Today, Skyuka Hall School has more than 120 students and serves students in grades first through twelveth. I recently had a chance to sit down with Dr. Yother to talk about the school’s vision for 2023 and how this unique type of learning environment is attracting students from all over.
Jed Mescon: How do you describe Skyuka Hall to prospective parents?
Dr. Josh Yother: This school has truly become my fourth child. We are double certified, and our diplomas carry the same amount of weight as any other private school in this area. We want our graduates to leave this school prepared to go out and live a productive life. Skyuka Hall’s focus is singular and progressive. The school is the fastest-growing private school in Tennessee and encourages teachers to be pioneering so that unique learners discover their potential.
JM: You use the words unique and special when you talk about a Skyuka Hall student.
JY: These words are not code words for a child being inadequate or having a disability. Society has unfortunately placed students who are neurodiverse in their learning into a category where many people view these kids as disabled. Whether it is dyslexia, autism, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, when you take the time to really get to know these kids and form an individualized plan for those students, you quickly see that the disability was not there as much as the ability to think and create in a unique way. We are missing some of the most brilliant minds in the world who thankfully are choosing a school like Skyuka Hall where they get a student-teacher ratio of 10:1.
JM: Why do some parents get embarrassed sending their child to this type of school?
JY: The media has done a horrible job [depicting] what a perfect child is supposed to look and act like. My question to anyone who asks is, who determines what that person looks like? When we go through the admissions process, I will ask a family if they think we are here to fix their child. If the answer is yes, we are in trouble. We do not think there is anything wrong with your child. Our job is to celebrate your child just the way they are. We are here to build upon a child’s strengths, and they will grow naturally. Teaching confidence, courage, and conviction can help a child grow socially, academically, physically, and spiritually. We can then tell parents the school did it because of our learning institution and not despite of it. Is not that what school is all about?
JM: You are attracting families from all over the world.
JY: We have welcomed kids from California, Massachusetts, and even England. I always ask parents how they heard of little Skyuka Hall School in Chattanooga, Tenn. I have determined that if you light a fire bright enough, people will want to come to it and watch it burn. And because of the amazing transformation that has taken place in this school with extremely limited resources, our community is being positively impacted by a school that no one had heard of about nine years ago.
JM: The name Skyuka has a lot of people asking about its meaning.
JY: A board member came up with the name several years ago. At the base of Lookout Mountain near the banks of Lookout Creek is where you will find Skyuka Springs. You can easily reach the springs by either hiking or mountain biking. This board member said the peace and tranquility that he feels at this incredible piece of nature makes him just want to go back time after time. He said the scene improves your mood like never before. That is the same feeling I want for every kid who goes to Skyuka Hall. Where each child feels that same peace and has a reason each day to wake up knowing there is someone at school who is willing to love, respect, and appreciate you.
by Jed Mescon