Belonging is key to a more fulfilling life
Tyler Jones started at Banner Academy
as a high school freshman. He previously
attended a private school in Phoenix
focused on alternative education for
students with learning differences,
but he didn’t find the social support
For parents of school-age children who face challenges with learning and emotional disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, attention deficits, depression and anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder, educational offerings can be slim and not fully tailored to meet these students’ particular needs. Many parents seek an education that focuses on their child’s innate talents and gifts to help them eventually live productive lives, but feel they’re on their own to navigate the system.
Banner Academy – a nationally accredited private school in Tempe – is a light in the Valley for these students and families.
With a 30-year history of providing individualized education to emotionally fragile children, children on the autism spectrum and those with learning and emotional disabilities, Banner Academy serves grades 4-12; remarkably, 100% of its students graduate and pursue post-secondary opportunities at the community college or vocational school levels. This inspiring statistic proves that students who experience academic, social and emotional challenges thrive in this small, nurturing and supportive environment.
Tyler Jones started at Banner Academy as a high school freshman. He previously attended a private school in Phoenix focused on alternative education for students with learning differences, but he didn’t find the social support he needed. Tyler felt lonely, as if he had no friends.
At first, he found it challenging to open up to his classmates and teachers at Banner Academy.
“The more time I spent at Banner, however, the more I communicated with others and learned about them,” said Tyler, age 18. “This school has made such an impact on my life because of the people I met.” Tyler celebrated graduation on May 25 along with six fellow seniors from Banner Academy.
Tyler’s mom, Ginger, says the teachers “provided a learning environment that felt safe to him, so he could just focus on learning and not worry about not belonging. Having a small student/teacher ratio has helped him become more confident and become better at self-advocacy.”
During his junior and senior year, Tyler completed East Valley Institute of Technology's 3D Animation program, and just graduated as a member of the National Technical Honor Society. His next step is to attend the University of Advancing Technology in the fall, where he has received a merit scholarship.
Currently, 36 students are enrolled, the majority of whom are junior high and high school age. “The students’ favorite activities include the Rec Room where they can play pool, videos games, puzzles, games such as chess, and piano,” explains Judy Subaitis, Principal of Banner Academy. “Another favorite is the Animal Alcove where the guinea pig, king snake and leopard gecko live. Student feed the animals, clean the cages and handle them daily. Our goal is to engage students and give them opportunities for as many positive experiences as possible, so we include high interest activities in our electives, such as art, photography, cooking, gardening, physical education and a school newspaper – with all articles and photography contributed by the students.”
Life and social skills development are an integral part of the curriculum. Classes emphasize forming healthy relationships with peers and adults and learning to read the subtle social cues necessary for everyday life. Classes are conducted in a group setting where students learn the appropriate give-and-take involved in discussing social mores, customs, rules and pragmatics.
Thanks to Banner Health employees who participate in annual employee giving campaign, the students enjoy a Sport Court, while they eagerly await a Music Therapy program that will also be funded through philanthropy. “There are always opportunities to improve the school and its programs,” says Principal Subaitis. And generous giving can make that happen for these young people who are trying to find their places in the academic and work worlds.”
To learn more about Banner Academy, check out the student-run school newspaper here.