Q&A with Laura Hotchkiss

After 30 years at Marlborough, Dr. Laura Hotchkiss will become the Head of School at the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur in Villanova, Pennsylvania. In celebration of her contributions over these three decades, we sat down with her to reflect on the many ways that she and Marlborough have impacted one another.

After 30 years at Marlborough, Dr. Laura Hotchkiss will become the Head of School at the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur in Villanova, Pennsylvania. In celebration of her contributions over these three decades, we sat down with her to reflect on the many ways that she and Marlborough have impacted one another.

 

How has Marlborough influenced your teaching philosophy?

Marlborough has helped me center the importance of thinking about students first in all decision making - whether you're a teacher in the classroom, a department head, or an administrator. It's really about where the student rests in a decision. Whenever we near a final decision, we take it to students to check our language, check our thinking, and they often make it better. We work with such smart, capable students each and every day and when you pose questions to them, they come up with solutions that are just remarkable. It's heartening. It's exciting. It's energizing. It's joyful.

This has been my experience leading Student Council, working as the ninth grade Dean, working with Student Academic Advisory Council, and just listening to them problem solve and identify areas for improvement. It always gets better when the students add their lens to it. 

You've held many roles at Marlborough: student, math teacher, Math Department Head, Class Dean, Middle School Director, Associate Head of Academics, and Head of Upper School. Did you have a favorite role?

I often describe my good fortune of being at Marlborough as every time I thought I wanted to try something different, or maybe I didn't even know I wanted to try something different, a door would open and an opportunity would present itself and I would walk through that door and give it a try.

Each role was so different. The Middle School Director role really stands out. I was a new administrator and it was challenging. I don't know that I was always my most empathetic. I think I was very concerned about making sure the rules were followed. But, actually, what I grew to understand, particularly as I moved through different. spaces and places at Marlborough and into my current role, is that being in charge is not the same thing as being a leader. I want to be on a team with smart people who are engaged and committed to students. So the role that I hold now is one that I treasure and value because of the ways that I get to work with so many different pieces and people at Marlborough, whether that's on the communications front, the academic front, the board, or the students.

The work that we have done over the last five or six years in the realm of community partnerships and social justice, entrepreneurship, robotics, health and wellness of young people, is work that I wouldn't have done if I hadn't had this role where I have been able to interact and interface with so many amazing leaders.

As a student, what was your favorite Marlborough tradition?

I have a special love for Pumpkin Day. When I came for my interview it was Pumpkin Day. I was a little 6th grader. It was October and I went into the old library, which was very dark, and all of these girls were dressed in crazy costumes. You could just feel the energy of the place. I loved being a part of it and seeing the creativity, and I love the way that students interact across grades and within grades. I've seen students who weren't friends suddenly realize they had picked the same costume.

Is that still your favorite tradition?

I love Pumpkin Day, but I also have a real affinity for Ring Ceremony. I just love the camaraderie and friendship across juniors and seniors - this passing of some responsibility and ownership as the juniors take on the role of leading the school and being the example for the younger students. It's also a sweet ceremony because it's really about the students - a junior and a senior coming forward to share a moment and to show their joy and friendship for one another.

What will you remember most about Marlborough?

It has to be the people. This is a place that inspires greatness and excellence and kindness and friendship, whether that's speaking about the adults or the students. I've worked with some of the best educators I could ever imagine. I've gotten to know some of the most inspirational students who take us all to better places and challenge us all to e better.

And the last six years of working with Priscilla has been a transformational time in my own leadership style and my own personal development. She's been an amazing mentor and friend with such wise words. I feel so fortunate and blessed to have had her in my life during this time where I was growing and developing as a leader.


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