Q&A with...Katherine Dinh
Head of School Katherine Dinh chats with parents

Katherine Dinh began her tenure as MCDS's ninth Head of School on July 1, 2019. Since then, she's been focused on meeting as many members of the MCDS community as possible and, in her words, "learning their stories."  In this Q & A for The Kite, Katherine shares insights from her first several months at MCDS and a little bit of her own story as well. 

What were you most looking forward to this year — your first at MCDS?
Meeting everyone! To thrive in any community, people have to feel connected, and that's true for me, too. I started last summer by meeting individually with every member of the faculty and staff to learn their stories and gather their insights on MCDS. Then as the kids arrived, I created opportunities to learn their names and spend time interacting directly with them. Each day I have joyful moments of connection with members of the MCDS community, and it deepens my appreciation for this dynamic and vibrant place. 

It's amazing how thoughtful and skilled the teachers are. Even though each teacher is different, they all know how to connect with students in a way that's engaging, challenging, and fun.

What are some of your impressions from your many classroom visits? 
It's amazing how thoughtful and skilled the teachers are. Even though each teacher is different, they all know how to connect with students in a way that's engaging, challenging, and fun. 

I'm also so impressed by what I observe from the students. They are eager--sometimes even fired up--to learn and work with one another. Every class I've visited has offered me insight into the well-rounded, academically challenging, collaborative learning environment that our teachers create for students. 

How do you view your role as Head of School?  What are some of the challenges? The joys?
It’s the best job I could ever have dreamed of doing. I knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to work with children, so teaching was my first love. As a teacher, I also wanted to make impact on a larger scale beyond my classroom--whether it was to work across disciplines or to be on committees to coordinate or lead academic, diversity, or environmental sustainability initiatives. 

Being Head of School allows me to still be surrounded by teachers, whom I respect deeply, while also leading and evolving the school as a whole. It’s a complicated and challenging job that requires knowing and balancing the needs of all different groups, while keeping the organization healthy and vibrant for the long term. I also find the work incredibly joyful too, because ultimately it’s about doing what's best for children and ensuring that we’re giving them the tools to thrive beyond MCDS. So anytime I am working on something especially challenging, I remind myself that I’m lucky to do such meaningful work that supports children and the future of our world.

What do you value most and/or find inspiring about school communities? 
I'm inspired when everyone believes in the purpose of our work, and we actively move towards that shared vision. At MCDS, that vision, which is written in our Mission Statement, is to "create an inclusive community of learning that inspires curiosity, empathy, and action." This mission guides everything we do, and it feels great to know that we are all working to live our mission daily. 

Truly, my most joyful moments are the ones I spend with students. 

What can you share from your interactions with MCDS students? 
I have visited classrooms, been on class trips, played during PE, and had countless informal chats with students on campus. It's all so fun for me. What I do most consistently is to reserve my lunch period so that I can eat with students nearly every day. It's one of the best ways I can make individual connections with them. For the first several weeks, the kindergartners kept thinking I was someone's mom, because they couldn't figure out who or what the Head of School is. Now they say hello to me and invite me to visit them in their classrooms. 

I also have lunch with 8th grade advisory groups, and I’m gathering their insights on their time at MCDS. Those are wonderful conversations and super useful to me as a new person! I have sat down at lunch with students from all grades, and what I appreciate most is not only how much I learn from them, but also how welcoming and open they are to chatting with me. Truly, my most joyful moments are the ones I spend with students. 

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
At MCDS, a perfect day would be one in which I could have a combination of learning, playing, connecting with people, and quiet time. I like problem-solving with adults, playing with children, having lighthearted or deep conversations with students and adults. I also need a little bit of time each day to catch my breath, read, or write down my thoughts. I'm kind of a quiet extrovert, if that’s a thing. I get energy by being with people; however, I need some space to process and think as well.

Head of School Katherine Dinh joins the sack race at Kite Day

Who are your heroes in real life and why?
My mother is a real life hero to me. She had to make the difficult decision to leave Vietnam with her six children, without being able to consult with my father, who at the time was a political prisoner in Saigon. We left in 1975, and started a new life in the U.S. My father was released and was able to make his way to us a few months after we arrived in this country. He is also one of my heroes. Through their sacrifices, hard work, and commitment to building a tight family structure, my parents taught me all of the most important lessons in life. We did not have much, but they prioritized our education, sending me and my five siblings to university, and encouraging us to find our passions. My resilience, work ethic, and deep sense of gratitude come from my parents' role modeling, and I'm indebted to the love and support they’ve given me.

What talent would you most like to have?
I’d like to be able to play classical piano--Beethoven’s sonatas in particular. And I wish I could cook. 

Anything else you'd like to share?
Learning is a life-long endeavor for me. So to arrive at MCDS and have to learn everyone’s names, the curriculum, and culture, has been very stimulating. I'm loving it! I have been so happy here, and I am grateful to everyone in the community for welcoming me and making me feel right at home.