“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” If there was ever an educator that embodies those famous words by Maya Angelou, it’s Alpana Chhibber.
Ms. Chhibber is a new face on The Park School’s campus, stepping into the Middle School Dean of Students role this fall. She brings a wealth of energy, creativity, empathy, and experience to the non-sectarian, independent, coeducational Pre-K–12 day school and is genuinely excited to join the administration for a wealth of reasons. First and foremost? To make connections with her students.
Born in Kenya, Ms. Chhibber emigrated with her family to the United States when she was in seventh grade. Although she enjoyed school, she found adjusting to American culture a challenge at first.
“I couldn’t understand certain things that were part of the culture of the United States. Like, bagels and cream cheese. We didn’t have bagels and cream cheese in Kenya. I had no idea what a bagel was, and a lot of kids thought that that was funny. But that was mortifying for me,” said Ms. Chhibber.
“One of my teachers heard the students chuckling and she’d asked them to stop. The next day I came to school, she had bagels and cream cheese and orange juice for all of us. She set up this wonderful breakfast, and it broke this wall for me and other students, where we were all just eating. It was the best unifier,” she said, with a big smile.
It’s that teacher’s small act of kindness that propelled Ms. Chhibber to go into education and inspires her actions every day.
“Although middle school can be awkward in so many ways, there are these really wonderful shining moments that can be brought about by the faculty. I’m hoping as an administrator now, that I can bring these similar pieces of kindness and empathy into my role as Dean of Students.”
Each day, Ms. Chhibber (affectionately referred to by some as “Chhibbs”) can be found leading advisory groups, teaching life-skills classes, conducting listening sessions, and communicating student needs with teachers. She helps students plan school events, makes connections with students and the community, and works with faculty and staff to be sure that everything that happens each day is in the students’ best interest. She takes great pride in her students, her position, and the ideals of the school.
“If you are a progressive institution, like Park, then you stand by your principles. Your education is always about the students. It’s student-focused. It’s inquisitive. It’s project-based. It’s about challenging yourself to keep doing better,” she explains. “If my office doesn’t reflect my students, if my words don’t include all of my students, if my actions don’t reflect my students, then I’m not living up to the idea of progressive education. It’s so important to have that team around you and to feel like you have a voice.”
She described Park as being a place where you can be your “authentic self,” and that “everyone’s voice is appreciated.” The actions of her seventh grade teacher years ago, have helped her to find her voice.
And now she’s helping Park students find their voices, too.
his article is part of our school partner profile series. To learn more about The Park School of Baltimore visit their profile in our independent school directory. Photography by Laura Black.