When Sarah and Zach were looking for a school for their son, they sought a place like home. That is, loving, kind and where Christian values are on display all day long. It was important that their son attended a school where the administration and teachers view each child as a gift and help them become just who God intended them to be.
They found all that — and more — at San Marcos Academy.“Every day, I feel like our son has a village of SMA staff who love and care for him,” they enthuse.
Nestled in the Texas Hill Country between Austin and San Antonio, San Marcos Academy is a coeducational school for boarding students (sixth to 12th grades) and day students (K-12th).
Since 1907, the 220-acre campus has been the site of a distinctive offering few American schools can replicate. At SMA, a nurturing Christian community is fused with a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum — to impactful results.
SMA students are prepared for success in college and beyond. The approach is holistic, with programmes, services and opportunities designed to spark intellectual, social, physical and spiritual growth. Using the Teaching for Transformation curricular model, they embrace discipleship concepts such as worship, truth, justice, service, and community. “Our Christian heritage encourages our students in their faith as we become the shining light on a hill, not just in Texas, but throughout the world,” says SMA president Dr. Brian N. Guenther.
Upper School students follow the Texas state-mandated course requirements to graduate and/or obtain one or more endorsements in areas such as Arts and Humanities, STEM, Multidisciplinary Studies, Public Service, and within the next two years, Business and Industry. The AP and honours classes are designed to be writing intensive and to help students enhance their critical thinking skills. Dual credit courses with the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor are also offered.
Whatever the format, the goal is to drive a hunger for learning and spark academic as well as spiritual growth. If that means submerging a computer in water with functions on full display, then so be it. Every route is explored, every need supported.
All-rounded support is available for international students. In core classes, the school provides English as a Second Language support through immersion. In dorms, where as many as 12 countries are represented in any given year, there are more opportunities to improve and refine their ability to read, speak, and comprehend English at a level necessary for success should they continue their college education in the US. If more guidance is needed, individualised assistance can be arranged.
Learning by example
If the Upper School curriculum aims to build leaders, SMA students have plenty of role models to draw inspiration from. As early as May 2020, Dr. Guenther tasked Bob Wiegand, Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer, to set a timeline for a return to face-to-face classes.
A task force of parents, staff, and medical professionals was assembled; specific protocols and procedures were soon set up. This included setting up X-Plus UVC (ultraviolet) apparatus in air handlers (proven to be 97% to 99% effective in clinical trials to eradicate pathogens and allergens); electrostatically charged atomisers to broadcast a fine mist of sanitiser which would cling to surfaces for an extended period of time; using PPE’s; and more.
The four-stage return to school plan was a success. SMA did not record a single case of COVID-19 among campus staff or students for the majority of the fall semester. “In fact, 73% of the days we were in session this year were without a single case of COVID-19,” explains Wiegand. “Undoubtedly, prayer played the biggest role in our success, whether it was a protective hand from the virus or wisdom to go down the right path.” This is not SMA’s first rodeo at keeping students safe. For years, parents like Sarah and Zach have slept easy at night knowing their child is in excellent hands. After all, SMA’s history shows how it thrived through wars and recessions. “Safety is a number one priority at SMA,” they share. “The gated campus, officer on campus, and the detailed plan to get our children back to in-person learning during a pandemic in a safe manner, are all things that set our school apart from others.”
Being back on campus also means students have the distinctive advantage of being on track with their athletic goals. Here, they can continue being a winner, defined by that unique SMA sportsmanship, integrity, and character.
On its vast hill country campus, SMA offers several different sports as well as top-quality athletic facilities. Activities offered include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, soccer, tennis as well as track and field. All of this continued under intensified health and safety protocols last fall.
“We are so happy with our decision to send our children to SMA,” say parents Lisa and Dean. “The teachers and staff truly care about them and their development. The availability of programmes such as sports, the Bear Battalion, and the award-winning band makes their time at SMA even more enriching.”