Best Selling Author Angela Duckworth

Best Selling Author Angela DuckworthThe Phoenix Academy is a non-profit school dedicated to educating and inspiring students with learning differences to not only become successful in the classroom, but also in life. Students from kindergarten through 8th grades transfer to Phoenix Academy from public, private and parochial schools from Omaha Metro and Iowa schools and get results from intensive classes, high teacher to student ratios and support staff.

The Phoenix Academy helps students who have fallen behind in reading and or math get back on track with a full curriculum including Spalding Phonics which is heavy in language arts and emphasizes reading, writing, spelling and handwriting. The Shurley English and Read Naturally programs focus on grammar and fluency.  The math program teaches foundational skills through Algebra.

Many of the students who attend the Phoenix Academy were once anywhere from one to two years or more behind in reading and or math.  Students typically are enrolled at the Academy on average two years before returning to a traditional classroom setting. Students return to mainstream schools with not only improved academic skills, but better confidence and self-esteem.

Because the Phoenix Academy is a non-profit private school, tuition is required but covered in part by the school and donations. The Phoenix Academy does not turn any student away because of inability to pay tuition. In order to make sure any and all students who need the help of the Phoenix Academy receive it, an annual luncheon is held to raise both funds and awareness. Proceeds from the Scholarship Luncheon provide tuition assistance to students who would not otherwise be able to afford to attend Phoenix Academy.

This year’s luncheon will be held on February 1st at 11:30 AM at the Hilton Omaha.  In addition to an exceptional speaker, Literacy Award Winners, Charles M. Harper and Eugene Willis Skinner, will be honored.  This year’s keynote speaker is Angela Duckworth, PhD and she joins an esteemed list of guest speakers that include First Lady Laura Bush.


Duckworth is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the New York Times best-selling author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Duckworth is the founder and scientific director of the Character Lab, a nonprofit that advances the science and practice of character development.  Duckworth completed her undergraduate degree in Advanced Studies Neurobiology at Harvard, graduating magna cum laude. She completed an MSc with Distinction in Neuroscience from Oxford University. And she completed her PhD in Psychology as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.

Duckworth’s work focuses on hard work, grit and self-control as opposed to IQ and talent as predictors of success.  As a result of her groundbreaking work, she has been an advisor to the White House, several professional sports teams and Fortune 500 companies.  Duckworth will be speaking to Phoenix Academy luncheon attendees about her work proving that sometimes grit and determination can pay off more than innate talents and skills.


Nancy Liebermann is the Phoenix Academy Executive Director and explains why the luncheon is so important for the school’s success and the relevance of Duckworth as the keynote speaker. “We are a nonprofit private school and while we charge tuition we do not charge the full cost of tuition,” said Liebermann. “The luncheon helps fund families that cannot afford tuition, and it is our goal to make sure any child who is struggling in school not be turned away because of a financial hardship.”

The Phoenix Academy has seen unbelievable growth over the years, another reason why the luncheon’s success is so important. “As we continue to grow we have seen our enrollment sky rocket.  We have added new additions to our building including five classrooms and a multipurpose room.” Liebermann added that the school now has room for 150 students, currently there are 110 enrolled.  Funds from the luncheon also support Summer Kickstart, an abbreviated version of the school’s year long program that is available for children of all ability levels.

Because the Phoenix Academy is a non-profit 501(c) 3 and their budget is fully supported by tuition, occasional grants and donors, the success of the luncheon is vital but so is the message from the keynote speaker. And according to Liebermann, Duckworth and her work with grit could not be more apt. “Our guest speaker and her book on grit is a great fit,” she said. “Children who have gotten behind because of learning differences such as ADHD, dyslexia, poor working memory, and other learning disabilities or those just unable to keep up in the classroom often do not feel smart.” Liebermann said that these students can make it, but that it won’t always be easy.  They will need to work twice as hard as their peers and have a strong essence of grit. “Giving these children the academic tools, and teaching the importance grit lays the ground work for student success.”

Liebermann said that the Phoenix Academy staff recognizes the importance of grit in regard to their students.  “There are four parts to helping our students develop grit as defined by Duckworth; they are interest, practice, purpose and hope.  We strive each day to help our students in these areas.”  Liebermann added that Duckworth also addresses grit and parenting and how to develop it in our children. “It is wonderful to hear the author’s examples of West Point grads and students at Juilliard (to name a few) and why some made it and others did not.  It was not because they were the most talented or brightest, but had grit. We have so many success stories of our own students with grit and they inspire us each and every day.”

To purchase tickets or tables for the luncheon go to or call 402-390-0556.  Table and ticket costs are partially tax-deductible. The Phoenix Academy is located at 1110 N 66th Street, Omaha, Nebraska 68132.  For more information visit  For questions or to schedule a tour, email or call (402) 390-0556.