Birmingham school is for students who learn differently

Eton Academy offers alternative learning strategies for students

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. - Eton Academy in Birmingham is a school that makes sure that all students, even those who learn differently, thrive in the classroom.

The school employs alternative learning strategies to help students who haven't been successful with traditional educational models.

Eton Academy has made a big impact on Grace Hofner, a 5th grader from Northville. Grace was previously enrolled in a public school there, but it wasn't the right fit for her.

"Grace is dyslexic and really struggling," said her mother, Michael Ann Wolf Hofner. "We give her a lot of support, a lot of tutors, a lot of support and she just wasn't keeping up."

Wolf Hofner and her husband began to worry that Grace wasn't getting the support she needed, and were at a loss about how to help her.

"She was frustrated, she was sad, we had lots of tears, lots of fighting to go to school, my husband said that it was crushing her spirit," said Wolf Hofner. "You get really scared that you are going to fail your child and that there is nothing you can do to help them."

Then they discovered Eton Academy, and Grace began to see an improvement.

"They explained to me here that they are going to find out how Grace learns, because she is a different learner. Then are going to teach her and teach me to work within that," said Wolf Hofner.

"At my old school they were going too fast and this is just the right pace me," said Grace Hofner.

Eton Academy specializes in teaching students with various learning disabilities.

"We focus on students that have attention challenges, reading challenges, processing challenges," says Pete Pullen, the head of Eton Academy.

However, Eton Academy says that the biggest learning disability out there is a lack of confidence. So when students walk in the door here, the first thing they're taught is that they are smart, they just learn differently than others. The school emphasizes that a student's challenges do not define them.

Eaton Academy teachers use various creative strategies to create a comprehensive learning experience for students.

"We teach them the skills that they need to learn, two we teach them the content, lastly the life skills that they need to be successful in life," said Pullen.

Stephanie August is a math teacher at the school, but is also a former student with her own learning challenges. Now as a teacher, she passes strategies on to her students.

"When I'm lesson planning I think about each one of my students and what will make them become successful in a classroom," said August. "Maybe they need to use their calculator or maybe they need a cheat sheet on the quiz or the test because they have memory problems."

The classes are ten students or smaller, and often the kids are up and out of their desks. For example, in "spell it class," students learn to make words with a fun game called "sharknado."

Wolf Hofner says it's the multi-sensory approach that has really helped her daughter. After one year at Eton, Grace is now a much more confident learner, and her spirit has returned.

"She smiles and she laughs and she has the confidence to at least sit down and try to do her work," said Wolf Hofner.

The school's goal is to have its students transition back into public school and go on to succeed in college.

Eton Academy is a private school that teaches grades 1 through 12. The cost of attendance is about $20,000 annually. For more information, click here.

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