A New Addition to the AB Community: Meeting Principal Dean
BY SANJANA RAO '22 & NOSARA MAXWELL '23
Mr. Dorey’s familiar newsboy cap and suspenders were replaced with a new face when Joan “Joanie” Dean became ABRHS’s principal. After moving from New York City, Mrs. Dean found herself in an unfamiliar environment when she assumed the position last July. Now, she looks ahead, using her past experiences to guide her as she navigates her crucial role in the community.
Having taught in only preparatory and private schools, Mrs. Dean’s transition to a public school was a significant change. “I had been teaching and working in an independent school for 21 years, and I loved it there, but I felt like I wanted to be part of a system that would serve more people and possibly be more equitable,” she said. In New York, she missed the public service that she had first come to love while teaching in the Peace Corps. “Peace Corps was the best thing that I ever did,” Mrs. Dean admitted. “I was this math and science kid, and… I did well. I hate to say it, but I think I thought that being a teacher maybe wasn’t good enough.” Initially, Mrs. Dean felt pressure to stick to the strict definition of what a traditional “successful” career looked like, where teaching was out of the picture. Nevertheless, she embraced her passion over time and has never looked back since.
As a child, Mrs. Dean was encouraged by her parents, who were both teachers, to stay true to herself as she pursued her career. She was also heavily influenced by her fifth-grade teacher, who inspired her interest in STEM: “[She] really encouraged me … it wasn’t so cool as a girl to be good in math and science then, so I felt really supported.” Mrs. Dean did not consider herself as someone who stood out in her high school. “I wasn’t that exciting. My friends were important to me… I was on the dance team. I was in debate and forensics. Boring.”
In response to how her friends, family, and colleagues might describe her, Mrs. Dean stated, “they would describe me as honest. I think they would say I’m hard-working. Sometimes I work too much,” she laughed. “I think they would describe me as down to earth. And, you know, I like to connect with people, so maybe personable.”
As Mrs. Dean continues her transition into her role as the ABRHS principal, she wants to implement her values in the school as she did at her previous schools. “Community is most important… so the first thing I really want to do is just support this great school as it is, and do whatever I can to become part of the community,” explained Mrs. Dean. “I think life and teaching in school is all about relationships, people and connections,” she added. Mrs. Dean encourages colleagues as well as students to reach out to her; she hopes to build genuine relationships and break down the barrier that often separates the administration and students.
A piece of advice that Mrs. Dean received from a former mentor was that “[i]t’s fine to be right and it’s fine to be smart … [b]ut if you can’t be kind first, then it doesn’t really matter how smart you are.” In a time where life is a balancing act of academics, friendships, and other responsibilities, Mrs. Dean hopes students will strike a balance in order to thrive.
It is exciting to have someone with a fresh perspective take charge at the high school; Mrs. Dean will undoubtedly be a valuable addition to the high school administration. Coupled with her extensive experience and dedication, her influence will undoubtedly help ABRHS flourish.