As we prepare to welcome back our students for a new school year, we also are welcoming 7 new staff members! To help welcome them to the Wolf community and to help you get to know these newest staff members – we’ll be highlighting them in upcoming We Are Wolf interviews. First up, we’d like you to meet Kathy Ford!
1. Can you briefly tell us about your background?
I keep meaning to work on my elevator speech, but somehow never get around to it! I would say that I have traveled a non-traditional path to the work I do today and yet, I have been doing it all along.
Looking back, a major turning point for me occurred 24 years ago when I took what was to be a summer job as a clinician for Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes in Washington, DC. Within three months I was given my first directorship there. Essentially, I became known for quality assurance and was sent to centers across the country to improve their operations and outcomes. I loved the work, but I especially loved working with learners of all ages and abilities so I left them and went into private practice.
My first gig was doing “intensives” across the country wherein a family would hear about my work via word of mouth and hire me to live in their home for four to six weeks, providing educational therapy to their children who had dyslexia, dysgraphia, and/or dyscalculia. From there, I was contracted to provide special education services by the DC court system and Department of Education and worked in independent, charter, and public schools.
Fast forward to 2009 when I had two important realizations. First, I found that the only students I wasn’t serving as well as I wanted to had behavioral and emotional issues that presented unique obstacles to learning. On their behalf, I found that unacceptable. It is a privilege to help individuals fulfill their potential and thrive and I am committed to failing no one as much as is humanly possible. So I pursued a graduate degree in psychology with a specialization in evaluation, research, and measurement and organizational development.
At the same time, while I was happy with my work, I wanted to be able to reach more students every day so I left private practice and began working as a full-time learning specialist in independent schools.
Over time, I found I still didn’t feel it was enough, so I searched for a way to help not just some, but all students. That is when I began focusing on developing faculty and schools. Jump ahead to 2021, and here I am at The Wolf School as your inaugural Director of Teaching and Learning!
2. Can you tell us about your new role?
Of course. The first thing to know is that my role is not only new to me, but new to Wolf as well. That said, it is important to note that the work itself is not new. Wolf’s commitment to excellence and the high-quality professionals that work here were a major impetus for my moving here. At the time of my interview “high-quality professionals” meant Anna, Kelly, and Lauren, but that pool has expanded exponentially over the past eight weeks.
Since July, I have been focusing on learning about what it is that makes Wolf tick, what makes it a premier special education school, and how we go about educating Complex Learners. Camp Confidence was a beautiful window into the magic that happens here every day. More specifically, I have been having many conversations around curriculum, assessment, and instruction. I have had incredible thought partners this summer and am eager to see how it is all brought to life during the school year.
3. What most excites you about your new position?
Oh, I love this question! And the answer is easy: Everything! I have mentioned a few already, but I will add more specifically that it is the servant aspect of my position that is most powerful for me. My job centers on understanding what it is that contributes to our success in educating students and helping us to continue to strengthen those aspects while clearing the runway of any speed bumps to continuous improvement. Teaching and learning are incredibly hard work under the best of circumstances. We are fortunate that Wolf itself is a “best circumstance”, but faculty and students both need people in their corner supporting their success; I am honored to be someone who provides that support.
4. During your short time here, what have you noticed that really makes the Wolf School special?
The Immersion Model© for one. I have been studying it well since July, but most recently Kelly McDonald, Director of Clinical Services, and Lauren Karlsson, Director of Special Education, shared a description of what it looks like in action with new staff. I practically jumped out of my seat clapping and cheering! Wolf truly sets itself apart with blending clinical and academic models. Beyond that, it is the people who make this a special place to work and learn. I am surrounded with student-centered experts who are dedicated to providing our students with the best possible educational care and experiences–and the kids, of course, always the kids.
5. What inspires you to work in education?
Hands down, it is making a difference for the children we serve so that they can fulfill their potential and go out into the world to make a difference for us all in whatever way best feeds their souls. A large part of that means being tuned into how the global community we live in evolves and ensuring that we, as a society, underscore innovation in schools so that the education we provide is meaningful, relevant, and empowering for students.
6. Do you have any goals for Wolf or any hopes for the future?
I have to chuckle a little at this question because I think that, in my excitement at being here, I might have a few too many goals and hopes for the future! But without getting bogged down in details, I have one singular goal and hope and that is for Wolf to be the best school we can imagine. As Walt Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” We have that courage.
Welcome to Wolf, Kathy! We are thrilled to have you here and know you will become a trusted and valuable member of our community!