- BA, Boston College
- MA, Delaware
Crew - JV
Swimming - Girls
On sabbatical for the 2013-14 school year. English Teacher
Sonja O’Donnell arrived at Deerfield in 2000 having previously taught as a member of the French, history and English departments at Thayer Academy in Braintree, Massachusetts and for two years as a member of the English Department at the University Jean Moulin in Lyon, France. She graduated cum laude from Boston College with degrees in French Literature and philosophy followed by her master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Delaware. Former holder of the Class of 1996 Junior Faculty Teaching chair, she is also a recipient of two National Endowment for the Humanities grants and a summer Klingenstein fellowship. She currently teaches freshmen, sophomores and seniors in the English Department and has taught at each of Deerfield’s seven Look to the Hills Summer Institutes.
Head coach of the girls’ varsity swim team, she is proud of her athletes’ superb work ethic, exemplary motivation and passionate camaraderie, qualities that have led to several recent noteworthy achievements, including their third place finish at the 2010 New England Prep School Swimming and Diving Championships. With a consistent record of nearly 100% personal best performances for the past decade, the team this season also claimed two New England prep school league relay records, qualifying for All-American, the season’s Most Outstanding Swimmer as voted by the league coaches, and four new school records. Ms. O’Donnell is a nearly twenty-year member of the American Swim Coaches Association and serves on the New England Prep School league’s executive committee. An accomplished swimmer who began her long swimming career as an age-grouper in the Middle Atlantic Region, where she was a local and regional record holder as well as a Junior Olympian, Ms. O’Donnell was also state champion in high school, with her team twice earning the state title. For one year as a student at the Lycee des Eaux Claires in Grenoble, France, she was exposed to European international competition. A member of the varsity team at Boston College, she was several times a New England and Big East finalist and champion.
“Cultivating the scholar-athlete,” Ms. O’Donnell explains, “means teaching both the skills and the growth mindset early on that will not only carry the young woman confidently and successfully through her years at Deerfield but also through college and beyond.” Grounded in a personal and professional philosophy that frequently includes phrases such as “executing perfection” and “beginner’s mind,” Ms. O’Donnell lives with her husband Michael O’Donnell, Chair of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department, and their son in the Rosenwald-Shumway dormitory.