The ‘Three Teachers’ at Deerfield

After nine years as a Deerfield parent, it never ceases to amaze me how well this school manages to evolve as the needs of our children change. As outside pressures continue to demand more of students, Deerfield maintains its ability to successfully straddle the balance of preserving our rich heritage with meeting the needs of an increasingly digital and global world.

I recently heard an educator speak of the “three teachers” in an optimal learning environment: the teacher, fellow students and the classroom.  This got me thinking about the interplay between faculty, community and physical space at Deerfield.

Every day, Deerfield teachers engage in their life’s work to nurture students’ love of learning and ignite a sense of curiosity.  Courses at DA are not just about what our children learn, but how they learn. Throughout the curriculum, various skills and competencies are woven throughout the content incorporating cognitive and non-cognitive skills.

In the classroom, dorm life and co-curricular activities, students share their experiences with peers from a variety of diverse backgrounds. Students hail from all over the U.S. and more than 34 countries around the world.  So much of the learning that happens for our children is from peer to peer in genuine dialogue based on a shared interest to understand one another more deeply.

When we think about the notion of physical space as the third teacher, I immediately think of the recent transformation of the Boyden Library.  If you have not yet been in the space, I urge you to go see for yourself. From innovative seating to an endless number of small collaboration and study rooms, from the technology to the maker space, and the access to the Global Studies program to the academic dean’s office and college advising office, the students love this new library!  I applaud the school’s vision and its timely implementation of this renovated space where kids love to learn.  The library of yesterday has now been transformed into a multifaceted hub of student activity and energy in the center of campus.  (Of course, there is easy access to the Koch Café through the tunnel so they can bring their snacks into the library, which also makes them very happy!)

In addition to these “three teachers,” I believe a student’s academic experience is greatly enhanced through their parents’ connection and support of the school.  Choosing a boarding school education does not make us any less interested in being a part of their experience or feeling a connection to the institution. Like most schools, Deerfield has a parents association of which every parent is a member. The Deerfield Parents Network, also known as the DPN, is run by a steering committee of 25 parents who represent varied student constituencies within our community.  Our mission is to continue to welcome and engage all parents to this amazing and vibrant institution.  We are continually evolving and adding programs as needed or as ideas are advanced.  This year, we added a Vice President of Inclusion to further connect the DPN to the Office of Inclusion and Community Life.  Thanks to Ben Binswanger for agreeing to step into that important role. We are hoping new families have found The First Link program to be helpful in getting ready for Deerfield and providing support throughout the year as a resource for all those questions we all have.

Three times a year we publish “The Link” e-newsletter with articles written mostly by parents and some by the administration for parents. We want “The Link” to be a practical resource so that you can know what to expect throughout the year.

Our goal is for parents to engage quickly and feel at home. I urge you to take steps to get involved and connect with your child’s friends and parents, teachers, advisors and faculty residents.  There are many volunteer opportunities on the DPN: writing for “The Link,” mentoring new families, and supporting the graduation dinner and other events, just to name a few examples. Most of us do this all remotely, so distance is not an issue.

On May 7, during Spring Family Weekend, we will say goodbye to 10 steering committee members who have been engaged in the work we do.  My thanks in advance to Lauren Driscoll and Betsy Swindell for their tireless leadership as members of the executive committee and to Jennifer Andrews, Michelle Sit, Scott Vallar, Hilary McInerny, Deborah Norville, Adriana Vazquez and Diego Munoz for their dedication and years of service on the steering committee. We will also welcome a new slate of members who will join the steering committee to engage on behalf of all parents.

Our wish is for all parents at Deerfield–no matter the distance–to feel connected in the same way that our children feel connected to their teachers, one another and the community space in which they live and learn. If you would like to get more involved, please feel free to reach out to me at Likewise, if there is anything we can do to provide support to you or your family, we are here to help.

Best wishes for a wonderful spring and summer (as our next newsletter isn’t until August),

Karen Wood




Parent Guide to Commencement Weekend | Parents Support Annual Fund and Senior Parents Project

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