By Allison Jones ’20 Front Page Editor
On December 6, thirteen Mercersburg faculty members set out for Boston, Massachusetts for the annual TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) Conference. Mercersburg faculty have been attending this three-day boarding school-focused conference consistently for years. Head of School Katie Titus has attended the conference many times in the past 15 years. She looks forward to attending each year, saying, “I find the content of the workshops to be both inspiring and instructive as we learn from other schools about the possibilities. But equally important are the conversations with other boarding school educators that occur during the breaks and over meals, as we continue to think about the future of education.” For Titus her enthusiasm extends beyond the conference itself; she enjoys the time away from campus with her trusted colleagues. All of the faculty that attended dined together on Friday night to unpack the topics they had explored in the first two days.
This year, seven of the thirteen Mercersburg faculty members at the conference led three separate workshops. The rest participated in various activities in order to gain insight and connect with other members of the greater boarding school community, including many teachers from the Mid-Atlantic Prep League.
Titus led a workshop with Head of School Rachel Stone of Canterbury School in Connecticut called “Leadership Structure for the Modern (Future) World.” Titus and Stone “had conference calls in advance to plan [their] our presentation, worked on Google Slides collectively, then met at the conference to practice and make any last minute changes.” The two Heads of School introduced their ideas on Friday afternoon.
Dean of Curricular Innovation John David Bennett, History Department Head Jay Bozzi, and fine arts faculty member Kristen Pixler worked together to present Mercersburg’s capstone experiences in a session called, “A Yearlong Capstone Experience for Every Senior.” Bennett recounted their presentation: “We told the story of the past and present of MAPS and Springboard, and we mused about the future, each in a very honest way. We promised the audience that we’d give them the ‘whole truth,’ the good and the bad, so we spent a lot of time before the conference figuring out what information would be most helpful to the audience.”
Lastly, Dean of Academics Jennifer Smith ’97, Director of Learning Services Margaret Maciulla, and history faculty member Emily Parsons presented a speed session about homework and stress entitled “A Research Informed Approach to Homework Aimed at Reducing Student Stress.” Parsons said, “I was looking forward to the presentation but I also enjoyed the presentation, that I attended. The Keynote Speaker, Richard Weissbourd, was especially compelling to me. He talked a lot about how we’ve moved away from emphasizing caring in our schools because we’re so fixated on achievement and happiness.” The speakers were focused on their presentations but that did not hinder their enjoyment of the conference.
Among the teachers that attended but did not present was math faculty member Kristin Magalhães. She said, “TABS allows us the chance to be inspired by the great things going on at other schools and the opportunity to talk about how to use what we’ve learned to strengthen the student and faculty experience at Mercersburg.” Magalhães always looks forward to attending TABS; when she comes back she feels re-energized and “proud of our school for taking the lead on some really important work – both in the classroom and out.”
Every teacher that attended sang praises about the experience. Mercersburg is continuously growing and the opportunity this conference brings for the faculty is unmatched. Titus said it best: “There were lots of great ideas that were explored at the conference. Taking the seeds of those ideas and then considering what might be useful for Mercersburg is the next step. Just because something works at another school, doesn’t mean it right for us. We need to think about how to use what we’ve learned to influence our strategic work and most importantly, make it Mercersburg.”