The Principal’s Office: Meet Evelyn Terry. For teacher, transition to Head of The Children’s School in La Jolla is rewarding
• VIDEO: Watch part of the interview with Evelyn Terry, head of school at The Children’s School in La Jolla, by clicking on the image above, or go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XXKT6uf27M
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth of a 13-part series bringing you interviews with principals of the 13 schools in La Jolla every other week.
By Catherine Ivey Lee
Evelyn Terry tried to retire from The Children’s School. At the end of last year, students gave the beloved first-grade teacher a farewell party and an apple tree to plant in her yard, a reminder that she was “a teacher forever.” Faculty members hugged her goodbye. Parents thanked her for eight years of service at the independent grade school located in the La Jolla Shores neighborhood.
Terry, an enthusiastic champion of the school and its child-centered philosophy, agreed to put off leisurely visits to grandchildren on the East Coast to help out. Having spent her career in a classroom, she said she’s been surprised at how much she enjoys her new role.
“I discovered I really like it. Now I don’t have just those 14 students; I have 243 students,” Terry said. “It has been so rewarding to be welcomed warmly back into the community and to feel like I’ve been able to do something that will help the school focus on the important things right now: the students, the learning and the nurturing and caring environment that we have.”
Terry’s knowledge of the school’s culture provided the school community with a sense of continuity and stability. Within a month, the board asked her to stay for a second year; she agreed. The school will begin a search for a new head for the 2014-2015 school year.
Terry describes her leadership style as collaborative and says she always keeps teachers in mind. One of the first things she does each morning is turn on the heat in classrooms and make coffee for the teachers. “I want them to know that I care about their morning and their day and getting off to a good start,” she said.
Born in Pittsburg, Calif., to a family that highly valued education, Terry said she became a teacher “because I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.” Before coming to The Children’s School she worked at a progressive charter school in Bellevue, Wash.; it meshed so well with her views that education should first and foremost focus on the needs and interests of children that she thought she’d never leave.
But on a work trip, Terry’s husband, Joe, discovered the sun-filled community of La Jolla. After numerous vacations to the area — and returning home to snow and rain — Terry began to research schools here.
When she found The Children’s School, she felt an immediate connection, she said. A job opened up four years later, and Terry was ready. She became a first-grade teacher and, eventually, division director of its elementary program. The school also has an early childhood and middle school program.
Terry said what appeals to her about The Children’s School is that as a progressive school it is able to engage students through a project-based, integrated curriculum. Teachers rely on state standards as guidelines but aren’t focused on every child reaching the same page at the same time because they recognize that children develop at different paces, she said.
Students receive an academic foundation in math, reading and writing, as well as specialty instruction in technology, Spanish, art, music, P.E. and science. Teachers create a community through a school-wide social curriculum that emphasizes mutual respect, she said.
As the school celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, Terry said one of her goals is to make sure the school is focused on what its founders envisioned. “It’s always good to review and refocus and make sure you’re staying the path,” she said.
Terry said she believes that the greatest challenge in education today is to prepare students for a rapidly changing, technological and global world. Simply providing students with knowledge is not enough, Terry said, and is why The Children’s School strives to foster skills such as creativity, innovation, collaboration, communication and problem solving in its students.
Terry cites the school’s math program, Cognitive Guided Instruction, as an example of a curriculum that builds such skills. After receiving a problem — often individualized — students aren’t instructed on how to solve it using steps one, two and three, she explained. Rather, they are asked to come up with their own strategies to solve the problem; teachers encourage students to analyze what they already know and emphasize that there is often more than one solution to a problem. Students must also explain their thinking, she said.
“It’s important to be able to explain why: ‘How did you get there, what did you do, how did you think about this?’ It’s that process that builds problem-solving skills and builds strategies. Those are the kind of skills that they will need to have,” she said.
The Children’s School
• Address: 2225 Torrey Pines Lane, La Jolla
• Type of school: Independent
• Year established: 1972
• Number of students: 243
• Grade range: Early Childhood to Grade 8
• School mascot: The Comets
• Tuition: $18,000 (age/grade level dependent)
• Phone: (858) 454-0184
• Website: tcslj.org
• UP NEXT: Meet Donna Tripi, principal of La Jolla Elementary School, in the Jan. 31, 2013 issue.
• “The Principal’s Office” Archives, so far, for this ongoing series:
You can read profiles of principals from previous issues at: http://www.lajollalight.com/la-jolla-news/news/schools/the-principals-office-schools/
- The Principal’s Office: Meet Patricia Lowell. Principal of Stella Maris Academy keeps children in mind
- The Principal’s Office: Meet Jim Solo. Classroom visits, collaboration key to Torrey Pines Elementary principal’s success in La Jolla
- The Principal’s Office: Meet Christian Jarlov. Seasoned bilingual educator proud of La Jolla’s French-American School
- The Principal’s Office: Meet Alison Fleming. Powered by hugs, the head of La Jolla’s The Gillispie School strives to lead by example
- The Principal’s Office: Meet Jill Platt. Coffee, prayer and love of students fuels All Hallows Academy principal in La Jolla
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