About

Message from the Head of School

Message from Elaine Christensen

 
It is my pleasure to welcome you to Open Window School, a kindergarten through eighth grade independent school dedicated to nurturing and inspiring students of high intellectual potential. While many schools have intellectually gifted students and programs, Open Window is a unique learning environment in which every aspect of the school has been designed for gifted learners. We believe our students are children first, gifted second; we adhere to our five core values; and we focus on meeting the academic and social and emotional needs of our students so they will realize their potential.

Open Window’s students are enthusiastically engaged in learning, supported by well-trained and caring teachers who work in partnership with parents and guardians to ensure the best opportunities for every child. The Open Window community embraces both our common focus on gifted children and the diverse range of unique cultural, religious, and experiential experiences of our families.
 
Some may question why gifted students need their own distinct academic program. These students thrive when given a faster pace, deeper and more complex content, teachers that "get" them, and a peer group who shares a passion for learning. I experienced this as a parent to two gifted girls. Whether in our lower or middle school, Open Window students are immersed in authentic, real-world problem solving, surrounded by a community where it is cool to be smart.
 
Open Window School was founded in 1983 by a group of parents, just like many of you. Its first home was a church basement. These were parents of gifted kids, kids who were insatiable, curious, intense, probably emotional. I imagine kids who played chess, or read novels, or did complex math problems at a younger age than their peers, kids who were obsessed with knowing the name of every dinosaur or species of bird, kids who would not wear shirts with tags, kids who got scared when they thought about the vastness of space, who worried about current events, kids who thought deeply about justice and fairness. This group of parents somehow found each other and had the courage to imagine a school, and then build it.
 
That was almost forty years ago. In that time, the school became established, and it grew. It moved out of the church basement and into the Lake Heights YMCA in Newcastle. It moved from the YMCA to Cougar Mountain. On Cougar Mountain, it added a middle school in 2007. Policies and practices were put in place. Curriculum and pedagogies were refined. Important events and rituals were established such as the Kindergarten Parade, Second Grade Toy Company, “Rufus” the bobcat, a debate program, Pizza Fridays, kindergarten/eighth grade buddies, and Hallmark Trips. The staff grew to almost one hundred people. Through it all, Open Window stayed true to the values and principles on which it was founded—Children First, Gifted Second, the importance of supporting both head and heart, and the power of community. For thirty-eight years, Open Window has existed to nurture and inspire students of high intellectual potential, and we are poised and ready to continue to do that good work going forward.
 
In 2022-2023, we are living up to the innovative culture which surrounds us. We established new schedules in both divisions, using research and best practices to allocate time in a way that serves students well. After a pause due to COVID, we have reinstated our fall and spring Hallmark trips, a critical element of our overall program. We have invested in additional arts classes, revamped our middle school SEL curriculum, and updated our lower school writing program. We added an afternoon bus to meet the needs of families. We are launching a pilot of a synchronous, full day, project-based online program for gifted fourth and fifth graders Open Window Online which will open in fall 2023.
 
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about Open Window. While no website can completely capture the dynamic environment that defines this unique school, I hope that your exploration will provide you a taste of our amazing Open Window community. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions.

Elaine Christensen
Head of School
Open Window School provides a challenging academic curriculum blended with nurturing support from teachers that prepares students for long-term success.