Tradition vs. Traditional

Natalia Rico Hernández, Head of School

Ah, September! The excitement of a new school year fills our halls with happy students, hopeful parents, and re-energized educators. People who love school have a special place in their hearts for the traditions that welcome students back at the beginning of a new school year. We love things like crisp fall air, new uniforms, and spiral notebooks ready for information. I mean, is there really anything more enticing than a brand new box of crayons?

One of my favorite traditions during these first few weeks of school is homecoming. I love watching the energy rise throughout the week as we participate in dress up days, cheer on our athletic teams, and welcome our alumni back home. Breck traditions like this one are intended to celebrate our shared history and unite us in our mission. As we close Homecoming 2018, the idea of honoring our beloved traditions while simultaneously encouraging innovation has been on my mind. Schools with such a rich history as ours are often characterized as traditional schools. At Breck I believe that, while we celebrate many traditions, we are not a traditional school. In fact, our history, pedagogy, and philanthropy are full of examples of innovation, creativity, and forward thinking decision-making.

Bishop Henry B. Whipple, the first Episcopal bishop in Minnesota and founder of our school, was known as "informal, extroverted, firm in his faith but diplomatic, and always willing to take difference in people and cultures into account." His vision for Breck was to educate those furthest from opportunity — which is representative of the first class of students: nine boys and ten girls. To me, it is striking to see that even 132 years ago, representation mattered. At a time when educating women was the exception — not the norm — Breck's first student class had more women than men. And this isn't the only example where Breck exemplified the values we still hold today.

In 1929, with only 30 students, Breck opened a new campus. The school had room for 200. For those doing the math, that's a 560 percent increase in the student body. Their only advertising was a billboard that read, "15 Acres. Site for Breck School. Individual Attention to Each Student." Again, that last phrase is the epitome of our school today. The Peter Clark Center for Mind, Brain, and Education is the physical manifestation of this work on our campus and demonstrates the commitment we make every day to all students at Breck.

As a school whose roots extend across four campus locations, 132 years, thousands of alumni, and generations of students and families, I am proud to know that Breck has continued to push beyond expectations and challenged the status quo. This is our history. And this is what shapes the future that lies ahead.

 

 

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