Barnstable Academy, a college-preparatory private school serving students in fifth through twelfth grade, has announced the appointment of Bergenfield’s Dr. Rebecca Eliason as head of school. Eliason, a licensed clinical psychologist, is a graduate of Stern College of Yeshiva University and earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in school psychology from St. John’s University.
“Education is not a one-size-fits-all type of program,” explained Eliason. “With our small class sizes we’re able to provide the support each student needs to succeed and be his or her best.” Classes range in size but never exceed 14. Additionally, Barnstable Academy can provide one-on-one classes if it is in a student’s best interest.
In recent years, Barnstable has welcomed Jewish students and made accomodations for religious observances. “Over time, we’ve had many religiously observant students attend Barnstable Academy. Our flexible scheduling and support inherent in our program facilitate success for many students,” said Eliason. Barnstable recently used a local kosher caterer for its formal 40th anniversary celebration so that families who keep kosher would be comfortable. “It is also easy to coordinate religious study in conjunction with Barnstable, as our typical school day ends at 2:30 Monday through Thursday, and by 1:00 p.m. on Fridays,” Eliason said, joking that Barnstable finishes before some yeshivot on Fridays.
Barnstable Academy also runs a summer program open to all students in grades five through 12. Many students come from private day schools to take advantage of this program. “For many yeshiva students, Barnstable has been a great option for their summer education,” Eliason said. She explained that for parents who don’t want to pull their children out of Jewish day schools completely, this program can give them an educational boost during the summer that can carry them into the school year.
Parents often come to Barnstable Academy because their children were falling through the cracks in other schools and needed an environment that would help their children thrive and reach their highest potential. “Some students are behind, while others are bored and need a more accelerated pace. The community at Barnstable is small, warm and academically rigorous and for many students that is their magic formula,” Eliason explained.
“This is a motivational environment,” said Eliason. She finds immense joy in seeing each student succeed. “Our teachers are wonderful and care so much about their students. Working with them and seeing our students thrive is such a gift.”
“I work in an environment where I can make a difference in the lives of our students. I am so grateful to be in a place like Barnstable,” she added.
Dr. Eliason’s appointment has been well received. “Her grace, warmth and powerful leadership have had an exceptionally positive impact on Barnstable Academy, said Assistant Director Jacob Findlay.
Eliason has worked for Barnstable for five years and previously served as the director of psychological services. In this role, one of her significant accomplishments was the implementation of a school-wide executive functioning program that focused on helping students improve upon their planning and organizational skills and their mental flexibility. In her new role, she continues to innovate and nurture Barnstable Academy’s supportive and warm environment.
In March, Eliason launched an endorsement program, which allows students to take a concentration of courses, like a minor in college, and earn special recognition on their transcripts to let colleges know that they are serious candidates. She also added new workshops and additional AP courses to help students reach their maximum potential.
“We’re incredibly excited about new campus additions, including our new recording studio,” said Eliason. Students are able to work one-on-one with a teacher to play and record music in their professional-grade studio. Barnstable looks to nurture not just academic success but the interests students possess that transcend the classroom as well.
For example, Eliason described one student who loves photography. Thanks to his teachers and their connections in the community, they were able to pair him with a professional photographer so he could learn more about the art. That student is now the school photographer. “All students have strengths. It is our job to find their unique strengths and talents, then encourage, nurture and support them,” Eliason said. Other programs available at Barnstable include reading support, learning management and executive function support, homework help and many unique elective offerings.
“Dr. Eliason is the epitome of professionalism, honesty and integrity, and she navigates every situation with incredible compassion, true intelligence and plenty of fun. They are lucky to have her,” said Danielle Ryckman, the head of school at Fusion Los Gatos and the former head of school of Barnstable Academy.
Eliason has presented at professional conferences, co-authored many poster presentations for conferences, and co-authored a chapter in a book about urban learners who are at risk. Eliason lives in Bergenfield with her husband and two children and also maintains a private practice.
By Jenny Gans