Imagine a quaint 100-year-old colonial house painted black, with a yard adorned with hyacinths, hydrangeas, and lilies. While the wind softly blows and the sunlight pours into its aging windows, you can feel the history seeping through the shutters.
This is the home of one of the most well-known American authors today, Louisa May Alcott. Her home is located in Concord, Massachusetts, which also happens to be the town where English teacher Heather Wayne will be starting a new teaching position next year as she joins the faculty at Middlesex School.
Dr. Wayne began teaching at KO in 2016. Since then, she has accomplished many impressive achievements, including being a faculty advisor of Forensic Union – KO’s speech and debate club – earning her PhD, and, more recently, hosting KO’s first virtual Symposium with author Min Jin Lee.
Dr. Wayne described what her experience was like when she first arrived at KO. “It was a little overwhelming to be honest because there was so much to get used to at KO,” she said. However, she felt that the community being so kind and welcoming helped a lot with the transition.
Upon reflecting on the KO community, Dr. Wayne noted the bond between the students and teachers that was unlike anything else she had seen before. “One thing that I really did like was getting to know the students and learning about how sweet and polite all the students are,” Dr. Wayne said. One of her favorite things about KO is when the students thank the teacher on the way out of class. “ It’s so small, but I’ve never had students do that before,” she said.
While working on different projects at KO, Dr. Wayne was able to work side-by-side with many others within the community, such as Director of Equity Joan Edwards. “I admire her powerful, gentle leadership,” she said. “She’s the best question-asker I’ve met in my life. She’s able to have you dig deeper with her questions.”
English teacher and fellow Forensic Union faculty advisor Michelle Caswell explained Dr. Wayne’s unique and industrious approach to teaching. “Every time she tries to solve a problem or figure something out, she’s never done questioning it,” she said, “Once she does something once she never does it the same way again.”
Perhaps it was this questioning that helped her to host the wonderful virtual Symposium that the KO community was lucky enough to experience this year. By pushing herself to question past practices, Dr. Wayne was able to use new ideas to create an extremely informative, inspirational, and creative event.
In addition to her educational pursuits on campus, it has also been Dr. Wayne’s goal during her tenure at KO to promote kindness and inclusion amongst KO students and faculty. “I have tried to lead with compassion and kindness this year in my classes,” she said. “I’ve tried to encourage my students to be kinder to each other. And I hope that’s the legacy that I leave behind.”
One project that was important to her in particular was having community members learn how to pronounce every student’s name correctly, and having every student make a short video where they pronounced their name, listing any nicknames they would or would not like.
“It’s a really small thing, but to me it’s something that can make people feel more cared about, ” she said. “It’s something that we can do as a community.”
Above all, Dr. Wayne really enjoys getting to learn from her students while she teaches. She especially loves it when a student brings a unique perspective to a text read in class and makes her think of it in a completely different way than before.
Despite feeling sad about leaving KO, Dr. Wayne is extremely excited to start a new chapter of her life at Middlesex. After writing so much of her dissertation on Louis May Alcott, Dr. Wayne said that she finds it “serendipitous” that she will end up living and working in the same place where one of her idols lived and worked as well. “I went [to Louis May Alcott’s house] when I was a kid, around eight-years-old, and I didn’t really know who she was, but it was something my mom made us go to,” Dr. Wayne said. “From that day on I was so obsessed with her. The house was really cool and she was so determined to be a writer. And I found that really inspiring.”
We know that Dr. Wayne will do great things in the future, and we hope that she will continue to be inspired by the people and places around her!