From Chapin girl to head of school: Wanda Holland Greene '85
Posted 02/20/2008 01:00AM

by Andrew Seguin

A certain symmetry prevails in the life of Wanda Holland Greene ’85. She grew up in a household that valued independence and community responsibility, attended and taught at Chapin, which shares those values, and in July she will assume her new position as the head of the Hamlin School, an all-girls school in San Francisco, where her belief in the power of thinking deeply for oneself and for others will continue to be realized.

“I knew that I wanted to be a teacher and school principal at age 4,” Mrs. Holland Greene said. “It is my calling in life.”

She’s had ample experience with that calling. After graduating from Columbia University and Teachers College, Mrs. Holland Greene taught Class 3 and Class 8 English at Chapin from 1990 to 1997 and served as director of student life for three years.

Seeing Chapin from so many perspectives gave her insight into the complexities of a school, from the difficulty of balancing tradition and innovation to being diplomatic with varied constituencies. “I also realized just how talented, audacious, empathic and vivacious Chapin girls were in comparison to girls in other settings,” Mrs. Holland Greene said.

Her praise shouldn’t count less because she was a Chapin girl herself for four years; Mrs. Holland Greene has been an administrator at the coeducational Park School in Boston for the last 11 years. She began work there in 1997 as the middle school division head and has been assistant head of school since 2004, so she’s had experience with girls in a variety of educational settings.

Working at the Park School, which has no high school, was particularly valuable to her as a teacher and administrator. “In my observations and experience, high schools tend to become the ‘jewel’ of a K through 12 school,” Mrs. Holland Greene said. “It has been great for me to work in a school where the elementary and middle school students are the first priority at all times,” she added.

Giving younger students such attention resonates with her, no doubt, because it was as a young student that Mrs. Holland Greene encountered the ideas that have guided her career. “Throughout elementary school, I was one of twelve ‘bus children’ making the daily trek between Brooklyn and Queens,” she wrote in a statement of educational philosophy. “The school’s principal, Milton Schwartz, insisted that the curriculum be rigorous and multicultural in its approach, and he engaged teachers in a conversation about what it would mean to be an integrated school in a racially segregated neighborhood … I inherited from him the ideas that leadership can be a form of activism, and that diversity is an integral part of excellence in education.”

Leadership and diversity are touchstones for Mrs. Holland Greene, as are the arts. She is an avid and accomplished singer and co-directs a faculty and parent choir from The Park School that performs throughout Boston. “Music is essential to my soul. Singing is my favorite form of personal expression,” she said. “I am also a strong advocate for the arts in education; it distresses me greatly when people view the arts as expendable or ‘extra’ — to me, visual art, music, dance and drama are all essential to excellence in education,” she added.

Talented, audacious, empathic, vivacious — the same words Mrs. Holland Greene applied to the Chapin students she taught could be applied to her. The Hamlin School will be in good stead for years to come.

“I couldn’t be more excited about being a head of school,” Mrs. Holland Greene said. “While I have absolutely loved working in a coeducational setting for the past 11 years, my passion is for all-girls schools.” For a former Chapin student, it’s symmetry indeed.