For Carol Killebrew ’79, Head of School at Salem Academy, an all-girls school isn’t just an education. It’s a way of life.
“I honestly believe that I would not have taken the risks that I have taken had it not been for my experience as a GPS student,” she says. “My closest friends in the world are my classmates, the girls who encouraged me then and who encourage and support me now. I learned how to learn at GPS, and I learned how to love learning.”
From 1986 to 2007, Killebrew taught Latin and English at GPS. She also pursued studies beyond her teaching during the summers. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1996 and a National Endowment of Humanities Fellowship in 1999. Those recognitions took her to the American Academy in Rome and Sarah Lawrence College in New York to study.
As a teacher, she thrived on the professional development opportunities she was afforded, attending conferences for the National Coalition of Girls Schools and other workshops. “I’ve been given opportunities for leadership, finding my voice, and uncovering my talents,” Killebrew adds. “My calling has been to help others do that.”
Named a GPS Distinguished Teacher in 2002, Killebrew lent her unique voice to many pursuits beyond the classroom—as a faculty mentor and international student coordinator as well as a soccer and track coach. After teaching, Killebrew worked in GPS’s Development office as Director for Planned Giving for three years.
“I loved brainstorming, telling the school’s story and establishing the connection with alums to the current students and school,” Killebrew says. She returned to teaching English until her departure in 2014, when she left to pursue a career in administration.
Her first opportunity took her to an all-girls Catholic school in New York, The Ursuline School, where she was principal of grades six through 12. Killebrew liked the comfort and familiarity of the all-girls environment coupled with the unfamiliarity of working in a faith-based institution. She worked closely with faculty on curriculum and built her knowledge of the student body, the culture, and the school’s alums.
Just as she pushed GPS girls to expand their knowledge, Killebrew continued to grow in her own career. In the spring of 2018, she accepted the position as Head of School at Salem Academy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina—this time her new experience being an all-girls school with a boarding community.
“Through teaching and serving as an administrator, I’ve been able to grow and fail and grow again at different challenges as an individual,” Killebrew says. “Now I’m examining my skills as a leader of adults after working with young women as a teacher for so long.”
Killebrew says she thoroughly enjoyed her student experience at GPS, and the connections are still strong. She applauds her alma mater for staying on the leading edge of all-girls education.
“As I’ve become a part of other schools, I’ve noticed when I bring new ideas to the community, board, and students, they are the very concepts that GPS was already applying—from the use of facilities to commitment of teachers to the governance of the school,” Killebrew says.
There is no hesitation in Killebrew’s voice when asked: Why a girls school?
“I always tell parents: Your daughter only gets one shot at a high school education, a place to strengthen her skills and uncover her talents,” she says. “A girls’ school gives her the chance to be at a place where she can do nothing but thrive.”