June 25, 2019
I am humbled and honored to serve as your new Head of School. I want to express my sincere condolences on the loss of Robert. Robert was a colleague who I remember most by his smile. He had a genuine love of Mill Springs Academy and particularly the students the school served. While I will never take Robert's place, I have spent my career working with students with learning differences and I share his love for this student population.
I want to introduce myself to you and share a bit about me both personally and professionally. I have three adult children and two beautiful granddaughters. One is two and the other is one, the sweetest of ages. There is absolute truth to the notion that grandchildren are the best gift in life. As a proud grandma, I am happy to share pictures of my girls with you. We are a typical Irish Catholic family and one of my favorite shows is Blue Bloods. I got the idea for Sunday dinner from the show, so now every Sunday we all gather as a family, including my sister's family and my 92-year old Mother. Family is very important to me. I am an avid reader and do my best to work out regularly. I live in Peachtree Corners and raised my children there.
Professionally, I spent the first half of my career as a teacher. I began as a history teacher and value the history of any institution. The history is the story and the story of Mill Springs is what first drew me to the school. The story of Tweetie and Robert building Mill Springs is an amazing story of love, commitment, and passion for students. I have been both a reading specialist and a learning specialist. Professionally, I have dedicated myself to learning how to teach students who have difficulty learning. I deeply believe in the mission of Mill Springs Academy and value the words of the founder, Tweetie, "If a student can't learn the way we teach...we should teach the way a student can learn." I know firsthand that all children can learn, we as teachers must adapt our instruction to the learner. I also believe that children need to feel loved in their learning environment. Learning is about taking risks and a child will only take a risk if they feel the environment they are in is safe and kind. The kindness that Robert is known for, I wish to continue.
I went through the ranks of administration starting as an Assistant Principal, becoming a Principal and of late Founder and Head of School at Notre Dame Academy. Most recently, Notre Dame merged with Sophia Academy and created a school within a school offering specialized instruction similar to the program at Mill Springs Academy. This past year Notre Dame Academy graduated its first class and I felt the time was right for me to step down and look for my next chapter. As I shared with friends, I was not looking for a job; I was looking for a purpose. I believe I have found a wonderful gift at Mill Springs Academy. As an administrator, I see my job to support what goes on in the classroom. I believe that teaching is both art and science. The art is the non-traditional approach and the science is the implementation of best practices. When a school combines both, excellent education is the outcome. I believe that Mill Springs both encourages creativity in the classroom and trains the teachers in best practices.
I look forward to meeting everyone and becoming a part of this very special community. Having spent most of my career in independent education, I understand and value the strength of community. In time of crises, we see the strength of the people connected to the school. Together we are going to continue the vision and mission of the Moore family for Mill Springs Academy. This summer, I will have open office hours on Tuesdays from 10:00am-12:00pm and welcome visitors. I want to meet you and hear about your experience at Mill Springs.
Debbie Orr - Head of School