For students who struggle in a traditional school environment, alternative models can be an enticing option. But they’re not all one-size-fits-all. So, after years of watching parents struggle with schooling decisions, teacher and school counselor Eileen Vento and school psychologist Dr. Valentina Libra decided to create their own solution – Pinecrest’s Linden Preparatory.
Linden Prep was designed to work with students in Kindergarten through twelfth grade on an individual basis, to not only teach them in a way that works for their learning style, but to also arm them with the tools to succeed in a mainstream setting. The key, according to the founders, is small class size and custom curriculum. “On too many occasions, I needed to assist parents in finding alternate school placements, when their private interventions and school interventions would become overwhelming for the family, and the child,” says Vento, the school’s program director. “It was difficult to find a school that would create what the child needed, specifically. There are quite a few schools in the area that have their own specialized programs. Unfortunately, some children need a program that works for them as individuals, not a group.”
Though currently at about five-to-one, Vento says their goal is to keep the student-teacher ratio at under 11 as the school grows, as well as to continue their focus on constant evaluation and adjustment, to make sure the style implemented for each student is the best option. “After Dr. Libra [who acts as the school’s clinical director] evaluates the student, a curriculum is made for that child,” says Vento. “The child is taught the lesson individually in a learning style that suits them, while weaker areas are strengthened.” Aside from their own school experience, both women bring a deeper knowledge to the cause, having worked together to build options for students inside school and out. “As an afternoon tutor, I worked closely with Dr. Libra, creating a remediation curriculum for children who were behind in their regular school programs,” Vento explains. “What we found was that the remediation pace was slow. Students would progress, but they still had to keep up at their current level in homework and tests, where they were already struggling. Adding to that, a remediation curriculum, after a very long school day, it’s a recipe for exhaustion and sometimes frustration.”
Of course, Vento notes, special consideration is made to create a big-picture solution so that students are equipped for wherever their educational goals may lead them. “Although we custom make our programs, children do not live in a custom made world,” she says, noting the school’s special expertise with dyslexia and ADHD. “We would like for our students to have the tools to be successful in any setting. We begin our teaching approach the way they learn, while slowing providing techniques used in a regular mainstream setting, for absolute future success.”
The Pinecrest school is a labor of love for the two professionals, who say helping parents and students was at top of mind when building their dream school. “Between Dr. Libra and myself, we both had the clinical expertise to develop a program that was custom made for each child, after having done it in a different setting for so many years,” she says. “We were ready to create a school together, that addressed the child’s needs, even as they grow and progress.”
Linden Preparatory is located at 7600 SW 104th St. in Pinecrest. For more information, please call 786-338-8505 or visit lindenprep.org