Our People: An Aspiration

UPWARD: OUR HEAD OF SCHOOL'S BLOG
This is the third in my series of blog entries related to our 2015 Five Year Vision. As I have indicated in my past posts, this Five Year Vision is my job description, my focus, and my mission as prescribed by our Board of Trustees. Our second major initiative relates to the Vail Mountain School faculty and staff--“Our People.”

There is no other single value proposition more important than our teachers in the classroom and the support they derive from our staff. I have frequently said that there are only two jobs in a school: teaching and supporting our teachers, which starts with fostering an upbeat, positive environment with strong relationships at the core. I am a firm believer that culture trumps everything and is the foundation of a highly functioning educational community.

To that end, the focus of this initiative relates specifically to supporting, retaining, and developing our employees, as well as seeking out only the best and brightest candidates in the hiring process. Simply stated, we aspire to be the employer of choice nationally among independent schools, and locally in our mountain community.

How do we achieve this lofty aspiration? First we must be very clear about what constitutes great teaching. Derived from over twenty-five years as a classroom teacher in public, private and international schools, I published a treatise in 2009 entitled “The Nine Standards of Great Teaching,” which outlined definitive professional standards that I tried to achieve over my teaching career:
  1. Great teachers are masters of their subjects. They are passionate about the subject matter and secure in their knowledge of the content.
  2. Great teachers are deeply committed to their students and treat them all fairly at all times. They are always on the student’s side, student-centered not self-centered.
  3. Great teachers bring joy into the classroom everyday--inspiring, engaging, enriching and empowering their students with creative and innovative lessons.
  4. Great teachers’ pedagogical skills serve every student in the class, not just those who are highly motivated or cause no problems.
  5. Great teachers love working with other teachers, sharing ideas, collaborating on projects in a positive and proactive manner.
  6. Great teachers know that their students rely upon them and that opportunities are lost for the children any day their teacher is away from the classroom.
  7. Great teachers understand the importance of forming educational partnerships-- partnerships with their students, their parents, their colleagues and their administration.
  8. Great teachers model the school’s mission in an exemplary fashion and truly understand their role as positive and proactive ambassadors in all public and private interactions.
  9. Great teachers willingly take on leadership roles in the school culture and perform these roles with honesty and integrity.

As the Head of Vail Mountain School, my job is to ensure that we achieve these standards by recruiting and rewarding the best faculty and staff, by providing world-class professional development opportunities for our employees, and by enhancing our school culture and our relationships within the VMS community. 

About Vail Mountain School

Founded in 1962, Vail Mountain School is a K-12, coed, independent school in Vail, Colorado. Our philosophy is to provide a demanding, college preparatory, liberal arts education in an atmosphere of mutual respect between faculty and students, where nurturing a healthy self-concept and stimulating academic inquiry are parallel objectives. Intentionally designed cross-age programs promote role modeling, responsibility, self confidence, and a sense of community. Our location in the Rocky Mountains allows us to integrate the outdoors into the academic and cultural fabric of the school through hut trips, all-school Ski Fridays, and other experiential learning opportunities. The result: our graduates possess a quiet confidence that serves them well in college and in life—confidence to assert themselves in their first college level essays; to raise their hand in a class of hundreds; to live on their own for the first time, to meet with and engage their professors; and to lead among their peers.