Languages and Linguistics
Renaissance School has many multilingual students, as well as students pursuing studies in multiple languages. RHS offers up to level VII in Spanish and French, with many students opting to take both. Through collaborations with UVA and PVCC, our students have also pursued advanced Spanish and French, as well as Greek, German, Mandarin, Japanese, and American Sign Language. We have many international students and dual-nationality families, so Dutch, Tagalog, Hindi, Italian, Korean, and other languages have graced our halls. We take the time to learn and celebrate the traditions of other cultures, from King Cake during Carnival to Mooncakes during the Autumn Festival - yes, food is a big part of the languages program here at Renaissance School!
Foreign languages and linguistics frequently feature in student choices for more advanced studies. The psychology of linguistics is an area of fascination, with year-long student-driven research projects in our Independent Studies program on such diverse topics as the impact of gendered nouns on perception, and the correlation between verb tenses and financial decision-making. In a recent example of an interdisciplinary Distinction project, a student wrote a volume of poetry in Spanish and translated it into English.
For a variety of reasons, there is very little official research published by the NAGC on teaching students who are specifically gifted and talented in languages. Renaissance School is extremely proud to be a pioneer in this field. Foreign languages are not just a graduation requirement at Renaissance School - they are an integral part of learning the core life skills of communication, self-expression, cultural appreciation, and respectful dialogue.
History and Politics
The RHS History program is dialogue-based and often features guest speakers including Senators, Representatives, Judges, and UVA professors who really make history and civics come alive! History class is the embodiment of an important RHS cultural statement: we are a front row school. There is no such thing as sitting in the back and coasting in this (or any) class. Students are regularly assigned individual research topics on which they must be prepared to facilitate discussion during class. You never know if you’re going to get the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the life of Francis Scott Key, or Islamic architecture. Students in this class learn research and presentation techniques, as well as critical thinking to find connections between disparate topics, skills that serve them well in every other subject at high school and beyond.
History is an essential component of our all-school “Ninth Week” trips that take our school to regions and cities around the country. Students have had the opportunity to walk the Freedom Trail in Boston, explore the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, tour the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh, and do a deep dive on the Civil Rights history of our own neighborhood in conjunction with the Jefferson Center and the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society. History also features in student choices for Independent Study, most recently with an in-depth analysis of recently released CIA documents related to the US government’s involvement in the 1973 Chilean Coup d’Etat.
The Renaissance School student body is politically engaged, and the full spectrum is represented in the student body. Model General Assembly, Model UN, Debate Club, Philosophy Club, and Political Discussion Club are our most active student-led clubs, which we think is great! Students are empowered to be engaged in civics while learning the tools for respectful disagreement, discussion, and decision-making when strong opinions are present. Today’s high school students are tomorrow’s leaders, and our students are developing valuable leadership skills during their time here at RHS.
We are very proud to have an invitation-only Model General Assembly Youth Conference on National Affairs (MGA CONA) representative at our school - and one of only 12 20x22 interns nationwide! Occasionally prospective students are concerned that our small student body may mean there are limits on the opportunities available to them, but we find that the opposite is actually the case. Our flexible course structure, small class size, and high faculty-student-ratio mean that students get more support, more choices, and more opportunity here than anywhere else - the sky's the limit!
English Language and Literature
English is truly the subject that unites the school because of our school-wide summer reading. Every year the faculty select a book for students and faculty to read - parents are invited, too! Selections have included fiction, non-fiction, local authors, literary classics, and each year they inform the fall curriculum in each subject as well as the content of our fall “Ninth Week” trip that takes learning out of the classroom and into the world. Of course, Renaissance Students also study great literary works of both British and American authors and playwrights, as well as in-depth English grammar and composition.
It is a wonderful bonus to be right down the street from one of the biggest and best book festivals in the country, the annual Virginia Festival of the Book, held in late March. We have had many nationally-recognized writers in fiction, non-fiction, and prose come to speak to the entire student body and also conduct small-group discussions in English classes.
Renaissance School students love to write! We have two very active writing-related clubs. Our quarterly literary magazine, Alighieri, led and edited by students, is populated with student short stories, essays, poems, stage- and screenplays, as well as paintings, sketches, photography, and multimedia art. Our creative writing club provides support, critiques, and structure, and many students go on to submit pieces to journals and contests. We are very proud that RHS students have been represented frequently - and sometimes multiple times a year - at the winner’s circle of the Virginia Festival of the Book teen writing contest, as well as finalists for the Golden Nib and published finalists in the Mirabella Crossroads Anthology.
Economics and Business
Renaissance School’s business program is one-of-a-kind. We are the only high school nationwide to offer the subject as taught by a CFA Charterholder! Students have remarkable opportunities in this course, including being one of only two high schools to pitch to the Darden School of Business iLab, one of only two pilot high schools to offer Introduction to Investments curriculum by the CFA Institute, the opportunity to pitch their business ideas at the Tom Tom Youth Summit, and many more. The class welcomes local entrepreneurs in many fields, from computer software to cuisine, and students also get to see the nitty-gritty that goes into starting a business, from local and national tax forms to registering an LLC.
Student business ideas have varied widely, from high fashion social media shopping apps to gluten-free baked goods, but all students learn the basics of unit cost analysis, financial projections, profits and pricing. An introduction to macro- and micro-economics as well as market research is complemented by introductions to branding, logos, and marketing. Students leave the class with a draft business plan and the skills to join the ranks of entrepreneurs!
Renaissance School students regularly go on to study at the most prestigious liberal arts universities in the country, including: