Chat with... Retiring GFA Head of School Janet Hartwell
WESTPORT—Janet Hartwell’s passion for education has taken her from her native Cambridge, England, to places all across the world, including stops in Iran and Saudi Arabia.
“I’ve actually always, always been deeply interested in education,” Hartwell said.
Hartwell, the head of school at Greens Farms Academy, announced earlier this month she will retire in June 2018.
Asked about what her stamp on the school is, Hartwell responded: “I think we have very innovative teaching. I think we have very solid values. We have a very good community of students and faculty.”
The goal, Hartwell said, is to instill the joy of learning into all of her students.
“Our teachers model lifelong learning as well,” she added. “It’s really a learning community.”
Hartwell’s road to the Westport private school was a winding one, starting in her native country.
After studying English and Greek at the University of Leeds in England, Hartwell went on to earn a postgraduate teaching certificate from Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She also holds a master’s degree from the Teachers College at Columbia University.
At first, Hartwell stayed closer to home, teaching English in Scotland for three years. After that, however, she broadened her horizons, traveling overseas to teach in Iran and later Saudi Arabia and eventually relocating to the United States. Hartwell moved around, working in schools in Woodbridge, Conn., Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. and Groton, Mass. before taking the post of Greens Farms head of school in 2003.
In her 14th year, Hartwell has been at the helm of GFA while enrollment has grown from around 580 to 715 and implemented three school-wide programs: STEAM, human ecology and sustainability, and world perspectives.
STEAM combines science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics in a rigorous and collaborative environment, Hartwell explained. Students who complete the prescribed coursework, which formally starts in ninth grade, and finish a yearlong project earn their diploma with a STEAM concentration. This year marks the first students from the graduating class are eligible for a diploma with the concentration.
Hartwell pioneered the school’s sustainability program, which includes a sustainability council complete with students, faculty and staff who are committed to environmental responsibility and maintaining a sustainable school campus. The program contains a wide range of initiatives covering education, energy, waste, water and conservation.
Also started by Hartwell, the world perspectives program seeks to mold students into global citizens through trans-cultural exploration, off-campus or abroad study and a globalized view of learning. Like with STEAM, students can pursue a diploma with a concentration in global studies.
In general, Hartwell said technology has played an increased role in the classroom since she started at GFA more than a decade ago.
“We’ve been able to integrate technology as a resource, as a tool, not to replace teaching, but as an additional resource for teachers to use whether they want to bring up an art history collection for art history, whether they want to do some work in biology,” Hartwell said. “It really has become part of the toolkit for a teacher.”