A Beautiful Education | Loudoun School for the Gifted

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Deep Sran, Esq., PhD, founder of the Loudoun School for the Gifted (a small, progressive, private school) and developer of Actively Learn (a digital reading platform), has an unyielding commitment to ideals that takes shape through his practical approach to the demands of each school day.

Loudoun School for the Gifted is the product of Deep’s abiding desire to show what’s possible in education. In 2008, he founded the school to bring the depth and rigor of the graduate seminar to the advanced high-school student. He built a secondary school program around big interdisciplinary ideas, complex anchor texts, highly learned and passionate teachers, and small classes of eager and intellectually curious students. In 2012, he added a middle school.

POSH: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START A SCHOOL?
DS: I wanted to help build a better world and, as Plato noted in The Republic, the best way to do so is to work in education.

WHY DID YOU OPEN A HIGH SCHOOL FIRST?
DS: Having taught at the college and graduate level, I realized that seeing students three hours a week was not enough time to help them build the knowledge and skills that promote better reasoning, original thinking, and a problem-solving mindset. Much of what I was discussing with college students, for example, how to select a major and a professional path, is a discussion that’s more valuable in high school.

WHAT MAKES YOUR SCHOOL UNIQUE?
DS: I think our school is unique, because we have the best teachers, we focus on advanced students, and students have a real voice in the design of the academic program and social experience. Our college and career guidance is exemplary, as well. Also, this is the only school founded and led by a classroom teacher. If the founder’s not walking the halls and not teaching classes, the school isn’t going to be amazing.

WHAT COMMON MISCONCEPTION(S) DO YOU THINK PEOPLE HAVE ABOUT WORKING WITH TEENAGERS?
DS: I don’t think people realize how intellectually capable, wonderful, thoughtful, and kind teenagers are. In working with teenagers, I find that they are original, curious, inspiring, and open-minded people.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE NECESSARY CHANGES IN THE SECONDARY CLASSROOM IN ORDER TO ENGAGE AND CHALLENGE STUDENTS?
DS: You have to give students a chance to do work that is worth doing, that is challenging, and that connects in a very real way to their world. You need to work with students as junior colleagues. Most importantly, bright students need highly knowledgeable and capable teachers who are even more curious and capable than the students are.

WHAT ROLE SHOULD TECHNOLOGY PLAY IN THE CLASSROOM?
DS: As an educational technology inventor, I am of two minds about technology. Technology allows students to do things they cannot do without it, and it gets in the way of things they could otherwise do, were it not for web-enabled technology. I think you need technology in the classroom, but not at the expense of focus and productivity.

WHAT GAPS DO YOU SEE IN THE NEEDS FOR YOUR MOST ADVANCED STUDENTS?
DS: The most important gap I find is an inspiration gap. Students need to know why they’re doing what they’re asked to do in school, and why the work they do is important for them and for their world. I also sometimes see an optimism gap. Students need to know that they have the power to make the world what it can be.

HOW DO WE PREPARE OUR CHILDREN FOR A WORLD AND WORKFORCE THAT ARE DIFFICULT TO PREDICT?
DS: Many of today’s jobs are going to be outsourced or automated. Students need to be able to answer questions they haven’t heard before, and as professionals, find solutions and innovate like never before. They’ll need to have a sense of self-efficacy about what they can do. They’ll have to feel comfortable advocating for themselves, and they’ll need all the social skills that make collaboration possible.

WHAT’S NEXT?
DS: When we opened, we were the first private, co-ed, secular high school in Loudoun County. When we added the middle school, we became the only secondary school in the region for advanced students. We’re now nearing capacity in our current space, so we’re constructing a new building on a small campus in old Ashburn and hope to be open before the end of the next school year. This new phase will include a field for outdoor sports, a full chemistry lab, and a dedicated makerspace, along with more room for great students.

For more information about the school, visit loudounschool.org.

 

PHOTO BY: DAN CHUNG PHOTOGRAPHY