Elaine Swyryn, Associate Head of School & Upper School Math

"I feel like I know where the kids are coming from, what they need and what I can do to support them. It’s when I feel best about my ability to effect change."

What was your first day ever in the classroom like?

Terrifying! I have a fear of public speaking, and this for me was the ultimate public speaking event. But I also found it really empowering. I remember when, the second day, I walked in, kids pulled out their homework, and I thought, wow, I taught them something. It was very gratifying. The relationships you have with students go way beyond the subject, and that’s really what it’s all about.

What is your favorite part of your day at Bryn Mawr?

At the top of the list would be teaching. I only teach one class because of my administrative duties, and I almost become a different person. I’ve been doing this long enough that I really feel comfortable in the classroom, and I feel like I know where the kids are coming from, what they need and what I can do to support them. It’s when I feel best about my ability to affect change. But also, as Dean of Faculty I get to have a broader view of the whole school and really understand the philosophies and perspectives from each division. I get to be a connector and I enjoy that.

Bryn Mawr in three words:
"An accepting community – you can be who you want to be here."

What do you hope for your students to come out of your class being able to do?

For me, it is for a student to feel that she can improve in math – that she has that ability and that it is manageable. I tell this story on the first day of class: a few years ago I had a student who really struggled in math, but she was an unbelievable singer. When she came to see me one day I had the radio on and she started singing. I said, “I wish I could sing like that!” And she said, “You could – you just have to get a good teacher, put in time, be dedicated and be willing to listen to criticism and adjust.” I looked at her and said, “That’s how I feel about math!”

I tell that story and then I ask my students, “What are you so good at that you could teach me, and how did you get to be good at it?” They always say the exact skills that I want them to apply in math class.

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of teaching?

I love to run, swim, read, and I’m a big fan of baseball in general (and especially the Boston Red Sox).

Chocolate, vanilla or strawberry?

Chocolate, hands down!
Located in Baltimore, Maryland, The Bryn Mawr School is a private all-girls pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school with a coed preschool for ages 2 months through 5 years. Bryn Mawr provides students with exceptional educational opportunities on a beautiful 26-acre campus within the city limits. Inquisitive girls, excellent teaching, strong student-teacher relationships and a clear mission sustain our vibrant school community where girls always come first.