School is difficult enough for many students and can be even more challenging when they don’t have the proper learning environment. The Learning Foundation of Florida was founded 10 years ago to provide students with the opportunities they need to succeed.
Located in Royal Palm Beach, owner Debra Thornby’s goal was to open up a school where students could learn at their own pace, with minimal distractions.
Thornby began her career working as a public school teacher specializing in special education. “After 10 years of doing that, I became a private tutor,” she said.
While tutoring, Thornby discovered her passion. “Students would always say, ‘Hey, Ms. Thornby, I wish you were my teacher,”’ she said. “That’s when I realized I could be a teacher.”
With many years of teaching in the school system under her belt, Thornby knew it was time to go out on her own. Initially, she ran the Learning Foundation out of her home with 15 students, and it soon grew to 25. “I eventually bought a larger home out in The Acreage and ran it out of there, but then I eventually got too big for that,” she said.
Currently serving 70 students, the Learning Foundation of Florida is now located in a larger facility at 507 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. The school has separate locations for high school students in one building, and middle and elementary students in another.
The school curriculum focuses on a more strategic approach to learning, Thornby explained. “It’s more of a multi-sensory approach,” she said, “where with elementary and middle school students, they have more of the ability to hear, see, write, build and talk about it, so they have the ability to integrate all their senses into all the activities.”
This approach has been proven successful among Thornby’s students, many of whom have learning issues that were not being met in the public school system. “Some of our students are out of the box, and they need to be educated in a different way,” she said.
Thornby and the other teachers apply these principles to the students, and are extremely patient with them. “This allows them to process the information and retain it to their long-term memory instead of pumping out a piece of worksheet, and going to the next page,” she said.
This is an unfortunate aspect of public education, according to Thornby. “Whether the student is on the journey or not, it does not matter,” she said. “The schools keep moving on, even though the child might not be getting the information.”
The Learning Foundation of Florida also has a low student-to-teacher ratio, to ensure all students are being taught on a more personalized level.
“On the elementary school level, we cap the student-to-teacher ratio at 10 to one,” Thornby said. “And we have a floating paraprofessional so that there is always someone available to come out if a student needs on-on-one or more time for a test.”
At the high school level, it’s structured differently, with four academic teachers; one for language, math, science and social studies; as well as a paraprofessional. “And of course, I’m always available when I’m needed,” Thornby said.
For more information, visit www.tlffinc.com or call (561) 795-6886.