This winter, following an intensive interview process, MICDS announced the appointment of Carla Federman as JK-12 History and Social Studies Department Chair and Lynn Mittler as JK-12 English/Language Arts Department Chair. Their appointments, which are effective beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, will bring the same coherence to the curriculum that the world languages, mathematics, and science departments have enjoyed. MICDS Magazine spoke with Ms. Federman and Ms. Mittler to learn more about their vision for these roles.
Carla Federman – JK-12 History Department Chair
Carla Federman’s work ethic and vision inspire confidence in others. Ms. Federman strives to be the kind of leader at MICDS who allows her colleagues to “be their best selves and do their best work.” Among the feedback offered by colleagues during the interview process was this comment: “I would love to have Carla leading the department as she combines a love of learning with a willingness to listen and collaborate with people and ideas already in place. She would be a great leader for the team.”
Ms. Federman sees her charge in this new position as being, “to take the good work that the three divisions have done individually, and bring them together.” She continues, “Having a JK-12 department allows us to create a cohesive curriculum that focuses on both content and skill development, beginning with our four-year-olds and continuing all the way through to our 18-year-olds. By bridging the gaps, we can smooth out transition points, so that our students see that the work they are doing in Middle School is building directly upon what they learned in Lower School, and preparing them for what they will be doing in Upper School.”
Ms. Federman cites the MICDS Mission Statement as a cornerstone of her work, highlighting its emphasis on critical thinking and preparedness to meet the challenges of the world. She states, “One of the most important things that we can do as history teachers is to equip our students to be people outside of these walls: That’s in terms of writing; that’s in terms of analysis; that’s in terms of public speaking; that’s in terms of empathy; that’s in terms of understanding why they believe what they believe and why others may believe differently. More than a subject matter, history is a discipline through which students improve skills that are critical for the 21st century citizen, and a vital and necessary lens through which they can interpret the events and ideas of the present.”
Ms. Federman’s inspirational wisdom will be on display at Commencement. She was chosen by the Class of 2017 to be the faculty speaker for this year’s ceremonies.
Ms. Federman joined the MICDS faculty in 2008 and holds a Master of Arts in History with a focus in American History and African-American History from Washington University in St. Louis. She received her Bachelor of Arts in History from Yale University, graduating with distinction.
Lynn Mittler, JK-12 English/Language Arts Department Chair
“We are all better when we work together. Our collective strength is better than our individual strength,” Lynn Mittler, the new JK-12 English / English Language Arts Department Chair, says, underscoring the team approach of teachers working together at MICDS. In this new role, Ms. Mittler is charged with amplifying the great work of our JK-12 English/Language Arts faculty and setting the course for the future of the department. During the interview process, a teaching colleague offered this feedback about Ms. Mittler’s candidacy: “Lynn has deep institutional knowledge of the academic program in general and of the forces working on the English Department in particular. She has articulated, in words and actions, the challenge points and the unique opportunities we have before us. She is organized, a thoughtful communicator, and genuine in her concern for authors. Lynn has high standards for herself and works to support the best efforts of her colleagues.”
In her own right, Ms. Mittler is an extraordinarily good teacher and clear thinker. In looking at good teaching practices around MICDS, she offers, “The best thing I have seen at the school is that we have created space for students to be reflective in their own work.” She believes that teaching students how to understand their own thinking is the most important thing we should be doing as an institution. “The second-best thing is when we tip the ratio from students consuming information from teachers to generating their own thoughts and work.”
When Ms. Mittler talks about creativity, she doesn’t just mean just writing short stories or drawing pictures. Those endeavors are important as well, she believes. However, she posits that creativity in her discipline also “means generating arguments or creating new ways to explain a story. It’s providing ways for students to be most engaged.”
Ms. Mittler sees this level of engagement and the strength in every classroom at MICDS she has visited in all three divisions. She observes that “in the Lower School, teachers are creating good writers and readers. In the Middle School, teachers fight tooth and nail to help students maintain that identity through developmental challenges to keep becoming good writers and readers. And in the Upper School, the challenge is that students aren’t just good writers and readers, but they are also critics. They can have a seat at the table, engaging with other critics and experts and the authors themselves.”
Ms. Mittler came to MICDS in 2000 as an English teacher, and she is the current chair of the Upper School English Department. She is highly regarded for indomitable passion for supporting her colleagues and helping to promote the practices and concepts of design thinking. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Arts in Education from Washington University in St Louis.