Wellington teachers given freedom to pursue their passions
Special Award: Manager
When Drew Eberly talks to the seniors at the Wellington School they frequently remind him that their “Breathing Life Into Shakespeare” experience in his English class was the most memorable event of their entire freshman year.
Eberly was able to bring actors from the Available Light Theatre to the school to not only perform “Julius Caesar” for them, but for the actors and students to perform the play together.
Eberly funded the program through an Engagement Grant offered by the school that is designed to support teachers as they bring new techniques and ideas to the classroom.
“We perform Shakespeare for them so they get to see it with experienced, trained actors,” Eberly says. “We show them what Shakespeare can be and as we’re reading ‘Julius Caesar,’ the actors work with students on developing their own scenes. Those artists then act as directors and act and direct with the kids. It’s a really amazing experience for our freshman to be able to act in scenes with these professionals.”
Jeff Terwin, incoming head of school, the current associate head of school and the head of upper school, says the work with the theater company is an example of the autonomy the private school in Upper Arlington gives its teachers.
“At our core, one of the values for Wellington is that we have really talented teachers and we trust them,” Terwin says. “They’re professionals, so we have a model built around teacher autonomy. They’re given a lot of flexibility and openness to partner with students in a way that we think is at a high level, but allows flexibility for teachers to draw on their strengths, experiences and interests.”
The autonomy and trust leaders give their teachers are two of the reasons the school has received a special award for “managers” as part of Columbus CEO’s 2019 Top Workplaces survey.
Eberly, who is a member of Available Light, began the theater program four years ago with funding from the Engagement Grant. It continues today and now is part of his regular curriculum funding.
“To be able to get a typical ninth-grader excited about Shakespeare is the project’s most outstanding aspect,” Eberly says. “Shakespeare isn’t something people just show up with a lot of passion. We’re reading it with passion and intensity and they’re wanting to emulate what they’re seeing the professional actors do.”
Rob Brisk, the current head of school, says it’s not surprising that teacher autonomy is at the core of the school’s culture. Wellington was founded in 1982 by a group of entrepreneurs who were out-of-the-box thinkers.
“The only way we continually improve is to make sure when we hire people, there’s an expectation that we want them to be change agents from day one,” Brisk says
Starting next year teachers will have a new avenue to help educate students, and it’ll require a plane ticket. The school is planning to debut a “WISE” program—Wellington International Student Experience. It will allow the 91 teachers at the school to take overseas trips with students to focus on topics such as the history of the slave trade in Ghana, coral reef health in Bonaire and sustainability in Scandinavia in Denmark.
The program will be open to all students, regardless of their family income.
“It struck us that some of our programs are not accessible to families who do not have the means and if we think international experiences are important, let’s figure out a way for all students to have those experiences,” Brisk says. “Our faculty will be a huge piece of that. It’s a huge opportunity for our faculty to grow in their international experiences as well.”
Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer.
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