Goal Three: Curriculum

Goal Three: Curriculum

“Remember that it is not sufficient to have begun well; you must also persevere with courage and finish with resolution.”
-Cornelia Connelly

By Mary Hopkins
Assistant Head of School 1993-2017

The first time I read The Book of the Order of Studies I was astounded by its progressiveness. This document, written in 1863 by Cornelia Connelly, details her blueprint for the curriculum for her new school. Perhaps because she was a mother herself, Connelly exhibits in this directive a commitment not just to education, but to the personal development of each individual student in her care. She emphasized that subjects taught at her school must “meet the wants of the age” (Constitutions of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, 1887) to prepare students for fulfillment and success as adults. As such, she developed a curriculum that insisted that students speak French at recess so they understood its real world usefulness, study art so that students learned the power of observation, produce plays so that students experienced the essential nature of group work and cooperation, and hold impromptu dance parties (still a favorite at Holy Child schools today) so that students experienced the joy of being together in community. Over 150 years later, Holy Child schools still publish

Two students doing a science project wearing goggles
Group of students with teacher
Student with goggles and beaker

a Book of Studies each year, detailing curriculum that responds to the needs of the students as they prepare for college and beyond. Following the example of Cornelia Connelly, school administration and faculty imbue lessons with real world usefulness, creativity, challenge, and always, a splash of joy.

My 24 years as a faculty member and administrator at Holy Child were formative in my career as an educator. During my time at the school, I was encouraged to explore and create. A robust professional development fund allowed me to continue to learn myself, so that in turn I could inspire my students. It was a trip to Richmond in 2015 to a National Coalition of Girls Schools Conference that introduced me to the idea that careful design of a school environment could enhance student learning. It was through lessons learned there and at the Harvard School of Education that I helped develop the Innovate the Space initiative at Holy Child, allowing teachers to have a role in creating their classroom environment to better serve their students. This program is but one example of how Holy Child has continued the work started so many years ago by Cornelia Connelly. Connelly herself was committed to having her schools feel like “home” to her students, convinced that, when students feel comfortable, they respond to challenges more eagerly. By keeping students’ needs first, Holy Child demonstrates a true commitment to supporting their growth.

As a parent of an alumna, I am so proud of the work I see Holy Child graduates doing in the world. They are doctors, mothers, teachers, wives, social workers, entrepreneurs, politicians, researchers, and lawyers. A quick glance through Alumnae Notes demonstrates how they challenge the status quo and work to devise solutions to difficulties they see in the world. Thanks to innovative curriculum design, they are creative and compassionate women who continue the legacy of Cornelia Connelly.

By Elizabeth Rothenberger | Class of 2022

Learning at Holy Child means expanding my knowledge and curiosity. When I learn, I create a relationship with my teachers where I ask questions and promote discussion. My teachers support me, either making sure I understand a topic in the classroom, or checking up about a grade in a class in which I may be struggling.

Learning gives me opportunities to become the best version of myself. It allows me to grow and improve while discovering my strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Holy Child has helped me appreciate learning and grow to love it.

Student studying
Group of students writing

Faith Uko ‘23 interviewed alumna Jillian Bastow ‘02 about her Holy Child education and what advice she has for current students. 

How has having an education at Holy Child
impacted you?

My time at Holy Child continues to both shape and guide me in many ways. At Holy Child, I felt at home, but I also felt challenged and known. I loved going to school every day to be with friends and practice for athletics, but also to see what we would be doing in our classes. I now see as an adult and an educator the work and thought which went into each and every one of those classes. Working in groups, demonstrating our knowledge in creative, thoughtful ways, and thinking critically. Watching a telenovela in Spanish class to practice our vocabulary or writing raps to define symbolic language, we were always doing something to push our knowledge and understanding. This lesson, that learning can be at once challenging and interactive, is one which has guided my own philosophy and career in education. Another huge impact Holy Child had on me as an educator is a Cornelia Connelly quote which I use in my signature block, “Trust the children and never let your confidence waiver; confidence begets confidence.” She was a woman ahead of her time, and she was onto something special.

Was there someone, faculty or staff, who contributed to your learning experience at Holy Child?
Mrs. Tobey was my honors English teacher, AP Language teacher and homeroom advisor for all four years. The lessons I learned from her are still fresh in my mind, and I still use them today in my professional life. She had a quiet but firm and consistent confidence in me and always encouraged me to voice my opinions (while citing evidence, of course). Mrs. Tobey inspired a love of literature in me, a love which led me to teach English for many years. Mr. Woodard was my AP U.S. History teacher and I remember his class being lively and exciting. We did so many challenging but interactive assignments. We had to create a board game to explain Hamilton’s bank plans and secondly, we visited the National Archives to find primary sources for the documentaries we produced. Mr. Woodard and Mrs. Tobey sparked in me the idea of thinking critically; that learning is not stagnant but ever-changing; and that learning is ongoing. 

What advice would you give to girls currently at or coming to Holy Child?
Try everything! Be involved! I can point to an experience or an interaction at Holy Child that made me appreciate, or recognize, or understand most aspects of my adult life. A Holy Child education does not stop at graduation because the knowledge, tools, and confidence gained will stay with you through your adult life. When I come back to campus, I always feel a certain happiness and peace, and I think that says it all.