The NAIS Member Voices podcast features stories from the thoughtful, hard-working individuals who make up the independent school community. You'll hear from faculty and staff at NAIS member schools about their roles, challenges, successes, inspiration sources, and more. Whether you are currently part of the NAIS community, considering joining, or simply interested in learning more about our industry, we hope you will listen and enjoy!
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Check back each month for a new episode!
Jennifer Dirga, school counselor at The Chestnut Hill School (MA), speaks to the importance of fostering connections inside and outside the classroom to decrease stress and anxiety in students. She shares multiple examples for how to build community and how to create safe and affirming spaces. Dirga takes an active role and is present in classrooms and advocates for mental health supports for the staff. Overall, she’s a proponent of going slow, pausing, and reflecting more throughout life.
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Fran Bisselle, head of school at Hathaway Brown School (OH), discusses trends in teacher attrition and how independent schools can bolster teacher retention by understanding the current workforce landscape and leveraging teacher-focused policies. She unpacks the effect of the pandemic on teacher burnout and how Hathaway Brown had to adapt to ensure teacher retention. She also describes how the hiring and onboarding process in her school had to become more teacher-focused.
Denise Spirou, head of school at The Greene School (FL), describes how she looks for teachers who are joyful and who are problem-solvers—not problem-starters. She shares how she helps her school stand out to potential job candidates, and how she prioritizes the mental health of her team by encouraging them to take days off and participate in walking meetings. Finally, she discusses the importance of servant leadership, not taking things personally, and being able to “fess up when you mess up.”
Aliya Pitts, chief advancement officer at The Prairie School (WI), talks about the importance of group innovation, careful communication, and making data-driven decisions when undertaking a tuition redesign.
This episode of Member Voices: The Conversation features a dialogue between a head of school and her board chair, published in the Summer 2023 issue of Independent School magazine. Ashley Harper, head of school, and Eileen Quenell, board chair at Wakefield School (VA), discuss the shared leadership model that grew from their almost instant chemistry and mutual respect, and what shared leadership looks like at their school.
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