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Dear Heathwood: A Love Letter 14 Years in the Making

Friday, May 22, 2020

Dear Heathwood,

This is a love letter 14 years in the making.

During that time, we have raised two daughters together.  There have been the epic fails: like when I forgot to come and pick up my Kindergartener that half-day (thank you, Ms. Dargan, for being truly in loco parentis!), to that time the entire dress code was changed because of our youngest daughter’s penchant for wildly-patterned tights and knee socks, or when our eldest daughter forgot to fill out the back of a math quiz so many times it became known as “pulling a Falvey” (Ms. Johnson will never let you forget that, Julie!).

But there were also the many, many instances when you watched over our children’s learning and development in ways that have had a lasting impact on them: the teacher who sat with my child every day after school when she was struggling with math, until she no longer said “I’m just not good at math” and it became a subject she enjoyed.  The counsellor who met with my child every week during a difficult time.  The chorus and drama teachers who sparked a love of musical theater.  Listening to our girls speak knowledgeably at the dinner table about world history, current events, environmental science (and Moby Dick!). The PEAK leader who sat with my eldest at the top of the tower until she felt ready to take on the zipline (“Coach Wood cured my fear of heights!”).  The emails just checking in to see how things were going, or sharing a moment when one of our children shone as a caring community member.

In addition to the lessons in math, and science, history and literature, there were so many other small lessons and connections every day and week--about kindness, and honesty, and responsibility, and perseverance. Over time all of those moments have helped to mold and shape our children into the young adults they are today: people who are not only very well-educated, but also generous, community-minded, and purposeful in following their dreams.

Some might say the adage that “it takes a village to raise a child” has become hackneyed, and perhaps people are tired of hearing it.  But the truth is that it isn’t just our families, but also our communities which shape our children as they grow.  They spend 7+ hours a day with their school community, 9 months out of every year.  Their teachers are their guides, and their schoolmates are their compatriots as they learn not just what they need to know, but also how to be: the skills and habits of mind and spirit which will equip them to transform their own lives and the world they live in.

When my husband tells the story of my first visit to campus, all those years ago, he says that as my mother (a 30-year education professional) and I toured campus, we “heard angels singing.”  It’s true that she and I left campus that day determined to make Heathwood the place our girls would learn and grow.  It has been a joyful, rewarding, exhausting, exhilarating, sometimes comical journey, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  

Fourteen years ago, as we drove home for the summer after our first year at Heathwood, Julie said, “I’m going to miss coming here every day.”  Next week, as Kate leaves campus for the last time as a student, that will still be true.  But they will carry their Heathwood experience with them always, and for that I am truly grateful.

Thank you.