Head of School Blog

The Gift of Great Teachers

Jill Singleton
What an amazing group of teachers we have at All Saints! On Monday, five of our teachers presented at the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools Biennial Professional Development Conference. Cynara Arscott and Tatiana Wisniewski inspired attendees with ideas for the dramatic play center in an early childhood classroom; Ronnie Loving and Rachel Therres shared a number of collaborative projects involving arts and social studies; and Libby Vino invited middle school administrators to benefit from her work in the development of our unique Eighth Grade Rites of Passage class.

Thinking about the long list of teachers at All Saints who make a difference in the lives of children and families every day, I am inspired to think back on the teachers who helped shape the adult I became. Sadly, the list is a short one, but there is one person at the top who makes up for any shortage of names on the list – Anne Blake. Anne was a teacher at the Vershire School in Vermont whom I met when I worked for a family friend one summer. My friend was the office manager in this small boarding school office, and it was my job to be the office gopher. I loved the job, particularly because it afforded me a chance to be out of the hot city for the summer (that was long before air conditioners were the norm, and my bedroom was on the third floor). I did a little bit of everything that summer, but the most exciting thing was going on a backpacking trip through the Grand Teton Mountains of Wyoming – an experience offered to me because the trip needed another girl. Although the trip itself is a story for another day, suffice it to say that the backpacking experience was a transformational one for me. As my wonderful summer was coming to an end, the English teacher, Anne Blake, came into the office and asked why I wasn’t my happy self, but instead was looking a little glum. “I’m not looking forward to leaving tomorrow,” I said. “So why don’t you stay?” she asked me. The answer was easy; I explained, a boarding school experience was not in my family’s budget. Anne paused and looked like she was searching for something to say, but instead left the room announcing she would be right back. When she returned, she looked me right in the eye and asked, “Would you be willing to work in the kitchen for 20 hours a week in order to stay?” Of course I didn’t hesitate, and it was because of Anne’s kindness and the school’s generosity that my life changed forever, with my graduation from the Vershire School being the reason I fell in love with independent schools, and why I remain so committed to making sure that financial assistance is available to deserving students.

Anne Blake did something for me that our teachers do every day – she recognized the opportunity to make a lasting difference in a young person’s life and she went for it – not because she was going to make any extra money to have me in her school or in her class, but because it gave her a sense of joy and satisfaction to do so. She saw potential in me and wanted nothing more than to use the bellows of her passion for teaching to expose me to the magic of the big ideas and universal human truths embedded in the literature she carefully chose for us. Anne welcomed my classmates into her home on campus and fed us home-baked cookies and hot tea, and in doing so made us believe that we mattered, that our lives mattered, and that our shared humanity is enriched through authentic education. The gift she gave me was a lasting one, and one that I seek to pay forward each and every day to the children in our own very special school community.