“Why Learn?” Speaker Series

Since 2015, the Upper School has opened each new school year with a faculty address that answers the question, “Why Learn?”

Faculty members from various departments –Art, English, Theater, Dance & Film, Languages, and Math –have given the talk.

We invite you to hear from some of our outstanding faculty about their perspectives on the importance of education.

Ellen Baker, Upper School History faculty member, gave her answer to the seemingly simple question, “Why Learn?” during Riverdale’s annual assembly. “We are meaning-seeking creatures on this planet. It’s what we do, and it’s what enables us to survive.” Ms. Baker explained, “Learning is like detective work, following traces left by those who came before us.”

Dr. Rachel Cox
Upper School Science and Director of Science Research

In Dr. Rachel Cox’s remarks, she said, “I teach so I can learn from my students and my colleagues,” and encouraged students to be stewards of the planet. “Only species homo sapien will be able to take care of the Earth and plan carefully for life today and for future generations,” she said, “To exercise your synapsis is to learn, and learning is hope for the future.” Watch video.

Angela Costanzo
Middle School/Upper School Visual Arts/Coordinator of Hill Sustainability

Art teacher Angela Costanzo asked, “What would happen if we didn’t learn?” She invited students to “learn how to learn” and challenged them to create a culture of hope, kindness, and agency. Watch video.

Cristián Baidal

Cristián Baidal
Upper School French and Spanish

Dr. Cristián Baidal is a native of Costa Rica who studied in French schools. His speech described the ways education improves lives. “The creation, construction, and transfer of knowledge is an act of communion that requires humility, gratitude, and generosity,” he said. “It’s also an act of love.” Watch video.

Jennie Picconi
Middle School/Upper School Math

Jennie Picconi described how she found her passion for math education through coping with setbacks. Watch video.

Kellen Blair
Middle School/Upper School Theater and Film

Kellen Blair, who was homeschooled growing up, said his unusual educational trajectory taught him that there is more than one way to tell a story. Watch video.

Shelby Stokes
Upper School English, now Dean of Faculty

Shelby Stokes argued that subversive learners who question the status quo are the ones who take ownership of their education. Watch video.