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What Do People Say About NFS Programs?

I just had an assignment to analyze a poem in Spanish and I was so thankful for your [English] classes -- that has been a common theme this year.

Madison Lowe, class of 2013

When Madison Lowe, now a college freshman, entered McCall-Donnelly High School, she found "only a few difficult classes. After sophomore year," Madi says, "despite that I might no longer be at the top of my class, I enrolled in the private North Fork School, and fretted all summer about the workload."

"The first day, the short walk from my car into NFS took forever. My heart was pounding, my palms were sweaty, my knees were wobbly. Terrified that I wouldn't be able to keep up, nor be capable enough to complete quality work, I had enrolled in English because it was my easiest subject. I joined a group of NFS peers who had attended for years, and the first day of class was a shock."

"In the first ninety minutes, I heard more information than in a week of regular class. I was completely overwhelmed. The style of teaching was completely different, but I quickly became accustomed to the increased workload and expectations. I was soon working harder than I ever had in my school career."

"The risk of enrolling in the North Fork School was one of the most important decisions I have ever made. For the first time, I was truly challenged. Every day I went to class knowing that it would be difficult, but also knowing it was worth the effort."

School is about academics and true academics include (and cannot be dissociated from) the arts. Athletics are not the domain of the school.

What about NFS has not influenced my college experience? Where would I even be without NFS? Surely, I never would have learnt to think very well. Any inherent artistic talent would have been wasted on simplistic themes and ideas. I would not read to expand myself, but merely to distract myself. North Fork -- I say this with perfect honestly -- created me as a thinker. It created the structure by which I LEARN. And learning is the most important thing an individual can do. Being at North Fork allowed me to discover how to learn, why to learn, and to love it.

Perhaps more tangibly, North Fork is the reason I have taken classes that have really expanded my perspective on the world. It taught me that I should strive to excel in the most difficult classes, because that is where I will learn the most. The measurable outcome of that on my career -- if we deem careers important -- is quite clear.

More tangibly, even, I learned how to write and to speak. It is astonishing how few people in college can write properly. Thoughts do not cohere, words are spelled or used incorrectly, and a mere two pages of double-spaced text seems an insurmountable feat. The vocabulary, usage, technical ability, and thought-generation skills hammered into my head at North Fork will never leave. I will always be able to express myself coherently and with less-than-average effort; if ever I am writing eleven NIH grants (as is the head of the lab I work in) these skills will prove vital. In fact, on Friday I submitted a grant proposal of my own; despite never yet having set foot in a lab, my PI declared it to be one of the best undergraduate proposals he has seen. And before North Fork, I could not express myself verbally very well; I talked a lot, but this is not the same as speaking well. At North Fork I learned to develop ideas in my head while speaking and, then, vocalize them in a coherent and convincing manner. As an engineer in a rapidly developing field I will constantly need to convince others that my ideas are sound.

Is there any way NFS has not affected my college experience? I think, perhaps, that the "college experience" is a false presupposition. Life is but an accumulation of moments, isolated from both past and future. But what I learned at North Fork is now so fundamental to my mind that it influences EVERY decision I make in EVERY moment.

Unlike many educational institutions, North Fork does not teach structures or patterns. As T.S. Eliot describes, "There is. . . limited value/ In the knowledge derived from experience./ The knowledge imposes pattern, and falsifies,/ For the pattern is new in every moment,/ and every moment is a new and shocking/ Valuation of all we have been." Instead of imposing structures, the NFS curriculum teaches students to constantly make connections and realize, in every moment, a valuation of the universe.

Gerrit Egnew, Class of 2012

At North Fork, I was given the support and respect to figure out what was important to me, not just to do what the teachers wanted. I get a huge sense of satisfaction at the end of the year at North Fork, from watching myself improve: it is fascinating.

I have never had such a close relationship with a teacher. All my NFS teachers give time to me personally; that encourages me to work hard not only for myself, but also to gain their respect. I have become a more complete person at NFS: self-motivated, but with a solid support system under my feet.

I look forward to showing up to class. Being a good writer helped immensely with my MDHS speech class. Most teachers will bend over backward to help a student succeed, but Marie and Brigid know when not to bend.

Bennet Roper, Class of 2013

I just wanted to thank you again for the years at North Fork. As I finish up my last essays and assignments before [college] graduation next month, the writing skills that I acquired (sometimes so agonizingly) through thousands of line edits and hundreds of drafts during (8?) years at North Fork continue to deliver.

Yesterday I got a graded essay back from one of the [Syracuse] journalism school's most respected professors -- a former dean who, among other things, sometimes serves on the Pulitzer Prize jury. He attached a one-page written response to my paper, and one of the notes was: "You must have had some excellent writing teachers along the way." He said mine was the best paper he received from the class of 90 students (all seniors in the journalism school). I am also getting A's on my essays for a 700-level anthropology seminar, and last weekend I presented a paper at a graduate history conference at Rutgers.

My professor's remark about excellent writing teachers along the way reminded me of you, of course, since you are one of the only writing teachers I have had along the way and certainly the most important. I don't hesitate to credit my love of writing and my ability to write well to you and to my overall experience at North Fork.

[On applying to graduate schools in anthropology]: Who could have guessed that I would feel free and inspired by the prospect of a life in academia? Though the problem was never learning, it was (and is) sitting through classes being bored to the point of physical pain and being made to do senseless, tedious tasks. North Fork was my only indication that education doesn't have to be absolute misery. Now almost all my classes are like North Fork, and I expect graduate school to be even better. A dream!

Kathryn Pope, Class of 2009

Last night I was packing up my room and found my old North Fork binders, so I decided to go through them and take out the pieces that were meaningful to me. I had so much fun going through all of the poems, short stories, and essays. My mom was working downstairs as I was looking through everything, and I kept interrupting her to read her the pieces I was finding. On top of that, I got my final grades back [from WWU] for the past quarter and I am proud to say that I finished the quarter with a 4.0. This is especially exciting because I am finally in all education classes; the more I learn the more beneficial it will be to my future career.

I guess what I am saying is that it has been especially apparent these last couple of days how beneficial North Fork was to my education. I feel like North Fork went much further past merely educating me. Through North Fork I acquired a set of skills that have not only helped me to become a better student, but have helped me to become a more motivated, organized, and confident person.

I was accepted into Woodring College of Education as of spring quarter last year and have fallen in love with the early childhood special education program. For the past year I have worked at the Child Development Center on campus in the two year-old classroom and simply love it. I love going to work and being greeted by 12 little ones say “Ms. Kesley, Ms. Kesley” and rushing to give me a hug. I have reached a point where I am so satisfied with life and I honestly can say that North Fork has been a huge asset towards my getting to this point.

Kelsey Mack, class of 2009

"I just wanted to express how thankful I am for North Fork and your incredible teaching. I am currently working for a start-up online company in the East Bay and thriving in this business environment because of my solid writing skills. The Community Manager has me edit everyone's blog post, even my boss's.

We also went through an intense two week period of renaming the company and developing our core messaging. Thanks to all of our poetry and essay analysis, I felt extremely comfortable discussing positive and negative connotations associated with words and phrases, while providing crucial input and revision advice. I'm pretty shocked at how little editing skills people possess and feel beyond blessed that North Fork engrained, maybe even pounded, quality editing techniques into my consciousness. Even though my sophomore year in High School I wanted to torch my Word Smart, I now have the clarity to look back and foster deep appreciation for all of our classes together.

Katie McDaniel, Class of 2009

"I am so blown away by what Marie has accomplished I am at a loss for words. She has created what to me would be a dream school, and her writing pedagogy is cutting edge. The student writing, like little Katie McDaniel's, is superb, especially for their ages. Your children are EXTREMELY fortunate to have this gem of an opportunity. Absolutely stupendous."

Pam Horner, former McCall resident; part of a UCLA Fellowship grant to introduce Best Practices in teaching writing to students in the LA public schools.

"I want to tell you how much I have appreciated your teaching and benefited from your instruction at the North Fork School. In one year, you taught me how to write persuasivelly, read analytically, and edit endlessly. I learned that writing well isn't necessarily an innate skill -- it takes lots of hard work. But in your class, I never dreaded the heavy work load or intensive class sessions. Each time we met, I became engrossed in the material or discussion. This is what learning should be all about.

After taking English at the North Fork School my sophomore year, I went back to the high school to take College Writing, Journalism, and Advanced Placement English, a college-level course. In each of these three classes, I used information I learned from you at the North Fork School. I received a 95% on my AP English final, which was two essays (one I got a 100% on). I am just proud of that, and owe some of the credit to you. At the end of the year, I was selected to be co-salutatorian with Sean Gould, and we wrote our speech together.

I also used my writing knowledge when applying for college. From college essays to scholarship essays, I felt comfortable writing about myself. I truly feel my North Fork School experience played a large role in my acceptance to all four colleges to which I applied.

Thank you for showing me what passion is."

Laura Bechdel, Class of 2001

"The benefits of participating in the North Fork School are numerous. However, I feel two of the skills learned are invaluable: time management and the ability to write clearly.

While attending the North Fork School, I was also juggling Nordic skiing and advanced math and science courses. I faced a shortened time in which to accomplish more work than before, and therefore developed a very specific schedule to follow.

The most important skill I learned at the NFS was how to express my thoughts in a clear and concise fashion. Marie's high expectations of each student requires him to analyze his own work, and to look at it objectively. At first this is quite difficult, but with time it becomes less of a chore and more of a tool.

Both of these skills have helped me through my school career. I have been well-prepared, and extremely capable of any and all school work I've faced in the past two years. I will graduate in the top ten percent of my class, and then continue my education while attending Dartmouth College. Without Marie and the North Fork School, I am quite sure neither of these realities would have come true."

Spencer Lawley, Class of 2001

"It is uncommon for me to write letters of appreciation to my children's respective schools. However, I was so impressed and genuinely excited by the writing Katie produced last quarter at the North Fork School, even I was inspired to write.

The maturity of her poems and narratives surprised me. While pealing back the layers of revisions she had compiled, I discovered your creative and constructive critiques that encouraged Katie to clarify and refine her piece. Although you gave suggestions and helpful comments, the writing was clearly Katie's own.

When I commented on the process, Katie responded that the students also assist in and critique each other's work. She obviously enjoys and appreciates the process, and I am grateful for the strong foundation it provides for a lifetime of reading and writing.

I am always proud of Katie and her work, but this time I am hungry for more. Thank you."

Margi McDaniel, NFS parent, 2000-2009

The following is an excerpt from an August, 2001 letter to the Idaho Department of Education:

"The writing process is at the heart of the challenging integrated curriculum Marie has designed. Drawing from classic works of literature, students are immersed in reading, discussing, writing and editing. Marie has developed a highly individualized method of teaching writing to students of all ability levels. She teaches basic academic skills and content simultaneously rather than as isolated subjects. Essential skills are learned in context.

Marie is skilled at asking questions that lead to wonderful discussions and which help her students develop higher-order thinking skills. With her guidance, they learn how to listen to and respect each others' views, and to examine their reading and writing in new ways for greater depth of understanding. Learning makes sense to her students, as they build connections within their own personal experiences.

To make the learning even more meaningful, Marie meets and discusses her language arts curriculum with the history, art, drama and foreign language teachers, so they can plan lessons together which will provide more learning connections for students. Through the wonderful integrated curriculum she has developed, taught, and supervised, Marie's students gain a rich, in-depth, whole and complete understanding of their studies.

To inform students and parents of curriculum studies, offerings, and news, Marie has created innovative ways of communication. She has developed individual student skills checklists, sent home narrative evaluations three times a year, and published school newsletters and a literary magazine by and for children in our community. She has designed and set up a web page for The North Fork School and placed assignments on it so students and parents have daily knowledge of what is expected. Students can plan accordingly to complete assignments by the due date. There are also additional educational links set up for further learning for each academic subject. From the website, peers, parents and alumni continually edit student work.

In addition to all of her teaching and administrative responsibilities, Marie takes time to individually conference with each student, edit all papers, and phone both students and parents. She is always available, accommodating and approachable day or night for communicating with the whole family. Her willingness to discuss school performance and to work out a plan to help students reach their goals is remarkable. Marie has high expectations for herself and her students rise to meet the same expectations that she has for them.

Always striving for excellence in education, Marie has utilized her solid and extensive background in English to provide a strong integrated curriculum for students in McCall, Idaho. With superb communication and a commitment to her students, she has worked wonders. She has made extraordinary contributions to not only The North Fork School, but also to public education in our community."

Connie Johnson, NFS Curriculum Consultant

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