Canterbury’s Interim Head of School, Kendell Berry, has a message for parents: “To quote a certain Indiana Jones movie, ‘You have chosen wisely.’”
With three children who grew up mostly in independent schools and a professional career that’s focused on independent schools, Kendell has a keen ability to judge a school’s livelihood. “Canterbury,” he says, “is a special school.”
“This is a school where your child will be age appropriately challenged and where he or she will learn to take reasonable risks while still having a safety net.”
In August, as the newly named Interim Head of School, Kendell had the opportunity to see that concept play out firsthand when he was invited to join the 8th graders at Wilderness Adventure in New Castle, VA. The experience primes students for their final year at the school as they work together in a variety of team-building activities from caving trips to building a raft from scratch using just a few materials and a lot of determination. The school has offered Wilderness Adventure since Canterbury opened 22 years ago.
Kendell was drawn to Canterbury for a number of reasons including its PreK-8 structure and the fact that it is an Episcopal school. “I had worked at two Episcopal schools previously and have found that they have the best opportunities to teach kids character development and to unify community. Plus, it is a progressive denomination and a very inclusive denomination. It is respectful of all religions.”
Seventy-five percent of Canterbury students are not Episcopalian, in fact.
“We respect difference here. Our Episcopal heritage and our motto speaks to that—‘To learn, to love, to serve: to live. I love the ‘live.’”
Kendell describes his first impression of Canterbury as very welcoming. “The first thing I saw was the chapel and, wow, that’s a landmark.” Walking through the classroom buildings, he was impressed by the school’s learning environment. “The noise level was appropriate, the level of interaction was right and the small class size was excellent.” Now, Kendell makes a point to walk the campus twice a day. “I want the community to know that what we’re doing here matters, and that I am here to support them.”
As a biologist and naturalist, Kendell admired Canterbury’s walking path and the ropes course. After earning his undergraduate degree in biology, he took a position with a boys boarding school that sat on 900 acres. It was a great place to teach biology, and he fell in love with the field of education. Soon, he went on to get married and earn his master’s degree in biology from The University of Virginia.
Kendell is the proud father of three adult children. David works for Springleaf Financial and is working on an MBA. Martha is working in New York City as a graphic artist. Sarah is in her third year of optometry school at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
“I’m transitioning in life, and I absolutely love it at Canterbury School, where holistic education and relationships matter. This is a healthy environment and a very good school.”
That takes us back to the message Kendell has for parents about having chosen wisely. “This school is filled with outstanding teachers who are very student-centered. They care deeply about the kids. I see it everyday when I walk though campus, but I also was able to witness it with the 8th graders at Wilderness Adventure, where they really were pushing out of their comfort zone while supporting each other.”
Kendell’s other message is about investment. “You often hear that your biggest investment is your home. But for parents who choose an independent school, their biggest investment is the education of their children. It’s a long-term investment, and like other great investments, one needs to hang in there, ride the few difficulties and enjoy the rewards at the end. Trusting Canterbury is absolutely a wise choice for parents wanting the best for their PreK-8 children.”
With just one year to make an impact at Canterbury, Kendell has a clear view on where he wants to place his focus. “The job is never done at this school. We really have been moving forward lately, and I want to continue to move the school forward in a collaborative way and ensure that we are giving the faculty voice in matters that involve them.”
One recent change is that there are now two faculty members on the program team. The faculty itself selected those representatives, Mary Anne Sacco and Nicole Schutt. It’s the same with the technology team. Two faculty members are on that team as well— Justin McCollum and Allan Chandler.
“Ultimately, my goal is to pave the way for the next head of school.”
What’s Kendell reading? He enjoys a combination of fiction and nonfiction. Currently, he is reading The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, loaned to him by first grade teacher Elaine Hoover.
What does Kendell do in his spare time? “I like twisting a wrench, and I’m pretty handy. I like working on my cars. I’ve been attending St. Francis Episcopal Church in town. I also enjoy outdoor activities like hunting and fishing. In fact, I went hunting with Wes Vogel (5th grade teacher) last weekend.”
by Andrea Crossley Spencer
Andrea Crossley Spencer is a Canterbury parent to McKenna (5th-Vogel) and Kellen (PreK-Copeland/Kaplan), a freelance writer, and cofounder of Tigermoth Creative. She also serves as a Writopia creative writing instructor in Canterbury’s After School Fine Arts program. Her favorite Canterbury tradition is Chapel Buddies. She loves hiking, running and biking especially when followed by a chocolate peanut butter shake.