This past weekend, St. Andrew's celebrated its alumni working in education at the School's annual Women's Network Weekend. The theme of this year's conference was "Inspiring Teachers: A Celebration of Excellence in Education," and alumni, parents, and friends joined us on campus for keynote talks, workshops, and an alumnae panel, all which centered around the act and the art of teaching.
"How do we tell this unmeasurable and powerful story of St. Andrew's and its great legacy: the cultivation of a tradition of excellence in teaching that literally touches, informs, and inspires the lives of tens of thousands of students across the country and the world?," said Women's Network Chair Elizabeth Roach. "One way is to tell the story of this weekend and the extraordinary people who congregated on this campus, took time out of their busy personal and professional lives, and travelled from California, Colorado, Texas, Florida, New England, Colombia and everywhere in between to connect with the students of today."
"What an amazing thirty-six hours!," said Sis Johnson P'11. "With informative and inspiring programs, new and renewed connections, as well as meaningful individual conversations, the Women's Network has created a uniquely worthwhile platform for a reunion. My daughter Alice '11 and I were delighted that we could participate."
The weekend began with a keynote talk by Chloe Taft Kang '01, which she delivered the duPont Memorial Chapel on Friday afternoon. In her talk, titled "How Steelworkers Taught Me the ABCs and Other Lessons from the Rust Belt," Taft Kang shared what she has learned from the ethnographic research she has conducted among steelworkers in Bethlehem, PA. This research formed the basis of her dissertation for her Ph.D. in American studies. "The big question that brought me [to Bethlehem] was: How does a former industrial community make sense of massive economic change?," Taft Kang recalled. "I lived in the community full time for six months and visited frequently over several years. Though I went to study the lived experience of economic transition, I found that learning is itself a lived experience, and is a messy, nuanced and sometimes uneasy one. One of the most important lessons I learned was about the ways in which education expands far beyond formal institutions, beyond test scores and diplomas." Taft Kang received her Ph.D. from Yale in 2014, and currently serves as a lecturer at Lake Forest College, outside of Chicago. She is the author of From Steel to Slots: Casino Capitalism in the Postindustrial City. You can watch Chloe's talk on our Vimeo page.
On Friday evening, Emer O'Dwyer '92 delivered the weekend's second keynote address. O'Dwyer's talk, titled "'Something Precious in Every Place': History as Preoccupation and Profession", explored the larger lessons she hopes students get out of the East Asian studies classes she teaches at Oberlin College. "What do I hope students will take away from my classes?," she asked. "What can we hope for students to retain from one for-credit course in a college career of some 32 or more courses?" Using four primary source documents she teaches in her East Asian history survey courses, O'Dwyer highlighted the following "life principles": "Celebrate the power of your mind, as 12th century monk Eisai would have you do. Investigate all things in the matter of the Neo-Confucians. Demonstrate your devotion to righteous acts. Be good to your teachers, parents, siblings, and friends. Read literature and talk about it. Practice your French, Spanish, Chinese with a native speaker. Read history and talk about it. Be curious, and finally, find something precious in each place." You can watch O'Dwyer's talk on our Vimeo page.
On Saturday morning, students, faculty and guests gathered in Engelhard Hall for a panel discussion with alumnae, all of whom work or have worked in education. Panelists included:
- Niki Smith '90, Director of Academic Programs, Prep for Prep, New York, NY
- Tammy Small '93, Dean of Admissions & Enrollment, Oliver Scholars, New York, NY
- Hadley Roach '07, Dean of Curriculum & Instruction, Seventh Grade English Teacher, North Star Academy, Newark, NJ
- Frances Ramirez '03, Senior HR Generalist, Comcast Cable Communications, Philadelphia, PA
- Kathryn Orfuss '07, Instructional Coach, Fifth Grade English Teacher, North Star Academy, Newark, NJ
- Anna Hickman '02, PreK Principal, Ingenuity Prep Public Charter School, Washington, D.C.
- Grace Gahagan '10, Graduate Student, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, NY
- Giselle Furlonge '03, Dean of Diversity Education, Classics Department Chair; St. Andrew's School
- Jennifer Cuervo '06, Licensed Bilingual School Counselor, New Heights Middle School, New York, NY
Each spoke briefly about his or her professional journey and experiences working in education, and then took questions from students. You can watch the panel on our Vimeo page.
After the panel, students, faculty, and alumni dispersed throughout campus to attend more than 50 workshops hosted by both male and female alumni. Workshop topics were wide-ranging; a few samples are listed below:
- Finding Work that Matters: Education as Activism (Nicole Fleischer '07 and Kate Hardwick '07)
- From Chapel Talks to China: Adventures in International Education (Ashley Gosnell '02)
- Leadership from the Classroom to the Capitol Building: Direct vs. Indirect Impact in Education & Finding Your Place (Searcy (Milam) Morgan '02)
- Practical Tools for Difficult Conversations (Robbie Pennoyer '01)
- Nature as our Teacher (Katie Forrestal '94)
- Teaching as a Creative Act in the Digital Age (Chris Odden '86)
- Dissent in American History and Why It Matters (Ashton Richards '78)
"To our alums in education: my heart is full of gratitude," Roach said at the close of the weekend. "I am overwhelmed and touched by your commitment to St. Andrew's and by the gifts of empathy and compassion you give to those you inspire every day. Thank you for your important and immeasurable work. Thank you for being part of our inspiring teachers story."