~Excerpt from The Creator's Healing Power: Restoring the Beautifully Broken, by Jody Thomae
CinDay Academy in Southwest Ohio is one of the most creative school environments I have ever encountered. Based on principles that emphasize creativity, complexity, curiosity, and collaboration, they believe that every child can succeed given the right environment and teachers. Serving children from preschool through high school, their mission is to give every child his or her deserved chance to learn, in whatever way he or she needs to learn, because every child is unique and every child matters. Any given topic is studied across multiple disciplines and mediums, including art, drama, music, and physical activity. Children learning about the Gettysburg Address will not only study it in history class, but in English, drama, and art classes, as well. Classrooms are innovative and a distant cry from the crowded row upon row of desks in the typical American classroom. Butterfly gardens and vegetable gardens adorn the campus where minds and imaginations are given flight and room to grow.
Interestingly, this remarkable learning experience is the result of a childhood filled with negative remarks and wounding experiences of founder and principal, Gina Shields. Hiding from the noticing glances of her teachers and developing complex coping mechanisms that helped her fly under the radar, Gina struggled through most of her education.
“I always felt like I was hiding or in prison. I felt like a lost child—neglected, invisible. I was dumb. Never good enough. I knew the answers but only got credit for writing them down. There was no credit for knowing and saying,” shares Gina. “I often heard, ‘If only you could only learn to read, you’d be smart.’ So for me, reading equaled intelligence, and since I struggled to read, I was unintelligent.”
“And shame. I felt shame.”
It wasn’t until much later that she realized she had dyslexia, a learning disability that made it difficult for her to succeed in a traditional American classroom. Despite being mocked by her guidance counselor (yes, her guidance counselor) for wanting to go to college, she succeeded in being accepted and sought a degree in education. It was at that time, and through the love and patience of some amazing tutors throughout her life, that a dream was planted within her of an educational experience that fosters a love of learning and acceptance of strengths and weaknesses.
Upon graduation she taught in a typical school environment where she quickly realized that if she adapted her teaching to the individual needs of the student, they experienced greater success. At one point when her children were young, she decided to stay home with them for a time. Of course, her love of education never went away, so she went about teaching them, working with them in their own unique interests and strengths. When they were school-aged, Gina sought creative and nurturing school environments for them but quickly became frustrated. As a result, she set out on an adventure to start a preschool. Soon she added first grade, then more elementary grade levels, then secondary, and finally in 2016, she added high school classrooms to her seven-acre campus in Springboro, Ohio.
In touring the facility with Gina, it is evident that her struggles in education were the impetus in founding this school and is the continuing motivation as the school grows and impacts children on many levels. She works with a deep sense of justice for each child who attends and gathers a community of other like-minded educators around her to help her fulfill her vision.
“A learning environment that is safe, creative, and helpful will ultimately lead to fulfilling and meaningful lives for these children. It is my desire that each one learns who they were truly meant to be—and they learn to walk in their unique gifts and passions.”
I believe they will, and they do!
~ From the book, The Creator’s Healing Power: Restoring the Beautifully Broken by Jody Thomae