Wingra School is one of the few private K-8 schools in Madison and its focus on progressive education and alternative grade grouping for children makes the style of teaching similarly unique. These aspects of the school are what drew the new Head of School at Wingra, Torsie Judkins, to the position.
Judkins has a deep history in private schools spanning over two decades and across locations such as North Carolina, New York City, and most recently was the Director of Enrollment Management at Moravian Academy in Pennsylvania over their 3 campuses and 1,000 students. Judkins explained how one of the steps to making the Wingra School better known in Madison is through communicating what it is exactly that they offer.
“Trying to educate people on what progressive education is and how you define progressive education, to see if it’s the right fit for a family and their kids,” Judkins told Madison365. “Then once they’re interested in progressive education, we want to make sure every family can afford to come to Wingra. They pay what they can afford to pay, and as someone who’s been in private schools for 24 years, there’s always a struggle because families want something different and something better for their child, but they can’t afford it. We’re really trying to bridge that gap right now at Wingra.”
Making private education more accessible is a part of Judkins dedication to what he calls the JEDI lens, meaning an approach through justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. The structure of Wingra School also aids in that goal by offering flexibility in teaching styles and topics while still focusing on core education.
Judkins specifically praised the focus on developing critical thinking and problem solving at Wingra that students carry with them throughout their education.
“For about every 11 kids we have one adult, so we have small classes, and kids are really able to dig in and learn,” said Judkins. “We have the flexibility to be able to go outside and do some outdoor learning, but then to be inside and do units around math, science, and literacy in your typical academic setting. Our teachers love that flexibility. We have teachers that have worked only at Wingra, teachers that have been in public schools, teachers that have been in Montessori schools, and teachers that have been in Waldorf schools, so we have a diverse group of faculty in their backgrounds.”
Additionally, Judkins also spoke to education that takes into account socially relevant topics such as recognizing the Indigenous history of the land much of Madison occupies, speaking to the importance of cultural awareness and anti-racism as pieces of contemporary teaching. Especially relevant given that the Wingra name originates in the Ho-Chunk word for duck.
Judkins gave credit to Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and Leotha Stanley who helped introduce him to Madison as he moved here with his wife and two daughters. Connections and community are some of the highlights of Wingra School already for the new Head of School who says the love staff and faculty have for the school and children is felt even by the parents.
“Our families, I think initially right away, one of the things that they notice is that their kids here at Wingra are known and loved. When they walk in the building, everyone knows their name. Every morning, I’m outside at drop off, and families are amazed with how many teachers and how many staff members know their kids names, and know about them,” Judkins said, also highlighting the leadership and connections children can build by being with younger children in a school setting.
“Families are excited about the diversity in learning that they get. You’re getting your traditional key elements around literacy, math, science, and reading, but also, your kids are going to have an opportunity to think critically and spend time outside. We’ve got lots of sustainability and environmental things we are talking about, and they get a chance to play and be a kid.”
Judkins assured that they would love to welcome those interested in checking out the school to reach out and learn more about Wingra School. That can be done at the Wingra School website here.