Mission of Stephen Gaynor School
A pioneer in special education, Stephen Gaynor School is an independent Pre-K, Lower, and Middle School for bright students with learning differences. Founded in 1962, Stephen Gaynor School provides a highly individualized educational program in a rich, rigorous, and nurturing environment in which students gain the skills and confidence necessary to learn, grow, and reach their full potential.
Meredith Akins started teaching at Stephen Gaynor School as a full time Drama Teacher in September 2016 and uses theater to examine the life stories and experiences of different members of society allows for the possibility of growth of students and faculty. She is part of different collaborative teams that share similar core values, such as the Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the Musical Team. The Faculty Diversity and Inclusion Committee fosters an inclusive environment that supports and celebrates each individual in the school community. The FDIC works to raise awareness, promote critical thinking, and encourage responsible action around issues of diversity. Through these efforts, we can ensure that these values are infused in all aspects of the school for students of all ages. As part of the Musical Team, Meredith works alongside the Music Department to choreograph and direct the Spring Musical. Past productions include Seussical Jr. and Lion King Jr.
Research has shown that the arts are an essential part of a child's education, and performing arts education is particularly important to students with learning differences. Performing arts can improve academic performance, literary skills, and social skills. Experience in performing arts is also an important strategy for engaging and motivating students with learning differences. At Stephen Gaynor School, we know firsthand the transformative effect that experience in performing arts has on our students. This video features Head of School Scott Gaynor, Co-Founder and Director of Education Yvette Siegel Herzog, and Actor and Gaynor Parent Mark Ruffalo.
Students from Silver Cluster spent 8 weeks learning about the Sit In Movement through the lens of a Process Drama. We first read “Let’s Talk About Race” by Julius Lester so that students could feel comfortable talking about different racial backgrounds and to understand that we all inherently want the same thing, happiness and understanding. We then studied different ways groups of people (i.e LGBT, suffragists, disabled, black lives matter) might protest (i.e silent, marches, boycott, etc). We used our bodies to show different emotions that protesters felt based on images from past protests. We then created character profiles of college students wanting to join SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. They chose their own objectives, tactics, occupations, race, age, where they were raised and lived. In role, they took part of Tolerance Training to prepare for a future Sit-in demonstration. They did exercises to help them control and have awareness of their breath and minds in the midst of chaos and stress. In character roles, they debated how, where and when in protest. They improvised how to raise bail money and spread exposure to the cause. All of this took place in 1960 in Birmingham. Through a partnership with the Art Teacher, students finally created artwork to depict what equality meant to them.