Birchwood School of Hawken’s founding was based upon our desire to give our own children the “best” preparation for a personally productive and socially responsible life. It is our belief that this best, while rooted in the family culture, can be augmented by a great education, one that not only provides outstanding academics, but just as importantly, collaborates with the home environment to build the habits and ethics of personal character: hard work, self-discipline, social commitment, and responsibility. We determined that our school must include the highest standards of academic training while nurturing a schoolwide ethos that forged the development of good character. Our original mission explained that we were building character through challenging academics that inspire, develop, and equip.
Our resolve to nurture the best in human character propelled a search for superior academic programming. We concluded that good character could be forged as children strove for excellence. It was self-evident that a premier academic curriculum includes elements that are time-tested, research-based, and benchmarked against the best educational programs nationally and internationally. Developing a curriculum for shaping character was more difficult. We knew that the notion of character education had become popular in the U.S. yet effective and proven programs were hard to find. It was clear that we had few precedents to follow. We had to construct a comprehensive character curriculum from scratch. We looked to history, to the lives of great men and women, and to the common threads of morality and virtue that are woven into the fabric of every great world culture. From this eclectic approach, we devised programming for nurturing exemplary character.
We recognize that a major part of character development curriculum requires a special environment: one that promotes, supports, and awards high achievement and virtuous conduct. We call this a culture of achievement. It requires an academic environment which:

  1. Challenges each child to his/her maximum academic potential 
  2. Trains habits of mind: organization, time management, diligence, critical thinking, and problem-solving
  3. Makes academic achievement and excellence the school’s esprit de corps that is celebrated and awarded
  4. Maintains that children should be immersed in this culture in their formative preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school years
Since we envision schooling as an extension of our own values, we make home-school collaboration a centerpiece of our educational program. Our success requires a partnership with parents who hold a similar vision for their children’s academic and personal growth.
In 1984, a team of teachers and parents, possessing a heartfelt love for children and an enduring commitment to the highest standards of professionalism, commenced our efforts to give our own children the best inheritance possible: great education and stellar character. Long after our children have moved on, our passion and commitment to our students and their families remains unchanged. Our hearts are set to give every student the best.

Charles and Helene Debelak,
“In 1984 we opened our doors and for nearly 40 years our hearts remain set to give every student the best.”
Charles and Helene Debelak