PHOTO by TARA BROUCQSAULT
As the school year comes to a close, students are reminded of the upcoming departure of the beloved Hereford family. Head of School Rob Hereford and his wife, biology teacher Amanda Whalen, and their two children, John and Jojo, have been completely immersed in our community for the past seven years.
Everyone has felt their presence here; whether you had a biology lesson with Ms. Whalen or learned from Mr. Hereford’s leadership, you most certainly felt the couple’s compassion, kindness and generosity. Junior Sofia Anderson reflects on her time in freshman year biology, “Although I do not consider myself a science person, Ms. Whalen did an amazing job of making each chapter engaging for the whole class.”
Whalen herself describes her time at Laguna as an opportunity to teach high-school biology creatively. She has done this by developing projects, collaborative units, and the interdisciplinary aspect of freshman year by working alongside English teacher Ashley Tidey, and history teacher Kevin Guay; Whalen embarked on ventures such as the Downtown Los Angeles trip and the Monterey trip, to immerse her students in the material, and in her words, “help [students] develop skills and not just learn biology.”
Whalen cites this “freedom” in the curriculum as one of the defining aspects of her Laguna experience, allowing her to explore “what it means to be a teacher.”
Science Department Chair Staci Richard worked alongside Whalen in the STEM department over the past few years. “Ms. Whalen and I are definitely kindred spirits. I couldn’t have imagined handing over 9th-grade Biology to anyone else,” Richard said. “She cares deeply about her students and their well-being and their need for choice and investment in their learning.”
Division Heads Melissa Alkire, Upper School, and Shane Lopes, Middle School, work alongside Hereford to lead the community, something essential during this unprecedented school year. “I really appreciate how [Rob] just accepts individuals for who they are and what they are going through,” Lopes said. He is never “too busy to sit down and have a conversation and listen to someone,” Lopes proceeds, a leadership quality that he admires and applies to his own position.
“He gives people permission not to be overwhelmed, but if
they have to, he is there to support them.”
“Working with Rob as been magic,” and “getting to know [the family] has been a gift,” Alkire said. “[Mr. Hereford] has been a truly unique person in this experience for me,” she followed. In the 11 months she has worked alongside Hereford, and she describes learning how to become “incredibly patient” and take moments to step back, take a breath, assess a situation and make a thoughtful decision.
The Laguna community comes together for the bittersweet farewell of the Hereford Family and reflects on the impact the family left on the community.
Tina Braniff, Middle, and Upper School Assistant shares a similar sentiment saying that she admires Hereford’s “wise and thoughtful leadership” and his ability to “see things logically and problem solve with a level head.”
Jessica Tyler, the Executive Assistant to the Head of School and Board of Trustees, works closely with the Herefords. “Mr. Hereford has always been a great leader, listener and always envisioned the greatest for Laguna. I have learned a great deal, much more than I can communicate or put into words. From Ms. Whalen I learned how important it is to connect with Faculty/Staff in different ways and form relationships with the Laguna community.
“From Mr. Hereford, I learned how to juggle the many different aspects of my job and the day-to-day schedule of what it takes to be a Head of School. I have appreciated Rob’s patience and support along the way,” Tyler said.
Hereford is going to Metairie Park Country Day School as the 10th Head of School. His tenure will begin on July 1.