Six years ago, Jane Verlin got her first glimpse of the Greens Farms Academy campus. Having spent years teaching in New York City, she wasn’t sure what to expect when she got to Westport, Conn.
“On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the buildings were beautiful — but nothing beats this campus. From the moment I drove through the gates, I was just wowed,” she said.
Her friend and peer from Trevor Day School, Aléwa Cooper, would also be coming to GFA as its next Head of Lower School, making Verlin’s decision to make the move from the city even easier. In the fall of 2015, she decided to join the GFA faculty as a fourth-grade Lead Teacher. She never could have imagined that six years later, she would be leading the Lower School as Interim Head during an unprecedented pandemic. Nor could she have imagined that in the midst of these chaotic times, she would officially step into the role of Head of Lower School.
“Over the course of reopening school this fall, while it was tiring and stressful at times, I was energized by the experience,” she said. “It further affirmed the sense of reward I derive from collaborating with dedicated colleagues to solve problems at a school that I believe in and support to my core.”
From reconfiguring schedules and spaces, to creating new classrooms and maintaining mask safety — all while managing any number of unexpected issues that can arise during a time that defies expectations — Verlin combined a cool head with her innate sense of collaboration. As Interim Head for the past six months, she has been dedicated to providing the Lower School students — and their families — with exceptional educational opportunities. This dedication did not go unnoticed by her peers, nor by Head of School Bob Whelan.
“It’s hard to imagine a more challenging introduction to a school leadership role than taking the reins during a global pandemic, yet Jane has proven she was more than up to the task,” he said.
While this school year brings with it a host of unexpected situations, Verlin’s forte is flexibility. As a lead classroom teacher, she and her colleagues never rested on a set curriculum year to year, but instead constantly sought ways to improve and re-evaluate what works for her students, and what doesn’t.
“Each year we looked at the curriculum, we would also look at our students to discover what they are excited about — what they are passionate about — and we evaluate from there,” she explained. “Here at GFA you are learning more about yourself on a daily basis, thinking about your craft, looking at what research says is best practices for working with children and so many other factors. That, to me, is exciting, motivating, and inspiring. There’s no same-old, same-old at GFA.”
As a Lead Teacher, Verlin played an integral part in advancing the Singapore Math curriculum, integrating the Fundations reading and spelling program, and advancing the Yale RULER approach to social-emotional learning. She also served for three years as the Equity and Inclusion Coordinator in the Lower School.
And while Verlin is always on the lookout for innovative ways to enhance the Lower School program, there are some constants at GFA in which she finds peace and takes pride.
“We truly are a place of joy,” she said. “There’s just a true sense of partnership. The word ‘community’ gets thrown around so much, but here at GFA, that really is who we are.”
Before coming to GFA, Verlin spent 10 years as a first-, second-, and third-grade teacher at The Spence School and Trevor Day. Jane earned her B.A. in Psychology at William Smith College, where she was also a varsity field hockey player. She earned dual master’s degrees in General and Special Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education in 2009. Verlin lives in New Canaan with her husband Chris and their three children.