If you are looking for an opportunity for your student to redefine themselves in a small, engaging boarding school community, visit Oak Hill Academy. You’ll be struck by the beauty of our campus and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, but you’re sure to come away most impressed with who we are. Let Chase ’18 and Josh ’17 show you around our campus in the tour video below. – Mike Rodgers ’87, Director of Admission
This time of year, there is tremendous media coverage surrounding our nationally-ranked (at or near the top, usually!) boys’ basketball team. Oak Hill’s Gold Team Warriors travel the nation (and occasionally abroad), playing frequently on national TV in large arenas. It is intriguing for people to imagine that such a team comes from a small, college preparatory boarding high school set in the rural Virginia Blue Ridge mountain region. They wonder what that looks like, and in fact, almost everyone who visits Oak Hill Academy finds a uniquely beautiful campus, and a student body that is much more than expected.
The vast majority of our students don’t play basketball. Visiting our campus, you’ll find students engaged in learning and finding passions that range from horsemanship to the arts, most notably music, theater and visual arts. We continue to expand the ways students are engaged–the first-ever Oak Hill Academy wrestling team competed this past weekend with Edson ’21 taking the historic first win!
Oak Hill’s program fosters organization; its surroundings provide a sense of peace; and its people offer engagement and a sense of belonging. Our 240-acre campus becomes “home away from home” for our students. It is an ideal setting for struggling teens to hit the “reset” button; for unengaged students to become engaged in community; and for underperforming students to focus on school in a supportive learning environment that helps them make school a priority while balancing academics with a lot of fun and discovery. If you are considering boarding school for your student, put Oak Hill Academy in Virginia on your short list.
Contact the Admission Director to discuss your family’s needs, and schedule your own campus tour.
The most successful Oak Hill Academy students are enrolled with a belief that our approach will allow them to change their direction. This includes changes to their peer group, family dynamics, and other social challenges, but most often the common thread is that they are looking for new academic outcomes.
For many students, accomplishing this change is a matter of returning themselves to a time when they were motivated, and felt competent in the classroom. Some of our students, however, have always seen school as a struggle to learn in a way that worked for them. Large public school classrooms make it difficult to recognize that all of us don’t learn the same way; that there are learning differences. A one-size-fits-all approach in the classroom can leave some students frustrated and taking the short trip to becoming unmotivated or oppositional. In some cases this learning style disconnect can lead to behavioral issues in the classroom and at home. Not doing well in school is the cause of a lot of family tension and personal angst.
Struggling in school can lead a student to an identity crisis, and most definitely can impact how they see themselves socially. At Oak Hill Academy, we are very intentional in our efforts to instill a “growth mindset.” This openness to personal growth leads to finding strategies that work for them, and students begin to see that they do have the power to create positive outcomes. The opposite of this attitude is a “fixed mindset” wherein students miss out on feelings of competence, perpetuating a negative self-image. It is in this situation that many families, seeking a new approach, find Oak Hill Academy. We may be a great fit in changing this dynamic. If you are a parent who is relating to the struggling student scenarios outlined above, please read on.
Learning differences come in many forms, and while Oak Hill Academy is not specifically a “learning differences school” (with special classes based on IEP recommendations or labels), we do provide a uniquely supportive and relational approach to academics. Our hallmark is meeting students where they are, addressing their areas of weakness, and moving them forward. We rely on our small class sizes and our experience working with students with a variety of learning challenges such as ADD, ADHD, processing issues, dysgraphia and dyslexia, to name a few.
Almost all of the accommodations I see in the IEPs of our incoming students are things that we already do as a part of our approach here.
Here are some are some of the academic and “growth mindset” approaches found in our program:
- Daily 8th-Period Tutorials. As a follow-up to very small classes (8-10 students, on average), there is also time built into each day for teachers to work shoulder to shoulder with students. If a good grade is in jeopardy, a student is scheduled for standing appointments, twice weekly. However, we don’t wait for that to happen. We are able to call students in (they often take the initiative themselves) to address needs as they occur. This proactive approach is an important part of teaching responsibility and consistent organization, as homework issues are frequently addressed in tutorials. We do not let our students dig a hole with missing assignments.
- Consistency, Structure and Routine. Executive functioning issues often accompany attention issues like ADD or ADHD. We are very intentionally consistent with our schedule and use the traditional 7-period school day (no block schedules here!) to promote a regular routine in which assignments are divided into manageable chunks and assessments are scheduled. Daily homework interventions are in place to help students experience how to stay on top of their work.
- A Schedule that Promotes Good Habits. Academic support is supplemented with our nightly study time in the dormitories, giving students a chance to exercise personal responsibility in managing their academics. From 8:30 to 10:30 each evening, homework is a priority as students work in their rooms, doors open and computers stowed away (unless an assignment requires internet research). By prior arrangement, students may take advantage of peer tutoring, group study, or class project work using dorm common areas designated for study. This “Quiet Time” is monitored by our Resident Managers who live in the dorms with the students and supervise resident life, including checking homework assignments.
- Targeted, Intentional Help With Areas of Weakness. Within our college prep curriculum, there are class offerings that include specific study skills development, including a variety of organizational and learning techniques that students can apply directly to subject work. These classes go beyond the concept of “study hall” in that while students often do work on homework, they also get an opportunity to put into practice the techniques they are learning. In addition, our Critical Reading class specifically addresses areas of weakness in reading and writing. In all of our classes, our instructors are doing as much “coaching” of study skills and techniques as they are teaching the class content. Throughout our approach to education there is an intentional recognition of distinct learning styles. Our staff uses a dynamic approach that covers material in multiple ways so as to engage the strengths of the visual, kinesthetic, or auditory learner.
These are just a few examples of how we intentionally work with students needing academic growth and support. Ours is a college prep curriculum, but with the added layer of recognition that we need to uncover how our students learn best.
If your student’s learning differences have become an obstacle in their current school setting, and you are looking at boarding school options that address those differences, please look closer at Oak Hill Academy. To paraphrase a core value here, We truly believe that there is no such thing as an “underachiever,” just a student who has yet to find the motivation and connection that will make all the difference. This belief is the foundation of our approach with our students, and I’m excited to share more with you as I learn about your child’s challenges and the need for a great boarding school experience.
Our congratulations to Mikun A.!
Mikun is a senior from Maryland in his second year at Oak Hill Academy. He was nominated for “Student of the Week” distinction with the following statements: “Mikun is an exceptional student. He works hard both in and out of the classroom to be a leader, and to set the standard for the rest of his class. His behavior is excellent and the quality of his work is top notch.” Another recommendation described Mikun as “a student who models our core values, not just in words, but in actions.”
Students are regularly nominated and voted on by the faculty and staff for making notable contributions to Oak Hill Academy campus life.
The Principal’s Office is pleased to congratulate Sven P., who was chosen by the faculty and staff as Oak Hill Academy’s first “Student of the Week” for 2017-18.
Sven is a senior student from Norfolk, Virginia, in his second year at Oak Hill. Sven was nominated for Student of the Week honors with the following recommendation: “Sven returned to OHA for his senior year with a great outlook, determined to perform well academically in order to improve his acceptance opportunities at quality universities. He has taken a leadership role with Honor Court, and has spoken publicly to the school community on behalf of the advisory program.”
What happens when a blank wall in Winchester, Virginia, 48 hours, and a vision are combined? In the hands of Oak Hill Academy’s art teacher, Dennis Wymer, the answer turns out to be, “quite a lot.” Mr. Wymer is a product of Virginia Commonwealth University’s art program, and is in his second year of teaching art at Oak Hill Academy. He also taught at other boarding schools in Virginia for several years prior to coming to OHA, all the while keeping his hand in the broader art scene across the state. Not confined to the classroom, Mr. Wymer is also a working artist and frequent contributor to art installations around Virginia. His current personal focus on “street art” seemed to fit the bill perfectly when the Winchester Art Market approached him about producing a mural on the most visible blank wall of the Bright Center, a downtown performance and event venue.
Because Winchester has such a rich history of traditional music, Mr. Wymer incorporated a fiddle player. He felt it was important to meld the area’s heritage with the modern aesthetic of his pop art style and color-blocking elements. The result is a vibrant, yet historically respectful, work that will engage the public and add to the art vibe in Winchester.
One of the most challenging and satisfying aspects of the commission was the time frame: one weekend. To Mr. Wymer, this was completely in sync with the ethos of street art: get in, make a statement, and get out. Describing the process as a “bit like a ‘guerrilla’ style of art,” Mr. Wymer was exhausted after the 48-hour work period, but was in homeroom and ready to teach class Tuesday morning after OHA’s long weekend. He describes the experience as one of the most rewarding of his career and is proud and honored to contribute to a thriving art scene in Winchester in such a public way. We at Oak Hill Academy are proud of him, too. A teacher who is steeped in theory and teaching technique, and actually continues to produce his own work, is an inspiration to his students. It is a significant goal for Mr. Wymer that his students see the possibilities beyond the classroom.
I first met David through the admission process at Oak Hill Academy. He had very good intentions; habits he wanted to improve; and, beyond his love of basketball, he was largely unclear where his passions lay. In many ways, David was the quintessential student, and person, we seek to enroll at Oak Hill Academy–one with good intentions, but needing structure and a relational environment to gain confidence and motivation. During his time here, David embraced small boarding school life–he took advantage of the opportunities at Oak Hill to be engaged in the classroom, on campus in leadership positions, on the basketball court and in the weight room. I recently caught up with David to find out what he’s been up to since graduation.
David attended the University of Waterloo in his native Canada since graduating on The Hill in 2013. Now, in an Honours Bachelor of Arts Program (the equivalent of grad school in the U.S.), he is wrapping up a Sports Business Major and picking up a minor in Corporate Entrepreneurship. “I’ve taken advantage of the robust Co-Op education program here and have gotten to work with some amazing companies in real world situations–sort of an internship experience,” he explains. As you can see in the photos above, David had the tremendous opportunity at one of his placements, Microsoft, to make some valuable connections and add to his resume.
David points to his experience in Oak Hill’s Leadership Program, and the collaborative aspects of a small student body, as inspirations to make a contribution at Waterloo. “I’ve also started a student organization that has helped students in my program get internships in the sports industry.”
One of his goals at Oak Hill Academy was to see how far his passion for basketball could take him. He played for the Oak Hill Red Team (second varsity) for two years and found an outlet for his talent and desire to work hard. He was a member of the Men’s Basketball Team at Waterloo for a couple of years, before his academics became more focused, and demanding.
I asked him how his experience at Oak Hill Academy, in hindsight, impacted his future.
Oak Hill really helped me unlock my potential. After living away from home, studying at OHA, and being part of a small community where I could develop my confidence, I became more independent, and more analytical about my future and the opportunities in front of me. I also became more in tune with my faith (OHA is a Baptist boarding school). It really helped prepare me for what was to come in university and in the “real world.” 21st Century Skills, a focus at OHA, means that our small student body gives everyone an opportunity–and encouragement–to develop skills in working in groups, speaking and presenting, and taking on responsibility beyond themselves.
What advice does David give to any student considering or beginning as a student at Oak Hill Academy?
Lock in! OHA puts you in a great situation to succeed, and the faculty and staff care for each student’s individual success. There’s a lot of meaningful activity going on on campus. If you buy into what is being taught and take an active approach to your academics, you can really do something special at Oak Hill Academy.
From my desk in the Admission Office, I take a lot of calls from parents who are expressing, in one way or another, a sense of urgency. For many of our parents, the option of boarding school is more about seeking a solution to a problem than a plan.
Their student is bright, capable and good. But, due to a variety of factors, they are just not achieving the kind of success of which they are capable. But, more to the point, for the student, there is a sense of unhappiness with their current school experience.
This sense of unhappiness, whether it be vague or acute, can stem from factors such as a learning style or a lack of engagement that is not being addressed in their current, large classroom setting leading to a sense of academic frustration or lack of motivation. Or, it can be a social issue that comes from labels, or a negative peer group. I am also often told of a family dynamic that poses a challenge to a student’s happiness. Psychology tells us that a sense of security and competency is needed before a student can focus on achievement.
In the end, there is a common thread in most of my admission calls – parents want their kids to be happy, and it is just not happening where they are.
This is the moment when finding Oak Hill Academy often becomes a turning point for our families. We’re different – the preconceived notions that many have about college prep boarding school are challenged by a trip around our website, or better yet – a campus visit. Many of our prospective students, fearful about the idea of boarding school with its highly competitive and elitist reputation, instead find an engaging community of kids seeking growth and who want to be here and who feel competent. This competency is fostered through small classes where relationships with their teachers means extra help at the minimum, and mentoring in the best cases.
Is it easy? No. For example, we go to school for half a day on many Saturdays. We are a structured environment with study hours and lights out. But our focus on growth–academic, social and emotional–means that our kids become proud of the changes they see in themselves through attending Oak Hill Academy. Our students are proud of becoming comfortable doing more than the minimum. They also find a lot of happiness in belonging to a school and peer community that is sharing and encouraging this personal growth. For generations of Oak Hill Academy students and families, this change of trajectory has been known as “the turning point.”
If you are researching boarding school as an option for your student to provide a turning point, I’m glad you have found Oak Hill Academy. I’d like to speak to you about your student and what we do well. We welcome your inquiry.
Still considering appropriate applicants for rolling admissions. Space available in current enrollment.
Oak Hill Academy specializes in working with students who are very capable, but have not had the kind of academic success that reflects those capabilities.
Our students are smart–they often just learn differently. Many times they come to us frustrated by past classroom experiences, and are feeling disengaged. To us, there is no such thing as an underachieving child, only an unmotivated one.
The small class size and relational approach by our teachers is a game-changer for our students. Our experience working with learning differences shows up as an intentional approach to recognize a variety of learning styles and to coach the skills necessary to become a more engaged, organized and confident learner. One of our core beliefs is that once a student tastes success, he or she wants more of it.
This interactive approach is obvious in our after-school support, including daily “8th period tutorials” for subject specific help; and organizational check-ins and homework remediation in our Resource Center, an administrative study hall where broader challenges are addressed and skills practiced. All this is complemented by a structured dorm life that includes mandatory quiet hours for study each evening.
In this setting, Oak Hill Academy has maintained its mission since 1878, developing an intention to work with students whose learning differences and personal habits are addressed in a structured, supportive, small-class environment. If you are seeking such a “turning point” for your student, please complete the inquiry form below to continue the conversation.
“Where can I find a school that will enable my child to realize his/her untapped potential? You need a turning point for your child. You have found Oak Hill Academy.”Michael D. Groves, Ph.D
“At Oak Hill, I began to see the bigger picture of my future and I gained the confidence to go after that image of my future. Boarding school was tough because I was out of my comfort zone, but once I let my wall down and let people in they helped me a lot with my success. In the end, boarding school tested my patience, but it also made me see the importance in my everyday actions.”Cierra T.
We always welcome a phone call:
1 (276) 451-7082