HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) – A Beaufort County private school is under new management but with a familiar face and drive to help students.
Amanda Williams left Hilton Head High School after more than a decade amid controversy. One thing that was never in question was her ability to make kids better.
“That’s what perks me up in the morning. That’s my caffeine. That’s my high in life,” said Williams.
Now she has a second chance, bringing a new way of thinking to Heritage Academy.
“Why? This is what I think I’m put on earth to do, work with young people. It is my love, it’s where I’m confident and it is where I think I can make a difference,” explained Williams.
The new owner and headmaster of the small private school is leaving controversy in the past.
“You can’t live life looking in the rearview mirror, and you can’t make decisions moving forward and expect to be productive and have the worries about what everyone else is saying,” explained Williams.
“I am really trying to make this school so it’s awesome for my three kids,” said Williams. “And if it is going to be awesome for my kids, it’s going to be awesome for your kids, their kids, your kids.
“I want my children to go here and have the best doggone education ever.”
A small middle and high school — where students once came to combine education and “passions,” like individual sports — is changing, opening its doors to more people and a different type of educational curriculum.
“We eliminated the requirement to have a passion because we are working on a flexible schedule,” Williams said. “So let’s say you don’t necessarily play golf or tennis, that’s fine. But we also need to find what makes you passionate about something.”
She says students can look to other options, perhaps part-time jobs or internships.
“Sitting there, growing roots and a paper and pencil is really the old-fashioned way of education, so I think it’s really forced us to rethink how we deliver instruction,” said Williams.
“We taught students by sitting in a room with 25 students and a whiteboard and a promethium board and an awesome teacher,” she explained. “They sat there for 90 minutes, they grew roots in the chair their bottoms got sore and they sat there for another 90 minutes and then another 90 minutes, all of a sudden kids realized they could take a break, they could get a burrito for lunch. They could do 14 things while listening they could get their homework done, they could multi-task and still show mastery.”
Learning models could include one-on-one instruction, small classes, online education or even flexible schedules.
“When you are done with your core subjects you have to do toward graduation, and you walk out of here, say at 12:05, what can you put on your resume that’s going to set you apart?” Williams asked. “Because clubs are no longer really available due to COVID, community service has almost diminished to nothing, so what can we do to put [you] a step ahead of everyone else?”
Williams believes Heritage can help students take that step, along with the support of a community she says wants to help kids now and long after they graduate.
“We have had an overwhelming amount of support. People are saying, ‘Amanda how can we help? We think you have a great idea, and we want to be a part of it,'” she said. “So I’m not turning anyone away. I’m taking a name and number and putting it in my list to conquer.”
Williams says there are more than 70 students enrolled currently from 6th through 12th grades. She is working on getting 50 new commitments for next year’s classes.
She has cut tuition almost in half from previous years and plans to add a new student sports program next year.
Heritage also has a new athletic director for the “Hammerheads,” Liz Nash, a former athletic coordinator at Hilton Head Prep.
If you are interested in learning more about the school, visit here. There will be an open house at the Hilton Head campus in-person on Feb. 20 and a virtual event on Feb. 23 and 25.