July 1, 2021
Dear IMSA Families,
It’s a great honor to start my tenure as president of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. I am truly thrilled to return to my home state, joyful to be part of this exceptional STEM institution, and humbled to be surrounded by some of the most talented teachers, students and leaders. I chose IMSA because of its distinguished reputation as a laboratory for imagination and inquiry, and also a place where equity and excellence are a priority. As a student and educator, I’ve always had a passion for STEM and encouraging students and colleagues to build, invent, connect and have a social impact. With 18 years of leadership experience, focusing on STEM schools and progressive models of education, I couldn’t imagine another place on earth that aligns better with my identity.
I come to Aurora with my wife Jen and three children — Luke 7, Brooke 4 and Hope 2. I am sure you will have a chance to meet them because we love to be part of school activities and events. When we are not with the school community, we love watching sports, going to kid-themed parks and eating great sandwiches. OK, I admit, my wife Jen might list some different things. My three priorities in life are to be a great husband, a great dad and a great school leader. This is more of a lifelong goal because each requires incredible care and attention, and realistically these priorities are constantly out of balance; life has plenty of twists, turns and surprises to make me feel more human with plenty of wrinkles and a desire to be more empathetic, authentic and appreciative about each day.
As I get started at IMSA, I have three priorities:
Deeply Understand IMSA and the People Who Make it Amazing
I love to connect with students about their passions, in and out of the classroom, and look for ways to gather support for their projects and share their stories more broadly. I recognize teenagers have plenty of ups and downs and that IMSA will be home away from home. I appreciate you will entrust me, the school leadership, the faculty, resident counselors and every colleague in-between to nurture their growth into responsible young adults. There’s nothing I want more than to ensure your children are cared for, build lifelong friendships and feel they are in an encouraging environment to tackle challenges so they will thrive.
Re-open School in Person, not Just Operationally in a Safe Manner, but also Culturally
I have been fortunate this past year to be in school that was held physically in person, and have learned many COVID protocols along the way. Now that Illinois has entered phase 5 of re-opening, the school’s leadership and the Return to Learning and Working Committee want to make sure you feel prepared to return to campus in a healthy and productive manner. I recognize IMSA students have been remote for a year, and two-thirds of our students will experience living on the campus for the first time. Class of ‘22, I will need your help to mentor many students new to campus to reignite the culture that is so important to you.
Build on Our Equity and Excellence Plan
Simply put, all of our students belong at IMSA, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, home location and anything else that impacts their identity. Helping each student succeed requires different approaches, especially for those who have struggled in the past, whether that be academically, socially or emotionally. IMSA has an equity and excellence plan that acknowledges our challenges and areas of growth. I am committed to advancing this plan, along with listening to students and families who feel underserved. You all have amazing potential, and should have access to resources that will help you feel engaged and supported.
I’d like to offer gratitude to Dr. Storm Robinson and the IMSA Cabinet for moving these goals forward since the beginning of May. They have been working nonstop since the end of the school year in support of re-opening school in the fall. I look forward to getting to know our students and supporting their hopes and dreams. I don’t just think about the big stuff, but am also very grounded in day-to-day activities. I am a teacher by nature, so don’t be surprised if I help your children with a few math problems along the way, or maybe even play a card game or throw a football around on the field. I look forward to our journey in the year ahead.
Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy