When asked what she has enjoyed the most about working at KO, Associate Head of School Natalie Demers immediately replied, “The students, hands down – watching you guys do incredible things.” This statement best summarizes where Mrs. Demers’ focus, influence, and now her legacy, has been oriented towards throughout the duration of her time at KO: the welfare of all students enrolled at Kingswood Oxford School.
Mrs. Demers assumed her position as Associate Head of School in 2012, a continuation of her long career in education in different capacities. She has previously served as an assistant Dean of Students, English teacher, Academic Dean, Director of Residential life at single-gender and coed boarding schools, and graduate school advisor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Mrs. Demers’ passion for education led her to these opportunities and colored her experiences at each of them.
“I’m in education because I love to learn,” Mrs. Demers said. “Whether things have gone smoothly, whether things have been difficult, I make sure to learn something from the process.”
During her time at KO, Mrs. Demers, served as a Form 5 and 6 advisor alongside her duties as Associate Head of School. “Now more than ever, it’s so vital that people know who they are before they leave high school,” Mrs. Demers said, “so that they can take full advantage of college and make good choices.” Mrs. Demers also headed the schedule change introduce in the 2013-14 school year. Through these positions, Mrs. Demers has learned lessons about education, students, and herself that she will incorporate into her perspective in her future endeavors.
Lesson one: “I have learned how important it is to assume positive intent – to really assume when someone is posing an idea or speaking about something, that they are coming from a place of positivity, and not to straight away make an assumption,” Mrs. Demers said.
As a leading advocate for behind-the-scenes change on campus, Mrs. Demers also talked about the importance of being sensitive to the feelings of others when presenting new ideas. “Education is one of slowest fields to change,” Mrs. Demers said. As Associate Head, she concentrated her efforts towards getting comfortable with the space between an idea and an action. The question that she uses to center herself when presenting change initiatives: How can I translate the need and energy for change into action, while simultaneously easing others into change they may be uncomfortable with?
Mrs. Demers will be applying her forward-thinking energy and innovation next school year when she assumes her position as Director of Research Initiatives and Programs for the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS), an international research and advocacy organization for girls’ education.
As Director of Research Initiatives and Programs, Mrs. Demers will be tasked with implementing research initiatives and creating national and international partnerships with researchers and research organizations with the goal of being the leading advocate for girls schools.
Her position provides her with the opportunity to travel internationally and observe the work being done at various parochial, private and public girls’ schools. “I’ll go to different schools, see what their challenges are, and connect them to the research,” Mrs. Demers explained.
Mrs. Demers was initially drawn to this position for its focus: As the saying goes, knowledge (and therefore education) is power, and the organization certainly strives to empower.
“I’ve been a long supporter of women’s rights and equality, of all girls on this planet getting an education,” said Mrs. Demers. “We know that there are many places in the world where girls are not getting an education.” Mrs. Demers was also attracted to the emphasis on research-backed teaching methods for girls “[NCGS] recognizes that girls do learn differently to boys, as boys learn differently to girls,” said Mrs. Demers. She further commented on the difference between a boy’s and girl’s learning. “It’s not a matter of schools without boys – it’s schools for girls,” Mrs. Demers said. “There’s an intentionality behind the programming and the curriculum and their teaching.”
Mrs. Demers will be able to work from home and maintain her relationship with the KO community through her new position.