Eastern Mennonite School

 Founded in 1917; EMS is located in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Teacher/Student Ratio: 1:12. We have certified teachers, many who hold master's degrees and are involved in profession-related associations, leadership and hobbies. We offer Reading and Study Skills (RSS), Individualized Intensive Instruction (III), and tutoring options are offered to students who need academic assistance.

Upperclassmen may take college classes at Eastern Mennonite University or James Madison University. For students to become a vital part of the 21st century, we promote throughout our curriculum the development of “gifted behaviors,” attributes such as creative and analytical thinking, persistence, delaying gratification and promoting empathy. In cultivating such behaviors, we desire that all students will be equipped to face the challenges of our world. To be creative in a way that will make a difference.

Academically focused – Our intentionally designed curriculum and instruction is based on understandings from brain-research and modified to meet the educational needs of every enrolled student.

Community committed – Faculty, staff and parents work together to provide a safe place of acceptance, belonging and care for each student and one another.

Peace builders – Together, we actively seeking to build positive relationships between all peoples through creative, respectful and nonviolent means.

Globally-minded – Through curricular and trip opportunities, we grow student awareness in the complexities of the world, heighten sensitivity to the needs of the less fortunate, and express appreciation for the multitude of blessings we experience in the United States.

 Service engaged – Based on Jesus’ teaching toward others, we encourage student volunteerism, sharing of talent, and giving of resources within local, national and world communities.

The K-12 curriculum is designed to foster reading, research, writing and presentation skills that grow student curiosity, creative and insightful thinking, organizational strategies and a moral social conscience. A strong college preparatory track includes honors, Advanced Placement, and other advanced courses. Regular activities are also designed to help students grow spiritually as well as intellectually.

In addition to developing creativity, we strive for EMS graduates to

•    understand themselves, other people and the world around them

•    be grounded in the richness of a global view, history, math, literature, language, scientific thought, and Biblical teachings

•    to excel in the fine arts, music, technology and family sciences.

EMS is academically strong. We offer a large variety of classes, from Physics and World History to Shakespeare and Psychology. Our low teacher-student ratio (1:12) allows teachers to help students individually.The cost of our education is an excellent value. Our student body is welcoming and friendly. We are just 2 hours from Washington DC. Our host families have been carefully screened by the Program Coordinator. Our town of Harrisonburg, Virginia is very safe. Our international students are welcomed to get involved in sports, art, music, and drama. Our teachers are caring and compassionate. 

A participatory-based co-curricular program encourages exploration of athletics and other interests. Students further refine skills and confidence in performance through a music program, including a choir which tours internationally, drama and musical theater, service opportunities, a wide variety of clubs, and competitive athletics.

Campus Life at Eastern Mennonite School is designed to help students develop academically, spiritually and socially. Many programs exist to help students mature, from our chapels to mentoring relationships between middle school students and high school students to leadership opportunities.

EMS at a Glance

Founded: 1917


•    Located inside Harrisonburg’s northern city limits, EMS is part of a rural and suburban community in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.  

Enrollment: 386

•    EMES - K-5:  94

•    EMMS - 6-8:  106

•    EMHS - 9-12: 190

Boarding Students:

•    Homestay arranged by the EMS Boarding Coordinator.  

Teacher/Student Ratio: 1:12


•    Certified teachers, many who hold master's degrees and are involved in profession-related associations, leadership and hobbies.

Special Services:

•    Reading and Study Skills (RSS), Individualized Intensive Instruction (III), and tutoring options are offered to students who need academic assistance.

SAT Averages - 2014 Mean and Score Ranges:

Reading    Writing      Math    

557          567         541  

490-640     490-640    490-600

AP and Honors Courses:


Advanced Music                 Statistics (AP)

Biotechnology                    Research Writing

Calculus (AP)                     World History (AP)

English Literature (AP)       Molecular Biology (AP)

Optional Honors

Algebra II                      Novel

Biology                           Physics

Chemistry                       Poetry

Creative Writing             Pre-Calculus

Environmental Science   Psychology

Fiction                            Shakespeare

French III/IV                  Spanish III, IV, V

Geometry                       Speech

Global Anabaptism         US History

Global Christianity         World Issues

Lit/Writing 9 & 10          World History

College Courses: 

Upperclassmen may take college classes at Eastern Mennonite University or James Madison University.   

Co-Curricular Summary:

•    Athletics:  interscholastic sports - 7 for boys, 7 for girls;  24 teams

•    Drama:  At least 3 productions per school year

•    Music:  Jr. & Sr. Choirs, Touring Choir (auditioned) Chamber Choir (auditioned), Strings, Winds, Jazz, Full Orchestra

•    Experiential Education:  Curricular-based trip enrichment program occurs each Spring and every other summer.


•    Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) since 1957  

•    Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) since 2002

Eastern Mennonite School does not discriminate on the basis of any race, color, handicap, national or ethnic origin, and admits students to all rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school.

A. Personal Development

Since God created each one uniquely in His own image, each student has a variety of gifts and abilities. In the

Gifted Behaviors curriculum, EMS challenges each student to develop and practice a range of behaviors, skills and

traits—which forms the groundwork for effective life-long use of those gifts and abilities. Gifted behaviors specify

critical skills exhibited by successful persons, such as those characteristics listed below:

• the ability to clarify conditions of right and wrong

• the ability to organize and follow through

• persistence

• expanded vocabulary

• a voracious appetite for reading

• strong thinking and reasoning ability

• insight

• the ability to manage impulsivity

• adeptness in relationships and a confident sense of self and the future

Regular activities are scheduled in the EMMS and EMHS curriculum to nurture students spiritually as well as

intellectually. Daily chapel, Bible classes, Spiritual Renewal Week twice a year, Community Service Day, small

group Bible studies, Neighbor Groups and discussion of biblical teachings in numerous classes are just some of the

ways we encourage students to become active followers of Christ in their congregations and in the EMS

community of believers. In study, worship or play, students are challenged to integrate faith with life—to learn

and apply biblical standards to life's decisions.

In addition to developing gifted behaviors, students through the EMMS and EMHS school curriculum and program

are encouraged to develop a wide range of interests. We provide opportunities through field trips, experiential

learning, athletics and co-curricular courses. In all these activities and within interpersonal relationships, we expect

students to display compassion, courage, commitment, unselfishness, patience and self-control. In addition, to

broaden world view and perspective, each year the faculty select a Global Education theme that receives emphasis

and focus across the curriculum and in chapels.

As a culminating activity, students in the spring of their senior year put together a Senior Presentation as part of the

required Kingdom Living class. Through this presentation, they have the opportunity to reflect upon their spiritual,

academic, and emotional development through their high school years.

B. Experiential Learning

Experiential Learning programs offered every year create opportunities for students and teachers to participate

together in learning experiences not available in the usual curriculum. These experiences are designed to address

one or more of the following focus areas: 1) Learning a new skill or skill building; 2) Service learning; 3) Crosscultural

awareness; and 4) Academic enrichment.

Students in grades 9-12 are required to participate in at least one Experiential Learning Course (E-Term) each year

they are enrolled at EMS. E-Term courses are offered in April each school year and offered in the summer in the

form of state-side and international trips. Church-sponsored mission and service trips can also count as E-Term

courses provided the experience is at least five days in length. During E-Term courses, students (including those

on church mission or service experiences) will be required to keep a journal. Students who participate in summer

experiences are encouraged (though not required) to participate in an April E-term as well.

C. Customized Learning

Five components comprise the academic program of each student as they develop their individual interests. They

are listed below and described in various sections of this Academic Planning Guide.

1. Additional coursework (such as optional honors work or student choice in project learning)

2. Online learning through an accredited program

3. Participation in an external program such as Massanutten Technical Center

4. Individual research and study projects

5. Internships

Academic Program 

A. Pursuing Academic Excellence

As our mission statement conveys, we desire that all our students experience a rigorous curriculum so they will

leave EMS prepared to serve any community in which they live and to strengthen their relationships with God and


Because our Maker uniquely crafts each child, we recognize that what may be challenging for one student may not

be for another. We encourage each student and family to discover what is appropriate for them—both to be

challenged in their learning but not to be overwhelmed. Discerning this balance may take some time as students

acclimate to our learning environment. For those desiring a rigorous program, our honors courses or courses with

optional honors as well as AP course offerings should provide the challenge needed.

B. Honor Scholar Awards

As a way to promote academic endeavors in an area of strength for students, each academic department has

outlined a set of criteria leading to an Honor Scholar Award which can be found at the end of each of the

departmental course listings. The School Counseling Office and teachers begin introducing the criteria for these

department awards in the ninth grade, encouraging 9th-12th grade students to work toward these awards. Seniors

who have earned Honor Scholar Awards are recognized with a departmental award in a year-end ceremony.

C. Honor Courses

An Honor Course demands an advanced level of research, reading and critical thinking and is designed for students

who seek a challenge in academic studies. An Honor Course (designated on the transcript with a the code H2)

carries a 1.00 weighted grade point. (In other words, an A is worth 5.0 instead of 4.0.)

In an Optional Honor Course (designated on the transcript with the code H1), the student may contract individually

with the teacher for advanced independent work, requiring additional research, reading and critical thinking.

Courses taken for optional honors will carry a .50 honor weight (4.5 instead of a 4.0).

A student in an Optional Honor Course will have the first week in a quarter course and the first three weeks in a

semester or year course to arrange with the teacher advanced independent study. When the student completes all

the course work (regular and honors) with the quality expected for honors, the course will receive an honors

designation (H1) on the student's transcript and the additional grade points. (Course grades below 92 will not be

eligible for honor credit.)

D. National Honor Society

In keeping with national standards, the Eastern Mennonite School Chapter of the National Honor Society

seeks to honor those students who are exemplary in academic achievement, character, service and leadership.

Students become eligible for membership after the first semester of their Junior year, if they have achieved

a 3.5 GPA. Eligible students are then invited to supply documentation of service and leadership

involvements in order to merit further consideration for membership.

An evening spring semester induction ceremony is held to honor and welcome new members and their parents.

Once a member of NHS, students are expected to maintain their academic achievement, meet service hour

expectations, and be a student in good standing.

High School Curriculum and Support for Post-High School Planning

All Grades:

• All high school students are given information about the local College Fair held each fall at JMU, which features well over 70

colleges and trade schools.

• Mennonite College Day provides opportunity for EMS students and their parents to talk with admissions counselors from 4-5

Mennonite schools.

• The course work of each student is reviewed every year for appropriate classes depending on the student’s diploma path.

• Chapels often feature alumni who have served in church agencies or adults who are involved in church work.

9th Grade

•  Freshmen are introduced to the college counselor in English class along with the other counseling personnel. The importance of

high school grades in the formation of a GPA is explained. Honor Scholar options are highlighted. Naviance/Family Connection,

which is a college and career search tool that will be used each year throughout high school, is introduced. Students are shown

how to begin building their resume on Family Connection.

•  When available, a couple juniors or seniors come along to give advice on how to make the best use of high school academically,

socially and spiritually or an outside career resource comes in to inspire students towards qualities valued in the workplace.

•  Standardized test results from tests given in the fall are reviewed individually and career interests are explored along with help

planning next year’s course work.

 10th Grade

•  Extensive use of the Naviance/Family Connection website takes place in English 10 while researching a paper on a career of

their choice. A personality assessment is taken which then correlates with a wide range of careers. Each student explores a career

in depth.

• Individual review of student’s high school academic career and plans for 11th and 12th grade take place in 3rd quarter. Ideas  for

after high school training, service and a gap year are explored.

•  Massanutten Technical School highlights technical careers to all sophomores during a presentation at EMS. Visitation to MTC

programs that interest students takes place in January.

11th Grade

•  The PSAT is taken by all juniors in October. A brief preparation session for the PSAT is available if students wish to attend.

Practice booklets are given to all students.

•  Individual review of PSAT scores and discussions on future planning takes place with all juniors in December/January when

scores are returned. Transcripts and GPA are reviewed.

•  Students are given materials about all Virginia colleges. Additionally Naviance/Family Connection, which has an excellent

college search tool, is introduced to juniors.

•  It is recommended that juniors visit at least three colleges in their junior year.

•  EMU admissions personnel present a session on how to choose a college, any college not necessarily EMU.

•  Students write a college admission essay in Advanced Composition class. The teacher provides feedback for strengthening the

essay with the expectation that the essay could be used the following fall.

•  Students are encouraged to take the SAT or ACT at least once in the junior year. SAT subject tests can also be taken when

students are ready if they are going to a college that requires the SAT subject test. Online test prep is available at


•  Algebra II and Pre Calculus teachers often use the math section of the SAT to prepare students for the test.

12th Grade

•  A guidance session in government in September gives instruction on the ins and outs of completing college applications along

with tips on how to make the senior year a success.

•  The College Counselor is easily available to students in the College Counseling Office throughout the day.

•  Senior week in October is reserved for individual discussion of after high school planning.

•  Church agencies come to government class during October to familiarize students with these options.

•  Seniors are encouraged to use days off school for additional college visiting.

Parental Support

Throughout high school, the school hosts Parent Information Nights, a time to hear from our counselors about the following:

•  Supporting students throughout the stages of high school

•  Explaining the tasks and considerations involved in the college search process

•  Financial aid information


We believe that art is fundamental to the complete education of a developing child. Because we are created in the

image of God the Creator, we believe that the arts can be the vehicle to release that creativity in each of us.

Through a variety of teaching strategies, art media and disciplines, students can explore and express their reactions

to the world they live in, their family unit, and the faith they are developing.

The teaching of art lends itself well to the development of gifted behaviors in students. It is especially useful in

stimulating creative, lateral thinking and learning persistence. We aim to develop and reinforce a healthy selfconcept

through success in the creative process and to open the door to future creative pursuits, whether as a

career or an avocation.

Those students wishing to take these specialized art courses, who have not had Basic Art, must have the

permission of the Art instructor. These specialized courses may be taken more than once. Students will work

more independently and at progressively higher levels. A course taken more than once will show a progressively

higher sequence on the student's transcript.

Counseling Services 

The goal of the counseling program at Eastern Mennonite School is to assist students in developing a successful 

academic, social, and spiritual experience. This is a coordinated effort by faculty, staff, parents, and the Counseling Advisory Committee, which meets weekly. 

The school counselors routinely: 

1. See any student for an interview or assistance. Students should make arrangements with the middle school counselor or the high school counselor for an appointment. Typically, students at a minimum see the counselor once a year each year for scheduling purposes. 

2. Attend to crisis situations immediately. 

3. Direct individual students toward opportunities that match their interests, both in and out of school. 

4. Review standardized testing results with students. 

5. Work on designing courses of study with students according to individual needs. 

6. Work with high school students on career interests and post–high school educational opportunities. Juniors and seniors will have the additional help of a college counselor. 

7. Develop guidance curricula and team with teachers to present material as part of courses. 

8. Participate in school-wide committees and events. 

Other avenues of direction and support can be explored when students and parents desire to pursue appropriate responses to a variety of student needs: 

● The school counselors can assist in helping students work at difficult social situations. 

● Connections can be made with professional counselors as ongoing psychological needs necessitate (e.g., depression, grief, phobias, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, suicidal tendencies, eating disorders, etc.). 

● Various types of academic support can be provided when a continued need is evident. 

● Prayer and conversation are often used. 

Field Trips 

Field trips are used by teachers to enrich the learning activities of the classroom (see Academic Handbook for more information), and students are expected to participate. Parental permission for field trips is required. 

Leadership Opportunities 

The Student Council Organization is made up of a middle and a high school division and seeks to address issues of interest to students at Eastern Mennonite School, including those dealing with student life. The SCO executive committee is elected from the student body at large. Representatives are elected to the SCO forum by each class. The SCO Chapel Planning Committee and Social Committee report to the SCO forum. 

Other leadership opportunities include class officers, National Honor Society, Fund Drive Committee, student ambassadors, music, drama, and athletics. 

Leaving School Grounds or Buildings 

Students are required to remain on the Eastern Mennonite School campus for the school day unless permission is granted by the office and the student has filled in an off-campus permit. The office must have a note, signed by a parent, in order to permit a student to leave campus. In emergencies, a phone call from a parent is acceptable.

Cocurricular Eligibility (see also: Attendance) 

To remain eligible to participate in official athletic contests (and possibly practices), Touring Choir, or drama performances, an EMS student must, on the mid-quarter progress reports and quarter report cards: 

1. earn a 76 or higher in at least three subjects; 

2. earn passing grades (above 67) in at least five subjects; and 

3. earn passing grades in all middle school courses or all courses required for high school graduation. 

The Restorative Justice/Discipline Model 

EMS provides a model of discipline that, when necessary, fosters and enables pathways toward healing. The goal of our restorative approach is to teach students appropriate ways to express regret and accept responsibility, while providing restitution. Primary focus is placed on ensuring community building while remaining sensitive to the dignity of all involved. The end result: reconciliation through forgiveness. 

Restorative discipline has two main focuses: 

● The first is building community. 

The work and change that happens when discipline occurs cannot be successful unless all involved—students and adults—feel safe and valued in the community. Therefore, we work every day with everything we do, the decisions we make, and how we relate to each other, in order to create a community where all are welcome and feel as though they have a place. It is acceptable to disagree with each other, but our disagreements should become occasions to understand each other better. 

● The second focus is making things right, or reconciliation. 

We assume that conflicts will happen and that students will make mistakes, some that are small, and some more costly. A consequence for misconduct might address the wrongdoing, but there might be more work to do in order to repair a relationship. Therefore, the goal is to make things right, not just to satisfy the consequences or endure the punishment.


Daily announcements will be made by classroom teachers at noon and at the end of each school day. Student announcements should be submitted to the front office for review.


Each year the juniors plan a banquet and program in honor of the seniors. The Junior-Senior Banquet enables 

juniors to express appreciation to the seniors for their contributions to the school. While the banquet has become a somewhat formal event, the school does not desire the banquet to become an extravagant affair. As a Christian community, Eastern Mennonite School anticipates this exciting event will reflect school values and priorities. 

Appropriate dress guidelines: 

The banquet is generally considered a dress-up occasion. However, the school expects that dresses should be modest and any attire is expected to meet or exceed school dress guidelines with the following exceptions; dress hats and strapless gowns are allowable for banquet. 

Guest policy: 

Since the purpose of the Junior-Senior Banquet is for the members of the junior class to pay tribute to the graduating seniors with dinner, entertainment, and a time of fellowship, the banquet is a celebration intended primarily for members of the senior class, the junior class, and the faculty. Outside guests are permitted with proper permission and must be 10th grade or older. Such requests must be taken to the junior class secretary, with a signature of approval given by a class sponsor and the principal, no later than one week prior to the banquet.


Chapels are a required daily experience of worship and teaching designed to call students and faculty to greater faith in God, and to share in developing a more personal relationship with God. Chapel activities may include special guest speakers, singing, praying, small groups, discussions, and skits. Chapel provides a setting for spiritual teaching, inspiration, and community building. It is a visible extension of the components of our mission statement. Student input in chapel planning is provided through the Chapel Planning Committee, which coordinates chapels in conjunction with the chapel coordinator.



A wide range of athletic options is available for students in grades 6–12. Selection for most interscholastic teams is based on tryouts. Student athletes are expected to maintain specific attendance (see Attendance) and academic standards (refer to Academic Handbook). The athletic program is coordinated by the athletic director. 


Clubs play an active role in the life of students at Eastern Mennonite School. Students sign up for clubs which interest them and many choose to participate in multiple clubs. All clubs have a faculty sponsor to provide leadership and supervision. Each year, an effort is made to offer clubs that meet the interests of all age groups. Students may request a specific club if sufficient interest is expressed by a group of students. 


Students are encouraged to participate in the dramatic performances scheduled throughout the school year. Students receive one complimentary admission to each dramatic performance, excluding musicals.