A Letter from Our Founder

To the Mindy Circle,

When I went off to college, there was no question what my major would be. I had wanted to be an elementary school teacher since I was in the third grade. I was fortunate enough to start teaching immediately after graduating college. Shortly after receiving my undergraduate degree and beginning my career, I began dreaming of opening my own school.

A combination of things happened over the next several years of my career that left me even more inspired than ever to pursue the dream of opening my own school. As a public school educator, I saw amazing things happening every single day. I met teachers who were the kind of teachers their students would remember forever. I met students who were hungry to learn and explore. I met leaders who advocated tirelessly for programs and support. While I was sometimes amazed by the wonderful world of education I got to experience everyday, I was also sometimes left feeling uneasy and often unfulfilled.

There were so many teachers I met who were risk takers yet had to always be sure that their creativity never pushed them outside “the box.” Those same hungry students I met were all too often told that there wasn’t enough time to explore or go deeper into a topic. These students were indirectly but constantly sent the message that testing was more important than learning and that high scores outweighed any other type of accomplishment they had achieved. I started noticing a trend of completely overwhelmed and deflated teachers and, even sadder, anxiety-filled students. This became particularly alarming to me when I began coaching younger teachers who I soon realized were the adults that “we” created. They were filled with anxiety and struggled with challenges, risk taking, and creativity. Perhaps, the education they received did not nurture the skills they once had.

I was a product of public schools and I believed, and still believe, strongly in public school education. I knew, however, that if I were going to open a school and stay true to my own values, I would have to step outside the box. The only way to fulfill my mission in making a difference in the lives of children in a way that doesn't limit educators and doesn't limit students is to be free of the constraints by opening a private school. Mindy Independent is not the opposite of public school. It is the best that public schools offer partnered with more balance, more exploration, and a greater focus on wellness and the whole child. THAT is The Mindy Way.

Although my values have always been the same, my approaches to education have become more refined as I progressed through my career. My formal education, service in multiple roles, and dynamic array of experiences has allowed me to cultivate the educational model coming to life here at Mindy Independent. I want students to love learning and be inspired by themselves and each other. I want them to know what it means to fail and feel the glory that can only be felt with the success that comes after faiIure. I want families to know that their children are coming into an environment filled with compassion and care perfectly balanced with challenges and building independence.

I can’t wait to see the community that is built here at Mindy Independent. I am so eager to embark on this journey with students, families, staff, and the community. Oh, the places we’ll go...

Warmly,

Tracey Sutherland

Founder, Mindy Independent

Our Founder

Tracey Sutherland has been an elementary educator for ten years. She has had the privilege of teaching amazing, inspiring students and working alongside incredibly dedicated educators. Tracey has served as an elementary classroom teacher in various grade levels, a teacher of English Language Learners, and a teachers’ instructional coach. She has a variety of experiences working in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts and with students from extremely diverse economic and cultural backgrounds. She has written English Language Arts curriculum in several districts and has published curriculum on Achieve the Core in partnership with Student Achievement Partners’ Read Aloud Project. Tracey has a B.A. in Elementary Education, M. Ed. in Teaching English as a Second Language, and M. Ed. in Educational Leadership all from her beloved alma mater, Rhode Island College.  

Tracey is a proud East Providence Townie and former student of Orlo Avenue Elementary, Martin Middle School, and East Providence High School. She has always had a love for music and food! You might find her at a local restaurant or coffee shop in her spare time. Her favorite thing to do is spend time with her friends and family. She resides in East Providence with her husband, daughter, and rescue lab.

Who's Mindy?

Melinda Rostron was a natural-born teacher. The kind that had the “it” factor - the magic; the spark that drew children toward her and then made them sad when she had to go share her time with the next child. Melinda graduated from Rhode Island College in 2009 with a B.A. in Elementary Education. She was a lifelong resident of Coventry and devoted educator in Coventry Public Schools. Mindy wasn’t just a person. She was a presence. Mindy was larger than life. She was a beautiful soul and anyone who had the privilege of knowing her was a better person for it. Melinda was passionate, fiery, and bold yet extremely introspective and self-actualized. She was one of the most caring and compassionate people you would ever meet. She adored “her kids” whether they were her students, those she tutored, or the many that would spend time playing with her in the beach community she was a part of. She lived her life beautifully, playfully, and purposefully. She was a huge Patriots fan but hockey was her all-time favorite sport, loving both the Boston and Providence Bruins. She was a skilled photographer with most of her work capturing our gorgeous natural world. Her most sacred place was the beach where all of her favorite things surrounded her- fresh air, the sun, the sand, her family, and her “beach family.”

Melinda and Tracey, Mindy Independent’s founder, met at Rhode Island College and grew together and more connected as the years passed. They had the same passion for education. When they were feeling unfulfilled or disheartened in their work, they would often lean on each other and dream about the day they would open their own school. On October 30, 2015, Melinda was unexpectedly taken from the world far before anyone who knew her was ready. After her passing, Tracey knew she had to build their school and bring that dream to life. Mindy Independent is founded on the philosophies and approaches that Melinda valued and encouraged. Perhaps more importantly, it is rooted in some of her greatest qualities. Melinda would undoubtedly love the place that Mindy Independent is set to be and the little humans, “her kids,” that it will nurture and help prepare for the world. 

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