As the Rise Up campaign propels Seattle Girls’ School towards the future, we’re reflecting on and celebrating those who helped make SGS the incredible school it is today. We sat down (virtually) with SGS alum Anna Partridge in a conversation about her unique experience with SGS and how it continues to impact her life today. Anna is a former Fulbright Scholar and circus performer who’s now a technical writer living in Stockholm, Sweden.
What was your overall experience with Seattle Girls School?
My overall experience with Seattle Girls School was incredible. It gave me such an engaging and motivating learning environment, as well as people to look up to – particularly women – who were leaders and passionate about what they were doing.
I came to SGS as a very math and science-oriented student, so the experiential, hands-on style of teaching that SGS offered was perfect for someone like me. It was truly a community of learners, and beyond science and math, the curriculum was really varied. No matter a student’s subject interest area, you come out of SGS with a confidence in your abilities to master what you’re passionate about.
Also, there was always a strong community focus. We had regular community meetings, and you were always doing your work with other people. Most of my memories are of group projects and experiences with other people. I had the opportunity to be a leader but also to work on a team, and this really influenced me going forward.
You mention a strong community focus. Was that a focus on community within the school or outside of the school?
It was actually both. It’s interesting because my immediate memories are of the classmates and teachers, which were a very important part of the community. And with fewer students, you become a really tight group with your grade and other students. But also, SGS really engaged in the community at large with all the ways students were learning outside of the classroom. We went to our internships every week, and the school did a great job of bringing people in with special skills. I ended up doing the Bike Works internship twice because I thought it was so cool fixing bikes! I also interned at a daycare center, which was super cool.
What words or characteristics describe your experience when you think back on your time at Seattle Girls School?
I would say leadership and learning to lead was a big one. I also think of personal growth, and how your experience was sort of uniquely tailored, and your learning was supported in a way that it works best for you. It just wasn’t your typical middle school system where you’re a bunch of kids in the system. Your experience was individualized.
What about the relationships you built? Were there any that really stood out to you?
I had great relationships with all of my teachers. But there was one teacher who really stood out – Rosetta. She was my advisory leader for sixth grade, and then she moved up to seventh grade, so I got to have her two years in a row. I felt like I built a sort of deeper connection with her. And I don’t know exactly what to say, except that she was just so unapologetically herself all of the time. And I feel like at that age, when you’re in middle school, and you’re so worried about what other people think of you, we looked up to Rosetta, who would make jokes and not be fearful. She was definitely a role model for me.
I don’t know how many middle school-aged girls feel super confident in themselves on a daily basis. So, it’s really important to have those role models who don’t care about the norms in society and challenge them. Rosetta called out those norms explicitly. That was something all the teachers at SGS were really good at – being explicit about oppressive social structures. They called out what racism looks like, what sexism looks like, what heteronormativity looks like, and the reasons why we challenge them.
In which areas of expertise do the staff at SGS really excel?
I would say student-driven learning. Like if there were needs and desires of the class, they were incorporated into the curriculum. And if the class was struggling with social dynamics, we would sit down and talk with the whole group about it. But also, in the projects and classes, there was a lot of freedom. I don’t know how many middle schools give their students the freedom to design their own projects and choose the direction they want to go with their studies.
How did SGS prepare you for high school?
SGS really prepared me to advocate for my needs in high school. Like not letting guidance counselors tell me I couldn’t take two science classes at the same time. I learned that I could take on a lot, manage it, and be successful.
What was your path after high school?
I went to Smith College in Massachusetts – a women’s college. And I did my Bachelor’s in engineering science. And after my bachelor’s, I got a Fulbright to study in Finland, and I did a two-year Master’s in Finland in energy technology with a focus in bio-mass energy systems. And after that I went to professional circus school in Finland. I’ve been a circus artist my whole life – since I was a kid – so that was always a part of my life. And after I finished my Master’s, I found that I wanted to get back into circus performing, so I spent two years there and just finished in the spring during the first bit of the pandemic.
Staying in Europe is really important to me, and I decided that a job was the biggest thing I could do to stay permanently. So, I now work as a technical writer for a biomedical company that makes equipment and proteins and cell therapy technologies. I currently live in Stockholm, where I’ve been since April.
I feel like one of my biggest strengths and the reason I’ve been successful in all of the places I’ve been – in college, or in Finland, or in circus school, or now working from home – is my ability to work with people and be multi-dimensional and a problem solver. And those things absolutely got their roots in the education I received at SGS.
What would you tell a parent considering sending their kiddo to SGS?
You don’t have to worry, “is my kid too shy?” or “is my kid too outgoing?” or “will they thrive in this environment?” They are going to thrive at SGS. Especially because the way the school is so personalized, and the amount of time the teachers have to care for each student means the quality of the learning is so much higher where teachers can’t reach every kid. And that is because the teachers are excellent.
It’s not only about “is my student going to get the best or most advanced level of math skills?” But it is more about “is my student going to thrive as a person and enjoy learning and become excited about what they’re doing?”