The Shipley Magazine

Alumni on Campus Q&A: 3rd Grade Teacher Jenny Rieg Gellert ’99

Tell us about your Shipley experience when you were a student—what stands out the most?
Exposure to experiences and activities that broadened my understanding of and appreciation for the many ways to participate in a community. In particular, in Middle School, I felt as though I was encouraged and able to try out a range of sports, be a cast member in a musical, play an instrument, sing in choir, experiment with art, and participate in student government. I felt well rounded and that being active within your community was valuable and fun! I think this is why I felt, and still feel, so connected to Shipley.

Similarly, exposure through field trips, assemblies, and speakers was truly impactful. I remember so distinctly learning that the School had set up a grant that would allow for every seventh grader to go as a class to the Holocaust Museum in D.C. The combination of the immersive museum experience and Shipley’s commitment to and prioritization of exposing students to this important history really stuck with me. It felt ahead of its time.

Communication, communication, communication! Be it through participating in class discussions, honing my writing craft, or through larger public speaking events - I felt like learning how to get my point across and being comfortable presenting was organically and authentically developed each year.

Why did you pursue a career in teaching? Why Lower School?
I wanted a career that was actively and directly helping to make the world a better place. I have always built strong relationships with children of all ages, so teaching became the obvious choice. I genuinely enjoy working with kids of all ages, however, I like the variety of content you become an expert on when teaching in Lower School. I am so delighted by and impressed by young humans and their capacity for empathy. I optimistically hope my former students will also want to go out and make a positive difference in the world.

Why did you choose to come back to Shipley?
After working in three different independent schools, and two within the area, I had the opportunity to really understand that each school has a unique culture that is shaped by its values. It can be hard to find a school that shares your priorities. After the reignition of the Black Lives Matter Movement in the Spring of 2020, I knew I needed to be in a school that was genuinely committed to DEI initiatives. From following Shipley as an alum, I knew that Shipley was already taking measures, particularly in their approach to being inclusive of LBGQT+ students. I believed, and still believe, we are doing the kind of work that is vital to changing the world for the better.

How did your Shipley experience shape you as a teacher?
I had incredible role models in my teachers at Shipley. They really understood me, seemed to enjoy me, and wanted the best for me. I know how important that was to my overall happiness and success at Shipley and in my life. I try to make each student—and I suppose every member of the Shipley community— feel that same way, every day.

Was there anything that surprised you about Shipley when you returned as a teacher?
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the culture and community that I was hoping Shipley would have was, in fact, still present and continues to be at the forefront of decision making at the School.

You are sending your daughter to Shipley in the fall. Why?
I am so excited for her to experience the incredible educators, the warm and child-centered environment, and all of the joy that students in our Lower School are surrounded by every day.

In what ways has Shipley changed since you were a student? What has NOT changed?
It has been wonderful to work with and reconnect with the teachers and coaches who were so important to me when I was here as a student. Getting to work everyday with two of my former coaches, Erika Baker and Katie Whelan, has been so rewarding. Steve Baris was an incredibly important teacher for me. I was so glad to be able to be back in the community for his retirement and hear his wise words about his values as a teacher.

I think Shipley’s intentions and actions have always been pure, but, like all of us, it is restricted by its privileges and knowledge. It is really powerful and exciting to watch as the faculty and administration learn about and implement changes to support every child’s well-being and success. We are living the mission and doing the hard work!

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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.