While Deerfield welcomed many new faculty members this year, only one of them is an alumna of DA. Kayla Corcoran returns to campus as a teaching fellow after graduating in 2009. She recalls her fondest memories from Deerfield which include being in the classroom, memorable because of influential teachers. In particular, her Modern Times History teacher, Head of the History Department Mr. Joe Lyons, and their class unit on Rwanda sparked her passion and curiosity about international relations. Ms. Corcoran credits her years at Deerfield for “cultivating her love for history,” and that to return and share her passion with students “feels like coming home.”
During her college years at Georgetown University, Ms. Corcoran spent a summer in Rwanda working on an agricultural development project with small farmers, an experience of a lifetime sparked by her interests at DA. She also took a gap year and worked as a teaching fellow at King’s Academy in Jordan to pursue her teaching ambitions while staying connected to the Deerfield community.
Ms. Corcoran is now working toward a Master’s Degree in Education through the Penn Residency Master’s in Teaching program, a partnership that allows teaching fellows to get real classroom experience by teaching at a variety of boarding schools. Ms. Corcoran appreciates the opportunity to be a teaching fellow while simultaneously being a student herself, and her students benefit from her experiences. Ali Dougal ’18, a student in her Africa and Latin America history class, shared, “Being a student and a teacher, Ms. Corcoran really understands the pressures of a heavy workload. She knows what it means to be a Deerfield student and helps keep us upbeat and motivated through seventh period.”
It is unique and rather uncommon for faculty members to have insight on both the student and teacher experience at DA. Ms. Corcoran described the transition as natural and declared it “an honor” to be teaching alongside those who inspired her during her time as a student. While some of her favorite teachers, such as her junior and senior year English teacher, Mr. Palmer, no longer work at Deerfield, Ms. Corcoran is pleased to join the ranks of other familiar faces, such as her former history teacher, Ms. Friends. Ms. Corcoran explainsedthat Ms. Friends taught her how to ask good questions and to present global issues.
As a student, Ms. Corcoran believes she was able to cultivate the communications skills that are necessary to make lasting change in a community. Specifically, she values the ability to spark ongoing discussions and talk about topics that are hard to broach. Ms. Corcoran seeks to “empower students to have the difficult conversations” that can make a difference. The young teacher hopes to build upon her communication skills with community feedback and to inspire students and faculty alike to expand on sustained dialogue as a method to create positive change and interesting discussion throughout our community.
Ms. Corcoran has noticed a lot of changes that have occurred at Deerfield in her time away. Structural differences include the Greer, the gym, and the Hess Center. She believes these new buildings emphasize the positive efforts Deerfield has made to improve our community; specifically the Greer and the Hess Center allow for student growth in two ways: socially and artistically.
More significantly, she is thrilled by the institutional changes that indicate the school’s progressive direction. “When I was here, all first waiters were girls, and all second waiters were boys…There was only one head cheerleader and it was always a boy,” Ms. Corcoran noted excitedly. “Small changes make steps toward diminishing social divides in the school.”
She is particularly interested in the Center for Service and Global Citizenship and is excited by a growing interest in our community about global issues. She also views the Office of Inclusion, which is new since her time at Deerfield, as a positive addition to the community.
Ms. Corcoran is thrilled to return to a more progressive DA, and she hopes to continue gaining momentum in tackling campus issues. “Deerfield has made a lot of strides in terms of diversity and inclusion since I graduated—it’s a really exciting time to be a faculty member.”