Welcome to ISW’s 10th year! We opened in 2008 with just 6 students in a tiny barn. Today we have 10 times as many students and counting and two campuses. And very soon, we will be buying our own campus.

As we prepare for this big transition, I have been thinking a lot about renovation. My husband Bob and I have bought and renovated three homes over the course of our 27 years together. We have enjoyed transforming some really ugly houses into houses that delighted the next buyers (not to mention paying off our student loans).

There was the house in Gross Pointe Michigan that featured a Star Trek room, where every surface was covered in grey carpet. The entrance into the dining room was circular with inset lights. We yelled, “Beam me up, Scotty” frequently as we restored that house to its 1940s origins.

More recently, we renovated our current house. The center of the house is a log cabin that was built in the 1790s. That’s the cool part. The uncool part was the shack that was built around it and painted black. When the girls were little, and we would have their friends over for playdates, I could see the eyes get very big when we pulled up to the black, scary house on the side of a mountain. It hasn’t always been easy. This past summer, while painting the upstairs floor, I feel through a vent hole. Well, actually, my leg fell through the living room ceiling while the rest of me remained on the second floor. (For the record, when I encourage kids to try, to fail on occasion, and then to try again, I live what I preach. I finished that floor, and it looks great.) In the end, we managed to transform a very scary shack into a livable home for five—with help from Encore, a wonderful company that just happens to be the contractor for ISW’s new school building.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, but in the end, we will have a beautiful, permanent home for our school community with opportunities to create an expanded STEM program, a thriving Performing Arts program, and MS and HS athletics.

It will be worth it. And the renovation process will also be a wonderful metaphor for one of the great lessons we are teaching ISW students every day.  If you aren’t satisfied with your life, you can always renovate it. If there are things you want to be able to do and you can’t yet do them, you can renovate your brain.

If you suddenly decide that you are in love with Spanish as an 8th grader, you can dive into learning the language with gusto—even if you weren’t that interested in previous years.

If you decide (as I did) as a 20 year old who had sworn off math after high school calculus, that you would like to study a subject that requires a lot more math, you can do it. You just have to renovate your brain.

Over the course of their lifetimes, our students will likely change jobs at least 12 to 15 times. They will need skills we adults were not taught in school—flexibility, creativity, real world problem-solving, and maybe most importantly, self-renovation.

Pay attention, students, it’s going to be a year full of important lessons!

And now, Kindergartners, Lowers, Uppers, Middles, and High School Students, thank you for your excitement, your inspiration and your trust. This school is, as always, our gift to one another. Welcome to the new school year.