This year, Berkeley Carroll welcomes new Lower School Director Kimberly Beck to Carroll Street! A lifelong educator, Kimberly has held a number of roles in and out of the classroom, beginning her career as an elementary school teacher and literacy specialist in the Connecticut public schools, where she went on to become Principal at two elementary schools, and was ultimately promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Ridgefield, CT. Kimberly joins BC after most recently serving as the Head of the Lower School at Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C.
BC Magazine spoke with Kimberly about her extensive experience as an education leader, her life outside the classroom, and what excites her most about joining the Lower School!
BC Magazine: Welcome to Berkeley Carroll, Kimberly! We’re excited you are joining our community and wanted to know what in particular made our Lower School a community you wanted to be a part of?
Kimberly Beck: We are at an incredibly pivotal moment in American education. BC is poised to lead the way in truly preparing our students to be empathetic citizens, seek justice, and change the world for the better. And, there is no more important time for our children to be able to do so.
I am excited to be leading the Lower School community in developing the foundational skills and dispositions that our students will need. I know that the academic, social, emotional, and physical development of young children has a direct effect on the adults that they will become. By providing our youngest learners with a schooling experience that builds skills, connects to the big ideas of identity and humanity, and challenges students to think within and beyond themselves, we are investing in their future. The Lower School is the foundation for all that is to come.
BC: Did you always know you wanted to work in education?
KB: Actually, no. I did not come from a family of teachers or even know any others than the ones I had at school. It was not a career that I really considered initially. I thought I would be an architect or fighter pilot turned commercial pilot. That said, I can no longer imagine another pathway for me. Being an educator is not just what I do, it is who I am. I feel called and compelled to do this work. It is truly a vocation for me.
BC: What made you decide to move from the classroom to a leadership role?
KB: Let me open by saying I love teaching. I miss it every single day. Being in the company of learners, whether 10-year-olds or 45-year-olds, is pure joy for me. I love the art and science of teaching, the challenge of meeting the learning needs of individuals, and connecting and creating community.
As a teacher, I was also engaged in committee work that moved forward initiatives which provided for better student experiences across the school and the district. Additionally, I held teacher leadership roles that illuminated life outside the single classroom. It was in these roles that I learned the power of influence and the need for deep leadership that could attend to the needs of individual students as well as the system itself. I realized that if we are really going to change the world through education, we need to improve the system in which it resides. Those experiences in combination with the “gentle nudging” of amazing mentors along the way, brought me to becoming an educational leader.
BC: You’ve worked in both public schools and independent schools. What do you think has drawn you to the independent world?
KB: So many aspects of public and independent schools are the same. There are classrooms, playgrounds, and gymnasiums. There are students with varying needs, teachers that care deeply, and leaders that guide. There are traditions, assemblies, and clubs. There are annual assessments, school policies, and procedures to protect. School life looks similar – on the surface. However, when you dig deeper into what drives the educational framework, decisions made on behalf of the community, and what the resulting value proposition is, they are quite different. Within an independent school setting we can actually live our missions as opposed to falling victim to bureaucratic oversight. We can act boldly in service to students rather than be restricted. We have the ability to evolve and innovate on our own terms. Simply put, independent schools get to be independent of those things that limit the public schools in profound ways.
I choose to be in an independent school at this moment very deliberately. As I look at what our next generation of learners needs and deserves, I believe it is in an independent school setting that it can be accomplished.
BC: How would you describe yourself as an elementary school student?
KB: I have vivid memories of every grade at North School in Londonderry, NH, where I grew up. I loved school. I adored my teachers and worked hard to please them. I thrived in my classes and was equally joyous at recess, but I was most comfortable in math, science, visual arts, and physical education classes. I grew up in an era where superlatives were still “a thing.” I am not going to lie, I was designated the “Teacher’s Pet” by my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Hammond. You would have thought I won the Nobel Peace Prize, I was so honored!
BC: What was your favorite book growing up?
KB: As a young child, my Mom read Winnie-the-Pooh books to me. They remained a favorite of my childhood. As a reader, I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Interestingly, I did not see the movie, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, until I was an adult.
BC: What are some of your favorite hobbies and things to do when you’re out of school?
KB: When not in school, more than anything, I love to spend time with my family, especially my two children, Amelie and Zoë. I am incredibly close to not only my parents and siblings, but also my aunts, uncles and cousins. Despite living all over the country, any chance we get, we are together.
Before the pandemic, seeing live music was a way of life for me. From going to a vineyard to see a local artist to sitting amongst thousands at a football stadium to see a music legend, I love it all. I simply cannot wait until live music can be a part of my lifestyle again.
I love to read, especially at the beach or by a lake. Speaking of which, being out on the water is my happy place. I like to kayak, paddleboard, jetski, and spend time out on a boat. Hiking is another way I like to spend time – especially if I am with my children.