North Branch School (NBS) in Afton continues to grow under new leader Smith Coleman, who began his role in July 2019. Coleman speaks with enthusiasm describing his love of the community-oriented school with a goal of offering a private school education at affordable tuition. A work-credit program with labor toward tuition helps the school reach a diverse community.
Coleman began his inaugural year as Head of School with a third of his time teaching science and social studies. Next Fall he intends to be fully involved in his lead role, stepping out into the community to build the relationships that support the work of teachers and students.
Coleman graduated from Mary Washington University with his bachelor’s degree in economic history, then received a master’s degree in conflict transformation from Eastern Mennonite University, and a certificate in educational leadership from James Madison University. He holds endorsements in administration and supervision (PreK-12), specific learning disabilities (K-12) and middle education (4-8), and he has studied Responsive Classroom and place-based education. He also has15 years of experience as a sustainable farming practices consultant.
Much like his predecessor, school founder Charlotte Zinzer Booth, Coleman has developed specific ideas about the best way to educate children. He described his educational philosophy as a student-focused vision of “happy well-adjusted kids who love to learn.” He is opposed to high-stakes testing where data collection holds a strong emphasis. Coleman’s philosophy of learning involves teacher-student collaboration that allows student to have choices within a deep range in subject matter.
Coleman lives with his wife Teresa in Albemarle County and their two children, Olivia, a high school student at Western Albemarle, and Amos, who attends North Branch School.