Tanya Graysmark started Graysmark Academy out of a room in her home in 2006.
“I had my own kids around that age, and there was no preschool in Maricopa at the time,” Graysmark says.
She was working part time as a special education consultant in the Phoenix area and finishing her master’s degree when she came up with the idea to start her own school.
“I initially put up an ad in Curves and up at the Post Office, and I had my first eight kids within a week,” Graysmark says.
She quickly had to move the private, tuition-based preschool program out of her home and into its current location in the Maricopa Business Center on Honeycutt Road.
According to Graysmark, the popularity of the academy with parents and students motivated her to apply to become a charter school. She started the Holsteiner Agricultural School in 2011 to teach kindergarten through sixth grade students.
“We opened Holsteiner due to the need to continue our program for parents and students that were not able to afford tuition and a private program,” Graysmark says.
Graysmark and Holsteiner are connected and have a similar academic philosophy that includes Saxon Math and Houghton Mifflin curriculum for reading and writing. The school incorporates agriculture in its science program.
“Maricopa is rich in agriculture,” Graysmark says. “There are many farms in Maricopa, and the University of Arizona Agricultural campus is here. There is a lot of farming history in the area.”
Graysmark prefers a hands-on approach.
“Our program of instruction is based on cooperative learning, differentiated instruction and problem based learning,” she says. “We have lots of hands-on learning and movement in the classroom; our students have fun while they learn.”
Graysmark says the atmosphere at Graysmark and Holsteiner is very family-oriented: “Many of our families have grown up in our program. We are their home away from home. Our oldest students are entering their senior year in high school this year and they come back to visit often.”
Graysmark and Holsteiner continue to grow and may consider moving to a bigger space to in the future. Graysmark is in the process of opening an academy in Minnesota.
She has been in education for nearly 30 years and working with kids is her driving force, especially those with special needs.
“I am always cheering for the underdog” Graysmark says. “I really enjoy working with special education kids, and I am up for the challenge of making them better students, learners and more compassionate friends.”***ADVERTISEMENT***