We are very excited to have Dr. Kelsey Twist Schroeder with us this year. Dr. Schroeder comes to The Hamlin School from Roland Park Country School in Baltimore, where she was the Dean of Students for the Upper School. Dr. Schroeder attended Stanford University, where she was a scholar-athlete, excelling as an All-American lacrosse player. She went on to earn her Masters in Education from Stanford, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Schroeder is the mother of three girls; her two oldest are now attending Hamlin.
1. What are you most excited about for this school year?
In my first year at Hamlin, I am most excited about becoming part of this extraordinary community. When I visited Hamlin last year for my interviews, I could immediately sense what a strong, supportive community it was. Every person—from the students to the employees to the families—believes in the mission of the school and living the Creed, and you can feel that energy in the air.
That is the kind of environment where I want to be a school leader, and it is the kind of school culture I want for my own daughters. My spouse, Jamie, and I are simply over the moon that our daughters, Hazel and Lillian started in the Lower School this fall, and hopefully our youngest, Marion, will be here in a few years!
2. You recently completed your Doctorate in Education. Tell us about the focus of your work.
The Mid-Career Doctoral Program at Penn brings together a diverse cohort of educational leaders from urban, rural, suburban, private, and public contexts. We had different backgrounds, educational philosophies, and professional roles, and we came together to use that range of wisdom to tackle complex educational challenges.
The focus of my dissertation was on how adolescent students at a selective independent girls’ school conceptualize and experience leadership. The premise of the study is that leadership is dynamic and that girls coming of age today may not approach leadership in the same way girls did ten or even five years ago. Because I am committed to developing leadership capacities in girls, I wanted to begin that work by first understanding what attitudes, experiences, and hopes shape the way the girls currently approach leadership.
3. You are the mother of 3 girls; what is the best piece of parenting advice you have received?
Being a mother of three girls has been the greatest joy of my life, and as any parent knows, raising children is also challenging at times. My first daughter, Hazel, was born 13 weeks prematurely. We are blessed that Hazel had a remarkable recovery, but she had a difficult start to life. During her long stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) she had one particularly hard day and was having difficulty breathing; as a new mother, I was feeling overwhelmed. A nurse that I had become friendly with came up to me, put her arm around me, and compassionately said, “I know you wish you could, Kelsey, but you can’t learn to breathe for her.” I will never forget that moment and the caring way she spoke those words to me.
Watching your child struggle to learn is one of the most challenging experiences as a parent. It’s our instinct to want to step in and help. I have returned to that wise advice several times over the years. Whether it’s learning to tie a shoe or make new friends, I have to remind myself that I can guide and support and love my kids, and I also need to let them learn independently.
4. You were a highly accomplished athlete. How does that experience inform your work as an educator?
Growing up, I was blessed to attend a girls’ school that never asked me to pick between being a scholar, athlete, or artist. I loved being able to sing in my a cappella group and then dash off to my basketball game. While I learned so much in academic classrooms, I think I learned just as much being a three-sport varsity athlete (lacrosse, field hockey, basketball). Athletics is where I learned how to get along with others, including people who were very different from me. Being part of a team taught me how to put the group’s goals above my own individual goals. Being an athlete taught me the satisfaction of hard work. My dad shuttled me from game to game and would always tell me how proud he was that I “played my heart out” whether we won or lost. While I like to win as much as anyone, my family never prized winning over trying my best and being a good sport. I try to imbue those lessons into my work with students every day.
5. What would your favorite K-8 teacher say about you as a student?
I had many amazing teachers during my K-8 education, so it’s impossible to pick a favorite, but one teacher who had a tremendous impact on me was my 5th grade teacher, Mary Beth Dyer. She had (and still has) one of the most wonderful laughs in the world. It’s big and joyful and carefree, and when you hear her laugh, you can’t help but smile. In addition to a contagious positive spirit, Ms. Dyer taught me to not be afraid of failing and live life as a learning adventure where you get a chance to grow every single day.