Our next faculty spotlight features Kristen Barr, a 1999 graduate of the Community School and now-teacher of the fourth-grade class. After living and attending school in New York, she has reached all over the world cultivating and sharing her love of teaching, from Brooklyn to Kenya. After returning back to the Wood River Valley in 2015, Kristen can now pass on her authentic “cutthroat spirit” to more eager students in the Community School style she knows and loves.
Q: What's your favorite Community School memory (from being a student and now)?
KB: One memory that stands out is my 8th grade Grand Gulch trip. Growing up in downtown Chicago, I had never seen a landscape like that before. I was totally blown away by the beauty and strangeness of the desert. I remember so clearly camping in a rock alcove for two nights and watching a flash flood rip through the canyon below us. That trip awakened in me a love of the outdoors and a respect for nature I previously had not known was possible.
Q: What book is on your bedside table (or what is your go-to book?)
KB: There are three or four books on my bedside table. The one I am about to reread is Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Aditchie. It's a story about immigration, race, and identity, and also being a woman, creating community, and finding love.
Q: What are your top 3 items on your packing list for a backpacking trip?
KB: Food, water, sleeping bag - I'm a practical minimalist.
Q: What's the craziest memory you have from your time at Community School?
KB: This memory is more magical than crazy - Traveling with Bob Brock and Rem to "Rem's Island" in the San Juan's with a handful of my classmates on Senior Quest. The island was so special to Rem and very remote, so it felt like an honor to be there. One afternoon, we were invited to a community party at a one-room schoolhouse. It was one of those golden hour evenings. Everything was lit up by the Pacific sun - the local band, the tall grasses, my classmates. After the party, we piled into the back of an old pickup, and Rem drove through winding dirt roads and up to the top of a hill where we watched the stars. Everything felt full of possibilities as high school came to an end and new adventures awaited each of us.
Q: What has it been like to come back to CS to teach after attending as a student?
KB: It feels like coming home. Very few people are lucky enough to teach the children of the teachers who meant so much to them or to teach their dear friend's children. It is a community on the deepest level.
Q: What are the biggest differences you notice between when you attended CS and now?
KB: The school is more inclusive and offers more opportunities for different types of kids.
Q: What lessons have you learned from living/attending school in New York?
KB: I was in NYC for 14 years, so I learned a lot of lessons. But here are a couple: People are generally caring and look out for one another; small, thriving communities are the heart of even the biggest cities; urban exploration feeds the soul in a way similar to outdoor exploration; there is no bad weather, just bad clothes.
Q: What lessons have you learned from living in Sun Valley?
KB: The Wood River Valley is a small place. We are all connected. Be kind.