Echo Horizon School’s Peggy Procter: On Honoring Children’s Unique VoicesBrought to you by Echo Horizon School
When asked about her personal philosophy on education, Peggy Procter, the new Head of School at Echo Horizon in Culver City, tears up. “I believe in valuing and honoring the voices of children of all ages,” she says. “We need to create an environment where children are included and supported, where they can have trust in adults and in their own strengths.”
Procter is not only an experienced educator, she is also a mom who brings with her a focus on character development and community building. She wants to celebrate the uniqueness of every child at Echo Horizon.
Echo Horizon is an independent pre-kindergarten-sixth grade school founded in 1983 with a unique focus on educating deaf and hard of hearing children alongside their hearing peers. Ten percent of its 180 students are DHH, and many of them continue on to mainstream and highly ranked middle and high schools.
The school, tucked in a tree-lined street, is housed in a charming former public school building that gives it a neighborhood-school feel, but with special touches throughout such as a sun-filled library, innovative science and technology labs and a maker space complete with sewing machines and hand tools.
Diversity and inclusion are woven into the culture of Echo Horizon. “Character development is at the core of our mission,” says Procter. “We want our students to be kind people who care about each other and the world around them. We focus on the whole child, not just the academics.”
The innovative curriculum is based on Stanford University’s Design Thinking method, which is focused on children learning through discovery, interpretation and experimentation. Students cook with faculty in the school kitchen, learn about the Harlem Renaissance through music and dance, sew costumes, make hand puppets and wind tunnels, code video games and create websites. “We want our students to speak up, make decisions, take risks, build, fail, problem solve and try again,” says Procter.
Hands-on projects focusing on the arts, science and technology are woven into the curriculum, homework begins in second grade and no letter grades are given. “We want learning to be safe, fun and meaningful,” says Procter. “Our students receive comprehensive evaluations from their teachers and go on to top middle and high schools. They do extremely well without the anxiety and pressure of the traditional grading system.”
Procter grew up in the suburbs of New England and attended her local public school until middle school, where she felt unchallenged and unheard. Her parents agreed to her switching schools to attend Phillips Exeter Academy. “The mentorship and the social and emotional support I received at that school changed my life,” she says. “My voice was heard and for the first time I was in an environment where reading and intellectualism was the norm.”
Procter went on to Dartmouth College for her undergraduate work and Middlebury College in Madrid, Spain for her master’s degree. She was the upper school director at Windward School before coming to Echo Horizon. The competitive tennis player describes herself as a chocoholic, an avid reader and a “nature girl” who loves to hike, bike and rock climb. She also loves to play board games and visit national parks with her 9-year-old daughter.
“Being a mom reminds me every day that there is no one way to learn,” Procter says. “Every child is different and unique. It is our job as educators to hear them and give them what they need to thrive.”