For the first time in more than two decades, Karen Warren Coleman finds herself back amongst primary and secondary school students.
Last fall, she decided to leave her job as vice president of campus and student life at the University of Chicago to become the 13th head of the Hockaday School, effective July 1. A celebration was recently held to mark the occasion.
“While I’m new, and still feel very new, this feels like community to me,” Coleman said. “I feel like I’m part of the community. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The transition has been a long time in the making. Coleman accepted the head-of-school position in November 2016. Over the ensuing seven months, she split her time between Chicago and Dallas, simultaneously wrapping up her university teaching responsibilities while preparing for the next challenge.
While Coleman did not have any previous ties to Dallas or Hockaday, she was familiar with the school through her work with college admissions offices. The school’s reputation is well deserved, she said.
“Hockaday is really a leader in girls’ education — you know about them,” she said. “It’s a place you want to be part of because something very special is happening here.”
Coleman said one of the things she enjoys most about education is being able to spend time with students and help them as they come to know the world and themselves.
“While I’m new, and still feel very new, this feels like community to me." -Karen Coleman
She was motivated to take the new job because she wanted to work with students at a younger age and developmental level. She was particularly intrigued by the Hockaday opportunity because working with students in grades PK–12, she would get to be involved in their entire journey.
As head of school, Coleman said her overriding goal is to make sure each girl is prepared for the world they will enter after graduation.
While she raves about Hockaday’s “intellectually rich environment” she said the keys to the school’s continued success are to be self-critical, forward-thinking, and innovative in how it approaches teaching and learning. Coleman said that doesn’t necessarily come from any special modality, but rather from working closely with faculty and staff to ensure they are being responsive to the changing needs of every student.
“The work we do in education really transforms lives. I take that responsibility very seriously,” Coleman said. “But how we deliver that education might look different as the years go on. We need to be attentive to that and never close ourselves off from wanting to be curious, ourselves, as educators.”
Coleman said she has really enjoyed working with and getting to know faculty, staff, and alumni who share a similar passion for education. She and her family have now moved into a home in the Hockaday neighborhood and are having fun getting to know Dallas.
“Being here has just affirmed everything that I heard about this place. Frankly, I feel like I have the best job.”