Kit Hawkins '65: An Educator's Educator

Send by email

From the Fall 2011 Caller

“I have wanted to be a teacher almost as long as I can remember,” says Kit Abel Hawkins ’65. Inspired by her Catlin-Hillside teachers, she has forged a significant career in education. The products of her vision and experience include an independent K-8 school—and an institute that trains teachers and school leaders.

Kit’s first classroom teaching job was in the 1st grade at Catlin Gabel, as part of an independent study as a senior at Oberlin College. She ended up teaching as a substitute for three weeks. “The hook was fully set,” she says. She pursued an MAT right after graduation, and by the next spring she was hired as Catlin Gabel’s Lower School librarian.
Kit spent five years in the library, forging bonds that included developing research projects with 6th grade teachers for their students. She moved on to teach 6th grade and became deeply involved in the life of the school, even after she left to be with her newborn son, Will ’97. She returned for five more years to teach in the 3rd grade. Kit first started thinking seriously about what a good education meant after she left Catlin Gabel for a public high school. She realized the value of the freedom to learn and grow she experienced at Catlin Gabel. When she returned to teach at Catlin Gabel, Lower School head Herb Morss deepened her thinking about school leadership, providing an example with what she calls his “devotion to keeping children at the forefront of institutional practice.” Pam McComas, who became the Beginning School head, “created the ground for striding out and trying what I had always wanted to try.” In 1989 Kit announced the founding of the Arbor School of Arts and Sciences, in Tualatin. By the next fall she was teaching 4th/5th grade there and serving as director, a post she still holds.
For its K-8 students, Arbor emphasizes the cultivation of intellect, character, and creativity. “Natural beauty and simplicity, hard work intellectually, socially, and physically, and a pioneering spirit of resourcefulness are threaded through the campus, the day, and the nine-year career of a student,” says Kit. After they graduate from 8th grade, many Arbor students come to Catlin Gabel for high school. The Arbor Center for Teaching offers an MAT program, in conjunction with Marylhurst University, that features full-time, two-year apprenticeships at Arbor. Kit also runs a school leadership program at Arbor, a series of intensive seminars to help participants identify the elements that must be considered and integrated in reinventing or creating schools of any kind.
“My satisfaction has always been and will remain seeing students blossom,” says Kit. “Every day spent listening to a young reader who has just cracked the code, or helping a struggling math student master division, or greeting a graduate who is about to get married, or has just received her standing as a PhD candidate, or been recognized for her contribution—all are sources of great fulfillment.”