The Shipley Magazine

Katherine Preston ’76: How Can Schools Shape a Better World?

About Katherine Preston ’76
Katherine Preston ’76 taught second through fifth grade for 25 years. She also served as an administrative assistant in college admissions for seven years and later worked as a substitute English teacher. She earned a B.A. in Psychology/Elementary Education from Mount Holyoke College, a M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Lesley University, and a M.Ed. in Reading from Eastern University’s Reading Specialist Practicum.

How do you think schools can act as a force for positive change in the world?
Schools can act as a force for positive change in the world in vital ways.

First, schools can offer a rigorous, college-preparatory, interdisciplinary curriculum that inspires a lifelong love of learning in each student. Shipley presents a superior model for this caliber of education to families.
Second, schools can focus on the character development of each student. When educators teach and model values of compassion, courage, integrity, kindness, respect for others, and appreciation for cultural and linguistic differences, students will carry these values with them.

Third, a school’s role is to identify each student’s strengths and areas of weakness/need, and to plan differentiated instruction that enables each student to reach their full potential. Schools need to identify each student’s strengths, whether academically, artistically, athletically, spiritually or personally, and draw out their innate gifts. This is a key role of schools.

Fourth, schools can provide opportunities for students to engage in real-world, problem-solving projects. Some of the skills that are essential for students to acquire in order to meet the complex challenges we currently face in our world include critical and analytical thinking; excellent listening; respectful communication; a willingness to take risks; and effective collaboration.

Fifth, schools are highly esteemed venues for building strong, supportive and caring relationships. These relationships may be treasured throughout our lives. Ultimately, schools are developing the unique intellectual, creative, athletic, spiritual, and personal gifts of each student, whose vital role will shape our world in priceless ways.

How can we change educational systems to make an even greater impact?
Educational systems could make an even greater impact if schools focused on student achievement in reading comprehension, writing fluency, and writing proficiency. It is essential for schools to provide ongoing professional development to faculty for best instructional practices for reading comprehension, writing fluency, and writing proficiency. Reading for literal and inferred information, reading between and beyond the lines, asking questions about the implications of texts, engaging with and responding to textual content with sensitivity are core literacy skills to teach well across all grade levels.

In Visible Learning into Action: International Studies of Impact by Jon Hattie, Deb Masters, and Kate Birch (2016), the authors present fascinating, in-depth research focusing on providing effective feedback to students, and on evaluating the impact that feedback has on students’ learning. Dr. Jon Hattie is the Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His extensive international research on providing students feedback for optimal learning outcomes is an outstanding resource and is highly recommended for educators.
What responsibility do schools have to be a force for positive change?
Schools have a great responsibility to be a force for positive change since we are preparing extremely talented students for service and for leadership in their communities and across our world.

When I was a junior at Mount Holyoke College, I was given an opportunity to learn about some of the massive, global, educational needs through serving as an Intern at U.N.E.S.C.O. during their International Bureau of Education Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. A principle that stands out from this U.N.S.E.C.O. Conference is “People are our greatest resource!” Schools have the profound responsibility to cultivate the character and to develop the innate, precious gifts of people, our greatest resource!

Read More from The Shipley Magazine

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.