Many years ago when my oldest son was two, we were at Mary Fox Park near Old Town for some play time. A group of children (some young and some older) and their teachers arrived and started playing. I immediately noticed how polite and well-behaved the kids were and how kind the older children were to the younger kids. Everyone was also so kind to my toddler, who was definitely getting in the way of everything! Watching the kids interact with their teachers, I was amazed at how respectful everyone was. I was so impressed with the students that I thought, “Well, we will move to this neighborhood, so our son can attend this school!”
I approached one of the teachers and found out that they were from Manzano Day School, which she explained is a private elementary school in Albuquerque. They told me that the kids were on a big buddy/little buddy outing, where the school pairs older kids with younger students and then meet throughout the year to have fun and learn together. The teachers told me the kindness and respect I observed were part of Manzano Day School’s core values. These values are incorporated into the curriculum and talked about on a daily basis.
“This is a big part of who we are.” I could feel the genuine and deep relationships between the students and their teachers that day. I was energized at the thought of my son attending a school where core values were part of every day.
Before we knew it, it was time for our son to enter Pre-K. Public school versus private school was a debate that my husband and I discussed a lot. In addition to the students I met a couple of years ago, two other factors played into our decision for choosing Manzano Day School. My husband believes that nothing is more important than class size. He would say to me, “Someone could be the most amazing kindergarten teacher in the world, but if they have 28 kids in their class, there is a limit to how effective they can be.” In other words, he felt private school was worth the expense because we would be paying for a smaller class size. At Manzano, the classes are no larger than 18 children. In Pre-K and Kindergarten, it’s a maximum of 18 students with two full-time teachers.
I also thought back to something my mom had told me from her own experience as a teacher.
She taught public school for years before moving over to teach private school. According to her, the biggest difference between teaching in public and private school was something called “site-based management.” At public schools, teachers have to administer lots of standardized tests and follow mandates from the state and federal governments. These governing bodies often dictate how and what a teacher can do.
However, in private school, my mom and fellow educators could make site-based decisions about the needs and best interests of the students. Of course, teachers in public schools want to do this as well, but often have their hands tied by bureaucracy. There may be many layers of red tape to go through before a decision can be made. My mom loved working collaboratively to make a same-day decision that would enhance students’ educational experience.
Small class sizes, site-based management, and most importantly, my interaction that day with the Manzano teachers and students led us to enroll our son at Manzano Day School for Pre-K.
Many years later, we feel it was one of the most important decisions we have made for our children. Both of my sons graduated from Manzano and now attend Albuquerque Academy. They were so well-prepared for middle school!
Manzano Day School has been a wonderful fit for both of our sons who have very different learning styles.
Our older son is very responsible and driven but had trouble learning to read in first grade. Our younger son is disorganized and scattered but very strong academically. The school has met each of them and their individual needs beautifully. Personally, I struggled with math all through my time at public elementary school. I never got the individualized help I needed; therefore, I never caught up.
I love that Manzano is so attuned to their students. When our children have needed help, they’ve provided that, and when they’ve needed more challenge, they’ve pushed our children academically.
The love, nurturing, and academic preparation that our sons have received is everything that we could have hoped for. Manzano Day School is a tight-knit and extremely supportive community of children, parents, teachers, and administrators. We are grateful every day that our boys attend Manzano Day School and feel the investment has been worth every penny.