Fitzpatrick returns to Clear Spring
By Samantha Jones
Jessica Fitzpatrick is adding a new title to her education resume.
Fitzpatrick recently was named the new head of school at Clear Spring School, where she taught from 1999 to 2010. She said she worked her way through all the grades and was at the school when the high school program began. While teaching at Clear Spring, Fitzpatrick said, she earned her master's degree in progressive education.
"Then the last three years I was out here, I was with the seventh- and eighth-graders," Fitzpatrick said.
She left the school to teach in South Korea and has been out of the country for much of the past nine years. In South Korea, Fitzpatrick taught English as a Second Language (ESL) and instructed other teachers how to teach.
"I was working with them on intercultural issues … how to work in different context and how to work with someone who has a different background than you do," Fitzpatrick said.
The reason she went to Korea, Fitzpatrick said, is because she wanted to be part of a federal teacher exchange program but she didn't have any experience teaching ESL classes.
"I had to have ESL experience," Fitzpatrick said. "After being in Korea for four years, I applied to that fellowship and then I went to Uganda for a few years."
After teaching in Uganda, Fitzpatrick said, she went to New Zealand to complete her Ph.D. That's what she's been up to for the past two and a half years, she said. During that time, Fitzpatrick said she's been back and forth between Clear Spring and many places abroad.
"I did my research on Clear Spring. I worked with the teachers here over the last two years to improve our professional development and learning for teachers," Fitzpatrick said.
In her dissertation, she said, she focused on the five C's: communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and character.
"I documented the growth in those areas with the students," Fitzpatrick said. "We worked on improving our narrative conference report to better document those C’s.”
She was asked to be head of school, Fitzpatrick said, while working on her research. She said the offer couldn't have come at a better time.
"It has been such a journey. Now looking back, it's so obvious that this is the perfect thing to happen," Fitzpatrick said. "It feels like my own educational experience has gone full circle … through the school and learning about progressive education and what it means."
An important aspect of her research, Fitzpatrick said, is how it combines theory and practice.
"That's often what's missing in education. You've got theorists over here talking about what we should be doing," she said, "and you've got teachers teaching over here. It was a really nice organic way for that to happen. It's exciting to be back and put into practice the ideas we had as a staff."
As head of school, Fitzpatrick said, she gets to implement all the ideas she discovered in her research. She said she's hoping to strengthen the students at Clear Spring. That's what progressive education is all about, Fitzpatrick said.
"It's doing lots of cool things but reflecting on that in a cycle," she said, "so you do things and you reflect on why we did that and how it's important. I'm excited to help the students become more aware of that reflective learning cycle so they know why they're here and they can take the next steps in their lives."
Those who don't know much about Clear Spring are welcome to check it out, Fitzpatrick said.
"I invite families to come by and visit and see if the school is the right fit for their kids," she said. "We work with everyone and anyone that fits to our mission and philosophy. I invite people to come by and see it for themselves."