The seed: a mother’s vision . . .
Tasha vanderLinde, the mother of four fun-loving little girls, had a dream.
Recalling her own childhood experiences at a small independent school in New England, she aspired to create a place where children could explore their natural creativity and curiosity.
Tasha was determined to create an extraordinary school for families in the Kennebecasis Valley. During the mid 1990’s, she spent years planning and researching curricula and teaching methodologies, while undertaking numerous visits to schools across Canada and the United States.
A vital partnership takes root . . .
Four years later, a small group of families gathered to hear about her idea. Tasha was ready to share her dream. Her enthusiasm was infectious. Nine families pledged their support and joined with Tasha to become the school’s Charter Families. Together, they drew up a list of objectives that would form the key touchstones of the extraordinary education the new school would provide. Rooted in that shared commitment, the group found a name for their project: Touchstone Community School.
Blossoms of learning and laughter . . .
Now working as a group, the families began searching for a very special person to become Touchstone’s first teacher. After seven months, they found Angela Prosser, an energetic young teacher whose passion and personal love of learning perfectly matched the Charter Families’ vision. On Sept 6, 2000, three boys and seven girls skipped into their new classroom in the Bill McGuire Center in Rothesay to meet Ms. Angela. Touchstone was open, and was bursting with learning and laughter right from that very first day.
The new school kept on growing. Each year, another set of children arrived, and the Bill McGuire Center was soon overflowing with children who were enthusiastic about learning. Additional teachers were hired as word spread about the exciting new school. Tasha continued to work tirelessly, becoming Ms. Tasha, the much-loved Principal of the school. In 2002, a new location on the Hampton Road provided the expanded space the school needed as it continued to thrive.
In 2009, an energetic new Principal, Jeff McAloon introduced a new tradition to the school’s daily routine. Mr. Jeff greeted each child at the door with an enthusiastic high five, setting an irresistibly positive mood for the day of learning and fun. Jeff also steered the school along several new avenues of growth, including the addition of an outstanding Preschool program and an innovative and popular After-school program that offered the Touchstone experience to children from other local schools.
Touchstone Academy: fully fledged and yielding lifelong learners
In 2013, Ms. Angela, the school’s original teacher, moved into the role of Principal. Drawing on her many years of experience and longstanding passion for innovative education, she brought an irrepressible surge of new energy to the school, encouraging students, teachers and parents to keep working together to promote extraordinary learning. That same year, the school proudly launched a new name, celebrating its gradual but steady transformation from Tasha’s courageous idea to a fully fledged independent school. Touchstone Academy is now a flourishing center of learning, confidently providing a top-notch education to children in a fertile, fun, and creative learning environment.
Touchstone Academy continues to grow, always seeking and finding new ways to keep children excited about learning. More than 120 students have graduated from this small but very special place. As they move on to new schools, universities, and careers, they draw on the passion for learning that was so carefully cultivated and nourished in their earliest years of schooling.
I remember so well a phone call I received one evening at 11pm. As the founder and principal of Touchstone, I often got calls in the evening—parents who wanted to talk about their children, a teacher with a curriculum question, or Ms. Angela calling to discuss an issue that had come up during the school day. But this call was different. The caller was an 8-year-old Touchstone student who was crazy for math. He wanted me to see a very cool fractal that he had found on YouTube, and it just couldn’t wait until the next day.
Years earlier, a group of ten families and one extraordinary teacher embarked on a mission to start an elementary school. A school where students design, organize, present, examine, improvise, perform, hypothesize, identify, publish, and build. An extraordinary school.
The 8-year-old caller personifies what the founders hoped would happen to our students — that they would get excited by and engaged in their learning. Little did we know they would sneak out of bed to call their principal about math!
Founding Touchstone with these families and Ms. Angela, and working with the teachers, students and families of Touchstone ever since has been the most rewarding experience of my life.