Meet Liz Perry, Head of Upper School at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan. She lives in Greenwich with husband Maxwell Grant, Senior Minister at Second Congregational Church, and their two girls. Liz shares her favorite parts about being a high school principal and the lessons learned while leading and teaching during a crisis. Be sure to read about her hidden talents too, which include climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania!
How many kids do you have, and what are their ages?
Grace, age 12; Emily, age 9
When did you move to Greenwich and what led you to settle there?
Our family moved to Greenwich in 2012. We moved here when my husband, Maxwell Grant, became the Senior Minister at Second Congregational Church. We live in the parsonage on the church campus and have loved this community.
What are your favorite family activities in the area?
We go to Tod’s Point year-round. In the summer, we go to the beach, and the rest of the year we walk there on the trails. Our corgi Oliver loves the off-season there! One of our favorite things is to bring a weeknight picnic to the beach in the summer around 5pm and swim and eat dinner until sunset. We also do a lot of activities in Greenwich with our church, especially community service as a family.
What is your role at St. Luke’s School, and how long have you been there?
I am the Head of Upper School, and this is my eighth year at St. Luke’s.
What is the best part of your job?
Being a high school principal is a wonderful job. The best part is watching students grow and transform over time. One of my favorite days at St. Luke’s is the Blues Band concert, an annual event where students and teachers get on stage in our performing arts center and sing their hearts out. Whether it’s rock, pop, blues or hip hop, I love hearing their voices. Every year, I marvel at the stage presence and confidence of the students, especially those who may have found their voice—and not just their singing voice!—during their time at St. Luke’s. Hearing how the older students cheer for even our youngest singers (5th grade) makes me so proud of our community. It’s also pretty wonderful that my daughter Grace has been with me at St. Luke’s since 5th grade (she’s now in 6th grade). We have an outstanding Middle School and I’m confident Grace will be ready for Upper School when the time comes (and I know it will come too fast!).
What have you learned this past year—teaching and leading through a crisis?
They say you really see the strength of your team in a crisis, and this pandemic has left me in awe of our team—the faculty and staff at St. Luke’s. Their dedication and creativity over the last year have blown me away. From our conversations about student support to racial equity to incorporating new technology to mental health, our teachers put students first. Teachers have needed to reimagine every piece of curriculum, and that has led to some changes that I think will stick.
One example is how our math department has incorporated consistent review of past material into every test to ensure that students are constantly revisiting past learning. The pandemic forces choices, and we are choosing to spend time solidifying students’ understanding of key math concepts. Another example is how many teachers are including reflection in their classes, asking students to look back and then set goals for themselves going forward. These reflection check-ins are another way for students and teachers to stay meaningfully connected.
The last example may be surprising, but I would say the crisis has reminded me that we have to keep making school fun. We started the year with outdoor socially-distanced games like mini-golf and giant chess boards, and a big tent outside for our senior class, and we recently added a huge fire pit cauldron for the colder months. We have had food trucks come to campus and theme days. Even during these tough times, I want to help students find those moments of joy.
Name a few things people would be surprised to know about you.
I can juggle.
I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with my dad.
I used to live in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
My first teaching job was on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
When you need “me time,” what are your favorite ways to escape?
I love to read. A perfect evening for me is getting into bed with a book. If I am at a good part in a book, I’ve been known to set my alarm early so I can get up and read before my day really gets going. Cooking is also a retreat for me, and I usually make one fun or special meal each weekend—something that goes beyond just getting dinner on the table. For me, cooking is creative, and trying new things makes me happy.
What’s the best advice you’ve received from another mom?
The best advice I received from another mom was advice from author Lisa Damour. She spoke at St. Luke’s a couple of years ago and talked about parenting kids through adolescence. One piece of her advice that I have drawn on so many times is to ask my children, “Do you want my help solving this problem, or do you just need me to listen?” I am such a problem-solver by nature that sometimes I rush to solutions instead of really listening. Lisa explained this in such a clear way that I’ve never forgotten it!
Any words of wisdom?
Especially during the COVID pandemic, my words of wisdom are: You are doing enough. I think as parents we endlessly compare ourselves to an imaginary standard or a perfect parent in our minds, and right now it’s easy to focus on the ways we may be falling short of that standard. Let’s remind ourselves that we are living through a crisis of historic proportions. In thirty years, our grandchildren will interview us for their social studies classes and ask us questions about this time, and no one will care that the house was messy!
We like to support local businesses. What are your favorite places in the area to:
Tengda Asian Bistro is a family favorite, especially for sushi and tempura.
Grab a drink with friends:
For a great selection of beers, we love The Ginger Man!
Enjoy a Date Night:
We adore eating by the water at l’escale restaurant at the Delamar Hotel.
Spend time together as a family outdoors:
I already mentioned Tod’s Point above, so I’ll add Bruce Park as a second favorite. We bring the girls’ bikes or scooters, walk the dog, and just enjoy nature.
Because we can walk there from our house, we get coffee and breakfast pretty often at Glory Days Diner, a Greenwich institution.
Our planned workouts are few and far between these days, to be honest! Mostly we are outside running around with the kids and the dog.
St. Luke’s is a secular (non-religious) private school in New Canaan, CT, for grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission is an exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead. Learn more about St. Luke’s School.