Junior School Head

Welcome to Shady Side Academy Junior School!

The faculty and staff of the Junior School are committed to supporting children and their families as they transition from preschool to early adolescence. Our beautiful seven-acre campus serves as the backdrop to a safe and supportive community that guides students on an eight-year journey of academic and social experiences, allowing them to explore and discover themselves and the world around them.

We meet children where they are, helping them to work through challenges and enhance their strengths. Children have opportunities to lead and follow, speak and listen, be still and move, laugh and learn. My personal philosophy of “nothing without joy” underpins our approach, as students and faculty find ways to connect on a personal level.

At the forefront of this effort are our dedicated and experienced teachers, who feel fortunate, as I do, to be a part of the Shady Side Academy community. Teachers at the Junior School serve as students’ primary advocates, guiding them in a challenging and creative curriculum of math, language arts, social studies and more. Within our distinctive academic programs of Singapore Math and Reading and Writing Workshop, our teachers utilize a “guide on the side” rather than “sage on the stage” model, supporting students as they grow. Through experiential, inquiry-based activities and lessons, children acquire skills, deepen their understanding and learn to think creatively. As teachers connect with students through hands-on learning experiences, children grow exponentially.

Many people ask me what my favorite part of the day is, and my answer is always the same: morning carpool! That’s when I get to greet every student as they leap out of their cars and buses ready for another day of school. It’s the children’s smiles and stories that keep me energized and joyful every single day!

I hope that this is only the beginning of your exploration of all the Junior School has to offer. I look forward to sharing more with you about our amazing community when you visit our campus and share in our joy.

Joyfully Yours,

Ellen McConnell Sanderson
Head of Junior School

Ellen McConnell Sanderson

Ellen McConnellEllen McConnell Sanderson has been head of the Junior School since 2012. Previously, she spent four years as assistant head of the Lower School at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans and six years as a kindergarten teacher and instructional technology specialist at Trinity School in Atlanta. She spent the first seven years of her career in New York City as a kindergarten teacher at The Marymount School and The Caedmon School, and as a technology coordinator at The Dalton School. A native of Cresskill, N.J., McConnell Sanderson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and history from Wellesley College and a Master of Arts degree in communications, computing and technology from Columbia University Teachers College.