When Brad and Courtney Sloan relocated to Fort Wayne three years ago, one of their first priorities was choosing a school for their daughters.
“We’ve moved a good amount,” explains Brad. “From South Carolina to Texas to Florida, and now to Fort Wayne. We actually didn’t tour any other school except for Canterbury. That’s the first time we’ve ever done that when we’ve moved from a different state.”
The family was looking for a place where Anna-Perry, then a junior in high school, and Clayton, a fourth grader, would experience rigor in the classroom but also find a connection and a sense of community.
“When we visited, we experienced a feeling of love and acceptance and I knew that they were going to get the right education to set them up for success,” Brad says.
David Jackson, who became Canterbury’s head of school in July of 2020, felt the same warm and welcoming atmosphere.
“My wife and I came and toured, and we were blown away by Canterbury. I’ve been in a lot of different schools in my career as an educator and there is a special formula here that doesn’t exist anywhere else. It truly is unique,” Jackson emphasizes. “There are elements of it that exist in other places, but I’m convinced it’s one of the most uniquely differentiated places in the entire country.”
What the Sloans and Jacksons experienced is no accident. Established in 1977 by several families, the school’s focus has always been providing a challenging and enriching environment while remaining committed to the four pillars of intellectual, social, physical and spiritual development. Students enjoy small class sizes and individualized instruction along with a sense of belonging.
“It’s the individual attention and just the fact that every student is known and loved. They’re not going to fall through the cracks. They also have many opportunities to participate in athletics and in the arts. Every student can find something that they love,” says Jackson. “They can pretty much do it all. They can be in the Shakespeare production, be the captain of the basketball team and be a great student. I think that’s one thing that sets us apart from many schools, both public and private.”
Courtney Sloan says that’s one more reason her family chose Canterbury.
It values the emphasis on helping students not only excel in the classroom, but also on allowing them to pursue other interests. For example, daughter Clayton, now a sixth grader, recently tried out for and joined a newly-formed middle school choir.
“It’s nice that they’re able to get involved in things that they might not be able to if they were in a bigger school with more students,” Courtney says.
“I love that when my kids are walking down the hall everyone knows their name. It’s such a special thing that you don’t always experience elsewhere,” says Jessica Sharpe, who serves as Canterbury’s director of community engagement and whose two children attend the school. “The teachers really know their students and their families. Parent participation is really high, and that triangle of the teacher, student and parent is so strong.”
Jessica and her husband Blake are both Canterbury graduates. After attending different colleges out of state, they returned to Fort Wayne and to Canterbury. Jessica has served in several roles related to development, alumni relations and community engagement. Blake is now a teacher and the boys head soccer coach.
“One thing that really appeals to me as a parent and an employee is that we are a family. I think whether you started in the early childhood program, in middle school or in high school, everyone is always looking out for one another. There’s this family-friendly community atmosphere,” says Jessica.
“We work really hard to be a school that serves all types of different students in Fort Wayne not only from a place of ethnic diversity, but also socioeconomic diversity and we’re really proud of that,” stresses Jackson. “Walk the halls of our campus and you will find a loving, inclusive environment where kids feel like they belong.”
In addition to guiding students to be scholars, athletes and artists, there are character development programs in place at all grade levels, teaching the importance of integrity and ethical behavior. Part of that education includes opportunities for students to learn from one another.
“We do lots of little things to try and build community like our annual Thanksgiving feast, where we bring the whole school community together and share a meal. We try to do a lot across all of the divisions of the school, pre-K through 12, because it’s important for the for the little ones to see the big kids and look up to them, and it’s important for our high school students to be leaders and good role models,” Jackson says.
Canterbury believes it’s also important to teach students the benefits of giving back to their community by providing opportunities for volunteerism.
“We’re working on a civic engagement program where we don’t just connect internally within the Canterbury community, but each grade level will go out and partner with the local organization to do service projects,” Jackson shares. “We’ve always done things like that, but this new engagement program is going to be a way for each grade level to have a really robust experience with a different organization. We want to teach kids that serving in the community and being out in the community is just as important as the learning that we do at school.”
Courtney Sloan says her family has never regretted the decision to enroll her daughters at Canterbury and is appreciative of the fact that she, too, immediately felt accepted. “This has been the best transition as far as just being able to get in there and get to know people. Several moms reached out to me right away and welcomed me. But for our family, the most important thing has been seeing our children happy.”
Address: 5601 Covington Road, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46804 / 3210 Smith Road, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46804
Phone: (260) 407-3553