Athens and Watkinsville residents scratch their heads in wonder. What is Heritage Classical Study Center? When asked, Heritage students stutter and shift anxiously to answer this dreaded question. As a local news reporter, I am here to get to the bottom of things. Heritage sounds like a combination of homeschool co-op and private school. No one is confident when talking about it though. I chose to meet with some of the students to learn about their headmaster, Peter Meents.
“Wow! Mr. Meents. It’s been a while. I have a particular memory about him that I think might help you a little bit with what this school is,” says 25-year-old occupational therapist Anna Hall. “My dad told me to steal Mr. Meents’ car. Wait, let me explain. Mr. Meents strongly dislikes France, and he loves his tiny, red Miata. Dad told me to steal his car on the last day of school and have a blue and white decal applied to the car so that it would look like a giant French flag. I, of course, was way too scared, but it would have been hilarious.” It is apparent that the instructor at this Heritage really cares about what he teaches. Curious to know more, I contacted another former student.
Jonathan Shelnutt, a pre-med student at the University of Georgia, explains, “I love Mr. Meents. He is an amazing teacher, but Mr. Meents can’t tolerate his students using the word like. I especially would say the word several times in a sentence. Mr. Meents loves giving his students a hard time, so he would tally on the board how many times I said the wrath-inducing word. Making me more nervous, this would cause me to say like every other word. I rarely fall into the habit now, so I guess I can’t be too mad.” It sounds like Mr. Meents really cares about his students’ ability to speak clearly and intelligently. Okay, I have a bit more of an idea what this place is like, so let’s go on to the next Shelnutt.
“Mr. Meents has a tradition that always surprises his students,” laughs Claire Shelnutt, a sophomore at UGA. “Every year our teacher would make a student tell the story of Christ’s resurrection. Mr. Meents would politely ask a group of students to clear their notebooks and water bottles from their desk. Mr. Meents would then get on the table and reenact Jesus’ resurrection. It is hilarious to watch your high school teacher pretend to be resurrected in the middle of class. It completely takes the students by surprise every time.” He is intentional about making lessons memorable by switching up how he teaches them. Interesting. Let’s hear one more story from a current student at the school.
Camille Shelnutt is a senior in high school who has been at Heritage for six years. “One week I was adjusting the collar of my uniform shirt when I thought it would be funny just to leave it up and see if anyone would notice. I started making eye contact with some of my friends. Once they saw me, they would quietly giggle and put their collars up as well. Soon, the entire school had their collar sticking up. No one thought that Mr. Meents knew what was going on, but after a few minutes of this, Mr. Meents nonchalantly raised his collar to match his wheezing students.” You can see that joking with his students brings him and the class so much joy.
Yes, I get it now. This school is a place full of learning, laughter, and a genuine care for the students. I bet every child wishes that they could go to Heritage. Teachers that really love what they are doing are definitely hard to come by. Heritage Classical Study Center is a unique place for learning in our community.