What drew you to Lake Forest Country Day School?
Where to begin? Lake Forest Country Day School (LFCDS) is known to be among the very best independent elementary schools in the country. As I read about LFCDS, before even visiting campus, I was amazed that the School seemed to be playing the greatest hits of educational practice. It offers academic rigor balanced by true personal attention and a commitment to social and emotional learning. Students learn how to use technology and to innovate, but they also learn to experience and appreciate nature in the Outdoor Classroom on campus. I hoped that I would at least get the opportunity to visit. When I finally arrived on campus on a cold January day, I was immediately struck by the warmth of the place—the teachers, the students, everyone was just so welcoming, and everyone I met seemed to truly and deeply love the school. I’ve taught at and visited many independent schools in my life, and the energy and sense of community I felt at LFCDS were truly unusual. I continue to be amazed by the program and the people who make the school what it is.
Most recently you lived and worked at an independent school in New York, did you grow up in the city?
Yes, I most recently served as the Upper School Director at the Buckley School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Though I’ve spent my professional career in New York City, I actually was born and raised just outside Cleveland, Ohio, so you might say I’m a Midwesterner at heart. My wife, Emily, grew up outside Boston. She and I loved New York, but we’re extremely happy to have joined the Lake Forest community, which reminds us a bit of the towns where we grew up.
As an educator, what do you think are the most pressing global issues today, and how is LFCDS preparing students to tackle those issues?
I think what we’re finding is that the most pressing global issues today center on issues of clear communication and careful listening. In these fast-changing times of information overload, those timeless skills of speaking and writing clearly, as well as listening closely, empathetically, and discerningly, are in high demand. Even in innovation, for which we embrace methodologies such as design thinking with our students, asking good questions and listening empathetically are key skills to arrive at human-centered solutions. Our students also engage in a great deal of public speaking, from leading Community Meetings at a young age and participating in theatrical productions to delivering a speech every year in Upper School. And we also teach the enormously important skills of listening and expressing emotions through our social and emotional learning programs, most notably RULER, an approach designed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. By preparing our students to speak, write, and listen with care and confidence, we believe we are producing students who will be versatile and creative and will be among the leaders of tomorrow.
A significant part of your educational philosophy encompasses the belief that each student should be known and respected for who they are as individuals. How does LFCDS reflect that philosophy?
That’s right. Relationships are at the heart of all good teaching and learning—the medium through which education happens—and, as teachers, we are called on to ensure that each and every one of our students is known and loved for who they are. We have to care about who our students are and who they are becoming, not just what they can do in the classroom or on the sports field or onstage. Part of that mission is to cherish every student, and that includes challenging all our students so that they can grow into their best selves. At LFCDS the idea of knowing and loving every student is in the air we breathe; it’s just part of our culture and our practice. The emphasis on this sense of community, on knowing and loving every student, is one of the things that drew me to LFCDS in the first place.