Stratford Friends School: Taking An Integrative Approach to Education
Under the guidance of Jill Dougherty, a certified reading specialist, this Quaker-based school is creating a seamless learning environment that leads students who learn differently to a lifetime of success.
Growing up, Jill Dougherty, now the Head of School at Stratford Friends School, remembers how much her father appreciated the teachers who brought a level of excitement to the classroom. And she remembered the opposite too: his frustration with teachers who just showed up, did a mediocre job, and went home.
“When I realized my dad appreciated involved and enthusiastic teachers, I knew that’s the kind of educator I wanted to be,” remembers Jill.
She also remembers her own struggles learning to read, and the teacher who unraveled that mystery for her.
“I will never forget how she gave me the essential tools I needed to understand who I was as a learner,” said Jill. “She inspired me to want to help kids discover their own bright light.”
Armed with her learning tools, and her family’s support, Jill pursued her education at Penn State, and later Bloomsburg. She earned degrees in communication disorders and reading, as well as a reading specialist certificate.
After a successful career as a reading specialist in the public school system and several years in a leadership role, Jill, who had heard of the tremendous impact Stratford Friends School was making, decided she would apply to their posting for a Head of School, but only to get a feel for the experience.
“I was hesitant to make the career move,” said Jill, “but then I walked in the door of Stratford and knew immediately this was where I belonged; where I wanted to be; where I could use my education and experience to provide students with the depth and creativity necessary for them to achieve success.”
The start of this academic year marks Jill’s fourth as the Head of School at Stratford Friends. Educating children in kindergarten through grade nine, and located in Newtown Square, Stratford remains grounded in Quaker values, especially the concept that everyone has an inner light.
When it comes to successfully educating its students, Stratford Friends takes an integrative, multi-sensory approach. Experts in fields ranging from social and emotional health, to occupational therapy, to learning challenges like dyslexia and dysgraphia, and more, come together in one place to serve students.
“Children learn how to use their skills seamlessly and in a variety of situations,” explains Jill.
The school also integrates more traditional educational elements like art, music, STEAM, sports, and service based learning to empower students. They are a 1:1 Chromebook school using assistive technologies like Google Read and Write and SmartBoards to support the learning process.
This comprehensive and integrative approach allows Stratford students to not only learn their strengths, but to recognize themselves as individuals. They become independent thinkers who know how to use self-advocacy–skills that will serve them through adulthood.
Beaming, Jill said “kids get to be their true, authentic selves while being experts in what they are good at. They are given the opportunity to take academic risks without being afraid of failure. They learn how to understand themselves and the world around them.”
Jill feels like she is just getting started at Stratford Friends. “I am here because I care about our students,” she said. “I am steering this ship in the direction they need it to go.”
Does Stratford Friends School feel like it would be a good fit for your child? Maybe you have questions for Stratford Friends School Parents?
We’ve been connecting the Main Line Parent community since 2010! We encourage you to join the conversation in the comments. Click here to make plans to visit Stratford Friends School by scheduling a private tour or shadow day.
Photographs by Sarah L. Bender.