Michael Ebeling knew after his first visit that Summit was the perfect fit. “I called my wife and told her I couldn’t believe the way a junior high student held the door for me and looked me directly in the eye,” says Michael. “The School has created an atmosphere that gives students the license to relate to the adults and feel safe and respected. That is something profound.”
For the past eight years, Michael has served as Head of the Lower School at the prestigious Mary Institute & St. Louis Country Day School, known as MICDS. Mary Institute, founded in 1859, was the first girls’ school established west of the Appalachians. In 1992, Mary Institute merged with St. Louis Country Day creating a co-ed, JrK-12 school which enrolls 1225 students on a 100-acre campus. “Twenty years ago, I was introduced to the wonderfully compelling life of the independent school—a life filled with opportunities that require members to match their emerging skills with evolving challenges; a world of life-long learners,” says Michael. “I was hooked.”
Among his extensive duties as Head of grades JrK-4, Michael oversees the operation of the Lower School, attends to the day-to-day business of student support and is responsible for faculty development, assessment and hiring. His supervisory duties include curriculum design and implementation, program development, budget management and parent education. As a member of the Administrative Team, Michael has worked closely with the head of school, division heads, the directors of finance, development, marketing, faculty development, technology, admission and the athletic director. He has also worked on the development of a school-wide marketing plan.
Since 2006, Michael has also served as Director of Teaching and Learning at MICDS. The Teaching and Learning Committee, which he chairs, includes learning specialists, department chairs and academic leaders throughout the school. Michael was charged with creating an infrastructure and processes for refining teaching practices and enhancing student learning by translating current learning theory into best practice. An annual “Teaching for Understanding” virtual conference, which he established, features nationally and internationally recognized researchers for the purpose of supporting MICDS faculty and other local and national colleagues.
Being a team player and collaborator comes naturally to a man who grew up in a St. Louis family of twelve. As the sixth of ten children, Michael understands the benefits of cooperation. “We instinctively took care of each other,” he says of himself and his siblings who remain close. At the beginning of his recent address on “Learning and Teaching in the 21st Century,” Michael projected a childhood photo of his brothers and sisters. He introduced each one and commented that looking at the family photo always keeps him grounded.
After graduating high school from a local Jesuit school, Michael headed to Lake Forest College in Illinois upon the recommendation of a school counselor. At 18 years old it was heady business to be Michael instead of one of the ten Ebeling kids. “It was the first time people dealt with me as an individual,” he says. An English and education major, he spent summers working on campus, enjoying his newfound freedom. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1983 as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. His first teaching job was at Lake Ridge Academy in Cleveland, and it was trial by fire. He taught math, science, social studies, language arts and reading to 13 fourth graders in a self-contained classroom.
The next year he decided to join several of his brothers who were living in San Francisco and took a job teaching 6-8th grade language arts and social studies. While there, a former college professor contacted Michael about a teaching opening at Lake Forest Country Day School outside Chicago. It was an auspicious beginning as he met his future wife Liz at his first faculty meeting. The couple recently celebrated their 20th anniversary.
Michael completed an M.A. in English and a Ph.D. in English Education at the University of Virginia where, among other honors, he was presented The Richard Meade Award for Excellence in English Education. While in graduate school he served as Associate Director of the UVA Writer’s Workshop where he collaborated in the hiring of professional writers, poets and playwrights who came to campus.
Afterwards, he considered a career in university research focusing on the teaching of reading and writing. Instead, he decided to accept the position of Head of Middle School at Lake Ridge Academy where he began his teaching career nearly a decade earlier. He held that position for eight years until he went to MICDS.
Michael developed an early fascination with classroom dynamics and the way students learn. “Louise Futrell understood that from the beginning and it is one of the things that drew me to this school,” he says. Michael has found Charlie Lovett’s book “Onward and Upward- A History of Summit School” to be an invaluable reference. “I have never seen a place so deeply embrace its history, and yet, not be limited by it,” he says.
Summit is thrilled to welcome the Ebeling family which includes Liz, a reading specialist, and two daughters–Mollie, a rising Summit sixth grader plays soccer and basketball and Carolyn, who will join the ninth grade Class of 2009, plays tennis, volleyball and soccer. Both girls enjoy playing piano. The Ebelings spend lots of time outdoors together and look forward to exploring the mountains and coast of N.C. Michael is an avid runner logging an average of five miles a day. He says he uses the time to clear his mind and process the day.
“Can you imagine a more exciting or challenging time to be involved in learning and teaching?” said Michael when he recently spoke at Summit. “A host of complex issues (ranging from the changing roles of technology in our lives to the way cognitive neuroscience is reshaping our notions of intelligence) are recasting how we envision the roles and responsibilities of teachers and students… One thing is clear: As lifelong learners in the 21st century we have the opportunity and responsibility to become part of a larger conversation. Make no mistake, as educators, as parents, we are part of something much larger than ourselves.”
During a recent campus visit, Michael excitedly described a meeting he had with the School’s technology team—“They used the word ‘passion’ five times. It was obvious they are here for the right reasons. Love for this place is an intensively cognitive thing. They talked as much about things of the heart as the science of technology.”
Perched on the edge of his seat it was clear Michael couldn’t wait to get started on the exciting journey ahead. He left no doubt that under his leadership Summit is poised for great things to come. -Barbara Long