Joanna Hambidge, Head of British Primary Professional Development



Degrees and Certifications:

Joanna Hambidge, Head of British Primary Professional Development

Joanna role is an outcome of realizing one of the pillars of our strategic plan to ensure our long-term commitment to the British Primary educational philosophy. She is working with faculty and staff on regular professional development, collaborating with faculty to articulate the key tenets of our philosophy and working on a multi-year project to craft a book. Stanley is devoted to nurturing British Primary teaching and learning, and Joanna's work is key to its ongoing application in our classrooms and beyond.

  • You see a person. They are a person in the distance. When we hear someone’s story, it builds life into that person. For just that moment in time, we were able to look through the window and see a part of them. —Donna Meallet, 6-7-8 advisor & physical education teacher

Living British Primary Blog

  • The Stories of Our Lives

    Posted by Joanna Hambidge on 11/11/2020

    You see a person. They are a person in the distance. When we hear someone’s story, it builds life into that person. For just that moment in time, we were able to look through the window and see a part of them. —Donna Meallet, 6-7-8 advisor & physical education teacher

    This year the faculty and staff have the option of delving into two British Primary concepts: Discovery and Identity. For our focus on identity, we started by sharing stories of our lives. As our School Librarian Allan Cutler pointed out, "We are our stories." Together, we shared stories of our names, of special objects and of important photos. We heard about spiders, angels and Vikings! (You can hear a name story from our own Head of School Sumant Bhat as told in an article that appeared in one of my favorite educational journals Teaching Tolerance.)

    Stories After sharing these stories, the faculty and staff delved into why and how we tell our stories. Their thoughts and words were so inspiring that I wanted to share several of them with you. We found ourselves exchanging ideas and surfacing a number of important themes:


    • Connection: By sharing our stories and hearing others’, we develop a sense of connection. "When you share a story about yourself, you are vulnerable. and through vulnerability, you connect with others." —Brenda Duncan, former K-1-2 teacher & teacher advisor
    • Compassion: As the receiver of the story, we have a responsibility to listen so that the storyteller will want to share again. "It is a privilege to hear others’ stories and through telling our stories we become “a community of humans.” —Valentina Reiling, 3-4-5 teacher
    • Understanding: We learn from hearing others’ stories. "We don’t live in a vacuum. My experiences are my own experiences, but we understand our own experiences better in relationship to other people’s experiences. Hearing others’ stories, helps me see connections and differences between my life and others’ lives and helps me to process my own stories — which I can’t do if I am processing only my own life experiences." —Grace Reilly, 6-7-8 advisor & science teacher"
    • Self-discovery: We learn about ourselves from sharing our own stories. "Through sharing our stories and connecting them together, we make sense of our lives and understand ourselves better." —Carolyn Hambidge, founding head of Stanley (or as one child said, “She found Stanley.”)
    • Creativity: We can construct our own stories. "We tell ourselves stories to make sense of our worlds, to deal with fear, to protect ourselves. I believe we are more than our stories. I want to give others the space and freedom to discover their authentic identities, not feel locked into stories about themselves. I’m thinking that stories can help make sense of experiences, and we can all grow through and beyond them." —Katie Russell, former K-1-2 teacher & teacher advisor
    • Generosity: At Stanley we tell stories often and in different ways. "Morning Share builds a community. The children tell a small story of what is happening in their lives — such a gift for the storyteller and class! This “share” experience is creating skills, helping them learn to tell a concise story, to look at the audience, to stand in front of the audience. Stanley children are remarkable at being brave and speaking in front of people. It all starts in kindergarten!" —Aya Schickel, K-5 Spanish teacher
    • Courage: It takes bravery to share. "Sharing our stories brings courage and bravery to us. There is a saying in Iran, “One flower can bring spring.” By seeing that flower you are also reminded that you can bloom and grow. Then another one sees it and blooms and grows. Just one starts this whole process of growth for others. When we share and listen to others, we realize that if they can do it, then I can also do it. Yes, one flower can lead the whole spring." —Mona Akbari, front desk & administrative coordinator


    Tell your own stories. This upcoming winter — in person, on Zoom, on the phone — share your stories! One of the stories I shared at the faculty and staff gathering was about how the name “Hambidge” is derived from Old English in the seventh century from Somerset in England. “Ham” means Homestead and “bidge” is an abbreviation for bridge. “The Homestead by the bridge.” I think this is a nice metaphor for our school, as our front gathering place at school is called the Hambidge Commons (after Stanley’s founding head of school).


    I hope our school is a “home” for all of us, where we feel safe to share and learn about ourselves and others. And we do have a bridge — by the dragon on the playground! The bridge has two hand-carved pillars. On top of one pillar is a flying horse and on top of the other is an eagle. Last week when I was on recess duty, a second grader was climbing up one of the carved wooden pillars of the bridge. When I pointed out the large cracks appearing on the pillars, the second grader quickly climbed down to stand on the handrails of the bridge. He rubbed his hands gently over the wings of the flying horse and said, “There must be a story…”.


    With love,

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  • Discovery in British Primary Learning

    Posted by Joanna Hambidge on 10/15/2020

    Last week as I walked across campus, a teacher arranged buckets of bubble solution and colorful pipe cleaners on the deck outside the classroom. Soon seven children immersed their hands and different shaped pipe cleaner creations into the different buckets. When I passed by again forty minutes later, I could hear sounds of excitement – WOW! Look at this!” I paused for a few minutes and watched the children.


    Bubbles One child had bent pipe cleaners into a square and was trying to make a rectangular bubble. Two boys were working on bouncing bubbles and noticing how the sunlight was reflecting on the surface. They then went on to see if they could put bubbles inside of bubbles or even objects inside of bubbles. Three children were working together to create the biggest bubble possible – twisting multiple pipe cleaners together into a huge circle, then each holding a part of the circle as they dipped it into the bubble solution. Then, ever so carefully, they orchestrated standing up in unison and running together to release the ginormous bubble. As these experiments ensued, the children occasionally smiled in my direction, but were so engaged in their discoveries that they hardly noticed me perched on the edge of their classroom deck.


    This moment of exploration reminded me of another moment I had shared this past week with faculty and staff. This year the faculty and staff have the option of deep diving into two key British Primary concepts – Discovery and Identity. The group exploring Discovery met this past week and experienced being Discoverers themselves. They each received a bag of materials – pipe cleaners, cups, yarn and beads – and explored. The end creations were all different: dachshunds, aspen trees, octopus on sandcastles, an African-American girl with beads in her hair, a windchime, a welcome sign... Faculty and staff described moments of being lost in the act of discovery and creation, moments of losing track of time, moments of the outside world disappearing. These descriptions reminded me of the children exploring bubbles with their whole beings, absorbed in their discoveries.


    While the teachers and children were exploring different materials, there were many similarities. 

    • They were absorbed in what they were doing.
    • They appreciated the time to explore and create. The children were engaged with the bubble experimentation for well over an hour! The teachers reflected on how it was nice to have the bag of materials at home and to not feel rushed as they discovered and created. 
    • They were each pursuing different interests.
    • They were demonstrating flexibility and curiosity, a willingness to experiment with the materials and ask questions “What if? What else?” 


    Eleanor Duckworth, in her article “The Having of Wonderful Ideas,” shares how in her research: “The having of wonderful ideas is the essence of intellectual development... Wonderful ideas do not spring out of nothing. They build on a foundation of other ideas... Schools and teachers can provide materials and questions in ways that suggest things to be done with them; and children, in the doing, cannot help being inventive... Familiarize children with a few phenomena in such a way as to catch their interest, to let them raise and answer their own questions, to have them realize that their ideas are significant – so that they have the interest, the ability, and the self-confidence to go on by themselves.”


    If we want our children to discover and create, we need to honor and spark their curiosity and give them the time to engage. Time to wonder. Time to observe. Time to ask questions. Time to investigate. Time to share. Time to create. I am grateful that in the classrooms and in the outside spaces at Stanley, I so often observe children, and teachers, absorbed in the process of discovery and creation.


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  • Where does Stanley’s joy come from?

    Posted by Joanna Hambidge on 9/17/2020

    In my thirty years of working at Stanley, I have never experienced the joy that emanated from our campus at the beginning of this school year! Last week while a cohort of sixteen sixth graders ate a socially distanced lunch together in the middle of the Witter field, a hum of jovial banter and laughter mixed with the now-fresh Colorado air. After fifteen minutes of eating and talking, spontaneously eight of the sixth graders stood up and broke out into a dance. Most of the cohort then began singing “Sweet Caroline,” which was popular when I was in Middle School! As the cohort transitioned into playing football, they continued to sing “Sweet Caroline” throughout the duration of recess.


    Joy Our school’s vision statement reads, “We envision a community of joyful, lifelong learners prepared to make a positive difference in the world.” Why is the word joy in the first sentence describing what is important at our school? K-1-2 teacher Julie Miles shared with me that joy is why she chose Stanley for her children and joy is why she chooses to work at the school. Throughout the years, as visitors move through our classrooms and hallways, they often remark that there is a positive energy, that the children seem happy, and that people are smiling. I do know that it is not always this way! I have experienced tears on the playground! But what is joy? Where does joy come from? Can we do anything to spread joy?


    At our August retreat before school started, the faculty and staff focused on joy and shared what brings each of us joy. I shared that loving my children, walking through meadows with wildflowers, singing and creating classrooms where children love learning are some of the things that bring me joy. Pause for a minute… What brings you joy?


    Stanley faculty and staff discovered that although what brings each of us joy is different, there are common themes. We decided that we experience joy when we connect to what is meaningful, when we engage with our passions and interests, when we love/care for others, when we immerse ourselves in nature, meaningful places and experiences. We also realized that we can have agency, that we can facilitate and support ourselves and others to experience joy. Here are some of our ideas for creating joy at our school and in our lives:

    • Bring our authentic selves. Be brave. Share our passions. Be open-minded.
    • Build intentional relationships. Listen. Connect. Joy in being heard! And loved! Take the moments with each person. Ask people, “What brings you joy?” We are all unique.
    • Emphasize community. Take time for connections. Collaborate and play games.
    • Provide opportunities for pursuing interests and passions. Differentiate. Joy looks different for different people. Give Choice. Play music. Dance and move. Be outside!
    • Explore and Discover. Wonder. Play. Honor Curiosity. Provide new experiences. What will they discover? Discovery on their own time!
    • Take time. Slow down. Get lost in the moment. Flow of time disappears!
    • Provide space and time for creativity. Engage. Realize visions. Gain confidence. Feel successful.
    • Find joy in the little moments. Be Mindful. Be positive. Joy of here and now!


    While I watched the sixth graders at lunch and recess, I knew they were experiencing joy. They were expressing themselves through dancing and singing; they were connecting to each other and feeling part of a community; they were getting lost in the moment; they were reveling in being outside in the Colorado sunshine after two days of rain and snow. At Stanley we believe in the importance of recess and all that goes into making a joyful community in which to learn and grow. Maya Angelou writes, “We need joy as we need air. We need love as we need water. We need each other as we need the earth we share.” May you experience joy, love and connection this fall, and all year.


    With love,

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