The Director of Academic Support discusses what the School offers its students.
The person Director of Academic Support Kate Daniels most admires is the Dalai Lama, and she tries to emulates his calm presence, patience and compassion, and ability to see the good in everyone. This fall, her 14th at the School, Daniels was named the first holder of the Kiril Sokoloff ’65 Chair, established to support a faculty member who is an inspirational leader in the School community, demonstrating compassion, kindness, and engagement. She spoke with SPS Senior Writer/Editor Kate Dunlop.
What does the Office of Academic Support offer to students? It’s a place for kids to come to feel that somebody understands the academic challenges they’re having — to help them know they’re not alone. A lot of kids struggle with time management and organization. The awesome thing about St. Paul’s is that [students] can do so many things, but then it’s a matter of when are they going to fit it all in? I encourage them to make lists and to focus on sleep, proper nutrition, and stress management.
What is SPS doing to support students after a year of pandemic disruptions? We took a hard look at the supports we were going to need for students who had less than ideal academic and social/emotional experiences during the pandemic. It was an opportunity to look at supports not just for those students, but for all students. New this year, we have a study hall every block during the academic day, where kids can come to a nice, quiet place to work. Seven faculty help to oversee that. We also have subject-specific academic support during the day. And there’s a fabulous group of math and science peer tutors available. That all happens in the Lindsay Center during the day. At night, everything moves to Ohrstrom Library.
How do you build trust with students? Students often say, ‘everyone else in my class writes poetry better,’ or ‘they’re better at German.’ I tell them nobody wins the comparison game and to put their best foot forward every time they attempt something. Best does not mean perfection, just your best effort on that particular day. There’s no such thing as perfection. I talk to kids about believing in themselves, that [the Office of] Admission didn’t make a mistake and they can do this work. Everybody has a period of feeling like an imposter; I help kids realize they belong, that we believe in them, and all they need to do is ask for help.
What do you love about your work? I love working with teenagers — their enthusiasm and energy, their ability to wrestle with big questions, and their care and concern for others. They’re optimistic. I hope they take what they learn here and come up with innovative and exciting solutions to the world’s problems. I’ve never worked as hard in my life as in this job, but I’ve never been happier.
Can you share a moment of compassion you’ve witnessed? When my mother died two years ago, my boys in Manville wrote a card with lovely messages. It was really sweet and special. The care and compassion the boys showed me at such a sad time in my life made me feel cared for and loved, and I will never forget it.