Alumni Working in Independent Schools Share Their Stories

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Alumni Working in Independent Schools Share Their Stories
Dan Ressner ’99

Catch up with Ann Barnett ’12, Sean Kelly ’11 and Sydnie Schwarz ’16.

Our Ravens know the value of the independent school experience — so much so that a number of our graduates have gone on to work at peer schools across the country. Here, three young alumni who channeled their passion for independent schools into a career explore what they like most about their jobs, how Ravenscroft inspired their path and the essential role these schools play in preparing students for the future.

What independent school do you work at, and what is your role there? What led you to work at an independent school?


Sean Kelly ’11: I currently work at St. David’s School in Raleigh as an Admissions Associate, primarily focused on working with prospective Middle and Upper School families. I also coach junior-varsity basketball and teach a workshop on coaching and leadership.

There were a few different factors that led me into independent school education. Ironically, the first was working at a talent agency in Los Angeles for a baseball agent. During that year, I spent quite a bit of time working through what was important to me and what I hoped my life would look like in the coming years. Being the son of two independent-school educators provided me with direct insight into what a balance there is in schools to do good and important work, while also prioritizing family. As I reflected on my own upbringing, I became increasingly grateful for the life my parents created for our family, the community they raised us in and their presence and availability in our lives. Additionally, in education there are always opportunities to positively impact the lives of students, whether it is through the classroom, athletics or just small interactions during lunch. I was excited about having a positive impact on the next generation of students. 

Ann Barnett ’12: I just started a new job as the Director of Communications at the Wesleyan School just outside of Atlanta. Before Wesleyan, I served as the Digital Specialist at Whitefield Academy, also outside Atlanta.

Since graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill, I have spent my career in independent schools, and part of the draw to this profession was having an opportunity to contribute to developing well-rounded students who are prepared to think critically, serve compassionately and lead humbly. I believe independent schools are uniquely positioned to impact students holistically, not just academically.

Sydnie Schwarz ’16: The Rivers School in Weston, Massachusetts. I teach one section of eighth-grade humanities, which is called Systems of Justice and Injustice and is focused on the U.S., and I serve as the Middle School Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator.

I was led to education because of my interest in community-building and social justice. I was open to working in either a public or private school, but I mainly chose private because it was more accessible, given that I did not have to be teacher-certified. In addition, I knew I would have purpose in an independent school. As a student at Ravenscroft, I was always seeking out opportunities to create change to make our school more equitable, supportive and inclusive for students of color like myself. I often felt that I as a student lacked the power to create institutional and even cultural change, so now I find purpose in being on the other side of the system and seeking opportunities as an administrator to push for change from the inside in collaboration with student leaders at Rivers. Plus, I worked for SDLC [Student Diversity Leadership Conference] for several years starting in college, so I have continued to familiarize myself with independent school students and issues and be surrounded by other inspiring professionals committed to social justice in their respective independent schools all over the country.

Sean Kelly ’11

Ann Barnett ’12

Sydnie Schwarz ’16