As an 8th grader, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be a dancer or a teacher. My mother was a teacher, and it was clear she loved her chosen profession. Furthermore, I could hold my own in a dance class, but I certainly was no prima ballerina, so teaching won out. The path seemed clear – major in English so I could be a secondary English teacher, and after college, go right on to graduate school rather than delay getting a master’s degree. Somehow, I knew that getting another degree would only become more difficult once I was working full-time. And so, I got my Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the University of Notre Dame, 15 months after I graduated from Rosary College. I was ready for the classroom.
I loved my 7th grade language arts and social studies students. They kept me on my toes, but we had fun, even though there were 37 students in each of my two sections. But then changes in my personal life opened up an opportunity for me to move to Washington, DC, and work in politics. I had always been interested in politics, and even thought I might attend law school and run for office. I was excited to try my hand at actually working in the political world, and ecstatic when after 17 months in Washington, I got a job working in the White House as a secretary on Arthur Burns’ Domestic Affairs staff. It was hard work, but I reminded myself that I had a once-in-a-lifetime job, and I needed to savor each moment. I did.
After three years in Washington, I left DC to begin married life as the wife of a Museum Director, someone I had met years earlier in graduate school. This began a period of 11 years during which I taught a bit, worked in retail stores selling designer sportswear, and even managed the branch of a large retail store part-time. Our children were very young, and my husband was on his career path in the museum world, necessitating moving to new cities to lead a bigger and better museum. With each move, I tried to find a part-time job that I could do while my husband took care of our children, since good childcare that was also affordable, was difficult to find.
When the younger of our two children began kindergarten, so that both boys were in school full-time, we were back in Washington, DC, with my husband working at the Smithsonian. It was time for me to get back into full-time work. My plan was to return to teaching, but because I had not taught for 10 years, I found that I could only work as a teaching assistant making very low pay. I looked for a better opportunity, and landed in the museum field, first as the Development Officer for the Textile Museum, and then as Director of Meetings and Continuing Education for the American Association of Museums (now American Alliance of Museums).
So how did I become Head of The Howard School? After six years in Washington, my husband was asked to lead an art museum in Columbia, South Carolina. We moved our family, our children began school at a large independent school, and within a short time, the Head of School, who had gotten to know me and knew my background, approached me with a request to become his Lower School principal. After years of working in other fields, and enjoying my work, I was back where I had begun, in a school. It felt so good, and now in my mid-40s, I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to work with students as a school administrator because I wanted to make good things happen for them.
Since my first year as a principal, I have held a variety of positions – Director of Academics, Associate Head for Finance and Operations, Director of a Learning Project, and now Head of School. In 2005, I was asked to move to Atlanta to lead The Howard School, and I have been privileged to do so for 16 years. After years of following my husband on his career path, he told me that it was his turn to follow me, and so we moved to Atlanta where I could lead The Howard School, and, the Atlanta History Center.
The Howard School is a very special place. Founded in 1950, it is a school that truly transforms lives. Here, students of average to above-average ability with language-based learning disabilities and learning differences discover how they learn, what they need to do to be successful, and how to advocate for themselves. Each year, over 80% of the graduates go on to college, and others to trade school or special programs. They become successful adults because talented educators know how to teach them the way they learn. Our students and their teachers work hard, but they do so with passion and determination, and the rewards are great. Hearing parents say that they “finally got their child back,” is the ultimate reward for educators.
I will retire from The Howard School at the end of the 2021-2022 school year. While I do not plan to lead another school, I hope to continue to work in areas of special interest for me, i.e., mentoring, leadership, governance, and accreditation. I’ve learned to be open to new experiences, new opportunities, so who knows what I will do next!