Ted Talks May/June 2024: Summer Reflections–Looking Forward and Back

Ted Graf, Head of School
Read Head of School Ted Graf's latest Ted Talk!
We are in that strange time of the school year when the campuses are quieter (most of the time), parking spaces are plentiful, and, due to vacations and the heat, those of us who work during the summer see each other sporadically. I appreciate this period because it supports deep thinking about the school, and it allows for some much-needed rest. And, even though I am one of our few resident extroverts, I need some alone time, too.

Following our uplifting and moving end of year ceremonies–High School Commencement in Lady Bird Auditorium at UT’s LBJ School of Public Policy; Eighth Grade Graduation in the beautiful event space at Austin Central Public Library; and our sweet and poignant Gates of Life ceremonies for our Early Childhood and Elementary students–we went into a productive and unusually energetic week of closing faculty meetings. In our wrap-up meeting with all faculty and staff and in our annual meeting with the Board of Trustees, I shared many points of pride from the year and here are three of the most imPACTful ones:
  1. Our ongoing partnership (year two!) with The Authentic Institute of Montessori (AIM) is vibrant and in residence again on the Springs and Creek Campuses, and the fact that, over the course of the next academic year, we’ll have five guides participating in the training is fabulous. Years ago we dreamed of actively “supporting the growth” of our own Montessori guides, and it’s happening!
  1. The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) has fully taken root and is integrated into our unique student-centered approach to education on the River Campus. Under the leadership of Stephanie Roach, we completed a rigorous five-year review, and the IB commended us for the alignment of the 3P’s with the IB Learner Profile. The IB is complemented by our commitment to growth and academic quality across the campuses, as demonstrated in our interim five-year report submitted (and enthusiastically accepted!) by our accrediting body, the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS). When we reopen in August, let me know if you want to know more about what we learned about the school during those two processes.
  1. The addition of a third Upper Elementary classroom (hello Skybirds!) and the energy, vision, and planning that it required has brought new students and families to the school and generated great excitement! I’m grateful to Tim Reilly, Amy Nylund, and Alex Penry for their collaboration and focus in making this a reality. Gratitude is also due to Mark Gaston and Bobby Bullard as this vision becomes a reality this summer.
As I look ahead to the 2024-2025 school year, the following priorities and projects are coming into focus.
  • First, we are excited and proud to be partnering with Embracing Equity to advance our work in the area of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity. Eight colleagues (including all of the campus-based DEI Coordinators) are participating in a Leadership Residency this summer and throughout the full academic year. Under the stewardship of Embracing Equity, we have conducted an internal equity audit of all employees, and that data will be used to design learning opportunities and to help the school come closer to “embracing diversity.”
  • Second, we will continue to work hard on our facilities on all three campuses–envisioning how those spaces can better support the type of teaching and learning we value and how to provide higher quality and much-needed work spaces for faculty and staff. There is evidence of this on all three campuses this summer, so when you come to campus in August be sure to check out the new deck on the River Campus and the enhancements coming to the garden on the Creek Campus, in addition to other projects big and small.
  • And, third, the Academic Team is working hard on a number of initiatives this summer. This team consists of our four academic directors–Susie Demarest, Tim Reilly, Terra Lynch, and Avé Luke-Simpson–and myself.  In addition to DEI work with Embracing Equity, the Academic Team is exploring ways to better align our programs and identify the common threads between our approach to Montessori all the way through to IB. Consistent with those common threads, they are thinking hard about how curiosity fuels excellence in our students. To do that, we have been discussing how Headwaters defines academic excellence, and we look forward to sharing our ideas with you early in the new school year.
And, in the spirit of sharing ideas, the full administrative team is reading The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle this summer. When that group is together again in late July, we will be thinking about how to collaborate better and how to build an inclusive culture that helps all students feel empowered to achieve whatever they choose to pursue so they feel a sense of belonging, confidence, and pride in who they are. They can’t do that without a strong and resilient culture of caring adults. If you decide to read the book, let me know and maybe we can do a cross-campus book group after Labor Day.

Spring Campus

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Creek Campus

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River Campus

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