Greyhound Spotlight: Kate Dworkoski

By Lauren Goulston '94
“They know who they are.”

That’s what Kate Dworkoski, our new Director of Admissions, told her husband after her first visit to JTD’s campus on Chalon Road. A lifelong educator from a family of lifelong educators, Kate could immediately tell what makes our school so special. She recently sat down with us to reflect on her first months at JTD. An accomplished background has helped Kate hit the ground running as our Director of Admissions and a mom to two JTD students (Alexander ‘23, Theodore ‘27) of her own.
Where did you grow-up?
I grew up here in Los Angeles. My mother was in Sherman Oaks, and my father was in the Calabasas area. I'm from a family of educators. My father was the Head of School at Viewpoint for 30 years, and my stepmother was the Director of Admissions. Schools have always been a huge part of our lives. My mother is an art historian and taught art history at UCLA when I was growing up. Because my family was so intimately involved in school, it was just like another member of the family. 

What were you up to prior to JTD?
I spent 17 years at St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's, a school in New York City. I did a little bit of everything there. I taught in the classroom, I did reading groups, I did math groups. Eventually, the position of Admissions Director opened and that's where I was for the final six years. When I was at St. Hilda’s, I served on New York State Association of Independent Schools re-accreditation committees and went to grad school at Columbia University’s Teachers College for developmental psychology with an emphasis on developmental studies for educators. My focus was on 3-12 year olds and I found my place–I loved it.

What brought you to JTD?
Recruiters had reached out to me various times and my family and I had played around with the idea of moving, but I never thought I’d find a school I loved as much as St. Hilda’s. I wanted to find that dynamic where families come from lots of different kinds of backgrounds but are very connected across what they think education and the moral and ethical components of raising children should be.

At one point I had a long philosophical conversation with a recruiter about what I was looking for in a school…I don't think she realized what she was getting into! Ultimately, that conversation led me to where I am today. She reached out a little while later with the JTD position. Of course, I knew about the school from growing-up in Los Angeles, but as I began to dig-in and learn more about it, I fell deeper and deeper into this feeling of connectedness to the school. I remember after I came out here to visit, I called my husband on the way down the hill and said, "They know who they are," and I continue to feel that. We are a school that is incredibly clear about who we are and what we do well. Rose is fantastic in leading us in that unity of purpose and it connects us in a way that is incredibly unique. I think it speaks to a certain kind of educator, it speaks to a certain kind of parent, and students in this environment do incredibly well because of that clarity.

What has been the best part of the gig so far?
There are a lot of amazing parts from getting to spend time in the classrooms to meeting the families to connecting with the JTD alumni. I also love the leadership–Rose is amazing. As a faculty member myself, she doesn’t assume that because I'm an adult that I have stopped growing as a person and as an educator. She sees development as ongoing and is constantly working with the entire faculty on ways that we can continue to grow and instilling that idea that we are all lifelong learners. She expects us to continue to know what it's like to be a student, to have to learn new skills and stretch ourselves. It's humbling in a very good way and keeps me motivated. 

You're going to have lots of anxious alumni parents reading this, who are dreaming of giving their kids the same kind of experience they had at JTD. What is the one piece of advice you'd give those parents?
I completely understand where that concern comes from! It’s only natural, especially when there are transitions in leadership, like with Judy’s retirement. When Judy and I met for the first time, we discovered that so many of our views and sensibilities were the same. We worked closely together over the spring and this past summer on my transition. She remains a trusted confidant. In fact, we just met for breakfast a few weeks ago and have a sushi dinner planned next. Hopefully, for those alums who are prospective parents and might be nervous, it will reassure them that Judy and I have very similar perspectives about child development and a commitment to the school's history which includes our alumni. 

You’re a JTD parent as well!
It’s true! I have Theodore in second and Alexander in sixth grade. It’s been a big change, that's for sure. But because the community feels so similar to St. Hilda’s, that was one less piece that was different for them. Theodore is happy as a clam and Alexander is making friends and loving his classes. He's also reveling in all of the different leadership opportunities for sixth graders. The students have been so welcoming and he's feeling really good about it. It's only one year, but it's going to be a good year for him!

What do you love doing with your family?
We are, and always have been, a very active family. We enjoy outdoor activities, museums and cooking together.  There is constantly some sort of project happening in our house that involves a glue gun or something being built in the garage. Currently, the boys are finishing up a Harry Potter-themed wand holder that is enormous! Truly - it’s huge. I have no idea where it will actually be hung in the house.
We are also really excited about ski season and being closer to the mountains. The boys have been skiing since they were three years old and Alex, my 6th grader, officially surpassed me in skiing last year. 

Tell us your favorite restaurant in LA so far?
Oh, that’s a tough one! We’ve had a lot of very good meals but I’m not quite ready to commit to a favorite one. I’m also always looking for new suggestions so please, send them my way!

Tell us something about yourself that people might find surprising.
I’ve always enjoyed traveling and the process of immersing myself in a different culture. About 14 years ago, I spent the summer working alongside teachers at a school located in Tamil Nadu, a state located in southern India. We were based in a little village outside of Chengalpattu. It was one of the most incredible experiences for me both professionally and personally. I still keep in touch with several teachers in India and hope to return one day. Visitors to my office might notice a small wooden elephant sitting on my bookshelf. It’s missing part of a leg, but has traveled with me to every office I’ve had over the past 14 years. It was given to me by a student at the school in India on my last day before returning to the US.

What is your favorite book?
I'm reading a great one right now, Last Year in Havana. I’m also perpetually working through a stack of New Yorker magazines and National Geographics. One day, I aspire to finish the pile!  
With books, my taste is eclectic. We have a lot of books at home and the ones I’m most excited about at any particular moment tend to land on one shelf in our living room. Right now on that shelf is a biography of Jane Goodall, a collection of poems edited by Caroline Kennedy called, “She Walks in Beauty,” a book about the history of the Eastern Sierra mountains, a Langston Hughes anthology of poems, and books about New York. The most recent addition to that shelf is “Never Can Say Goodbye,” a series of essays about living in New York.

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The John Thomas Dye School

11414 Chalon Road
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Phone: (310) 476-2811
The John Thomas Dye School admits students of any race, color, religion, sexual orientation, or national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, or national and ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic or other school-administered programs.

Located In Los Angeles, CA, John Thomas Dye is an independent school for grades K-6. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, fine arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.