All sixth graders are new when they come to Mount de Sales Academy. While some may have joined us for summer camp at a young age or are following in a legacy’s footsteps, all are welcome at MDS.
Independence and Autonomy
When MDS students start in sixth grade, they undergo a huge transition. Students are no longer walking in two lines to the restrooms with a teacher. They may have classes in three separate buildings every day, with a schedule that rotates weekly. Each student is given an email address and access to an iPad at school.
We asked two middle school parents and MDS alums, Kristy Steele (ʼ97) and Lesley Tanner (ʼ98), to share their experiences of navigating sixth grade at MDS.
“Cole felt like he was going to college,” said Steele. It was a completely different environment from his public elementary school. “The schoolwork shifted from busy-work to building a foundation of knowledge and skills to support him throughout his life.” MDS encourages its students to take ownership of their learning and to discover problem-solving strategies that benefit them in all areas. Students are exposed to a college-style transition early, which provides an easier transition for them later.
When Bryson Tanner, a current seventh grader, came to tour the school, it was apparent that he had his own identity to share. We build an environment for independence the moment you step onto campus, along with the numerous opportunities to foster it. “The faculty and staff treat Bryson as an individual; they speak directly to him versus talking to ‘mom about him,’ and that sealed the deal. There is enough freedom for students to learn to conduct themselves and enough support when needed too. It’s a good balance,” said Tanner.
Challenged and Supported
Every student is challenged to complete a rigorous academic curriculum that can be intimidating, at first. The Academy’s supportive learning environment encourages students to try. All of our faculty members stay until 3:45 p.m. every day to provide academic support. Teachers coach students to work with them to learn and grow; they provide the tools to succeed and the students are expected to take advantage. “Bryson was challenged with the curriculum, but he knew he could do it. He was encouraged to think more critically than before,” according to Tanner.
There is also a level of comfort felt by parents with the teachers, compared to their elementary school days. “Dr. Franklin means it when he says to give him a call,” said Steele. Teachers reinforce the level of responsibility expected of the sixth grade, but they also are proactive and responsive to each family’s needs. Parents and students can email teachers to get clarification on an assignment and they are happy to respond.
Expectations for the school year are set at the sixth grade middle school orientation, where it’s everyone’s first day at a new school. Back-to-School Night is an event that allows parents to meet teachers and follow their child’s class schedule. Parents change classes every five minutes to get a better understanding of their child’s typical school day.
School Pride and Community Involvement
Part of becoming a Cavalier is the overwhelming support and pride felt among the community. Our alums reflected on the morning assemblies when Sister Rosina Bayliss, RSM, was president of the school. Sister Rosina would give a speech on having class and what it means to be a student at Mount de Sales Academy. It made them swell with pride for their school and that grace remains to this day. Both Cole and Bryson proudly wear their MDS shirts and hoodies year round, even during the hot summer months. “When Cole wears his MDS shirt, he lifts his head a little higher, because he’s proud to attend Mount de Sales,” said Steele.
New families are invited to events prior to their first school day. One summer, the sixth graders had snow cones and made tie-dyed shirts. New families were invited to catch a Macon Bacon game together.
“Mrs. Griffin knew our names. Mrs. Deal dropped whatever she was doing to help in the office. Coach Franklin tells my child ‘I love you, man’ and means it. Everyone’s a gem here; we feel the love and it warms our hearts,” said Steele.
Worth the Investment
“The academics are second to none,” said Tanner.
The MDS administration works closely with the faculty to develop curriculum for the Middle School to prepare students for high school. Dr. Mike Franklin, Middle School head, approaches middle school education with a solid understanding of the Upper School curriculum and expectations set for students entering ninth grade. “I want to find the happy medium between the classical middle school model and junior high, where the latter is structured with more interdivisional academic cohorts rather than teams,” said Dr. Franklin. With previous experience serving as the Upper School head, Dr. Franklin brings recent, applicable knowledge of what excellent middle school education can look like at MDS. “There are advantages to making mistakes in the sixth grade here; it’s a softer place to fall,” explained Steele. Because the middle and high school curriculum work closely together, you receive a clear snapshot of the course load taken at MDS through graduation. There are also opportunities available to your child in the Middle School, which prepare them for the Upper School’s college-preparatory schedule.
Affording MDS is a huge investment in your child’s future spiritually, academically, socially, and financially. We understand our MDS families choose us for their child’s education when they enroll because they understand the value and benefits of becoming a Cavalier. “Attending MDS in middle school is a sacrifice, but there’s a huge advantage: your children grow academically and are treated as individuals versus a faculty member talking to you about your child,” explained Tanner, “we’ll eat bologna sandwiches every day if we have to. It’s worth it!”
Parents and teachers know that MDS can be a financial hardship for many families to be here and we’re all grateful for those who help us along the way. We offer several opportunities for both merit and need-based financial assistance and encourage all families to explore these options. We offer three mission-driven merit awards—Discover, Innovate, and, Serve scholarships—and FAFSA results support need-based applicants. For more information on financial assistance, please visit our financial aid page.
Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, and serves students in Bibb, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach and other surrounding counties. MDS is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.