in an environment where great learning was valued.

-From Salmonberry, my child learned to believe that knowing stuff is really fun, and cool, and interesting.  It was so great to be in an environment where it’s really truly exciting to learn.

-One important and special aspect of the program was all the experiences and traveling, not for entertainment, but to go to a rich cultural place.  It gave integrity to what they learned at school.  It extended the classroom into the world.  He still talks about the trip to the local reservation.  Experiences like that really affected him deeply.

-Salmonberry could do things that you just couldn’t do in the mainstream system, like knitting and handwork.  They just don’t have time for that.

On Salmonberry’s flexible pacing…

-He was able to take his time – life in the public school has been so stressful for him.  At Salmonberry his learning was just part of his day, part of his self.  He didn’t have to go to school to learn and then later get time to be himself.  He was himself while learning.

Salmonberry is a place that is focused on what is happening, in the present, not obsessed with what might happen, in the future.

My son didn’t read until late third grade.  He just wasn’t ready.  In other schools he would have been put in a resource room to spend all his time feeling ashamed and humiliated.  At Salmonberry he fit in and always felt smart and not lacking. He never turned off from learning.  When he did start reading, while at Salmonberry he just took off. He just recently took the SAT’s and received “Distinction” for his Anaytical Reading skills.  He just needed that time.  Not everyone is on the same schedule.  Salmonberry understands that, while still valuing achievement.

On the student-teacher relationship…

-Now, it saddens me to hear my child say that his teacher told him that he doesn’t want to be here, and he doesn’t want to be teaching this subject.  It is so important that the teachers at Salmonberry have passion for what they are doing as well as for the children.  It is all about relationship…It was so critical to have a teacher who really knows you.  Someone who nurtures your development for several years in a row.

From Salmonberry, my child now and forever will have a core of liking and trusting adults, learning and himself.

On life after Salmonberry…

-My child has been a straight “A” student since transitioning to public school.  He was very very well prepared academically from his time at Salmonberry.  But what is at least as important is the fact that I get such nice comments from people all the time, outside of school about who he is as a person– Being respected; respected and cared for by teachers, teachers who invested so much of themselves in the kids’ lives.  That is where the kids developed their value for respect in every relationship.

Every student who was at Salmonberry for at least three years and then transitioned to the public school.  Every single one is on the honor roll now, receiving either honors or high honors.  Maybe that isn’t a large enough sample to be statistically meaningful, but every single one?  And that is just a tiny piece of their achievement.  They are leaders.

On growing as a parent while at Salmonberry…

-I came to Salmonberry with an MA in education and having been a classroom teacher.  I thought I knew something about what it means to learn.  I was so grateful for the opportunity to learn about and talk about education.  I learned so much!

-During my time as a Salmonberry parent I learned to be more involved because I wanted to retain the richness and beauty of learning that my child was experiencing at Salmonberry.

-Salmonberry taught me to always think about and listen to what is right for my child.

I developed a much better perspective from Salmonberry in terms of nurturing this child in this moment.

-Now I am able to let him be a teen, with all that goes along with that.  We can always come back to the relationship.  That’s important.  We just have to let them be. Salmonberry allowed me, and I still am able, to be a little more relaxed and not buy into all that stuff about where my child needs to be, how he needs to behave and everything.  He is who he is, and I love him.  I got that understanding from Salmonberry.