Strong Families, Strong Daughters Blog

What Is a Fully Human Education and How Can It Help Your Daughter?

Mary T. Ortiz, Ph.D. 

As parents, you are the primary educators of your daughter with the responsibility of forming her moral personality.  For over 45 years, Oakcrest School has been working in partnership with parents to help them with this noble task.  

What guides our work is our understanding of the human person.  Why does this matter?

Oakcrest School respects the dignity of each human being and is committed to his or her personal growth and flourishing. Our educational vision is grounded in a deeply Christian understanding of what it means to be a human being and to be a woman, as revealed in Sacred Scripture and presented in the teachings of the Catholic Church. 

As we read in the Bible, beginning with the first chapter of Genesis, God has created men and women in His own image and likeness: as rational, free, and relational beings with immortal souls. He has entrusted us with the task of filling the earth and sharing in His dominion over creation, calling us to a life of work and contemplation, love and service, and ultimately to union with Himself in Christ. 

Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 357) 

At Oakcrest School we understand that a fully human education readies the student to hear this call and to respond freely, and our educational vision, with our liberal arts curriculum at the core, is especially suited for this task. Our person-centered commitment is manifest in our efforts to foster good character; in class sizes small enough to allow each student to be known, loved, and encouraged to grow; in our personal mentoring program; and in our deep appreciation for the role of parents and family in their daughter’s education. We aim to foster respect for and understanding of other human beings in our students themselves, through deliberate efforts to teach dialogue, authentic friendship, and a spirit of service. 

With our all-female faculty and decades of experience in single-sex education, we are also especially suited to help young women flourish. Of course, men and women share equally in human nature and human dignity; at the same time, they are distinct and complementary in their manner of being. St. John Paul II (Pope, 1978-2005) spoke often of the genius of women as a special capacity to be attentive to the needs of persons, in the home and in all the spheres of work and civic engagement in which they find themselves: 

The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way - precisely by reason of their femininity - and this in a particular way determines their vocation. (St. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Mulieris Dignitatem, n. 30) 

We take seriously this mission of being trustees of humanity. We aim to educate each student holistically: as a unity of body and soul, in the interrelation of intellect, will, and heart. This commitment imbues our entire school culture, inside and outside of the classroom, including co-curricular activities, the daily patterns and traditions of the school, and our approach to technology, which we view as a tool to be put at the service of learning, not as an end in itself, nor as a replacement for human relationships. 

This personal, dynamic, integral education shapes a person who can go on to recognize the beauty and depth of each person because she has first been taught to discover this about herself. When you meet a young woman like this, you wish that many more young women–every young woman–could have this education as well.

Mary T. Ortiz  holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from New York University, and a Bachelor  of Arts summa cum laude in English and German from Bowdoin College.  She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. While completing her doctorate, she taught writing and composition at NYU, and began a 15-year career of developing supplementary educational programs for girls throughout the U.S. Working collaboratively with educators and parents, she coordinated the creation and growth of programs that develop the whole person: camps, service projects, cultural and leadership programs, all of which offer spiritual formation through the Prelature of Opus Dei. Mary first joined the Oakcrest faculty as an English teacher and Assistant Head of School in 2009. She became Head of School in 2012, bringing to Oakcrest her love of literature and the humanities, and experience and commitment to the education of young women. Mary especially enjoys being part of a school with such a noble purpose shared by each of the individuals who work here. She has a deep affection for her home state of Massachusetts, and fondness for the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
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