Meet Our Community
English Department Chair, English Teacher, Poetry Program Advisor, Letterpress Advisor
As a veteran member of the teaching faculty, what do you see as Westover’s strengths as a School community – in terms of our faculty, our students, our curriculum, and our mission?
The moment I came to visit Westover, I could feel the strong sense of community here. And that feeling of community is contagious: because it is shared by everyone each day, we tend to attract those who want to a be part of that mutually supportive ethos. I think, too, that this spirit of camaraderie and acceptance encourages students to aspire to push themselves further than they have gone before in classes, on the playing fields, and in the arts. Challenges are easier to face when you trust those who surround you.
This year you are taking on two new roles – English Department chair and the head of the Poetry Program. What do you see as your primary role as department chair for your colleagues, our students, and the School community?
As English chair, I hope to raise both inside and outside the walls of Westover greater awareness of what distinguishes our English program from those at other schools. In particular, our one-on-one work with students in conference empowers them to best articulate their voices.
Westover’s Poetry Program has long been an integral part of the School’s curriculum. How does the program reflect the strengths and commitment of the School toward the education of young women? What makes the program still relevant today?
Lyric poetry provides us with an opportunity to dwell within the possibilities of language. It is also the most intimate opportunity we have to enter into the experience of another by literally taking on the voice of that other "I" as we read. In a world where people too often fail to listen to one another, I like to believe that poems offer us a bridge to the lives, experiences, and beliefs of others.
What inspired you to enter the field of education?
I love to teach because I love to learn. Engaging in dialogue with students in class always opens up texts – whether something new to me or something I've read dozens of times – in new and unexpected ways.
Are there courses you will be teaching this year that you find particularly exciting or challenging?
I find all my classes exciting, but there is something special about the Craft of Poetry elective. Amazing poetry always comes out that class because of the students' willingness to let the writing take them to unexpected places.
What do you find satisfying in having several different roles at Westover?
I tend to see them as all facets of the same endeavor: collaboratively exploring the wondrous possibilities of the written (and printed!) word.
Bridget Gattinoni '19
First Head of School
As you head into your senior year, how do you think that you have grown as an individual since your freshman year until now?
I’ve definitely become a lot more independent since freshman year. Having more freedom over my school work, classes, and relationships has also helped me to become more mature. Westover gave me a responsibility over my grades and extracurriculars that, although overwhelming at times, has helped me to develop a strong sense of my individuality as a student, athlete, and leader.
How would you describe yourself as an individual and as a leader?
A lot of the ways I act stem from my attempts to be an honest leader. I think the best way to be a successful leader is to not act like you’re the leader. In my experience, productivity thrives when everyone in a group feels that their ideas are both heard and valued, so I try my best to lead with people instead of just leading them.
What’s the biggest change that you have noticed within yourself during your time at Westover?
Throughout my time here, I’ve come out of my shell. Because Westover is so small, I’ve gotten to know every student and faculty member. Being so comfortable in our community has given me the little push I needed to not be afraid to make mistakes. Without having to be afraid of potentially embarrassing myself, I’ve allowed myself to ask the “silly” questions in class, propose some out-of-the box things, and make jokes in the dining hall. I’ve gotten comfortable taking risks, something I don’t think I ever thought would happen four years ago.
Where did the confidence in yourself come from that led to your decision to run for First Head of School?
Honestly, I’m not really sure. I think a big part of my decision to run for Head of School was the Westover community. I’m not sure if I would have run had I not had such tight-knit friendships and felt so comfortable among both students and faculty.
What was it like to hear your name announced as this year’s First Head of School?
I didn’t really expect that I would end up being First Head.The moments after Lauren [last year’s First Head of School] announced my name were surreal.My friends pulled me into a hug and I felt incredibly supported by the whole community.When I sat down on the steps, I immediately thought back to my first days as a freshman, when the Heads of School were all I looked up to and when senior year felt so far away.
As First Head of School this coming year, what are some of your goals for yourself, the students, and the School as a whole?
As both a student and a head of school, one of my main goals is to work my hardest. I hope to help further tie the community together through continuing Westover traditions and through starting new ones. All in all, I hope we all have a really productive year.
As a student leader at the School, what kind of message are you hoping to instill in younger classes, especially those in the incoming freshman class?
I just want to help the incoming students understand the benefits that come from taking advantage of all the opportunities Westover provides you with. Whether it be participating in a club, taking a class you never thought you’d be able to be in, or using office hours with teachers to help you be successful in the classroom, you will surprise yourself with what you can accomplish!
History Teacher, School Psychologist, Coach
As you enter your second year as a member of the Westover faculty, what have you learned about the School and its community during your first year? What might have surprised you? What has impressed you? What has challenged you as an educator?
At the risk of sounding corny or cliché, I’ve learned the Westover community is incredibly unique and special. I couldn’t be prouder to work for a community of young women who show so much dedication to learning and true support for one another. I found nothing but support and encouragement from faculty, administrators, and students this past year. The biggest challenge for me personally this year has been stepping out of the role as a full-time teacher and stepping into the role as a student-support provider as a school psychologist in my first year practicing.
How important is it for you in your daily life at Westover to be seen as an advocate and source of support for both students and teachers?
In my mind, it is essential that I be seen as an advocate and source of support for both students and teachers. I keep my office door open to both students and teachers, and every time I see a new face I’m thrilled. I want the community to know, students, teachers, and parents alike to know that I am here to help and support in any way I can.
What inspired you to enter the field of education?
I’ve been fortunate to have some pretty amazing educators growing up, and when I was in high school, I met the most influential adults in my life who helped inspire me to always pursue my academic interests whatever they may be. As I look back on these role models, I can only hope I can repay the favor they afforded me in my high school career. My first job as a history and psychology teacher hooked me and made me realize I had a future in independent schools. I love the flexibility of curriculum development, the camaraderie of the faculty, and the genuine love of learning espoused in these environments.
How would you describe your philosophy as a teacher and coach?
I want to help empower and support each student or athlete. I believe wholeheartedly in a strengths-based methodology that helps harness and support the strengths (whether the student is aware of these strengths or not) of the individual. This involves promoting greatness in each individual student. We all have strengths, and sometimes, for high school students, it can be hard for them to recognize their own abilities. So, my charge as an educator in the classroom, the Learning Center, and on the field, is to help every student find something about themselves that makes them feel capable and strong.
What are you most excited about as you head into the 2018-19 academic year?
This is a tough one, because there are many things to be excited about ... But I think I'm most excited to catch up with the students – and I’m even more excited to meet all my new students!
What do you find exciting about the course you will be teaching in history this year? What are you both most excited about in your other duties as you look to your second year at Westover?
I'm most excited to work closely with (fellow history teacher) Carolyn Brunelle and to have a chance to work with a good number of incoming 9th graders from day one. We are going to focus a significant amount of attention on building critical skills in the reading and writing of history, which we hope will help all of them transition smoothly into the Westover community.
What do you find satisfying in having several different roles within the Westover community?
This is a dream job for a school psychologist/history teacher/coach! When I was finishing my graduate training, many of my professors said I’d have a difficult time finding a job where I could practice as a school psychologist and as a teacher (let alone a coach, too!). So, when I found this opening (right down the road from my fiancé at Taft) I knew I had to jump at the chance.
I feel so fortunate every day that I can get to know students in and out of the classroom and across all grade levels. I absolutely love teaching (history has always been a great passion), and I love when I can reach students in the classroom and see individual growth in students on a daily basis. In the Learning Center, my role can be truly individualized depending on the needs of each student or teacher who enters my office.
I also love visiting classrooms and seeing the amazing things happening in all departments on a daily basis. I’m also so fortunate to be able to shake off the “classroom persona” a bit in the afternoons and weekends when coaching. To be able to get to know the students both in the classrooms and on the playing fields or courts is a true joy. I also love getting to work with other faculty members in the “off” hours as a coach; you really get the chance to feel a true part of the community.