There is a new face behind the desk in the "glass office" in the Nevens Library. Joe Doherty, Oldfields’ new director of academics and programmatic affairs, elected to make this space his own because he wants to be in the center of things, to be accessible to students and teachers alike, and to learn as much about life at Oldfields as quickly as possible. What a great start! So when you are on campus and are passing by, please stop in and introduce yourself! When you get to know Joe a bit better by reading the interview below, you will understand why the entire Oldfields community is thrilled to have him on board!
Why did you choose to go into education?
I serendipitously entered the teaching profession. Upon finishing college in 1996 and trying to determine what career path to take, I was offered a job teaching astronomy and physical science in California. As a recent graduate, I was in that fledgling state, and the idea of moving across the country had a lot of appeal, so I accepted the position. I will never forget the first time students walked into my classroom—it was one of the best days of my life. I loved interacting with the students and providing them with guided discoveries. I now have over twenty years of experience working at independent schools, and I am just as excited about education as I was during those days as a neophyte teacher.
What subjects did you teach as a classroom teacher?
I have taught science, math, and interdisciplinary studies. For the past several years, in addition to being the director of studies, I was teaching an Invention and Innovation class. That was rewarding because it forced the students to think creatively, embrace productive failure, and to recognize that there isn’t always one right answer (i.e., divergent solutions). I would love to bring a similar program to Oldfields! I am excited to be teaching Fundamentals of Algebra II here at Oldfields for the 2019-2020 school year.
How would you describe your educational philosophy?
My educational philosophy is focused on one simple yet profound principle: every student is a scholar. Each child that walks into a classroom is successful in her own way, with unique talents, interests, and experiences. Working in tandem with the parents, the job of the School is to provide a transformational education that allows the student to develop into a lifelong learner. An exemplary education is grounded in strong, healthy relationships. The relationship between the teacher and student has more of an impact on learning than structural factors such as class size, curriculum, and instructional materials. Students need to feel part of a nurturing community before meaningful learning can take place. A school’s instructional program must be intentional, challenging, and engaging. The curriculum cannot be divided into silos; each department should not be insulated from the other. Students must engage in cross-curricular units of study, with a blending of relevant content, twenty-first century skills, and habits of learning. Teaching is a dynamic field, where the teacher and student engage in a yearlong journey. The most influential teachers routinely reflect on their practice. They crave feedback from their colleagues, parents, and, most importantly, their students.
What do you think is the single biggest academic challenge facing high schools today?
Schools are tasked with preparing students for an unknown and unpredictable future. It’s estimated that up to 85% of the jobs today’s high school students will have in a decade haven’t been invented yet. To tackle this challenge, schools need to find a balance between proven pedagogy and embracing change. Oldfields does this extremely well, and it is one of the main reasons I decided to join the community. Offerings such as the May Program expose students to experiential education that takes place outside the traditional classroom. The girls become passionate and confident learners, which are key ingredients to success in college and beyond.
What are you most excited about for the 2019-2020 school year at Oldfields?
I look forward to getting to know the Oldfields students and families. During my on-campus interview, I was impressed with the palpable sense of community. Everyone I talked to—students, alumnae, parents, and teachers—loved the school. I can’t wait to be part of the Oldfields family!
What is the most important thing you want every student to know about you?
I want every student to know that I am approachable, caring, and will be their greatest advocate. Being a high school student is hard (so is being a parent of a high school student!), and I am here to help navigate those challenges and celebrate the many successes.
Can you tell us a bit about your family?
I am excited to be living on campus with my wife, Laura, a former elementary school teacher, and my kids, Ella (7), Ryan (3), and Julia (3), who all love living at a boarding school. I am glad to hear that Oldfields is a very "pet-friendly" place since we have a dog, Maddie. My children love riding their bikes around campus and can’t wait for their "big sisters" to arrive in late August!
Please join us in welcoming this amazing addition to the Oldfields family! We are so glad you are here, Doherty family!
Welcome, Ella, Laura, Julia, Ryan, and Joe!