The best decision for our boys

Audrey Yen Landon School

In this blog post, Landon mother Audrey Yen shares why she and her husband, Dr. Jason Engel '85, consider sending their three boys — alumnus Josh '16 (who was valedictorian of his class and now attends Duke University), senior Andrew '18 and eighth grader Ethan '22 — to Landon the best decision they could have made. Audrey is a senior vice president at CapitalSource and an active member in the Landon community. She has served as a parent chair for the Landon Fund, as a two-time room parent, as a member of the school's Strategic Planning Committee, and as a frequent volunteer at events such as the annual Azalea Garden Festival and Greens Sale.

Landon has been a great experience for my kids, but for very different reasons. All three of our boys entered Landon in the Middle School: Josh came over as an eighth grader, and Andrew and Ethan both started in sixth grade. Without a doubt, it was the best decision my husband Jason and I could have made for our kids' education and investing in each one of them as a person.

What I find so amazing about the school is that my three kids are so different — personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests — but they each found their place at Landon. They are very, very happy. Seeing them mature and become active citizens in their community has been the biggest thrill for me.

Josh is happy at Duke, and his experience at Landon both inside and outside the classroom, really prepared him to thrive in college. That has been so comforting to me as a parent. Josh didn't even tell me — I saw it on his social media — that in college he is writing restaurant reviews for Spoon University because he loves restaurants and food and is actively involved in the Special Olympics. I was impressed because without his mother or anyone else prodding him, he chose to become an active citizen and help out. I credit Landon with that.

Audrey Yen and Engel boys

You hear about the teacher-coach-mentor model, and sometimes take it for granted. Having had three boys go through, it's been great to see that as the Middle School teachers get to know Ethan, they also know our family dynamic because they already know Josh and Andrew. They can pull it all together and help make Ethan a better student and a better person.

When we first joined Landon, one of the first communications from [then Head of Middle School] Doug Norry was about "How can our children learn from their mistakes if we are afraid to let them make mistakes?" I read that after I was driving to Landon on my second run of the morning to drop off books or homework that Andrew had forgotten, and it took a while to sink in. Then when Ethan joined Landon in sixth grade, Jason dropped him off at school. I got a text message from Ethan a few minutes before school started saying that he had forgotten his shoes. I asked him what he was going to do and he said, "I've got it covered." An eighth grader who Ethan didn't know saw that Ethan didn't have shoes and shared an extra pair with him. That said two things to me: At Landon, there is this real idea of brotherhood and looking out for your classmates. And then it spoke to Ethan's ability to adapt and figure things out on his own. That's when it hit me: "Oh, this is what Doug Norry was talking about. I should just let my kids make mistakes and figure things out, and we're all better for it."

Another thing that speaks volumes about Landon is the relationships that Josh, Andrew and Ethan have with their teachers. When Josh came back from Duke for winter break, he spent the first two days at Landon, catching up with [Performing Arts Chair] Earl Jackson and [English teacher] David Smith. I would never have done that with my high school teachers. [Spanish teacher] Jeremy Norman knows all three of my kids. He sent me an email about Ethan and I was, of course, assuming the worst. But it said, "I think Ethan has all this potential that's not tapped yet." So we talked about how he could be a better student, a better person, a better role model. The teachers are so accessible, and they really care about my kids.

The variety of the experience at Landon is amazing. Andrew is this kind soul who loves to paint, but then he also plays rugby. Other parents from the area know Josh is at Duke, assume he does a sport, and ask me, "What does he play?" I say, "The saxophone."

When Josh came into Landon, he loved baseball and basketball, but he found this new passion playing the sax, and Mr. Jackson became a mentor to him.

Ethan loves sports, especially football and lacrosse, so he is all in at Landon in that respect. But the Landon Middle School teachers have also done a wonderful job igniting in Ethan this love for reading and learning and doing well in school. My kids have always loved math, so I was shocked when Ethan told me his favorite subject is English. He would sit at the dinner table and tell me about all the books he read.

You have these preconceived ideas of how Landon will be and how your children will be there, but Landon exceeded our expectations. We love Landon.