Middle School Head

Welcome to Shady Side Academy Middle School!

Sitting upon a hill overlooking our beautiful 35-acre campus, the Middle School is home to a dynamic and engaging community of students and teachers. Here, we support young people on their journey through adolescence, at a time of rapid intellectual, social and emotional growth.

I love middle school. That often takes people by surprise, as many of us recall our own middle school years and the drama and challenges of growing up. At Shady Side Academy, we recognize the potential this change brings and tap into students’ desire to mature. The academics, arts, athletics and advising generate a wealth of opportunities to reach the young people entrusted to our care.

We think expansively. Middle School students are challenged academically, whether learning Chinese, Spanish or Latin in language class, discussing angles in math class, exploring earthquakes in science class, discussing themes of identity, empathy and justice in English class, reenacting the Battle of Bunker Hill in social studies class, or taking a field trip to the Warhol Museum in art class. Small class sizes encourage students to participate in deeper conversations, challenging them to think critically and apply their newfound understanding.

We act ethically. Growing up and navigating the challenges of adolescence can be hard, and we are committed to helping students grow socially and emotionally. In small advisory groups, students and teachers develop supportive relationships as they explore human interactions and share successes and challenges together. Students gain important self-advocacy skills as they learn to ask teachers for help and are empowered to create outreach and service opportunities.

We lead responsibly. As young people navigate their academic and social lives, many of them step up and begin to take on greater amounts of leadership. In class, students become group leaders and direct their peers through the stages of a class project. On athletic teams, students lead drills and encourage their teammates to put forth their best efforts. On stage, experienced actors train and mentor younger actors. These efforts build leadership characteristics and lay the groundwork for future personal growth.

I love middle school, and I love seeing what each new day brings at Shady Side Academy. Many days are filled with cheery smiles and warm thank yous, while others push the boundaries as young people test their capabilities. At the end of the year, as we reflect on those struggles and accomplishments, the growth is evident.

I invite you to visit our school to learn more about our commitment to helping students successfully navigate the rich and challenging learning environment.


Amy Nixon
Head of Middle School

Amy Nixon

Amy Nixon has been head of Shady Side Academy Middle School since 2004, and also served as the Academy’s interim president in 2018-2019. She joined the SSA Middle School faculty in 2001 and taught English for three years prior to becoming head of school. Before Shady Side, she was chair of the History Department at the Vail Deane School in New Jersey from 1977 to 1980, and she was a history teacher and middle school director at Winchester Thurston School in Pittsburgh, her alma mater, from 1980 to 1985. Nixon served on the Board of Trustees at Winchester Thurston from 1986 to 2002 and was board chair for four years. She also has served on the boards of the FISA Foundation and the Pace School, both in Pittsburgh. A native of Pittsburgh, Nixon is a graduate of Princeton University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in history. She has three sons, Sam Mindlin, Lucas Mindlin ’05 and Casey Mindlin ’06.