Alumni Spotlight | Stephanie Feinman '03


Second Grade Teacher Reflects on Quaker Values and Mentors at Friends

By Charles Gorrivan ’21


When Friends alumna and former teacher Stephanie Feinman ’03 worked in the Admissions Department, she always looked forward to Thursdays. That was the day when the Kindergarten applicants visited. “It was when I really got to see kids and interact,” she said. “And I learned that I really liked that.”


She soon joined Kindergarten Head Teacher Judy Anderson ’66 as an Assistant and Substitute Teacher, working at Friends in that role for three years. Prior to that Stephanie had spent two years working in the Admissions department, before earning a Master’s in Early Childhood Education at Georgia State University. Stephanie now teaches Second Grade in Atlanta at The Paideia School. She says that she has taken her experiences at Friends, both as a student and teacher, with her into the classroom—incorporating Quaker values in her work and seeking to emulate the colleagues she first learned from. “I had the privilege of being surrounded by stellar educators at a time when I was starting out my educational career, and there’s nothing more impactful than that,” she said. “I embed humor in the day, I sing, I make them laugh. Those are things that I saw firsthand, from my colleagues at Friends.”


Stephanie has also been inspired by the teachers she had as a student at Friends, like Visual Arts Teachers Yarrott Benz and Andrea Aimi. She says that they were critically supportive figures in her life while she was in high school: showing her their authentic selves, treating her like an equal, and encouraging her to believe in herself. “My experience was very empowering as a kid and as a student,” she said. “My teachers believed in me and gave me the agency to make choices. And although I teach second and third grade, I still try to embed some of that agency and choice, and at the very least, make kids feel like they’re listened to.”


Quaker values and beliefs, like that everyone has an “inner Light” inside of them, are also an important aspect of Stephanie’s work. “There’s nothing more important than getting to know kids and, and believing that they’re all individuals,” she said. “And that is obviously very tied into the belief that there’s a light in everyone.”


Stephanie also believes strongly in the value of reflection and silence in the classroom, which can be challenging for a classroom of energetic second graders. “I give a lot of wait time in my class,” she said. “And at the beginning of the year, a lot of kids are always very uncomfortable. But reflection, I think, is deeply important and tied into Quaker values and my experience at Friends as a student and an educator.”


Another critical element of Stephanie’s work is teaching justice. She says that she is open to her students about her Queer identity, making an effort to accept each student’s identity and ensure that they feel represented in the curriculum. “The main way that I embed social justice in the classroom is through visibility: choosing books that represent the kids in my class, and the kids who are not in my class,” she said.


Stephanie says that being inclusive as an educator is tied to the Friends motto: ‘bringing about a world that ought to be.’ “I work hard to show my students multiple perspectives, in order for them to gain consciousness,” she said. “Bringing about a world that ought to be, and Quaker values, feel very critical to that work.”