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Mr. J.'s Blog

A Welcoming, Diverse, and Supportive Learning Community
Rebekah Johnson

Dear Upper School Family,

 

            Recently, the Oak Hall School Board of Directors finalized a new mission statement for our school. This statement reads: “A welcoming, diverse, and supportive learning community empowering students to pursue their academic, athletic, and artistic passions.” Those words certainly encapsulate the ethos of the school community that I have come to love and serve over the past seventeen years. Here, I feel it is important to reflect upon the first three adjectives of that statement.

 

            In my conversations with students and families over the years, the moniker “welcoming” has constantly been used to characterize Oak Hall. When the mission statement revision committee interviewed students about their experience at the school, this word emerged as one of their foremost descriptors. The students, especially those who have come to the school from abroad or from other places (local or beyond), have commented time and again on the welcoming manner in which this community has embraced them. The fact that students, parents, and faculty often qualify Oak Hall as their “family” speaks volumes about both who we are as a school and the importance of “welcoming” as the first adjective in our mission statement.

 

            The word “diverse” can be a challenging one for some to define. In the context of our school community, I would offer the sentiment that “diverse” is inextricably linked to the word which precedes it in our mission statement, “welcoming.” Our diversity at Oak Hall is a reflection of the fact that we celebrate and embrace our differences in the common pursuit of our purpose: educating students to understand that not everyone thinks the same, comes from the same background or views the world through the same lens. In fact, as educators, it is imperative that we teach students how to think and negotiate a world in which there is ethnic, religious, cultural, and intellectual diversity.

 

            Finally, in my humble opinion, you will not find a more “supportive” learning community in America than at Oak Hall. I have seen this value demonstrated over and over again in the course of my time here. Whether it be a teacher staying after school until 5 PM to work with students, or a classmate making an announcement on behalf of a friend who has been hospitalized, or a group of parents bringing food to an administrator whose family member is in the hospital, the Oak Hall family looks out for each other. Central to that support effort is our students, for at Oak Hall no one is able to slip through the cracks; all are cared for and nourished in the way that a true alma mater should.

 

            These three words – welcoming, diverse, and supportive – form the cornerstone of who we are as an Oak Hall family. They are excellent indicators of our community’s values and succinctly describe our learning community.

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