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Q&A with: Archibald R. Montgomery IV—Head of School, Asheville School, Asheville, NC
As a follow-up to Cammie Bertram’s column about considering schools that are far from home, this is the second of a series profiling schools from different regions of the country. Asheville School, in North Carolina, celebrates high standards, community, and the great outdoors. Archibald Montgomery has been Head of School at Asheville since 2002.
Q: Where do Asheville School students come from?
A: The 285 students at Asheville come from about 20 different states and 16 international countries. When families visit our school from any region, they are impressed with the culture of our community. To build strong character, teens need to be part of a strong community. We want students to lead summoned lives, imbued with personal resolve and devotion to others. Families respond to that.
Q: What is unique about Asheville School?
A: We are uniquely grounded in a philosophy that cherishes young people by holding them to high standards, both for academics and conduct. We ask students to become custodians of a tradition that is larger than they are—with elements that include a dress code, seated family-style meals, and weekly chapel. As a school, we invest significant time to helping students understand how their brains work and in cultivating an environment in which the peer pressure reinforces making good decisions. Students come to Asheville expecting to work hard and to be part of a community. As a result, students challenge themselves and learn what it means to hold up and achieve in any situation.
Q: How does the school’s location connect to its program?
A: Here, the outdoors are integrated into our way of life—and research has documented the importance of nature in young people’s development, particularly in building confidence and independence. Our 300-acre campus offers constant opportunities to be outside: hiking, skiing, kayaking, mountain biking, horseback riding. We also use the outdoors as a classroom for courses in biology and environmental science. Students also benefit from the cultural resources of a city like Asheville, which is itself a destination for its vibrant arts and eclectic food, alongside the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Q: What are some academic highlights at Asheville School?
A: Schools from around the country visit us to learn about our integrated, team-taught humanities program for grades 9-12. These courses incorporate literature, history, religion, art, and music so that students have a cohesive learning experience. In this format, students explore the origins of Western Civilization, how major world religions emerged alongside ancient cultures, and the development of European and American cultures. We are also proud of our offerings in mathematics, science, and technology. In the last few years, our faculty revised the math curriculum to emphasize practical applications, along with student reflection on mathematical processes. As a result, we have seen an exciting increase in students continuing into the highest-level mathematical courses.
Q: What is special about extracurricular activities at Asheville School?
A: We offer a variety of arts, interscholastic athletics, clubs, and community service for afternoon activities. We are distinctive in offering an equestrian program with stables, trails and a riding ring on campus. Our mountaineering program is also popular. In addition to the campus high-ropes course and forest trails, we offer excursions almost every weekend into the surrounding area.