A Leader in Learning

Grauer is the academic engine at Pomfret.

The Grauer Family Institute for Excellence and Innovation in Education is a thought leader on a range of educational issues. Though our school is more than a century old, we embrace a vision for curricular change associated with some of the newest and most innovative schools in the country.


Chapter 1: Bold Programmatic Disruption » 2014–2018

About five years ago, the Pomfret School leadership team recognized the need for bold shifts to its pedagogical philosophy. In a rapidly changing world, the teaching and learning practices from previous generations would no longer be as effective in preparing young adults to become leaders of the future. No matter how fundamentally sound this hallowed institution was, senior leadership felt a sense of urgency to change—to meet the needs of a new generation of students.

After a period of introspection, in 2013 school leadership established an ambitious goal: to permanently endow a position that would be at the center of a major cultural and pedagogical shift. This shift was not simply about what happened in the classroom, but more broadly about the overall learning arc for each and every student while at Pomfret.

Framed this way, the Grauer Institute was designed to help reimagine teaching and learning in its broadest sense, through global learning experiences, student-directed learning, robust faculty professional development, new co-curricular programs, and certificate programs to name just a few. At its core, the Grauer Institute is about connecting the strategic vision of the school to effect critical change in the lives of students and their teachers. The first director of the institute started that important task of making Pomfret’s vision a reality. Initiatives that began or were expanded during this time include:

    • Project: Pomfret, a 10-day design thinking and project-based learning program that encourages students and faculty to create unique and untethered learning experiences.
    • Participation in Project Zero, the internationally acclaimed professional development program sponsored by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education
    • The Helios Project, an on-campus active research program embedded in an aquaponics greenhouse that Pomfret students built and continue to manage
    • Development of distinctive and intentionally designed courses including humanities classes in the 9th and 10th grade; a 10th grade Global and Sustainable Development course; a new 9th grade Science: Engineering by Design course; and a 9th grade arts immersion program
    • A redesign of classroom learning spaces throughout campus
    • The introduction of long-block scheduling

The launching of the Grauer Institute demonstrated that Pomfret has an appetite for innovation and curricular change. To this end, the first phase was a huge success in helping reset the trajectory of the teaching and learning program. The first director served not only as a thought leader to help faculty imagine new possibilities, but also as a conduit to contemporary research and external resources. The first four years gave teachers, administrators, students, and trustees invaluable firsthand experience with institutional transformation at a large scale and placed Pomfret at the forefront of school change.

Chapter 2: Sustaining Long Term Innovation » 2018 –

School change is never easy, particularly when it involves questioning established principles and longstanding cultural norms. Today we find a school community that understands itself better than it did before, having been through some challenging and pivotal moments of change. In particular, Grauer must continue to find a way to propose bold initiatives. The key will be to establish strong partnerships with academic administrators and department heads, and develop authentic relationships with members of the faculty, all of whom are deeply passionate about designing the best learning outcomes for Pomfret’s highly motivated student body, which hails from seventeen different countries throughout the world.

After four years of significant curricular change, the school intentionally approached this 2018-2019 year as an opportunity to pause and reflect—to consolidate even as it implements new initiatives that were under construction last year. This year, the institute is under the interim leadership of the former director of studies. In July 2019 he will transition to the full-time dean of academics—overseeing daily academic operations and serving as a major thought partner and strategic collaborator for the next director of the Grauer Institute.

The presence of a long-tenured and highly respected dean of academics will allow the next Grauer Institute director to focus more on curricular strategy, and less on operational issues. The head of school, the dean of academics, and the other four members of a highly cohesive and talented leadership team will be ready to support and partner with a bold innovator who possesses strong change management skills in the complex arena of independent school education.

Created through a generous gift from former Board Chair Peter Grauer and his wife Laurie, the Grauer Institute is an internal think tank that has positioned the school as a leader on a range of educational issues. In particular, the institute makes significant resources available for faculty to experiment with emerging teaching methods and pursue ongoing professional development so that they may design and deliver innovative programs in and out of the classroom.

For the last five years, Pomfret has worked diligently to define and implement a modern learning environment—one that is student-centered and attuned to contemporary teaching and learning research—while continuing to honor the best of our rich heritage. Going forward, we are dedicated to preparing our graduates for success in a world that will be measured by the need for creative, collaborative solutions to global challenges.

Career Opportunity

Pomfret is hiring for a senior academic leader reporting to the Head of School. The Director of the Grauer Institute for Excellence and Innovation oversees ongoing strategic innovation to the teaching and learning program. In partnership with the Head of School and Dean of Academics, the director is in charge of faculty professional development and helps to design, develop, and assess innovative student learning experiences. Learn More

Donald Gibbs

Donald Gibbs

Dean of Academics, Interim Director of the Grauer Institute
The son of a Griffin ('65), Don joined the Pomfret faculty in 2001. Before becoming the head of academics, he was the Director of Studies and Institutional Assessment. During his long and distinguished tenure at Pomfret, Don has also served as the Ben Morgan '53 Endowed Chair in Science and was the self-study coordinator for Pomfret's ten-year accreditation.