Newest faculty additions offer school opportunity to grow and re-evaluate

Every school year brings change to the St. Paul Academy and Summit School community. This year, there is more change than usual: increased enrollment, new construction of the Huss Center for the Performing Arts, tweaks in the academic schedule, and an unusually high number of new teachers across most subjects.  This year 22% of the faculty and 13% of the students are new to the upper school.  All of these factors are contributing to a cultural change taking place at SPA.

It is really exciting to be at a school that is known to be so good, but at the same time so willing to change at any given moment.”

— Upper School History teacher Ryan Oto

Upper School Math Department Chair Bill Boulger recalls that the last time a change this large in the faculty took place was in the 1969-1970 school year.  “When I came to this school, it was the year that the two schools merged; St Paul Academy and Summit School. That was an incredible change for both schools.  The biggest change was that both boys and girls [were at] the same school together.” Boulger said. In his 46th year of teaching at SPA, Boulger is currently the faculty member with the longest tenure.

While SPA prides itself on its history and traditions, it also considers itself progressive and open-minded.   “There is a lot that we assume about the SPA way to do things. I think when you have enough of core of people who are new, it really does push us to think about how we explain things like homecoming, expectations for dances, and what are exams like.” Upper School principal Chris Hughes said.

As a result, subtle cultural changes-new ideas- begin to take form at SPA. Ryan Oto, a new upper school history teacher perceives SPA as an environment that is known for its academic reputation, but also  its open-mindedness. “It is really exciting to be at a school that is known to be so good, but at the same time so willing to change at any given moment.” Oto said.

new faculty and students infographicInfographic credit: Diane Huang

Adapting to a new environment is a process. “You have to adapt to whatever the culture is. Once you figure out what the culture is, then you can start to change small things or make little alterations.” Jon Peterson, another new member of the history department said.

The school’s focus on inclusiveness and growth is a natural part of the school’s essence and requires a constant concerted effort. “Cultural change is very difficult. You have to focus on it. You have to be sure people understand that there is a cultural change.” Boulger said. It is important to embrace and accept the changes that are happening to our community.

New upper school math teacher Beatrice White brings a refreshing view to the latest faculty additions. “Part of the reason that SPA has this really strong community is that it has developed that community over time. There are [a lot of] new teachers at the school this year and I think we probably each bring in a little bit different perspective without losing sight of the existing culture that is great for a reason.” White said.

Emily Anderson, a new upper school English teacher, anticipates collaboration in the community and a “willingness to talk about ideas and an openness when it comes to sharing both our triumphs and the mistakes that we have made.”

Oto added that he hopes that the SPA community consists of “[people] that push me to become a better version of my professional self and personal self.” Oto wants to add new ideas and new creative options to the SPA community. “I think I am on the right path and in the right school to make some sort of change.” he said.

When new teachers and students join the SPA community, there is an opportunity to evaluate what things are done and why.   “Getting new faces is an important part of the school growing. [Students and faculty] bring in a new perspective into the school too, Hughes said.

“For a place that is 114 years old, and as well established as we are, getting a fresh look [is a good thing].”