Advent Episcopal School on Education, Tradition, and Enrichment

With the school year well underway, we took time to visit Advent Episcopal School, one of Birmingham’s premiere educational institutions. Founded in 1950 and located in downtown Birmingham, Advent Episcopal School is a coeducational day school for students grades Junior Pre-Kindergarten through 8th. We were eager to chat with their Head of School, Claire Cassady Vaughn (Class of 2003) about the traditions and ethos that make Advent such a beloved institution.

Our chat, which you’ll find below, speaks to the very heart of meaningful education, the kind that has a lifelong impact. We also had the pleasure of talking with a Volume 6 Member, Brooke Wahl of Brooke Wahl Real Estate, who is an Advent parent. Her reflections give a unique perspective on the power of independent education on young minds. And whether you have littles or a lover of learning, you’ll enjoy a peek into Advent Episcopal School’s principles and spirit.


TSG Birmingham: Claire, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. We’ll dive right in… Who is the Advent Episcopal School student?
Claire Vaughn: Advent students are curious and kind; they value community and collaboration and are open to thinking critically about new concepts and ideas. Advent students are also savvy citizens of Birmingham. The school’s unique downtown location offers students some of the most enriching learning opportunities in Birmingham, with destinations like the BMA, Jones Valley Teaching Farm, and the McWane Center just steps away. Our graduates leave Advent having experienced a truly enriching elementary education that prepares them for lives of continued learning, leadership, and service to others.

TSG Birmingham: Are there any misconceptions about independent schools?
Claire Vaughn: I think for some there is a misconception that private schools in our area are only for students who are not zoned for high-performing schools. That is certainly not the case at Advent. Our goal is to attract and retain bright and deserving students. With students from over 42 different zip codes, we serve families from all over the Birmingham area.

TSG Birmingham: What informs Advent’s philosophy in educating these bright, deserving minds?
Claire Vaughn: We believe that each child is unique and in a constant process of change. Because of this, the mental development of each child cannot be isolated from the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Our students are exposed to and involved in the total learning process – thinking, planning, and problem-solving. To achieve this, we limit enrollment so our teachers can provide individual attention and instruction. We not only want children to receive an excellent education, but to feel a sense of belonging and joy during their time here.

TSG Birmingham: Let’s chat about Advent educators… Who is the Advent Episcopal School teacher?
Claire Vaughn: Much like our students, the teachers at Advent come from every corner of Birmingham, representing varied and diverse backgrounds. Their contagious enthusiasm for learning unites them, and many (over 62%) have advanced degrees. Each of our teachers is gifted at individualizing the learning experience for each student, incorporating differentiated instruction across subject areas. In a recent self-reflection, one of our teachers wrote, “My goal is to bring the same level of energy and intentionality to my last class of the day that I brought to my first class.” I think her answer illustrates the thoughtfulness and dedication of our faculty.

“Graduates leave Advent having experienced a truly enriching elementary education that prepares them for lives of continued learning, leadership, and service to others.”

TSG Birmingham: In addition to Advent’s teaching philosophy, the school has traditions that make it so unique and special. Can you share your favorite Advent Episcopal School tradition?
Claire Vaughn: From Grandparents’ Day to Mayfest, our school year holds dear many traditions. Of those, the service of Lessons and Carols is among the most special. The first Festival of Lessons and Carols was held on Christmas Eve in 1918 in the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, England. Advent has observed this tradition for over fifty years. All of our students, Junior Pre-Kindergarten (JPK) through 8th grade, participate in the service, which is open to the public. During the service, we sing many carols, though we’re partial to “O, Holy Night.” This carol, unique to our school, is also sung in French. Our students begin learning French in JPK and continue until they leave after 8th grade. Advent alumni are invited to participate in the singing of “O, Holy Night,” which makes for a truly special experience and the perfect start to the Christmas season.

TSG Birmingham: In your experience, why do parents choose independent schools like Advent?
Claire Vaughn: We are fortunate to have great public schools in the Birmingham area, which can, as I mentioned earlier, contribute to the misconception that private schools are for families not zoned to a “high-performing” school. However, we find that parents are drawn to us because they want the best for their children and even in excellent public schools, our small class sizes, enriching foreign language curriculum, and robust fine arts programming cannot be replicated.

“We not only want children to receive an excellent education, but to feel a sense of belonging and joy during their time here.”

TSG Birmingham: You’ve touched on class size several times. Can you speak to why small classes are so important to the Advent educational experience?
Claire Vaughn: At Advent, we strive to ensure each of our students is truly known. With small class sizes, we are able to truly understand each student’s unique gifts and abilities. And the educational experience becomes a bonding experience between the school, the teacher, and the parents. This bond and personalization ensure that, when students graduate from Advent, they have the knowledge to lead the way.


TSG Birmingham: Birmingham has great schools, what drew you to Advent Episcopal, specifically?
Brooke Wahl: We really love the intentional curriculum, class size, and access to enrichment resources that Advent’s size and commitment in independent education offers.

TSG Birmingham: Why did you choose an independent school for your children?
Brooke Wahl: Not only were we really attracted to the curriculum and the academic environment, but the support and resources Advent provides. It allows our family to travel and nurtures my children’s academic interests.

TSG Birmingham: Beyond academics, what fond memories will your little ones take from Advent?
Brooke Wahl: My kids loved the French breakfast, being able to showcase their French, and sing in front of the parents!

TSG Birmingham: Are you talking about Lessons and Carols?
Brooke Wahl: Yes! I love the Lessons and Carols service. You can tell that alumni and families enjoy just as much as the students. It’s a beautiful way for the children to look toward the Christmas season all Fall.

TSG Birmingham: We’ve talked a lot about what Advent means for your children. Can you share what Advent means to you as a parent?
Brooke Wahl: To me Advent means an intentional choice in highly impactful education that prepares children to be confident and curious lifelong learners.

To learn more about Advent Episocopal School, we encourage you to reach out to the school directly. Advent will happily arrange a private tour so you see the Advent experience in action. Don’t forget to tell them Scout sent you!