Amie Canter, founder of Advanced Concepts for a Better Future, is paving the way for a positive change in education.

Through school and community partnerships with The Merit Schools, she is evolving elementary education to meet the needs of today’s generation of students. Three private schools throughout Northern Virginia are combining their initiatives for change with Advanced Concepts for a Better Future for the 2019-2020 school year.

At each Advanced Concepts location, classrooms are designed with a unique Advanced Concept aimed at inviting students to discover the possibilities of the future. In combination with high quality curriculum that meets the Virginia Standards of Learning, students will go beyond the basics with an exciting and challenging environment that fuels their hunger for learning. Teachers will have rich and fulfilling class lessons to inspire learning beyond the classroom and into the community.

In each classroom, there will be a myriad of community partnership possibilities to match their chosen Advanced Concept and support their classroom learning goals. With a positive learning environment that embraces each student, committed teachers that use evolved teaching methodologies, leadership staff that believe in change, and a community of professionals who are partnered for a better future, we are breaking free of the past and building a stronger future for the students we serve.

MeritSchool2Over the past four school years, several community businesses, hospitals, doctor’s offices and universities have partnered with Advanced Concepts for a Better Future to make change possible. The University of Mary Washington’s Jepson Science Center houses several amazing science programs led by committed professors have welcomed Advanced Concepts students with open arms. We’d like to thank Dr. Leanna Giancarlo for her continued commitment to supporting our programs with regular school visits and hosting our students in her chemistry lab. Dr. Parrish Waters, Dr. Deborah O’Dell, Dr. Joanna Killian, Ms. Sarah Morealli have also provided incredible support to expanding our science based Advanced Concepts. As the 2018-2019 school year comes to a close, we are thrilled that our UMW partnership will expand with the help of Dr. James Brooks Kuykendall who is currently the Music Department Chair.

School Leadership

Sherry Roberson, principal at The Merit School of Stafford (K-5), is dedicated to an individual approach that builds strong relationships with the families she serves. As the leader of a school that has grown tremendously in that past four years, her commitment to a positive change in education is exuded through her support of her families, staff and students. With a remarkable team of teachers by her side, The Merit of Stafford is bringing education into the future.

“We have been so happy with the addition of Advanced Concepts to our program at The Merit School of Stafford. The students in our K-5 program get the opportunity to be fully immersed in their education working not only with their peers and classroom teachers, but with the community around us. The families feel connect and engaged all year through their participation and support,” says Roberson.

Julie George, principal at The Merit School of Prince William (K-3), shows a great love for her school and works hard to provide students with a caring and compassionate learning environment that nurtures the unique qualities of each student. George is very supportive of her amazing team of teachers who have built quality learning environments designed to inspire forward thinking.

“Advanced Concepts has been a wonderful addition to our curriculum and has enabled our teachers to teach outside the box. It has provided our students the opportunity to learn in a fun environment and it has opened up new adventures for our students,” says George.

Carey Michalowski, director at The Merit School of Old Town Manassas (JK-K), will be the first school leader to incorporate Advanced Concepts with early childhood education. In addition to introducing an Advanced Concepts Kindergarten Program, she will also offer an Advanced Concepts Junior Kindergarten Program. Her experienced teachers have developed exciting Advanced Concepts sure to set a new standard for quality education.

“We are very excited to become one of the newest schools to partner with Advanced Concepts. Our Junior Kindergarten Program is the first in the family of schools to have Advanced Concepts as part of the curriculum. We look forward to seeing what the school year will bring with the addition of Advanced Concepts to our campus,” Michalowski says.

Advanced Concept Teachers (Advanced Concepts for 2019-2020 School Year)

Ashleigh Balsamo, junior kindergarten teacher at The Merit School of Old Town Manassas, is proud to introduce her first Advanced Concept, “Celebrating the Whole Child.” She plans to take her students on a journey to better self-awareness and world-mindfulness.

“This year, junior kindergarteners will celebrate the most important person in history, THEM! Students will participate in a variety of hands-on activities that will get them excited about who they are and what they can do with their imagination and a little ‘can do’ spirit. While learning through play, students will gain an understanding of themselves and see how their body and senses can open the door to a world of possibilities.

“From their minds down to their bones, students will examine how they can change the world, and see how the world can change them, too. Students will see through the eyes of the most influential people throughout history, walk in the shoes of those that have altered the present, and will reach for the stars as they embark on their futures. With so many possibilities ahead, this junior kindergarten class is sure to be an adventure that will not soon forget!” says Balsamo.

Barbara Phillips, kindergarten teacher at The Merit School of Prince William, will continue her second year as an Advanced Concept teacher with “Fine and Performing Arts.”

“Kindergartners will participate in an engaging and immersive environment as they become leaders in art, music, and theater. Students will study our dynamic and diverse world of art through hands-on experiences, in collaboration with the community around us. Students will participate in a variety of in-class and field trip opportunities that will expand their creative thinking process. While building upon prior knowledge of music, dance, and drama, students will demonstrate developed skills through a variety of mediums. With so many open hearts and minds, it sure to be a memorable year,” Phillips says.

The first grade duo at The Merit School of Stafford is Corinthia Albritton and Lynda Raynore. They will lead their classes beyond our world and navigate space with their Advanced Concept, “Our World and Beyond.”

“Open your mind as we journey through time and space to discover the story of ‘us.’ Our spaceship will guide us through the cosmos as we first take a view of the Earth 250 million years ago and then travel beyond our imaginations. As we leave Earth behind and transport ourselves through the solar system and beyond, students will gain a better understanding of Earth’s position and learn how our understanding of the universe has changed throughout time. Students will also highlight key scientist that have influenced our perspectives on the universe and enjoy several opportunities in our community to expand our in-class lessons,” say Albritton and Raynore.

Karen Smithson, second and third grade teacher at The Merit School of Prince William, has chosen “A Walk Through History.” She is excited to travel through time with her students and open their eyes to past.

“We live in a historically rich area that whispers the stories of the past. This year, our class will embark on a journey through time and see how the footprints of the past have paved the way to the present. Students will examine key events throughout history, visit some of the most historical sites in our area and take a microscope to many influential leaders that have made America what it is today,” she says.

For a full listing of Advanced Concept locations, grade levels offered and chosen Advanced Concepts for the 2019-2020 school year, please visit!

Pull quote:
I have been partnering with Mrs. Amie Canter for the past few years in her ‘Advanced Concepts For a Better Future’ program.

Through this unique pedagogy that allows students to make decisions and engage fully in their own learning, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with both her students and others. I am impressed at the tremendous strides these elementary school students have made in their own education, whether by studying government or learning about the basic science concepts that underlie medicine.

This program excites students about learning because they choose the year-long topics they will explore, and they absorb the subject matter because they are interested and find it relevant. I wish more educators were as dedicated to promoting a stimulating intellectual environment like Mrs. Canter is. The intellectual, social and leadership gains the students who undertake the program make are mind-boggling. I am thrilled to work with someone who is making such a positive impact on young minds.

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