Welcome from the Head of School
August 11, 2022
To the Prep Community:
This summer, I hope everyone has found time to rest, connect with family and friends, and find a little adventure! We look forward to welcoming you back to campus in just a few short weeks. To all our students and families joining Prep for the first time, welcome! For all our returning families, we have missed you! In addition to our new students and families, we will also welcome new faces to our faculty and staff, and I encourage you to get to know them by visiting our School Directory. Please greet them with a big Prep hello (or wolf howl) when you see them!
Over the summer, we have been busy preparing for your return—deep cleaning and painting classrooms, implementing upgrades to our technology infrastructure and cybersecurity, adding landscaping that is both beautiful and drought tolerant, and most importantly, engaging as educators in reflection and professional development so that we may continue to learn and grow along with you, embracing our mission of lifelong learning.
Curiosity is at the heart of a Prep education, driving us to ask big questions, dig deep, engage with new perspectives, and connect respectfully, honestly, and empathetically with other learners on our shared journey. This coming year, our school initiatives in STEAM, Global Studies, and Leadership will continue to bring new, interdisciplinary learning and opportunities for our students, including independent research projects, global travel and guest speakers, creative expression and exploration in the arts, sciences, and design, and much more.
As we engage our students’ intellectual growth through exciting curricular and co-curricular programs, Prep is equally dedicated to caring for students’ wellbeing and supporting their thriving with intention, in and out of the classroom. Last year, our new Center for Student Life opened to provide expanded counseling and learning support for students. This year, we will continue our partnership with the Institute for Social and Emotional Learning (IFSEL) as we launch Prep’s first ever all-school advisory program. Grounded in our Honor Code, the advisory program will encourage students’ developing sense of self, respect for others, and understanding of our wider community.
Our student leadership programs also will grow this year from the Big 4 to the Big 5, offering new opportunities for student impact on campus and in the community. Joining Senate, SCAC (Student Community Action Council), ACL (Athletic Council on Leadership), and FLINT (Flintridge Leadership Initiative), our new organization, BRIDGE (Belonging, Respect, Inclusion, Diversity, Grounded in Equity), will bring student voice and leadership to our school’s fundamental commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging for all.
The 2022-2023 school year also promises to be exciting as we imagine the Prep of the future. This fall, we launch the self-study process to prepare for our accreditation visit by CAIS (California Association of Independent Schools) in 2024. We will seize this opportunity to listen carefully, dream big, and be curious--curious about our work, curious about our strengths and growth areas as an institution, curious about how best to live our mission to support our students’ journey to an engaged, balanced, and responsible life.
On Tuesday, August 23, we look forward to seeing you all at Book Day, the first of many joyful Prep celebrations and traditions that will connect us this year. Please mark your calendars for all of Prep’s fall rituals, including Grade Level Coffees, Back to School Night (Thursday, September 8), Outdoor Education Week (September 12-16), the Family BBQ (Thursday, September 29), and the Homecoming game (October 21) and dance (October 22), to name only a few.
While our community’s safety and health are always our foremost priority, we also understand the essential importance of learning, living, and celebrating together for student and community wellbeing. Prep is committed to following all LACDPH guidance as we navigate our third year of managing COVID-19, and we are deeply cognizant of the continued impact of the pandemic on our community. Please know that our efforts to promote belonging, build positive connections, and interact with each other and our world with care, compassion, imagination, and curiosity remain the most important mandates of all.
We look forward to a wonderful school year together!
Head of School
About Vanessa Walker-Oakes
On July 12, 2021, Flintridge Prep proudly announced that Vanessa Walker-Oakes will be Head of School. Vanessa is well-known to our community, having joined the Prep faculty in 2004 teaching World History and AP Art History. A teacher at heart, she has taught every year since. Vanessa served as Dean of the 12th Grade from 2005-2010 and was Director of College Counseling from 2010-2013. She was Co-Dean of Faculty from 2013-2015. Vanessa has been a member of the Admissions Committee since 2005 and has served as an advisor for several years in both our 7th and 9th grade Advisory Programs. She was the recipient of the Class of 1987 Award in 2008 and the Senior Class Award in 2009. In 2015, she was named Dean of Faculty. In 2020 she was promoted to Assistant Head for Student Life.
Vanessa has a BA in fine arts and history from Harvard College. She completed post-baccalaureate premedical courses at Harvard and the University of California, Los Angeles, spent a year as a research assistant at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and completed a year at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, before choosing to pursue teaching and postgraduate work in art history. Vanessa earned an MA in art history from UCLA, completed all coursework, and began writing her dissertation in the PhD program in critical theory and renaissance art history, also at UCLA.
Outside Prep, Vanessa serves on the Board of Directors of Inner-City Arts, an organization providing arts education to underserved youth in Los Angeles County. Vanessa and her husband, Dan, an orthopedic surgeon, have four sons, including two Prep alumni, Conrad ’18 and Bennett ’21, as well as current Prep students, Elliott ’25 and Theodore ’28.