Director of Equity Joan Edwards’s office, also known as the Brave Space, has provided a space of comfort, security, and support for countless students on campus. As a teacher, mentor, and advisor, Ms. Edwards has always made herself open and available to students and faculty alike who need advice, guidance, or simply someone to talk to. Now, after 23 years of service, Ms. Edwards is saying farewell for the final time.
During Ms. Edwards’s tenure at KO, she has worn many different hats. Her journey first began as a French teaching fellow in 1987, and she soon graduated to a full-time position. After three years, she left KO to pursue a Master’s degree in France. She returned in 1993, switching between a position in the Admissions Office and as the Associate Dean of Students. It was during this six-year tenure that she created the position of the Director of Multicultural Affairs. She then spent a brief period of time teaching at Greenwich Academy. However, she missed KO and returned as the Director of Equity in 2010, a position she has continued to hold to the present day.
Ms. Edwards has developed many strong memories of KO throughout her time here. Some of her favorites include racing former Head of School Dennis Bisgaard through a bouncy house obstacle course (which she won) and putting on a ballroom dancing performance at an Upper School assembly. One of her proudest moments was the Students of Color Summit that was organized by the Girls Group of Color – to which she served as the faculty advisor – in 2019. “I was so full of pride and love for what the group was able to create together,” she said. “I loved it because it was all student-run, and I was just there to support. That’s how it should be. You all are the future.”
Not only has Ms. Edwards guided students in their endeavors, but she has also facilitated experiences for faculty members to learn and grow. From 2012 to 2018, she co-sponsored the Kingswood Oxford Leadership Institute for Educators of Color with Mr. Bisgaard. “It was one of the most prideful and meaningful experiences of supporting educators of color in schools,” she said. “Many people learned how to grow their leadership practice. We had t-shirts, we had swag, and we had keynote speakers.”
In addition to creating her own traditions at KO, Ms. Edwards has also enjoyed the longstanding events of Commencement, Class Night, and Student Orientation. She has loved hearing the Symposium speakers and watching the theater and music performances throughout the years. “Seeing you all on the stage is a full body sense of awe,” she said. “I feel like I’m an auntie. Watching students do their thing outside the classroom… there’s nothing that tops that. I feel really fortunate that I get to share this part of your journey.”
Ms. Edwards has taken away many valuable lessons from her time at KO. “I learned a lot here about teaching, leading, and facilitating, all rooted in the school’s motto, one conquers by conquering oneself,” she said. She hopes to transfer the experience she has gained to her new job with the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools, which consists of over 90 member schools from all over the state. In this organization, Ms. Edwards will serve as the Director of Equity and Professional Collaboration, a position she helped to create. She brings to this role a vast knowledge of program facilitation and execution that we will so dearly miss on our own campus.
After 23 years, Ms. Edwards hopes that she has left behind a strong foundation for her successor to continue expanding upon. “I hope the impact I’ve had is to inspire students and teachers to expand their equity aperture,” she said. “I hope they have taken what I have shared with facilitation programs, and that they will take it deeper, and that they will continue to learn, continue to push.”
While KO will greatly miss Ms. Edwards’s words of wisdom, community involvement, and care for students, we certainly wish her the best in as she embarks on a new, exciting chapter in her life.