Culture & Values

Read the Founder's Letter from Ariel Miller and find out how her own history with the education system led her to create a new kind of experiential school based on an enduring set of Core Values.

Culture & Values

Founder's Letter

Ariel Dochstader Miller   Skybridge Founder, Director, and Chief Motivator

Ariel Dochstader Miller
Skybridge Founder, Director, and Chief Motivator

"Skybridge Academy celebrates my deep love for student centered education and discovery that this is a way of life and being in family. Creating this school is also an opportunity for me to heal the pain of my own educational experiences.

"In second grade I was placed in the gifted program and, through a very forward-thinking teacher, had my first taste of experiential education. After going on hot air balloon rides, whale watches, and walking Boston’s Freedom Trail, learning from a book would never be enough for me. Unfortunately, this blessing was paired with deep guilt. I simply couldn’t understand why EVERYONE in my class was not able to enjoy this kind of learning through living.

"I trudged through the next years of my education and learned how to play the system by becoming an expert at short term memorization. I was bored and frustrated. Even though I was at the top of my class, I wasn’t learning things that were meaningful to me. Having completed most of my high school credits by the time I was a junior, I took myself out of school and homeschooled myself with the help of a tutor; this is when my true education began. I student-taught third grade, traveled through Europe, and sat in the courtroom of New Hampshire’s first female Supreme Court Judge as an observer. I was back in the realm of experiential education based on my passions.

"At Hampshire College (one of America’s most innovative colleges) my self-directed studies were focused on creating nurturing learning environments for children and adults that inspired deep creativity and passion. As a member of the Walt Disney Company Management Team, I learned how to manage a company by applying innovative, customer oriented  ”Management, Disney Style” principles. In a two year seminary masters program, I studied different world religions and how to create inclusive learning environments that are relevant no matter what one's religion or ethnic background is.

My desire is to support learners in becoming autodidacts by providing a relevant environment that offers dynamic academics and promotes authenticity and vulnerability through its soulful focus. Skybridge Academy is my entrepreneurial solution, my way of giving back, to the realm of education.

"I read a study stating that the least happy people are parents. I found this incredibly disheartening, as it made me question what unhappy parents model to their children. I believe personal connection provides the support we need to find happiness. This is something worth striving for—for parents, children, and communities. My hope is that Skybridge Academy can be a flame around which we gather to learn, laugh, cry, and find the profound joy of living, together."

Ariel Dochstader Miller

Core Values

The following principles guide the faculty and staff of Skybridge Academy:

To be effective, schools must adapt to students.

Skybridge Academy molds itself to each student, rather than making students squash themselves into the mold of the school. The faculty enters the academic and emotional space the student occupies and supports them in moving forward.

Self-discovery is one of the most important subjects we teach.

When the school shapes itself to each individual, the student undergoes a journey where they learn to find themselves in relation to their own inner architecture, and create a life based on their unique learning style, personality, and passions. This internal architecture begins to form their external lives.

When your guard is down, learning enters easily.

Students should never have to be one thing at school and something else at home. At Skybridge, students are supported in a vulnerable place of authenticity where they simply get to be who they are, and to engage dynamically with their academics.

Curiosity doesn't distract from the lesson; it is the lesson.

Students are supported in asking questions and finding their own answers on their journey to become creative, out-of-the-box thinkers who know what makes them tick.

Striking a path teaches more than following one.

Skybridge Academy is an environment where students undergo a reflective process to determine their own paths, as there is no external educational route prescribed by grades, tracking, or standardized testing.

Facts, figures, and dates are knowledge, not understanding.

We focus on vitally connecting each individual student with what they’re learning. Instead of employing memorize-and-forget education, Skybridge Academy focuses creating integrated learning that digs deep into students’ passions and supports them in creating strategies to build upon their weaknesses.

Learning is measured by mastery, not memory.

We offer written evaluations based on mastery rather than performance, using the metrics of participation, effort, initiative, perseverance and mastery to determine how successfully each student participates in a class based on their own individual strengths, weaknesses, and learning style.

Conduct and Behavior

At Skybridge Academy we are committed to creating an environment in which learning is sacred and everyone is committed to personal excellence. While our intellectual program is highly personalized, we must share universal norms of respectful behavior in order to maintain an environment in which excellence is pursued vigorously by all of our students.

Our selective admissions process ensures that we have highly functioning, autonomous, compassionate, intellectually curious students. The smooth operation of our school requires that everyone in our community needs to feel profoundly safe and secure, allowing us to be vulnerable with each other. Therefore EACH learner and BOTH parents must be responsible for managing the energy that they bring to our community.  

Our general standard of behavior is based on that of the adult, creative class in Austin at the office. Even in a casual business environment, it is still a business environment, and professionals know that their careers are at stake and thus want to be taken seriously.

Thus, behavioral standards are determined by asking, “What behaviors would typically result in a loss of respect and credibility in the professional creative setting?” If students behave in a manner that is inappropriate to a creative office setting in Austin, the specific behavior that would result in a loss of respect and credibility will be pointed out to them.

Smoking, alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography are not allowed at the school at any time and are grounds for immediate and permanent dismissal.