What brought you to Nantucket?
When considering taking the position of Head of School at the Nantucket New School, the location played a huge role in that decision-making process. Karen and I lived in Maine, and have always been ocean people. Ultimately, the decision to move to Nantucket came down to the size of the school, the community, and our ability to be close to family in the Northeast.
Tell us about your background in education?
I have spent the majority of my career in education. I have a background in journalism, but my passion always aligned with teaching. I spent three of my formative years at the Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire, teaching English and coaching. The past seventeen years we have been at the Fessenden School in Newton, MA. I have been fortunate to have worked in a variety of different positions that were both rewarding and enriching. One of my favorite roles was teaching middle school students to write; there is something intimidating about a blank page and having the ability to design a story that inspires a level of creativity that process is fun to watch as an educator.
What makes the Nantucket New School different from other schools you have worked with?
The size of the school is one of its best attributes. The ability to implement changes to benefit the students is an easy process due to the flexible and agility of systems in place and the quality of the faculty. The overwhelmingly positive parental involvement is another element that is different from other schools. The parents here are committed to supporting all of the students, not just their children.
What is the highlight of your day at school?
That is an easy answer: Morning Meeting. Each week a different grade will lead Morning Meeting for the entire school. The topics change week to week, and the students have a chance to flex their public speaking abilities. For example, this week the Kindergarteners are in charge of the Morning Meeting. The topic is “What do you want to be when you grow up”? We invite parents to watch Morning Meeting, and I am always impressed by watching kids at such a young age have confidence and a high level of comfort while speaking to a crowd of that size.
When you are not working, what are some of your favorite Nantucket activities?
My family and I love being by the water. We recently discovered Great Point, and that has become a go-to for us in the offseason. We are hearty New Englanders; we enjoy being at the beach regardless of the season. We love heading out to watch sunsets bundled up with our blankets. It’s a treat to live in a place that has such beauty all year long.
I have also been coaching girls hockey; they are a talented group of young women that will go on to do great things both on and off the ice in the years to come. I would say the girl’s hockey team is one to watch in the coming years. It is great to see the support from the community for both the girl’s and boy’s hockey programs. The high school games are always packed. It shows how the community makes an effort to be involved with the kids, and always be supportive.
What makes Nantucket different from other places you have lived?
The commitment to the community is something I did not understand until after I moved to Nantucket. People make a choice when they live on an island; it is witnessed in how they care for each other and their relationships. There is a deeper level of commitment to ensuring that we are all there to help each other.
Of all of the positions you have held, which has been your favorite, and why?
Hands down, my current role as Head of School. I have the flexibility to interact with the students on a variety of levels and play a host of roles on a daily basis. We have so many different programs that are available all year long to create an enriching experience, whether it is academic or adventure related.
In addition to our Strong Wings Adventure Camp, which runs during the summer season, we are adding a Strong Minds program for the summer of 2020. This will be an opportunity for kids to sign up to receive academic enrichment in classes of their choosing. From summer reading projects to enhancing your math skills to essay writing experiences, kids will be able to work for a few hours with our faculty in the morning and still have time to enjoy the benefits of a Nantucket summer.
What other fun facts would you like to share with us?
During my high school and college days, I would visit Nantucket for weeks at a time. In exchange for housing, I worked for the original Dreamland, and I would go to the airport to pick up that week’s movie and bring it back for people to enjoy on the big screen.