Jillian Whatley is mom to first-grader Kanuri and a school psychologist. She talked to us about why she chose TCS for Kanuri.
Why did you choose TCS?
Originally, I heard about TCS when I was a psychologist in Gwinnett County, and I worked with (TCS counselor) Natalie’s mom. She said, “Jill you have got to go see this little school in Midtown. It is everything that you always talk about to the parents in public education and what your ideal school would be.”
We came and did the tour, and once we came on the campus, it just resonated. Nishant said to me (at an application event): ‘I want the children and the staff to show up as their authentic selves.” That just stuck with me because I’m a psychologist and also I have a doctorate in leadership so I’ve seen (children and adults) who can’t show up as their authentic selves, so when he said that I said, “okay, that’s what I want for my child.” That authentic piece stuck with me.
Then, just understanding the anti-bias curriculum – my research is in bias, so that resonated with me – plus the two-teacher model and the project-based learning. There were just so many factors, but then just coming on campus and looking at it. This is (my daughter). You know, sometimes we try to take the kid and put the kid in the school, and I always want to make sure I lead with who she is as a person and keep that at the forefront of my decisions for her. You only get one shot at being a parent and so I’m trying to do this work.
She’s told me that she loves her school and that means a lot because I’ve met with kids who don’t. I mean in my work, I just don’t see that.
What core values do you have in your family and how do those align with TCS values?
I really value the social-emotional learning. I have a business where I help parents, and I have a quote that talks about if you don’t cater to the emotional IQ of a child – I don’t care how much academic support you give them – you’re going to lose that kid. What you see is society telling kids to grow up. Kids are so intelligent and smart, but they don’t know how to cope. They don’t know how to make a friend. They all end up in my office because they can’t get along with anyone. I’ve worked with some pretty antisocial kids who have done some egregious things. When I had my own kid, I did change as a psychologist – my whole philosophy about children, raising children, being a mom – it changed and I became more hyper-focused on the social-emotional development of a kid. (The social-emotional learning) pieces together so you can load academics and you can load all of those other pieces on top.
And so when I found that (TCS) is already doing that, it blew me away. No one else is doing it. When I say that authentic self piece, you all got that down pat! I love this school. And I think what you guys are doing can only get better. (TCS) is setting the bar.
What do you hope your daughter gains from being at TCS?
I see her as a social-justice-kind of kid. She’s all about being fair, and she doesn’t like to see when people get mistreated. That’s who she is, and I just think TCS has given her words for it or helped her feel safe and be her authentic self.
In five or ten years, I would love to see her as a caring teenager – someone who definitely continues to give back to her community. Someone who knows how to love herself. And, I want to see her grow more in her leadership skills. She is a leader, I am convinced of that. I would like to see her become more involved in student government, more involved in advocacy, just developing into a great person.
I want her to always know that God has placed her in this world to always give back to others. I want her to have confidence because she says mommy has confidence and she has confidence, but I don’t want her to feel like she’s better than any person. I’m a human being first. See my humanness first, see my heart first, and then we can get to all the other stuff. I just want her to be a healthy middle schooler who is articulate and just about her business. She’s around some great people here.