Eaglebrook Faculty Spotlight: Nicole Lavin-Williams

Our Faculty Spotlight for March focuses on Nicole Lavin-Williams, who chairs Eaglebrook’s English Department and has been teaching on the Hill for nearly a decade. Ms. Lavin-Williams was kind enough to tell us about herself, including what inspires her, her personal hero, and the one question she always asks herself whenever she feels stuck.

Editor’s Note:  This interview was edited for length and clarity. 

Where did you go to college?

I went to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where I completed my B.A. in Journalism and a Master’s degree in education.

What do you do here at Eaglebrook?

I am the chair of the English Department, and I teach several courses along with my husband Luke, who is a faculty member and the director of athletics. 

I’m an advisor in Mayer House, and I facilitate the school’s outreach committee and our Korean Affinity Group. 

When did you join the faculty?

I came to Eaglebrook in 2014, but I had been teaching for many years before my arrival. 

What inspires you about your work here?

Oh, gosh, a lot of things. I would say the students, and the fact that there's so much autonomy. I have space to be creative and reach the goals that I want to reach with my students through the vehicle that I choose. 

I like that there's freedom to really dig into what I'm passionate about. The students feel that, and they're able to tap into that as well. So we go on this adventure together, this journey of learning, as opposed to being very top-down.

What is your best memory of your time here?

It’s not one thing; it’s an amalgamation of all of the little moments from day to day. It's supporting an advisee through a difficult time, or it’s celebrating a success with them. It’s a moment in the classroom when a student has that “Aha!” moment, or they’re learning to open up a little more, or we're sharing a laugh together. It's those touch points in the dining hall. There isn't one particular moment in time, but the snapshots that make up one big, warm memory.

What do you like most about being a teacher?

Oh, that's an easy one. It’s going on a journey with the students and going through the process of helping them understand who they are as learners, and then teaching them how to learn. The content is almost secondary to helping students realize that they can access information and develop strategies for learning. For instance, I say to my students, “You always know something – even at your most confused point – you always know something about what you’re studying.” So, we dig into that, and as they learn how to build on what they know, they build their confidence.

Where is your favorite place on campus, and why?

I do love my home here, but I would also say I love being anywhere on campus outdoors. I can roam the trails, or sit and read a book, or hang out with people by the pond. We are so, so fortunate to be in this beautiful place, and being able to enjoy the outdoors with our students is one of my favorite things.

What is your favorite thing to do on home nights?

It doesn't matter what we're doing. I just love our advisee family and being able to spend time together. We get to know the students so much better when we're on an adventure with them, or just making dinner together, or watching a movie, or playing a board game. 

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?


What's your favorite non-Eaglebrook sports team?

Leaving my children’s teams aside, the Red Sox.

Do you have a personal hero? 

Fred Rogers. Not only because I was a Fred Rogers fan when I was a child, but because everything he stood for resonates with me. I appreciate his drive to preserve the joy and wonder of childhood. A lot of my approach to working with children comes from Fred Rogers. It means treating children with dignity and respect, validating their feelings, and just listening and working with them. 

I also admired Fred Rogers for his dedication to service to others. I'm a firm believer that we are our best selves when we are helping others, and I engage in a lot of philanthropic endeavors because of how he modeled how to be a good human being.

What do you do for fun during the summer? 

I read quite a bit, and we have a lot of family time. We take vacations here and there. I spend time outside, toss the ball around with our children, and do some gardening. We also spend a lot of time with our dogs. This includes our family dogs and the various dogs that we foster for adoption or that we care for in their old age – hospice dogs. With hospice dogs, I want to spend time with them and give them the best possible life with the time they have left.

What's your favorite meal in the dining hall?

Oh, there are a lot to choose from. One thing I love is vegetarian stuffed pepper. 

What's the best advice you ever received?

I remember once, at the beginning of my teaching career, when I was training with the Responsive Classroom (RC).** I was really struggling with something – I actually can’t recall what, and my RC mentor stopped me and asked, “What is your purpose?” It’s a simple question. And it was the exact question I needed to hear to get back on track and figure out what I needed to do.

I think that question applies to just about everything. What is my purpose? Why am I here? Why am I doing what I’m doing?

You can break that question down at every level. You can start big and then focus in. What is the purpose of this unit? What is the purpose of this lesson? What is the purpose of this interaction with a student? Why am I doing what I'm doing? Why am I saying what I'm saying? How can I best support them? 

So whenever I’m feeling stuck, or confused, or overwhelmed, I just go back to “what is my purpose?” And it works.


** The responsive classroom is a student-focused teaching method that emphasizes the strong link between academic success and being aware of, and responsive to, the social-emotional learning styles of students.

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