Core Values

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Values that guide teaching and learning at Catlin Gabel


Good teaching and learning hinge on the quality of the relationships in the classroom. Students learn in a social context that colors their experience and impacts their learning. Teachers understand that relationships provide fertile ground for learning and strive to create the kind of classroom in which students are free to discuss, disagree, formulate ideas, and wonder. When there are healthy bonds among teachers and students there are few limits to the learning that can take place.

Spirit of Inquiry

Our approach supports students’ open inquiry, independent thinking, and respect for diverse views. This spirit of inquiry lies at the very heart of a well-educated person. Educator John Dewey asserted that the purpose of a good education is more education. We agree. We leave room for student questions, and we foster curiosity, openness to differing perspectives, and the desire to keep learning — lasting benefits of a good education.


Children and young adults learn to become competent, caring, and contributing people in a place that is a community as well as a school. There is room for the experiences and perspectives of all students to be included. Students learn how to work together as part of a larger whole, and to be good citizens. Feeling connected to teachers and to one another helps them become good people and good learners at the same time.

Critical and Creative Thinking

Our teaching aims to help students use their minds well, to be independent thinkers accustomed to thinking critically and deeply. Creativity is expressed in many different realms and is essential in contemporary society. We want to create conditions that support students to know the power of their own ideas, develop new-to-them ways of doing things, be able to think inventively, and reason well and critically assess ideas and events.

Experiential Learning

We value experiential education, the idea that people learn by doing, not simply by being told. This means that students learn through real and direct exposure to places, events, and people. Hands-on lab experiments, outdoor education, field trips, lab work in science, creating music, and directing a one-act play — these are all expressions of our belief that experiential education makes learning come alive.


We want students to learn to live in concert with their values, and to do so with honesty, confidence, and courage. Our approach gives students freedom to explore their own core beliefs, then test and revise them — all within the context of a supportive community. Helping students develop integrity and to understand its value is an important goal at Catlin Gabel.

Financial Aid 

The value of ensuring that qualified students are able to enroll regardless of financial means goes beyond the obvious. The tremendous, often times life-changing impact that financial aid has on an individual student is reason enough to inspire support for this effort; however, it’s also what that student gives back to the school that seals the deal. Inclusivity brings to campus increased potential for leaders to evolve, for differing perspectives to be debated, and for learning to be truly experiential.