Emily '12

1. Is where you are currently where you thought you would end up?

In some ways, yes — and in others, no! I have wanted to work in education since I started going to school (and fell in love with it — nerd), but I didn't anticipate ending up in the independent school community. I also didn't ever really think about holding leadership positions in a school; I was always focused on my own classroom.

2. How did you land you are your current role?

I landed at Windward School when I moved back to L.A. after several years teaching in Phoenix. Partway into my second year teaching here, my department chair moved into an associate director's role, leaving the position of chair open. I had served as chair in Phoenix in a much smaller and younger department, so this was an exciting new challenge for me.

3. What is the most important leadership lesson you've learned and how is it valuable?

I've learned the importance of emotional intelligence. When I first started leading, I didn't realize the value of some of my strengths (introspection, active listening, empathy, etc.) and thought I had to fit into some stereotypical all-business mold instead. I eventually started to realize that I could be a strong leader because of these qualities, not in spite of them. They've helped me to build stronger teams, address conflict, and support my department members.

4. What advice can you offer on how to progress in your chosen field/career?

Be ready and excited to continue learning. Education is a lot different now than it was when I was in high school, and will continue to evolve in the years to come. The most respected teachers I know are always learning from others, making new connections, and innovating in their own classrooms. It's intrinsically rewarding and a great way to find new opportunities.

5. How would you describe your personal style? (in work/work-life balance)

I am pretty driven: I love setting goals for myself and working hard to meet them (to-do lists are one of my favorite things). I used to feel guilty that I wasn't more proactive about creating that elusive "work-life balance" until a mentor scoffed at the idea. Her theory was that we just tilt to one thing or the other, depending on what we are currently passionate about and what we need. So I've leaned into that, and I'll have intense work periods followed by a day where I have a date with my couch and a stack of novels.

6. What do you wish you knew when you were a student at Pomona that you know now?

Pomona is a rare gift. Intellectually, I knew this — kind of — but I don't think I fully appreciated it until I left. Living in a community of passionate, curious people, surrounded by resources and opportunities, tasked with learning as much as you can... it's not common once you leave! I wish I had realized just how much was available to me and reveled in it on a daily basis.

7. What Motivates You?

The students, always. I remember the impact some of my most influential teachers had on me, and I remind myself that we're striving to do the same thing for our students. High school is such a formative time, and I really feel the weight of that responsibility: everything that we do is in service of creating a great learning experience for them, and it helps when I'm in the middle of a very long, busy, or challenging week.

8. What does a day in your life look like?

I'm always at school early (by 7:00 a.m.) so I can get some quiet time to myself before campus is buzzing with students. I do my best thinking first thing in the morning, so if I'm lucky the first few hours of the day are for things like designing curriculum. I typically teach my own classes four hours a day, and the rest of the time is filled with meetings with students, administrators, and my department. Every day is a little different: I might be observing teachers, aligning curriculum, discussing ways to support struggling students, etc. I love being challenged by a wide variety of tasks and puzzles.

9. What are some lessons you've learned the hard way?

You have to take care of yourself! When I first began teaching, and then chairing, I ran myself into the ground. There is literally no end to the work you can do; I'm a fairly self-critical person, so I was constantly aware of how much more/better I could be doing. If you neglect yourself, though, there will come a point when you are no good to anyone else.

10. How did you go about organizing your time while at Pomona? Did you plan everything or go with the flow?

I was always a planner. (I bullet journaled before bullet journaling was a thing...) There was always so much I wanted to do, so I worked hard to organize my time to squeeze in as much as I could. That said, some of my best memories were the spontaneous ones when I put the plan to the side.