Hillary Henne '14, MS Ed '15
Richmond, VA

What prompted you to pursue a graduate degree? What led you to apply to the Art of Teaching graduate program?

As an undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence I realized that I wanted to be a teacher after graduation. My don guided me towards the Art of Teaching program.

How did graduate school fit into your life at the time? Did you attend Sarah Lawrence right after college, or were you already working? Did you live far away from Sarah Lawrence? Have a family? How can a prospective student successfully fit the Art of Teaching program into their life?

I was able to do the Art of Teaching 5 year program, so that I after my undergraduate time I was able to simply stay at Sarah Lawrence for one additional year and complete my graduate work. People in the program with me ranged from people who lived nearby and had families to folks who relocated from the West Coast to attend the program. Because the program is small and the professors are committed to knowing each student in a meaningful way, the program is flexible enough to serve the needs of all different kinds of students.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence College for your graduate studies?

I chose to stay at an institution where I could have a sense of continuity from my undergraduate work to my graduate work. The Art of Teaching program offered a space where I could focus on teaching, but continue to think through an activist lens.

Tell us about the Sarah Lawrence faculty and the role they played in your time here.

The faculty of this program are the reason I am a successful teacher today. They bring an incredible level of knowledge, experience, and dedication to their students. My professors knew me and cared about me on an academic level, but also in personal and practical ways. They nurtured my growth as a rigorous intellectual just as much as they did the nuts and bolts of my practice as a student teacher. Later, I felt constant support throughout the job search process. The Art of Teaching faculty are people who go so beyond being academic advisers—they will be mentors who I turn to for the rest of my career.

What experience had the greatest impact on you? Describe the most memorable experience during your time here.

I think that the incredible range of experiences that the Art of Teaching program afforded me is what made it memorable. I student taught with children from 4 years old up to 11 year olds. I worked in a school where teachers had a great deal of freedom to make the curriculum and I worked in a school where the curriculum was rigid and state mandated. We took social studies field trips and worked extensively (with children and without) at the Bezak Center for the Urban River. I did intensive work following my own academic passions and I also worked closely with my peers on collaborative work. We used visual art, movement, music, and poetry as parts of our learning.

How did your coursework prepare you for your fieldwork and student teaching, and how did that experience prepare you to enter the profession?

Our coursework and fieldwork were completely intertwined. All course work drew directly from close observation of children and centered the questions that emerged from our work with children. My student teaching experience challenged me to expand my abilities, take on more responsibility, and learn from the skill and wisdom of a community of other teachers. I believe I was able to enter the classroom as a first year teacher with far more confidence and a better set of tools for teaching than I could possibly have because of the wonderful student teaching experiences that the Art of Teaching program gave me.

Where did you do your fieldwork and student teaching? If you were placed at the Early Childhood Center, describe that resource and the role it played in your preparation.

I was an assistant teacher for one year at the Early Childhood Center with the 5 / 6 year old classroom. This resource gave me a strong mentor from my first day in the program and involved me more deeply than I had previously been with the community surrounding Sarah Lawrence.

What was your life like while a grad student at Sarah Lawrence? Where did you live? How did you get around? How did you forge relationships?

Life was very busy while I was in the Art of Teaching program! I lived in Mount Vernon, NY (very close to campus) and drove to my student teaching placements. However, I was unusual in that way. Most of my fellow students took public transportation to campus and their teaching placements. Faculty members considered where we were living and what transportation was available to us in selecting our placements. Because the program was small, intensive, and full of out of the classroom experiences, I found that I formed some of the strongest friendships of my life with other students in the Art of Teaching program. Faculty also did a skillful job in the first year of helping students connect with one another and bring authentic versions of ourselves into seminar. I also found that out of 3 student teaching placements that I was assigned, I ended up with 3 masterful host teachers who I connected with on personal as well as academic levels. The Art of Teaching faculty put such care and support into these relationships that mentorship by host teachers becomes an invaluable and individualized element of the program.

What advice can you offer to prospective graduate students? Is there anything you wish you’d known as a prospective student? Anything that would have helped you during your time here?

That if you feel called to work with children, the Art of Teaching program will guide you to do that work more thoughtfully, with fuller presence, and more respect for children than you had known to aspire to previously.

What impact did the proximity of New York City have on your experience, both in terms of social life and your studies/work?

Being close to New York City means that there is a huge network of Progressive educators and schools to work with for teaching placements. It also means that there are near constant opportunities to attend lectures and incorporate the arts, history, and science into teaching practice. In terms of social life, it meant that my comrades in the Art of Teaching program were never more than a train ride away. It was always feasible for us to meet up for coffee to collaborate or support each other.

What do you consider the strongest attribute of the Art of Teaching program?

The faculty and community (Alum, host teachers, the Sarah Lawrence Early Childhood Center) are an unbelievable resource.

Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now. Where are you working, what are you doing there, etc.

After graduate school I relocated to Portland Maine. I’m currently co-teaching a multi-age preschool class of 3-5 year olds at the Breakwater School, which is an independent, progressive institution.