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Webb Canyon Chronicle

The Student News Site of The Webb Schools

Webb Canyon Chronicle

The Student News Site of The Webb Schools

Webb Canyon Chronicle

Theresa Smith returns to Webb after a sabbatical leave

Eva Annabi
Dr. Smith presents a slideshow about her findings during her sabbatical as VWS sits quietly in their all-school meeting during February of 2023. To enforce communication between the student body and the administration, she wanted to be transparent about her plans and share what she had done with the entire school.

You may have seen Theresa Smith, the Associate Head of Schools, on campus recently, whether she may be sitting in the front of chapel, eating in the dining hall, or teaching her Advanced Studies Art History class. But wasn’t she gone for a few months? What was she doing?  

On May 17th of 2021, nearly two years ago, the Board of Trustees announced that Dr. Smith would succeed Taylor Stockdale, the current Head of Schools. Dr. Smith will assume her new position in July of 2023,  just five months away. In order to prepare for her new position, she spent the fall semester of the 2022-2023 school year on sabbatical leave. 

A sabbatical leave is meant to provide faculty members the opportunity to take time away from their teaching responsibilities and other school-related commitments. Some teachers utilize this period of time to travel, explore a specific interest, and pursue other opportunities.  

Rather than taking the traditional route of stepping back and completely resting from all work, Dr. Smith spent her time on sabbatical differently. Dr. Smith spent the fall gaining academic insight from other professionals that would help her to create her own ways of growing the Webb Community.  

“I wanted to get ready,” said Dr. Smith. “Being Head of Schools is a big job and I wanted to make sure that I was ready to do it, thinking about what I needed as a leader to think around how to help the school continue to grow and advance in the next 10 to 20 years,”  

To be more productive in her studies, Dr. Smith traveled to several other locations and institutions across the country; in doing so, she was able to talk to certain professionals and live new experiences that wouldn’t have been as achievable by staying on campus. She visited other boarding high schools as well as colleges and universities, where she was given the chance to talk to other educators and investigate the things that other administrations were doing.  

For example, Dr. Smith spoke with the president of Wellesley College.  

“We’re going through this process of building our one school meeting and not being a girls’ school and a boys’ school anymore,” said Dr. Smith. “I asked how she was navigating some of the challenges around gender and what it means to be a women’s college right now.”  

In the process of transitioning into a one school model, Dr. Smith considered her conversation with Wellesley’s president to think through what the role of male and female categories might still play at Webb in hopes of simultaneously joining together while still outlining those differences. 

At Tufts University, she spoke to a professor who talked about a climate program that had been recently integrated due to the rising focus on climate change today. Dr. Smith hopes to also be able to adapt our programs to meet the realities of the world.  

Dr. Smith found that a reoccurring theme throughout her exploration was innovation. Towards the end of her sabbatical, she visited the Interactive Commons of Case Western Reserve University, a place where faculty and administration consider new kinds of educational platforms. The school originally planned to build a cadaver lab, but due to its expenses and difficulty, replaced the idea with hallow anatomy, which allows you to explore the anatomy of different species with virtual reality goggles. Dr. Smith’s takeaway from this experience was to think about how Webb might be able to improve its learning capacities in similar ways.  

“It’s really interesting to me to visit some of these places and see how we can continue to innovate here,” Dr. Smith said.  

A specific subject that Dr. Smith studied more in depth was artificial intelligence.  

Before leaving for sabbatical, she took inspiration from Lonnie Jonhson, a scientist who had given a presentation about the role that AI played in the world in February of 2022. Dr. Smith took a picture of the presentation, shocked to see how capable AI software was becoming, but also wanting to learn more about its power and function in society. In September of 2022, Dr. Smith also read an opinion piece about the death of college writing as a result of Chat GPT, an AI generator that uses keywords to artificially compose writing.  

In response to the rise of AI, she asked herself how Webb students may be able to receive education that is relevant, as well as how the administration can intertwine the work we do with the changing world. 

Coming back to campus after her sabbatical, Dr. Smith felt that she had accomplished a lot of her goals that she set before leaving. However, because she could only do so much in the span of a few months, she still spends her time currently following up on her research. Even after her sabbatical, she has continued to stay in touch with educators who she didn’t have the chance to speak with before. For example, she plans to meet with a professor who studies AI at Stanford University during March due to scheduling conflicts that didn’t make it possible to do so in the fall.  

“[Sabbatical] removed me from the ‘everyday’ of life,” said Dr. Smith. “When we’re here at Webb, we’re very involved and busy, and to remove myself from that and come back with an eye towards having a slightly different role was very healthy for me, and healthy for the school.” 

Dr. Smith will spend the rest of the year leading up to her fulfillment as Head of Schools by continuing to imagine how to transform Webb into a more innovative space, as well as teaching Advanced Studies Reading and Writing Art History. 

“I’m thinking about this moment in Webb’s history where a lot is expanding and we’re on this new horizon as a school, and how we can embrace some of these questions and challenges so that we’re taking advantage of our time,” said Dr. Smith. 

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About the Contributors
Jovana Luna
Jovana Luna, Chief of Features
Whether it’s her closest friends or her fellow classmates, everyone who knows her agrees that Jovana Luna ('24) is an unforgettable presence on Webb’s campus. As a Feature editor of the Webb Canyon Chronicle, she is keen on improving the publication by expressing her creativity through multimedia endeavors on the WCC website. Beyond her academic pursuits, she possesses a musical flair and has mastered the electric guitar over five years to serenade her friends and neighbors alike with songs such as "Bohemian Rhapsody". She is an avid fan of classic rock and Taylor Swift, her favorite artist. Attending a Taylor Swift concert over the summer has only deepened Jovana’s love of her music after her amazing experience. Jovana has been an avid dancer for the entirety of her life and enjoys performing even at Webb. During the summer, she had a bustling schedule working at Coldstone Creamery, but she never forgot to walk her beloved dog, Apollo, every morning. Now that she’s back at school, Jovana's weekends are filled with quality time spent with friends as they hang out and talk together.   Song: Long Live - Taylor Swift
Eva Annabi
Eva Annabi, Co-Editor of Sports & Social Media Manager
Just like a spirited raccoon, Eva Annabi (‘23)’s lively enthusiasm and humor make it natural for her to be an amazing Social Media Manager for the Webb Canyon Chronicle. Eva lives by the quote “ride the wave”, like when she is spending time together with friends or binging shows like Love Island instead of doing her homework. Her various leadership roles as a head day student prefect and president of the Middle Eastern and Rotary clubs also allow her to discuss important topics to her, such as representation for minorities and women at Webb. Some of her special talents include wiggling her ears and rapping the fastest part in Rap God. As she steps into her role as the WCC Social Media Manager this year as well as the Co-Editor of Sports, Eva is thrilled to provide entertaining and informative media content in an effort to increase readership.   Favorite Song: "Ransom" by Lil Tecca
Jenny Tran
Jenny Tran, Public Editor
Whether it is popping on a new vinyl or traveling across the world, Jenny Tran (‘24) likes to immerse herself in the moment and explore the culture around her. You can find her hanging out with friends in the South Hutch common room or listening to various music genres at any place and time. Her favorite artists include Suboi, Keshi, Tyler the Creator, and Blackpink. Whether across the Pacific Ocean in California or in her hometown of Hanoi, Vietnam, Jenny is probably watching the radiant moon listening to Super Rich Kids by Frank Ocean. At Webb, Jenny shines a light on women’s issues in different countries, Asian rights, and ESVI. As she moves into her third year on the Webb Canyon Chronicle, she hopes to continue advocating for her beliefs while exploring new mediums like poetry or photo galleries. As a Public Editor, Jenny also wants to bring more inventive and comedic ideas to the table. If you are ever in need of a good laugh, a music recommendation, or someone to go thrifting with, you should call Jenny Tran.  Favorite song: DO4LOVE by 52Hz & Willistic 
Lisa Peng
Lisa Peng, Co-Editor of Photography
Zodiac signs might not mean much to you, but once you meet Lisa Peng ('24), you will see that she embodies her astrological sign, a Capricorn. Lisa, like a Capricorn, is known for being persistent, hardworking, loyal, ambitious, and often making her achievements seem like they take no effort at all. Over the summer, Lisa exemplified these traits by immersing herself in rigorous programs that exposed her to different creative writing styles. She attended the New York Times program where she learned new techniques and practiced her writing skills. As a Photography Editor at the WCC, Lisa will make full use of the techniques she learned and continue her love for highlighting individual people. In other words, you had better keep an eye out: you may be featured in her next story.  Besides being a part of the WCC, she is also bringing her Capricorn energy to as a day student prefect and plans to be involved in organizing more Webb events. This year, Lisa plans to keep up her hard work taking on her new editing position while also incorporating many new creative pieces to the WCC using her greatest talent: an effortless ability to bring things from her imagination to reality. Favorite Song: "Fallin' Flower" by Seventeen 

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