Had it not been for an unfulfilling year as a paralegal in a corporate law firm after her Wheaton College graduation, St. Andrew’s Director of Middle School Alexandra McMullen may never have set foot in Barrington, Rhode Island. Luckily, she decided to give teaching a chance and soon after became a seventh-grade history and English teacher at Berwick Academy in South Berwick, Maine. There, as an instructor and a coach, she fell in love with being a middle school educator and decided to make it her life’s work.
Now, 15 years later, she continues to be a champion for her students, shaping curricula to help each and every young pupil achieve his or her goals. Arriving at St. Andrew’s in 2016, McMullen is settling in to the myriad aspects of her position, which, she said, “are simultaneously enjoyable and challenging.” “Working with teachers to help foster a culture in which each student is known, valued, and supported along their unique educational journey is my top priority,” she explained. “To me, this means being an active and visible presence in all areas of school life, from classrooms to after-school activities to evening events.”
McMullen furthers this culture by refining and developing curricula and programs to ensure a challenging, supportive, and developmentally appropriate experience at each grade level. She also collaborates with key members of the greater school community to ensure a consistent experience for students throughout their time at St. Andrew’s. By overseeing the daily academic, programmatic, administrative, and cultural health operations of the institution’s Middle School, McMullen works, she said, “to provide the vision and leadership necessary to create and sustain an inclusive and nurturing environment that values the necessity of both tradition and innovation.”
But it’s not just students who benefit from McMullen’s leadership. She also encourages faculty members to achieve professional goals through formal development plans and facilitates discussions about best practices and trends in curriculum, pedagogy, and educational technology. And she works with the St. Andrew’s Parents’ Association to maintain open lines of communication with Middle School parents. Talking with them about curriculum, programs, events, and student issues is “a rewarding aspect of this position,” McMullen said.
From Berwick Academy to The Fessenden School in West Newton, Massachusetts, where, over nine years, she was an English teacher, the dean of students, a coach, an advisor, a dorm parent, a service learning coordinator, and the recipient of both the Schlager Award for Teaching Excellence and the Wheeler Family Award for Excellence in Character Education — and during which she received a Master in Education in Learning and Teaching from Harvard University's Graduate School of Education — McMullen worked exclusively with middle school students. “They are so wonderfully unpredictable,” she said. “Each day presents a new joy and challenge.”
Indeed, it is the St. Andrew’s Middle School students that inspire McMullen to be the best version of herself. “They are extraordinary,” she said. “They rise to greet every challenge with a smile and come to school with boundless energy and enthusiasm. Their work ethics are a testament to their success and a reminder of the important role that resilience, strength, and courage play in our daily lives and interactions with others.”