As you begin your tenure at Bryn Mawr, what are you most excited about?
This place has the most amazing reputation, and it is really a historical powerhouse. I’m carrying a mission that’s been going on for more than 130 years. I just want to be part of a team that is doing great things for girls, and Bryn Mawr seems like a great match for my educational philosophy, which is that girls can do really terrific things if you give them the opportunity.
What is one thing you think people at Bryn Mawr should know about you?
I’m a lot of fun! I am doing this because I love it, and I want there to be joy in everything that we do as a school. I know that can be hard, because we are working on challenging things, but it’s something that we always have to pay attention to. I am also a big reader, and I love gardening, skiing, cooking, entertaining – basically, anything that brings people together.
I especially want people to know that my husband Mark and I are really looking forward to being a part of this community, and we have nothing but gratitude for the warm welcome that everyone has given us. We look forward to seeing everyone in August for the beginning of school.
What was your first job ever in teaching?
I grew up in a big Irish-Catholic family, so my first job was actually keeping all of my little cousins in check. My parents say I was born to be a teacher, because it came very naturally to me to keep everyone moving in the right direction. I have always loved education and tried to find a way to the classroom. I started as an aide in a fifth-grade classroom during my senior year in high school, because I had finished all of my other coursework and was doing an independent study. Then right out of college, I started teaching in Ohio.
What grades and classes have you taught over the years?
I have taught or coached first grade, fifth grade, ninth grade, twelfth grade and pretty much everything in between. I even did a little stint as an early childhood science teacher, but then they asked me to stop because I was getting the kids too excited and the teachers couldn’t calm them down afterward!
If you weren’t in education, what would you be doing?
Well, my mother always wanted me to be a racecar driver – anything but a teacher. She said that in her generation, a woman couldn’t be anything but a teacher, or a nurse or a secretary. So I would definitely be a racecar driver! But seriously, I never have had to imagine that, because I always knew I wanted to be in education. I do have a very strong artsy streak, so I think if I had to do something else it would be something creative.
What is it about an all-girls education in particular that really resonates with you?
I think girls’ schools can counterbalance the popular culture message about what girls “should” be. I think it is really up to each individual to figure out who she wants to be. That takes a lot of trying things on, and in a girls’ school students are free to do that. It also gives girls the message that they are the leaders. When they elect a student-body president, it’s going to be one of the girls. The science club leader is going to be one of the girls. The people who take the field hockey team to state are going to be girls. We are able to empower girls and take down barriers and stereotypes. It is really a gift to be able to go to a girls’ school.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
Just do something you love. If you love it, you’re going to figure out a way to get to the goal. I’ve been really fortunate to do something I love for my whole career. That is the best advice anyone could get.