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School Culture


Eager minds together make us all better.


Imagine your child spending all day with other children who value intellectual curiosity and academic challenge, who want to work hard and are energized by their peers’ creativity. They will be excited about school—excited about everything, in fact. They will be happy. They will learn more, and they will love it. 

Students at The Avery Coonley School together create a unique collaborative culture where the drive to learn transcends all other differences. Deeply involved parents and highly committed faculty support this community of motivated, high-ability children, who learn together and learn by doing, and who welcome, include, and support each other in their diversity.

Every student comes to the table with their own experiences, their own perspectives. I see them work together, hear them share their ideas, their thoughts, their beliefs. They are empowered to stand by their convictions, to bear witness, and to listen and learn from each other.

Middle School Literacy Teacher and Department Chair Alexis Bryant


Student Driven

ACS founder Queene Ferry Coonley was a leader in the national movement for a student-led approach to learning, which is a natural fit for bright and gifted learners. ACS teachers structure their classrooms, lessons, and expectations in the best interests of gifted children.

  • In every ACS class, academic motivation is the norm. We are a place where it is safe—and fun—to be smart.
  • Because perfectionism is a characteristic of many gifted children, risk taking is encouraged and acknowledged. Mistakes are viewed as invitations to learn.
  • Flexibility within the classroom—in both the physical setting and the climate—creates a relaxed yet challenging environment that encourages responsibility and autonomy.
  • Projects, simulations, dramatizations, fairs, and other opportunities offer hands-on, less-structured learning experiences that maximize creativity and engagement.

Creative Problem Solving

We’ve partnered with progressive technology firm TinkRworks to lead student programs and faculty professional development in our new Makerspace. Students employ design thinking to identify problems, brainstorm creative solutions, and apply and test their ideas. They work with a variety of expert educators in journalism, ethics, cooking, robotics, and more.


Avery Coonley provides unwavering support and gives children a chance to be who they are. It has a truly collaborative peer environment and the flexibility to learn differently. Students have opportunities to take chances and gain confidence.

Parent response from 2020 survey

Space to Explore

The beauty and freedom of the ACS campus, set on 11 acres adjacent to a forest preserve, inspires learners of all ages. We have abundant, flexible space and technology for collaborative and individual exploration, from lovingly renovated historic buildings to a state-of-the-art Middle School.


It is a children’s community. The purpose is not to teach what others had thought or grown-ups had done, but for the children themselves to do something.

Queene Ferry Coonley

A State-Recognized Student Council

The Illinois Association of Junior School Student Councils has designated the ACS Student Council as an honor council, acknowledging its many activities in the areas of leadership, school and community service, and school spirit.


Where Our Graduates Go

ACS graduates are creative, curious critical thinkers and independent, lifelong learners who never settle for “good enough.” They shine and lead in high school, college, and life.

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