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MS Head of School Mark Blaisdell Announces Two Retirements

Two beloved, dedicated middle school teachers will be retiring at the end of this academic year. We are grateful for their contributions - in the classroom, on the fields, and in the community. While we will formally celebrate their retirements in late spring, please join us in thanking them for their teaching excellence.

Laura Russell
It has been both a pleasure and honor to have worked beside Laura, who, in my mind, embodies all the qualities you hope to have on a teaching staff. Her unique combination of professionalism, leadership, and genuine caring has been an aspiration for all of us in the Middle School since her arrival. I consider Laura to be a true “teacher at heart.” In other words, her life in education is less about her vocation and more about an extension of who she is at her core. Always seeking to understand others first, her work in her World Justice classroom and as our Director of Equity and Belonging has impacted those around her for a lifetime. Rather than a job well done, it is both fair and appropriate instead to characterize Laura’s inspirational educational career as a life’s calling well lived.  

Associate Head of School and Dean of Academics Lindley Shutz added, “Always a contributor, Laura has stepped into leadership roles at critical moments, first as History Department Chair then as our first Director of Equity and Belonging.  Her students and her colleagues rely on her curiosity about others' perspectives, her generous intellect, her honesty, and her calm approach to complex issues. Of the many gifts she has shared with Derryfield, her commitment to the success of every single student stands out when I consider her decade here.”

Laura joined Derryfield in 2012. Before that, she taught and coached at an independent school outside Philadelphia, and was a middle school principal at an independent school north of Boston. She earned her B.A. in History from Smith College and her M.A.L.S. from Villanova University. Laura is the first person to serve as a Director of Equity and Belonging at Derryfield.  In addition, she hosts an MS Model U.N. Xploration Block and the annual grade 8 M.S. Model U.N. conference on campus. Over the years she has also served as a middle school coach for field hockey and lacrosse. Her husband is also an educator, as are her two grown sons. Her favorite book is the irreverent Red Sky at Morning, which she has read at least five times.

Kathleen Rutty-Fey, Director of Enrollment and External Affairs reflected on Laura’s impact and roles at DS, “A trusted teacher, advisor, and colleague, Laura has been instrumental in advancing Derryfield's equity and belonging initiatives. She has been a tireless advocate for the professional development required for a school community to authentically implement equity strategies, as well as for the students who have sought voice and agency. Her work in particular with our Amoskeag, Carlson, and Malone Scholars has made an impact on the grounding of those scholars in our community.” 
Karen Robichaud 
While Karen’s daily presence will be deeply missed, she leaves behind a legacy of memorable curricular experiences, field trips, and hands-on projects that will remain in the fabric of our middle school science program for many years to come. From imaginary fish classification posters to magnetic levitation experiments to standing kid’s hair on end in the static electricity unit, Karen showed us all how to make science meaningful and relatable to middle school students. Her sincere commitment to the natural world, so ingrained in who she is, was ever present, and I so respect her for all of her successful efforts to instill an appreciation for nature in her students. Like so many of her students, I will never forget being with her in her element in Bear Brook State Park or atop Mount Kearsarge. Finally, whether said to students about their work or to colleagues as a reminder of the work that we do as teachers, Karen taught us all to “trust the process.” 

Colleague and mentee Ross Feitlinger shared, “It has been a pleasure to work with and learn from Karen these last four years. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor and colleague as I learned and settled into DS. Her knowledge, guidance, and support are endless. She always made time for me when I needed advice with my lessons. Collaborating and co-teaching with sixth-grade science has made the curriculum that much stronger. Watching her work with the students in the Middle School is inspiring. Her presence will be missed next year, but I know our loss will be her family’s (especially her grandson Jackson’s) gain.”

Gillian Roberts says, “I adore Karen Robichaud. Not only is she a phenomenal, dynamic and enthusiastic master teacher and colleague, but she is also a wonderful, caring, and compassionate friend. I have taught and advised alongside Karen for 20 years. She and I have also coached Middle School Cross Country together for the past 11 years. She is passionate about everything she does, from teaching to coaching to hiking to caring for her adorable grandson, Jackson. I cannot imagine the Middle School without Karen in it, but I am eternally grateful for her unwavering guidance and support and I know that the positive impact she has had on all of her students and peers will endure. I wholeheartedly believe that if everyone could be a little more like Karen Robichaud, this world would be a better place – I know that Derryfield certainly is.”

Karen has enjoyed a 24-year tenure at DS, joining the team in 1998.  She graduated from Plymouth State College in 1983 and spent time teaching in the public school realm, before ultimately finding her “place” at Derryfield. In addition to her teaching role, she has coached middle school cross country and Nordic skiing, co-chaired the science department, and anchored the seventh-grade team in the role of Head Class Advisor. She has also been instrumental in finding opportunities for the seventh grade to get involved in community service. Being both a teacher and coach has allowed her to forge solid relationships with her students while nurturing their love of the outdoors. When she is not teaching, you can find Karen hiking the trails and mountains in New Hampshire, or as the “stocker” on the back of her tandem bike with her husband.
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  • Al W
    World Justice wouldn't have been the same without Mrs. Russell.

The Derryfield School

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