Category Archives: Miriam Academy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2019

MIRIAM RECEIVES APPROVAL FROM CITY OF FRONTENAC FOR NEW LOCATION OF HIGH SCHOOL

Miriam plans $5 million in improvements to former B’nai El Site
St. Louis, Mo – Miriam announced today that the City of Frontenac has unanimously approved a conditional use permit to allow Miriam Academy to locate at 11411 North Forth Drive. Miriam Academy is a small, private high school serving students who learn differently. Plans call for Miriam Academy to be located in the former B’nai El Congregation building upon completion of $5 million in extensive renovations. Miriam is awaiting zoning approval from the Village of Westwood as the property resides in both municipalities.

Miriam Academy opened with its inaugural class in 2016 and today serves 55 high school students at its current location in Town & Country. The Academy provides a learning environment designed to support the education, development and college and career readiness needs of high school students with unique learning needs. The new location would allow Miriam Academy to serve approximately 100 students.

“Miriam Academy addresses an unmet need in the St. Louis region for high school students with learning challenges,” said Miriam’s Executive Director Andrew Thorp. “Revitalizing the former B’nai El structure will allow us to create the perfect learning environment where more students can excel,” he said. “This property represents an ideal site for Miriam Academy to serve its mission to educate, provide hope and inspire unique learners by building confidence and a foundation for success,” Thorp said.

“We wish to thank the City of Frontenac for approving our plans and are hopeful that the Village of Westwood will also provide zoning approval to repurpose the B’nai El property to serve even more students and their families in the community,” Thorp said. The project comes before the Village of Westwood Trustees for consideration on April 23 at 5pm at Frontenac City Hall.

Miriam has a contract with Congregation Shaare Emeth to purchase the B’nai El property. Mike Lefton, President of Shaare Emeth stated, “As current owners of the B’nai El property, Shaare Emeth is pleased to support the mission of Miriam Academy to educate high school students with learning challenges. This is a great use of the existing property and we support the renovation of the building that will preserve the legacy of B’nai El.”

Miriam’s redevelopment of the property would occur within the footprint of the existing building. Improvements include converting half of the large parking lot to greenspace and enhancing landscaping including trees for screening and a fence around the perimeter of the property.

The majority of work in the interior will create a dramatically improved facility designed for longterm viability. In addition, a traffic study was completed by CBB traffic engineers and determined that traffic related to the operation of Miriam Academy would minimally impact existing traffic flow. No field lights will be added. School hours are from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.

Through three comprehensive programs, Miriam School, Miriam Academy and Miriam Learning Center, Miriam currently serves more than 1,200 students with learning differences each year. Miriam started as an elementary school more than 60 years ago, added a middle school in 2002, and today Miriam School serves 96 students in grades Pre-K-8 with a variety of learning challenges. Miriam Learning Center serves over 1,000 students in the community through after school programs and outreach partnerships with over 60 charter and private schools. Miriam Switching Post is a resale store in Brentwood with all proceeds benefiting the students and programs of Miriam.

LEARN MORE ABOUT MIRIAM ACADEMY
LEARN MORE ABOUT MIRIAM’S MISSION & HISTORY

# # #
Contact: Laurie Burstein
Telephone: (314) 962-6059
E-mail: lburstein@miriamstl.org

I have always loved English. Everything about it has always made me happy: how you can express yourself in writing, how every person has a different interpretation of the same piece, or how various authors can turn scratches on a page into words that can bring you to tears or make you question your entire existence. I have always not only enjoyed but excelled in it. Then, I went to high school. I was absolutely miserable. The teachers were conditioned to teach and not to help the students learn. I was afraid to ask questions, participate in class, or even talk to people. My grades started to fall. I developed school anxiety and depression. I lost my creative voice.

Then, my family and I discovered Miriam Academy. I decided to visit and see if it would be a good place for me. When I walked in, I admit, I was kind of scared. I was so used to the normal desk-and-chair learning that I never expected to see people hopping around in body socks or sliding down the halls on scooters. Yet, I had a special feeling about Miriam and knew this was the school I wanted to attend.

When I started at Miriam, I was still dealing with that hopeless feeling that I had developed at my previous school. I forced a smile on my face every day and trudged through my classes. It was still a struggle. It’s hard to see the light when your fire has been put out.

Slowly but steadily, I didn’t have to force a smile. I excelled in all of my classes. I made wonderful friends that accepted me for me. My fire was reignited. Now, I’m able to write better than ever, even about sensitive topics like this. I hope to be a novelist one day and have grown the confidence to truly believe that I can do it. Miriam has not only been a blessing in my life, but it has also made an impact on how I will live my life in the future.

-Submitted by Taylor Defusco, Miriam Academy student

Alex has always had an interest in flying.  When he was young, our son would fly simulations on his computer or play flying video games, always with the hope of flying for real someday. Two years ago, he took a discovery flight through the Young Eagles program where a pilot will take a young prospective student pilot for a 30-minute introductory flight.  After that, Alex was hooked.   Because of the large amount of reading and studying it takes to become a pilot, we were unsure if he would be able to handle this challenge.

But for Alex this school year was bringing a new school.  After attending Miriam Academy for a few months, it was clear: new school, new confidence, new maturity and it was the right time to start flying.  The happy, fun-loving kid that we once knew was back!  His excitement and love of flying helps him tackle the studying and reading that comes along with getting a pilot’s license. 

As a parent, I have watched Alex change since attending Miriam Academy.  The teachers and staff have been incredible.  They are available to help and answer questions at all times for students and parents.  Everyone at the Academy knows the students as individuals and works with them as individuals.     

Alex actually wants to go to school every day!  His favorite part about the Academy is all of the new friends he has made, along with the help and encouragement of his teachers.  He also loves the after school clubs, with the bowling and cooking clubs as his favorites. 

Alex has begun his training at Ideal Aviation in Cahokia, Illinois.  He has ground lessons and flight lessons twice a week.  His instructor is helping build his confidence and growing his passion for flying.  This is a long process and takes a lot of dedication, but with his new-found confidence, Alex is ready to tackle this endeavor. 

We all want to see our children succeed.  Now I believe Alex has a school, Miriam Academy, that will help him succeed.

-Submitted by Krista Ryffel

Miriam Academy has changed my life in so many ways. Since coming here two years ago as a freshman, I am now more open and friendly. The way I talk to others, and even to myself, has improved greatly. For me the best part about the Academy is not only the subjects and skills I am learning, but the lifelong friendships I am making.

My past school experiences were not so great. Bullying was a big problem that affected me both mentally and physically. I was often angry and frustrated which led to not thinking before I acted. Sometimes I didn’t go to school to avoid the bully and all of the stress.

But Miriam Academy changed everything. This school is truly a lifesaver and I might not even be in school if it were not for Miriam. My social and academic skills have increased astronomically and no more bullies!

The Academy is an opportunity to make great friendships not only with your peers, but with the ones you look up to like your teachers and head of school. These are the kind of friendships we all cherish because they are amazing and unique. Yes, academics are important, but without friends then you don’t have anyone to share your knowledge and happiness with. Now I have the friends and support I need. That is how Miriam Academy changed my life.

–Submitted by Nick Lewis, Miriam Academy junior

Kaden holds the distinction of being at Miriam longer than any current student. Now a sophomore at Miriam Academy, Kaden first entered Miriam School at age six with a diagnosis of ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Kaden trotted into Ms. Angie’s first grade room with more than a little trepidation, but any fears were calmed when they immediately bonded. The enthusiasm of the staff at Miriam School cemented our confidence we had made the right decision.

Kaden completed his elementary and middle school education at Miriam School which offered our son a full spectrum of education and therapies tailored to his specific needs. He received speech, occupational and physical therapies which blended with the educational curriculum for a well-rounded experience.

But Miriam School was more than a source of education and therapy for Kaden. It provided an environment for social growth and awareness that led to friendships and lasting memories. Kaden blossomed as a student and enjoyed going to school every day. His coordination and motor skills improved to the point where he no longer needed additional therapies. He progressed from tirelessly learning to hold and maneuver a pencil correctly, to having the skills, patience and athleticism to obtain a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do at age 14.

Last year we were excited to enroll Kaden at Miriam Academy to complete his high school years. Without a doubt his freshman year was the most fulfilling and rewarding year Kaden has had as a student! His confidence and maturity grew week by week as the teachers inspired him to push himself intellectually and socially. Kaden is finally able to experience the pride and satisfaction of tackling educational projects and completing them with high standards.

The reward is not just the letter grades, but the sense of accomplishment and happiness he exudes. For the first time he played on a baseball team with his fellow classmates and experienced the fun of team effort. His first “base hit” is something we will never forget.

Perhaps more important than acknowledging Kaden’s growth and maturation is the recognition that he has taught us as much as we have given him. Through voice and action, Kaden has shown us how to live with a heart filled with love, tolerance, acceptance and integrity. He is a motivation to all that are in his life. While we believe we are leading him, he is actually guiding us.

-Submitted by David and Amanda Berg


My son Devlin is the bravest person I know. When he was just two and a half years old, he was diagnosed with autism. Though he didn’t have much language, we were able to come up with a game plan and he did fairly well in a special education classroom.

Everything changed right before his fifth birthday when Devlin was hit by a car. Both of his legs were broken and this beautiful tiny child of mine was in a body cast from the waist down. It was heartbreaking, but this tragedy brought about language and he began to blossom. Less than six months later, Devlin would have to have his femur rebroken and go through the mending process again. On the bright side, his speech continued to improve during this time.

Devlin entered kindergarten in a new classroom for children on the spectrum and we were hopeful, but he was then diagnosed with ADHD. This was tough because he needed medicine. While Devlin did well in a special education classroom, he was later mainstreamed into a typical classroom and he got little support.

The older Devlin got, the more he stood out from his peers. It was tough finding a place he “fit.” The special classrooms were no longer a good fit and the traditional classroom setting was getting harder every year.

When Devlin was 11, he was diagnosed with anxiety and it was pretty debilitating. Crowds would throw Devlin into panic attacks and he became more isolated with few friends. I was so worried about him and I knew something had to change.

One day my aunt said she had a friend who knew a teacher at Miriam Academy and recommended I talk to humanities teacher Chris Holmes. I spoke to Mr. Holmes and he suggested I tour Miriam’s new high school. I wasn’t sure about moving, but I agreed to come look at Miriam Academy and soon everything changed.

I was overcome with emotion when we toured. I cried because I knew Devlin belonged at Miriam Academy. When he was accepted, we picked up and moved to be closer to the school.

Devlin warmed up far quicker than I expected. He became more and more himself again. He gets in the car happy, laughs and he feels good about himself. I haven’t seen this side of Devlin in a long time and it is so refreshing.

When I drop Devlin off in the mornings, I sometimes find myself tearing up because I am so thankful for Miriam. The staff not only understands him, they embrace him. Devlin thinks outside of the box and the teachers at Miriam know how to encourage him. I love it!

As a single parent, I have always worried about what would happen to Devlin when I am gone. But his experience at Miriam has given me confidence that Devlin has a chance at a really great life, with friends and love. Miriam is the difference between surviving and thriving. We are so
thankful and I am so proud of Devlin, my true hero.

–Submitted by Heather Riney

When my son Austin was in middle school, I knew he was going to need another option for high school. I started doing some online research and came across a Facebook ad for Miriam Academy and clicked the “Learn More” button. I never would have guessed how much that button would change our lives! We did a school tour and our first thought was Austin should have been in a school like Miriam all along.

It all started at just a few weeks old when Austin had asthma and severe allergies and was later diagnosed with ADHD in kindergarten. He could keep up in the younger grades socially and academically, but as he got to upper elementary and middle school the differences were dramatic. His grades declined because of his learning and social disabilities and he was bullied. He still deals with some of the lasting effects today.

Since enrolling Austin in Miriam Academy’s first freshman class almost two years ago, we have seen huge progress! He started school totally discouraged and afraid to trust the teachers and other students, but realized that Miriam Academy was a safe place for him and he began to like school.

The Academy’s humanities teacher, Mr. Holmes, really helped to pull Austin out of his shell. Mr. Holmes encourages Austin and even when the words have to be tough, Mr. Holmes always treats him with respect.

When I asked Austin the main reason he likes Miriam he said “It gives kids a second chance.” The Academy has completely changed how he feels about school. He likes the teachers, kids, and the safe feeling school gives him.

Austin loves being on the Academy’s baseball team and is doing a summer internship at the JCC this summer as a camp counselor and is excited to get his first paycheck. He wants to be a firefighter/ EMT and is a volunteer Explorer Fire Fighter through the Berkeley Fire Dept. Austin is very close to getting his driver’s license and is looking forward to his junior year at Miriam!

Miriam Academy has given Austin a chance to experience some of the things that he would see at any high school from clubs and internships, to sports and social events. I appreciate that families are so involved in the school too.

As a parent, I now see HOPE! My son is excited about school again and that makes me happy. There are still some bumps in the road, but the bumps are easier with the Miriam community of teachers, staff and families behind us.

Submitted by Tricia Robb

 

 

 

 

 

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.  Starting in the fourth grade, I began staying after school to help teachers do odd jobs in their classrooms.  Little did I know that this would help shape my future career.

In college, I quickly discovered that as much as I enjoyed the education classes, I wanted more of a connection with students. I was drawn to Special Education and have been passionate about serving exceptional students ever since.

My path lead me to developing programs for students that did not “fit” the traditional school model. The first stop on my journey was at an elementary school where I spent five years developing and implementing a thriving resource program that was often used as a model for other parochial schools.

I left that school after the birth of my first child and spent the next 10 years raising my children and hanging out at their school every chance I could get! I served as the president of the Parent Teacher Organization, and served on the Board of Education and the Marketing Committee. All these experiences kept me connected and involved in developing quality programs for students.

When I chose to re-enter the workforce, I went back as a middle school language arts teacher at another parochial school where I spent two years preparing students for high school, though not all of them were quite ready. Those students needed more interventions at the primary and intermediate levels, and I took on the challenge by creating a resource program that provided pullout and class within a class services.  I later developed an enrichment program to meet the needs of the gifted learners.

After years of developing programs for exceptional and twice exceptional students in private schools, I found my forever home at Miriam Academy! When I heard the news early in the spring of 2016 that Miriam was going to open a new high school, I knew that I had to be a part of this groundbreaking endeavor. I had spent my career working with families who just wanted to get their kids through school. That was never enough for me–I knew that school should be so much more for ALL kids.

Being a part of the founding faculty at Miriam who share a passion for working with students who learn differently is a dream come true. Building programs that focus on student’s strengths and treating deficits as opportunities for growth as well as nurturing each student’s social-emotional growth, is what Miriam Academy is all about.  I am so fortunate to call it home.

-Submitted by Kathy Puettmann

 

 

 

 

Our sweet son Jacob was diagnosed with global apraxia at the age of three. He had speech, occupational, developmental and physical delays. By second grade the staff at his school realized Jacob needed more than they could give him. It was now time to find the best school for our son.

On the advice of a client, my husband and I toured Miriam School and were very impressed with what we saw. Soon we set a date for Jacob to shadow. I didn’t tell him until the night before because I didn’t want him to argue or get nervous. When I dropped him off that morning he was quiet and it was the longest day of my life. When we picked him up, Jacob was all smiles and asked if he could go to school there. He started a week later and he has been at Miriam ever since!

The teachers and therapists at Miriam School were more than I could have hoped for. When Jacob couldn’t grasp the days of the week, his teacher Miss Candi took his love of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and correlated the dwarves to each day and it clicked in Jacob’s brain. That is just one of the many instances where the staff figured out what worked best to teach my child. They also incorporated therapy into the classroom which made a world of difference for him. Jacob was happy and successful!

When Jacob graduated from Miriam’s elementary and middle school, he moved on to the new high school Miriam Academy. I didn’t know how the Academy would have a staff as wonderful as the one at the School, but they did! Jacob had a great freshman year and achieved things academically I didn’t think were possible for him. The teachers figured out how his brain works and are truly unlocking his potential. Now a sophomore at the Academy, I can’t wait to see all the progress he will make this year.

What Jacob likes most about school is that his friends are like him and the teachers understand him. What my husband and I like about Miriam is that our son is getting what he needs academically and socially in a safe, caring environment. We know Miriam Academy is preparing him for a successful life.

-Submitted by Lisa Wiley