Anne was the wisest, most open-minded, and child-centric educator I’ve ever worked with.
“Anne has been a friend for 40+ years and the best educator I have ever met.
I met Anne in an unusual way. In the mid-70s, she hired me to come to Indian Creek to teach members of the then-small faculty how to quilt one day a week after school; I think they were planning a classroom project. On one of those days, I arrived early, and she gave me a tour of the school. I was so impressed with the imaginative curriculum that I saw in the classroom and how comfortable the students seemed. I had been touring a few pre-schools to find one for David, and this seemed by far the best. I was right.
David went to Indian Creek and as he grew, I grew in my understanding Anne’s philosophy. She was never an elitist. She chose to open the school to all comers, rather than testing to select just the kids who scored highest on an entrance exam. She believes in the potential of all children and she lives up to that belief, and she hired people who shared it.
I was pleased to be invited as a parent to join her advisory board of trustees. One afternoon I called her from [another local private high school] where I was teaching, to apologize for a conflict that would keep me from attending the board meeting that night. In our conversation, I told her that I was leaving [the school] for, shall we say, “philosophical inconsonance,” and she hired me on the spot for ICS. So, I finally got a first-hand look at the middle school. I had been so pleased with David’s education to that point, and I now I saw it from inside.
Anne’s running of the school was unlike other places I had taught. Instead of the usual top-down lectures on administrative issues from the head of school at faculty meetings, we had collaborative meetings that often focused on individual students who were having difficulties, whether academic, emotional, or interpersonal. Anne would ask us for our observations and all teachers of that child would participate. So did those who simply observed him or her on the playground or in the cafeteria. Someone would volunteer to serve as a mentor for that child and to provide special attention and follow-up. Anne’s child-centered philosophy was so apparent, as was her collaborative approach to governance.
One of her best tenets was that discipline is not the same as punishment. I had come from [a school] where the faculty room had a list describing common student misbehaviors and consequent punishments to be meted out at first, second, and third offense. Anne on the other hand, believed in rational consequences. Students met with her to discuss and understand the ramifications of what they were doing; her background in clinical psychology no doubt helped. Don’t do your homework? Then you stay after on Friday afternoon to do it when everyone else goes home. (I remember one student whose mother made him pay for a taxi to take him home out of his allowance; that cured him quickly of not turning in his assignments promptly!) One student was guilty of “gleeking,” which involved getting a mouthful of water form the water fountain and spraying it at other students passing in the halls. Anne gave him a gallon bucket of water and a cup and had him stand outside her window “practicing” gleeking until the charm wore off forever.
The result was a school where students really learned self-discipline without seeing teachers as enemies to be outwitted.
Anne was great with her faculty, too, when they had problems. For several months before Kevin was born in May 1984, I was really sick, and had to take most of the spring semester off. Anne held my job for the next year and arranged my schedule so that I could teach 4/5 of a full load that year and still be finished by noon, so that Kevin only had to spend half a day with a babysitter. She helped other faculty who were struggling as well.
I left Indian Creek Middle School for a public high school job in 1988 because I really wanted to get back to high school teaching; I mentally compared the move to a fish out in fresh clean air on the dock being thrown back into somewhat polluted water. But I said on leaving that I hoped, if Anne ever started a high school, she would let me know. I tried to bring some of Anne’s philosophy and attitude toward kids to my new job and found my students so responsive, even in such a different milieu.
And then, more than ten years later, I found Anne was indeed planning to start a high school. A group of us once again engaged in collaboration with Anne, to design what the school should look like. Once again, students would be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, in keeping with her belief that all students deserved a chance to develop to their full potential. I hoped to a job as an English or social studies teacher there; instead, Anne asked me to work with her as upper school principal.
I didn’t always agree with everything Anne did when I worked in that capacity, but I always admired the principles on which she based her decisions. There was one incident when, after a heated political argument in the middle school teachers’ luncheon left some faculty members feeling upset and hurt. Anne then decreed that there was to be no more discussion of politics on either campus so that no one would be disturbed by it. I just rolled my eyes, knowing high school teachers. Sure enough, that afternoon three of them individually stopped by my office to strike up an explicitly political conversation. That was the last I heard of political censorship on campus.
One of Anne’s biggest contributions to the curriculum was the series of Human Development classes that she often taught herself. She was quite forthright in these classes and included lots of accurate and explicit information about sex and alcohol and drugs. (One of my favorite stories about Anne is one she told me herself. She was gathering supplies at a local drugstore for a class on birth control and had acquired a collection of sponges, spermicides, and a wide array of condoms. The young man at the checkout counter rang up her purchases, looked her in the eye, and commented, “You must be planning quite a weekend.”) Because of the atmosphere of honesty in these classes, students came to feel that they could tell Anne just about anything and they would get a fair hearing.
She was not in favor of a zero-tolerance policy, as you can imagine. Instead, she found positive ways to prevent problems. She did a long-range study of students as they moved from middle school to high school and found that if students were going to develop an alcohol problem or get pregnant, it usually occurred in the late afternoon, after school but before parents arrived home. Consequently, she started the afterschool program, so that middle school students could stay on campus, doing sports or other activities and staying out of trouble. There was such an atmosphere of trust in the high school that occasionally students who were concerned about other kids would talk to Anne, and she would intervene to get some counseling or other help for the student who needed it.
Simply put, she was the wisest, most open-minded, and child-centric educator I’ve ever worked with. As parent, trustee, faculty member, and principal, I have always admired and respected her, and I will miss her greatly.
Let me close with a memory that comes back to me often when I think of Anne. My son Kevin was a three-year-old in pre-K and one day he noticed that Anne was coming down the hallway. She was showing some prospective parents around the school. Kevin rushed up to her and threw his arms around her leg and said, “I love you, Mrs. Chambers.”
We all do.
~ Eileen Mattingly, Former Trustee, Head of Upper School, and Faculty, Alumni Parent