Laffitte Back In


Rushing through the double doors to the Upper School on the first day of school, students chatted with friends, carried pristine new backpacks and glanced to see a new face greeting them this year: an interim assistant head of upper school.

After Assistant Head of Upper School Elizabeth Jones decided to take a year-long maternity leave, Renee Laffitte, who has been involved in the school in various roles since 2000, took the position of Interim Assistant of Head of Upper School.

When Jones informed Head of Upper School Terry Murray of her decision to take a year off, Murray knew he had to hire an interim for the 2016-2017 school year.

“I have been recruiting Mrs. Laffitte back to campus since I got here,” Murray said. “I took her out to lunch, got to know her and went, ‘Wow, this woman is amazing; how do I get her back on campus?’ It was an opportunity to get her back on campus, even temporarily.”

Prior to her interim position appointment, Laffitte has been a steadfast presence on campus. She first began her career at Hockaday in 2000, when she took a job as a Middle School history teacher. Then, in 2002, Linda Kramer was appointed Head of Middle School, and she then asked Laffitte to be her Assistant Head of Middle School.

“I knew what my part of the job would be,” Kramer said. “I needed someone for where my skills were not as strong, like the registrar and scheduling part of it. I knew that she loved that stuff, so I knew that together we would make a really good leadership team for the Middle School.”

Laffitte continued teaching two sections of seventh grade history, in addition to fulfilling the roles as the Assistant Head of Middle School. In 2010, Laffitte decide to step down from her role and stop working full-time.

According to Laffitte, she originally left to spend more time at home with her sons, who at the time were five years old and seven years old, respectively. Although she left full-time work, she continued her involvement with the school community.

“In the beginning, I mainly subbed for just Middle School, because those were the kids that I knew and that was the staff I knew,” Laffitte said. “Then I started to sub for Ms. Jessica Kramer in the Upper School office, and slowly it evolved just this past year that I sub in Upper School some.”

Not only did Laffitte teach on a day-to-day basis in both Middle School and Upper School during her 10 years as a full-time employee, but she also subbed in long-term roles for various teachers and administrators, including in 2015 for Upper School registrar Lyse Herrera during her maternity leave and in 2013 when former Middle School history teacher Bridget Cunningham underwent hip replacement surgery.

According to Linda Kramer, Laffitte has an unmatchable presence in everything she does, including in the classroom.

“She is incredibly fun, smart, energetic and a really good problem solver,” Linda Kramer said. “She is wonderful with children, and she gains her energy from children and it does not matter if they are 18 or 10.”

During her years away from classroom teaching, Laffitte tutored girls in subjects ranging from preparation for the AP World History exam to organizational skills. Sophomore Michelle Chen, whom Laffitte helped prepare for the AP World History exam last year, believes that Laffitte was essential in her effective preparation for the exam.

“She was really helpful and on top of everything. On the first day she had already come up with this plan based on my book and she looked at the units and said, ‘You have to complete this by this time,’” Chen said. “She was really organized and set this timeframe for me so that I could complete everything before the exam.”

According to Laffitte, she enjoyed her role as a substitute teacher and tutor, but she is excited for her new role and the opportunity to meet even more girls.

“Mrs. Jones wanted to stay home and Mr. Murray asked me if I was interested. I said yes, but for only one year. I would love to come back and get to work with the amazing girls, but it is hard on my family,” Laffitte said. “Knowing that Mrs. Jones was going to come back next year, it was a win-win for me.”

Through her role as Interim Assistant Head of Upper School, Laffitte has retained all of the previous roles that Jones had, including working with the Student Council.

“My favorite part since I have been back is working with all of the students, like working with Student Council and [President] Joy [Nesbitt] and [Vice President] Molly [Mahowald],” Laffitte said. “I am just so impressed by the thoughtful young women. I am working with Sara Held on Convocations and it is just dynamo.”

Chen, who also serves as the secretary of the Executive Student Council, believes that Laffitte’s personality shines through as an advocate for the students as she has worked with her on Student Council projects.

“When she was working with us on Student Council, she was also really reliable. She said she would do something and she does it immediately,” Chen said. “She is on the student’s side. Mrs. Laffitte always says that she will try to talk to the right people and try to convince them to contemplate the students’ ideas.”

Through her work with Laffitte on both Student Council and AP World History tutoring, Chen has gotten to know her and believes that she is a beneficial addition to the Upper School administrative team.

“You know those teachers where you are really comfortable with them and can tell them stuff?” Chen said. “She is one of those people.”

– Katie O’Meara – Photo and Graphics Editor –