Students' Stories Matter to Ms. Wyvill
by Erin Wallace
History teacher Kate Wyvill’s classroom is a calming space, lit by strands of twinkle lights and decorated with world maps. A classroom that reflects its students, the walls are adorned with favorite quotes made by the girls, a birthday chart, and colorful student artwork. Kate shared, “I want my students to have some ownership of this space. This is a space they can bring their whole self into.”
New to Oldfields, Kate is from Southern Maryland and has always enjoyed working with teens. While she is not quite sure who she inherited her early love for history from (her mother is a nurse and her father is a carpenter), the sense of nurture and dedication to creating beautiful spaces is apparent in all Kate does.
One of the most impactful lessons Kate has taught this year was her worldview lesson. Each class began with students painting canvases together, bringing a piece of themselves and their stories together. “Each of us has lived experiences. They all have beauty and they all have pain. When we come together we create beautiful stories.” This lesson has led the girls into deeper discussions, talking about biases and blind spots. They began to recognize who may feel silenced and those of whom we may not be aware.
Kate’s history classes focus first on having her students take a deep breath, slow down, and think about where they are. She has her students share their highs and lows each day, bringing her class together and allowing them to learn a little more about one another. “It helps to build community. Each student can gauge where they are. And they really look forward to it.” If she gets to the end of class without starting the exercise, the girls will remind her--demonstrating an eagerness for this opportunity to cultivate community.
Before Oldfields, Kate taught a Peer Ministry class and planned service and retreat opportunities for her students at Maryvale Preparatory School. She loved being in a room full of ambitious young women, all wanting to work for change and make a difference. Kate believes that her work as a youth minister has shaped so much of her teaching style. She asks questions and encourages the girls to share what they know. “The girls are teaching themselves.” From Adobe Spark to FlipGrid, Kate is bringing innovative platforms to the lessons and work. She has a monthly project, optional and for extra credit, due on the last day of each month. This month it is a family tree project, allowing the students time to think about where they come from, and who/what has influenced where they are now.
In summary, Kate says “Take a deep breath. Slow down. Let’s talk about the people that are living at this time. Who are they?” Oldfields is humbled to have Kate Wyvill here at Oldfields, adding thoughtfulness, twinkly lit spaces, and an appreciation for what makes us who we are.