Teachers Hatch A School

Teachers at UPrep leave to found schools


Photo: Sarah Burns

Doctor Hanson teachers freshman Kayla McGhee-Phillips biology.

After teaching at University Prep for a total of 12 and 20 years respectively, Upper School science teacher Jessica Hanson and Associate Director of Upper School Sarah Peterson will be leaving to co-found an all-girls, non-religious high school. The Hatch School is planned to open in fall of 2022 and aims to support and empower girls.

“When we first started talking about starting a school, we said we were ‘hatching a plan.’ Somehow, we kept coming back to Hatch as the name of the school,” Hanson said. “People liked the sound of it, and it is a strong metaphor for what we hope will happen for girls as they grow and mature during their time at school: breaking out of shells, developing and getting stronger.”

As seen from the #MeToo Movement over the last couple of years, discussions about misogyny and sexism have been extremely prevalent in society. This has motivated Hanson and Peterson to create a safe learning environment where girls can fully express themselves.

“[Girls] have powerful voices and have important things to say and should be able to practice doing that in high school, so that when [they] leave high school, [they] can continue to ask for what [they] need,” Hanson said. 

The pandemic has offered an opportunity for faculty to rethink the traditional high school curriculum. 

“If UPrep wanted to change the direction of [the curriculum or structure of the school], it would be really hard to do that. But if you’re starting from the beginning, you get to set the parameters,” Peterson said. “The amount of student anxiety and stress that is present at the high school level is wildly different than it was 20 years ago. It is something that schools spend a lot of time thinking about, [but] you cannot change what is fundamentally causing that stress and anxiety.”

One of the ways that The Hatch School is reframing their curriculum is by removing the traditional grading system. According to Peterson, the intention is to look for a progression of understanding, rather than ranking students and creating more pressure.  

“I think [I am most excited about] being able to design a school and a curriculum that puts the needs and the interests for girls at its center to help girls deconstruct history that we have all been steeped in, and to do the social critique and social commentary and envision something different and better for themselves,” Hanson said. 

To support their social justice values, Hanson and Peterson attracted like-minded donors to support their innovative education model.   

“We were really encouraged early on that this would be resonant with a lot of donors because a lot of people are upset with school,” Peterson said. “There is a lot of enthusiasm for trying to do school differently, new ventures in education.”