Clare Struzziery, Staff Writer
October 20, 2023
On July 1, 2023, Alison Easterling officially stepped into the role of the Head of the Upper School at Nobles. Succeeding Michael Denning, who served in the position for eight years, Easterling brings decades of experience as an educator, coach, and administrator to Nobles.
Before arriving at Nobles, Easterling worked at the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, where she taught history and coached cross country and track. When describing her early career as a teacher, Easterling said, “Every time I’ve taught I…found it intellectually stimulating. I like the relational side of it. I like the creative side of it.” Easterling chaired Lawrenceville’s History department before becoming the Assistant Dean of Faculty, the Associate Dean of Faculty in 2017, and finally, the Dean of Academics in 2021.
When Easterling first visited campus in December 2022, assembly was her first interaction with the Nobles community. The docket that day included announcements, a presentation by Lupercal on a Latin conference they had attended, a talk from Science Faculty Deb Harrison, and a performance from So You Think You Can’t Dance. “[The assembly] represented so many strengths in this whole community … I was really struck by the way that it does pull the community together,” Easterling said.
Since arriving on campus, Easterling has had the opportunity to interact with students by subbing for various history classes. “There’s a lot of collaboration in the classrooms. And [it’s] evident that [students] know how to do that, they’ve had some training and know how to collaborate effectively,” Easterling said. Of the community as a whole, Easterling said, “[Nobles] seems like a place that hopefully, most if not all students know that they’re cared for and that they have people to talk to, and I think that goes for the adults here as well. I really feel that.”
Becoming the Head of the Upper School is certainly a transition for Easterling, but it is one that she feels ready for. Lawrenceville, unlike Nobles, is primarily a seven-day boarding school. Easterling, having lived in multiple dorms during her 18 years at Lawrenceville, hopes to continue involvement with boarding students. “I like being involved in the boarding side of things because it’s something that I spent so long doing and feels very natural to me,” she said.
(Photo Credit: Zack Mittelstadt)
Easterling is eager to hear from a wide range of students about their experiences at Nobles. “I want to understand what Nobles is like for you, for your best friend, for your classmate who you don’t know as well, [and] for your teachers,” she said. The beginning of her time in this position has been marked by a search for an understanding of the Nobles community. Easterling has joined the Nobles Feminist Coalition, Imani, and the Pickleball Club, and she also aspires to go on an Outing Club trip sometime this year. She hopes to use this information to inform her actions as an administrator. “In my role as an administrator…[I] try to…simplify things for students and faculty where I can so they can do their good work at Nobles,” she said.
When discussing the challenges Nobles is currently facing, Easterling identified two clear issues that she hopes to work through: specialization and the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). “Specialization in general can be a challenge for a school like ours,” Easterling said. In addition, Easterling spoke of AI’s unknown capabilities and effect on schools everywhere. She characterized the unknown of AI by saying, “it’s an invitation…even a prerogative to all of us to stay curious.”
Finally, Easterling recognizes the contributions of her predecessors while looking toward her goals for the future, saying, “I’m just very aware that I’m following in some big footsteps and [want] to continue the really good work that they’ve done. And then find ways to put my own stamp on it.”