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Dr. Louise Dunn takes over as head of St. Ed’s lower school

STORY BY STEPHANIE LABAFF (Week of August 5, 2021)
Portrait of Dr. Louise Dunn, the new head of the Lower School at Saint Edward's.

The influx of new leadership at Saint Edward’s continues as the school welcomes Dr. Louise Dunn as head of the Lower School at the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year.

Dunn will be the latest new face on campus assuming her position just a year after Stuart Hirstein took over as head of school. The leader of the Upper School, Jack MacMullan, arrived two years earlier.

Dunn replaces former Head of Lower School Barbara Mohler, who retired after 39 years’ service with a final clapping of the chalkboard erasers.

A graduate of Norwich University in Vermont, Dunn holds a master’s degree in education from Endicott College in Massachusetts and a doctorate in education from Northeastern University in Boston.

Her adventurous spirit took her to the Middle East, where she met her husband, Jerry, and his work as an airline pilot after leaving the U.S. Air Force took them to Norway, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Dubai before their return to the U.S. 

While living overseas, she worked as an educator in the American schools her sons attended. In addition to her years as a classroom teacher, Dunn was the vice-principal of the lower school at Gems American Academy in Abu Dhabi.

For the past four years, Dunn has served as lower school director at the University School of Jackson in Tennessee.

Throughout all her travels, the one thing that remained constant was the children – “Kids are little sponges, and they just bring so much joy,” says Dunn. “Teaching is the one thing that I’ve ever done that makes me happy every day.”

Dunn knows she has big shoes to fill. “Ms. Barbara led this school with great love and great compassion. Hopefully, we can take her legacy and build on it. You just stand on the shoulders of the people that came before you. You are a guardian of the space, and your job is to protect it and then hand it off.”

Dunn says one thing that attracted her to St. Ed’s is the school’s approach to learning through immersive, hands-on activities.

When children leave the lower school, Dunn wants them to be independent, “to have a sense of their own worth, to feel valued. I want them to know that they have a voice, and they matter. That’s our job. To make sure that the students all feel that they contribute.”

Hirstein knows what Dunn brings to the table firsthand.

“I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Dunn at the University School of Jackson in Tennessee, where she was the head of lower school. She is a curricular expert who has experience improving programs while investing in professional development for her faculty. She is a lifelong learner who stays abreast of best practices in pedagogy, brain research, teaching and learning. I am excited to partner with her as we enter a new era at Saint Edward’s School.”