Interview with Katie Mersky, New Dean of Student Life and English Teacher

By Ivanie Cedeno for the Campus Lantern

 

CL: What was your former position at SCH?

Ms. Mersky: For the past five years, I was in Admissions. One of the benefits of that position was that I was connected with the Upper School and able to see it from the outside, through the eyes of prospective families who were visiting for the first time. I’ve worked really closely with all of the Upper School teachers, as well as Mr. Norcini, so I built relationships with them. My primary role was establishing the Student Ambassadors, but also making sure prospective families had a clear view of what SCH was like and could see whether it was right for their child.

 

CL: What is your current position and what does it entail?

Ms. Mersky: My new role here is as the Dean of Student Life. When I describe it to people, I like to say that I get to do all the fun things in the Upper School. I am helping with clubs and activities. When students come up with grand ideas of things they want to do, we work together to see if they are feasible. I also oversee the global travel programs, so I’m working with our lead chaperones as they design incredible trips for the students. I do the orientations for new students, so that when new kids come into the Upper School, they feel comfortable and acclimated to the community. I work with Ms. Palmer and Mrs. Craft on the advisory curriculum program. It’s really exciting because I get to work one on one with students.

 

CL: What was your impact on the SCH community before, and how do you plan to affect it now?

Ms. Mersky: I think my impact on the SCH community was getting the word out about the school. I was able to work with people who didn’t necessarily know anything about our school. So I immersed myself in the school culture as best as I could to figure out who we were. I was able to share that news with outside people.

Now I think my role has completely shifted. I feel like I’m in the trenches, and I’m here to help students discover what they want the school to be. One of the things I love about this school is that it really is student-driven. Every year the culture can shift and new clubs and ideas can come into being, and that’s because of how brilliant and inventive the students are. It’s not adults that are telling you all what to think, but students who are coming up with great ideas.

 

CL: Do you feel more involved with student life this year as opposed to last year?

Ms. Mersky: One hundred per cent! In my former position, I created the Student Ambassador Program because I thought it was important for prospective families to hear from students who were actually part of the school. And that was great, but it wasn’t as robust as I wanted it to be. One of the reasons I applied for this position was so that I could work with students and not just parents and adults. I think SCH has an incredible student body. I don’t remember being as bright and self-aware as you are when I was in high school. And I think that is something that is really unique to this community, so I want to do more of that.

 

CL: What has been your best experience thus far with your new position?

Ms. Mersky: I think having people feeling comfortable coming into my office and having it located right next to the Senior Commons, and building stronger relationships with the students. I thought was going to take longer to feel comfortable doing that, but it’s been the reason that I love coming to work every single morning. I know that by 7:15 there will be someone in my office telling me things they hate, telling me things they love, and plenty of things they want to change. But that’s what I think is the beauty of this community.

 

CL: What are some of your big goals for your first year in this new position?

Ms. Mersky: I have a lot of goals. One has to do with the many amazing clubs and activities and different groups on campus. I want to make sure that every student has a place here. I know that’s a really big goal to have this first year, but I’m going to go for it. I want to know every student by name, and I want to make sure everyone feels safe and connected in our community. I think that starts with all of the amazing things happening on campus, so I want to make sure that we’re organized and communicative so that everyone can find their home for four years here.

 

CL: What is it like to be a “new” teacher?

Ms. Mersky: I was nervous about teaching, but the English Department has been very supportive. I obviously have coached before and I taught fifth grade last year, so I had some idea of what it was going to be like. I’ve had wonderful mentors to help guide me, and my12th-grade students are learning with me this year. It’s a fun class, and it’s another of my goals to be a better teacher and a life-long learner.

 

CL: What do you want the SCH community to know about you?

Ms. Mersky: That’s a good question. I want people to know that I’m approachable, and that I’m never going to say “no” to anything right away, unless it’s a really outlandish idea! And also that I’m always here to support students and talk through any problems or positive things that happen in your lives. I think everyone should have an adult in this community to whom they feel they can talk. So that’s what I want people to know about me.