Four Faculty Selected As Empathy and Balance Coordinators

Four Empathy and Balance curriculum coordinators were chosen as part of Andover’s 2014 Strategic Plan.
Anny Candelario Escobar, Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science; Erin Strong, Instructor in Theatre and Dance; Taylor Ware, Associate Director of College Counseling; and Aya Murata, Associate Director of College Counseling will officially assume their roles as coordinators of the Empathy and Balance curriculum the next school year.

In the upcoming years, the coordinators will work to ensure that students across all four grades are exposed to a curriculum that not only emphasizes individual well-being, but also fosters a culture of mutual respect and understanding among students and faculty members alike.
Carol Israel, Ph.D., Co-Director of Wellness Education, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “[The coordinators will] oversee the recruitment of teachers and the training of teachers (both faculty teachers and student teachers), develop and revise the curriculum, build alliances and create support for the [Empathy and Balance] program.”

The new coordinators will promote the growing effort on campus to integrate wellness in Andover’s educational program. These efforts will include incorporating social-emotional learning in the classroom, re-examining the athletics program and increasing study-abroad opportunities so that students can be exposed to various cultures.

In particular, the new curriculum aims to expand the Personal and Community Education (PACE) seminar that is currently designed exclusively for Lowers into a more comprehensive, multi-year curriculum.

Strong said, “I call what we do in PACE the 100-200 level… We’re going to be fleshing out what would be a 100 level, looking at sex-ed, personal identity, stress management, community education and diversity.”

Strong continued, “What would a 200-level look like? What would a 500-level look like? How can Seniors engage in these topics differently than [Juniors]? Each grade level explores [these topics] in different ways.”

The coordinators plan to lay out objectives that are unique to each grade level while incorporating more sexual health and stress-management education into the Empathy and Balance curriculum. Through these programs, coordinators hope to positively affect the mental and physical health of students while also encouraging students to be empathetic towards each other’s experiences in an intentionally-diverse community.

“I hope [students will] take away some awareness of themselves [from the Empathy and Balance curriculum], of who they are and [take] time to reflect and really think about that. Because we move so fast [at Andover], we don’t always take time to think about what are your own needs and how do you really identify – what’s really at the core of you,” said Strong.

The curriculum is still in its early stage of development, with specific aspects of the program still being considered and discussed.
Strong said, “We don’t know all that it will entail yet… The new curriculum won’t be implemented fully across all four years until – not next year, but the year after. So next year we’ll continue fleshing out what the curriculum looks like… it will be a lot of the topics you explore in PACE, that include your personal identity and community identity… And then I think there’ll be some new pieces that we haven’t been able to get to yet, like ‘How do you do Andover well? How do you live well here?’ ”

Utilizing their own diverse experiences to create a unique program in the Andover community, the coordinators hope to revolutionize the way in which Andover students think about personal wellness for the better.

Ware said, “As someone who has worked in more clinical school counseling roles at other schools, I am feeling quite fortunate to have the chance to draw upon my experience and be part of this exciting initiative for the [Andover] community. I am really looking forward to digging into this work with the other course heads and with the longstanding members of the [Empathy and Balance] committee and am feeling so lucky to be part of the team.”

Overall, the coordinators anticipate that the Empathy and Balance curriculum will help students engage in a community that strives to sustain academic excellence and encourage appreciation of diversity.

“[I hope the students learn] some skills of how to engage in our community that moves fast, that wants rigor and excellence… and then how to engage in a diverse community,” Strong said.