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Friends School Haverford: “ The Only Place We Wanted Our Children To Go”

Helping the Nookola family raise kind leaders and confident readers.

Satish Nookola and Ursula Nawab intended to send their children to public school when they moved to the Main Line. But once they visited Friends School Haverford (FSH), “We walked on campus and it just felt right.”

Satish and Ursula’s daughter, Anya, had gone to a Montessori school for pre-k. They liked the approach to the educational community and the small class size. FSH felt like a natural progression; the school provides an 8-to-1 student to teacher ratio, as well as a strong sense of community fostered by the Quaker tenets of integrity, service, simplicity, equality, community, peaceful conflict resolution, stewardship, and sustainability. As the couple comes from different religious backgrounds, they wanted a school that reflected both of their beliefs. “The Quaker values impressed us and that’s what we want for our kids,” says Satish.

Friends School Haverford is a Quaker school founded in 1885 whose program is rooted in academic challenge, intellectual vigor, artistic expression, service, and kindness. FSH serves students in nursery school through fifth grade.

One of the Quaker values the teachers instill and the couple see in eight-year-old Anya – as well as their five-year-old son, Kian, is kindness.

“Kindness is always something we’re trying to teach and instill and the teachers do the same — this has impacted our children, who now lead with kindness at home, reflective of daily practices they have at school,” says Satish.

He noted that, recently, Kian commented that we should take care of everyone in our communities. “I don’t think he’d say that if he went to another school.”

Another positive characteristic Satish and Ursula have seen grow is their children’s confidence, stemming from the school’s emphasis on language arts and literacy. The couple stressed that each child is being heard and encouraged to speak — as well as provided the opportunity to express themselves — which has been a huge confidence builder.

Since attending FSH, Ursula says that Anya’s reading has blossomed.

“One of the things that surprised me immensely is how fast both kids picked up reading. The techniques the teachers are using are really helpful. Anya is reading complex words and complex sentences – the difference is night and day.”

Through the use of Fundations, a multisensory structured language program, students develop their ability to identify and represent sounds, learn common spelling patterns, and increase their sight word vocabulary. 

Despite a three year age difference, Kian is almost at his sister’s level, and the couple attributes it to picking it up from the teaching techniques … and from his big sister.

At Friends School Haverford, the growth of voracious readers is vigorously promoted starting in early childhood through elementary school. The classroom is rich in opportunities for students to develop skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. 

“The teachers work hard with the kids to develop that love for reading,” says Ursula.

Students learn not just inside, but outside the classroom, where they enjoy playgrounds, a tricycle track, a picnic grove, a garden, and other areas for recreation. FSH is a certified National Wildlife Schoolyard Habitat, meaning that students and teachers have completed projects that demonstrate a commitment to wildlife conservation and the environment. 

“Coming from India, we value nature. It’s part of our religion to protect nature and it’s great to see my children learning that at school,” says Satish. Another unique element of the school that Anya and Kian both love is the micro farm where they can tend to the chickens. They also have the opportunity to walk the grounds of nearby Haverford College where the older grades sometimes go for science class, and lower grades go to explore the 150-year-old climbing tree. 

Lessons inside and out happen within a community characterized by diversity in belief, ethnicity, race, and socioeconomic background.

“One of the nice things about Friends School Haverford,” says Satish, “is that though it’s small, it’s diverse. That to me is very unique when you talk about private schools. The school does a good job making sure diversity is part of its planning.”

He added that his kids understand that everyone is different and that helps build their aptitude for compassion and empathy. The kids know, “Not everybody is like me, and that’s fine, and I can accept that and we can be friends and be kind to each other.” 

“At the end of the day if we can teach that, that’s everything.”

Register for FSH’s Virtual Open House focusing on literacy at FSH on Wednesday, December 1 from 7-8 PM or call 610-642-2334. 

Friends School Haverford supports the Main Line Parent Community. Sponsored Story by Stef Arck-Baynes. Feature photo by Kate Martin Photography, supporting photos courtesy of Friends School Haverford.

Friends School Haverford is a private, Quaker elementary school near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which educates students in Nursery School through Fifth Grade.