Ask around, and you’ll hear many wonderful things about what sets Ross School apart as a world-class educational institution. From the interdisciplinary curriculum, to the diverse and creative learning opportunities, to the spirit both on and off campus, Ross provides an inspirational experience that helps young people find their passions and develop into the leaders of tomorrow.
The driving force behind this successful mix is the talented faculty and staff that teach and mentor our students. School News recently met up with Ross teachers and boarding house parents Levi Stribling and Kerrie Tinsley-Stribling to get their firsthand perspective on life “at home” at Ross.
Levi and Kerrie both joined Ross in 2013. He teaches intermediate and advanced Mandarin, and she is the ninth grade team co-leader and English teacher. They also are serving as house parents to 10 high school boarding students for a second year.
Both say the vibe in their family-style boarding house is a happy one, and they point to a core foundation of mutual trust and respect as the main reason for its success. “We have a very good relationship with the kids, and they know they can come to us for advice and support,” Levi says.
At the start of the school year, the couple met with their students, all boys in grades 10 through 12, to discuss the rules and responsibilities of the home. “It was important to be firm but reasonable, and provide freedom with realistic boundaries. They understand that order works in everyone’s best interest,” Levi says.
Both point to the little things like waiting with the students for the bus in the morning and greeting them at the door in the evenings as an important part of the mix. “We have a genuine interest in hearing about their day and make a point to always be visible in the home, even when we are not on duty. They have no question that our door is always open for them,” Kerrie says.
Of course, Kerrie and Levi also bring something special to the situation. They present a united front that helps set the tone for their home. Kerrie says that because she and her husband have a “bit of a different energy,” they balance each other out and can offer the students different perspectives.
As the only woman in a house full of young men, Kerrie plays an important role. “It’s easy to forget that many of the students are far from home. I don’t try to take the place of their parent, but I do think they appreciate a maternal touch.” For example, Kerrie’s “surprise” birthday parties are always an anticipated treat. She says they all know what’s in store for them at this point—cake, their favorite dish, and laughter—but she puts on the show anyway.
There are countless other examples of the special relationship the two share with the students, from pooling the household money together for a special dinner, to an awe-inspiring introduction to Costco, to taking the last student to leave for the spring break out to sample a new food he had never tried.
Levi and Kerrie carried this passion to educate, inspire, and spread the fun when they traveled with a group of students to Japan on a recent Field Academy trip. They enjoyed taking “family photos” at the tourist spots, including one with all dressed in full traditional garb.
Of their interaction with students’ parents, they say it varies. Some appreciate daily or regular updates and photos, and others are confident knowing their child’s well-being is a top priority on campus and at home. Whenever possible, Levi and Kerrie will go the extra mile; they’ve had the pleasure of visiting with several families at their homes in Asia.
Levi and Kerrie are gratified to be part of a system of support for students both at school and at home. “A successful, well-rounded education and home life for both house parents and Ross students and families takes effort on all fronts,” they say, “but the long-term benefits for all lead to a better life experience for everyone.”