Academics

Academic Support

Academic Support at Westminster School

The human brain is capable of so many amazing things and with the right tools and strategies, anyone can learn how to improve their academic skills, understand and remember more information, and increase their knowledge base. Westminster’s Academic Support Program is designed to help students improve their memory, boost their reading comprehension, become great advocates for themselves and gain confidence. It teaches students cutting-edge learning techniques that will help them in high school, in college and beyond.  
 
As Westminster’s Learning Specialists, Kelly Curtis and Maya Leete teach effective study skills through individualized and group instruction. Some of the lessons and strategies include:

  • Organization
  • Time Management 
  • The Human Brain
  • Setting and Achieving Goals 
  • The Importance of Attitude
  • Mindset
  • Self-Motivation
  • Flexibility 
  • Building Grit 
  • Task Initiation
  • Successful Note-Taking
  • Test-Taking Strategies
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Focus and Working Memory
  • Brain Health and Exercise
  • Anxiety and Stress Reduction
Kelly also teaches Global History and Society and is the Director of Community Service. She earned a B.S. in education at Plymouth State University with a heavy concentration in special education and reading. Kelly is also trained in the Orton Gillingham Reading Approach. Orton-Gillingham is a structured literacy program that helps students who struggle with reading, auditory processing and/or other learning differences. Kelly is currently enrolled in a Master of Science program at Saint Joseph’s University with a concentration in special education, reading intervention, and social, emotional, and behavioral wellness. 

Maya studied psychology and Hispanic studies at the University of Tennessee. She also teaches geometry and statistics, and is a field hockey and girls’ lacrosse coach. 
 
Students do not need an educational plan to work with Mrs. Curtis or Ms. Leete. Every student can benefit from learning educational skills.

Westminster’s Academic Support Program (ASP)

List of 17 frequently asked questions.

  • What is the purpose of the Academic Support Program at Westminster?

    ASP is intended to teach strategies for organizing work, managing time, and improving study skills using effective learning strategies. Learning Specialists meet with students individually or in small groups. ASP is meant to be transitional, not remedial. While our Learning Specialists are a valuable resource for students, we expect students to develop skills over time and work independently.
  • Who has access to the Academic Support Program?

    All of our students have access to the ASP office with appointments.
  • How many times a week may a student visit the ASP, and how long are the sessions?

    On average, our Learning Specialists meet with students once a week for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Are ASP meetings mandatory for students?

    Sometimes. During the course of a year, a student’s team may determine that ASP meetings are necessary for a period of time. These students are then required to attend all scheduled meetings. If they miss a meeting with their Learning Specialist, it is deemed a class absence.
  • How do you match a student with a Learning Specialist?

    The student’s academic needs are considered when matching them with a specialist. We also consider the specialist’s and student's schedules.
  • Who is on the Academic Support team?

    Betsy Heckman, Academic Dean
    Bill Sistare, Director of Studies (currently on sabbatical)
    Kelly Curtis, Learning Specialist and Accommodations Coordinator 
    Maya Leete, Learning Specialist 

    Your student’s advisor and classroom teachers are also included in any communication that comes from the ASP office.
  • What constitutes a disability and need for accommodations?

    Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a disability is an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Individuals with disabilities have certain protections and the right to reasonable accommodations that will permit equal access to programs and services. To access these rights, an individual must furnish documentation or other information that demonstrates that the disability substantially limits a major life activity and supports the need for a reasonable accommodation.
  • What documentation is needed to show evidence of a disability and the need for accommodations at Westminster?

    Documentation may vary depending on the nature of the disability. Typically, this includes a complete and current copy of relevant testing, evaluation, or diagnosis of a disability. It may also include a copy of a prior IEP or Section 504 Plan. In most cases, a doctor’s note with a diagnosis can start the accommodations process, but is insufficient in itself to adequately determine a student’s needs, and further documentation such as a formal educational evaluation or assessment will also be needed. All information must be current and formal evaluations should have been conducted within the last three years.
  • Does Westminster evaluate students for or diagnose students with disabilities?

    We do not. We can provide a list of outside evaluators in the Simsbury area who do academic testing. We also have a local independent Neuropsychologist who comes to the school for testing and offers Westminster students a discounted rate.
  • What are the accommodations that have generally been made at  Westminster?

    Decisions regarding accommodations are made on an individual basis. Below is a list of accommodations that have been determined to be reasonable for qualifying students:

    • Extended time - 50% 
    • Preferential Seating 
    • Use of a computer for in-class writing and assessments
    • Use of a calculator 
    • Use of audiobooks, digital text, and/or text-to-speech software to access information 
    • No penalty for spelling errors when spell check cannot be used, except when the correct spelling is an essential element of the exercise, such as for foreign language learning 
    • World Language Waiver (upon approval of the Academic Office)
  • When might an accommodation be considered unreasonable?

    A reasonable accommodation is one that does not fundamentally alter the nature of our programs and expectations or create an undue burden. Given the nature of our academic programs, we do not modify our curriculum or waive requirements, with the exception of foreign language requirements when appropriate.
  • How is information about my child’s learning difference shared with members of their team?

    Our Accommodations Coordinator will read through your student’s educational records and create a Westminster Academic Plan that details their accommodations. This plan will be shared with your student’s advisor and teachers via email or shared on a private server. The confidential educational report will remain in the Academic Support Office. Teachers always have an opportunity to meet with our Learning Specialist if they have any specific questions about how your child learns. 

    The Westminster Academic Plan can also be used in the application process for SATs and ACTs for students seeking testing accommodations. We will also provide that documentation to your student’s future college if requested.
  • Who is responsible for providing the accommodations in the classroom?

    Our classroom teachers will provide approved accommodations for your student, but it is very important for your student to advocate for themselves. They should reach out to the classroom teacher at the beginning of the year and discuss the best way to use their accommodation in the classroom.

    Students should give their teachers a 24-hour notice if they would like to use their accommodation for an extended time for an in-class assessment. When necessary, Westminster’s Academic Support team will assist instructors and students in the provision of accommodations. Accommodations may be reviewed periodically as the impact of a disability and students’ needs may change during their time at Westminster.
  • Do classroom teachers offer extra help?

    Yes, our classroom teachers will offer extra help outside of class on an individual or group basis during common free time. Students need to advocate for themselves for support early to avoid falling behind. 

    Each teacher schedules their time differently; some offer “breakfast club” in the dining hall before school, schedule time at night when they are on duty, or meet with students during a mutual free block.
  • What if additional help is needed?

    We have a robust peer tutoring program (Martlets Educating Martlets) here on campus. Students should contact the Academic Support office to be matched up with one of our amazing peer tutors. 

    We also have a list of experienced professional outside tutors that we can provide to families. These tutors work independently from Westminster; they have an hourly fee and handle their own schedules. Most of our professional tutors meet with students here on campus during a mutual free block, and some are exclusively online.

Meet the Academic Support Team

List of 4 members.

  • Photo of Kelly Curtis

    Kelly Curtis 

    Learning Specialist, Accommodations Coordinator
    (860) 408-3059
  • Photo of Maya Leete

    Maya Leete 

    Learning Specialist
    (860) 408-3004
  • Photo of Betsy Heckman

    Betsy Heckman 

    Academic Dean
    (860) 408-3746
  • Photo of Willard Sistare

    Willard Sistare 

    Director of Studies
    (860) 408-3003

Contact Us

995 Hopmeadow Street
Simsbury, Connecticut 06070

P. (860) 408-3000
F. (860) 408 3001
Notice of Nondiscriminatory Policy as to Students
In keeping with our support for a diverse community, Westminster abides by all applicable federal and state laws and does not discriminate on the basis of any protected characteristic, including race, color, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national and ethnic origin, ancestry and/or disability in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered program. Westminster admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. 
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