Letter from the Head of School
Pierrepont is a vibrant place where our students engage with ideas and people in meaningful ways. Our faculty is composed of talented and diverse artists, writers, classicists, mathematicians, scientists, musicians, actors, dancers and historians all of whom share an abiding sense that intellectual and artistic engagement is enlivening and sustaining. These extraordinary teachers offer our students a way into the richness of the academic and artistic worlds they inhabit. They are mentors who encourage students to explore the limits of possibility in every field of study and they bring their own authentic work to bear. This past year alone, one of our teachers wrote and produced an opera to celebrate the life of Alan Turing; another travelled to Galveston Texas to research his novel; a science teacher headed to St. Thomas to fix solar panels in support of disaster relief; another is performing with Meredith Monk; a math teacher joined the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley this summer to work on Kronecker Coefficients while another went to Ithaca, Greece to translate poetry with colleagues from around the world. The fact that our teachers have active intellectual and artistic lives matters because they bring the most effective kind of intellectual energy to our students and our students respond in kind. Our students are engaging, interesting and talented people. We have had international math competitors, nationally ranked squash players, chess hustlers, chess masters, black belts, award winning pianists, linguists, award winning painters, celebrated gymnasts, published authors, and even an inspired race car driver among so many others.
We have a humanist approach to learning. We believe in the good that comes from creating art and reading. We know that making sense of what we read is arguably as valuable to people as a new artificial heart valve that saves lives. Reading a primary source text is like reading a piece of art. It has structure and intention and it is something that can be read and reread and unfolds new meaning with each reading. We appreciate the applications of mathematics but we know that in order to properly apply and use a language one has to master deeply the components and parts of the language itself. Deep conceptual knowledge of mathematics is not simply an aspiration but a requirement. Each day our students fearlessly decipher ancient languages and texts; they struggle with mathematical theory and construct scientific experiments; they learn African dance and perform Shakespeare and Euripides. We encourage our students to embrace academic risk taking because we want them achieve, to fail and mostly to feel a sense of agency in the development of their interior lives.
As a faculty, we regularly take stock of how we are doing. We ask ourselves about the true measure of our work. When and how will we know whether we have succeeded or failed as a school? We know that a fancy college admissions list will not be enough. Merely filling student heads with “knowledge” of supposed facts will not do. Each of our students, when he or she leaves us, must want to continue to learn, to create and to contribute. Our strong belief is that as a school we are responsible, in large part, for the citizens that our students become. We embrace that challenge. Our students should be modest, gracious people in their pursuit of success. They should believe they are unencumbered by the need to be right, to be first, the fastest or the smartest. Each must be free and seek to deepen his understanding of things. Each should work to broaden her sense of possibility, be fueled by ambition and moved by true devotion to craft. If we are committed in this effort to create true citizens, our students will be alive and awake to beauty, emboldened with imagination, tempered by reason and equipped to truly innovate across any cultural, political or economic landscape. Only then will we have succeeded.
Our former Heads of School, Barbara O’Rourke and Nancy Webber held fast to a clear vision of the school mindfully conceived and richly supported by Eleanor and Andrew Beer for the last fifteen years. With humility and a profound sense of the foundations of the school, we move forward.
Head of School