March-April 2016 | THE LOVE OF LEARNING

TSS graduate Laura Robertson with daughters Alexis and MariahTSS graduate Gil AllenTSS graduate Abbi Custis spends time at school with her son, BakerTSS graduate Laura Robertson with daughters Alexis and MariahTSS parent Steve Robinson



The Salisbury School Alumni share accolades of an unparalleled education

Speak with alumni of The Salisbury School, and it comes up, unprompted, over and over, like an echo in a canyon: love of learning… love of learning… love of learning…

Ask Gil Allen, Class of 2006. The young attorney calls himself a “TSS lifer,” having attended the school from pre-K through high school graduation. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Richmond, then a law degree from the College of William & Mary.

“There’s no doubt: TSS shaped me as a person, instilled in me moral and ethical guidelines and a love of learning, and prepared me for a successful life,” said Allen. “No institution or individual, save my parents, influenced me more than The Salisbury School. It’s made me the person I am today.”

Nestled in a piney campus off Hobbs Road, The Salisbury School is different. Dynamic, academically rigorous and non-denominational, with a diverse student body, its focus is on creating an environment that nurtures both individual achievement and community success.

Lower and Middle School classes average 15-20 students; Upper School classes 25-30. Founded in 1970, The Salisbury School is a tight-knit community in which graduates often send their children to the school and where it is common to see parents and grandparents regularly participating. 

Abbi Custis, a successful artist who graduated from the school’s first senior class and today has a son in pre-K, always loved that TSS taught each student to be their own person. 

“No one tries to force students into any sort of mold; they want students to thrive at what they are good at,” she recalled. “I discovered myself as an artist here. I still have a note from my instructor telling me to believe in myself. He said, ‘Someday, I’ll say, “I knew her when.”’ The school gave me such a love of learning and the confidence to reach for my dream.”

TSS melds beloved traditions with modern technology and teaching methods. Ask any student or alumnus, and they are likely to volunteer memories of their favorite Global Awareness Day, an all-school activity prepared for all year, in which the school essentially transforms into a country, from décor to food to entertainment. 

“I loved Global Awareness Day in particular because it showed me the practices and cultures of other societies in a completely dynamic and engaging way. I was well prepared for the larger world,” said Allen, who clerked for the Circuit Court of Wicomico County before going into private practice as an attorney.

Many students remember shaking the headmaster’s hand each morning upon entering the school, playing on a sports team, being cast in a musical or building clubhouses in the woods. 

“I look forward to those [clubhouses] for my kids because building them teaches empathy for others,” said Custis. “The process taught me to problem-solve, which has stuck with me all these years.”

The school’s motto — “Nurturing Hearts… Cultivating Minds” — speaks to that consistent approach of demanding academics and experiential learning. Laura Robertson, who graduated when TSS culminated with the eighth grade, remembers this so well that she felt there was no other choice when her children, now in fourth and sixth grades, reached school age. 

“When you visit the school, some things you can just feel right off the bat. It’s hands-on. What you learn in the classroom you try out through activity; everything is knitted together in a way that cultivates a love of learning,” said Robertson. “What was true for me is true for my girls. Small classes, lots of attention, high levels of engagement — kids flourish.”

Neither Steve Robinson, nor his wife, Tracy, went to TSS, but when they heard about it, they had to know more. 

“We were looking for an inclusive and caring environment that would potentially take our children from pre-K to high school graduation,” said Robinson. “It’s funny to think about your child going to college when considering a pre-K program, but we looked at the whole process, from start to finish.”

Today, the Robinsons have three students in the school, in the Lower and Middle schools. One thing Robinson said impresses him is that his kids have had to make oral presentations since first grade.

“It’s influenced me when hiring for my company,” said Robinson, who serves as area president at Risk Placement Services, Inc. “I have been actively recruiting TSS graduates post-college because they receive such a strong foundation in both writing and public speaking.”

Emerson College junior Faith Tarpley echoes Robinson. As an intern at The Daily Times this semester, she can feel how well-prepared she was by TSS for college and a potential career in journalism. 

“The focus on communication at TSS has given me a huge advantage in my work and in general,” said Tarpley. “I was able to go into a very hands-on journalism program already knowing how to research, structure a paper or article, cite resources and give presentations. Additionally, my ability to stop and have a conversation with a stranger on the street comes from TSS emphasizing the connection between community and communication.”

Nowhere is community more on display than at the annual Senior Walk. At the start of each school year, the new crop of seniors walk through each school building, cheered on by students, faculty and parents. It’s the recognition that a new group of alumni is on its way. 

“The younger kids see the older ones become Seniors and it’s lots of fun, but also bittersweet,” said Gail Carozza, director of admissions for TSS. “We want our students to graduate, do well in life and have an impact on the world. We just hope they come back — for a visit or for their own children’s journeys.” 

Because, you guessed it, TSS has more love of learning to instill.




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