Tributes

Tribute to Sally Selby
Retired and Former Faculty and Staff

The parents of current and former students have embraced the remarkable contributions that Sally, as a teacher and administrator, has made in creating an inspiring and comfortable MS environment. All have appreciated her wisdom as they and their children negotiated the developmental changes and challenges associated with the MS years. Her confident and clear communications have calmed parental anxiety and supported the social, emotional, and academic development of the children. Her weekly newsletter kept all abreast of opportunities and resources at our dynamic and busy school. Her vigilance has communicated her fundamental devotion to the principles of diversity, inclusion, equity, justice, accessibility, and environmental sustainability in her relationships with all.

Those of us who have known Sally for a long time also have happy memories of her days as a teacher. She arrived on the Sidwell scene in 1982 as a young educator with some Quaker background and early teaching and administrative experience. Her maternal great-grandmother, Anna Valentine, was a Quaker, who taught Latin at the Earlham preparatory school in Richmond, Indiana. Sally’s grandfather, was raised Quaker by Anna, moved the family to Georgia where there were no Quakers, and joined the Lutheran Church. He was a math teacher who became President of the University of Georgia. Sally’s mom followed as a professor in the Social Work School there. We have seen the influence and teachings of her family reflected in the Sally we know.

Sally’s graduate studies in alternative education included an internship at Indianapolis University. In Charlottesville, she assumed her first jobs teaching in and then running an alternative education program. In Washington, she began teaching first and sixth grades as a long-term sub at the Sheridan School. Her move to SFS in 1982 was next. Team 4 (or was it Team West by then?) was an exciting and happy place in MS. Sally quickly settled into the important position of English teacher and team leader. The team organization, which had replaced separate 7th and 8th grade homerooms, offered opportunities for greater collaboration and more experiences spanning the grade levels. Mixed grade level classes for English and History were challenging for teachers but stimulating for classroom discussions, and they furthered social and academic interactions of students between the grade levels. Sally successfully addressed those challenges and reaped the rewards of cross-grade level instruction by working closely with the team’s Social Studies teacher on the students’ first research papers. We loved her Halloween project for the team with eponym-inspired costumes one year and mythology-inspired costumes the next. Pictures remain in my mind of Sally sitting on the floor surrounded by kids or the paraphernalia of a project and of her packing up to leave at the end of the day with her bag bulging with students’ writing to be read that evening.

Sally was an enthusiastic and hard-working adult leader on the many annual team camping trips. As we prepared our own meals for the three-day adventures, the menu was sure to include Sally’s sweet Georgia tea, called Jenkins Punch. Those camping trips provided the opportunity for the team teachers to learn well how to collaborate and support each other and for the students across the 7th-8th grade level divide to do the same. Quaker Work Camp experiences provided students an opportunity to work together while reaching out to the wider DC community. With two team teachers, one advisory at a time would leave campus about 4:00 pm, heading for Martha’s Table to serve on the daily food vans which went out across the city to feed the homeless, followed by a simple meal and discussion, then an overnight at Florida Avenue Meeting House, then serving breakfast at a soup kitchen early Tuesday morning, and then returning to school for Tuesday classes (hence occasional naps on the sofa in the faculty room). Sally led and embraced all these team activities, working hard but always with her joie de vivre, often expressed through her love of music and her strong voice.

The 1998 Pappas Self-Study for accreditation revealed the school’s need for more administrative help and for curriculum coordination. This coincided with Sally’s need for some part-time work after John and Kate were born. The circumstances and her leadership eventually led to her positions as MS curriculum coordinator, all-school curriculum coordinator, and then assistant principal. Her early Quaker connections and administrative experience at a young age plus her teaching experience with us made her perfect for those jobs. Through the years, in whatever position she worked, she acted as hostess time after time for faculty gatherings in her home, serving her delicious crab spread, and even nodding to the “guys’” poker games in the basement.

When Rich Lodish spent a year in California working with another school, Sally packed up for the Lower School to fill in as acting principal. She quickly earned the respect and love of all constituents there, navigating through the year of 9/11. The Lower School was sorry to see her move on, but Sally continued to want to grow and gain administrative experience. She accepted the position of MS head at The Barrie School, a place quite different than SFS and with a different set of challenges. In her usual “can do” style, Sally worked hard to understand the new setting. After two years, Barrie was sorry to see her move on because of her positive contributions in creating a collaborative community.

At last, when our MS was looking for a principal, Sally threw her hat in the ring. She waded through the required steps of repeated interviews and visits. I remember her heartfelt responses to questions about what parts of the job would be hard for her. Her humility then and now make her stand out among others.

As we moved into our new building and unpacked, Sally helped to make our new surroundings our home. She shared our beliefs in the benefits of green architecture by hosting, with student help, countless tours of our building and by explaining its environmental features.

Sally has also always done her part to push us out and beyond our walls and to bring others in. She introduced us to other schools, which included collaboration with Hearst School on both student and administrative levels. She promoted student writing for the local Northwest Current newspaper. She has welcomed visiting students and teachers from other schools, many with Quaker affiliations. Her vision and support for Mini-mester has nurtured that program to become one of the school’s most successful global initiatives. Sally realized its ability to greatly impact our young students’ views of the world. Her establishment and support for the Botham Mini-mester Exchange in northern England has shown us how to run a sustainable and meaningful experience. Just this year, Sally fulfilled a dream of her own to create a trip to The Penn School in Beaufort, SC to study the Gullah culture and people.

For teachers, Sally has run a smooth operation, not an easy task in a middle school. The special schedules are anticipated, and the last minute accommodations are made and communicated. She has warmly welcomed and supported new teachers. We all have felt encouraged, supported, trusted, and sometimes forgiven by our leader, someone who has worked even harder than her hard-working faculty. Sally changed the reality and perception of Middle School. She created a community of faculty and staff, collaborating to better educate our students and make our campus a better place.

The whole story of Sally’s work is a testament to her as the most avid believer of “that of God” in every single person and one who lives that Quaker promise every day.