Independent K-12 School in Atlanta

The Paideia School

Six Stories from Our Campus

We thought it might be fun to talk with those alums who have come back to Paideia as faculty or staff. It's hard to believe that 16 alums have returned. Here's what they have to say:

David Millians ‘84

Paideia is a wonderful place to be a teacher, even if you never went here. Now, in thirty-seventh grade and in my aerie in the attic of the 1509 Building, the original, where Robert Falk made me learn how to multiply with his interminable count-by sheets, I enjoy days filled with curious, lively students full of questions, passions, and imagination. Some days are mostly delightful, and some days are difficult or even painful, but they all take place within a community of bright, eccentric, human adults. It's a great place to be a grown up, and that is part of what makes it great for kids. I am free to learn and create every day, discovering things I never knew about myself and the world.

(David teaches in the elementary as a lead teacher in a 5th and 6th grade classroom)

Eric Thomas ‘84

One of the reasons that you teach here is because of the experience you had as a student here. I never really felt like information was being forced on me but that I was involved in a community that cared about me and thus thought there were certain things that I needed to know. It was also a community that cared enough to figure out my interests and make sure that those interests were addressed. As a teacher here, you naturally reverse that process and want to pass that same sense of community along to your students. I feel that most people never really leave Paideia, they just take a break. It seemed so natural to come back. It is the easiest major decision I have ever made. There have been some large cosmetic changes over the years, and now we can truly have home sporting events on the property that we own, but the philosophy has remained the same. "Let teachers teach and let children learn on their terms...with a little guidance."

(Eric teaches history and politics in the junior high and is the head coach for the boys’ varsity soccer as well as the junior high sports coordinator)

This is my eleventh year teaching at Paideia. I’ve left this place and come back now twice. The first time was when I graduated in 1988 and returned to try out teaching in 1993 (having little idea that teaching was really for me, and stunned to find Paul willing to pay me to find out). I was shocked to discover I loved it, but I left anyway after eight years to test whether I could trade a job I loved for one that made me more money. I couldn’t, as it turned out, and I returned in 2005. Eleven years teaching starts to sound like a long time, but around here that still makes me a relative newbie. Half of the people who taught me in high school I now run into in the Teacher’s Lounge.

I have to admit Paideia is not scrappy the way it used to be back in the 80s. Items found on the curb less often turn up as classroom furniture. Pace Academy is not seen as the embodiment of the Dark Side the way it once was; they’re just another team we want to best on the field. Soccer has been overshadowed by basketball, both of which have been overshadowed by Ultimate Frisbee. There are newer buildings and a great library.

It turns out, though, that scrappiness wasn’t intrinsic to the magic. The magic is as strong as ever. We do the coolest stuff in my classroom. Last year we re-enacted the ordeal of immigrants coming through Ellis Island in 1912, and followed up the experience by witnessing the final ceremony of citizenship downtown for 200 immigrants in a federal courthouse. We invited newcomers to America to our classroom, to tell us how they ended up here from Kosovo, Colombia, Germany, Cuba. What an experience that was! Countless other ones of similar caliber were taking place in each classroom on this campus.

My fellow teachers are every bit as committed, creative and funny as ever. Their collective talent can be astonishing. They’re having a good time, and doing good work. Now my own kids are here, and though I don’t get to undo my own unimaginative schooling in upstate New York, I do get to experience second-hand what it would have been like to love school as a child. It’s terrific.

Brian teaches in the elementary as a lead teacher in a 5th and 6th grade classroom)

I teach at Paideia because it lets me be me and allows me to help students find and be their best selves. Though the buildings and the size of the student body may have changed since you were here, the essence of Paideia is the same: students study everything from Thailand to Tibet; they weave with yak wool; students write about the issues they face as adolescents; there are a whole lot of woodchips; everyone still wants to save the world. When it came time for my daughter to start school, I couldn't imagine her going anywhere else. At Paideia, I know she will be loved, supported, and challenged. Every day I come to school hoping to do the same for my students - that which was done for me by so many wonderful Paideia teachers.

(Jennifer is a homebase teacher in the junior high)Britt Dunn ‘96

Teaching challenges me to be a better person. Because Paideia strives to be different, and because I want it to be different, I must make sure that love is behind everything that I do. I must remember that these people, from the half-day students I teach to the high schoolers I coach, will flourish when treated with compassion, when honored with a receptive ear. I must remember to be patient, to explain it one way, then try it again another, until I find the magic combination that breaks through. And then, I must find another combination for the next student, because teaching is not the mastery of one technique, but the creativity of a thousand techniques, and a willingness to let a child speak even when they cannot use words. And although I may fail, I must be patient with myself, and breath, and find love in my heart, and try again to be a better person.

(Britt taught in the morning half day and coached ultimate and soccer)JoJo Cadray ‘99

Hello everyone! I am starting my fourth year of teaching here at Paideia. When I see Paideia alumni around Atlanta, everyone always seems surprised by the fact that I work at my alma mater. This often catches me off guard, because I truly feel like Paideia is home to me. It has felt that way since the first days I stepped on campus, both as a burgeoning teenager and as a rookie math teacher.

I do not know of a better place I could have attended high school. The classrooms were comfortable, my classmates where talented and interesting, and my teachers exuded passion and excitement about their subjects. Everyday, I was urged to strive for excellence. I was allowed to try everything.

If I did not begin teaching at Paideia, it is likely that I would not have become a teacher. This is a unique situation for me. In fact, I don’t even know how I ended up back at Paideia. It seems as though I graduated from Emory, and then roamed around the corner until arriving home. Giving back to a community that has provided me so many opportunities has been extremely fulfilling.

Paideia is ever changing, yet it still preserves the unique characteristics that have set it apart from other educational institutions. There has been a commitment to growth by our community. We will see a drastic change in the next year with the addition of new buildings that will enhance the school at every level. The Campaign for All Ages will change the face of our campus significantly. Paideia’s commitment to diversity continues to strengthen. I believe it's notable to have a school that excels in many areas and offers a fair amount of diversity. The quality of faculty and staff members here remains exceptional. We have a wonderful place that is full of wonderful people at every level of the school.

I invite everyone to come and visit our school, sit in on one of our many interesting classes, check out a basketball game, or two. We have the tallest freshman class in school history. Stop by a track meet and see one of the fastest girls ever to attend Paideia compete. Or, enjoy any of the other great activities that go on everyday here at Paideia. We have so much to offer!

(JoJo teaches math in the high school and is the head coach for the boys’ varsity basketball team and also head coach for the girls' and boys' varsity track team as well as a faculty admission assistant)