New Division Directors Lead with Heart

 

Starting the school year together in person this fall has been a momentous undertaking, and leading the school’s efforts, along with Head of School Virginia Connor, are the school’s new division directors: Nicole Johnson in the lower division and Katie Rocker in the upper division.

When Ms. Johnson and Ms. Rocker accepted their new positions last February after a comprehensive search process, no one could have predicted how the following months would unfold. The early days of this school year have demonstrated that both divisions are in the hands of leaders who are both capable and caring, and who show an impressive commitment and dedication to the school’s mission, faculty, and students.

While Ms. Rocker and Ms. Johnson have taken different journeys to the division director role, they are united in their approach to educating young children. When asked what it is about the St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s community that inspires them, both agree—it is the focus on each child, the collaboration, and the connectedness that matter most.

This focus, Ms. Johnson says, is “the heart that goes into every decision we make. I am proud to continue to be part of a community that is so committed to each child and family.” Her connection with the community is a long one—she started as a 3-year-old in the nursery program and later graduated in 2005. She went on to attend The Nightingale-Bamford School and Haverford College. After completing her master’s degree from Teachers College Columbia University, Nicole came home to St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s, returning to teach third grade for five years. She was also a founding member of the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership (DEIL) team

Though Ms. Rocker’s history with St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s is not quite as long, she says that the school’s mission drew her in immediately. “The explicitly stated belief that each child is sacred, and the school’s commitment to each child, can be seen in every interaction.”

Prior to joining St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s, Ms. Rocker was director of the lower school at Kew-Forest School in Queens; she also taught in the upper division at The Meadowbrook School of Weston and at The Brearley School, where she received an award as an outstanding young teacher. She earned a master’s degree in school leadership from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and is also a graduate of Williams College and Kent Place School in Summit, NJ. 

Both Ms. Johnson and Ms. Rocker agree that though this is not a typical school year, their goals and focus are still the same: for each child to feel known, seen, and valued, whether they are starting the school experience in the early childhood or finishing their time here as eighth graders.  

Ms. Johnson and Ms. Rocker prove that this fall is dedicated to establishing connections beyond the masks, plexiglass dividers, and orange cones that mark our spaces but don’t define the school day.