by Crystal Land
“Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique;
good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.”
–Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach
This spring I met with seniors in small groups to hear their reflections on their high school years. I also asked one very specific question: “What is the impact of teaching on your experience here, and how have your interactions with teachers—from any stage in your education—shaped who you are and your aspirations?”
This question opened up a flood of enthusiastic replies from just about every single senior: hands flew up, others nodded in agreement, and opinions were enthusiastically shared. The theme was clear: the Head-Royce faculty stands out as one of the truly exceptional aspects of this school. Students praised our fabulous facility, well-constructed academic program, activities such as fallout, athletics, drama, and extracurriculars—but all of these paled in comparison to the enthusiastic and passionate praise they have for their teachers.
At the core, students genuinely feel that the Head-Royce teachers care about them personally and deeply, take the time to get to know them, and then challenge them to do their very best based on who they are and their individual strengths. Michael Thompson, Ph.D., author of Raising Cain and a frequent speaker at independent schools, states that, most of all, parents want to be assured that their child is truly seen and known at school.
These seniors not only feel seen and known, but they are truly inspired to do and be their best by the faculty. One said: “I want to be a vet because of my science teacher’s enthusiasm”; another said that even though she is a “STEM kind of student” she chose a liberal arts school because her 11th grade history teacher inspired her to stay connected to the humanities. One senior said that she admires her math teacher because he challenges her and won’t let her quit. The list of teacher adjectives was long: from amazing, cool, knowledgeable, and positive to impactful and vibrant.
Here are just some of their quotes about just some of the teachers across all three divisions:
“Ms. Krier didn’t get frustrated with me; never made me feel “dumb” and that my ideas were not valid.”
“Ms. Glogover just accepted me when I was having a tough year” and “her enthusiasm for chemistry is a little overwhelming at first but made me love chemistry.”
“Ms. Nguyen pushed me to my limits with writing. She sets high standards and she cares.”
“Ms. Carr is so positive and supportive and nice. I learned to read with her support.”
“Fern made me enjoy and appreciate math; used to despise it. I had a new mindset.”
“Nancy Feidelman shaped my life; she never even taught me but she is a positive force who is always willing to help and meet. She was my 9th grade dean and she really gets to know students. She’s a true mentor as she sees, encourages, and appreciates each person for who they are.”
“Coach Talps is so grounded. He helped me to work through my problems and even helped me to take ownership of challenges. I’m so grateful for that and for my coaches.”
“I never had Ms. Powell but she was my family leader when I was in Lower School and I felt like she really knew me. I still go down and visit her.”
“Mr. Sea built an open and supportive class, and encouraged everyone to collaborate but not to copy—there’s a difference.”
“Ms. Brown is so lively and vibrant; she still remembers stories from our English class.”
One student summed it up by saying: “Head-Royce teachers are the aspect of the school that stands out; they deeply care and are absolutely incredible.”
I hope you will find a way to thank a teacher who has had an impact on your or your child’s life. They clearly leave a lasting impact.