History of Elizabeth Academy

Elizabeth Academy is the brainchild of many people, but it was inspired by only one. This child, Lauren Elizabeth Williamsen, was born on October 17, 2003. She is the catalyst for this endeavor. She will not be the only beneficiary.

Lauren is the last of seven children born to Thom and Gail Williamsen. She has Down syndrome. Thom and Gail have seven children whose abilities are diverse. Just older than Lauren is her sister Emma, who is a typically developing, delightfully creative child. Watching the interaction and development of these last two children has given their parents a perspective few have the privilege to know. All, including Emma, are richer for the association. This situation has also provided an understanding of the desperate need for quality early intervention often lacking in public schools and all but unavailable in the private sector. We intend to remedy that.

It was felt that Lauren deserved a middle name that garnered respect. And so, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Academy is dedicated to this principle. All children are unique. All have gifts. All children deserve respect. Given that, imagine the possibilities.

Understanding the importance of language and communication (the seed and sustenance of all intelligence) and realizing Lauren’s lack in this area, Gail enrolled her in extensive speech therapy. She discussed with Maria Gurrister at Wasatch Speech and Language, the idea of implementing subtle social communication therapy in a classroom setting. Here, gentle assists could be given among peers – where the desire to communicate would be greatest and the natural incentive of peer interaction and the reward of social engagement would fuel her desire to speak. At the same time, this enriching inclusive classroom environment would be integration into a society where typical peers would have the privilege of truly knowing her just as she would realize an opportunity to know and mingle respectfully in a typical classroom. Maria and Gail looked at each other and said: "We need a school. ALL children deserve this".

Thom and Gail applied for and were granted tax-exempt status for this private school in April of 2008 - Elizabeth Academy was born. Immediately following tax-exempt approval, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation provided initial start-up funding for Elizabeth Academy with a significant grant. The foundation has generously supported the academy ever since. 

After researching alternatives, the Montessori Method was the natural choice for curriculum. It is adaptable to various learning types and all levels of need. Typical and gifted children also thrive at their own individual pace. With Montessori’s focus on the individual, multi-age grouping and peer mentoring, the classroom is a microcosm of the diversity we all find in the real world, a world in which we all strive for personal excellence but share a sense of contribution and belonging. Conflict resolution, naturally a part of the Montessori curriculum, is enhanced with the diversity found in the inclusive environment with all children receiving the benefits of this social development and exposure at an early age.

This led us to director of teacher training, Nancy Lindeman, who began initial teacher training in the summer of 2008. Elizabeth Academy began to be. We opened our doors on Myrtle Avenue in Murray to the first class of Early Childhood students in the Fall of 2009. In 2010 we fleshed out our Emerging class (an Early Intervention program serving children ages 2-4 which bridges both Toddler and Early Childhood curriculum) and added our first Lower Elementary class (serving children ages 6-9).  In 2013, we closed the doors of our Myrtle Avenue location and inaugurated our new 3.5 acre campus on Connor Street in Millcreek.  We also added a third Early Childhood class, a second Lower Elementary class, a Toddler class and an Upper Elementary class.  In 2014, we added a third Lower Elementary class and a second Upper Elementary class.  Our Middle School class opened in August 2015.
In August 2016, we opened the Early Childhood Academy at our original Myrtle Avenue location, serving children from 18 months through 6 years. We also launched our Early Intervention program at this campus. In August 2017, we opened our Garfield Academy campus in Sugarhouse. We brought out middle school students to Garfield Academy and launched a high school program. In its first year, Garfield Academy served students from 7th - 9th grade. For the 2018-2019 school year, Garfield Academy will  serve Toddler (18 months - 3 years), Early Childhood (3-6 years), Lower Elementary (1st-3rd grade), Middle School (7th-8th grade) and High School (9th-10th grade). We will add Upper Elementary (4-6 grades) and additional High School grades (11th -12th grades) each consecutive year through 2020.
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