Faculty Voice: Nancy Anderson

Anderson.Outdoor.Head.ShotDear Middle School Families,

I am grateful to have this opportunity to share with you how honored I am to be the incoming Middle School principal. The past five years I’ve spent at Milton have been among the most fulfilling of my 20-year career as an educator—and that is because of the Milton faculty who are the most dedicated and dynamic group of educators I’ve ever known. It’s because of Milton families who push us to examine our craft and answer tough but important questions about our work. And it’s because of our Milton students who teach me every day what it means to be brave, even in the face of fear.

Courage in the face of fear became an unexpected theme of my candidacy as principal. When I was contemplating whether to apply for the position, the thought of leaving my current job was scary. I love my work as K–8 mathematics coordinator and Grade 8 mathematics teacher, and I planned to continue in that role for a very long time. But after reflecting on my work, I realized that everything I loved about my current job—facilitating curriculum renewal, aligning pedagogy to current research, and connecting programs across divisions—pertained to the role of principal as well. Once I realized that shifting roles would enable me to do more of the work I love, not less, I was confident that I should put my name in for consideration.

Once my candidacy advanced and became public, however, my fear came roaring back. I remember the moment I saw the campus email announcing my name as a finalist. It’s no exaggeration to say that I thought about crawling under my desk. I was entirely unsure how the community was going to react. I worried about what would happen if another candidate emerged as a better fit for the school. And in the time leading up to my finalist visit, it was terrifying to think that I’d be spending an entire day trying to convince the community that I’d be a good principal, knowing that the response might be, “No thank you.” So I threw myself into preparing for that day, studying issues pertinent to the School, including those related to curriculum, assessment, identity, student discipline, and more. I read a lot, made flash cards, anticipated possible interview questions, and practiced my answers out loud at home.

Even though this preparation helped me build my confidence, there were moments when my fear crept back in. And in every one of those moments, I thought about the students at Milton and about how brave they are every single day. They are brave when they raise their hands in class to share ideas that are quite tenuous—even knowing their thinking may be challenged by their peers and teachers. They are brave when they say, “Sure I’ll try that!” whether it’s a new sport, speech, math club, robotics, or Model UN. They are brave when they explore their identities even though they know this is lifelong work that raises as many questions as it answers. So when I thought about my students, I realized that I could never again ask them to be brave or take a chance—even one that could result in failure and disappointment—if I wasn’t willing to do so myself. And it was this realization that bolstered me throughout the finalist stage. I will forever be grateful to the students at Milton for that support.

In the time since my name was announced as the incoming Middle School principal, I have been overwhelmed by the response of the community. In particular, I wish to thank Todd Bland, Racheal Adriko, and Will Crissman for sharing with me many wonderful pieces of advice about effective school leadership. I wish to thank the Middle School faculty for giving me this opportunity to guide our school as it moves in a new direction. And I wish to thank the families of the Middle School for their support. Your faith in me inspires me to work as diligently as I can to provide all of our students with an enjoyable, productive, and transformative Middle School journey.