Interview with Hamlin Teacher: Kirsten Gustavson

Since 1985, Ms. Kirsten Gustavson has been sharing her life energy with students of The Hamlin School. Whether teaching French (as she used to), singing out Morning Meeting, or leading graduation rehearsal, Ms. G is a Hamlin institution. A San Francisco native, Ms. Gustavson attended French-American International School, Lowell High School, then Princeton University. She is a meditator, a music enthusiast, and a maker.

We recently had the chance to sit down and speak with Ms. Gustavson.

1) Tell us about your current work at The Hamlin School.

I teach 8th grade social studies. The course is an overview of the major events of the 20th century with a focus on current events as well. I’m also a teacher-peer coach, basically a pedagogy nerd who talks shop with other teachers about things they are working on, with a focus on supporting teachers new to Hamlin.

2) You’ve worked at Hamlin for well over 30 years, share one story from your early days.

I was a practical support person for men during the AIDS crisis in the mid-1980’s. I shopped for people, cooked for people, and provided general support for those facing AIDS. One weekend I volunteered to take a small group of students to see the AIDS Quilt. It was moving to know my students wanted to see the quilt. It was a challenge of their time and they sought to understand more about what was being lost. We were in the epicenter and they wanted to know what was going on.

3) Alumnae from many years past still reflect fondly on your teaching. What is a core facet of your pedagogical philosophy?

The one doing the talking is the one doing the learning. It is my job to set up situations where as many students can talk in a way that is structured and supports the learning objectives. I want them engaged and speaking for as much of the class time as is possible. Also, being humorous and being real, showing up authentically.

4) What do you like most about Hamlin?

How unapologetically feminist and empowering it is. It has become more concentrated and that over the time I’ve been here, putting the talents and experience of girls front and center, giving them the tools to be young women in this place, in this time.

5) Tell us something about yourself that isn’t specifically Hamlin-related.

I’m really a maker. I come from a long line of craftsmen and women. I do sewing and jewelry-making, but I also do a lot of other stuff. I designed and made my son’s talis for his Bar Mitzvah, that meant a great deal to me.

For alumnae with fond memories of the Colonies Song, here is a recording of Ms. Gustavson’s rendition:


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