Spring Ridge Academy Prioritizes Academics as Part of the Therapeutic Process
MAYER, ARIZONA, SEPTEMBER 13, 2021 —Jeannie Courtney founded Spring Ridge Academy as an experienced educator, knowing that academics were critical in adolescents’ development. Today, academics remain a vital element of Spring Ridge Academy’s programming, emphasized by the recent re-accreditation by Cognia.
Spring Ridge Academy’s focus on academics is shown through the amount of time students spend in the classroom. The two-semester, year-round school year ensures that students get the in-person instruction that they need. “We have intentionally created space for academics. All aspects of our program are important — academics, therapy, family time, and community — so it is important to make sure that we give appropriate time for all of them,” said Dr. Erin Smith, Director of Operational Excellence, certified teacher and Principal. “It’s not just about giving students access to education when they are in treatment, but giving them excellence in education.”
Students receive a class schedule of six college-prep classes that are on a rotating A/B block schedule. Each day students attend three 80-minute blocks. “It’s about relationships. The more teachers, and I, for that matter, can build relationships with our students, the more they learn. Period. The block schedule gives teachers the flexibility to deliver content and get to know the students in their classroom,” said Justin Zych, Principal.
The seven highly qualified faculty members have years of experience, trauma-informed classrooms. They are dedicated to Spring Ridge’s mission to create an environment where students and their families can learn, heal, grow, and connect. In addition, they have multiple talents that they bring to the classroom.
Rick Derman, who has been at Spring Ridge since 2013, is an experienced art and history teacher. He has a master’s degree from Penn in American Civilization and two Emmy Awards. Gretchen Foster has a degree in dance and yoga certifications and has been at Spring Ridge for over 13 years. She has combined both of these to create an artistic movement class that includes the fundamentals of yoga, acro-yoga, and dance.
Clayton Smith began teaching at the school in 2014. He is an English teacher but has also developed classes in Film and Photography. “One of the best parts of working at Spring Ridge Academy is that I get to meet the students where they are and what they are interested in. So they are excited to learn and can break through all the negative things they have been telling themselves and realize how brilliant they are.”
Ken Stubbe, a math teacher, has been with Spring Ridge since 2007 and has seen countless students overcome a fear of math. Many students have thanked Mr. Stubbe over the years in graduation speeches. One student thanked him “for always being honest with me and never letting me give up.”
Patrick Abney has taught at the school since 2017. He has recently taken on the role of a science teacher in addition to a math teacher bridging the connection between the two subjects more completely.
June Lombardi, an English and social studies teacher, and Leslie Kaw, a computer lab paraprofessional, joined the Spring Ridge team in 2020 and have been assets in the classroom and academic mentors.
“Each student is assigned an academic mentor who assists them in overcoming their academic obstacles. In addition, the teacher is a key member of the small treatment team that ensures a holistic approach to each students’ care,” said Dr. Smith.
“It wasn’t long after I was hired as an English teacher in 2008 that I knew I would stake my career on Spring Ridge Academy. Job offers have come and gone, and I have never had the desire to leave the school. This is because spring Ridge aligned so perfectly with my mission as a teacher,” said Dr. Smith. “I know that Spring Ridge values education because of the work I do day-to-day and because the school leadership supported me in getting my Ed.S. so that I could be a certified vice principal, and later on supporting me when I decided to get my Ph.D.”
Spring Ridge Academy, located 1.5 hours outside Phoenix, Arizona, serves young women ages 13-17. Founded in 1997 as a female and family-owned Residential Treatment Center, Spring Ridge is licensed by the State of Arizona and accredited by the Joint Commission. The academic program/school is accredited by Cognia. Utilizing evidence-based clinical modalities with a traditional rigorous college-prep curriculum, including fine and expressive arts and team sports, Spring Ridge has created a relationship-based setting that allows the student’s emotional, relational, spiritual, intellectual, and physical to grow.