The Athenian School
The Athenian School
Start: July 1, 2018, Danville, CA
Director of Teaching and Learning
Mission & Round Square Pillars
The Athenian School prepares students for the rigorous expectations of college and for a life of purpose and personal fulfillment. We offer a challenging academic program with a difference: intellectual inquiry is active, learning is interactive, the disciplines are interrelated, and analysis and creativity thrive simultaneously. The acquisition of knowledge becomes authentic and joyous.
We cultivate the personal qualities of each student to become an integrated human being with integrity, strong moral character, aesthetic sensitivity, and physical well being.
The Athenian community requires students to face life directly through open communication, while developing their inner strength to exceed their perceived potential and emerge compassionate, responsible adults.
We instill an appreciation of the reciprocal relationship between the individual and cultures, society and the natural world. We value the power and beauty of multiculturalism within our diverse community. We embrace the principles of democratic governance, stewardship of the environment, respect for human dignity, and service as a way of life.
By providing an atmosphere of intellectual, artistic, and physical challenge within the warmth of a nurturing community, we develop in our students the confidence and skills required to meet the complexities of their future.
Round Square Pillars
Athenian is a member of Round Square (described later in this document); as such, the Pillars of Round Square are a foundational piece of Athenian’s core values. Round Square is an international consortium of schools that share a commitment, beyond academics, to programs and educational opportunities that are designed to educationally integrate the following six Pillars:
The Athenian Way
The Athenian School was founded in 1965 by Dyke Brown, a disciple of experiential education leader Kurt Hahn. Dyke envisioned a school in the image of Periclean Athens – the full development of each citizen. Intellectual growth, fitness of body and character, commitment to humane values, aesthetic sensitivity, and readiness for adult citizenship and leadership are Athenian’s objectives for each student. Nearly 53 years later, Athenian’s ideals have become a model for education in the 21st century, and in 2017, Athenian has a strong reputation, robust enrollment, and healthy finances.
Respect for student ideas and leadership runs deep and, to reflect our value of equality and mutual respect, all community members are on a first-name basis. To foster intrinsic motivation, we do not give academic or other awards.
The Athenian School was built on 75 acres of idyllic land at the foot of Mt. Diablo. Founded as a boarding high school, Athenian continues to be a 24/7 community of learners. In 1979, the Middle School was added, accepting day students in grades six through eight. The demand for an Athenian education from the local community prompted the School to begin admitting more day students in the 1970s, and the School made a transition from its start as a boarding school to primarily a day community.
Today, the School is 85% day students yet remains a proud boarding institution. More than 140 people live on campus, including students, faculty, staff, children, and their pets. The residential community gathers regularly on and off campus for meals and fun activities. The informal opportunities to spend time with boarding students, colleagues, and residential families foster a warm environment, creating a home away from home for our boarding students. Along with many new facilities and a larger number of day students, Athenian remains a close-knit, thriving learning community.
The Athenian School is 30 miles east of San Francisco, nestled among the Danville, Diablo, and Blackhawk communities. Danville is known for its small-town atmosphere and quality of life, including highly rated public elementary schools. Athenian’s land opens up to wild space on Mt. Diablo for outdoor adventure in our backyard. A massive solar array provides over seventy-five percent of the School’s power and is just one of many ways Athenian strives to be a green campus. Our proximity to Silicon Valley, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco provides endless opportunities for dining, cultural, and social experiences.
At Athenian, the rigorous academic program is delivered in a way that resonates and remains with students throughout their lives—because children learn by doing. By applying what is learned in the class to real world situations, Athenian students construct meaning out of research opportunities, realistic lab activities, critical thinking exercises, and fact-based analysis. Whether in or out of the classroom, this approach allows students to incorporate their learning with their living, laying a strong foundation for a life of intellectual exploration and meaningful contribution.
The Athenian Experience
In classes that average 15 students, Athenian’s Upper School and Middle School faculty enliven the classroom with their love of teaching and learning. They engage students and awaken their imaginations by making connections, getting to know them, and guiding them in the direction that best suits their interests and ambitions. At Athenian, students see life as an intellectual adventure and proudly shine under the academic spotlight. Athenians are explorers; students discover uncharted territory in and out of the classroom, seeking out new approaches and perspectives.
All students take fine arts, world language, humanities (literature and history), math, science, and PE classes.
In the Middle School, students take core classes on Monday through Thursday. Every Friday is a Focus Day, a day-long project-based and experiential lesson that ties together student learning across disciplines and fosters both the soft and hard skills our students need. In the Upper School, students’ weekly schedules currently include a block rotation of short and long period classes, community service period, health classes, community and democratic town meetings, and advisory.
In addition to our core curriculum, Middle School students take electives including athletic team practices, creative writing, photography, airplane making and more. Upper School students have a wide range of electives from which to choose, including engineering and design, performing arts, entrepreneurship, internships, teaching assistant roles, and independent studies. We are proud to be a member of the Bay Area BlendEd Consortium which offers a set of blended classes combining face-to-face and online instruction bringing together students from four other Bay Area independent high schools.
Athenian cultivates each individual’s strengths and passions. The opportunities to explore leadership, social justice, equity and inclusion, world cultures, outdoor adventure, global perspectives, service, and personal passions are endless. Students are encouraged to participate in the governance of the school through democratic Town Meetings and student government, leading community service projects, and establishing clubs around areas of interest. Positive experiences with depth and breadth occur naturally for our students with a certain inevitability.
Athenian is a vibrant, innovative, and values-based school. Parents report they are very satisfied with the educational experiences their children are receiving, both in and out of the classroom; teachers consider it a privilege to work on a campus that not only states a mission, but lives it; and students thrive in a joyful, dynamic, and engaging learning environment.
The Director of Teaching and Learning will lead a school representing a diverse spectrum in gender, sexuality, race, socioeconomics, religion and politics. Given our commitment to equity and inclusion, the cultural competency of all our adults is integral to our mission.
Focus Days are a signature and defining component of the Athenian Middle School experience. Every Friday, the Middle School breaks from its daily schedule for daylong activities that bring together elements from multiple disciplines; this allows for experiential and interdisciplinary education, deep intellectual investigation, and collaborative learning. Focus Days are tied directly to the work being done in core classes and allow students to cement their learning. Focus Days take many forms such as field trips, science labs, history simulations, and community service. Themes range from Salon Day (role-playing historical figures) to Pool Volume Day (mathematics, science, and collaborative problem solving).
The Athenian Wilderness Experience (AWE)
As part of our commitment to developing empathy, resilience, and an appreciation for and comfort in the outdoors, our students participate in a required 26-day backpacking trip during their junior year in either the High Sierras or Death Valley. Learning to collaborate, problem-solve, and empathize, students work together to navigate off-trail terrain, cook group meals, rock climb, and set up camp. Our entire community is affected by this program, as the students’ absence is felt by all; they return with energy, inner confidence, and new perspectives that infuse the school community at large. One of several rites of passages, AWE is a central part of the Athenian experience that exists free from technology, routine, homework, and other daily responsibilities.
Engineering and Design
Athenian has come to be a leader in the maker movement, combining curriculum and machinery for hands-on learning opportunities. Students discover how to create and make through classes in the fine arts, sciences, and increasingly humanities. Upper School students can work in Athenian’s Maker Studio in science and engineering classes, Athenian’s robotics collective, and the airplane project (where yes, our students build real, skyworthy airplanes). Around 90 students (mostly Middle School students) a year participate in the airplane project, assembling a fully functional, FAA-approved two-seat plane by hand. Students are empowered to innovate, create, make, build, and collaborate as they learn design thinking, shop safety, project-management skills, and an “I can do that!” attitude.
Round Square is an international consortium of more than 100 schools that believe that International Understanding, Education for Democracy, Environmental Stewardship, Adventure, Leadership, and Service are integral to educating students. Upper School students have the opportunity to participate in Round Square activities, including attending an international conference, going on exchange, hosting exchange students who come to Athenian, and participating in service projects around the world. Over 40% of our sophomore class has gone on exchange in recent years, in addition to several dozen students each year participating in other Round Square activities. Our Middle School students participate in a variety of conferences and exchanges through Young Round Square.
Athenian encourages all of its students to participate and represent the School in interscholastic athletics. The athletics program focuses on developing student-athletes who display good sportsmanship, are positive role models, and follow through on commitment. Stressing team over individual achievement results in teams that have strong social bonds beyond grade levels. Our students participate in athletics in extraordinary numbers, with 83% of our Upper School student body playing in at least one team sport.
Director of Teaching and Learning Position
The Athenian School seeks a Director of Teaching and Learning. The Director of Teaching and Learning reports directly to the Head of School and is a member of the Head’s Advisory Committee, Athenian’s senior leadership team. The Director of Teaching and Learning has oversight responsibility for the imagination, development, curation and publishing of school-wide curriculum, including the schools’ residential curricula. The Director of Teaching and Learning oversees the hiring process for all faculty, onboarding of new faculty, and the initial evaluation of new faculty and works closely with the Heads and Deans of the Upper and Middle Schools.
Commitment to the Athenian Mission
The Director of Teaching and Learning is responsible for oversight of the 6-12 curriculum of the school as well as the hiring, onboarding, and summative evaluation of faculty. As such, the Director models commitment to the Athenian Mission, our history as a progressive school, the six Pillars of Round Square, and cultural competence. Not only is the Director able to communicate the School’s core qualities and ideals to prospective families, faculty, parents, and students, the Director must embody these qualities and ideals.
The Director of Teaching and Learning is a leader who is committed to the education of students through all of Athenian’s varied programs, dedicated to Athenian’s long history as a boarding school, is collaborative with colleagues, and works closely with a highly skilled and passionate teaching staff. The Director of Teaching and Learning supports innovation (e.g., project-based, experiential, and interdisciplinary education) and instructional excellence among faculty, fostering a strong 6-12 instructional program while allowing faculty to take risks and experiment in the classroom. As a member of the senior leadership team, the Director of Teaching and Learning is also responsible for forwarding Athenian’s overall strategic vision and supporting all its programs and initiatives.
The Director of Teaching and Learning collaborates with a talented group of devoted faculty who have a deep passion for Athenian’s mission and program. This position works in close partnership with the Head of School, Upper School Head, Middle School Head, and other administrators to run a cohesive 6-12 program and curriculum.
Opportunities and Challenges
The new Director of Teaching and Learning will be coming into Athenian at a very exciting time. The School is in the midst of a capital campaign, a $25M construction project, and new academic initiatives. Coming out of a successful CAIS/WASC accreditation, the School has established high-level strategic goals to build on the School’s fifty-year commitment to experiential education, as outlined below. These provide ample leadership opportunities for the new Director of Teaching and Learning.
“Engaged Learning” and Student Wellness
“Engaged learning” has become our shorthand for project-based, experiential, and interdisciplinary learning. Athenian has a fifty-year history in “learning by doing” and we already offer many engaged learning experiences that emphasize mastery. Athenian wants to boldly lead into the future of education, building on our experience and expertise while knowing that learning by doing is the most powerful way to serve our student learning and promote student wellness. The School is in the midst of a process that may result in significant changes to our curricular offerings, graduation requirements, daily schedule, and annual calendar to best support engaged learning and student wellness. The Director of Teaching and Learning will be a primary driver of this work and will help steer and coordinate the planning, implementation, and iterating of these changes.
A Unified 6-12 School
Athenian’s Upper School and Middle School, historically, have been two “separate” schools serving the same mission. Both provide a powerful education, but the School recognizes that more coordination and collaboration will better serve all our students and teachers. The Director of Teaching and Learning position has come out of the School’s strategic priority to be a unified 6-12 school, particularly around curricular scope and sequence, and it is the first position at the School to have oversight over the learning experience of students in both divisions. Today, while there is some cross-divisional collaboration (e.g., Middle School students taking Upper School classes), the two divisions function relatively independently with distinct programs and minimal interaction between faculties. There is occasionally a sense of competition and mistrust across the divisions and the new Director of Teaching and Learning will work closely with both the Middle School and Upper School Heads to foster community between the divisions to best support all of our students. The Director will facilitate collaboration between the divisions while respecting and acknowledging the developmental needs of students.
Master Plan Implementation
In 2011, Athenian commissioned a master plan for the School. Working with Mithun architects and Turner Construction, the School completed a master planning process and then began implementation of that plan in 2016. From the beginning of construction to its completion in the summer of 2018, the School will complete $25 million dollars of construction. The 30,000 square feet of buildings will include 10 new classrooms (completed fall 2017); the Freeman Commons to house administrative functions and student mailboxes (completed summer 2017); a new Kate and Dyke Brown Hall to replace the original gathering/dining space for the School; and a Carter Innovation Studio. The latter two buildings are estimated to be completed in summer 2018. A $12 million capital campaign (which has surpassed this amount as of the end of 2017) supports these efforts. The new buildings are designed to support engaged learning and the Director will work closely with faculty and administration to optimize the use of these spaces and expand our offerings to take full advantage of our new facilities. The Carter Innovation Studio, situated at the School’s “front door,” is designed to signify the engaged learning that occurs throughout the campus.
A New Position at Athenian
The Director of Teaching and Learning is a new position at Athenian. This will bring the benefit of being able to creatively invent the position and the challenge of not having a roadmap. The creation of the position is a clear signal to our community regarding the dual strategic priorities of 1) the imagination, development, curation, and implementation of school-wide curriculum; and 2) the hiring, development, and retention of the finest faculty. Implementing these goals will require us to collaborate more fully as we get out of the siloes of our divisions and individual disciplines and departments. Our commitment to teaching and curricular excellence, combined with our outstanding faculty, provide fertile ground as one grows into this position. The Director will have the support of the senior leadership team, a strong and healthy working group that support each other in fulfilling their responsibilities for the operational health of the School.
What We’re Seeking in a Candidate
The ideal candidate will embody key elements of the desired expertise, experience, and qualities. This is an aspirational list and we encourage candidates to apply who strive for, but may not currently possess, all of these qualities.
Educational Experience & Expertise
- Demonstrated teaching excellence in grades 6-12
- Experience with the creation and oversight of experiential, project-based, interdisciplinary, and hands-on learning
- Experience with curriculum design, development, pedagogy, and assessment
- Expertise in effective and equitable recruitment and hiring practices
- Commitment to the integration of equity, inclusion, and cultural competency within a curriculum
- Technology competence and integration
- Knowledge of the college process and students’ admissions needs
- Familiarity with student wellness issues and how academic rigor and student wellness can be symbiotic.
Leadership Experience & Expertise
- Administrative and senior leadership experience in an independent school
- Leadership around social justice, equity, and inclusion
- Demonstrated change leadership
- Commitment to and facility with faculty support, professional development, and leadership
- Excellent communication skills including writing and public speaking abilities
- Experience with budget oversight and other financial and human resource matters
- Committed to Athenian’s Mission and values
- Has impeccable integrity
- Culturally competent and committed to equity and inclusion
- Able to connect with students in grades 6-12
- Inclusive, collaborative, consensus-building, and decisive in decision making
- Compassionate and empathic with excellent listening skills
- Accessible and open-minded, personally interested in community members
- Open to criticism and personal growth
- Mentoring and team-building orientation
- Humility and good humor
How to Apply
For initial consideration, please email a resume, cover letter, and a one-page educational philosophy statement to Debbie Derana, Assistant to the Head of School, at email@example.com. Please reference “Athenian Director of Teaching and Learning” in the subject line. Sending letters of reference is optional at this time. Confidentiality will be maintained at the candidate’s request until the candidate agrees to be a finalist for the position. Please submit your application materials by Thursday, February 1, 2018.
The Athenian School is an equal opportunity employer. Applicants are evaluated without consideration of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, veteran status or any other characteristic protected by applicable law. For more information, visit www.athenian.org.
To apply for this job email your details to firstname.lastname@example.org