HPA is pleased to welcome a new Lower School Principal: Dora Kwong. Kwong brings substantial experience in place-based sustainability education; equity, diversity, and inclusion leadership; and restorative practices to her new post. Most recently, she was the Lower School assistant director at Trevor Day School, where she previously served as Lower School DEI coordinator. Other prior professional experiences include working with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), and Amnesty International, Human Rights Service Corps. She has a bachelor’s degree in international studies from the American University School of International Service, a master’s degree in education from the City University of New York, and has conducted additional studies at Peking University in Beijing and Universitè Catholique de Louvain in Brussels. She spent part of her career training teachers and teaching Grade 3 at the Green School in Bali, along with Middle School Principal Glenn Chickering.
Kwong has joined the HPA ‘ohana with her husband and two sons (five-year-old Oen and infant Bodhi). “HPA embodies all that I hope for in the education of my own children,” she says. “I appreciate how deeply it is rooted in its sense of place, with the ability to take full advantage of its beautiful surroundings.”
Kwong is especially eager to delve into systems thinking at HPA. “Everything around us is a system,” she explains. “The world is interconnected, and that’s important for everything in our lives—including how we educate kids.” Giving students as many opportunities as possible to mingle in mixed-age groups, for example, fits naturally into a systems-thinking approach: “There’s so much benefit in letting younger kids learn from older kids, and vice versa. When kids can share what they know with each other, they learn how to mentor, they learn about patience, how to articulate ideas, how to give instructions, how to collaborate, and how to have empathy… All of these are leadership skills and life-long learning skills,” Kwong says.
Although the pandemic has certainly limited the extent to which students can mingle in mixed-age groups, she’s hopeful that there will be opportunities in the future. In the meantime, she’s interested in the questions students want to ask. “The best and most innovative thinkers, doers, and leaders are asking a lot of questions,” Kwong says. Rather than an educator feeding students information and acting as the sole knowledge-giver, Kwong says she wants to help teachers be “a bridge between students and their ability to feel safe enough to ask great questions and open up their curiosity to explore things that will give their lives meaning.” For Kwong, a classroom is a “cultivated space where there is mutual respect.” And ultimately, in such a space, “I think that is where real learning and really big teaching can come from.”