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Board of Advisors Dinner & The Wonder of Learning

14 Nov Board of Advisors Dinner & The Wonder of Learning

Head of School Nicole A. DuFauchard and the Board of Trustees hosted their annual Board of Advisors dinner last Thursday. The SMART Lab was transformed into an elegant banquet room where Trustees, staff, and guests were treated to an evening of good food and conversation about the future of Advent.

Below are Nicole’s remarks to the guests, followed by remarks from Amber Lowe, Special Projects Manager, about the Wonder of Learning exhibition.

“Good evening! First, I want to thank everyone for being with us tonight at this annual gathering of Advent champions. The opportunity for us to come together this year is truly a reflection of our humble beginnings.

“In 1961 our school was founded by community members of the city of Boston that felt strongly that there must be a better way: A better way to integrate schools, a better way to put children at the forefront of their learning, a better way to engage children as true citizens of the city and the world. Community has always been a cornerstone and the heart of who we are.

Head of School Nicole A. DuFauchard addresses the guests.

“From Reverend Bob Day’s early days, working alongside civil rights leaders to Nancy Harris Frohlich’s vision to bring the principles of Reggio Emilia to Advent, the School has been able to draw inspiration from everywhere and bring the best learning to students.

“Tonight, we celebrate these collaborations, which brought together community members from across the city. The intentional, thoughtful, and engaging discussions that began in Reggio Emilia culminated at the Wonder of Learning. The Wonder of Learning (WOL) exhibit has truly been transformational for so many and again we ask the question, “How can we do better?”

Nancy Harris Frohlich, Advent’s third head of school, could not be with us tonight, but I asked her to share a few thoughts with us. Advent’s Reggio-inspired approach was made possible by Nancy.” Click here to read Nancy’s letter.

“Before I introduce Amber Lowe – without whom this evening would not have been possible – I would like to say thank you to a few people.

“The Boston Area Reggio Inspired Network (BARIN) worked for years to bring the WOL exhibit to Boston. Specifically, Kelly Pellagrini spearheaded this effort and became the beacon for a community of educators. She has been both a champion and an advocate. None of the Wonder of Learning in Boston would have been possible without Kelly.

“Sue Twombly oversaw the installation for the exhibit, which was a feat in itself. She  problem solved and was relentless in securing a venue that would not only hold the installation but would also provide space for discovery and imagination.

“Isabela Garcia supported WOL’s professional development program, including teaching classes in English and Spanish and organizing BARIN’s day-long conferences. These conferences hosted hundreds of educators from around the world.

“Thank you to the BU/Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, which became a second home for Advent’s faculty over the past several months.

“Stephanie Cox Suarez and Megina Baker organized the Professional Development Committee, which offered a wide range of learning opportunities for educators, families, and policy makers. Theirs was one of the largest efforts of any Wonder of Learning exhibit.

“There have also been many interns and volunteers working at the exhibit each day to welcome visitors, giving their time and passion to collect valuable data to share with schools, educators, and families.

“We are fortunate to have Tiziana Filippini, pedagogista from Reggio Emilia, Italy, here with us tonight. Tiziana helped create the exhibit. So, a thank you for making this accessible to people around the world! What a wonderful gift: to the world a chance to view a half century’s worth of work.

Pictured clockwise, left to right, are Seth Kaufman, Stephanie Cox-Suarez, Kelly Pellagrini, Isabela Garcia, and Tizinia Filippini

“Before I end my remarks tonight, I wanted to take a few minutes to give an update on all that is happening at Advent.

“As we close out our strategic plan – that many in this room supported in the creation of – we are truly at a turning point. The Advent School has come far in the last six years. The strategic plan has been a remarkable collaboration and I, too, have drawn inspiration for the folks that have walked with Advent for so many years. We have made dreams come true.

“I love that I can attest to the amazing work, and the people that have helped make [the strategic plan] a reality. Some of you in this room, some of which have held my feet to the fire, and some that have championed alongside me to make sure we continue to strive for excellence in all things Advent. I would like to highlight a few of the champions who have helped pave the way for excellence.

“To Mark White, we have made a reality of offering sailing to our students, being the only elementary school in the city that partners with Community Boating. To Liz O’Brien, we have purchased 99 West Cedar and secured our campus – as the landscape of Charles Street continues to change – making a huge investment in the life of Beacon Hill.

“For Jack Gurnon, we have re-established our relationship with the Church of the Advent, which has been more meaningful than you can imagine, as the Church was Advent’s original home. To Adrian Madaro, the Boston Latin School graduate who has always paid homage to his Advent roots and the preparation he received here. We have restructured our academic program, created the Department of Learning Services, and put social-emotional learning at the forefront of all we do, standing side by side with our progressive roots and academic rigor. To Ben Resner’s daughter, Besty, we have built a community playspace that is a true representation of the life and curriculum of Advent in the heart of the city.

“To Mercedes Ridao, we have solidified our commitment to the maintaining the diversity of our community and have embedded it fully in our curriculum, with a Social Justice and Diversity Faculty Task Force. This task force is tasked with understanding high level and best practices around curriculum and instruction of diversity and inclusion and the support for faculty to be intentional in the their work.

“For Seth Kaufman, who has reinvigorated the Board of Trustees to look at our future. And finally to Kaia Miller Goldstein, who has been vigilant creating a space that looks to our sustainability and legacy for the next 57 years.

“The Advent School is no longer at the cusp. We have launched. We host hundreds of educators from across the globe to see us in action, and we collaborate with others in the educational communities on how to be intentional with children’s education.

“The biggest question we get asked is, “How do you do it?” We do this in part thanks to the people in this room, the faculty, administrators, and parents, and we do this by advocating for what’s right for children’s education.

“So, what’s next? I see a clearer collaboration where Advent helps support the tone for early childhood education in Boston. We look to secure our financial security by building a culture of giving among our constituents. This is to ensure that not only our program but also our buildings celebrate our 60th anniversary and beyond with all that our founders, community members, and children have hoped for. We look to the broader community to partner with our Enrichment program to offer programs for students across the city as well as students in our building.

“I am thankful for all of you with us tonight. I am humbled by your commitment, comradery, and your championship. Please reach out, I will be reaching out to each of you and will continue to put Advent in the forefront of our conversations for children in honor of children. Thank you for walking with us.

“Now, I would like to introduce Amber Lowe, Advent’s Special Projects Manager.”

Amber Lowe

“The Wonder of Learning exhibit shares the experiences of children in the schools in Reggio Emilia. It shows us what is possible when we believe in the full potential of children, when we value and support the knowledge and professionalism of teachers, and when the community, as a whole, invests in early education.

Amber Lowe, Special Projects Coordinator, and Tiziana Filippini (right) enjoy a coffee break on Charles Street.

Our hope in bringing the exhibit to Boston, was that it would inspire and provoke a dialogue about the educational experiences of the youngest citizens in our city. The goal was to cross contexts, cultures, and communities to have the widest impact possible.

During the time the exhibit has been in Boston (almost six months now), we have welcomed over 5000 visitors; visitors from 31 states and 21 countries. Teachers, educational leaders, policy makers, parents, and children has visited the exhibit.

Deepening the experience, one of the most robust professional development plans was put forth and over 60 courses, trainings, and experiences were offered for educators and community members on the philosophical and pedagogical practices of the schools in Reggio Emilia.

And now, in the final days of the exhibit in Boston, we have been given the amazing opportunity to be in dialogue with Tiziana – a pedagogista from Reggio Emilia. When we gathered together with Tiziana at the exhibit a couple of days ago, we shared these numbers, but also asked her what’s next. And, Tiziana offered us a metaphor:

She explained that the work they do in Reggio is not something to take and replicate, but rather it should serve as a mirror –  a mirror to better understand ourselves, who we are, and where we want to go.

The exhibit has offered the educational and wider community in Boston a glimpse into what is possible when a community truly values and invests in the education of its youngest citizens. It is a mirror reflecting back to us where we are on this journey and where we still need to go.

Ultimately, the impact of the Wonder of Learning will not be measured in how many people came to the exhibit or how many courses we offered, but rather in how we, as a community, can continue to reflect on our educational practices, to dialogue and imagine new possibilities, and to advocate for high quality education for all children.

I am grateful to be part of both the Advent community, and a wider educational community, that is committed to this work, this ongoing dialogue and reflection, as we strive to do better for our youngest citizens. And I am so thankful for the mirror that the Wonder of Learning has given us as we continue on this journey.”