Interview by Ellen Gibson McGinnis ’82 – March 2017
You and I have known each other since 1978, when we were in the same Freshman English class at Yale. Now you are the head of a girls’ school in Ohio. What role did Yale play in your career?
My entire career trajectory was a result of my Yale experience. I was an English major with a concentration in Women’s Studies, and Harriet Chessman, who is still in my life, and the Women’s Studies program had a huge impact on the development of my critical thinking, as did Margy Ferguson and Dorothee Metlitski and Caroline Jackson Smith. Through Dwight Hall I taught theatre at a local housing project, and Edie McMullen was my mentor in the Teacher Prep program - her influence put me on a direct route to a career in education. In a lot of ways I haven’t really gotten very far!
So teaching was not necessarily your goal when you arrived at Yale?
No, I thought I would be an actress at first. But I was led to teaching by the confluence of Yale’s commitment to service, which echoed the obligation to give back that I absorbed at my high school, Agnes Irwin, my exposure to a wider world through service in the New Haven community, and the women who showed me that I could use my scholarship to teach and know that it was going to make a difference.
Tell me more about your experience teaching in the housing project - I know it had a profound influence on you.
My work at Q-View opened my eyes, and I learned pretty fast that my perspective came with an abundance of assumptions that were not necessarily correct. I remember telling one boy to “Look at me please, when I speak to you,” and he replied, “Ann, if I do that, it’s rude.” That had never occurred to me. You don’t know what everyone else’s story is. My experience there helped to marry my lofty ideals to reality.
What did you do right after graduation?
Well, the Yale teacher prep program could not certify me to teach theater, so I got a job at the Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts for two years, and then moved to New York, where I thought to myself “I’ll teach anywhere but one of those ‘fancy’ girls’ schools, and ended up at Chapin, where I taught for 20 years!”
You are passionate about educating girls. What is it that drove you to seek to lead a girls’ school and what is your goal at Laurel?
When you empower a girl, you change the world. I believe that with every fiber of my DNA. Our mission at Laurel is “To inspire each girl to fulfill her promise and to better the world” and we try to live our mission every day.
We women are not on a level playing field yet. There is a significant place for girls’ schools to empower young women – to help them know that their voices have value and can be added to any conversation. At Laurel we expect our girls to identify critical issues for society and make a difference. I tell them that all the time. Girls are smart in lots of different ways and at Laurel we benefit from having all kinds of smart girls who enrich our community. It’s important for all of them to understand that they have different strengths and weaknesses, but they are all intelligent and need to value and respect one another’s differences.
I love it when you say “I tell my girls that all the time.” It’s something you say a lot, about many of the issues we’ve talked about today and over the years.
I’m a greedy and ambitious woman for my girls. We are intentional about teaching them beyond academics. We founded Laurel’s Center for Research on Girls ten years ago in part for this reason. Research was languishing on the shelves, not being put to use. We wanted to look at it and find a way to ask questions about our girls that no one else was asking. LCRG shapes our pedagogy, and we use it to educate parents, who need a lot more from schools these days. Plus it’s been really fun!
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I came to Yale a feminist! Feminism is an acknowledgement that men and women can and should be paid equally for equal work. Everything else is a co-opting of language. It’s about advocacy and acknowledgement. I say that to my girls all the time.
What’s your next challenge?
I want to work on how best to teach our girls empathy. It gets back to diversity, and having a mix of voices in the room or “at the table.” And it is so important for our society now.
Maybe you need to work on teaching our elected officials?
We may have more luck with teenagers.
Ann V. Klotz ’82 and Ellen Gibson McGinnis ’82 have been friends since Freshman English class in 1978. Ann is the Head of School of the Laurel School, in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Ellen is the former Chair of YaleWomen, and a Partner with the law firm Haynes and Boone, LLP.