NSA celebrates 50 years

Published 8:15 pm Saturday, October 22, 2016

Much has changed in education during the last 50 years, and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy has been there for all of it.

The school is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, having opened in the fall of 1966. It’s homecoming celebrations this weekend were held with the special recognition of the school’s golden anniversary.

When the school first opened, computers were almost a science-fiction concept. Now, the school’s youngest students have known nothing but touch screens, and the school hosts a technology lab with laser cutters and 3-D printers.

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“There’s been these big shifts in education,” said Debbie Russell, head of school at NSA. “When you think about teaching 50 years ago, it was very teacher-centered. Now, more schools are moving to a student-centered approach. Students are doing a lot more problem-based learning and project-based learning. There’s less focus today on just memorization of the information and more focus on how do you apply the information you’ve been given.”

Russell reflected on how NSA has been able to accomplish 50 years of service to the community.

“We are proud of all NSA has been able to accomplish over the last 50 years,” she said. “During this time, we stayed focused and were true to our mission of providing an excellent educational experience to students in Hampton Roads and northeastern North Carolina.”

Russell attributed the school’s success to its loyal faculty, alumni, families and community members.

“We have an incredibly loyal group of faculty and staff members, who are committed to our mission and helping each of our students reach their potential,” Russell said.

“Our alumni frequently return home to NSA to share their success stories with us and to let us know how important NSA has been in preparing them for college as well life after college. In addition, many of our alumni choose to return to work at NSA, which tells a lot about their time while they were in school at NSA. We are also so grateful to have had so many dedicated parents as part of the NSA community.”

Growing and changing have been fundamental in helping the school stay viable, Russell said.

“NSA was impacted by the downturn in the economy in 2008, as were many other independent schools across the country,” Russell said. “We have had to think more strategically and assess opportunities for growth, such as our new Harbour View campus. In addition, we have been very focused on better utilizing our resources and managing our expenses while continuing to deliver a quality education and excellent student experience.”

The school is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise money for professional development, programs and technology, capital improvements and the endowment.

“All of these efforts will help to ensure the financial vitality of NSA for years to come,” Russell said.

The school looks forward to the next 50 years but plans to maintain its tradition and values, Russell said.

“The values on which NSA was founded, and the Honor Code as well as our motto Honor Above All, will continue to be the foundation of our culture,” she said.

“Because there are substantial changes taking place in education that are transforming teaching and learning, I think education will look very different in 50 years from now than the way it does today. We will continue to evolve our curriculum and programs to equip students with the skills they will need to be successful in all facets of life. Even in 50 years, regardless of how education evolves, the faculty and staff and their relationships with the students, will continue to be the most integral part of the NSA experience.

The school celebrated on Friday with its homecoming game, a post-game party and dance for alumni, parents and faculty, and more. On Saturday, a family event with carnival games as well as several class reunions took place during the day, and a gala was held Saturday evening.