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Know Your Pelicans

Meet Kate Gilfillan

Upper School Dean, Class of 2024

Know Your Pelicans

Can you describe a favorite or memorable moment you've had in the classroom?

Mine is a moment on the field instead of in the classroom. Coaching boys' varsity soccer was an interesting experience, to say the least. One of the best parts about coaching is witnessing a player accomplish a particular skill that they've been working really hard on, because it just didn't come easy to them. Last year I worked a lot with the goalkeepers on penalty kick saves and our sophomore keeper (who was subbing in for the injured senior starter) made a HUGE PK save in a tournament final to secure the win. I don't know who was more pumped about it, me or him, but he was feeling himself for days and could not wipe the smile off his face. That's why I love coaching and can't wait to be a part of the Packer Athletic program some day.

Share a time when you've learned something from your students. 

Working at an alternative high school in Boston early in my career and hearing about the experiences of my students really opened my eyes to the importance of equity in education. They taught me that I didn’t always need to know what to say, but listening to them and allowing for their voices to be heard was what they needed and deserved. I learned to be myself, be present, and develop authentic relationships because students can sense if adults aren't being real.

Name a book/artwork/piece of music that changed your life and explain how.

I would probably have to say 90s hip hop, because it reminds me of the good times I had growing up. I used to have a big superstition with my club soccer team that I'd need to go on swings and listen to Eminem before big tournaments. It was a team effort to find a nearby park or swing––even my coaches believed in it and would help. For some reason this ritual got me really focused and amped up to play! We never lost when I had my swinging time.

Growing up, did you have a teacher who was particularly influential for you?

Senior year of college, my sociology professor commented on our big term paper asking if I’d ever considered being a guidance counselor. I didn't pay much mind to it at the time and still graduated with no plan. I stumbled into finance and after 8 months, I realized it wasn't for me, I found the term paper and saw my professor's comment once again. I applied to grad school for my masters in counseling and immediately recognized it as my calling. I reached out to my professor to thank her for planting the seed.

What is something most Packer people wouldn't guess about you?

I used to be a really good trumpet player in high school.

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