Excellence on Display Each Day at the Agnes Irwin School

AIS was all about Excellence yesterday! Our third CORE day (following fall and winter’s Character and Community days) brought students, staff, and faculty together to focus on our commitment to academic excellence and growing as impassioned, resilient, and empowered learners and leaders. This CORE day coincided with International Women’s Day (IWD) — a global initiative that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and raises awareness about women’s equality — so we doubled up! The 2022 IWD theme, #breakthebias, reminded our community to envision a world without gender stereotypes and discrimination. 

With the goals of striving for excellence and equality for all women in mind, we took time across divisions to brainstorm and discuss seminal questions related to women’s leadership: What is excellence? Who inspires you to be excellent? What biases do women face and how can we address them? 

In the Upper School morning assembly, the student-led Council for the Advancement of Girls introduced IWD and its history. Our presenters then prompted the audience to share the words that come to mind when thinking of International Women’s Day – examples included bravery, excellence, equality, empowerment, and strength. AIS alumna Fay Alexander ’09 shared a personal video where she talked about what excellence means to her. “Excellence comes from doing what you love,” she said. “Agnes Irwin prepared me in many ways. I think a lot about representation. I may not have recognized it at the time, but being in an all-girls school made me inherently confident to participate and enabled me to see women every day exemplifying excellence and setting the bar. When I first entered the work world, I was surprised when women wouldn’t speak up or raise their hands.” 
Following the cross-divisional assemblies where key focus ideas were introduced, a day of excellence-related programming and activities followed. Lower Schoolers learned and read about women leaders throughout history and made self-portraits depicting themselves being bold. Middle Schoolers broke into groups to make vision boards about the key characteristics of leadership: empathy, inclusivity, agency, and confidence. 

In the Upper School, students heard from parent and alumnae speakers who spoke about their career journeys and shared instances where they persevered and displayed resilience in the face of workplace inequality. In a presentation by the AIS’ Office of Marketing and Communications, girls learned about taking a conscientious approach to social media and the how/what/when that applies to content they create and share. AIS Senior Development Office Allison Hough '01 led a session about the meaning of philanthropy and how networking can help support fundraising efforts for areas of need that have personal importance. 

The day concluded with an all-school assembly where the entire school gathered outside on a sunny Phelps Field with no shortage of Agnes Irwin enthusiasm. “As I walked around, listening in on the activities of the day, I heard the most inspiring conversations from 4 year-olds to 18 year-olds,” remarked Head of School Sally Keidel. “What is amazing is that you all know and understand that excellence is not perfection! Excellence is about resilience and perseverance and goal setting and figuring out what you want and your values. After listening to your work together today, one thing is clear – if you all run the world, we are going to be ok. The messages that you were sharing and the way you were communicating with each other were so incredibly powerful. I am so proud of how we have honored International Women’s Day!” 

After teachers spoke about inspirational women in their lives, Keidel opened the microphone up to the student body for reflections about the meaning of excellence and how we can break the bias. Dozens of girls rushed the stage to share their thoughts: 

Excellence is ….

  • "Being who you are" – Sailor, 2nd
  • "Being strong mentally and physically" – Lucy, 2nd
  • "Knowing what to do and when to do it" – Grace, 2nd 
  • "Just being your best" – Blake, 5th 
  • "Excellence can have flaws" – Amelia, 4th 
  • "Being kind to everyone and not giving up" – Portland, 1st
  • "Being bold and always trying" – Rylei, Kindergarten
  • "Being the best that you can be" -- Alana, 4th
  • "Being brave" – Johanna, Kindergarten
  • "Being kind" – Tobin, Kindergarten
  • "Being passionate" – Aria, 4th 
  • "Being driven and following through, no matter what your grades are" – Sydney, 9th
  • "Being accountable for your actions" – Eden, 8th 
  • "Being confident" – Ava, 8th
  • "Always looking forward" – Elizabeth, Kindergarten
  • "All the people who went ahead of me are amazing examples of what excellence means. They were brave and confident to come in front of the entire school." – Pepper, 12th 

Respect will be the theme of our final CORE day of 2021-22. We will gather again in April to engage with one another and build relationships across the school, celebrate spirit, and reflect upon the meaning of Respect in our lives.

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