The Kinkaid School:
Developing Students with Honesty, Responsibility,
Respect, and Kindness Since 1906
Photography by Quy Tran
The Kinkaid School is a college preparatory school for pre-kindergarten (Pre-K) through twelfth-grade students. Its mission is to promote educational excellence, personal responsibility, and balanced growth and thereby help its students discover and develop their talents and achieve their best potentials. The School is committed to creating well-rounded students who demonstrate success in academics, athletics, the arts, and extra-curricular activities. It also helps its students develop strong moral character, leadership abilities, and a commitment to service and philanthropy. The School’s core values are honesty, respect, responsibility, and kindness. At The Kinkaid School, the whole child is taught, and academics go hand-in-hand with character development.
The faculty teaches from a foundational belief that every student is, and will continue to be, a part of a community, and therefore, seeks to strengthen their moral responsibility and service to it. There is a rich history here. Established in 1906, The Kinkaid School is now the oldest nonsectarian, coeducational day school in Houston. It was founded in the dining room of Margaret Kinkaid’s home on the corner of San Jacinto Street and Elgin Street. Kinkaid’s teachings were built on the values of concern for others and an insistence that her students participate in community service. These teachings helped develop the students as a whole and continue to be the foundation for The Kinkaid School today.
When she started, Kinkaid only taught seven students of various ages, but it didn’t take long before her excellence in childhood education became known. Soon, students were coming from all over to learn from her. By 1920, the school had 125 students and eight full-time teachers. By 1924, the growing student body made it necessary to create the first board of trustees. Since then, The Kinkaid School has continued to grow into one of the leading preparatory schools in the country. With such a strong heritage and core values, it is necessary for The Kinkaid School to have strong leadership. After an extensive search, Dr. Andrew Martire was unanimously selected to become the headmaster in 2013. It was with great pleasure that CKW LUXE sat down with Martire to ask him a few questions about The Kinkaid School as well as garner his insight into the developmental needs of today’s youth.
CKW Luxe: Tell us a little about yourself. What inspired you to be the headmaster for The Kinkaid School?
Dr. Andrew Martire: I am proud to come from a family of educators. My mother, stepfather, and in-laws all were educators in independent schools in Baltimore, and my father, a physician, was an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine as well. I saw how much they loved their work, and that definitely influenced my career path. For a period of a few years, my stepfather, Meb Turner, and I were both headmasters of Baltimore independent schools at the same time; I was at Calvert School and he was at Boys’ Latin School. Calvert is a wonderful school, and I would only leave Calvert for an exceptional, unique opportunity, and I have found Kinkaid to be just that. I was drawn by the School’s commitment to excellence in the arts, athletics, and academics, as well as by the caliber and character of the people I met when I interviewed. I was headmaster at Calvert for nine years, and this is my third year at Kinkaid.
CKW: The Kinkaid School has a proud heritage that has been successfully teaching students for 110 years. What would you say has attributed to this success?
AM: Kinkaid has been successful for 110 years because of its commitment to, as our mission statement says, “balanced growth.” Our founder, Mrs. Kinkaid, was well ahead of her time by focusing on a holistic education. We strongly believe in the value—actually the necessity—of a well-rounded education in academics, arts, and athletics: the three A’s. We also seek to provide both depth and breadth in all of our programs so that students can try a lot of different classes and activities while also choosing to pursue a particular interest at a very high level. Our core values of honesty, respect, responsibility, and kindness are an integral part of our daily life and serve as foundational elements of a Kinkaid education.
One of the hallmarks of the School has always been our commitment to outstanding teaching and learning environments. In the mid-1950s, the trustees had a great deal of foresight in moving the School from its Richmond Avenue location to here in Piney Point, which was basically a rural area at the time. The trustees knew, however, that the School needed room to grow in terms of enrollment and facilities, and the 40 acres in Piney Point were ideal. In 2010, Kinkaid was fortunate to have the opportunity to purchase an additional 25 contiguous acres, and we are in the process of determining the best uses for that beautiful “west campus” property. Preliminary plans include an outdoor education center, athletic fields, tennis courts, and an additional entrance to the School.
CKW: Please describe a typical day in the life of a student at The Kinkaid School.
AM: Kinkaid, like many independent schools, is fortunate to be a Pre-K through twelfth-grade school. As such, a typical day varies by division. Yet, regardless of age, our students are exposed to extraordinary age-appropriate learning opportunities and experiences. Many of these experiences are defining to Kinkaid and the balance we strive to ensure for our students.
Some courses that are constant across all divisions for all students will be language arts/English, math, world language, social studies/history, physical education, and the arts. In each division, there is also a weekly assembly and an advisory period (which is not identified as such in Lower School).
Our Lower School (LS) students (grades Pre-K to fourth) begin the day at 8:00 a.m. with time in their homeroom and then prepare for the morning news. This daily news broadcast is led by our fourth-grade students and is streamed live to every LS classroom. Afterwards, students will experience language arts, writer’s and math workshop classes, physical education (daily), lunch, recess, and special subjects (among others—Spanish, science, art, music, and technology in The Launch Pad—which is our Lower School Maker Space). The official school day ends at 3:00 p.m. with optional after-school clubs and activities.
In Middle School (fifth to eighth grades), students begin the morning with optional tutorials, then at 8:00 a.m. they dive headfirst into their classes, which include English, math, science, world language (French, Spanish, Latin), history, arts (fine, visual or performing arts including drama, orchestra, band, debate/speech), and athletics/physical education. The typical school day ends around 3:30 p.m. with optional after-school clubs and activities to follow.
In Upper School (ninth to twelfth grades), students experience a modified block schedule. Similar to Middle School, each morning begins with optional tutorials, and the first-class period typically begins at 8:30 a.m. Most days, classes are 45 minutes in length. Twice a week, classes meet for 85 minutes. Students in the Upper School will typically have English, history, math, science, world language, and electives in the arts. The day ends with athletics or optional clubs/activities. Many students also participate in both athletics and fine arts. Those who take fine arts and rehearse outside of the school day, do so once athletics is finished.
In short, Kinkaid students at all levels have a plethora of unique and enriching learning opportunities.
CKW: The Kinkaid School seeks to develop the whole student in academics, the arts, athletics, and extracurricular activities. How do you teach students to balance their areas of learning and interest?
AM: This is fundamental to our philosophy and core to how we approach the student experience. Our whole-student focus is a vitally important aspect to our school and one of the things that differentiates Kinkaid. Within that approach, balance is paramount to ensure that our students are able to experience a diversity of the School’s offerings.
The vast majority of our Upper School students participate in both the arts and athletics in addition to their rigorous course loads. These students also take on leadership experiences as peer mentors, serve on Governing Council, Fine Arts Board, Honor Council, Community Service Council, and/or lead clubs. Time management and communication are the keys to helping students maintain balance.
We are fortunate, especially in the arts, to offer students opportunities to be both explorers and experts. This exploration begins in the early years in Lower School and continues throughout. This exposure allows students an opportunity to identify a new passion and to pursue it more intently during their time in Upper School, in our elective fine arts courses or Dance Company, Theatre Company, Encore (singing ensemble), Band, or Orchestra, which are audition-based groups. Some students also further explore their newfound passions during Interim Term, which is a three-week time in January where we offer international travel experiences, senior class career development, and elective courses of study. Interim Term also serves as a friendlier transition to the daily rigor and demand after winter break as students prepare for the second semester. Through advisory and assembly times (both of which occur weekly), the School focuses on opportunities to educate students about maintaining this balance. In the Middle School years, courses specifically related to study skills and executive functioning are taught. In the Upper School, these lessons occur during the weekly advisory period. This early preparation is a strong foundation. Intentional communications and community focus on wellness and nutrition are also key. Special guest presenters/speakers on related topics, which occur in assembly or during grade-level meetings, are also helpful. Finally, our divisional school counselors, deans (in the Upper School), and other support staff, also help students, faculty, and families work closely to manage course load and the demands. A major focus on the whole child approach also centers on the understanding and application of our core values—honesty, responsibility, respect, and kindness. These values are infused into the curriculum and learning experiences and also serve as a reminder of the expectations of all community members.
CKW: The arts are an integral part of the curriculum at The Kinkaid School. How important is it for students to participate in the arts? What do they gain from this participation?
AM: The arts are an important part of each student’s education at The Kinkaid School because the arts are essential to human development. In addition to fostering our students’ aesthetic sensibilities and artistic talents, our fine arts curriculum develops fundamental skills. Our arts faculty teaches students how to see, experiment, invent, and imagine in ways that are an inherent part of the creative process. Beginning arts courses foster basic motor, critical-thinking, and communication skills. They provide opportunities to co-operate, collaborate, and improve self-confidence. More advanced courses allow students to develop technique and create works that are rich in emotion, atmosphere, and their own personal voice or vision. By studying the arts, students also gain an appreciation of our rich and diverse cultural heritage. Our students are encouraged to participate in the arts every step of their educational journey through Kinkaid, starting with the youngest Pre-K students and extending to unique opportunities through Middle and Upper School. Not only do the students gain from their participation, but the entire Kinkaid community is enriched by the outstanding performances that are synonymous with the School.
CKW: Athletics seem equally important to The Kinkaid School. How do they help with your students’ development?
AM: We emphasize the importance of athletics as an integral part of the three A’s. Athletics provide our students with many important benefits, including team participation and leadership skills. They also instill a respect for the body and great pride in the School. Research shows a positive relationship between brain function and physical activity. Providing physical activity every day for nearly every student helps in that area. For Upper School, the links between stress relief and physical activity are well-known and documented. The team aspect of sports is inherently positive to the current working world where group work and projects are benefited from adults who have had to play different roles in a team sport environment. Athletics help students learn about resilience and handling pressure. Additionally, they teach students how to subjugate individual goals and strive for team goals. And, they provide a “stressful” environment where students can learn poise and exhibit sportsmanship while living the School’s core values.
CKW: How does Kinkaid motivate students to get involved and help address community issues?
AM: Some would argue that having clear expectations and requirements do not necessarily equate with motivation. However, we have found that our commitment to our four core values: honesty, responsibility, respect, and kindness, along with the tenet of our mission, which is personal responsibility, are embodied in the expectations for members of our community. Intentional opportunities to serve and partner with our community begin in our Lower School supporting older adults, preparing meals for those in need, and gathering resources to support the wider community. For example, Kinkaid partners with Kids’ Meals, a Houston based nonprofit that provides meals to underserved children, and each year the Kindergarten students help make over 2,000 sandwiches for the organization. The early introduction to service opens students’ eyes to the community outside of Kinkaid. In Middle School, we offer grade-wide days of service in addition to the aforementioned opportunities. In Upper School, students have an annual community service requirement. The caveat is that the requirement must be a student-initiated and school-sponsored experience. This is the one way that we ensure that experiences are meaningful and involve face-to-face interaction and partnership with those served.
In addition, faculty are also encouraged to participate alongside our students in these service efforts. Each year we support hundreds of service efforts throughout Greater Houston, some of which we have had longstanding relationships with, for example, Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity. The School has been involved with Habitat for Humanity since 2008. Every other year the Upper School raises $70,000 and spends multiple weekends building a house for a family in need. In addition, during the summers for the past 42 years, the School hosts the Engineering, Math and Science Summer Institute (EMSI), which brings science, math, and technology enrichment to minority students from schools in low-income areas across our city. Cumulatively, EMSI has served approximately 2,500 students over the past four decades. EMSI is a sequential, intensive, and challenging four-year academic program that begins the summer after eighth grade and is designed to encourage students to pursue college or university educations, and, in particular, careers in science and engineering. We are fortunate to have students, families, and employees who have a heart for others and are intentional in their efforts to serve the wider community. The Community Service Council and our divisional leaders for community service efforts also help communicate and organize some of these unique learning experiences.
CKW: What advice would you give to parents who are trying to teach their children the importance of giving back?
AM: I think it is very easy amidst life’s hectic pace to get immersed in one’s own activities and lose sight of “the big picture.” We live in an interconnected world, and I think it is important that families take time to discuss local, national, and international events and have an overall awareness about what is happening in current events. Parents have an incredible opportunity, if not an obligation, to speak with their children about the importance of giving back, whether that means helping to beautify the local community, raising money for a worthy global cause, volunteering at a hospital or shelter, or playing music at a senior center. Even a few short hours of a parent and child doing a community service activity together can go a long way to inculcating the value of service. And, it teaches our children about understanding, empathy, and compassion while helping them to understand their place in the larger community. I am also a big believer in “the more you give, the more you get.” It feels good to give and to serve others!
CKW: What final words of advice would you like to give our readers, children, and adults to inspire them to be world changers?
AM: Pursue your passions, work hard, build relationships, and do the right thing and you WILL have a positive impact on society. One more piece of advice—that I need to follow myself—as life gets busier and busier, take time to recharge and have fun, especially with family!
The Kinkaid School had its beginnings in Margaret Kinkaid’s living room. Today it sits on 65 acres of land where it is given room to grow and expand for its ever-growing student body and curriculum. Students at The Kinkaid School benefit from a number of courses and curricular activities that serve to grow the whole student. Through its 110 years of success, The Kinkaid School has never wavered from Margaret Kinkaid’s original forward-thinking approach of holistic education to create well-rounded students with a sense of community and of giving back. She would be proud to know how well her legacy has survived.