Attracting Talented Faculty

Kerry Shea, Director of Marketing and Communications, writes about attracting talented faculty to Greenhill School.

The Marketing and Communications Office at Greenhill is charged with making sure that top students and their families know all about the school – its mission, its strengths, and its uniqueness.  At the heart of Greenhill is a marketing office dream: outstanding faculty members who live the mission of the school and excite learning at every level.  How do we identify and bring to campus such educators?

Part of our process involves sharing the Greenhill teaching experience on paper and on our website.  We are currently updating our faculty-recruiting brochure.  In a previous blog entry, I wrote about how easy it was to find photographable moments on our campus.  I felt the same way when I started researching and writing the copy for this brochure – you can find amazing faculty members in each division across the campus.

In Middle School, a Greenhill alumnae teaches Spanish using a whole-body method of learning.  Students not only gain a deep understanding of the language, they are also engaged to a point that their class time seems to be over in an instant.  In Upper School, a history teacher coaches track and cross-country and is the process of starting a summer institute to help young teachers.  In our Lower School, the Carter Fellows Program brings aspiring teachers into the classroom, ultimately providing energy and fresh ideas to our youngest learners.

At Greenhill, we also know that the ability to inspire passion in students starts with faculty members that also love learning.  The School offers a generous trustee grant program to provide teachers with funds to pursue learning outside the classroom.  Last summer, a Chinese teacher received a grant to study meditation at a Buddhist monastery, and a photography teacher attended a conference to learn new techniques for printmaking.  These and all the faculty members that pursue passions off campus create a rich learning environment for their students.

My biggest challenge was distilling the entire Greenhill teaching experience into a few paragraphs.  The words are important, but as I mentioned previously, the photographs of faculty members working closely students, instantly convey the warmth and dedication that I see in every classroom across our campus.  Together the words and photos create a powerful message that makes it easy for us to attract the best teachers for our talented students.

Learning from Interviews

Greenhill’s Director of Marketing Kerry Shea writes about her recent visit to a history class during end-of-trimester presentations.

Walking into the African American Experience class this morning, I was surprised to find the lights off and all of the students watching a video. Art Hall, Greenhill’s Director of Equity and Inclusion, and the teacher of the class, had shared that the students were doing their final trimester presentations and that it was a great day to visit. Where was the student standing at the front of the room, I wondered. Where were the props, the poster, or the PowerPoint?

When I looked at the screen, I saw one of Greenhill’s faculty members talking about her experience as an African American woman, and I quickly realized that the video was the final project. She talked about her family history and her own stories from growing up. She freely shared her experiences and the class was riveted listening to her.

The next video was of another woman that had previously tutored the student, but now worked at Southern Methodist University. Her video, equally fascinating, was more painful to watch. Her discomfort with the subject matter was palpable: she left a large puffy jacket on for the entire interview, and continually shifted from having crossed arms to sliding her hands under her legs. Her responses were short, causing the student to ask multiple questions to extract her story. The video itself, a tall, narrow rectangle, showing not much more than the woman seated on a chair, felt cramped and uncomfortable.

At the end of both videos, the students and the teacher discussed them. What did they find interesting? What was surprising? One student was surprised that the teacher, who grew up as the only African American student in her class, didn’t identify with other African American girls when she switched to a high school with a larger African American population. The other student couldn’t believe that his tutor, a middle-class African American in her early 30s, never voted until the 2008 election.

Using the interview as a final project was powerful for the students. The students gained an in-depth knowledge of someone from their life, not only from the stories that they told, but from the way that they told the story. Watching all of the videos gave them a rich perspective of the similarities and the simultaneous diversity of experiences that occur among a group of people with similar skin color.

While the students are learning, so, too, is their teacher. “I teach, but I am also the school’s Director of Equity and Inclusion. This course reminds me that every experience is unique. Every person struggles, and we all look to one another for help as we try to heal wounds from the past,” he shared after class. A heartfelt conclusion at the end of a meaningful end-of-trimester project.

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Kerry Shea, Director of Marketing and Communications, writes about capturing the Greenhill experience through photographs.

I have always believed the adage, a picture is worth a thousand words, but it wasn’t until I started working closely with images in my marketing career that I realized the power of an amazing photograph. In education, a single picture can capture a student’s captivation, a teacher’s dedication, and convey the warmth of the classroom in an instant.

We had a professional photographer on campus for two days last week. We tasked him with gathering images of the Greenhill experience for our website and other marketing materials. As we toured campus together, I was struck by how relatively easy it was for us to amass a large body of material in a relatively short time. By lunch time on the first day, the photographer told me that he had taken more than a day’s worth of photos already. “You are what I call ‘a target rich environment’,” he said.

I had to agree with him. Every place we moved on campus contained dozens of photographable moments. In the middle school, we saw 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist, Doc Patton, speaking to the varsity cross-country team, a student presentation on potassium, and a colorful science experiment, all within 45 minutes. In the Lower School, students played Orff instruments, drew still-lifes, and received reading help.

Our fine arts building and playing fields were also rich with opportunity. Students played flutes, tubas and violins; dancers hovered at the bar; and middle schoolers were weaving all over the fine arts hallway and 3D art room. We saw girls deftly wielding field hockey sticks, cheerleaders flipping through the air, and football players scoring touchdowns.

I had scheduled some of our classroom and field visits in advance, but many of the photographs that were taken were the result of being in the right place at the right time. Or, as I like to think of it, it was simply the result of being on the Greenhill campus, where the magic of learning, the wonder and awe that every parent wants for her child, happens every day on every corner of the campus.