Presbyterian Day School (PDS) “knows boys,” and their mission supports their claim. They use a holistic approach to education, nurturing the heart, soul, mind and body of each student, and their well-rounded approach to education and character development is one of the reasons Dr. Bethany Owen chose the independent, all-boys school for her three sons.
“I adore that their model is specifically for boys. They know that boys learn differently and their personalities are different,” Dr. Owen says. “They allow boys to be boys.”
While the school has a rigorous academic program, they also focus heavily on character development. Leaders have even developed a character education program called “Building Boys, Making Men,” which seeks to build a boy’s character, values, and faith. The curriculum for the character education program has been shared with schools around the country, and according to school leaders “offers boys a Biblical vision of what it means to be a godly boy and, one day, a godly man.”
“We have a strong male faculty at PDS,” says Steve Hancock, PDS’ Head of School “Many elementary schools may have only one or two male teachers, but we have many teachers who also serve as mentors for our students.”
The program incorporates seven virtues to lead the curriculum: true friend, humble hero, servant leader, pacesetter, bold adventurer, noble knight, and faithful follower. The school published two books that dive deeper into the virtues: The 7 Virtues of Manhood and Flight Plan. These books were designed specifically for 5th- and 6th-grade boys, as they prepare for their teenage years.
To continuously reiterate the seven virtues, male leaders at the school also host mentor groups for 5th grade and 6th grade students, along with monthly seminars to walk students through manhood and life issues. “We believe that a school built for boys is important because boys learn differently and their brains form differently than girls,” explains Mr. Hancock. “We are as deliberate about the development of a boy’s character, values and faith as we are his intellectual growth.”
Although there is a heavy focus on character development, PDS doesn’t skimp on academics. The school boasts a rigorous academic model that encourages the development of critical and creative thinking skills. Throughout the years, PDS students have consistently and significantly outperformed their peers at other leading independent schools in all subjects; and with 85 percent of their teachers receiving additional training from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the faculty and staff are equipped to teach and lead students to success in 21st century learning.
Besides offering a strong academic curriculum, PDS offers excellent instruction in the arts. Each boy is part of the school choir and takes classes in visual arts. Additionally, there is a band for students in fifth and sixth grade and the school also offers private lessons through their PDS Fine Arts Conservatory. School leaders say the goal is to provide a plethora of resources to encourage creativity and spark curiosity.
“PDS has a mantra saying that ‘your child will be known, nurtured, and loved,’ and they really mean that,” adds Dr. Owen. “Two of my sons are identical twins, but at PDS they are individually known and that’s important.” Debbie Todd, Head of Early Childhood Education at PDS, adds, “We know that if we can hem those three things — knowing the child, nurturing his spirit, and loving him — then we’re going to be able to reach him.”
PDS has 500 boys enrolled, representing 35 different ZIP codes from across the Mid-South area. Rachel Bishop, the school’s Director of Admission, says that they are committed to increasing the diversity in their enrollment. “We are currently at 23 percent diversity and looking to increase that number each year,” she explains.
Students must apply to attend PDS. Mrs. Bishop says it’s to ensure that they are set up for success academically. And for those who may not have the funds to attend the private institution, the school distributes more than $1 million in financial aid each year.
Parents like Dr. Owen say the PDS experience has been worth the investment. “The academics are great at PDS, but you can get good academics a lot of different places; PDS understands boys and has programs and activities to cater to their energy levels and curiosity,” she says. “My husband and I joke all the time. Disney World isn’t the happiest place in the world; PDS is the happiest place.”
Founded in 1949, PDS serves approximately 500 boys in 2 years-old -6th grade. The school is located on a 29-acre campus in the heart of East Memphis. To learn more, visit pdsmemphis.org.
This article is sponsored by Presbyterian Day School. All photography provided by Presbyterian Day School.