“What magic is this?” I thought as I sat in my first class at Thomas Jefferson School during my visit as a prospective parent back in 2011. As an educator myself, I have attended many large lecture courses where students sit passively while the instructor lectures. The TJ classroom was entirely different: it felt both vibrant and intimate. Students had read the material in advance, and class time was spent actively discussing and analyzing the material. Hands were raised energetically, and thoughtful, cogent responses were offered. I was hooked, and when my son Alex (TJ ’17) and I shared our impressions at the end of the visit, he was hooked too. Recently, I visited the TJ classrooms again. The discussion in the seniors’ AP English Language and Composition was as lively and thought-provoking as ever. It was a joy to observe the magic again.
TJ is a place built to help bright, motivated young people thrive. It is both academically challenging and personally nurturing. In addition to taking AP courses in foundational subjects and sitting for national language exams in Greek, Latin, French, and Italian, students build essential skills in time management, organization, leadership, and communication. In addition, TJ offers an encouraging space for students to try new activities, including the arts and sports. My son enjoyed a diversity of experiences that stretched his imagination of what he was capable of doing—soccer, basketball, tap dancing, robotics, theater, and improv.
With a 6:1 student/teacher ratio, the faculty really know and understand each student. At report card time, parents don’t just receive a list of letter grades, but a grade letter that comprehensively describes the accomplishments and challenges for each student. Over time, these grade letters become rich material for the college admissions process. Likewise, letters of recommendation are exquisitely personal and illustrate the achievements, talents, and capabilities of each student. The impact of these letters can be observed each year as students are accepted into the colleges and universities of their choice, often with generous merit scholarships. A current parent recently told me that her husband was reading aloud their daughter’s grade letter. She was moved to tears by how well the teachers understood her child and how much they celebrated who she is as a person. This is TJ magic.
After graduating from TJ, students join a diverse and thriving international community of alumni with successful careers in an impressive range of fields—from law to journalism, medicine to art, education to engineering. As a board member, I have had the privilege to work with and get acquainted with many TJ graduates. Whether they graduated in the 1960s or the 2020s, they all share an excitement about learning and an ability to think critically.
I am honored to serve as Board President and to help ensure the school’s sustainability for generations of bright, motivated young people. We will work hard to ensure the TJ magic continues.
Laurie Shornick, Ph.D.