Assistant Head of SchoolBreadloaf School of Middlebury College, MAUniversity of Wisconsin at Madison, BA
email: ellie.dwight [at] sonomaacademy.org
phone: (707) 636-2471
Ellie went to public school in Massachusetts through 10th grade, but transferred to an independent boarding school for her last two years of high school when her parents moved out of state. “It was a radical shift for me, but that was the place where I learned that high school really can be different,” she says. “It was a place where I could learn outside the lines, be incredibly challenged, and do it in close relationship with my teachers and classmates.” Forty years later, she is still in touch with those people. Needless to say, Ellie’s high school experience dramatically influenced her life and career.
Although she has worked with teens since 1983, Ellie started out as a different sort of educator. She worked as an outdoor guide, leading trips with Outward Bound and the Appalachian Mountain Club. After leading a fall retreat for an English Department Chair, Ellie was asked to apply for an open teaching job at his school, which led her into the world of independent high schools.
In her free time, Ellie is a huge reader of just about everything, from fiction and essays to a variety of newspapers and magazines. “I’ve discovered that I can do chores and/or go on walks listening to audiobooks and podcasts,” she says, combining her hunger for literature with her passion for the outdoors. “I try to be outside as much as possible!” she says. She’s very excited about our new Outings programs, as well as the palpable student energy around issues of sustainability and conservation.
As the founding Assistant Head of School, Ellie has been instrumental in crafting the social and emotional culture at Sonoma Academy. “SA is a school with genuine trust and affection between students, staff, and parents, which allows us to take risks, laugh together, make mistakes, and learn,” she says. Her days are packed with meetings with staff, parents, students, trustees, and colleagues from the education world, but Ellie finds time to step back and admire the warm and inclusive SA community each day. “Whenever I see students or staffulty in their sweet spot—having fun, saying what's true, trying something new, celebrating one another—that is the best part of my job.”