After graduating Williams College with a BA in Mathematics and Chemistry, Caleb Balderston ‘06 joined Teach for America, teaching math in Chicago public charter schools. Working mainly with low-income students of color, it was there that Balderston developed his passion for equity in education.
This passion continues to animate Balderston today in his work as high school principal at Academy of the Pacific Rim (APR) Charter Public School in Massachusetts. “We not only pursue academic mastery here, we are also explicit about making space for identity work and helping students understand what it means to be a global citizen,” Balderston explains.
This commitment to global citizenship can be seen in the fact that all APR students are expected to learn Mandarin Chinese and (in non-COVID times) have a chance to participate in an exchange program with a sister school in China. “Our link with China is a differentiating feature for us. Yet at its core, APR is about giving students and their families a free education not unlike what they might receive—with a nonzero price tag—at a place like Shipley,” Balderston says. “We give students a chance to build strong relationships with teachers, and get involved in a bunch of different activities.”
Balderston knows something about participating in many activities. During his time at Shipley, he not only served as co-captain of the varsity soccer and baseball teams, he also played varsity basketball, sang with the Madriguys, dabbled in Greek, and did so well academically that he received a National Merit Commendation. “I loved the diversity of the Shipley experience, the ability to do a lot in a small community,” he recalls. “That’s what we are doing here at APR as well.”
On the culture side, Balderston is leading a shift at APR away from punitive discipline toward restorative justice. “We believe in repairing harm that occurs in our community,” he explains. “For example, let’s say that a student behaves disrespectfully toward a teacher. The actual harm in that situation is between the student and the adult, so rather than imposing a detention, we provide them both with tools to mend their relationship. Conversations that encourage accountability can be quite powerful in a community where people feel connected to their school and to each other.”
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.