LA News Archive
by Angela Zimmer
Groton, MA -- Jorie Van Nest ’18 isn’t a huge fan of grading systems – but that doesn’t mean she’s not a fan of learning. As the junior explained during her speech at Lawrence Academy’s Fall Term Academic Awards Assembly, she wants to see everyone get to be exactly who they are, conventional or not-so-much, and learn because they want to learn.
One could argue that Jorie’s life has never been overly conventional: She and her twin brother, Nils, who was diagnosed with severe autism as a toddler and is non-verbal, moved to Massachusetts with their mothers when they were two years old.
“Some of you may view [living with someone with severe autism] as a challenge, and it was,” Jorie told her peers, “but it was life as I knew it, and I developed the needed patience and empathy to handle [Nils’ behavior].”
While her brother attended Nashoba Learning Group, Jori herself was enrolled in Oak Meadow Montessori. The school’s student-driven approach to learning was a setting in which Jori thrived.
“School became a stable and quiet part of my life that I lacked at home … I became self-sufficient. My innate curiosity and imagination were welcome and set free,” she explained. “I was told that there was more than one answer to a problem … I didn’t compare myself, and I developed a strong, intrinsic motivation to learn for learning’s sake.”
So, yes, grades are important at Lawrence (and at plenty of other institutions of learning), but to Jori, “what matters more – much more – is your drive to do what you love, and the skill set you develop to pursue those passions.”
“School should be more about learning, and fostering the love to do that …,” Jori said. “What you are learning does matter.”