"I am thrilled to report that St. Mark's has been accepted by the University of Pennsylvania as one of the schools that can participate in their Independent School Teaching Residency program," announced Head of School John C. Warren '74 in a recent letter to faculty and staff. "For the first time since Penn launched the program about a decade ago, they added participant schools for 2022-2023, and many peer schools applied."
The application process to become a participant school in the Independent School Teaching Residency was competitive and highly selective. As part of the Penn Graduate School of Education's Collaboratory for Teacher Education, the program affords aspiring and early career teachers an opportunity to receive a Master of Science in Education (M.S.Ed.) while completing an intensive teaching fellowship at a host partner school. The program's curriculum is designed specifically for the unique settings of independent schools and features a combination of "intensive on-site sessions" and "innovative and collaborative online learning."
"We were told by the Penn program coordinators that our application was especially impressive to them because of the sophistication of our approach to teaching and learning, the extensive nature of our approach to professional growth, our strong and long-standing commitment to community and equity—rooted in our Episcopal identity—and the integration of global citizenship principles into our entire educational program—academic and community life," explained Warren. "The work resulting from St. Mark's School: 2020 certainly set us up for the positive attributes that Penn identified!"
As a result of the School's new collaboration with Penn, St. Mark's will bring on two Penn Fellows for a two-year fellowship beginning in fall 2022-2023, and two more Penn Fellows for a two-year fellowship the following fall in 2023-2024. In subsequent years, the School will continue to bring on two more Penn Fellows as two complete their fellowship; so, starting in 2023-2024, there will always be four Penn Fellows at St. Mark's.
"These Penn Fellows will be faculty of color, and we hope that they will provide a candidate pool for permanent positions at St. Mark's, and—if an appropriate position is not available here when they complete their fellowship—that we will be able to help place them at a peer school, thus supporting an overall imperative of increasing the number of candidates of color who make a career in independent school education," said Warren.
St. Mark's is fortunate to have former Penn Fellow Visaury Moreta, who graduated from the program in 2020, currently working as a faculty member in the Modern Languages Department. Shared Moreta, "My experience in the UPenn program allowed me to think critically of my teaching, course design, and overall fit in an independent school. Now at St. Mark's, I have continued to consistently seek feedback, use backward design in courses, and with the help of the Center here at St. Mark's, think critically about my Canvas designs. My reflections from the program have continued here too, and now beyond my courses. I have reflected on my role as a person of color at an independent school, my role as an affinity group faculty advisor, and my teacher-coach role. The St. Mark's community continues to support me by providing new challenges, small group conversations and overall avenues for dialogue."
Many St. Mark's colleagues, including Moreta, collaborated on the School's application to the Penn program: Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty Samantha Brennan; Director of Communications and Marketing Caleb Cochran; Creative Director Sandra Levandowski; Chief Financial and Operations Officer Rob Kuklewicz; Director of The Center Colleen Worrell; Dean of Academics Nat Waters; Dean of Students David Vachris; and Director of Community and Equity Affairs John Daves.
In addition, Warren acknowledged the invaluable contributions from the School community. "I am also deeply appreciative of the philanthropic generosity of many members of the St. Mark's community who have contributed over $1 million to our antiracist initiative," he said. "This money provides the initial funding source for the fellows program, as well as for the new Associate Dean of Faculty position and the Onboarding Program that will begin this summer. Trustees (including one who offered a $500,000 challenge) have been especially integral to the success of this fundraising project."
"While we had identified beginning a Fellows Program in 2022-2023 as one of the action steps in the Antiracist Action Plan, being able to start that program in collaboration with Penn is the best possible approach," noted Warren. "The association with Penn is attractive for candidates because candidates will complete the two-year fellowship program with a master's degree. The association with Penn is attractive for us because Penn has developed an excellent set of steps we can employ in our work with our Fellows, and because we join a consortium of program schools, which provides an additional source for teaching and learning ideas."
St. Mark's will officially refer to this exciting new program as the Farmer Penn Fellowship, and to the fellows as Farmer Penn Fellows, in honor of Malcolm Farmer III '57, who has made many valuable contributions to our School–and who helped make this program possible. Farmer is an attorney and a partner at law firm Hinckley Allen, and a passionate advocate for children and Civil Rights. In 1965, he went to Mississippi with the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee (LCDC), an organization created to provide legal assistance to the Civil Rights Movement. He represent civil rights organizations, as well as local Black citizens in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama in an effort to obtain and protect their constitutional rights against state and local governments enforcing racial segregation and discrimination.
St. Mark's School has already begun the search for Farmer Penn Fellows, and we look forward to welcoming these talented individuals to our community next fall. "It has been very exciting to interview prospective Fellow candidates," shared Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty Samantha Brennan. "Each candidate brings a passion for teaching and social justice in the context of academic and residential settings. As soon-to-be college graduates, they are eager to take the next step in their own education while simultaneously gaining hands-on experience at St. Mark's. The program design seems to strike the perfect balance for them in providing avenues to contribute to the St. Mark's holistic educational program in authentic ways while also supporting their professional growth through active mentorship in and out of the classroom."