Calvert’s first Head Master, Virgil Hillyer, set out to create a system of instruction that would help to redefine the way we view the elementary years.
He believed that children had the capacity to do and learn more, that these early years were essential to the building blocks of learning, and that skills and fundamentals should never be assumed, but practiced and mastered.
Mr. Hillyer believed that each age required a specific pedagogical approach in order to best reach the child at that moment in their development. This, of course, is why students are organized into Ages in Lower School.
In addition to his commitment to teaching fundamentals, and in lockstep with the idea that pedagogy must be a tailored fit to the age of a student, Head Master Hillyer had a deep reverence for the wonder of childhood — and evidence of that is all around us.
Calvert's Lower School (built in the shape of an E for "education") has a unique auditorium with whimsical benches, created to mimic the gargoyles found atop medieval cathedrals. More evidence can be found on lockers, embellished with shapes of toys and characters, and on the rooftop finials. Calvert’s Lower School entry way dons a chandelier with images of witches and other fairytale characters.
Mr. Hillyer’s appreciation for the joys of childhood extended into the classroom as well. Not only did he walk the hallways playing his violin to inspire the children, but in his Distinctive Features of a Calvert Education, he wrote of creating a “game-like spirit in all work — a spirit which gives interest and zest to the work...”