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The Eton Approach: Learning for Life

M.H. Murray
Eton Academy featured on Local Business News.
Soon after Rowan Daugherty began public school, it was evident that it was not a good fit for her.
“Rowan, who is smart and verbal, was given several labels of dysfunction,” says her mom, Stephanie Daugherty, “and her confidence was shot. She was becoming a different kid.…When my second daughter, Daphne, who treasures books, started school, she was dealing with some challenges when it came to reading and executive neurological function.”

“We knew about Eton,” Daugherty continued, “but my husband and I were afraid of the cost – until we went to an Open House, where we learned we were not alone – and we made it happen. Eton Academy and The Eton Approach have done nothing short of changing our lives.”

Eton Academy, on Melton Rd. near W. 14 Mile Rd. in Birmingham, was founded in 1986 as a full-curriculum, independent, private school for students with learning differences and has over 200 students in grades 1-12.

Pete Pullen, Head of School, describes The Eton Approach as “the culmination of 30 years of teaching students who learn differently.”

“It takes the science, the research, and our successful experiences,” Pullen explains, “for a systemized approach to consistently delivering direct, explicit and multi-sensory instruction.”

“I’m a big cheerleader for Eton Academy and The Eton Approach,” says Daugherty. “Now, a couple of years later, Rowan (now 10) and Daphne (now seven) are thriving. In the past year, Daphne has improved from being able to read five words to 130 words: a 5.5th-grade reading level! And Rowan has blossomed. She is confident, meeting her goals and making new ones.”

“The teachers call, they communicate, they talk to outside therapists,” Daugherty continues. “The girls are really comfortable there, and so am I. Learning is no longer a battle. When I pick them up and ask about their day, they now say, 'Awesome! Amazing!' They are being taught how to learn and are given tools that will last their lifetimes.”

Daugherty describes Rowan’s first day at Eton Academy. “Rowan was upset upon arriving and did not want to stay. Mr. Pullen approached and offered to take her for a walk around the school. She took his hand and – though I don’t know what they talked about – when they returned, she was absolutely fine.”

Pullen smiles as he recalls that walk – and his own path to becoming Eton Academy’s Head of School.

“I know it sounds funny,” he says, “but I knew I wanted to be a school principal from the time I was six or seven years old. “I was inspired by Dr. Walker, our principal at Mary D. Mitchell School in Ann Arbor,” Pullen says. “He was the kindest, gentlest man I ever met, and he was always helping children.”

After attending Ann Arbor’s Greenhills School, Pullen returned there, while working on his degree at the University of Michigan, to tutor and coach basketball.

“Later," Pullen says, "the opportunity was presented to teach middle school at Greenhills, so that’s where I began. And when I was there, I thought, 'This is how schools should teach.’ It left an indelible mark on my philosophy.”

“I then took a detour and coached college basketball for two years at Eastern Michigan University and realized that my true passion is teaching," though, he adds, grinning, “I love basketball!”

Pullen then taught and became Assistant Head of School at Detroit’s Friends School and was also Head of School at Herlong Cathedral School before coming to Eton, where he has been for fifteen years.

And Pullen, as well as Eton’s teachers (and the specialists who continually teach those teachers), support staff, and board of trustees, sustain a place where children with learning challenges, and their families, find hope.

It’s a place where each student is seen as a unique, growing child with amazing abilities, unlimited potential and discoverable ways of acquiring skills, knowledge, self-awareness; where science, compassion and dedication create a community where all can thrive, where all can succeed.

“We are a resource,” says Pullen, “for a student, a person, your child, who is struggling to learn. Everyone here is incredibly committed and passionate. A call to us may be helpful and, even though the school might not be your child’s ultimate home, we also extend tutoring, our learning center, our summer program. Our goal is to help as many students and families as we can, moving them from frustration to flourishing.”
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