The Northwest School

The Northwest School is a diverse community of people who challenge each other to learn in a healthy, creative, and collaborative atmosphere of respect for ourselves, others, and the environment.

Imagine a school where learning is a joy; where the curriculum is designed to prepare students for a changing world; and where everyone discovers the exhilarating chemistry between academics and the arts. Now imagine a school where 65 of 460 students come from many countries around the world.

Welcome to The Northwest School, an exuberant place where our challenging curriculum teaches students to discover the connections between historic, scientific, and artistic fields of knowledge. And where our international character makes thinking beyond our own borders a daily reality.

Because real learning happens outside one’s comfort zone, we encourage students to be bold. To seek answers in new places. To take a fresh approach, rather than just the next logical step. It’s what keeps learning exciting and makes it personal. At The Northwest School, students find a supportive community where they feel safe to take risks, thanks to a faculty willing to help along the way.

We believe arts education is vital to preparing for a fulfilling life, and is intimately connected to academics. Requiring critical thinking, discipline, self-reflection—and often courage to step out of one’s comfort zone—art offers students fundamental experiences in challenge and accomplishment. It also opens their minds to seeing new pathways to problem-solving. Learn more about Shea's experience taking Advanced Theater.

Today's Community Meeting was devoted to introductions. Community Meeting, which is led by our Peer Mentors, provides an arena for the school to hear announcements, listen to special presentations and guest lecturers, and engage in community conversations. To close out the first Community Meeting of the 2017-18 school year, Humanities teacher Adina Meyer helped teach new students the somewhat official school dance, the pata pata.

"Today we begin digging right in to teaching, learning, building relationships, and ultimately, making a difference in the world." Mike McGill welcomes NWS students to the start of the 2017-18 school year.

A dramatic sunrise helped mark the first day of the 2017-18 school year for students at NWS. We'd also like to extend that excitement to our class of 2017, who will either soon be starting or have started at colleges and universities all across the world.

The school year has almost started, and our dorm orientation is in full swing for our international students. Here is a testimonial of the mother of one of our 2017 boarding program graduates from Jakarta, Indonesia: "The Northwest School has allowed our daughter to blossom! It is the best thing we ever did for her. The Northwest School really cares about the student as a whole and prepares them for the next step in their lives. The academic program prepares the students well for the rigors of further academic success. The school also has been an open and welcoming environment for all of the student. All the staff and teachers have lots of love and wisdom to offer in helping them develop their natural abilities to grow stronger intellectually and emotionally."

This year, we are happy to welcome students from 10 different countries to our boarding program and dormitory. Gabriel, from Mexico, is entering his senior year. Here what he has to say about his time at NWS so far!

[09/02/17]   In light of the recent events surrounding Charlottesville, our Head of School Mike McGill felt it was important to reaffirm our values as a school and community.

Dear Northwest School Families,

As students and faculty prepare to return to The House after the summer break, I’m writing once more to the Northwest School community, this time full of disparate emotions—fear, sadness, and anger, certainly, but also resolve—to acknowledge last week’s terrible events in Charlottesville. Initially, I balked at reaching out to everyone again. After all, like you, I’ve been inundated with news, op-ed articles, and letters—well over two dozen, in fact, from college presidents, the executive directors of various non-profits and NGOs, corporate titans, and political activists—each expressing outrage over the hatred we witnessed and the President’s shameful equivocation in addressing it. What could I possibly contribute to the dialogue?

I’m grateful to a couple of colleagues whose insights persuaded me to reconsider. They helped me to recognize that if I, as a white male, am feeling anxious and vulnerable, then plainly I can’t begin to imagine the enormity of the impact of the racist, anti-Semitic, white-supremacist violence we saw in Virginia on our students and families of color, on Jews and Muslims, and on others whose identities have been historically marginalized. On behalf of the entire faculty, then, I want to reassure anyone in our community who may be feeling voiceless, threatened, or frightened, that we stand with you and commit ourselves to redoubling the school’s efforts to be a safe place of restorative, inclusive support.

But that’s not all, for Northwest isn’t just “any old school.” Rather, we are called to act when we encounter injustice: to help students to recognize it, to empower them with a sense of agency, and to foster in them a sense of responsibility for helping to heal the world. This has been a core part of our mission since we opened the doors in 1980. Our founders’ views on education were forged in the crucible of the battles over Civil Rights and Vietnam, in an era not so unlike our own. In fact, one of the three, Paul Raymond, marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. and was shot at by the Ku Klux Klan. So when it came time to establish a school of their own, social justice was a core value. If you study the sculpture over the front door to the library, you’ll notice the figure of Paul, arms outstretched toward a book engraved with Dr. King’s immortal words from his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

That value remains very much alive at Northwest today and continues to attract people who want to make a difference. As I will tell our new faculty at orientation this week, teaching in times like these is the most vital of vocations. And on their tour of the campus, I will be sure they notice, stenciled on the stairs leading from the Commons to the South Lot, the more poetic rendering of our mission, directed at our students, from James Baldwin: “The world is before you, and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.”

Let me also share with you some of the concrete steps the school will be taking in response to the crisis we’re confronting:
• We are dedicating important faculty professional development time to the issues surrounding Charlottesville in the many preparatory meetings that begin this week and lead up to the start of school. How do we support students in and beyond the classroom, both academically and emotionally? How do we continue to nurture critical thinkers even as we take clear stands against racism, xenophobia, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, LBTQ-bashing, and other clear violations of our values? Our collective summer reading, required of all teaching faculty, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, is one example of our ongoing effort to ensure we’re meeting all members of our diverse student body where they are.
• Anshu Wahi, our new Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, will be hosting a series of coffees for parents this fall. Though we’d planned these before the events in Charlottesville as an opportunity for you to get acquainted and share with her your vision for DEI work at Northwest, they may now provide an additional space in which to process the national conversation, its impact on students, and the school’s response.
• We will continue our support of Student Interest Groups, especially those whose charters are social justice oriented, including BSU (the Black Student Union), FIG (the Feminist Interest Group), and GLAM (Gay Lesbian And More). We anticipate that others may emerge, as well. They have more time than ever in the new schedule and were among the most active of any Student Interest Groups last year. We expect that trend to continue and will be mindful of the heightened emotions that may inform their meetings.
• I’ve appended to this letter a number of resources collected and disseminated by the National Association of Independent Schools. I’ll be sharing these and other classroom-specific articles and links with the faculty in the coming days. We will keep you posted as to other measures we might take and, in the spirit of working together to support our kids, would ask you to please let us know about the conversations you’re having with your children, particularly if they are feeling vulnerable, or coming home concerned about something they’ve experienced at school. In the meantime, I choose to be inspired by the words of Sherman Alexie, a Northwest School parent, whose raw, but ultimately hopeful poem, “Hymn,” written in the aftermath of Charlottesville, concludes with this powerful response to the hatred on display there:

I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.

We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.

We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.

See you all very soon.
Mike McGill
Head of School


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