Episode Show Notes
We invite you to an inside look at the beginnings of our Santa Fe Way and Prayer Journal. Follow our journey in defining the foundational values that guide SFC.
Mike Siciliano, Upper School Dean of Students, has a long history with Sante Fe Christian, sitting in several roles including alumnus, US history teacher, and football coach. As a student, Siciliano felt he had teachers and coaches who personally invested in him and made a huge difference in his life. Now, he tries every day to continue that legacy for current SFC students, live up to the standard his teachers set for him, and have a lot of fun.
Rod Gilbert brings a fresh perspective as SFC’s Head of Schools. As a strong leader with a shepherd’s heart, Rod encourages SFC’s faculty, coaches and staff to strive for excellence in all they do. At his core, Rod is an educator who wants children and their parents to see the world as something lovely, worth exploring and redeeming through Christ. Prior to joining the SFC team, Rod led Regents School of Austin for fifteen years. While in Texas, he served on various boards and associations, wrote numerous journal articles and grant proposals, and conducted dozens of workshops on leadership and education. Rod holds a B.S. in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, a Masters of Divinity from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, and is near completion of a doctoral thesis from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Hannah Park is an experienced professional in the field of education with over 30 years of service. Prior to her current role as the Chief Academic Officer, she has served in progressive roles as a teacher, Assistant Principal, and Principal. Under her leadership, SFC’s Lower School was awarded the National Blue Ribbon distinction for Exemplary High Performing School. Hannah holds an M.A. in Education Administration and Curriculum Design, California Administration and Teaching credentials, and a B.S. in Public Administration. Hannah and her husband have two adult daughters, both graduates of SFC (class of 2015 and 2017). She is dedicated to developing a school program that produces critical thinkers who can discern truth and help students discover and embrace their identity in Christ.
00:00:00 – Introductions
00:00:34 – Hannah’s suggestion at initial meeting with Rod to create trivium
00:01:27 – Definition of trivium
00:04:33 – Discussion of mentorship
00:07:12 – Process of creating trivium
00:09:34 – Why project was started in 2020
00:11:10 – Description of work in progress on trivium, which is called Santa Fe Way
00:16:07 – Specific components of Santa Fe Way
00:17:14 – Examples contained in Santa Fe Way document
00:20:44 – Results of writing document are evaluation and a set of goals of why the school does what it does
00:25:48 – Next steps
00:28:31 – Short-term initiatives and long-term program to improve
00:32:12 – Reflecting on current programs after reviewing document
Mike Siciliano [00:00:00] Welcome back to another episode of our Eagle Perspective Podcast. I’m Mike Siciliano, Dean of Students of the Upper School. I am joined today by our head of schools, Rod Gilbert—thanks for being here—and our new Chief Academic Officer, longtime Lower School Principal now in her new role, Hannah Park.
Hannah Park [00:00:24] Thank you for having me here.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:25] Hannah, thanks for being here. I just want to say in advance thanks for just already fixing everything that needs fixing.
Hannah Park [00:00:30] Oh, gosh.
Rod Gilbert [00:00:32] That’s what I’m paying you for, to fix it all.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:34] No, we’re thrilled to have you here. This is going to be a fun conversation today. I know I’m excited about it. There’s a lot of buzzwords that I know you’ve talked a lot about in particular: strategic plan and Santa Fe Way. I think today’s a little bit of a chance to unpack what that is and the process that that has been used to put that together. Let me start with Rod. Why don’t you talk about when you first got to Santa Fe? I think there was something Hannah actually said to you in one of your early conversations.
Rod Gilbert [00:01:02] Yes. Probably the very first time I was in this office with Hannah, she knew that I’d come from a classical Christian school. We have a philosophy called the trivium. We’re not a classical school here, of course. I remember Hannah distinctly saying, “We don’t have a trivium like you had at Regents, and we need to write ours down.” Something like that? Did I get that about right?
Hannah Park [00:01:26] Something like that.
Mike Siciliano [00:01:27] For those of us that are not classically trained, when you say trivium, what exactly do you mean by that?
Rod Gilbert [00:01:33] Well, I want to see if Hannah knows it, too.
Hannah Park [00:01:34] Oh, gosh.
Mike Siciliano [00:01:35] Did you use the word trivium?
Hannah Park [00:01:39] I did. I did use the word trivium.
Mike Siciliano [00:01:38] I’m so impressed.
Hannah Park [00:01:39] Well, I read up on my new boss.
Mike Siciliano [00:01:41] You’re like, “I need to learn all the classical buzzwords.”
Hannah Park [00:01:43] I was trying to impress him.
Rod Gilbert [00:01:44] I was impressed.
Hannah Park [00:01:46] From the very little that I know, I believe, based on which grade level. You’ve got the grammar school, the foundational skills, and then you have the logic school, and that’s the critical…
Rod Gilbert [00:02:03] Critical thinking.
Hannah Park [00:02:04] And then the rhetoric school, which, I guess, then, is sharing.
Rod Gilbert [00:02:11] Oral or written persuasion of an argumentation.
Mike Siciliano [00:02:14] If I were to maybe say this in a little bit of layman’s terms, it’s a philosophical engine of why we teach what we teach, how we teach it, to what age level. That is like the educational north star or curriculum.
Rod Gilbert [00:02:30] That’s a great way… Educational north star or, for movie fans, it’d be like the flux capacitors inside the DeLorean racecar in “Back to the Future” or the secret recipe in the stew. Regents had it. They had their own little secret stew that they had written down. We have an amazing recipe here. Whether it’s a recipe or north star, I’m in love with it.
Hannah Park [00:02:55] I think the difference is we weren’t speaking the same language. We didn’t have specific terminologies that everybody understood what that meant. Fantastic school. I helped lead it for 15 years. Hopefully, we’ve done something right. But at the same time, when in a classical school model, you say the grammar school skills, I guess everybody understands what that means, even if you’re in high school. For us, we have our lower school engine, we’ve got the middle school engine, and the high school engine. Of course, because we’re like-minded, we have that continuum happening. But it’s not written down, and I think we can tighten up.
Mike Siciliano [00:03:45] There’s some parents out there that are like, “What do you mean there’s no philosophy?” Of course, we have some. It just hasn’t necessarily been well-defined.
Rod Gilbert [00:03:55] For years and years—Hannah, correct me—it’s an evangelical Christian worldview that infuses every part of the school quite effectively. That alone is amazing. That’s a major part of the recipe. Another part is mentorship. I think the school, for years and years, has thrived on this face-to-face thing with the athletes, the coaches, the teachers, and students. It’s not like it’s not there. The articulation of some of that secret recipe just hadn’t been thoroughly written down enough. This is a normal thing that happens in institutions. It’s not abnormal. There’s nothing wrong with it. It was time to try to write it down.
Mike Siciliano [00:04:33] To use the mentorship because that’s a great example that’s helped me understand when you guys talk about this, mentorship has been a key element of the school for a long time. As I talk to alumni or even students, the number one thing that people cite is my relationship with my teachers and my coaches. We’ve had podcasts where people talk about how that’s gone on for years after they graduate. But we haven’t necessarily written down here’s what we mean by mentorship, and here’s all the ways we do it.
Rod Gilbert [00:05:05] That’s right. I think the school effectively over the years brought in resources to enhance it. It’s a beautiful thing that’s very real for the alum, for the current students.
Hannah Park [00:05:17] I think one of the struggles that we’ve had is because of how great our mentorship programs have been, and it’s vast. It touches every aspect of this campus, whether you’re the little ones or the big ones, whether you’re doing it in your classroom or internationally. Because of how big it is, it’s been difficult to actually pull it all together.
Mike Siciliano [00:05:44] I would say the same academically, too. We have all these students going to these great colleges and doing these amazing things.
Rod Gilbert [00:05:52] It’s not broken. See, that’s why it’s so beautiful. I told the board in September 2018, “We just don’t have it written down. I feel like I’m the new guy learning about it.” Alex De Tocqueville was assigned by the French government to go to America, study America in the early 1800s. You’re the American history guy. You know this.
Mike Siciliano [00:06:17] Well, I used to be.
Rod Gilbert [00:06:19] He was told, “Go study the American way, whatever it is, and write a report.” The report is a book we call “Democracy in America.” It wasn’t him trying to invent it. He was really investigating and trying to put words to something that even Americans hadn’t.
Mike Siciliano [00:06:37] In fact, many Americans read it and said, “Oh, this is it. This is that thing that… I’ve always felt this way, but I’ve never actually been able to express it.”
Rod Gilbert [00:06:45] Really? Wow. Okay, I didn’t know that. That’s good. I said, “Let me and you guys, the board and the senior leadership team as the parents, be the Tocqueville.” I’m enamored with the school. I thought, “I’m the new guy, so I could take a year to lead a team to just write down that which is.” There’s nothing in this document that’s foreign to the school. It just hadn’t been fully written down yet.
Mike Siciliano [00:07:12] Okay, that’s a good segue. Talk about the process. Hannah makes this comment. You spend some time here, and I think eventually you realize oh, she’s totally right about that.
Rod Gilbert [00:07:21] I remember one time I had things all up on the board, on the wall one day.
Hannah Park [00:07:23] And we had focus groups. We had lots and lots of focus groups.
Rod Gilbert [00:07:28] We had three different consulting firms come in and do cross sections of the school, produced a lot of data from the parents and alum. I did 12 coffees my first year, fall 2018, in homes just listening. What do people love about this place? What do they wish were tightened up? Then the parent survey spring 2019 put a little more teeth to it. Okay, we’re seeing some things. It generated a lot of parent and alum teacher voices, a stack of material that we then got to play with in fall 2019. Right?
Hannah Park [00:08:05] Yeah.
Rod Gilbert [00:08:05] When did we go to Big Bear? It’s all foggy to me.
Hannah Park [00:08:11] January 2020?
Rod Gilbert [00:08:14] When did COVID start?
Mike Siciliano [00:08:13] I know it was right around that time that you guys went. COVID was March 2020. It was before our accreditation report. It was in March.
Hannah Park [00:08:22] Right. I think it was January. Something like that.
Rod Gilbert [00:08:23] With the board’s push, like, “Go define it,” Hannah, Todd, Matt, and I went to Big Bear…
Mike Siciliano [00:08:33] You were all gone at once. I remember this because I’m not allowed to talk about what happened while you were gone. You were all gone at once.
Hannah Park [00:08:42] School’s still standing. That is good.
Mike Siciliano [00:08:44] We learned how. We’re here.
Rod Gilbert [00:08:43] We learned that Todd is a pool shark. He was really impressive. We had two days together up at Big Bear, digging through all of it. What began to come out wasn’t us creating something. We were trying to narrow it down. What are the five words? We were looking at everything going, “How do we start to put some nomenclature to this?” We came back January 2020 with pretty much this grid of these five words. When did Marvel Gest file the ACSI Accreditation Report?
Mike Siciliano [00:09:23] March 2020.
Hannah Park [00:09:24] The week before we shut down. It was something like that.
Rod Gilbert [00:09:30] They were here that week.
Mike Siciliano [00:09:34] Which is the answer to the question of: you did this in 2020. Why? What’s happening?
Rod Gilbert [00:09:40] Well, let me say this. On Marvel Gest’s thing, Marvel Gest led a great team. It was 15 of y’all, leadership and teachers.
Hannah Park [00:09:49] But the entire Santa Fe faculty and staff, they were all involved. Everybody was involved.
Rod Gilbert [00:09:56] One of the takeaways I was glad to see: the more Marvel came to and the team came to is we love our school; we don’t have our value statements really articulated well. We confessed that to the ACSI group. Then when they came back with our renewal, we got high marks. But I think it was in June 2020, when we were all on Zoom, that the report came back, and they challenged us. “Look, when we come back in five years, have your value statements written down.”
Hannah Park [00:10:26] As well as the curriculum articulation. That was another thing that we admitted that needed a little work.
Rod Gilbert [00:10:33] We looked for okay, let’s get the words. Then the board and I listed the Academic Dean position. We couldn’t find anyone for that. The right person didn’t show up. That gets us to COVID, and then the whole world fell apart. We put this document in a box over there. Really, for a year and a half, it was just keep the school open.
Mike Siciliano [00:10:58] I feel like there was maybe a month in there where we pulled out the box and started looking at it again.
Rod Gilbert [00:11:02] We did. We did, like March of 2021, for a month.
Mike Siciliano [00:11:05] It was great. “We’re going to get to do this again.”
Rod Gilbert [00:11:08] I know. “Oh, in June, it will all be fine.”
Mike Siciliano [00:11:10] Then it all came back. We had put the box away again a little bit. Tell us about how this is going to be… Well, actually, let me ask a different question. What is in this document that’s in front of you?
Hannah Park [00:11:23] I think it’s going to help us focus because so many great things happen on this campus, and every time something happens, and somebody has a great idea, you just want to go and run with it. But if you run with every good idea, then you dilute the core of who you are. I think this—we call it the compass, or the engine, or secret recipe, or whatever the word is—it’s going to help us focus. What’s most important to us, and why are we doing it? That’s really at the core of it. Why are we reading the books we’re reading? Why are we studying what we’re studying? Why are we studying it that way? Why do we have this program? What’s the purpose of it?
Mike Siciliano [00:12:12] Which of the goals or values is accomplished by doing this thing we’re doing? There might be some things that we look at, and we say, “Gosh, I don’t know why we’re doing this,” or some other things that we’ve said. We’ve never been able to articulate why we’ve done this, but, man, it takes three of our five major goals. You’re calling it the Santa Fe Way.
Rod Gilbert [00:12:32] Santa Fe Way. We played with ten different words. I liked secret recipe, but that didn’t work. I think Santa Fe Way works. Santa Fe in Latin means holy faith. You know that. Of course, it’s the name of our school. As a missional, evangelical school, it rhymes.
Mike Siciliano [00:12:55] I took Latin here at Santa Fe Christian in the seventh and the eighth grade. It used to be a requirement.
Rod Gilbert [00:13:00] And it changed your life? It used to be a requirement?
Mike Siciliano [00:13:03] Oh, yeah. Every middle schooler took Latin here until probably 15 years ago. Larry Larson, amazing teacher, great guy. There might be some alumni listening that would say we need to bring that back just as a rite of passage that we all had. I’m kidding. I don’t think Latin is in the future here.
Rod Gilbert [00:13:21] My last school was four years…or, two to four years. It was required. Most kids after eighth grade were so burned out with it. My daughter loved it. My son would rather kick a hornet’s nest than take any more of it. Santa Fe Way. When I think about Hannah’s influence—you’ve been here what, 15 years?—you can’t really quantify the influence that she’s had on the curriculum, on families, on teachers. But over time, what this does is it depersonalizes the mentorship model and the curriculum model away from a person. This isn’t Rod’s DNA; this is the school’s DNA. If we can get it on paper that we get to talk about it, everybody gets to participate in it. But long-term if you can get the culture of an institution written down like this, it depersonalizes it, and I think it makes it stronger for the likelihood of avoiding mission drift. If Hannah gets hit by a bus, how do we write this stuff down? I think there’s a real value point there. Don’t walk in the street.
Mike Siciliano [00:14:28] I’ve actually seen her. She’s very adept at walking around the buses. She’s had lots of practice with that. The buses out here it does get crazy sometimes.
Rod Gilbert [00:14:37] It does. What else do you see here of the value, then?
Hannah Park [00:14:39] The other piece is, typically, when you see a strategic plan, or curriculum plan, or anything like that, it seems to be very departmentalized. I feel like we’ve created something that is layered and layered. It’s not so much that when you’re finished with this, then you move on to the next, and you shall not do this anymore. It really is whether you’re a kindergartener or you’re a 12th grader, the Santa Fe Way, the DNA flows through every single grade, every single class, and that’s what makes it so special. I think that’s why it was so hard to quantify it because everybody had a story. That’s actually the most exciting part for me is that we get to help our children understand that they’re part of God’s story at the core of it and that there’s something way bigger than them, yet they’re so special that they got to be part of it. That comes at the center of why we do what we do and why we’re here. I’m just super excited to be working with the teachers to discover where those moments are and then for us to put that down so that it continues so that we don’t lose it.
Mike Siciliano [00:16:07] Do you want to talk about, as we’ve mentioned, this Santa Fe Way…? Do you want to talk about some of the specific things that are a piece of that?
Hannah Park [00:16:15] I think at the core of anything we do, we have to address the why. It doesn’t matter who and what if we don’t really understand the why. The why truly is worship. What’s chief in demand? To love the Lord and to enjoy him forever. Why are we doing what we’re doing? It is so that our children understand who God is in light of the other pieces. Through scholarship through their academics, they understand who God is and worship him. Through the mentorship they understand who he is and worship him. The other words are companionship.
Rod Gilbert [00:16:57] Our community.
Hannah Park [00:16:58] And stewardship. How are we going to do this? By what means? Also, to be good stewards of what we’ve been given by being influences outside the Santa Fe campus.
Mike Siciliano [00:17:14] You have this worship at the center, and then you have these four things around the outside that really encompass what we do here. Let’s pick one, like mentorship. If you turn the page in this document, you’re basically drilling into mentorship. What are some examples of what you find there?
Rod Gilbert [00:17:36] Every one of the words has five value sentences. One of the ones that we wrote, one of the phrases, was: as we worship the Lord, we are enriched by his love letter, the Bible. We all know that. We have a statement of faith. We’re a Christian school. Here’s the value sentence: we believe in the word of scripture whereby we learn of his love for us. That’s easy enough for any child to understand. Then the paragraph we’d put under it is the word of our Lord Jesus Christ. The word our Lord Jesus Christ also spoke to humanity through scripture, the 66 books. It’s no accident that our Lord was called the word. He also communicates with His word. Words create a loving relationship between friends, and He called us friends. Therefore, we learn about Him and how to live this life through the scriptures. We seek to navigate the complex and exciting human journey through the lens of the Holy Scriptures. Inside that paragraph is a lot that infiltrates throughout the school, more than just saying we believe the Bible. It’s a love letter from him to us. We get to exude that to the children and to the teachers and coaches.
Mike Siciliano [00:18:51] That’s in the worship section which is the driver of everything.
Rod Gilbert [00:18:55] Yeah, it’s the center of… At first, we had the five parts equaled… We kept drawing it differently. Worship kept driving back to the center, and we realized, oh, that’s the whole point. We’re following Christ.
Hannah Park [00:19:09] Initially, it was its own by itself. It was one of.
Rod Gilbert [00:19:11] It’s all by itself. It’s one of five parts, and didn’t feel right. It’s because…
Hannah Park [00:19:21] It’s not right.
Rod Gilbert [00:19:20] Which one are you going to pick?
Hannah Park [00:19:21] This is under mentorship: inspiring towards excellence, not perfection. The statement is: we value the pursuit of excellence, and we reject the evil bondage of perfection, which is something that our students and all of us, I think, struggle with. The enemy of the pursuit of excellence is the unhealthy drive for perfection. As we teach students, we come alongside them throughout the process of risk-taking, failure, recovery, and discovery. This journey of experimentation, failure, and resilient recovery develops real-life skills that are much better than pursuing perfection. I think as a college preparatory school where it’s almost like that prize that they are striving towards, but I love the way our college counselors call it—it is a match to be made, not a prize to be won or something like that—I’m botching that up—that our children understand, our students understand, and our families understand. That we strive for excellence doesn’t mean it has to be perfect in human eyes. We just have to be excellent in all that we do towards bringing him glory, and then…
Mike Siciliano [00:20:44] I love this one. We could do a whole podcast on perfectionism. It’s biblical relevancy and all that. But this is a great example of… We have these statements and these values. How do they guide us? That’s an example of what also will come out of this, then, is an evaluation and a set of goals of here’s what we do. Here’s what we do to pursue excellence without perfection. This is what it looks like from a counseling standpoint. Am I saying this right?
Rod Gilbert [00:21:14] Our college guidance, we want it to be a match to be made, not a trophy to be won. If perfection were the end goal for the sports department, coaches that we hire… We have over 200 coaches. If they don’t understand that we’re a process place… To us, it’s sanctification more than the outcome. If we bring in a contract coach and all they’re thinking are wins, WWW’s, they may drive the sense of perfection so much that they end up exasperating the children. Still, this isn’t new to Santa Fe; we’re just trying to articulate that which is. Doug has words where he says things like this, too. It’s far more about process in our athletic department, but to articulate it well means that when the new coach comes in, they get trained in that paragraph. This is how this translates in flag football. Don’t yell at the kid. Don’t scream and yell at the kid if they drop the ball. There’s a way to go about mentorship and enjoy the failures and recovery.
Hannah Park [00:22:20] Academically, I was just talking to Anadara Arnold, our amazing Lower School music teacher. Talking about even the Christmas program or the grandparents’ day programs, the end goal isn’t to put on an amazing show. Therefore, that pursuit of perfection isn’t what we’re going after. We’re trying to teach them the process of learning music and understanding rhythm, and beats, and all of that. It’s okay if they make a mistake at the end. It’s okay if the final product has some flaws because the process is that much more important. Same thing with art. We’re not just creating copies of the same thing. We even had this discussion about our writing program. If we give every student a template of how to write, all of their writing looks the same. We just created a recipe. Actually, we can’t call it a recipe anymore, because that’s bad.
Rod Gilbert [00:23:26] It’s so formulaic. It doesn’t touch the creative side of a child’s writing voice. It’s what you’re trying to find.
Hannah Park [00:23:35] We’re not going after excellence in that situation.
Mike Siciliano [00:23:38] I think in the high school context, too, we let our ASB kids take ownership of a lot of our events from beginning to end. Sometimes parents will say, “Well, how come you didn’t think of this thing?” It’s, “Well, we let them struggle through it a little bit. We saw it, but we let them fail a little bit because that’s part of the process.”
Rod Gilbert [00:24:01] There might be at a back-to-school dance a bowl of Skittles and one bottle of Coke. That wouldn’t be good. There’s a lot of sugar. But I like the fact that it’s the process of them learning new things in a safe environment rather than it being the showy thing. By the way, there’s plenty of showy things here. This is not lack of excellence. It’s not binary one or the other. It’s just that the emphasis is on the sanctification process of kids learning new things—failure and recovery, failure and recovery, developing resiliency—and not being treated in such a legalistic way that if they make an imperfection, then somehow they’re judged by the teachers and coaches.
Mike Siciliano [00:24:47] What happens…?
Rod Gilbert [00:24:56] I do this with you often as an employee. You’re not perfect.
Mike Siciliano [00:24:50] Oh, yeah, I know. You point out I’m not perfect very regularly, and I’m grateful.
Rod Gilbert [00:24:56] I’ve been joking with you, but I’m meaning that sincerely in that if this is truly the Santa Fe Way, it’s also how I treat you. You’re a master at rapport, but we do a lot of projects out here. If the Santa Fe Way is that I treat you with dignity, you have the image of God in you. It’s my responsibility to cultivate creativity in you. Then I don’t want you running around campus going, “Well, what would Rod want me to do?” I’d rather you say, “What’s the right thing to do in this culture?” Then it frees you up to not be nervous of did you do it exactly the way I would have done it. I think that’s cult-like for me to treat you that way.
Mike Siciliano [00:25:40] I am really looking forward to us debriefing this podcast and you giving me all the feedback right after…
Rod Gilbert [00:25:45] Oh, I have a lot.
Mike Siciliano [00:25:48] What happens from here? We have this document. I think the natural question is: is there going to be a list of here’s the plan, here’s what we’re going to do in light of this?
Hannah Park [00:26:00] Well, we have to start with staff. Part of that is professional growth for our teachers and something that we always do. But really, circling back to the why, the worship components, the biblical worldview is how we’re going to start with the staff training. Then from there, we’re going to take… Well, my initial job… I think I’m going to take several different departments and help them align their curriculum. Well, that’s going to take a while. That process is going to take several years. That’s every department at every grade level.
Mike Siciliano [00:26:47] Just to speak to that, I’m not sure most people who aren’t in education understand the scale of a project like that, of being able to really articulate and have documented everything that we teach everywhere. It’s pretty massive.
Hannah Park [00:27:01] It is. We’re going to start with the big units and big map, the whole year’s map. But then, obviously, individual teachers will drill it down to lesson by lesson eventually. But it is a big scale. But we have the best team ever.
Rod Gilbert [00:27:20] I would say from a process standpoint, a group of us wrote this based on all the surveys, and just our own experience, and trying to imagine the best of the best. If you think of the best teachers, the best coaches, the best employees, the best parent volunteers, what we’re trying to do is paint out that vision of what can be and put it into articulation. It’s a fallible document. It’s just a bunch of people writing stuff down. In my mind, from a process standpoint, I think we’ll launch it this fall, in fall 2022. Then I think under Hannah’s care as the Chief Academic Officer and a handful of people, they’ll be the owners of it, and then maybe a year or two from now, there’ll be little tweaks. Don’t you think there’ll be a little tweak, a little tweak, a little tweak? By the time the accreditation team comes back in 2026.
Rod Gilbert [00:28:19] We’re trying to create something that’s far more timeless. This isn’t like a two- or five-year thing. To me, this is a 5- to 25-year thing for the next generation that captures the best of the best.
Mike Siciliano [00:28:31] I can imagine, then, what happens with that—let’s call it a 25-year thing—is you go through a process of dreaming. How do we become better at mentorship or scholarship? There’ll be some initiatives that come out of that. Lord willing, in five years, we’ll do that again. How do we become even better at mentorship, scholarship? But this points us in that direction.
Rod Gilbert [00:28:54] It gives us a target. If you don’t have a target, then you’ll mess up every time. But I think getting it out on paper helps. But I see this as a fallible document. Only the scripture is infallible. But I would leave it in Hannah’s care, her team. I expect there’ll be tweaks every year for a couple of years. Ultimately, it could be this becomes something that’s more embedded into the DNA and okay, we’re about done tweaking it, and it takes on a longer term. But I want to read another one.
Mike Siciliano [00:29:22] Okay. You’re in charge, Rod.
Rod Gilbert [00:29:27] These are things that when I moved here, I could sense the aroma of Christ here in a unique, beautiful way. It’s why when we have families visit, they go, “There’s something unique. I think it’s the Holy Spirit. I think it’s the way people treat each other here.” We know that every child has the stamp of the image of God, but it was never written down in a way that we can teach parents about it or new coaches or teachers. Another value sentence is: see the individual as having the image of God in them. The value sentence is: we value each student as God’s child made in his image. What mom or dad doesn’t want to hear that? That’s not new. This is what y’all have been doing here for years, and years, and years. But we do have this unique ability here to say that in a way that fits the kindergarten 5-year-old all the way to the 18-year-old and really double down on each child has… I think we said humans are like pottery, and God’s thumbprints can be seen in their formation. We’re uniquely made, and teachers and mentors treat each student as such. We have the blessed opportunity to witness the transformation from the youngest ones to the college-bound as they mature through various stages of childhood. That then plays into age development theory, how we talk to the kids based on age appropriateness.
Hannah Park [00:30:54] It’s also why we protect their dignity. This is why we don’t speak about another child’s discipline issues or anything like that. But at the same time, also, when we celebrate one, we are very mindful of making sure that we celebrate it in a way that isn’t diminishing someone else’s worth.
Mike Siciliano [00:31:15] I think about in high school using that for how we talk about each other, what kinds of jokes are not okay, how are we honoring the image of God in anyone based on their differences, which we talked about here before. All that kind of stuff fits in there.
Rod Gilbert [00:31:31] It does.
Hannah Park [00:31:33] They’ll make mistakes.
Mike Siciliano [00:32:34] Yeah, of course.
Rod Gilbert [00:31:35] That’s addressed in here, too. The mentorship side is… Some of the best learning moments for me is when I’ve failed. Then I recover. I have the aloe that the Holy Spirit puts on the burn of my own mistake. When children make mistakes or parents, or employees make mistakes, where do we put the aloe on it to help them recover? We’ve tried to capture that we actually take joy when kids make mistakes because then we know now we’re getting to the grist of it that we can really have an impact on him, rather than when everything just looks squeaky clean, sometimes you don’t know what to work on.
Mike Siciliano [00:32:12] Just to take one all the way through, we have this document now. Coach Miller in our athletics department would maybe say, “Okay, let’s look at all of our practices. How are we using mentorship in a way that is pointed towards worship in each of our programs? What does that look like for softball, football, women’s lacrosse, track and field? There might be some things that come out of that, either affirming what we do or, gosh, maybe we’re not intentional enough.
Rod Gilbert [00:32:42] We’re short on it. Because there’s always place for improvement. Now what we’re doing is saying this is the canon, this is the standard. For him to be able to take something like this—this is the DNA of the school or the SFC Way, Santa Fe Way—I think that it gives him a chance to just dig deeper into every single part of his program, like weightlifting, like the concept of strength coach, and bigger, better, faster. If you just do that on its own, you could actually injure kids or not help them connect it back to their understanding of their love of their body as Christ made them. But you put weightlifting and physical exertion through this and it becomes an act of worship according to Romans 12:1 and 2. But without it written down and specifically said, the kids don’t learn to make the connections.
Mike Siciliano [00:33:32] Last question, Hannah: Did you know in 2018 when you made this comment to Rod that you were actually interviewing to be the Chief Academic Officer one day?
Hannah Park [00:33:44] No, I did not. Actually, what I told Rod was, a couple months ago, that this isn’t something that… It’s not the title, it’s not the position; it’s where I’m doing this with the people. It doesn’t really matter. I think we would be doing this regardless.
Rod Gilbert [00:34:03] You’d be doing it anyways, and you’d be running the Lower School.
Mike Siciliano [00:34:06] Well, we’re really glad to have you in this role. We’re excited for what’s to come. Thanks in advance for all the work you’re doing with this. Rod, you’ve poured hours and hours in this.
Rod Gilbert [00:34:15] I’m excited about it.
Mike Siciliano [00:34:17] Even during a pandemic at times.
Rod Gilbert [00:34:18] Well, I think sometimes it just took my mind off of infectious disease. Because this is the love letter. This is the love letter of why I was drawn here and while I’m still here.
Hannah Park [00:34:32] And why we’re all here.
Rod Gilbert [00:34:33] We’re all here. It just gives us a common way to talk about it in a way that we get to enjoy it and really push ourselves to new standards.
Mike Siciliano [00:34:42] Well, thank you both for being here and your time. Thanks for listening and/or watching. If this is your first episode, you can find more episodes of our Eagle Perspective Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts. You can watch us on YouTube. We look forward to seeing you again soon.