Growing Leaders of Tomorrow

Students and Parents at The Calverton School: L to R: Braden Merryman and Nirvana Tiwarri; Row 2 L to R: Clare Jackson, Heidi Merryman, Lee Ann Potter, Bett Alter and Neelam Shah; Row 3 L to R: Annie Potter, Joi Jackson, Indira Tiwarri, Connie Grady, Annette James, Donovan James, Dr. Arpana Shah and Samir Shah.

The Calverton School’s 50th Anniversary

Located on a 154-acre property in the countryside of beautiful Calvert County, The Calverton School is a private college preparatory day and boarding school in Huntingtown, with students age two and a half through grade 12.

Separated into three levels – the lower, middle, and upper schools – “Calverton is an educator’s dream,” said Heidi Merryman, Head of the Lower School and mother to student Braden class of 2030.

Not only do the small class sizes allow educators to truly get to know each student, their strengths, and their areas of growth, the curriculum allows for flexibility and time to include creative learning opportunities that are not tied to a testing deadline. Fostering a diverse culture of respect, high expectations, and shared experiences are all pillars of excellence Calverton instills in students from the very beginning.

“At the Lower School level, we spend a great deal of time on social and emotional learning, teaching the students to be leaders and the many facets to leadership, and most importantly to foster curiosity for learning,” Heidi said. “Allowing students the time to ask questions, think critically, and find the means to problem solve in all areas of our program are integral in growing our leaders of tomorrow.”

In fact, every single aspect of Calverton’s mission is tied into the school day.

“Instilling and growing the core values are found within each teachable moment. Students are asked to take on challenges and learn from their mistakes. Even in our early grades, we teach students to take responsibility for their learning and be advocates for themselves,” she said. “Through building knowledge, self-confidence, and communication skills, we work to prepare our students as proper citizens in our community.”

Head of Middle and Upper Schools at Calverton, Bett Alter, believes the diversity of the programs and student body is a crucial part of how the school helps shape students for the future. “We have students pursuing elite levels of academics through our curriculum, in athletics within our own school and the DC United Academy program, with a diverse student body studying in small town Maryland – it’s quite a remarkable opportunity for students and teachers alike!”

As Calverton graduates have worked alongside people from all sorts of backgrounds, Bett says students develop global-mindedness, curiosity and the skills of inquiry, exceptional communication, and a strong set of principles – a core component of their International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

Dr. Arpana Shah, Calverton Trustees Board Member and mother to Neelam, eighth grade, and Samir, tenth grade, said the biggest academic draw of Calverton was that it is an IB school – one that encourages students to become active, compassionate, lifelong learners who strive to become inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective.

“As the only IB Diploma School in the Southern Maryland area, Calverton offers this revolutionary curriculum as a way for students to learn how to think outside the rigid confines of the Advanced Placement (AP) program,” Dr. Shah said. “While AP teaches students to memorize, IB teaches them to think. Medical schools as well as many higher learning institutions have already accepted that straight memorization in the world of Google is an outdated method of learning. IB works to teach the student to ask why.”

Dr. Shah’s children have flourished under the school’s intimate and close-knit atmosphere. “My husband and I chose Calverton for our family when our children were in second grade and kindergarten,” she said. “Our son was shy and tried to stay out of the limelight. In public school, although the teachers were excellent, he was not given the attention he needed to truly come out of his shell. I understood that for him to excel in this ever-competitive world, he would need the leadership skills and confidence that Calverton instills from day one.”

However, it wasn’t just the teaching style that brought comfort to Dr. Shah, it was the wonderful community that followed. In 2009, she recalled feeling nervous to put her then- 5-year-old daughter on a bus every morning, but the students were so welcoming, it brought relief.

“When my daughter struggled to haul her backpack from the bus to her classroom, a very compassionate fifth grader on the bus helped her by carrying the bag,” she said. “It was touching for me to share this story with that young woman on her high school graduation day last year.

To me, these are the values of a Calverton education; not only in the classroom, but in life skills as well.”

The emphasis on character and leadership is also what intrigued board member Joi Jackson, a single mother to Clare, fifth grade. “[It was] the expectation of respect for peers, faculty, the environment and community; the culture of high expectations, both morally and academically; and the nurturing kindness and sense of safety I have knowing that while I am so far away, in the event of an emergency, Clare will be cared for and protected,” she said, noting that Clare’s favorite thing about Calverton is “how everyone gets along and is a big, happy family.”

ONE WORLD RESIDENTIAL VILLAGE AND EXTENDED DAY OPTIONS

In 2014, Calverton established their One World Residential Village on campus for their boarding program. For many, the on-site village is their home away from home, where students in grades nine through 12 can live from five to seven days a week.

The student dorms are located in a variety of suburban homes surrounded by a beautiful wooded area designed to create a safe and friendly environment for students. The on-campus facilities allow learners who live there the convenience to easily participate in academics, athletics, and arts programming. Each home is equipped with modern amenities like wireless internet, entertainment areas, exercise rooms, and more.

Those who attend Calverton but are not a part of the boarding program, often referred to as “day students,” are encouraged to join their residential friends for dinner and activities, adding to everyone’s education and social experiences in a way that is keenly important.

Dr. Shah says though her children do not live in the village, they know many who do. “The boys often will go there to play ping pong after school while waiting for sports or activities. Host families will frequently have students over for holiday breaks. It is helpful for my children to experience the diversity of students from all over the country, as well as the world,” Dr. Shah said. “From California, Canada, Utah, to China, Turkey and Ethiopia, these students bring in a different perspective than that found in Southern Maryland. Having these experiences early in life will truly shape them to be more tolerant and more open to other cultures.”

Aside from the residencies, the Calverton School offers extended day options from 7 a.m. through 6 p.m. for students of all ages, ensuring that children are safe and cared for while engaging in worthwhile activities both before and after school.

“Initially, we chose Calverton largely for logistical reasons,” said board member Lee Ann Potter and parent to both Annie, ninth grade, and Jack, class of 2017. “When our son started school in 2004, the public schools did not offer full-day kindergarten. We needed a school that had full day kindergarten, as well as before and after care options. Calverton offered it all—and we’ve stayed for all these years because of the strong community and because we believe our children have thrived.”

While Lee Ann’s son also did not live in the residencies, a couple of her son’s best friends did. “Earlier this summer, my son spent two amazing weeks traveling in China with his friends from the residences and their families,” she said. “Having friends from another part of the world throughout his high school career expanded his perspective on many issues and piqued his curiosity about the world. He treasures these friendships.”

COUGAR ARTS & ATHLETICS

At Calverton, all students can participate in fine arts and athletics. The Fine Arts program at Calverton is unique in that it challenges students to develop perceptual awareness, historical perspective, and creative and performance skills, as well as aesthetic sensitivity.

This form of expression is common in some of Bett’s favorite memories from Calverton, such as their on-campus Coffee Houses. “[These are] evenings where students (and occasionally faculty and parents) perform in our intimate black box theater. On one particular night, students from China, Korea, and Calvert County performed in a variety of combinations, including one guitar duet performed by a father and son. On stage were students brand new to our school and some who are Calverton “lifers,” having spent the years from kindergarten through twelfth grade as a Calverton Cougar,” she recalled.

“There were athletes and scholars, all courageous enough to perform for their teachers, families and peers. The diversity of performers and the quality of their work, the courage that it takes to take the stage, and the skill with which they did it, was remarkable.”

The Calverton Cougars Athletics program is also grounded in a fundamental set of principles: achievement, improvement, and enjoyment. One distinctive feature of the school’s sports program is their “no cut” policy, meaning any child who wants to participate, can.

“I think this improves the skillset of every student athlete,” said Lee Ann, whose son now plays club lacrosse at Elon University. “Those who are outstanding — and there are many outstanding athletes; more than 25 percent of last year’s graduating class is playing for NCAA Division I schools now — keep the bar high for all payers, and those who are improving feel included and supported.”

Through their mission and beyond, Calverton strives to create an atmosphere for students that allows each individual to excel in the way that works for them. “As a parent, I’ve seen continued positive growth both academically, socially, and emotionally in my child,” says board member Indira Tiwarri, parent to Nirvana, first grade. “Calverton has provided an environment where my child can be the best version of herself.”

Fellow board member Tamika Tremaglio, echoes the same sentiments.

“The culture at Calverton is very unique. It is a place where my sons have really developed into honorable men – a place where they have felt safe and felt like their voices were heard. They were always respected as individuals and made to feel important and valued.”

Learn more about the Calverton School!
Visit CalvertonSchool.org or call 410-535-0216.

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Rachel Lytle

Rachel Lytle is a digital marketing coordinator for MedStar Health and contributing writer to WOMAN Magazines. Rachel has a degree in Journalism from the Pennsylvania State University, but grew up in Southern Maryland. She has a passion for digital communications and has previous experience working for advertising agencies, college publications and as a writer for MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital’s Marketing and Public Relations Department. Rachel likes to play tennis, travel, and spend her spare time with family and friends.