Miami Country Day School: The Training Grounds for Multidimensional Learners and Leaders
Miami Country Day School
Miami Country Day School

A school whose whole-child philosophy compels it to create classroom experiences that combine elements of a classical education with the innovative practices of project and problem-based learning which allows for a vigorous education that yields extraordinary results.

A school that is rooted in its commitment to educating the whole child – both inside and outside the classroom – a mission that has defined its growth over the past 83 years and continues to advance both the programs it offers and the community it thrives in today, is the one and only Miami Country Day School!

Founded in 1938, to empower every student, every day, everywhere; Miami Country Day School (MCDS) is an independent, coeducational, non-profit learning community with students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, who learn together on a sprawling 20- acre campus that lies just 10 minutes north of downtown Miami.

“Every student who sets foot on our campus has something to offer – potential to be unlocked,” commented the proud President and Head of School – Mariandl Hufford. “It is our responsibility to give students the freedom to design an education which allows them to develop their passion while pursuing academic excellence,” she added.

There are approximately 1,270 students enrolled at MCDS that speak 19 languages and represent 26 nations. MCDS has a 9:1 student to teacher ratio with 228 full-time faculty and staff members, 66 percent of whom hold advanced degrees.

The Guiding Mission

Miami Country Day School empowers every student, every day, everywhere to learn with vigor, explore with purpose, strive for excellence, and to serve with honor, respect, and compassion as global citizens. It does this in a community where every student is known and included by engaging the whole child, in and out of the classroom as they discover their full potential.

“Our values; wisdom, honor, respect, compassion, and purpose are the shared commitment we make to each other, and as a community, in honor of our past, present, and future,” added Mariandl Hufford.

Cultivating the Ground for Thought Leaders

The school’s distinctive approach is defined by the following characteristics:

  • Committed, passionate teachers who completely know each student, are their advocates, and guide and push them to grow in ways previously unimaginable.
  • Small class sizes that allow teachers to tailor instruction to each individual student.
  • A focus on the real-life application of what is studied in the classroom, which motivates students to delve deeper into topics.
  • The importance of finding passion and purpose beyond oneself, a belief that is a hallmark of the Country Day experience.
  • The use of technology to support instructional strategies, which fosters interactive, collaborative, and innovative teaching and learning.
  • Trans-disciplinary skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communicating, and questioning which are a core part of every academic endeavor.
  • In addition, MCDS offers a world-renowned arts program that is housed in its unparalleled ‘Center for the Arts’, a complete and award-winning athletic program that produces division one student athletes and offers extra-curricular programs that meet the needs of the diverse student body.

Notably, GATEway, or ‘Global Access to Education’ – an unparalleled global experience that brings the world to each student and students to the world – offers global programming that supports, enhances, and develops students’ view of the world, its diverse cultures, and its people. Through academic and cultural immersion programs, the program broadens the students’ perspectives of life beyond our borders in order to foster a mutual understanding and appreciation among all individuals, both at home and abroad. GATEway is first and foremost an academic program. It differs from other travel programs because it is designed and executed by educators, for the benefit of students. In addition, students who have a particularly strong interest in global awareness and understanding are able to pursue a Global Endorsement on their diploma, once they have completed an additional, demanding set of criteria.

Unparalleled Excellence

MCDS thrived despite a year of global stagnation, staying true to its objective of giving students the full country day experience every day. It was a year of progress and victory across the board, from academics to the arts and athletics.

Eight members of the MCDS class of 2021 have been recognized as Silver Knight nominees, honoring outstanding students who have not only achieved academic success, but have also unselfishly applied their special knowledge and talents to contribute significant service to their schools and communities. MCDS educates globally minded scholars who, in 2021, were awarded a total of $3,761,900 in merit scholarship money and received gold, silver and honorable mention recognition at the Regional Scholastic Writing Awards. In addition, the class of 2021 includes a prestigious Kluge Scholar at Columbia University, a published author, a number of successful entrepreneurs, as well as numerous students admitted to honors colleges at major universities.

2021 also saw fourteen MCDS students graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Social Innovators Program, students shine on the national United Nations stage, and middle school

students write, publish and market their first book. Chess championships were won, spelling and geography bees conquered, and students were finalists in the State poetry competition. Students excelled in the 2021 Fluor Engineering Challenge, were admitted into the National Honor Society, took classes at Cornell University, gave TED talks, and explored their role as global scholars through constellation learning.

MCDS’s rock band, 21 Hearts 1 Beat (CME) was accepted into the Rhythm Foundation’s Miami Beach Youth Music Festival. Four of MCDS’s US music students, under the baton of music teacher John Wicker, were selected to participate in all-state ensembles this year.

Junior Thespians received “Superior” (the finest conceivable performance rating) and “Excellent” at regional and state competitions and upper school Thespians, who competed virtually this season, had outstanding results in the SE Regional Florida Thespian Conference.

The school’s US Thespians competed in 33 events ranging from solo musical, ensemble acting scenes, makeup design, and many more, accumulating a total of 25 “Superiors” received in the events.

In 2020- 2021 school MCDS students exceled both inside and outside of the classroom, as Spartans celebrated –

  • Seven district championships: boys golf, girls soccer, girls basketball, boys basketball, girls tennis, boys tennis, girls water polo.
  • Two regional championships: girls basketball, boys basketball.
  • A state championship in girls basketball.
  • Eight individual state-qualifying athletes in: golf, swimming, and tennis.
  • And MCDS middle school teams also won boys swimming soccer and soccer South Florida middle school conference championships.

The Inspiring Leader

MCDS’s President and Head of School, Mariandl Hufford, is the driving force behind MCDS. Her purposeful leadership has guided the entire MCDS community through a year of unprecedented growth and progress despite the pandemic. Ms. Hufford has ensured that the pandemic did not alter the commitment to every student, every day, or the academic excellence synonymous with MCDS. Her ability to pivot programming to reflect the overall core values, needs of students, families, and faculty alike, ensured that the academic process was never interrupted. To keep the promise of every student, every day alive, everywhere, Ms. Hufford hired additional lower-school teachers to guarantee that younger students’ social, emotional, and academic needs were met. In addition, in two short years, Ms. Hufford has, as the President and Head of School, streamlined the finances to ensure efficient oversight, strengthened the culture of philanthropy, and oversaw numerous campus improvement projects.

Ms. Hufford’s flexible, yet grounded, leadership style allowed MCDS to adapt, at times on a weekly basis, to the changing nature of the pandemic. Under the guidance of Mariandl

Hufford, MCDS has grown and established itself as a leader in academic distinction, global education, and innovative practices.

Academic Rigor

MCDS is very proud of its unique specialty programming, such as the – Learning Resource Program, which is built on the knowledge that all learners can thrive. This program is for students with documented learning differences, focuses on believing in strengthening the potential of all students by recognizing and celebrating their learning intelligence. The program provides a personalized learning/teaching environment that is student-centered with innovative teaching approaches.

The Learning Resources Program places high emphasis on cultivating learning skills designed to develop the executive functions of the brain. Self-advocacy training is also an integral part of the curriculum to promote self-esteem and confidence. It prepares graduates for a college or university education that matches their needs and abilities and students find success by cultivating their talents, interests, and passions.

In addition, MCDS offers a challenging college preparatory curriculum, honors and advanced placement programming that provides far reaching, in depth academic opportunities.

“Our rigorous academic program cultivates thoughtful leaders. Our program ignites a passion in each and every student,” added Ms. Hufford.

Through thought-provoking, analytic, philanthropic, and student-centered experiences, the school nurtures its students as they develop into confident, intellectual, and compassionate global citizens, whilst striving to make education relevant and to give students the foundation they need for success beyond life at Miami Country Day School.

Educators Who Care

MCDS has a fully staffed school counseling department that believes that social and emotional well-being is the foundation of each student’s ability to grow and develop physically, emotionally, socially, aesthetically, intellectually, and spiritually. By partnering with parents and providing support, resources, and guidance for students, the counselor’s guide students to awareness, self-management, knowledge, and relational skills that allow them to develop as compassionate individuals who respect themselves and others.

All MCDS students have both an advisor and a college counselor who work with them and their families for their entire four years of upper school to guide them to choose courses that will help develop their passion in education. Additionally, they assist students with academic goals and help them ultimately gain admission to the college or university that best suits their needs and aspirations. The school also boasts a robust alumni program to support all members of the community for years to come.

Pandemic Times

MCDS has been committed to providing safe and in-person learning to every child on campus, every day. To ensure a safe return, the ‘MCDS Covid-19 Task Force’ was created to focus on exposure and risk science to present a range of control strategies that guided the reopening of MCDS. Five risk reduction strategies – healthy classrooms, healthy schedules, healthy activities, healthy buildings, and healthy policies – were implemented as part of a multi-layered plan that reduced exposure and limited transmission of Covid-19 at MCDS.

With its sprawling campus, the school was able to move students around campus in a distanced manner that still allowed for peer-to-peer interaction. Classrooms, group activities, and dining facilities were moved outdoors to ensure that all facets of the MCDS day remained a part of every day.

With safety protocols in place, students were able to participate in all aspects of student life in and outside of the classroom, and important milestones such as homecoming, prom, and graduations, were reconfigured and celebrated. With a focus on academic, social, and emotional development, MCDS has navigated the pandemic with unprecedented institutional growth and expansion.

A Desire to Have a Positive Impact

MCDS plans to continue to be a beacon for learning, engagement, and the launch-pad of young people of substance and consequence. To enable each student to reach their full potential, it has implemented a student journey that aligns with its core values and vision. The school’s focus on inclusion and belonging, global education, the integration of community life, and growth experiences that are deep and powerful for every student, ensure its continuation to be the modern manifestation of what it means to be a “country day school”.

In addition, MCDS is looking forward to a new era in learning with their ‘HUB’ for innovation that blends learning approaches combined with the studio and place-based learning and an online learning experience. The MCDS HUB will focus on innovation, leadership, and entrepreneurship. President Hufford concludes by saying, “Students will grow within learning experiences that capture local, national and/or international issues as opportunities provided for students to explore, connect, question, challenge, or pose solutions for the improvement of the world in which they live.”

With a focus on the future of education, MCDS will usher in a new era with purpose and excellence.

Crème de La Crème

Perhaps the most notable mastery of the school year was MCDS being included as one of only six schools, globally, that holds a standards endorsement by the Global Education Benchmark Group (GEBG). This designation highlights the international consequence of an MCDS education, the opportunities available to every student, and the school’s commitment to educating global citizens.

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