Community members are entering this academic year with a variety of new needs due to the restrictions involved in opening school safely amidst the pandemic. To address these concerns, Head of School Jen Price said, she asked Chief Learning Officer Jed Lippard to create the Knight Corps, a group of 22 recent high school and college graduates who will assist faculty and students with the transition to a hybrid school model.
“We knew there was going to be a need for additional capacity in the form of hands and heads and hearts to support the smooth functioning of school,” Dr. Lippard said.
Based on programs like City Year and AmeriCorps, nonprofit institutions that train young people to support educators, the Knight Corps—or Knights, for short—will partner with off-campus teachers, help students navigate transitions between virtual and physical learning, and supervise the Knight School at 46 Belmont St, where Middle and Upper School students scheduled for remote learning can go instead of home. Knights will also help carry out the new COVID guidelines by facilitating mask breaks, handing out lunches, and reminding students to wash hands and social-distance.
In separate webinars over the summer, both Dr. Price and Dr. Lippard used a baseball metaphor to describe the Knights, referring to them as utility players who can plug in at any position to help the team achieve success. At the same time, the school intends to help the Knights gain hands-on experience in and exposure to the practice of teaching and learning at an independent school, according to the job description posted by the school.
“We want to balance the give with the get,” Dr. Lippard said. “We want to invest in the Knights to think about potential career paths in education.”
The Knights’ orientation program kicked off in August with a session examining diversity, equity, inclusion, and global education (DEIG). Once a month, they will reconvene for a seminar Dr. Lippard has dubbed ACT—Acting Caring and Thinking like an educator—to teach best practices and DEIG-related issues. ACT will aim to spark conversation and initiative toward social justice, an approach inspired by the Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (SEED) project, Dr. Lippard said. Knights will also be mentored by faculty members and participate in safe social events, professional learning days, and monthly SEED workshops.
The process of finding Knight Corps members had already begun in early June, before Dr. Lippard was hired. Upon arrival in July, he assembled a search committee that included Faculty Hiring Advisor Vanessa Taylor, Co-Director of Extended Services Emma O’Loughlin, and Human Resources Director Tamah Rosker. The job description, posted on the school’s website and sent out to young alumni/ae and a range of local educators, called for applicants with a commitment to fostering an inclusive and diverse learning environment and ensuring the safety and well-being of all students. More than 60 people applied. Several of the Knight Corps members selected are BB&N graduates, and the group as a whole comes from a variety of backgrounds.
Alfonso Femino, who has taught English and ESL and has been part of AmeriCorps, said he feels he can be effective and nurturing during this divisive time because of his past participation in diverse school settings.
“Being in an inclusive environment is something I am used to,” Mr. Femino said. “In fostering environments that are inclusive, I have experience both as a teacher and as a student seeing what a positive diverse environment looks like.”
Jack Truesdale ’16, who spent the past year working as a reporter in Irving, California, said he looks forward to returning to the school and being available to students as a Knight during the pandemic and in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It will be a good time to be in an old, familiar place where I still know a lot of teachers. It’s a nice sort of thing in an otherwise chaotic world,” Mr. Truesdale said. “Wherever I am stationed, I will be approachable for students to talk to.”
Ellen Cayer, a Knight Corps member from Arlington who recently returned from teaching English in Bogota, Colombia, said she recognizes her crucial role in enforcing safety protocols.
“Setting a good example is big,” Ms. Cayer said. “It’s going to be important for the students to see us following all of the rules as well.”
While the Knight Corps is scheduled to operate until December, Dr. Price said it becoming a permanent part of the school is a strong possibility. She added that the program has even raised interest among other independent school leaders, who have contacted Dr. Price about the job description.
“Every crisis is also a good opportunity,” Dr. Price said. “Hopefully [Knight Corps] will continue past the pandemic because I think it would be wonderful for our school and for the profession of education.”