What Cortona Academy Can Do For Your Child!
My parents are from Accra, Ghana, West Africa. My parents came to the United States for me to have better opportunities in life. They felt the educational opportunities in the United States would be best for me. I attended a Lutheran private school when I was in kindergarten in the United States. School was difficult for me; due to my learning disability. Unfortunately, the school didn’t have programs to accommodate my needs, as a result, I was enrolled in a public school. Ever since I was a child, I have always had an ongoing battle with my learning disability. I just didn’t know where to start, considering the fact that every school my father searched for did not have accommodations for students with learning disabilities which devastated me – I only found solace in playing the violin in the school orchestra. I struggled with retaining or comprehending certain math concepts as well as , note-taking, writing papers, and structured spelling. At school, my classmates would bully and tease me for having learning challenges, I lost the desire to put any effort into my assignments and I wouldn’t even bother to participate in my classes.
This went on until my junior year in high school. At Cortona Academy, I learned that having a learning disability does not determine a student’s academic success or self-worth. Overcoming this learning disability is a major accomplishment for me. It was not easy, but it made me more determined to go off to college and obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Science. With this, I can follow my dream … to become a nurse.
2012: When I first came to Cortona
At Cortona Academy, the environment is completely different. Students are able to take tests and evaluations when they decide they’re fully prepared. This gives students an incentive to seriously study the material and be prepared to answer any question on the examinations accordingly. This method gives students a reason to memorize complex concepts and at least have them prepared for future uses, not only for the exam. Cortona Academy places a large amount of responsibility for one’s education on the student. The instructors are more or less mentors to guide us through our respective quests. I experienced a number of epiphanies after attending Cortona Academy. One involved the concept of what my future holds. The school I attended before I went to Cortona Academy hardly prepared its students for levels of higher education. The school didn’t teach the students how to study so they’re capable of retaining the material, and didn’t teach any form of critical thinking skills. The pedagogy in my former school did what many pundits call ‘teaching to the test’, which is very myopic and unsophisticated. This means they only taught the concepts that would be requested once examination was complete, mostly because the students had moved on to learning new material for another examination.
Just as Cortona Academy does not “teach to the test,” so to speak, it also does not collectivize all the students into a setting where only a few students understand the method of teaching from a specific instructor. It is not a place where individual student complaints, questions, and needs receive little attention; it is the antithesis of such procedures. With Cortona Academy’s comprehensive and individual instruction, each student has enough time to request for a lesson to be extended if s/he needs more time to understand the topic. There is more time for students to ask questions, and to have direct and instant assistance to troubleshoot any learning issues.
The entire idea behind public schools is to follow the direction of bureaucrats in order to focus the achievement collectively on the class. The idea behind Cortona Academy is to focus on the success of the individual student. The teaching staff assists every student in a manner that caters to each student’s comfort zone. More private schools should operate like Cortona Academy.
Cortona Academy is about individually assisting the autonomous student, and not about the welfare of the arbitrary class. Scheduling is one of the ways that Cortona Academy is able to keep their attention on individual students. Other than general instruction classes that give the basic framework of the courses needed, the scheduling is based around the student’s main activities of life. For example, if a student has a job, the Academy will liberalize the time the student needs for the job and his/her courses. As aforementioned, students may take exams when they feel prepared for them, instead of on some arbitrary date that bureaucrats or teachers set.
With much predilection, I can firmly state that one of the main attractions of Cortona is its policy of allowing each student to expropriate at least one day from attending school. This free day is specifically reserved for an activity students would like to be a part of that is walled off from what the school requires.
I would encourage anyone reading this to consider Cortona Academy, and learn about its program in depth to see if it’s favorable to you and your child. I know my life would not be the same without my time spent at this unique school.
2016: What Cortona Has Given Me Over the Years
Before I came to Cortona Academy I attended Lake Braddock Secondary School, in Burke, VA. At Lake Braddock I was a total mess, completely disregarding all the potential that I had by associating with individuals whose interests were not commensurate with the future I desired for myself. My parents, more and more as time went along, began to recognize that I was hurting myself by becoming like my associates, through my drastically falling grades and through sparsely ever being home. As a result of that realization, they decided to nip my behavior in the bud before it would have become too far gone. They found a small, private school called Cortona Academy out in Herndon, VA and told me that I was going to go there, whether I liked it or not. This school truly did right my ways and allowed me another chance to utilize my potential to the utmost.
When I took classes at Lake Braddock from 2007-2010, I was just another face in the crowd. Classes were packed with students beyond capacity where some kids could not even benefit from a desk. For four years I went into classes feeling like teachers were not really focused on me, that I was not receiving the proper productive attention that a child my age needed. Also, in addition to feeling isolated at school, my family was going through a difficult era at the same time. The cumulative result of both these foundations of my upbringing being unstable drove me to find some semblance of stability with whoever could offer it the fastest, meaning that the quality of the new support network was very low. Therefore, my grades, and my life, quickly took a nosedive for the worse. Luckily, my parents still cared enough about my future that they found a solution to my travails, sending me to Cortona Academy.
That being said, Cortona Academy was a different experience to me. I was used to a large school environment with over 4,000 students; coming to a school where there were only thirty or so peers was quite a change for me. However I was not aware of the skills which I could apply to college and general life that I would learn from my tenure at Cortona Academy. I learned how to be a fast, but productive, reader of difficult texts and textbooks. I learned how to take effective, memory-enforcing notes that helped me retain much of what I read. But even greater than the study-skills that I garnered from Cortona Academy, were the life lessons that I learned. I realized how important it is to do as much as I can while I had the privilege of youth; that all that I did as early as I could would greatly affect my life’s progression, either positively or negatively. Before Cortona Academy, the now was all that mattered to me. Adulthood and responsibility were a long way off. But Cortona Academy helped me to see that time truly does fly and that I must be aware of that or it would simply pass me by. Cortona Academy truly did speed up my maturing process and helped make me the better, more social, and contributing member of society that I am today.
So what happened to me after Cortona Academy? I went to NOVA for almost three years because my father could not afford a more prestigious institution, and I worked at least 30 hours a week as well for most of that time. However, I earned 77 credits with a 4.0 grade point average throughout my academic experience at NOVA. That hard work I did at NOVA resulted in me being accepted into two distinctive academic honor societies whose networks are broad, with many great organizations, that can confer many benefits to their members, on their roster. This helped me to be a very highly considered candidate for a couple Ivy League schools, notably Cornell University and Columbia University, which I am now in the process of being formally considered for the fall 2016 semester at both those schools (and a few other less notable, but still very prestigious, institutions). Moreover, all the staff at Cortona Academy who helped save me from myself are still helping me today, with recommendation letters and personal support. Though I still have gone through a great deal of hardship after Cortona Academy (and I still am in many regards), I am in a much better position than I would have been had I not been placed at Cortona. And for that, I do owe Cortona Academy my deepest thanks and regards.
“What makes Cortona Academy such a great school is that it looks out for the individual student and caters to their needs. I had to stop going to high school in 10th grade due to personal matters, and the hope for living the future I had planned for myself started to diminish, until Cortona came along. I ended up being able to complete grades 10, 11, and 12 in around the same time frame the rest of my former class was graduating, thanks to Cortona’s philosophy on individuality. The professors also have an excel amount of education, which made the classes full of profound conversations enabling students to use their intellect and apply what they learn in real life. My circumstances had also made it difficult for me to keep up with the curriculum at a public high school, but not at Cortona. It also made me feel better that I wasn’t the only one with special circumstances. The environment is very stress-free and supportive. Attending Cortona has been by far the best decision I’ve made in my academic career. It opened up many opportunities for me and allowed me to pursue my academic dreams, and for that I am very grateful to everyone at Cortona.”
– Student review on GreatSchools.org
“Cortona Academy and its teachers do a tremendous job helping students better their skills in the classroom. Smaller classes allow for better student/ teacher relations and a more relaxed learning environment. Cortona also teaches students invaluable study skills that will allow them to succeed now, and in college. The best option among DC area private schools for furthering student growth is without a doubt Cortona Academy.”
– Student review on GreatSchools.org
“Cortona Academy has been greatly beneficial to my academic career. As a result of the efforts of the teachers and staff here, I have been able to fix the issues that prevented me from being successful in other schools. Additionally, I have had access to opportunities that I never would have been able to have in public schools.”
– Michael, student
“Before I came to Cortona Academy, I attended high school in New York. I struggled in the public school atmosphere. I came to Cortona looking for a school that would provide me with individual attention and help me to achieve better grades and prepare for college. Cortona Academy helped me to focus. The time and attention given to me by my teachers have been invaluable and have enabled me to have a really positive outlook on my educational future.”
– Patrick, student
“Having always wanted to be a better version of myself, I felt that public school limited me in my endeavors. Always having just been another number rather than a name, I was always competing with my fellow students, even my friends, for the better grade. It wasn’t until I found my way to Cortona Academy that I was given the opportunity to focus my time and energy on what I really valued. Cortona’s exquisite teachers and mentors helped me find my way back to the road to success, and in turn, a better future. I really can’t thank Cortona enough for all that it has done for me.”
– Adrian, student
“Cortona Academy helped me get through high school. After dropping out of public school, I wasn’t sure where to go or even if I would still graduate. After starting at Cortona, I no longer had doubts about my future. With the flexible scheduling, caring teachers, and positive learning environment, it was no longer a struggle to get out of bed every morning. Thank you Cortona for helping me get back on track.”
– Megan, student
“Before I came to Cortona Academy, I had terrible grades, and my anxiety and stress were through the roof. After I started at Cortona to finish my senior year and to complete a gap year, I was accepted to my top choice of universities that I wanted to attend where I received two scholarships, one of which was for academic achievement. Cortona helped me get my grades and life back.”
– Brendan, student
“Before I came to Cortona Academy, school was entirely about being able to spend time with my friends, not about the academics. As a result, I did not do as well as I could have or should have. Once I came here, I was able to find a balance between the social aspects of my life and academics. The teachers here gave me the one-on-one attention that I needed to succeed and grow as a student and a person. As a result of the efforts of the teachers and staff here, I have become both as academically successful as I wanted to become and I have developed into the person that I want to be.”
– Hannah, student
“At Cortona, I’ve been able to open up new opportunities for myself. My academic record was spotty before I attended Cortona, but I earned solid grades here through my own effort and the help of teachers. As a result, I gained acceptances to schools I’m certain I could not have without Cortona.”
– T.J., student
“Before I came to Cortona Academy, I was losing confidence in myself. I was struggling in school and had to study for eight hours every weekend just to barely get through. I wanted to find a way to study and not have it take so long, so that I could have better weekends. When I failed geometry, my parents freaked out and decided to take me out of public school. Once I went to Cortona Academy, I got my confidence back and did better in school. I would like to thank all teachers and staff for what they have done to get me to this point. Now I’m heading to college with lots of scholarship money. I am blessed for Cortona standing by me.”
– Chris, student
“Cortona Academy has been a blessing in my academic career. I have been at Cortona for two non-consecutive years: freshman and senior year. Without the help, care, and attention I’ve received, I would never have dreamed of making it into, let alone being prepared for, the colleges for which I’ve been accepted. Throughout my high school career, Cortona has been my rock. I would never be where I am now academically if it wasn’t for Cortona Academy.”
– Austin, student
“My experiences in high school were not always great. I never thought I was in a safe environment when I was in my previous school. When I first came to Cortona I was scared because it all seemed so different than what I was used to. Eventually, I began to feel comfortable and supported at Cortona. I realized all the teachers cared about my future and were really invested in seeing me succeed. I have always felt accepted and loved and don’t have the stress that I had at my old school. As I begin my college experience in the fall, I am going to miss all my teachers and fellow students at Cortona Academy. Thank you for helping me realize my potential, and for helping me feel ready to face my future.”
– Lillie, student
“I had a rough road, academically, before I came to Cortona Academy. For a few months at my old school I had just stopped attending classes. At first my absences were due to an illness, but then they were because it was easier not to go. I ended up without credit for most of sophomore year. My parents recognized the need for change, and Cortona offered a chance for me to make up my missed classes and still graduate on time. When I came to Cortona, I found that it was different environment. It was full of caring teachers who really took the time to help me prepare for college and my academic future. The ability to make up for missed time is something that is invaluable. I am so happy to be graduating on time, with wonderful grades, and the chance to go to a good college of my choosing next year. Thank you very much for helping me stay motivated.”
– Richard, student
“When I decided to come to Cortona Academy, the main reason was the ability to be at a school where I could go at my pace. I had difficulty with the busy work and with the repetitiveness of my public school’s academic program. I wanted a place where I could speed up if I felt comfortable with a topic, and slow down if I needed extra help. Cortona Academy gave me that freedom. I was able to excel in math and sciences, while still maintaining good grades in subjects that didn’t come as naturally to me, like English. An understanding of the humanities, which haven’t always piqued my interest, has helped me prepare for college and my future general education classes. I am thankful to Cortona and its staff for giving me the opportunity to reach my true, full potential and to be well-prepared the years to come.”
– Nick, student
“Cortona Academy has been such a gift. I love all my teachers; they are so patient and understanding. I love the flexible schedule Cortona offers and the commitment to learning. High school has not always been an exciting journey for me, but here I was able to really make the experience my own and develop myself into a well-rounded academic. It’s really nice to be able to go at my own pace, moving forward when I feel comfortable and easing back when something doesn’t come as quickly to me. I am so excited to be graduating, and I have Cortona and Mrs. Strauchs to thank for that!”
– Madison, student
“Cortona Academy gave me the push I needed to succeed. Between its flexible hours and understanding teachers, I was able to have a well-rounded high school experience. I flourished academically and enjoyed the learning process. I developed amazing relationships with my teachers. At public schools, I had a hard time sitting through long classes and lost focus in the first couple minutes. At Cortona I have been able to keep myself active and take breaks when needed; it has greatly increased my focus and ability to learn. I have developed relationships with teachers that I am sure will continue to grow, and I am so excited to be able to visit. I am forever grateful for the support Cortona has given me.”
– Lauren, student
“My first semester of freshman year at my old school was a disaster. I was unmotivated, unfocused and not interested in the academic side of school. I came to Cortona mid-year hoping to start over and give myself a shot. I redid my classes, refocused myself and realized that school wasn’t so bad. The environment at Cortona helped me feel supported, and the direction that the teachers gave me was invaluable. I am forever grateful for the second chance that Cortona gave me, and for the lifelong friendships that I have cultivated here. Thank you to the staff and teachers for my future.”
– Morgan, student
“The immense gratitude I hold for the opportunities Cortona Academy has given me is almost inexpressible. Cortona and its staff have allowed me to grow personally and academically. Being immersed in a small social environment that I would not usually choose for myself has brought such inner peace, allowing me to express myself free from insecurity and accept and embrace others for whom they truly are. The development of close relationships with my professors has made me realize the value of education and general knowledge, thus sparking in me an intense motivation for success in my passions. Without Cortona, I believe I would be a completely different person than I am today, and I so look forward to continuing onto the path that it has guided me. Thank you to everyone who has supported me when I was struggling and who encouraged me when I was striving.”
– Sophie, Student
“Needless to say, Cortona Academy is anything but ordinary. Now, I am not just referring to its size. No, that little extra I’m talking about is that little extra time to sleep in the mornings, that little extra attention you get in class to help you understand, that little extra time you have for summer, if you finish your work on time, that is!. I only wish I could express my gratitude and appreciation for all of the things this school has done for me in its entirety, but frankly it would take longer than a day, and much more than a single sheet of paper.”
– Sasha, Student
“Cortona Academy has transformed my life. Before I came to Cortona, I had gone from public school to private school to homeschooling/online school. It other words, I’ve done it all. When I was at public school I was bullied to the point where getting out of the car in the morning was a struggle. Here, I feel accepted. I feel loved. I don’t stress like I did before. I can get out of the car in the morning and walk into school. Cortona blessed me with a place free of mean people and full of acceptance. All of the teachers make sure I know what’s going on and take care of me. For that I thank you. I have never met someone who didn’t care about me while I was here. That is one of the reasons I loved my experience at Cortona. I’m going to dearly miss all my teachers and all the friends I’ve made here. I simply thank you for loving me as I was and making me the person I am today.”
– Haley, Student
“It’s so crazy that I finally finished four long years of high school and am now graduating! Cortona Academy made that possible for me. At my old school, I had no problems with the academics, but the social aspects were a struggle. I needed to find a new place to get away from the bullying and anxiety. Cortona welcomed me with open arms; right away I felt like I belonged. I learned so much more about different cultures and the actual real world than I ever had at my previous school. I have grown so much in just the year I have been at Cortona. I want to thank all the staff and teachers for helping me out and just being the support I needed. I will be attending Christopher Newport University in the fall and am so excited to go forward and start my adult life.”
– Heather, Student
“During my enrollment at Cortona Academy, I’ve developed through the wisdom and experience of the teachers a solemn understanding of what responsibility and challenges college will bring to me. Not only has Cortona academically prepared me for college, but they also have enhanced my organizational abilities and capacity to deal with stress. Apart from all of the other schools, I feel that Cortona excels not only at the quality of education offered, but most importantly, at the ability to help shape an individual. During all my time here, from my course in Psychology to conversing with all the teachers, I have found that these interactions have helped me solve my flaws and enhance my personal character. With all of this help, I managed to turn around my high school career and get into some great colleges. I hope the rest of the students enrolled here can make the most of what is given here just like I did. I cannot thank Cortona Academy enough. In just two short years, Cortona Academy has bettered my chances for college success and provided me with a superb mindset to take with me to college and through the rest of my life.”
– Christopher, Student
“I started at Cortona Academy in the fall. I really like the small class sizes and the teachers. They let you work at your own pace and you only take the tests when you are really prepared. The later start times are also a huge benefit. All the kids are supportive of each other and get along well.”
– Austin, student
“I am a student that is applying for college admission, and I have taken almost all of my high school credits at Cortona (past ninth grade). Before coming here, I had been to three other high schools all along the East Coast. None of them suited me as well as my current school. The teachers here are wonderful; they are knowledgeable, patient and encouraging. They actually care about their students doing well and learning the material. The staff is highly competent, and Ms. Strauchs (director) has been a lifesaver. She knows a great deal about internships, volunteering programs and awards and scholarships and has helped me greatly through the nightmarish application process. I don’t think I could have made it through without them.”
– Kevin, Student
“There are many reasons for my academic improvement and success at Cortona, with the first being the teaching faculty. Most of the teachers became educators only after years of professional experience related to the courses they teach. Each teacher encouraged me to think “outside the box,” express my curiosity, and question others to gain a different perspective and point of view for comparison. My teachers at Cortona have very high expectations and are respectful at the same time. This approach has helped me exchange ideas more effectively, while becoming much more confident as a student.”
– Zac, Student
“As a recent graduate, I can personally say how much going to Cortona has helped me. Without having gone here, I undoubtedly would not be doing as well as I am in college. They offer a variety of classes all with great instructors in either one-on-one tutoring or in small group classes. They also offer a very flexible schedule and classes do not even start until 9 a.m., which is quite nice. There are no other schools similar to Cortona that I know of, I would highly recommend this school to anyone.”
– Student review on GreatSchools.org
“Cortona has truly helped me develop as a person. I have been attending classes since sophomore year and I am currently completing high school and college preparatory work. I struggled from childhood until freshman year in Northern Virginia schools until I enrolled here. My experience has been a very good one. Scheduling is flexible and staff here have great leeway to apply their creativity and teach in a way that suits each student’s educational needs. Learning is highly personalized and, crucially, so much more caring and human. The teachers here excel not only in their knowledge of the subject matter and their brilliance; they are also deeply cultured, patient, encouraging, affirmative, and most importantly kind and good people. Administration is also talented and extremely competent. Ms. Strauchs (director) is inspirational; she is amazingly well-versed both as educator and counselor, with in-depth knowledge on everything from college scholarships to award programs. She has an amazing vision and I am sure that Cortona has a great future. This is the most honest review I can write and an overdue thank-you; I would recommend Cortona to any student.”
– Student review on GreatSchools.org
“Cortona Academy has been a game-changer for my son. After years of struggling to meet his best potential in his previous high schools, which caused him great anxiety, he has grown into a confidant, mature and self-managing scholar at Cortona. He has always set his sights on attending University, but now he is prepared for it! The staff at Cortona are respectful of the students and treat them as young college-bound adults, holding high expectations but then assisting them to reach those expectations. My son has not only learned study skills that will enable him to be successful in University, but has been able to earn the grades that are getting him acceptances and scholarship offers, as well. I have no doubt that Cortona Academy has set my son on the path to success and am thankful to the staff at Cortona for the opportunities, support and encouragement they have provided.
– Jeff & Jennifer, parents
“My daughter finished the first two years of her high school at a public school. But for her last two years, she needed a more flexible and supportive environment. Cortona Academy proved to be “what the doctor ordered.” It was the right place, at the right time, with the right people. That turned out to be the formula for success for her. She finished her program with top grades and with regained confidence and motivation for excellence. Thank you, Cortona Academy, for everything!”
– Shad, parent
“Our son is smart. Very smart. But public school was not for him. We needed to do something! And what we found in Cortona was different. How different? Our son was not treated like a number. Cortona not only knew him by his name (both first and last), but also his likes/dislikes, as well as figured out how he learned. It was not easy. 2012 was Jason’s first year. It was a rough year, and he did not like us putting him into “another” school. But over the next five years, Jason has changed. And change he did. He grew up from a boy, to a man ready for college. Was it the individual care, attention and guidance they provided? Or, allowing him to learn the material on his own pace? Undoubtedly, Cortona’s non-traditional approach has made him feel what “success” is like. Which is what Cortona has meant for Jason… Success! Thank you Cortona Academy!”
– Lestor & Maria, parent
“My son just received over $100,000 for a merit college scholarship at the college of his choice to study pre-med with guaranteed acceptance to medical school. This is due to his transferring to Cortona Academy as a junior. Before that time, he only looked to attend NOVA and hopefully transfer into 4-year college. This wonderful future that my son now has would have been impossible without the wonderful help, patience and encouragement of the teachers and staff at Cortona Academy. When I came to this country 30 years ago, I never imagined my son ever being in such an advantageous private school and us investing in his future before college. Now Cortona has prepared him for college. He is confident, self-assured, and ready to tackle any academics that come his way. All because of the solid foundation at Cortona Academy. My daughter came from a bullying situation and now she looks forward to coming to school every day, because of Cortona Academy’s welcoming embrace. The teachers are supportive, encouraging, and last but not least, the students treat each other with respect only found in families. Now I have a very confident young lady graduating from Cortona Academy with a solid academic foundation and looking forward to nursing school. Before Cortona, my daughter was always worried about going to school and always came home depressed and sad, regardless of all the encouragement from her family. At Cortona, this became history. She enjoys coming to school every day and already says how much she will miss the school after graduation. Mrs. Strauchs, the Director, has been a God-sent gift to the school and we all truly appreciate all her help and faith in her students.”
– Joseph, parent
“The Cortona Academy faculty and staff helped our son succeed by offering a unique teaching environment. The dedicated teaching staff provided a positive and supportive environment which was very flexible in addressing our family situation. In addition, they promote the development of life skills by purposefully pursuing the Congressional Award with their students.”
– John & Liz, parent
“Cortona Academy is a good school that my son has enjoyed attending for two and a half years. Cortona allowed my son to create things and learn about many interesting concepts, such as robotics and engineering. Cortona is a small school and in result was a very intimate environment for learning. Many of the professors are PhD’s in their fields. My son went from being a “B” student from the other schools to an “A-average” student at Cortona Academy. Cortona also taught him many useful concepts about studying, such as reading and highlighting techniques. Thank you, everyone!”
– Juned & Maria, parent
“Cortona Academy is the epitome of a great school. The classes are tailored to the needs of the students, and the teachers give them methods that they will use to be successful in college. My child has ADHD, and although very smart, he was failing in the other school he used to attend. Cortona Academy allowed him to get back on track, to develop methods in a supportive and understanding environment. The cost is equal to most private schools in the area, but the investment is worth every penny! Before Cortona, my child was anxious and thought that he didn’t have a future. In addition to a great education, Cortona Academy gave him back hope in his future!”
– Isabelle, parent
“Cortona Academy had been such a wonderful school for our daughter. With its unique ways of teaching and learning, our daughter thrived here. The teachers and staff are gifted individuals, knowledgeable, and truly care about your child. With its uniqueness and optional ways to cater to each individual, no matter the learning style, the student will thrive. Our daughter excelled in this environment. She has been accepted to three colleges of her choice with scholarships, as well. Our daughter had a dream and Cortona supported her and set her on the right path to accomplish that dream. We are so proud of our daughter and thankful for those who believed in her and encouraged her on her journey to this day, Graduation Day!”
– Leslie, parent
“As we sit back and reflect on this momentous occasion, we wouldn’t be here without the help and guidance of our Cortona family. When a child is born you have every hope and dream that they will have the best life free of struggles and hardships. Jack was a beautiful, handsome child that was talking and active. That all changed when he was two and had multiple ear infections and lost communication skills. As a school administrator I knew right away how important it was to seek intervention. Jack’s grandmother started independent preschools back in the 1970’s and still has one preschool operating today. I was blessed with being able to use my education and school administration degree to work in the family business. From birth, Jack was able to come to preschool and elementary school at the Fairfax Academy. This was a blessing for us. It allowed the opportunity to customize his learning goals, seek speech therapy, occupational therapy, play therapy. You name it and we have tried it. We were blessed to have the means to provide for these treatments. Additionally, we are blessed to have people that support these goals and want the very best for Jack. His second grade teacher, Miss Margaret, and one of the school administrators, Miss Anna, are here today. Over the years, they worked very closely with Jack to help him.
Once he reached the grade level that was no longer offered, he did a very brief stint in Fairfax County public school. We began to realize that a general-based education was not going to give Jack what he needed. As parents, we were vilified for advocating for him in terms of requesting programs to help him learn. We decided to withdraw Jack and enrolled him in a small Catholic School in Manassas – Our Lady Of Grace. While no longer in existence, the staff there gave Jack the confidence and motivation to succeed and thrive socially and emotionally. They worked with many different children with varying abilities. At the beginning of 7th grade we realized that Jack had reached his potential and needed to make some hard decisions about his future. One of these decisions was to find a school that could give him a better academic foundation which also offered high school. That school was Cortona Academy. No parent wants to switch schools after the school year begins but in Jack’s case, it was very necessary. Sharon and Amber quickly assessed his needs and determined he was significantly behind academically.
From the moment we entered Cortona, Sharon and Amber were welcoming and helpful. One of the lessons we learned early on was to step back and let Cortona work for Jack. While this goes against the natural parenting instinct, it helped the process. Once we made the decision to allow Cortona to be in the driver seat, things fit into place for Jack. Not to say there weren’t hurdles along the way, learning for kids is always evolving process. Cortona was able to adapt to styles to help him thrive. We made peace with the fact that a “traditional” education wouldn’t work for Jack and we had to adapt to the fact that he would be in a non-traditional school. As parents, we do not realize how fortunate we are in this area to have a variety of schools to select from.
Jack has been at Cortona for five and a half years and has thrived. It has definitely been a financial sacrifice but it has paid off. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge some very special people who have helped shape Jack and have worked tirelessly to prepare him for real life. Mrs. Raffel, you are a saint! Words cannot adequately express how truly grateful we are for your guidance, patience, and tenacity. Jack learned to read because of you. We know there were challenges along the way but you never gave up! Dr. Booth, in your quiet compassionate manner, you believed in Jack and have helped him tremendously. Amber, I have no idea how you manage and juggle everything you do. You love each and every child that walks through the door and want the best for them. You keep Cortona organized and functioning. Lastly, Sharon, your passion and enthusiasm for what you have created reminds me of my own mother, a trailblazer that created something of value – first a place for your own children and then branching out to help others with similar paths. You believe in every student at Cortona and want the very best for them. Thanks to all of you from the bottom of our hearts.”
– Kathy & Keith Webster, parents
“My daughter came from a bullying situation and now she looks forward to coming to school every day, because of Cortona Academy’s welcoming embrace. The teachers are supportive, encouraging and last, but not the least, the students treat each other with respect only found in families. Now I have a very young, confident young lady graduating from Cortona Academy with a solid academic foundation and looking forward to nursing school. Before Cortona, my daughter was always worried about going to school and always came home depressed and sad, regardless of all the encouragement from her family. At Cortona, this became history. She enjoys coming to school every day and already says how much she will miss the school after graduation. Mrs. Strauchs, the Director, has been a God-sent gift to the school and we all truly appreciate all her help and faith in her students.”
– Parent review on GreatSchools.org
“There is no bullying allowed and being a small school anything thought to be happening is dealt with immediately.”
– Parent review on GreatSchools.org
“When leaving this school each student should be leaving with a better understanding of themselves , stronger in character and more self confident and understanding to others differences!”
– Parent review on GreatSchools.org
“Very caring , supportive , and will individualize each child’s classes to what they need.”
– Parent review on GreatSchools.org
“They will work with your child in the way that they need to to accomplish their work. They have built in study halls to help with their workload.”
– Parent review on GreatSchools.org
“Cortona Academy is such a unique school that will cater to your child’s own learning style and work with them to achieve goals they never before thought they could reach! Cortona had been such a great school for our daughter with excellent staff and teachers. They know what they are doing and know how to work alongside your child at their own pace, but also will help them work and learn in a way know other school does. Cortona teachers are top notch and surely the most caring, supportive, knowledgeable teachers around. They go above and beyond the normal school. This school offers a very unique way of learning that know other school has. I feel that all students should have the luxury to learn this method. Cortona Academy has helped encourage my daughter to dream of a future she never thought she was capable of achieving. The staff encourages your child to dream big and they’ll help them to be prepared to follow that dream. They help build confidence into these kids and to know that if they continue to dream big , work hard, and stay focused they can achieve what they started out to do. Cortona Academy has helped our daughter further her education farther than she ever thought she could achieve. She’s receiving excellent grades at a higher level of learning than ever before thus allowing her to raise her GPA and help her to receive acceptance letters to three colleges she sought to attend. Not only accepted but with wonderful scholarships as well! She has received a scholarship offer for $19,300.00 and another for $17,000.00 from two different schools. This is amazing!!! We are so excited for our daughter and thankful for all of the hard work, patience, and support she had received from Cortona Academy in helping her toward achieving her goal. She couldn’t have done it without you behind her cheering her on to success! We are forever grateful we found your school Cortona Academy!”
– Parent review on GreatSchools.org
“My son just received over $100,000 in merit college scholarship at the college of his choice to study pre-med with guaranteed acceptance to medical school. This is due to his transferring to Cortona Academy as a junior. Before that time, he was only looking to attend NOVA and hopefully transfer into a 4-year college. This wonderful future that my son now has would have been impossible without the wonderful help, patience and encouragement of the teachers and staff at Cortona Academy. When I came to this country 30 years ago, I never imagined my son ever being in such an advantageous position with his schooling. This is all due to the decision I made two years ago to move him from the public school and invest in his future before college. Now Cortona has prepared him for college. He is confident, self-assured, and ready to tackle any academics that come his way. All because of the solid foundation at Cortona Academy”
– Parent review on GreatSchools.org
“All the teachers are very knowledgeable and dedicated to the students’ success.”
– Parent review on GreatSchools.org
“There is no bullying at Cortona and the students are respectful and supportive of each other”
– Parent review on GreatSchools.org
“Cortona Academy is the epitome of a great school. The classes are tailored to the needs of the students, and the teachers give them methods that they will use to be successful in College. My child has ADHD, and although very smart, he was failing in the other school he used to attend. Cortona Academy allowed him to get back on track, to develop method in a supportive and understanding environment. The cost is equal to most private schools in the area, but the investment is worth every penny! Before Cortona, my child was anxious and thought that he didn’t have a future. In addition to a great education, Cortona Academy gave him back hope in his future!”
– Parent review on GreatSchools.org
“Cortona Academy provides a small environment with which children can learn and explore academics with confidence. Each child is motivated to succeed regardless of the type of learner. The school’s flexibility allows the child with challenges to achieve as well as the ones for whom things come easy but provides a inspiration for each to do better!”
– Parent review on niche.com
“I work as a school counselor in Fairfax County. Those of us who work in public schools tell children they shouldn’t compare themselves to other students in their class, that doing their best is what matters. But when we put a letter grade on every piece of work they do, they learn that their best is often not good enough. They become discouraged and decide they will never measure up. The pleasure of learning and the joy of accomplishment are forgotten. At Cortona students hear a very different message. They hear that learning is fun, hard work, and enormously rewarding. They hear that each one of them can and will succeed. They hear that confidence and optimism about their ability to accomplish a goal are of course the norm. As a professional working in our public schools, I frequently find myself musing that I wish all of my students could attend Cortona.”
– Jeanne, Parent & Fairfax County Public Schools Counselor
“In essence, Cortona Academy has given us back our delightful son. Chris smiles more often and more easily. His natural love of learning has returned with a renewed vigor. He has regained his self-confidence and is, again, highly motivated. Why? Perhaps Chris can explain best in his own words: ‘I feel respected here. Everybody really cares about the kids, and academically I couldn’t be happier.’ Thank you, Ms. Strauchs, and the tutors and staff of Cortona Academy.”
– Mark & Donna, Parents
“Last summer I heard about Cortona through a friend of a friend. I then attended a breakfast hosted by Cortona last July. After the breakfast presentation I sat in my car and cried, wondering why I had never heard of this wonderful program that seemed so perfectly suited for my son. Chris attended Cortona for his senior year. He absolutely loved his teachers, Sharon and the entire staff. Only now, after some time has gone by, do I truly understand what changed for him… he was treated with respect, thus he gave respect. His teachers set goals for him, encouraged him, showed him how to take notes and study… thus he developed good study habits. Everyone made him feel that he was an intelligent and good human being, not a name in a grade book. Our daughter, Lauren, attended public high school for the last two years. After hearing Chris speak so highly of Cortona, she asked if we could send her there. She enrolled this fall as a junior. She loves going to class and is developing study habits for the first time in her life. She never wakes up not wanting to go to school. According to Lauren, “my teachers are smart and know the subject they’re teaching,” they actually “care about me and want me to do well in school.” She added that “there’s no drama” to deal with, thus she doesn’t feel so “stressed out” all of the time. I personally feel Cortona is a unique program designed to help the students develop self-esteem, respect for themselves and others around them and the motivation to achieve academically.”
– Beth, Parent
“Cortona Academy provides an invaluable niche in Northern Virginia. The teachers are very knowledgeable and supportive. The director is passionate and has a strong conviction that everyone can flourish in the right environment. This school was there for us when we needed it and we can’t thank them enough.”
– Margaret, Parent
“Our son just enrolled here this summer. The instruction is outstanding. The teachers teach the material until the student masters it at a level where they fully comprehend it and the teachers take responsibility for making sure the kids get it. Kids are very happy here and excited about learning. We are thrilled and we have experience in both the public school and independent private setting.”
– Parent review on GreatSchools.org
“I am a parent of a student at Cortona Academy. We chose to leave a Fairfax County Public High School nearly two years ago because the learning environment had become almost hostile. Students were insolent and disruptive in the classroom and towards teachers while many teachers and administration either ignored what was going on, or treated students with complete lack of respect. Some students can function in poor environments, but my student could not ignore what was going on. It was a tough decision to move from a large school, with many social and athletic activities, but it was a good decision. At Cortona, students have the time and flexibility to create their own activities, find internships and pursue their passions. The teachers are caring, and try to accommodate different learning abilities as much as possible. Families do need to get involved at Cortona, but that is a positive. Also, the availability of a one on one class to help a student who has fallen behind is invaluable. Reports are sent to parents in order to keep them apprised of the student’s progress, and there are meetings with teachers to discuss where your student is and what, if anything, needs to be done to keep them on track. I would recommend Cortona Academy to anyone who is looking for a place where talented and caring teachers will work towards your child’s success.”
– Debra, Parent
“Our daughter got into college only because of Cortona Academy. She has a future now and didn’t before. I can’t begin to rave enough about how influential the caring faculty and administration have been in her life. There is nothing quite like it anywhere in this region.”
– Parent review on Yahoo! Local
“My son has been struggling with depressive symptoms and the director has been so helpful and caring. She has recommended a wonderful therapist for my son, mentored him, nurtured him, and guided him through high school and college prep. Cortona has been the greatest investment we have made in our son’s future and I am so grateful to have found them.”
– Parent review on Yahoo! Local
“Ms. Strauchs truly cares about her students! She gives her utmost to each and every student who comes through her doors. She inspired Ben to not only do his best, but she taught him how to do just that. She taught him how to write! She taught him to appreciate good literature. She taught him study skills. She encouraged him and helped him reach his highest potential. As a former teacher/librarian and mother, I have worked with many teachers and administrators. Ms. Strauchs is truly remarkable! She has the rare gift of not only caring for her students, but also being able to inspire them to do their very best. She also knows how to work with parents to help them guide their children through these difficult times. With her at the helm, I know extraordinary things are in store for the future of Cortona.”
– Sylvia, Parent
“What is Cortona?” is a question I’ve been asked many times. First, I’d like to tell you what it is not. It’s not a panacea for all difficulties and differences. Like anything worthwhile, success at Cortona requires hard work, dedication, and commitment from the student, the teachers, and the parents, and time for the methods to be accepted and practiced. It is a unique learning environment with a staff of the most excellent teachers I have ever met. They encompass all aspects of teaching; informing, supporting, facilitating, encouraging, caring and accommodating while striving to bring out the optimum performance in each student.”
– Bonnie, Parent
“When we came to you, Patrick had gone through many years of struggle and failure. He really never felt that he was “good enough.” Now he comes home happy, focused, and goal-oriented. I asked him just what makes the difference, and he told me it was you who dealt with him. You treat him with respect and value his thoughts and that has made the difference.”
– Susan, Parent
“Cortona has given Mitchell confidence in his ability to achieve success in school and life. I wish I had found Cortona earlier so we could have shortened his journey toward a healthy self worth as a student. There are many things I would have done differently, but since you don’t get “do overs” in life, I’m so grateful there is Cortona. You and your staff have done a terrific job! I know we have miles to go, but we are headed in the right direction.”
– Betty, Parent
Good morning everyone, I’m Ted M., Victoria’s dad and a very proud parent today. I’m joined here by Victoria’s sisters Madeleine and Catherine, her brother Teddy, her grandmother, Marie M., and her aunt, Linda M.
We first want to salute and congratulate today’s graduates for a job very well done; you’ve done a superb job and worked very hard getting to this very important day; I’m sure I speak for all here in saying we are proud of all of you…
We want to express our deepest gratitude to Sharon Strauchs and the entire Cortona academic team for your faithful, tireless and positive commitment to all today’s graduates and especially to our Victoria, whom we love very much and are so very proud of today.
To the entire Cortona team, sincere thanks for:
- helping Victoria develop the skills she needed to be successful with her dynamic learning style
- being very supportive of Victoria as she strived to achieve her goals
- creating an environment where Victoria could work at her pace, enabling her to catch up after a challenging early high school experience
- giving her the respect in the academic environment that she had not previously received
While nothing has been easy, each and every day at Cortona, Victoria grew and gained confidence in her abilities. Thank you all for never giving up on Victoria, and for your patience, understanding and encouragement, which helped her get through many tough days over the last several years.
Sharon, your team’s hard work and this fine ceremony today underscore the importance of today’s graduation, and it also serves as a clear transition point for all today’s graduates as they journey towards greater challenges and greater success, and, thanks to you and your great team, Sharon, they’re far better prepared to explore and understand the mysteries, glory and deliciousness of life.
Victoria, we’re very proud of you today, we love you very much, and hats off to you and your classmates for a job very well done. Congratulations on your graduation!
– 2012 Commencement Address by Ted M.
“I choose to work at Cortona Academy because I know that we are saving lives. I see it every year in the kids who graduate and move on to do such wonderful things. I see it in the faces of the children when they understand something for the first time, and I especially see it when we help someone better themselves. It is a priceless thing to be able to help mold these students, and it is something that I am able to do every day.”
– Amber, Faculty Member
“The program offered through Cortona has actually been an educational lifesaver to many, many students over the years. I am an educational consultant who, obviously, sees a spectrum of problems that have been very injurious to children in the public educational sector. I help parents apply band-aids to the problems, whereas Sharon’s program, I can attest, has allowed for healing to take place. I have followed up and observed students whom I have referred to Cortona and have found they all clearly benefited from the program. I am particularly impressed with the staff, not only by their credentials, but by their dedication and caring for students. I am a true critic of our educational systems today, and it takes a lot for me to acknowledge a program such as Cortona Academy to be a wonderful and unique resource for so many of our children who can very well benefit. I can’t say enough.”
– Beth, Educational Consultant
“My teaching experience at Cortona has been a great journey. I walk into my classes enthused and inspired by Cortona’s mission. We are here to see our students flourish and excel academically and spiritually. Teaching is not my job, it’s a vocation. I am not an employee at Cortona, but a friend and mentor to my students.”
– Gloria, Faculty Member
“AWESOME school, both for the gifted and also those struggling. Small class size. High-tech wing offers techies chance to create, explore, even patent inventions!”
– Faculty review on GreatSchools.org
“Cortona Academy is the first truly unique educational facility I have experienced in over 40 years of teaching. There are three compelling reasons it is a pleasure to be a member of the Cortona faculty. First, the extremely small classes with the students using laptops in grades 6-12 allow the students complete focus on their work with mentors, all of whom have advanced degrees. Typical symptoms of today’s youth, like ADHD, social phobia, Aspergers Syndrome, etc. simply disappear with Cortona’s paradigm. Second, students and faculty bond naturally and respectfully, and there is absolutely no bullying, or even teasing, but rather a symbiosis of mutual help and genuine interest. Third, Cortona nurtures the whole person, not simply interested in test scores and “correct” answers, but rather focused on creative problem-solving, tapping imagination, intuition, and exploration.”
– John, Faculty Member