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Sandra F. Birdsong Center for Academic Excellence

Our goal at Nansemond Suffolk Academy is to ensure the success of all students in a challenging environment. The Sandra F. Birdsong Center for Academic Excellence (CAE), funded by the TowneBank Foundation, is designed to lessen the gap between a student’s achievement and ability level through explicit, responsive teaching and targeted research-based interventions.  

The center provides supplemental learning support for Pre K- 12 students to maximize each student’s capacity to learn. The center also provides professional development opportunities to faculty and staff to further their understanding of learning differences and differentiated instruction, which includes utilizing student’s strengths, learning styles, and interest to provide the appropriate level of challenge for each student. The CAE operates under the leadership of the Director of Academic Affairs as well as two instructors and one part-time reading specialist. All staff members work collaboratively with administrators, teachers, parents and students to develop a plan for increased student learning.   


By offering individualized support, The Center for Academic Excellence prepares and empowers students to pursue a challenging curriculum, a college education and beyond. The following services are offered:
  • Reading Intervention for Qualifying Students (Lower and Middle School- provided by Nansemond-Suffolk Academy)
  • Phonemic Awareness Testing and Intervention for Qualifying Students (Lower School- provided by Nansemond-Suffolk Academy)
  • Study Skills Classes (Middle and Upper School-provided by Nansemond Suffolk Academy)
  • Academic Liaison Resource  (Upper School- provided by Nansemond-Suffolk Academy)
  • Language and Motor Development (Provided by private Speech Language Therapist Heather Holt- Main Campus and Dawn Kidd- Harbour View Campus)
  • Occupational Therapy (Provided by Helping Hands Therapy Services,  PLLC)
  • Educational Therapy (Provided by private licensed Educational Therapists)
  • Content Area Tutoring and Wilson Reading Program (Provided by private tutors)
  • Learning Plans (Psychoeducational testing monitoring and testing recommendations- provided by Nansemond-Suffolk Academy in collaboration with SPS for qualifying students or with private therapists)
  • Academic Instructional Coaching  (Faculty and Staff- provided by Nansemond Suffolk Academy)


List of 3 members.

  • Photo of Frances Chambers

    Frances Chambers 

    Director of Academic Affairs
  • Photo of Laurie Shelly

    Laurie Shelly 

    CAE Reading Instructor
  • Photo of Michael Biehl

    Michael Biehl 

    CAE Instructor

Referral Process

Students may be referred to the Center for Academic Excellence by the division heads, the director of admissions, counselors or teachers. If your child is struggling academically and a learning difference has been diagnosed or suspected, please contact The Center for Academic Excellence to begin the referral process.  
Nansemond-Suffolk Academy is a coeducational, college preparatory private school located in Suffolk, VA. Pre-kindergarten - Grade 12.