Beginning this summer, educators wishing to develop an expertise in independent schools can do so through a master’s degree program specifically designed with the unique environment of the private school in mind. Williston Northampton School worked with Mount Holyoke College in developing a Master of Arts in Teacher Leadership, with a Concentration in Independent Schools.
The new two-year program builds on the Master of Arts in Teacher Leadership program that Mount Holyoke launched in May 2015, and similarly allows teachers to pursue their degree while still working as full-time educators. (In a nod to the athletic schedules of private schools, for example, no classes are scheduled for Wednesday afternoons.) The courses, which draw on the expertise of Mount Holyoke’s teacher-leaders-in-residence, as well as professionals from the Williston campus, will be available both in person and online, using video conferencing, with several classes offered during the summer, and a lighter load during the school year.
The first group of candidates includes three Williston faculty members—Emily McDowell, Sue Michalski, and Andrew Syfu—who were selected through an application process this spring, as well as two educators from The Ethel Walker School, in Simsbury, Conn. Williston is covering the cost of tuition for its faculty.
“Mount Holyoke has a great reputation and we’re thrilled to be collaborating with them,” said Williston Director of Curriculum Kim Evelti, who has been spearheading the initiative and is teaching the course “Independent School Topics.” Evelti, assisted by other Williston administrators and staff, will examine issues and challenges specific to private schools, such as the admissions process, alumni relations, advancement, and the social dynamics of students’ living away from home.
The degree program also requires a capstone project, in which candidates pursue independent research under the guidance of a teacher-leader coach. Evelti said that Williston teachers may involve the school in these projects, which can focus on topics both inside and outside the classroom.
“Teacher excellence has always been a priority at Williston,” said Head of School Robert W. Hill III. “This innovative program gives our faculty the opportunity to further their professional development in a format tailored to their needs and schedules.”
“This is a program I wish I had,” said Mount Holyoke’s Megan Allen, the 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year who now directs the college’s Programs in Teacher Leadership. “Many of us who are working in education leadership have learned on the job, in the moment,” she added. “Mount Holyoke’s teacher leadership program wants to change the narrative.”