Cape's Grammer has unique vision for educating children

Sunday, February 26, 2012
Russell Grammer is director of Prodigy Leadership Academy in Cape Girardeau (Fred Lynch)

Russell Grammer of Prodigy Leadership Academy envisions preparing the next generation.

"The greatest purpose we can serve, is not to get as much as we can so we can be comfortable, but to prepare the next generation for what they're going to face. They will have challenges that we don't know about yet," said Russell Grammer, founder of the private school for children in kindergarten through high school.

Grammer said Prodigy serves the family and child. He said he wanted to involve the family in the education process.

"We come alongside families and ask the children, 'Who are you? Where do you want to go?' Rather than tell them what they need to do to pass," said Grammer. "We want to provide a support system and let them be who God wants them to be."

Grammer incorporates faith in his school because he believes, "we are at our best when we are motivated by love."

A day at Prodigy looks different than most schools. Grammer said he realized he needed to provide students with diverse experiences because each child is different. They have taken more than 20 field trips and had numerous speakers.

They have visited Boeing, Co. near St. Louis, federal and municipal courts, and local museums and hospitals. Speakers have included members of the news media, business owners, college professors and artists.

Grammer said he also believes in cultivating creativity in students.

"The more children are creative, the more inspired they are and everything flows out of that," he said.

Grammer earned his bachelor's degree in elementary and special education and a master's in education. He taught overseas and in inner city programs before coming back to Missouri to teach. His wife Amy has a bachelor's in early childhood education and has also taught overseas as well as in Missouri. Before the couple started Prodigy, she homeschooled their children.

The two began Prodigy in 2009. Grammer said they have had the seeds for Prodigy since he began teaching, but the idea really surfaced in 2004. Grammer was in Washington DC to accept the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching where he met the nation's top teachers and discussed trends in education.

"That was the one thing that opened my eyes in large scale to the trends that are going on in education," Grammer said. He said opening Prodigy was "a God thing."

According to Grammer, they chose the name "Prodigy Leadership Academy" because they believe that all children are gifted and designed for a unique purpose. He said they focus on leadership because children need to be able to identify truth in the bombardment of information.

Grammer said they are "having a blast," with the entire experience and that he has learned more about education in the past two and a half years at Prodigy then he has in all his years in structured education.

Prodigy has enrolled more than 40 students and employs four full time teachers. Volunteers help with instruction, activities and the school's day to day needs.

Part of Prodigy's vision for the future, is tied to Cape Girardeau's past, Grammer said. Guy and Rene Tomasino donated the old Jefferson School to Prodigy in 2011. The 107-year-old school was Cape Girardeau's last segregated school house. Grammer said Prodigy's board of directors is formulating a plan to best go forward with the building.

"We have freedom as a community of people who care to ask, 'What is best for the children?' and creatively implement that," said Grammer.

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