(L-R) Mrs. Conroy and Ms. Merritt are excited about their positive relationships with their students and becoming part of the community. Photo: Jill Rawls

As the Pace upper school students adjust to the school year, an influx of new teachers begins adapting to a new environment as well. Among these new teachers are two assets to the English department: 10th grade teacher Hayley Conroy and ninth grade teacher Selby Merritt. Both Mrs. Conroy and Ms. Merritt settle into Pace after previously teaching at public schools.

Mrs. Conroy was initially unsure whether or not she was comfortable making the switch to being an independent school teacher, but when she came to Pace she “was immediately blown away by the friendliness and openness of the students and the teachers.” Mrs. Conroy earned her bachelor’s degree in literature from the University of Maryland and her master’s degree in teaching from Georgia State University before she began teaching English at Northview High School.

Coming from a public school and grading about 160 essays every two weeks, Mrs. Conroy felt that due to the overwhelming volume of papers to review, she couldn’t give her students all the feedback they needed. “I knew that having fewer students and more time to think about what I wanted to give them to help them with their writing was what I needed,” said Mrs. Conroy.

Along with teaching both CP and Honors English classes to sophomores, Mrs. Conroy teaches a creative writing class. This year marks her first time teaching such a class, but she majored in creative writing in college. “[Teaching it] is basically my dream come true… because it’s my first love,” said Mrs. Conroy. Her students are loving this class as well. “I really enjoy reading and writing stories in the class because it allows me to let my creativity flow,” said senior Leah Jones.

In addition to writing, especially fiction, Mrs. Conroy enjoys singing in the Atlanta Master Chorale. She wants her students to leave her class possessing a greater admiration for language. “I hope that [my students] come away from my class with at least one book that they really love that kind of helps build a foundation of who they are,” she said.

Ms. Merritt, a native Atlantan and a lifer at Lovett, graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Georgia and then attended Georgia State University to earn a Master of Arts degree. At UGA she served as captain of the National Champion Equestrian Team in 2014, and she still enjoys visiting the team and riding on the side.

Ms. Merrit has taught students in three big transition years. She started out teaching seniors at Grady High School, then taught sixth graders at Dickerson Middle School, and now teaches freshman English classes at Pace. Although she teaches different subject matter, she feels there are many similarities because she is helping “coach these kids through transitions.” However, while in previous years she has had as many as 155 students, now she has about 55. “I’m excited to get close to my students,” said Ms. Merritt. “[I] have the option and the ability to really get to know them and also get to watch them as they go through the rest of their high school career and on to college.”

Ms. Merrit has always been interested in teaching in an independent school, but she was particularly interested in Pace. “I love the freedom [Pace] allows both its teachers and students to really learn,” said Ms. Merritt. “You’re not teaching to a test and you’re not teaching how to perform on standardized tests; you’re really just teaching the process of how to become an educated adult and really apply your writing to real world scenarios.”

Ms. Merrit has been very impressed by her students so far. “[They have an] interest in not only the subject matter and being successful but really connecting with their teachers,” she said. “They see our relationship as more of an investment instead of just a… [class] with an expiration date in May.” Likewise, her students have been impressed by her class. “I always look forward to her class,” said freshman Dylan Baker. “She’s always helpful and open to everyone’s ideas… [and she] always invites us into a class conversation without it being uncomfortable or awkward.”