The Pathfinder School: Traverse City Community School


Honoring wonder, fostering friendships, building understanding!

What is an independent school?

An independent school is a non-profit entity. Independent has two crucial meanings: independent in governance and in finance. The former means that an independent school is defined and pursues its mission as it sees fit.  Because an independent school raises all of its own funding, it is not bound by the same governing as schools receiving public funding.

Why choose Pathfinder?

TEACHING APPROACH - Multiple Intelligences. At Pathfinder, we employ the Multiple Intelligences theory derived by Howard Gardner when teaching. We recognize that all children learn differently and exhibit different levels of intelligence is a series of areas which Gardner has identified through many years of study and observation (i.e. kinesthetic intelligence, artistic intelligence, linguistic intelligence and so on). As a result, teachers at Pathfinder deliver lessons through a number of different avenues ensuring that we reach EACH child in the classroom, taping into a lifelong love of learning and building a school culture that ensures everyone feels "smart".

FACULTY. We have an outstanding, loyal and empowered faculty. We believe relationships are at the heart of lifelong learning and our teachers strive to establish a high degree of understanding with the children in their care. We take seriously our responsibility to develop and share practice with all educators.

CHILDREN. We are committed to the whole child. Experiential, hands-on education means that children on our campus are active and that citizenship is embedded in the academic curriculum.

CAMPUS. Pathfinder is situated on a twenty-two-acre classroom. Our campus comprises nine buildings on a forested hillside overlooking Grand Traverse Bay and Cedar Lake. Our faculty make curricular use of the campus every day.

FAMILIES. The Pathfinder community is deeply invested in the school. Volunteer participation in the daily life of the institution is essential to our identity and mission.

OUTCOMES. Our small size makes individual attention a hallmark. Pathfinder’s student-to-teacher ratio is 8:1. This enables us to produce independent, self-possessed, high-achieving, productive thinkers. In recent years our eighth graders have averaged collegiate-level scores on standardized reading tests. Our alumni enjoy success down the line—in college matriculation and career choices. 

How long has Pathfinder been a part of the Grand Traverse region? 

Pathfinder was founded by Art and Nancy Baxter in 1972, and has been in session on our current forested, lakeside campus since our first day in September of that year.

What happens to Pathfinder alumni?

Pathfinder’s recent alums generally have entered honors programs in high schools, including the magnet Sci-Ma-Tech program in TCAPS, Interlochen Academy and Cranbrook School. Nearly all of the thousands of students who’ve graduated Pathfinder over the past 40 years have gone on to four-year colleges, and have engaged in careers ranging from medicine to higher education, finance and firefighting.

Is financial aid available?

Absolutely.  Many of our families participate in our Financial Aid program. Please see the section called ‘Affording Pathfinder’.


What’s the best way to explore Pathfinder?

Call Caroline Maier, our Director of Admissions, at (231) 995-3800, or send her an e-mail at  Or simply stop by our campus to introduce yourself and arrange a tour. We’re at 11930 South West Bayshore Drive, right off M-22 along the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay, five minutes from downtown Traverse City.