As the resurgence of warm weather brings KO’s campus back to life, the anticipation for summer is mounting, and although many cannot wait for the break from school, it also signals change for the community. Even though KO must say farewell to faculty and staff every spring, this year marks an especially big goodbye as Dean of Students Krista Sahrbeck heads down to Princeton, N.J., to take on the role of Dean of Students at the Hun School.
During the two years she has been at KO, Ms. Sahrbeck has been actively involved in many aspects of student life as a Form Three Advisor, girls varsity soccer Head Coach, girls varsity basketball Assistant Coach, and Faculty Advisor for Student Government, all in addition to her position as Dean of Students. Prior to coming to KO, Ms. Sahrbeck taught and coached at the Kent Denver School in Colorado for fifteen years, nine of which she was also the Dean of Students.
No stranger to New England, she is actually a Maine native and had hopes of eventually coming back east of the Mississippi. While part of what drew her to KO initially was the proximity to her home and family, she emphasized that the unique community here at KO is what really sealed the deal for her. “I really felt their vibe,” she said. “I could see that these kids, you know, want to be involved, not just go through classes and go home. For someone who runs student life, that’s a big part of it when kids are interested.”
Since students are what’s really at the heart of the role of Dean of Students, it’s fitting that it was not only the kids that drew Ms. Sahrbeck to KO but was also one of her favorite parts about her time at KO. She has had the difficult task of balancing discipline with fun and carrying out the events and things that make KO special. “The kids have to, to some degree, like you or trust you,” she said frankly, “because when those difficult conversations happen, they trust you and know that even though this might be a tough love conversation, that you were always in their corner. I think the dean of students is that biggest champion.”
Director of Academic Planning Carolyn McKee spoke highly of Ms. Sahrbeck and added that her personality made her a great fit for the job. “I think she loves kids,” she said, “and I think she is really good at focusing and staying centered on the kids, the student experience and the school community.” Ms. Sahrbeck’s flexibility when this year’s Homecoming Dance had to be moved to Friday demonstrated her willingness to get students the events and activities they want.
Ms. McKee, who was Dean of Students for many years, worked closely with Ms. Sahrbeck as she adjusted to KO and they served as Co-advisors for KO’s Student Government. While taking on such an important position at a new school is never easy, Ms. McKee emphasized how much she admired Ms. Sahrbeck’s ability to navigate the role during a global pandemic. “I can’t imagine how difficult it was to be the dean of students during a pandemic,” she said, “and I kind of marvel at how well she kind of got to know the kids and created such positive energy when she didn’t know anybody and everybody was in masks. She was able to provide some opportunities for fun, despite the challenging conditions we were in.”
Although all of Ms. Sahrbeck’s time at KO was impacted by the pandemic, she was still able to make many wonderful memories. Her colleagues and advisee groups were major highlights during her time here. Despite experiencing challenges that were results of the pandemic such as masks and students participating remotely, she said that they were able to develop a really close-knit community, and her advisees will be nine of the people she’ll miss most after she leaves.
In addition to relationships with colleagues and advisees, she also got really close with the athletes on the sports teams she coached. She recounted memories from the basketball and soccer seasons, citing the infamous color wars, crossbar challenge, and coach vs. player scrimmages as examples of in-season fun.
Junior Alina Vaughn, who has been coached by Ms. Sahrbeck for the last two soccer seasons, also mentioned the crossbar and color wars challenges, a clear player favorite, when reflecting on her experience with having Ms. Sahrbeck as a coach. “She really understood the importance of mindset in the sport and understanding that you have to devote yourself to succeed,” she said, “but also making sure that there’s a balance and having fun enjoying yourselves as well.” Alina also said that having Ms. Sahrbeck as a coach enabled her to get to know her better than those who only interacted with her as the dean of students.
Even though everyone at KO will miss seeing Ms. Sahrbeck and Bear around campus, she has made a lasting impression on our community, and we know she will do great things at the Hun School.
Ms. McKee shared similar sentiments about Ms. Sahrbeck’s departure. “I think she was born to be a dean of students,” she said. “It’s in her blood. There’s no doubt that she will excel and I can’t wait to kind of hear about it because I know we’ll be in touch.”