Anne Coleman Chambers

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Anne Coleman Chambers
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Anne Coleman

1939 or 1940
Baltimore, Maryland
CitizenshipUnited States of America
Alma materUniversity of Maryland, Sherwood High School (Maryland)
Known forFounder of Indian Creek School

Anne Coleman Chambers (1939 or 1940–2020) was an American educator who founded Indian Creek School, a coeducational, Private school in Crownsville, Maryland, and served as the school's first headmistress from 1973 until 2010. Her focus on human development and research-based education methods affected pre-K–12 education at Indian Creek School and other private schools in Maryland.

Early Life and Education

Anne Coleman Chambers was born Anne Coleman in Baltimore, Maryland, to Tracy Coleman Sr., owner of a construction company in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Virginia Coleman. Coleman Chambers was raised in Colesville, Maryland and attended Sherwood High School (Maryland) in Sandy Spring. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, before becoming a teacher in the Prince George's County Public Schools, Maryland, public school system in 1963.[1][2]

Founding Indian Creek School

While teaching and counseling in the Prince George's County public school system, Coleman Chambers grew frustrated with what she viewed as excess bureaucracy, class sizes that were too large, and students reaching high school with insufficient reading and math preparation. As a result, she co founded Indian Creek School in 1973 with Rebecca Randolph, another Prince George's County public school teacher, and her brother, Tracy "Punky" Coleman, Jr., with 33 original students in pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade.[1] The school began with four teachers.[3] Coleman Chambers became the first headmistress of Indian Creek School, a role she would fill until 2010, and Randolph served as Assistant Director, later becoming principal of the Indian Creek Lower School.

Coleman Chamber's parents donated land for the new school and covered the mortgage payments the first year, and Tracy Coleman, Jr. was involved in the school's construction on a 17-acre campus on Evergreen Road in Crownsville, Maryland, near Annapolis, Maryland. Tracy Coleman, Jr. would also serve as Indian Creek School's first Director of Transportation and Physical Plant. Indian Creek School had an initial operating budget of $40,000.[2]

Headmistress of Indian Creek School

In 1977, Indian Creek added a middle school, increasing enrollment to 184. By 1977, the school had four buildings, six buses, 22 staff members, and a budget of $250,000.[2][4] The middle school graduated its first eighth-grade class in 1979, and by 1981, enrollment at Indian Creek School had increased to 230 students.[5][6]

Coleman Chambers was a longtime friend of Dr. Jane R. Snider, an educator who in 1982 founded a consulting practice in Annapolis working with children facing difficulties in learning to read. When Snider, who founded Summit School (Maryland), another private school in Maryland, at first encountered problems obtaining county government approval, Coleman Chambers let her open the school in trailers on three acres of land behind Indian Creek. Summit School later moved to Upper Marlboro, Maryland and then, in 1995, to its current location in Edgewater, Maryland.[1]

In 1983, beginning with the class of 1993, class size was doubled, to 40 students per grade.

In 1993, a board of trustees was established and received ownership of the school to facilitate future institutional growth.

Indian Creek's Evergreen Campus building gradually expanded, from about 5,000 square feet of space in 1973, to about 80,000 square feet by the start of the 2000s.[5] This included a doubling of space in 1998, as Alumni Hall, locker rooms, and fourteen classrooms were added.With a staff of over 100, Indian Creek School was by 2004 one of the largest employers in Crownsville.[3]

Indian Creek's first high school class began in August 2004, with 16 students occupying one room on the Lower and Middle School campus. Coleman Chambers did not originally plan to found a high school, focusing instead on pre-K through eight-grade students. However, eight-graders leaving Indian Creek often found it difficult to find the right high school, and many parents wanted an Indian Creek high school, believing there to be no high school in the area with a similar educational philosophy.[7][5] Population growth in Anne Arundel County, Maryland|Anne Arundel County first made this expansion feasible in the early 2000s.[3] The first high school class moved to vacant space at the Crownsville Hospital Center in October 2004.[8]

In 2004, Indian Creek School began construction of a $17 million, 96,000-square-foot Upper School building on a second campus in Crownsville, five miles away from the original campus.[5] The site of the new campus, at 114 acres, was once a tobacco farm owned by the Durner family, a portion of which was set aside for conservation.[9] Indian Creek's high school students moved to the new campus in September 2006, and the school graduated its first high school class, of 29 students, in 2008.[8] A road constructed to provide access to the new Upper School building was named after Coleman Chambers; its street address is 1500 Anne Chambers Way.[3]

Eileen Mattingly served as the first Upper School Head until 2009, when she stepped down to teach in the humanities. After a national search, she was succeeded by Gerard Connolly, who had previously served as head of Severn School in Severna Park, Maryland and had worked to establish a charter school in Washington, D.C. In 2009, the Indian Creek Upper School had 170 students.

Lower School Head and Indian Creek co founder Rebbecca Randolph retired in 2007. In spring 2010, Coleman Chambers stepped down as headmistress of Indian Creek School, after more than 37 years in that role.Daugherty, Scott. "Class of 2010: Indian Creek pushed student 'to do new things': School's headmistress to step down - to teach". McClatchy - Tribune Business News May 27, 2010. Retrieved December 3, 2020 – via Proquest.</ref> She taught psychology and human development at the Indian Creek Upper School, which then had 184 students, for one year before retiring in 2011.

Educational Philosophy

Coleman Chambers and Randolph based Indian Creek School's educational approach on research in neuroscience and cognitive development. In 2001, the school began working with Schools Attuned, an education research nonprofit. Since then, the school has trained its teachers in the All Kinds of Minds, neuroscience-based program, which focuses on understanding different learning styles and promoting collaboration between students, parents, and teachers. As part of the approach, students have a different teacher for each subject, and a learner profile is developed for each student as they progress each year.

At the Indian Creek Middle School, Coleman Chambers created extended day-care into the early evening, before this existed at many other schools, after research indicated it was healthy for students.[4] At the Upper School, she scheduled the school day to take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., to best match the circadian rhythms of teenage students and support intellectual and emotional development.

Coleman Chambers developed a human development curriculum influenced by research in developmental psychology and addressing topics including civil discourse, emotional maturity, drugs, sexuality, and external influences on students as they grow up. The program was also designed to support different children's different needs. After establishing human development education at Indian Creek, Coleman Chambers also helped develop the human development program at Severn School.[4]

In 2001, Coleman Chambers established a free, three-week summer day camp called Students Taking Academic Responsibility, or STARs, for disadvantaged middle school-aged kids in the Annapolis area, including from Annapolis's Subsidized housing in the United States. Coleman Chambers saw the camp as part of Indian Creek School's mission of giving back to the local community, particularly wanting to help kids who could otherwise be missed in large classroom settings. In the camp's human development classes, campers discussed decision-making, college, and challenges facing kids their age. After starting with about 20 campers in 2001, by 2010 there were 56 campers, and STARs had moved to the Indian Creek Upper School campus. For the first time, in 2010, donations paid for the program, which was previously paid for by the school. STARs also began offering scholarships to Indian Creek School to some campers; full tuition in that year was $21,000. Former Indian Creek School student Will Bartz became involved with STARs in 2005, after leaving his job as a financial adviser, where he had grown unsatisfied, and returning to Coleman Chambers for advice. By 2010, Bartz had become director of the STARs program, also teaching math and coaching basketball at Indian Creek.[10]

Under Coleman Chambers, a "Character Counts" program was developed at the Indian Creek Lower School to impart values including respect, kindness, honesty, and responsibility, while middle school students began starting each year with fall camping trips, designed to promote team-building and student-faculty interaction.[11]

In an interview with The Baltimore Sun in 1981, Coleman Chambers distinguished Indian Creek School from more college preparatory-focused primary schools in valuing a wide variety of student goals and interests. She noted that preschool students were admitted on a first-come, first-serve basis, rather than based on test results.[12]

Under Coleman Chambers and Randolph, Indian Creek School began teaching Spanish and computer classes, starting at the kindergarten level, before this was common. Indian Creek also developed a focus on project-based learning, believing it to improve knowledge retention. In 2014, the school established a program called Blended Learning at Indian Creek, or BLinc, in which faculty offer supplemental courses with some in-person teaching and some online, asynchronous components. Beginning with only two summer courses, the BLinc program expanded to 22 courses offered year-round in 2016.

Alternative Schools Movement

The Free school movement in American education took place from around 1965 to 1973. This was an unstructured social movement consisting of the founding of independent schools in opposition to established public and private schools, with a particular focus on students' differing needs. Free schools in wealthy or middle class white areas tended to focus on younger students and place greater emphasis on student-motivated learning and the development of interpersonal relationships, while schools in urban areas with more Black students tended to place greater emphasis on social justice, student political power, and Afrocentric curricula. Tensions existed between these two strains occasionally, as the former, with a more separatist orientation, were criticized as avoiding real problems in American society, while the latter were criticized as imposing political beliefs onto children. However, most free schools included intellectual elements of both of these movement wingsThe number of free schools founded each year in the United States peaked in 1970, and the total number of free schools peaked in 1970.

Free schools often faced financial difficulties. Some were supported by wealthy benefactors or earned income by selling crops or craft goods. Most used a sliding scale for tuition. As a result, many struggled to remain financially sustainable, and most either closed, with an average lifespan of about three years, or else survived by growing more traditional over time.

Personal Life and Death

Coleman Chambers was a longstanding singer with the Music_of_Annapolis#Annapolis_Chorale, contributing to her support of the arts at Indian Creek School.[4]

Coleman Chambers had one son, Kenny, from a marriage with Bill Chambers, which ended in divorce. She died on October 12, 2020 at the age of 80, in Hagerstown, Maryland.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Rasmussen, Frederick. "Anne C. Chambers, an educator who was co-founder of Indian Creek School in Crownsville, dies". The Baltimore Sun October 24, 2020. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Schwab, Priscilla. "People in Business: Back-to-Basics School Created by Enterprise". Nation's Business. Vol. 65, no. 12. p. 91 December 1977. Retrieved December 3, 2020 – via Proquest.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Around Crownsville: School creates a new road in Crownsville". The Capital. p. B3 March 11, 2005. Retrieved December 3, 2020 – via Proquest.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Indian Creek Co-Founder Anne Chambers Will Be "Missed But Remembered With Great Fondness"". The Pasadena Voice October 19, 2020. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Nitkin, Karen. "Adding spaces for more faces; Indian Creek to celebrate opening of new building to accommodate school's inclusion of upper grades". The Baltimore Sun September 10, 2006. Retrieved December 3, 2020 – via Proquest.
  6. Haas, Jim. "Complaints and all, teachers look forward to new school year". The Baltimore Sun. p. 4 August 30, 1981. Retrieved December 3, 2020 – via Proquest.
  7. Roth, Heather. "Setting traditions Indian Creek set to graduate its first high school class". The Capital May 28, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2020 – via Proquest. 'We looked around and we didn't see a school that was philosophically comparable to our school,' Ms. Nagey said.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Roth, Heather. "Setting traditions Indian Creek set to graduate its first high school class". The Capital May 28, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2020 – via Proquest.
  9. Nagey, Elaine. "Around Crownsville: Indian Creek dedicates new Upper School". The Capital September 15, 2006. Retrieved December 3, 2020 – via Proquest.
  10. Hartley, Eric. "The Capital, Annapolis, Md., Eric Hartley column: Eric Hartley: Helping kids 'see that light' at the tunnel's end". McClatchy - Tribune Business News July 11, 2010. Retrieved December 3, 2020 – via Proquest.
  11. Nagey, Elaine. "Around Crownsville: Students and faculty excited about new school year". The Capital September 5, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2020 – via Proquest.
  12. Low, Stuart. "Popularity defies price of private primary schools". The Baltimore Sun. p. AR1 October 25, 1981. Retrieved December 3, 2020 – via Proquest. 'Our intent is simply to make our students competent to go into whatever they want to go into,' Anne Chambers, director of the Indian Creek School said. 'Perhaps the college-preparatory emphasis here is not as strong as at certain Baltimore independent schools.'

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