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Cover Stories

Top articles featured in the printed issues of 92129 Magazine

Party Time in PQ: Fiesta 2011
8 years ago

Party Time in PQ: Fiesta 2011

By  •  Cover Stories, Events

PQ’s biggest event – the 16th Annual Fiesta de los Penasquitos – takes place on Sunday, May 1, and organizers are expecting and hoping for the biggest turnout in history …
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PQ’s Small Community Feel Attracted Cowarts
8 years ago

PQ’s Small Community Feel Attracted Cowarts

By  •  Cover Stories, Local Families

by ZEENA GREGG Special to 92129 Magazine

Mountain climbing, skiing in Big Bear and road-trips are some of the ways the Cowart family of Rancho Penasquitos stays bonded …
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Renaissance Village Academy: An Exciting Option for Gifted and Motivated Students
8 years ago

Renaissance Village Academy: An Exciting Option for Gifted and Motivated Students

Even the name has special meaning at Renaissance Village Academy.

“We want to create and nurture ‘Renaissance’ men and women, citizens who understand the world around them in all its glory and diversity – the natural world, the social world, and the political world,” said Nancy Retter, RVA Director and Principal Teacher.  “The best way to help children grow and learn is to create a sense of community where we all look out for one another, hence a ‘Village’.  Finally, the name ‘Academy’ takes its inspiration from Plato’s Academy in Athens, where Plato taught his followers to think using the Socratic Method.  Because knowledge without thought is just information, children must learn how to think about what they’ve learned, how to judge the accuracy/biases of their sources, and how to weigh conflicting information to form their own conclusions.”

A private school designed to meet the needs of gifted (top 2 percent), profoundly gifted (top 0.1 percent), and highly motivated students, RVA gets kids interested again in learning.

“We get kids excited…,” Retter said.  “Often gifted students find learning easy.  With little effort they can get the top grades.  So they develop the idea, at a subconscious level, that any assignment or project requiring mental effort on their part isn’t worth doing.”

Retter said RVA counters that situation.  “We don’t teach at students, we talk to them.  Learning and teaching should be a conversation, not a lecture,” she said.  “It’s a shared experience of exploration and discovery.  The teacher must discover where each child is in relation to the standards and expectations in order to lead them to discovering all they can truly accomplish.”

Founded in March 2010, RVA is a full-time program for 4th – 8th grade, though a younger child reading at the 4th grade level can be considered.  It covers all of the traditional subjects in education:  Reading, mathematics, history, science, physical education, and others.  Courses include drama, music, and foreign language.  Math placement and pacing are based on each child’s needs. History, social studies, and science begin with the California state standards, but move beyond them to emphasize critical thinking, hands-on activities, analysis, and writing.  English includes literature, morphology (Greek and Latin roots), syntax, debate, and writing.

“Our students gain from exceptional circumstances and opportunities every single day.  And one of the differences our students consistently mention is that they’re not bored,” said Retter.  “High expectations are the norm.  Self-esteem is built through actual achievement.”

A highly experienced teacher with multiple credentials, Retter graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Russian Civilization) from University of California Irvine.  She completed the Credential Program at San Diego State University and received her Masters of Arts in Teaching at National University in 2003.

Retter’s overall teaching philosophy is exemplified by what she describes as the four elements that define the best experiences in education:

  • A “natural” teacher, who’s inherently gifted at working with kids.
  • A knowledgeable and intelligent teacher, with complete mastery of the curriculum.
  • An environment where learning is expected of students, not just encouraged.
  • An environment that engages students’ curiosity and desire to explore.

“Public schools generally offer none of these (though exceptions can happen).   Private schools have an advantage in setting their own environments, but the rest is still a matter of chance,” Retter said.  “At RVA, all the elements are present. “

Retter also noted RVA takes parent involvement in school operations a step further than public schools.  For example, before the start of each school year, parents are surveyed on start and end times for the school days.   “(And) our schedule is designed to help meet the needs of working parents,” she said, which includes creative scheduling and limiting homework assignments usually to reading and meaningful review.

Both physical education and foreign language training is a significant part of the RVA experience.  Sensei Alan Fitzgerald of Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studios in Carmel Mountain teaches students three days a week – and all 5th Graders choose a language to learn (choices include: Russian, Latin, German, Chinese or Japanese).  A second foreign language is later added for students.

But the true RVA learning experience comes from the quality of the teaching, as developed by Retter:

  • RVA gives gifted children an opportunity to use their abilities and expand upon them, rather than coast along or take apparent “success” for granted.
  • Education at RVA involves knowledge and the application of knowledge:  Thinking.  Both are important and both are emphasized at RVA.
  • It’s common for people to underestimate the importance of true quality in teaching, particularly in the “middle school” years.  But those years form the basis for all subsequent education.
  • One goal underlies all that students experience at RVA – they learn how to think and how to learn.

“I founded Renaissance Village Academy because I’m passionately devoted to meeting the needs of gifted, profoundly gifted, and highly-motivated students.  I wrote my first paper on the importance of specialized programs for gifted students when I was 15, following a family tradition of teaching,” she said, noting her years working in local schools with GATE and other programs firsthand.  “These experiences inform my philosophy towards homework – less is more.  Just because children are gifted doesn’t mean they need to do twice as much work as others.  The quality of assignments is of greater importance than the quantity thereof.”

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Tireless Leonard Enjoys Challenges, Always Willing to Help Local Groups
8 years ago

Tireless Leonard Enjoys Challenges, Always Willing to Help Local Groups

by LORI LUM Special to 92129 Magazine

In the 18 years that Julie Leonard has resided in Rancho Penasquitos, her commitment to her community has been unending. From …
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Q&A with Andy Berg
9 years ago

Q&A with Andy Berg

Current town council president Andy Berg generously gave his time to provide answers to 92129 Magazine about the group, how it works, and how local residents can be more involved.


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Protecting Lives, Property and the Environment

By  •  Businesses, Cover Stories

Serving the eighth largest city in the United States and the second largest city in California, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department is a multi-faceted organization that provides city residents with fire …
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Rancho Family YMCA

By  •  Businesses, Cover Stories, Local

The Rancho Family YMCA serves more than 15,000 youths and families in the communities of Rancho Penasquitos, Sabre Springs, Scripps Ranch, Torrey Highlands, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Black Mountain Ranch, 4S …
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For PQ’s Canales Clan, Soccer is a Family Affair

By  •  Cover Stories, Local Families

To call Kelly Canales a “soccer mom” is a very serious understatement.

Kelly has spent years shuttling two daughters to soccer games and tournaments throughout San Diego County, California and …
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All That is Good Begins With a Smile

By  •  Businesses, Cover Stories

Dr. Brian Davey’s Focus on New Technology, Enhanced Patient Experience and Community Involvement

When patients visit Brian Davey DDS Cosmetic & Family Dentistry, it’s their smile that is the top …
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Watching with Wonder as Winged Adventurers Soar

It’s a rare sight in most areas, but Rancho Penasquitos and nearby neighborhoods see it often: A hang glider or paraglider riding the wind near Black Mountain.

What many local …
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