Amy Wilson, Director of Enrollment Management

October 20, 2023

Dear Oakridge Family,

Eighty-six thousand and four hundred minutes.

That’s the minimum time most American kids (preschool through grade 12) spend at school each year. This does not include extracurricular activities or homework. That doesn’t count the hours that you, their parents, think, wonder, and worry about your children while they’re away. 

For you and your children, thinking about school, driving to school, attending school, waiting in the carpool line, and doing/helping with homework are incredibly time-consuming.

As the Director of Enrollment Management, I have had the privilege of talking to thousands of parents about their hopes and fears for their children. Despite the diversity of our applicants and our community, they share some universal truths. Most parents will tell you that there is nothing in their life more precious than their children. And many people will say that time is their most precious resource. Parents are cognizant of the fact that the time (those first 18 years) their children are in their daily care, under their roofs, and dependent on their parents to choose their environment during this incredibly important and sensitive time of growth, is an enormously important task.  

Given all of this, it stands to reason that school is where families invest what is most important to them, and in a time and place where there are so many choices, it is a daunting task. And you have to choose every year; not just once. Not only do you choose to enroll, you choose to re-enroll over and over again. We, at Oakridge, understand the weight of that responsibility, and so I ask: What kind of investment does our school make in you and your child? Do the teachers and administrators nurture strong relationships? Do they understand their impact?

As a new teacher back in 1996, I didn’t.

In my first year of teaching, I received a beautiful, kind, and incredibly generous note from the mother of a fourth-grade student. She thanked me for being a positive influence in her daughter’s life and — here comes the scary part — because I spent more waking hours with her daughter than she did.

I became a teacher because I wanted to invest in children’s lives. I was ready to nurture their intellectual and emotional growth. What I didn’t quite understand until I read that card was the depth of my responsibility and my impact on both child and family. This mom told me that I was a topic of dinnertime conversations, that my way of doing long division was the only “right” way do to it in their house (even though the parents had learned it differently), and that she, the mom, didn’t have to worry about playground drama because I was there to coach her daughter through it.

The gravity of teaching these children weighed on my mind and heart. I bore the responsibility for noticing the small things. For loving them through their triumphs and challenges. For communicating honestly with their parents about all I observed, and in a way that championed each child. My job was to spark a lifelong love of learning, to encourage creativity, and to inspire confidence, tenacity, and self-advocacy. I was teaching these bright minds to share and think beyond themselves, while reminding them of their worth and of the importance of self-care. 

My own life experience was limited (as a 22-year-old at the time). Still, I had one huge advantage: an amazing foundation that I formed at The Oakridge School. My education was solid, but I also had an army of people who believed in me. The voices of wise leaders, master teachers, and skilled coaches constantly replayed in my mind. When I faced a challenge in the classroom, they spoke through me. When I needed to dig deep and have a hard conversation, they pushed and supported me. I was never alone. I had wonderful role models at my alma mater.

I knew that the investment of my teachers had changed me. They really knew me — warts and all — and cared deeply for me anyway. As a teenager, I cried and celebrated with them, and when I grew up, they were there again. In college, they allowed me to shadow them in their classrooms and hone my craft. When I got married, they attended my wedding. And when I had children of my own, they celebrated with me. Some of them now teach my children.

Schools are supposed to invest like that in students. They are supposed to prepare children for academic challenges, but, honestly, don’t we want more? Yes, we all want the metrics by which we judge schools to be top-notch: college placement; impressive opportunities for students to seek their full potential in academics, arts, and athletics; and intentionally placed innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities. Don’t we also want the people who are with our children the majority of their waking hours to really know them and partner with us to support them?

That is what my husband and I wanted.

So, 20 years after my high school graduation, our children became Oakridge Owls. (Now they, too, are proud Oakridge alumni.) We knew they would be seen and loved for exactly who they were. They would be pushed and nurtured. And their experiences would be individualized because the adults who spent more than 86,400 minutes a year with them would know them well. Direct lessons — on soft skills, public speaking, servant leadership, mutual respect, problem-solving, self-awareness, and finding joy in pursuing passions — helped our boys excel and grow into strong, independent, young adults who are brave, ethical, fun, adventurous, and purpose-driven. Our boys knew they were supported and seen not only for who they were, but also for who they could become. They were taught important life lessons by people who really knew and cared about them. When they are home from college, they, like so many alumni, find their way back to campus to visit with those former teachers and bask in the affection and pride they still feel in them. 

If you crave strong partnerships with educators who spend more waking hours with your children than you do, please know you’re in the right place. I have the distinct privilege of getting to welcome new families to Oakridge as the Director of Enrollment Management, but I also want to make sure you, as current families, also have all the support and answers your need to re-enroll your children year after year. 

That is why I want to invite you to our Admission Showcase. While there will be prospective families there learning about our school for the first time, my team and I would like to see you use this opportunity to preview and learn about the next grade or division. Other people who you might not know, but I promise you’ll want to know, like our student support team (Counselor, Learning Support Coordinator, and Director of College Advising) will also be on hand to answer questions and get to know you and your family better. The full menu of options is below, and we would consider it an honor to have you spend a little more of your time with us. Oh, and Rita’s Italian Ice will be there offering free treats you and your family, so grab some friends (current and future Owls) and spend a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon with us! 

Amy Wilson '92
Director of Enrollment Management