Had you asked Kaitlyn Giles McHugh as a Grade 5 student at Nashoba Brooks School what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would have given three distinct answers—an architect, a lawyer, or a marine biologist.
Kaitlyn thinks back fondly on her early years at Nashoba Brooks. As a student, she recalls learning about each country in the world, cataloging lima bean growth as part of her plant project, and running the one-mile race with classmate Jevan Jammal, now director of admission at Nashoba Brooks.
After Nashoba Brooks, Kaitlyn attended Middlesex School, and then Cornell University, where she pursued art history and Italian studies and played varsity lacrosse. “Upon reflection of my time at each school, I was lucky to have incredible teachers who worked to bring out my competitive edge so that I took risks and pushed myself academically, while also getting to know and care for me as a growing person and citizen.”
After college, Kaitlyn shifted her plans from law school to becoming a Teach For America corps member. Perhaps it was the admiration she had for her parents’ work as independent school educators, or because of her own experience as a volunteer tutor and mentor to middle school students. “I found the work of educators to be so deeply grounded in community and character development,” Kaitlyn reflects, “which has always felt to me like critical and important work.” Whatever the reason, once she started teaching she never looked back.
Kaitlyn began her career teaching math, science, and reading to fifth grade students at a level four turn-around school in Lawrence, Massachusetts. She remembers her very first day, feeling fear and awe about what was to come. “Thankfully, the fear lessened from day to day, week to week, and I settled into the realization that being an educator is a work of heart. Worthy work that I wanted to commit my career to,” Kaitlyn remembers.
After Teach For America, Kaitlyn became a part of the founding group at Excel Academy Orient Heights, part of a public charter school network. She taught math and led the fifth grade team before becoming the Dean of Curriculum and Instruction. She has spent the last five years in this administrative role working on revising the curriculum, leading professional development, and creating an equitable, adaptable, and rigorous academic program for students. Finishing her tenth year as an educator this spring, she remembers the highlight of each day as watching her students find the confidence and understanding to overcome daunting math problems.
Now, Kaitlyn will be stepping into the role of assistant head of middle school at Nashoba Brooks. “This opportunity is truly my dream job,” she explains. “I am excited to work with Danielle Heard and her team. Nashoba Brooks has a bright future, and I want to serve the school well.” Kaitlyn is most looking forward to understanding best practices for the education of girls, as well as partnering with other teachers to get girls excited about STEM fields. Kaitlyn points out that women are needed in more leadership roles and in key areas of study, and she looks forward to helping the young women at Nashoba Brooks “step out into our diverse and evolving world with the confidence to pursue any opportunity or career they set their minds to.”
Looking back on spending time with a few student representatives during her interview process at Nashoba Brooks, Kaitlyn recalls feeling “struck by each students’ deep internalization of the core values and how they recognize and celebrate when someone exemplifies a core value at School.” She is encouraged by how passionately these girls spoke about the work being done at Nashoba Brooks and is excited to become a part of the community.
While she certainly didn’t end up as an architect or a marine biologist, many of the things Kaitlyn learned at Nashoba Brooks have led her to her current career in education. “I believe my love for math and science took root at Nashoba Brooks because of the talented and dedicated team of teachers I had,” Kaitlyn explains. She also credits her middle school years with inspiring her love for learning, establishing deep friends and true collaboration, and teaching her the importance of risk-taking and challenging herself. Kaitlyn knows firsthand just how wonderful a Nashoba Brooks education can be. Her own years at Nashoba Brooks instilled her with creativity, inquisitiveness, and resilience, and she believes strongly in the collective vision for the future of Nashoba Brooks.