Month: March 2015

Oak Hill Academy Stories #2 – Tiora Hackley ’08

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Tiora Hackley spent 4 years at Oak Hill Academy, graduating in 2008.  Her contagious personality and the personal growth she showed during that time have made her one of the most fondly remembered students to come through in many years.  Tiora has been very busy and productive since graduating from Oak Hill Academy.  After attending Norfolk State University and, later, Virginia State University on a basketball scholarship, the Virginia Beach native has gone on to some very prestigious internships and putting her BFA degree to good use while working in the graphic design industry and starting the Teekie Apparel brand ( I recently spent some time catching up with “Teekie” and discussed the impact of the Oak Hill experience on her life.


Tiora is shown here presenting her Post-Baccalaureate Project at MICA

What are you doing now in the business world?

Right now, I am finishing my graduate work at the Maryland Institue of Art (MICA) and plan to graduate the post-baccalaureate program in graphic design in May.  I’ve got some business opportunities with my apparel brand and am applying to some great companies.  I can’t wait for my next move!

What has been your path since graduating Oak Hill Academy in 2008?

I was a student athlete (women’s basketball) at Norfolk State and transferred to Virginia State University for my last two years.  I graduated VSU with a BFA in Graphic Design, did a lot of work for the VSU athletic department as a media specialist and started my own clothing line, Teekie Apparel, all in 2013.  I was also able to secure a graphic design freelance assignment with the Under Armour Retail Design Team in 2014.  I also extended the Teekie brand by working as a stylist consultant for a WNBA player, Monica Wright of the Minnesota Lynx.  This year, I made the tough decision to go back to school to invest in my career and currently attend MICA.

tiora artworktiora artwork 2

This is one of the many marketing pieces Tiora created for VSU. She tells the story of how cool it was to run into one of her former Oak Hill classmates, Kevin Durant, during one of her work assignments.

What did you discover about yourself at Oak Hill?

At Oak Hill Academy, especially by my senior year, I realized that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to.  At Oak Hill, I developed confidence and was able to focus on my future.  I had a lot of support from teachers like Rev. Turnmire and Mrs. Bonham who taught me that good things come from hard work.  I feel that I was pushed to the highest potential and was guided in all areas of life – not just academics.  The spiritual opportunities at Oak Hill also has a lasting impact and I always do my best to attend church and be thankful to God to this day.  Because of this support, it became very important to me to leave a good impression on my peers and teachers.  It wasn’t always like that – I grew up a lot at Oak Hill Academy.

Did Oak Hill Academy help foster your passion for graphic design and art?

Most definitely.  I was involved with a lot of 21st century skills through Ms. Sargeant’s classes.  I also enjoyed the art classes which rounded out my experience.  I remember the many projects I was given the responsibility for such as the senior night video presentation, which I think was a big hit!

We are very proud of the ambitious, energetic young woman Tiora has become.  During her time here, Teekie became “our kid” and we have lots of great memories of her.  I must also point out that Tiora became the first 1000 point scorer in Oak Hill Lady Warriors history and is considered a pioneer of the program.  Please contact Mr. Rodgers, Director of Admission for application information or to discuss our school.  We want to part of your success story too! to visit Tiora’s graphic design site.

College Acceptances at Oak Hill Academy Boarding School

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150 (average number of students), 10 (average classroom size), 9 (number of national championships won by our top basketball team) 3 (times our coach, Steve Smith, has been named Naismith National Coach of the Year, 14 (countries represented in our current student body).  These are all numbers of which to be proud.  I’m most proud of 95.  That is the percent of graduating Oak Hill Academy students over the last 10 years who have been accepted to college, many of them first-choice colleges and universities.  Please see our website for a comprehensive list of where our students go on to college!

Today, I would like to turn things over to guest-blogger Mr. Chris Hill.  As one of the two college guidance counselors at Oak Hill Academy, he has a lot to be proud of this time of the year:

Peter Pic

This is an exciting time of year at Oak Hill, the weather is changing, seniors are getting excited about graduation, and our College Advising Department sees more and more college acceptances every day. At this point 100% of our seniors have submitted applications to their desired schools, and are awaiting news from those schools or making important commitment decisions.

We are proud of all our seniors and their accomplishments during their time at Oak Hill. The application process is truly a team effort. College lab bustles with activity from September 1st until the last week of school. As the College Advisor I would like to spot light one student in particular. It has been my pleasure to have him in class for two years as my ESOL student. I have watched him grow academically and become a much loved and respected member of our community. Koh “Peter” Hatekeyama, although currently living in China, was born in Japan. Peter has embraced his mixed cultural heritage. It gives him a uniqueness that is rare amongst our International students. He has certainly faced challenges here in the US, but as a Japanese speaking student growing up in China he overcame great cultural challenges as well as linguistic ones. Now tri-lingual, he has been an asset to our student body. As one of the managers of our undefeated Warrior basketball team, Peter challenged himself in and out of the classroom. He has had a daunting schedule this year. Keeping up with admissions deadlines, traveling the country with the team (as far as Hawaii on one occasion), all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout his senior year. He is a member of the Nation Honor Society, he was a member of the Junior Marshalls at our 2014 graduation, and has been a starting player on the Oak Hill Academy Soccer team for two years.

All of his accomplishments and hard work culminated last week with his acceptance to Seattle University. Peter is especially proud that Seattle University took the last line of his college essay; “I am certain that confidence together with my hard work will lead me to a bright future”, and created a poster for distribution for its admissions department. Peter is still awaiting word from a few other schools as admissions departments send out their final letters. Regardless of where he chooses to attend college, we believe that final line of his essay says it all, and that his confidence and hard work will indeed lead Peter to a bright future.

The Benefits of Small Classes at Oak Hill Academy

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We have a very firm sense of who we are at Oak Hill Academy.  We are a small, college preparatory, co-ed boarding school with a student population of 150, grades 8-12.  This makes for some very small, personal classrooms.  This is intentional because it is the small class dynamic that is most responsible for the academic engagement that leads many of our students to see Oak Hill Academy as the turning point in their academic careers.

After teaching here for 8 years prior to moving into admission, I’m very happy to speak to this aspect of our school to prospective families and applicants.  Here, I would like to highlight some of the main reasons the small class-size at Oak Hill Academy benefits our students.

1. Learning styles are recognized, not ignored.  Our faculty fully embraces the idea that students learn best through different methods.  The predominant teaching style during a typical class is discussion-based learning.  In a small class, students are freer to share their insights or questions and teachers are able to pick up when a student is grappling with a concept.  In addition, small-group projects, independent practice, student presentations, creative hands-on assignments whenever possible, and writing across the curriculum enhances the traditional approach of the note-taking/lecture approach. Technology is used extensively for visual and spatial learners.  Material is shared with students through a variety of methods before we move on – constantly engaging with the students during the lesson.


2.  Accountability increases in a small class.  Students cannot hide in a class of 8-10 students.  This allows teachers to easily assess preparedness and the engagement of our students.  There is no “back of the classroom” at Oak Hill Academy.  Homework is treated as the basis of the next day’s lesson and it is integrated into the lesson plan of the day, so students quickly recognize that homework matters, being prepared for class matters.  Our after school tutorial program supports this well.


3.  Focus and personal attention increases in a small class.  In addition to the important dynamics above, the fact is that small classes just feel more relaxed and engaging.  Students are more confident in a small setting, distractions are minimized as teachers are not merely “managing” a classroom as happens frequently in large classes.  At Oak Hill Academy, the relationship between student and teacher is one of mutual respect and trust as the student realizes their teacher is personally invested in them.  Relationships between students are deeper through shared discussion and project work during the course of the year.  We are the kind of school where the students love to study together (and have that opportunity in the dorms) and celebrate each other’s successes rather than being in direct competition.

If your student’s ability or motivation is not being maximized in their current school setting, it is worth considering how our small class setting can work for your student.  I encourage you to contact me to schedule a campus visit or discuss this further.


Discovering new talents at Oak Hill Academy – Guitar Class

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Watching kids discover a new talent or renew a passion for an old talent is one of the coolest things about working at Oak Hill Academy.  The Arts programs here provide the important opportunities to make that happen.  Our music department offers guitar classes for beginners through advanced. Our percussion classes inspire some kids to express themselves through drum (as the music room is located next to my office, I’m happy to say they are getting pretty good!), traditional band instruments and a strong chorus round out this program.  As with the visual arts and theatre program,  students discover talents and have opportunities to display those talents.  Over the years, we’ve also helped some students to realize their dreams of pursuing music in college programs.

In homeroom yesterday, we were treated to a performance of the classic, “Stand By Me” by members of Ms. Callison’s beginner guitar class.  Starting with Mason Higgs’ strong bass line and punctuated with the soulful stylings of Joe Hampton, the group did a tremendous job and started the day on a great note.   I’m always amazed to see different sides of our students.  The last time I had seen Joe (the night before), he was dunking on someone during Oak Hill Academy‘s record-setting final home basketball game of the season!

I look forward to discussing with prospective applicants the different opportunities offered at Oak Hill Academy outside of the academic classroom.  There is a lot going at Oak Hill!

l to r:  Mason Higgs, Jake Levinson, Reed Mingione, Ms. Callison, Joe Hampton and Brendan Cruz take the stage in homeroom.

beginning guitar