EMS will open with a 2-hour delay on Thursday, Jan. 20. Faculty and staff will be on campus by 9:30 a.m., and students should arrive no earlier than 10 a.m. Please be careful as you make your way to school this morning. No students will be marked tardy.

The Latest EMS News · 01 May 2021

Q&A With Dr. Marek Beck, Our New Head of School

Maren Beck of Elisabeth Morrow School

On July 1, 2021, our Associate Head of School, Dr. Marek Beck, will become our eighth Head of School.

Q: What initially drew you to The Elisabeth Morrow School?

I wanted to find a school community that shared my values, where I could fully invest myself and the experiences and ideas that I have to offer. It was clear to me, from the mission statement to the vision statement, that EMS embodies who I am as a person, a parent, an educator, and a leader.

One of the first things that struck me about The Elisabeth Morrow School is that the 4 Cs — courtesy, consideration, cooperation, and compassion — are not just something on our website, not just a poster on a wall or a soundbite to offer. This standard is truly something that we aspire to every day. And the 4 Cs are not just for the students; they’re for the faculty, the staff, the families — every member of the community. The world we live in requires more attention to developing integrity, personal character, and social-emotional learning, particularly as we come out of the global pandemic we’ve been facing for the last year and a half.

When I met my future colleagues, the pride they showed in being part of this special community and seeing how caring, dedicated, hardworking, and collaborative they are made such a strong impression. They spoke about educating the “whole child,’ and something I’ve learned through more than 25 years in education and my experiences as a parent of school-aged children is that the “whole child” matters more than any singular program or resource. When we talk about the “whole child,” we mean understand- ing each child’s unique identity and how it fits into the world around them. When a child feels safe, known, valued, and celebrated and when they’re engaged, empowered, and have agency, they can then go on to meet their full potential. This understanding is consistent throughout the leadership, faculty, and staff at The Elisabeth Morrow School and evident in every conversation.

No other school comes close to offering what you have at this remark- ably special place. I’m grateful to be your next Head of School, and I am incredibly excited for what’s to come.

Q: And what do you see for The Elisabeth Morrow School in our next 90 years?

Now that pandemic guidance is easing and we can more easily come together, one of our more immediate goals is to reconnect as a community. We now need to strengthen what makes us unique and special, starting with our relationships and making sure every person — every child, every faculty member, every parent — feels like they’re seen, known, valued, challenged, and celebrated, that their voice matters and that joy is omnipresent. When we feel engaged and connected, we feel safe enough to take risks and bounce back from failures, and that’s when we learn and grow. We’ll be focusing on relationships and fostering a positive culture, from the 4 Cs to our incredibly important work around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

We’re incredibly proud that exceptional things are happening across The Elisabeth Morrow School at all divisions, in all content areas, and at all grade levels. We want to make sure we identify and preserve all that has allowed for this academic excellence to occur at EMS. At the same time, I want us to have the courage to rethink ways that we can continue our excellence, especially as the world changes so quickly around us. We’re looking at upgrades we can make in our academic programs, such as increasing the great work with project-based learning that’s happening throughout Little School and making sure that it continues in Morrow House with experiences around STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), including computer science, innovation, and applied sciences. And we’re doing this while staying true to our core at EMS and all that began 90 years ago, through the work of our founder, making sure that the experiences we offer our students serve them not only today but for the future.

Part of the charge of a school is to provide students with what they need to be happy and successful — a foundation of academic excellence that prepares them for wherever they may go and whatever they may do. Many of the most in-demand jobs today didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago, and it’s likely that our students are going to be solving problems that aren’t problems today in fields and disciplines that don’t exist yet. To prepare them, we need to focus on transferable skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, effective oral and written communication, the ability to innovate, adaptability, entrepreneurship, collaboration, and so on.

When we look to our future, I want The Elisabeth Morrow School to be more than a beautiful gem that’s tucked away in Englewood, N.J. I want our school to be synonymous on a larger scale with best practices in teaching and learning. I can envision a future where schools near and far send their faculty to us to observe models of what best practices look like. I want our partnerships in the community to be strong, not only with the local community but the global community, to stay true to our mission where our students are curious scholars, ethical leaders, and global citizens.

Q: Are there any teachers you’ve had who have helped shape your educational philosophies?

In graduate programs and work- shops, it’s a common prompt for a facilitator to say, “Think of an educator or a person who made a difference in your life, who inspires you to do what you do.” I’ve always had a hard time with this exercise because I didn’t have that. I grew up flying under the radar in my school system. No one really knew me, and I certainly wasn’t engaged. I realized at a young age that my experience is not what it should have been.

I remember being a fourth-grader looking out the window and day-dreaming during class, seated in rows as the teacher was lecturing in a monotone voice about something that had nothing to do with my life, or so I felt. I remember thinking that this is not how it should be, and I started to imagine myself at that moment as a teacher. I knew even then that learning should be engaging, relevant, fun, and challenging, and I promised myself that I was going to be a teacher, the kind of teacher who I always wanted but never had. Every child deserves to have a classroom teacher who is going to make sure that they feel understood and engaged and can help them develop a love of learning.

While my friends grappled with different ideas when it was time to think about what to study in college and what career to pursue, I never had a “crossroads moment” of uncertainty. It was a calling from the very beginning, and I give credit to the teachers who didn’t inspire me because it fueled me to become the type of educator that I want for every child.

Q: Aside from your educational passions, will you share a few other interests that drive you?

I come from a family of professional musicians, and we played music all the time when I was growing up. I’ve been playing the drums since I was 12 and have had a lot of great experiences playing in bands and just being a lover of music. I think music helps me stay grounded, helps me maintain joy.

I am also an avid tennis player. I grew up being a very, very serious player, and I’m thankful that’s a lifelong sport I can continue to play.

Other than that, I’ve had a life-long goal to run in a marathon. I took advantage of the time granted through the pandemic to train, and I ran my first marathon last year, the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. Next, I want to run the New York City Marathon, and I hope to do so in the upcoming year.

My wonderful wife and I have four beautiful children together. In the fall, three of them will be away at college and my youngest one will be a rising eleventh-grader. I’ve been commuting to Englewood during my tenure as Associate Head, and it will be very exciting to now make the move to campus and get comfortable in our new community, and I’m also looking forward to being near family in Manhattan.

There's No Better Time to Support Your Child's Education

Every time you donate to one of Elisabeth Morrow's dedicated funds, you help enrich the daily experiences of our community on campus. STEAM spaces are improved, library catalogues expanded, scholarships are funded, and teachers are hired. Every day, you can see the impact your generous donations have on campus.

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