Q: What differences do you see in the teachers and student/teacher relationships at Shipley?
Fox: We had been at Shipley for two weeks when we had our parent/teacher conference, and it was such a different experience than at my son’s previous school. Mrs. Giaccio really knew our son. She knew his strengths, and she knew his weaknesses. She had really taken the time to get to know him, and it had been only two weeks! There’s no way that someone with 27 kids in her class is going to get to know her students the way that someone with 15 kids in the class will. With too many kids, there’s just no time for that individual attention.
Overton: I can imagine how hard it would be to manage every one of your students when one class could have 30-40 of them, whereas the biggest class that I’m taking here at Shipley has 15. At Shipley, teachers really want to help you, and they have the time to do it. They’re willing to change and manage what they’re teaching you in order to accommodate how you learn best. Just by talking to your teachers, you can let them know how you learn best and show them your learning style. Not only will the teachers know how you learn best, but you will, too. That leads into how you study best and how you pay attention in class and take notes. That is so effective when you’re in a classroom trying to take exams. Not only are you learning the curriculum, but you’re also learning about yourself, which is helpful because another important thing at Shipley is the college application process. So when you go to college, you’re way more confident, because you know what kind of a student you are. All of that starts with the student-teacher relationships and how comfortable you are in the classroom.
Q: What is the greatest value that independent schools have to offer?
Clarke: I think it’s the opportunity to educate and influence the whole life of the student. It’s not just academics. It’s about living a productive life and getting educated for a reason.
Q: Why do independent schools cost so much?
Clarke: The reason independent schools cost so much is that, while we can’t pay our teachers enough, we do have a lot of them for the number of kids in our schools. It isn’t just small classes—it’s college advisors, coaches, deans, and counselors. There are many adults at an independent school—far beyond the classroom—and that’s good. We have to pay for that.
Q: What advice would you give to a student or family making the switch from public school to Shipley?
Fox: I think that some people are scared to make a change, because they’re worried about how their child will handle it. But I think that kids are so resilient—much more than we give them credit for.
Overton: You don’t have to worry about changing anything about yourself in the transition to make yourself fit in here. No matter what kind of person you are, there’s an exact place for you to fit in at Shipley. Even if you’re trying to figure out who you really are, wherever you start, there’s nothing wrong with it. Whether it’s academically or socially, you’re going to be integrated into Shipley perfectly.
Q: There is a stereotype that independent schools are snobby or pretentious. Have you found that to be the case here at Shipley?
Fox: Not at all. I think it’s a really warm environment. I think the families are welcoming and friendly. I haven’t found that at Shipley at all.
Q: Do you think that the investment in independent school is worth it?
Fox: I definitely think it’s worth it. Starting at a young age, you’re getting basic fundamentals that are being taught in a way that makes sense. Now is the time to invest in those fundamentals—at a young age.
Clarke: It’s definitely worth it, and if one can afford only one year of independent school, it should be Kindergarten. The first years are most important. If you can afford only six years of independent school, it should be Kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grades.
Overton: My parents are happy, because they see that I enjoy it here. They knew that I’d be in the right place. They say I’ve become a Shipley girl, because I like being here so much. They can see that this is where I really want to be and that’s all that matters, as long as I’m getting a good education and not having any social issues. I think that they’re definitely satisfied.
Q: What about your Shipley education has had the most impact on your life?
Clarke: [Former Headmistress] Miss Speer had a huge influence on me and the rest of my cohort. She told us about her work in China and about people who have less than we do, and she sent us into the city to build playgrounds on volunteer weekends. She always focused us on something bigger than ourselves and school, and certainly bigger than academics. She cared if you failed math, but she really cared if you told the truth. And if you didn’t tell the truth, she really cared. Miss Speer made sure we were dedicated to social justice and to living lives of purpose.