Headmaster’s Newsletter

Although the academics at St. Johnsbury Academy are exceptional across the board, a number of programs truly set us apart. From high-level math to the AP Capstone Diploma, from the culinary arts to fashion design, our Signature Programs ignite passion within our students, often leading them to pursue careers in fields first explored on our campus.

AP Capstone Diploma

AP instructor engaging with students in the classSt. Johnsbury Academy is one of a short list of schools worldwide that offers the AP Capstone Diploma program. SJA was selected to offer the program by the College Board from among more than 18,000 independent and public schools. The other U.S. boarding schools selected to participate during the first year of the program were Choate Rosemary Hall, Taft School, and Deerfield Academy.


Completion of the new AP Capstone Diploma involves a two-course sequence: AP Seminar followed by AP Research. Students who complete the AP Seminar and Research courses and earn scores of three or higher on the subsequent exams, as well as on at least four other AP exams, will earn the AP Capstone Diploma.


Students successfully completing only the AP Seminar and AP Research courses and exams will earn the AP Seminar and Research Certificate. The Academy has a long history of offering AP courses, dating back to the 1980s, and currently offers over 31 academic and fine art AP courses.

Biomedical and Health Services Certificate

Students working in science labThe Biomedical and Health Sciences Program is a combination of guidance, coursework, clinical experience, mentoring, and independent research to provide students with a pre-university experience in allied health. Students who satisfactorily complete all of the requirements will earn a certificate in Biomedical and Health Sciences, as well as develop advantageous mentoring relationships with regional health care providers. Students wishing to pursue the certificate should complete their core science courses (biology, chemistry, and physics) and meet with the program advisor as early in their high school career as possible. Students also take part in an approved internship as part of a clinical or patient care experience and complete a related senior capstone project mentored by the program advisor.


Certificate Requirements

Students must complete the core science courses required for an Academy diploma: biology, chemistry, and physics. For some students, a substitution of the Advanced Placement course in the same discipline may be appropriate.In addition to the core courses, students will select at least two additional electives targeted toward their area of interest, and make sure that their mathematics coursework is appropriately rigorous.


  1. Students must maintain an average of at least an 85% in the courses leading to the certificate.
  2. Students will complete at least 25 contact hours of a clinical or patient care experience, and complete a reflective report within one semester of the conclusion of the experience.
  3. Students will relate their capstone project to their biomedical and health sciences goals, in consultation with the program advisor. The capstone should otherwise meet the requirements of the Academy’s Capstone program.
  4. Students should declare their intention to pursue the certificate to the program advisor no later than the fall of their junior year. Declared students will be expected to participate in one after school meeting each semester. These meetings will be a combination of conversations about progress and experiences, guest speakers, readings from current medical literature, and other opportunities for engagement with health professions.

International Travel and Cultural Exchange

Student on trip to SpainThe Academy offers a wide range of international trips every year. These trips build upon the diversity of cultures experienced by students every day at school here; our resident students represent nearly 30 countries. Whether students want to travel to France or Argentina to improve their French or Spanish skills, learn to make intaglio prints in Italy, head to Southeast Asia, India, or Ghana to take part in service trips, or hike in New Zealand or Hawaii, we have a trip for them! Trips take place during winter or spring breaks, or even over the summer. These trips have become a tradition at the Academy and students who participate in them often find them to be life-changing experiences.


Colwell Center for Global Understanding

The Colwell Center for Global Understanding at the Academy fosters global education. The Colwell Center coordinates diversity programs, cultural events, international exchange programs, and many student trips abroad each year. The Center also sponsors a speaker series featuring academics, diplomats, and other leaders, some of whom come to us from the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. Additionally, it sponsors the Colwell Scholars program in which students meet to discuss world affairs, often in small groups with speakers from the Harvard Weatherhead Center.


The Colwell Center was launched in 2003 through a gift from the Steven B. Colwell family of Carlsbad, California, with the goal of creating a forum for sharing ideas and exploring cultural differences and similarities, leading to better global understanding. Members of the donor family include Steven Colwell II, who graduated from the Academy in 1987; Tyler Colwell of the Class of 1991; and Christopher Colwell, a 2003 graduate.

The Colwell Center also coordinates a number of international and domestic trips focusing on service learning, outdoor adventure, art, and language.


Colwell Center Speaker Series

The Colwell Center partners with the Fellows Program at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs on the Colwell Speaker Series. Speakers are hosted by members of the Academy’s Colwell Scholars program, designed to encourage students’ interest in international issues and cultures, and provide them the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the world.

Post-Calculus Mathematics

Student taking a test in math classThe sky is the limit in St. Johnsbury Academy’s mathematics department. We offer a strong base with Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Precalculus. However, because of our semester-based schedule, which allows a math class to be taken in the course of a semester rather than over a full year, many students move on to take AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC, AP Statistics, or AP Computer Science classes. If this isn’t enough math, particularly motivated students may continue to Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra. Math is cool at St. Johnsbury Academy.


Go to the Mathematics section of our Course Bulletin for details about the many math courses available at St. Johnsbury Academy.


Pre-University Engineering and FIRST Robotics

Pre-University Engineering

SJA’s Design, Innovation, and Engineering program is an elective, multi-faceted system of guidance, coursework, work experience, mentoring, and training that provides students with pre-university experience in engineering and design. Our program aims to increase the number of students—particularly young women and other students traditionally underrepresented in the STeM disciplines—in science and technology programs. Courses include Introduction to Robotics, Introduction to Design, Innovation, and Development, Engineering, Design, and Development, Digital Electronics, Civil Engineering and Architecture, Biotechnical Engineering, and Game Design.


Student at laptop working in robotics classroomFIRST Robotics

SJA’s robotics team coach, Jim Baker, described robotics as, “the only high-school team where everyone can go pro.”


St. Johnsbury Academy participates in the FIRST Robotics competition, an annual national contest in which student compete against the best young engineers in the country.


Key to the SJA team’s preparation is its access to the Academy’s Gregory N. Sweeny Applied Engineering Center. Students design many of the robot’s parts using 3-D computer-aided design software; the designs are then converted using computer-aided machining software and then the required parts are manufactured using the school’s CNC machine. Students are participating fully in designing and machining the parts and gaining expertise in all steps of the process.


Information about each year’s contest is released in early January; teams are given six weeks to build and program their robot. During those weeks, students work on their robots after school every day, and even work on Saturdays. The robots must be made of certain materials and conform to strict size, shape, and other rules.


Gregory N. Sweeny Applied Engineering Center

The Sweeny Applied Engineering Center is a great resource for teachers and students. It consists of a Full Spectrum Laser Cutter, a Makerbot Replicator (3D Printer) with Digitizer (3D Scanner), a manual lathe, a Ganesh Heavy-Duty CNC Milling Machine, six 3Doodlers, electronics supplies, and a collection of tabletop tools. We have recently added three more 3D Printers (Cube 3rd Generation), a Roland tabletop CNC mill, and a vinyl cutter with heat transfer accessories. Software to support student design is available in the space, and students are able to use their iPads for additional design work.


The space has been used by classes from around the school: engineering, psychology, literature, chemistry, calculus, and game design among others. Clubs like robotics, FBLA, and Fashion Design make use of the tools for their projects, and individual students and faculty have used the Maker Space to solve problems and explore design. Biweekly workshops are offered to introduce beginners to the capabilities of the Sweeny Applied Engineering Center in topics like Laser Engraving, Wearable Circuits, Jewelry Making with 3D Printing, Puppet Making, and more!


Applied Engineering Semester logoApplied Engineering Semester

The Applied Engineering Semester is an interdisciplinary program for students interested in concentrated study within the disciplines of computer science, engineering, science modeling, and media studies. This program draws on the resources of the Gregory N. Sweeny Applied Engineering Center and Immersive Learning Laboratory to support collaborative design work in the larger regional community. The physical sciences will serve as the focus for developing skills in programming, 3D modeling, interaction design, and technical communication. As part of the program, students will develop a professional design portfolio and learn leadership.


Students will spend some class days in the lab while other days will be more focused on community connections outside the classroom. They will spend many days off campus on a few extended trips (e.g. Boston) as well as trips to locations in Vermont such as science museums, community maker spaces, and tech startups. The 4-block format gives students the freedom to use time and space differently than in a traditional classroom, constrained by the needs of their projects instead of by a typical class schedule.

SJA Arts Intensive

The St. Johnsbury Academy Fine Arts department attracts creatively curious students from all over the world. Our ​Fine Arts faculty are an integral part of the success of our programs. They are all ​professional working artists and exhibit or perform their work regionally and worldwide.  


A particularly compelling part of our Fine Arts department is our SJA Arts Intensive. ​Our course structure allows art students to take either a wide range of classes for a broad artistic experience or to concentrate their study in one medium for three or four semesters — engaging fully — for an in-depth experience. The SJA Arts Intensive is available in ​both our visual and performing arts courses: Anatomy and Figure Drawing, Printmaking, Photography, Fashion Design, Filmmaking, Digital Design, Clay, Sculpture, Water-based and Oil Painting. Performing Art classes include: Acting, Stagecraft, Ballet, Modern Dance, Popular Dance, Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Strings, and Guitar.


All classes are taught in our beautiful, state of the art, building, the Charles Hosmer Morse Center for the Arts.

SJA Field Semester

Field Semester class in the Vermont woods in the fallSJA Field Semester is a new opportunity for motivated students to pursue field-based research in an outdoor setting. This program is ideal for juniors and seniors interested in concentrated study in environmental or field-based science with its focus on environmental literacy and natural resource management concepts.


Program Features
  • Majority of coursework is outdoors, hands-on, and field-based
  • Based at the Academy’s nearby SJA Field Campus, a 75-acre property with both agricultural and forested areas
  • Fulfills a core science requirement and additional elective credits
  • Offers dual enrollment college credits at Sterling College
  • Provides a solid foundation for pursuing further education and careers in natural resource management, ecosystem science, environmental engineering, and related disciplines


Location — Our Land Lab

The program is based at the Academy’s nearby SJA Field Campus in Danville, a 75-acre property with both agricultural and forested areas. Students will also travel regularly to additional sites around the Northeast Kingdom. This network of sites will provide research stations for collection of long-term ecological data by students and professionals. Outdoor work frames the program as a field-based, hands-on and immersive experience.


Agricultural and forested areas within the property network will be used as working landscapes for larger projects such as farming, forest management, maple sugaring, and recreational trail development. These projects will create opportunities, materials, and products for students and the wider community allowing them to learn the principles of sustainable development and how to manage the landscape accordingly.



Students complete coursework in Ecology, Natural Resource Management, Environmental Literature and Composition, and Social Studies of Sustainability.



3 Credits — Sterling College | Science
This course will provide an overview of core ecological concepts and their application in studying the natural world. Students will understand the cycles and interconnectedness of living things and their environments, and explore ways of studying these systems. Successful completion of this course will prepare students for further study in the environmental field.


Natural Resources Management

Students will get hands on experience in projects surrounding agricultural development and forest management. Working with local farms and landowners, we will work on projects dealing with management of our natural resources to develop sustainable options for utilization in the agricultural and forestry sectors. Projects will include planting and harvesting on organic farms, greenhouse management, soil sampling and mapping, forest assessment and management, and timber utilization and sawmill techniques.


Field Semester logoEnvironmental Literature and Composition

In this Interdisciplinary course, taught in conjunction with Social Studies in Sustainability, students develop reading, writing, and speaking skills in the context of environmental management. Required texts include works of fiction, nonfiction, and research. Composition skills include scientific writing, professional proposals, and public presentations.


Social Studies in Sustainability

In this Interdisciplinary course, taught in conjunction with Environmental Literature and Composition, students explore how people and societies both develop from and shape their landscape. Students explore and analyze the cultural and environmental history, philosophy and cultural geography that shapes a region while exploring and performing human practices necessary for a sustainable development. Required texts include works of fiction, nonfiction, and research. Composition skills include scientific writing, professional proposals, and public presentations.


View the SJA Field Semester Journal

SJA Technical Career Intensive

Teacher instructing student in woodworking shopSt. Johnsbury Academy differs from other schools in many ways, and one of the most compelling is access to our award-winning technical education program. Whether a student is planning to seek work or further education in a technical field or plans to attend college, they are able to take courses within our CTE career clusters: Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources; Architecture/Construction; Business and Management; Hospitality and Tourism; Human Services; and Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics.


Within several of these clusters, students can pursue our SJA Technical Career Intensive: a program that allows interested students to delve deeply into a single area of study. As they work through their chosen Technical Career Intensive Concentration, students obtain impressive experience and credentials that translate into a competitive edge in future study or the pursuit of a career. 


Technical Career Intensive Concentrations:
Automotive Technology Concentration (3 courses)

Construction Concentration (3 courses)

Culinary Arts Concentration (3 courses, including The Hilltopper Restaurant)

Electricity Concentration (3 courses)

Human Services Concentration (3 courses)

Natural Resources Management Concentration (3 courses)

Woodworking Concentration (3 courses)

Welding Concentration (2 courses)

Download our viewbook.