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NFO Part Two – Return of the Alumnus

Great Hearts Academies July 9, 2024 -

Audience at NFO

It is day two of the New Faculty Orientation (NFO) for Great Hearts Arizona academies. NFO is designed for new hires to gain a deeper understanding of Great Hearts as an organization while also preparing them for the upcoming school year. Read more about day one at

Group of teachers at NFO

While many of the attendees have done their homework and researched Great Hearts before deciding to join the team, no one knows the academies more than the alumni who have returned to teach at their alma mater. Amy Gottry, Regional Manager of Professional Development, opened the morning general session by asking for a show of hands from new faculty who were also graduates of a Great Hearts school. Many were surprised to see over 20 of their colleagues raise their hands.

Executive Director of Lower Schools in Arizona, Leanne Fawcett, and Chief People Officer, Jerilyn Olson, addressed all new teaching staff at the first session. Each shared their story of how they came to teach at Great Hearts. Olson, an alumna of Great Hearts herself, had plans to go to law school when she was persuaded to come back and teach for Great Hearts. She told the academy that she would only be there for a year as she was still planning to pursue a career in law. “After a few months of teaching, you couldn’t drag me away.” She said she had found her higher calling.

Group photo of Alumnus at NFO

Many alumni return to their academies to teach and coach because of the deep sense of community they felt and a desire to give back to the schools that shaped their formative years. A nationwide survey by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) found that 42% of alumni who became educators were motivated by the positive experiences they had as students, and 35% wanted to contribute to the school’s culture and values. Additionally, these alumni often feel a strong connection to the school’s mission and are inspired to mentor the next generation of students in the same environment where they thrived.

This rings true for alumni Carter Snee, who will be teaching 6th and 7th grade math for Great Hearts Online. “I had a great experience starting in 6th grade and all the way through graduation at Great Hearts Anthem, and I really enjoyed my experience there, and that taught me a lot.” Snee said he is grateful for the opportunity to deliver a classical education in a new way. “[My education] is going to be really helpful in driving where we can take classical education online.”

Headshot of new teacher at NFO

It’s all about giving back for Gretchen Carpenter, who will be teaching 11th grade drama and 7th grade literature and composition at Scottsdale Prep, where she graduated. “The education that I received in my many years there is very valuable to me and I’m very thankful for all that I have learned,” she said. “And so, I wanted to have the opportunity to give that same gift back that I received to future students.”

There are many more amazing stories about how each of our new faculty have answered the high call of teaching at Great Hearts. But more importantly, they will now be instrumental in shaping the stories of each of their students as they cultivate wonder and the pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in their classrooms.

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