Guest Column: Keith Country Day School: A distinctive school of choice

Dr. Debra Dimke

By Dr. Debra Dimke
Head of School, Keith Country Day School

Although Illinois is not a state that promotes inter-district school choice, within the northern Illinois area there exist many outstanding public and non-public school choice options.

The variety of pre-school through grade 12 options include: large and small schools, religious and non-sectarian schools, and schools that feature specialized curricula such as Montessori, performing arts, online learning and college-preparatory programs.

Rockford-area residents have many quality options when searching for high-performing schools that comprehensively develop the skills and talents of school-aged children.

Keith Country Day School has been a specialized school choice option since 1916, when Belle Emerson Keith fulfilled her dream of creating a progressive, student-centered school. Almost 100 years later, Keith School is still recognized as an innovative, premier college-preparatory educational institution.

Currently, Keith enrollment includes families from the northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin geographic areas who share a desire for their children to participate in a collegiate learning environment that fosters excellence in academics, creative and performing arts, athletics and service to the community.

The Keith curriculum is built upon a liberal arts program of study designed to promote the development of reflection, problem-solving, communication, and the analysis and synthesis of knowledge through a variety of disciplines.

A Keith School graduate must complete four years of English, mathematics, history, foreign language, science, arts and physical education. In addition, graduating students must complete one semester each of speech and communications, and health, two semesters of college counseling, and a minimum of 90 hours of community service.

Keith’s rigorous college-preparatory curriculum results in 85 percent of graduating seniors passing at least one advanced placement course for college credit.

In our middle school program, an interdisciplinary curriculum addresses the innovative thinking found in adolescent minds. Areas of study include core academics, Latin and Spanish language courses, band, chorus, ensemble, piano, drama and mixed-media art courses. Additionally, our middle courses are technology-based, as all students must utilize laptop computers for daily instructional activities.

Participation in co-curricular activities is a program expectation for middle school students. Offerings include academic team competitions, student government, athletics and an array of interest clubs. All initiatives are carefully designed to develop student leaders who thrive to excel academically, artistically, athletically and altruistically.

In grades pre-kindergarten through five, the teacher-to-student ratio allows for a highly personalized, differentiated and accelerated academic program of study. Our enriched and supportive lower school environment promotes intellectual, ethical, social and physical growth in every student. One of our primary lower-school goals is to build a love for advanced learning that endures a lifetime.

The heart of Keith Country Day School’s rigorous college-preparatory education is truly the remarkable relationships between teachers and students. In every academic discipline are passionate educators with advanced degrees, published authors, established artists and lifelong learners who significantly influence student development.

The 2012 graduating class of 18 students received more than $3.3 million in college scholarships and grants. Keith students have consistently been offered admission to prestigious schools such as Yale, Harvard, Notre Dame, Northwestern, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Many of our students leave the Keith campus with completed college credits and a confident readiness for success in college.

While Keith Country Day School is a tuition-based program, 55 percent of Keith students receive financial assistance. Scholarships and alternative funding options are available to families committed to academic engagement, leadership development and college-preparatory studies.

Belle Emerson Keith’s vision for a progressive, college-preparatory school remains strong and viable. We invite families searching for a distinctive school of choice to visit the Keith Country Day School campus.

Dr. Debra Dimke is the Head of School at Keith Country Day School. She has been an educator in public and non-public school programs.

From the Jan. 23-29, 2013, issue

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