An exceptional educational institute distinguishes itself by upholding a profound commitment to nurturing the holistic development of every child within its walls. By leveraging every available opportunity, resource, and advantage, often unseen by undistinguished schools, such an institution fosters the comprehensive growth of each student. Furthermore, its impact extends beyond the boundaries of the school, as it plays a pivotal role in elevating the entire society in which it resides. Only a truly outstanding institution can successfully adapt to the evolving landscape of the education industry.
The Island Academy exemplifies all of these qualities, setting the bar high for educational excellence in the Caribbean region and beyond. Its unwavering dedication to uplifting education has earned it a position unparalleled by any other institution in the region.
The Island Academy is a private school located on the south end of San Pedro Town on the beautiful island of Ambergris Caye in Belize. Belize is geographically located in Central America but is considered a part of the Caribbean nations.
This institution was founded in 1995 by Sir Barry Bowen and Lady Dixie Bowen. Their goal was to provide a nurturing learning environment for the children of San Pedro that promotes core values such as integrity, compassion, self-discipline, and responsibility. The mission of The Island Academy is to provide quality education in an intimate environment that focuses on the whole child’s development and prepares them for their future.
Nurturing Well-Rounded Individuals
The Island Academy follows the Belizean education system and holds, on average, 80 students ages four to fifteen that are divided into three divisions: Lower (Beginners to Infant II), Middle (Standard I to Standard III), and Upper (Standard IV to VI). The Beginner’s curriculum is equivalent to kindergarten, and Standard VI is equivalent to 8th grade. With only six classrooms, the staff is able to provide practical learning opportunities to encourage students to be well-rounded individuals who are successful academically, socially, and emotionally.
The Island Academy understands that education is more than math and literacy. Learning is just as much social and emotional development as academic. In order for students to be well-rounded individuals, the academy requires them to participate in a variety of activities that encourage social-emotional learning.
Every day the students gather as a whole school for ‘Drop Everything and Breathe,’ an initiative started after the staff observed that the students were struggling with self-regulation after their morning session. It has evolved into a social-emotional learning opportunity where the students learn problem-solving skills, self-regulation, and self-awareness. An example would be asking the students to identify their emotions and think of ways to regulate their emotions, such as taking deep breaths or thinking about a calming color.
Another example is thinking of ways to make a responsible decision if an altercation occurs. The Island Academy created its own Social Emotional Learning curriculum that is completed as a whole school to teach these skills that are vital in life. Especially in today’s world, where there is a loud social media presence, and children are forced to navigate unknown situations, the academy found it is essential to teach these skills in order for its students to improve their mental and emotional health.
Instilling the Social Values
The Founder, Lady Dixie Bowen, feels that a child can have all of the academics provided, but if they do not acquire the social graces necessary to engage in public situations, then schools are not teaching the whole child.
Each Wednesday, the school hosts a ‘Formal Lunch’ for the students and staff. The students are seated at lunch tables with individuals from a variety of classes, from Beginners to Standard VI. This encourages students to socialize with peers they may not normally interact with due to age. The students are served by an upperclassman and must use formal dining etiquette such as waiting for the whole school to be served to eat, using their manners, napkins placed in their laps, using utensils to eat, and partaking in polite conversations while enjoying their delicious plate of rice and beans with stewed chicken, the national dish of Belize.
Fostering Pertinent Skills
The graduates of The Island Academy will successfully complete the curriculum in Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Health, Physical Education, Art, and Spanish but will leave the school with a variety of skills that are pertinent in life. One of those skills is Public Speaking.
Each week a class is assigned to host a presentation for the whole school, parents, and community members. The students work individually or in pairs to create a presentation. The presentation topics may vary, from being about a topic they are currently learning in class, a Belizean holiday, or performing a skit or song. Incorporating public speaking into their education from a young age instills confidence in the students in a normally frightening situation. The Island Academy alums show off their confidence in public speaking in high school and beyond.
The Island Academy students are pillars of the community and partake in a variety of extracurricular activities such as martial arts, basketball, soccer, and horseback riding. The talents are then shared with their classmates. The academy supports students’ extracurricular activities by fundraising for upcoming trips or cheering on its teams in tournaments. The academy expects students to be respectful in and out of school. They are held to high expectations of behavior while representing their school in the community.
Gaining a Broad Understanding of the World
The small school environment of The Island Academy allows teachers to differentiate learning based on needs and interests, which allows students to thrive and prepare themselves for their future. As the world continues to grow and change with every passing year, the academy encourages students to appreciate individual differences and gain a broad understanding of the world around them.
The student body and staff of The Island Academy are composed of people from across the globe. It forms special relationships, and through those bonds, the academy discovers that even with the differences, everyone at the academy is very much alike. The curriculum achieves both national and international standards; however, it is the daily interactions and activities that form students into versatile, cultured, and respectful young men and women who leave The Island Academy ready to interact with their community and the world.
The academy is proud of its alums who are living and thriving across the globe. Its passion for education and the constant encouragement from the staff helps shape the children of The Island Academy into critical thinkers, responsible citizens, and young men and women with strong core values. The mission of The Island Academy is to provide practical life experiences to its students so that they become active and essential members of the community.