Graduate, Seton Keough High School
B.S., Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park
M.Ed., Johns Hopkins University
Mrs. DeLancey’s 25+ years at Baltimore regional independent schools includes:
Lower School Principal
Associate Head of the Lower School
Director of Diversity
Garrison Forest School
Dean of Admissions
Mother of teenage twins, Gavin and Reese
Wife to Jason DeLancey
- November: Blessings of Joy
- December: Maryvale Tradition - Candy Cane Social
- January: Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream
- February: The Importance of "Soft Skills"
It’s the season of gratitude, but growing up, my family counted and celebrated our blessings every day. My mother, who was a second grade teacher, made sure my younger sister and I took nothing for granted and took notice of how good we had it. I grew up in such a loving family with so many privileges that it was easy for me to be grateful and joyful.
My mother’s daily joy was infectious. She loved to sing and dance and made up songs each morning as we were getting ready for school. Whether her songs were about the good food we had to eat or that her favorite song was playing on the radio, the message was the same: be happy to be alive.
My extended family embraces my mom’s joyous gratitude and loves to find any reason to celebrate. They taught me to look for joy in each situation. It’s the foundation of groundedness in the people and places I encounter every day.
Last spring, when I had my finalist interview for the position of Maryvale President, I was excited, a little nervous, thankful, and ready to experience joy. What I was not ready for was what met me when I pulled into the parking lot and walked to the Castle
Students lined up outside the Castle in a double line like Soul Train. Music was blasting. There were pom poms and signs. Girls were waving and cheering for me. I was blown away by the spirit of joy, by their enthusiasm for the finalists. Each candidate had a similar reception, and I am pretty sure it was the first time any of us had ever experienced this at a job interview.
I immediately felt at home. I connected instantly with Maryvale’s spirit that joy is in the ordinary. It's up to us to make the choice to be joyful, to celebrate, to be grateful. The opportunities are always there If we pause and let ourselves do that.
Even though it was just me coming in for an interview, I thought then, what a good reason for the girls to celebrate, to celebrate their school, to let the future president, whomever it may be at that point, know that [the students] love their school this much. They clearly cared about who was coming next and wanted each candidate to see that Maryvale mattered to them and to see how the students function as a community.
That day,I understood that joy is a big part of Maryvale. And it’s something I get to celebrate – and be deeply, genuinely grateful for – every day since. During our Meet Maryvale admissions events, the students give the same exuberant greeting to our guests as soon as they turn off Falls Road. Our girls cheer with balloons and pom poms, holding signs emblazoned with different words that express their love for their school: Learn; Lead; Service; Succeed; Equity; Collaboration; Diversity.
My upbringing’s acute awareness of everything that I have, tangible and intangible, has given me a heightened awareness of my position in the world and of my responsibilities and blessings, which fuel my desire to give back. I live in gratitude and walk in gratitude, and that’s a joyful state to be in. When I come across people in places that also aren't shy about expressing that gratitude and joy, it really excites me, and I feel a connection. And that's what I felt with Maryvale immediately.
I see joy and gratitude every day at school, when I talk with students, watch them in class, see one of our incredible faculty clearly inspired by a lesson, and witness the care with which our grounds crew tends to our beautiful campus.
Earlier this fall, I walked around the Upper School club fair, watching the girls promote their clubs. They were enthusiastic, determined, clearly competent, eloquent, and extremely impressive. That was definitely a moment when I felt very grateful about my opportunity to lead a girls’ school where all types of girls, of all backgrounds, different shapes and sizes and ability levels, are not afraid to lead. At the club fair, they were very confident and comfortable with their passions.
The moment also underscored the gratitude I feel as a woman who is continuing to develop and grow on a journey that never ends. It is my hope – my joy – that Maryvale students can look to me as a model, seeing not just the good things but maybe even my struggles and mistakes. We need our girls to be able to learn from challenges and understand that experiencing life’s whole process has value and purpose.
As I think about my goals for my first year and beyond, I want to help girls better understand how important their health and wellness are. I know how a daily habit of gratitude and joy is essential to our self-care and mental health and to our connections with others. My family taught me that being thankful is a muscle that we can and should work every day in big and small ways. And I am ever so grateful that I get to be part of the joy that is Maryvale.
People have been telling me about Candy Cane Social since my first day on campus. “You’ll love it!” they said. “Wear earplugs and take Advil,” a few others advised.
When Friday, December 15, the date of this year’s Candy Cane Social, rolled around, my anticipation was as palpable as the students’. I’d been waiting for months to experience this Maryvale holiday tradition.
For the first part of the morning, Middle School students watched Frozen 2, the sing-a-long version, together and had holiday snacks. The Upper School was in advisory groups, making ornaments and writing thank you notes to each other for friendship, kindness, and support. There was a lot of karaoke and dancing, which was a preview of our community time together later that morning. We also welcomed home our young alumnae with a special breakfast.
While I had hoped to spend the entire morning enjoying the activities, duty called. I met with the outside chair of Maryvale’s upcoming AIMS accreditation process in fall 2024. During our meeting, we overheard the joy. We heard the girls singing Christmas carols and hitting the high notes with Mariah Carey. It was wonderful (and a great way to introduce the accreditation chair to the Maryvale spirit.)
After my meeting, I stopped by the Young Alumnae Breakfast to greet graduates from the past five years. These women were so excited to return to campus and see friends and faculty members. Just when I thought the joy of Candy Cane Social could not be any stronger, it was time for the community program in the theater.
Jessica Randisi, Head of Student Life and Community Engagement/Dean of Students, collaborated across our school to create a memorable program. We opened with a lovely prayer and skit about Jesus’ birth led by the 1804 students, our campus ministry student leadership team. Our choir, directed by Lisa Pantano, Music Director, performed several songs including in Spanish and Italian. A few Upper School students and Mark Riding, Director of Student Life, performed “Elves Orientation,” a hilarious skit written by Deirdre McAllister, Performing Arts Department Chair. The audience members were the actors or elves being trained on how to be appropriate elves for Christmas, support Santa, and be good elves to one another.
Lupe Bobadilla, our Inclusion and Belonging Director, shared a video about different holiday traditions around the world. He ended it with the words, “The world needs all of you. Every one of you.”
Then came the sound of a 500-seat theater filled with students, alumnae, and faculty singing pop holiday songs at the top of their lungs, dancing in the aisles, holding hands with friends, hugging, and throwing Santa hats in the air.
It was an amazing way to celebrate the holidays and kick off our Christmas break. But as I sang and watched the girls clearly loving every single second and every note, I knew it was far more. Candy Cane Social celebrates the relationships that have been built in the fall. I could clearly see (and hear) that our new students really felt a part of things. For us newbies, the morning marked the end of the beginning and a joyous recognition that we are truly one Maryvale.
My remarks in the theater that morning were inspired by the Feast wishes that the 6th graders left in my office earlier in the week. Each student wrote a wish on a strip of paper like “Connect with loved ones that you may have lost along the way,” or “Enjoy Christmas with your family,” and “Never lose your faith.” Each wish included the Bible verse, “For nothing will be impossible for God,” Luke 1:37.
At Candy Cane Social, I shared some of these wishes and my Feast wish for our school. I wish for the whole Maryvale community to be a force for good in our world. I wish for our students to be unrelenting in their quest, to be kind and empathetic and peaceful, and to stand strong on the face of anything that is trying to move them away from the joy and peace that has been promised to them.
As I looked around the theater, the comments from my first week in July came flooding back. Candy Cane Social was very much an incredible (and incredibly loud) experience – and I loved every second.
It was a morning to be joyful, to have fun, to laugh, but it was also a moment to be reflective and grateful for all of God’s goodness.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Continue to spread the Maryvale joy!
ER + GM = BB
This is the equation I developed about 12 years ago as an approach to inclusion and belonging work. This is the first time I’m sharing it publicly. Before now, it has been just for me.
It means: Empathy Reflex + Growth Mindset = Bridge Builder
Inclusion and belonging work requires an automatic, reflexive response. Our approach should be an attitude of ‘I want to understand, tell me more.’ Using the ER – Empathy Reflex – in the equation, it is being curious about another person's life and experiences. It’s putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s leaning into our common humanity: birth, death, and everything in between.
We are one body – God’s church. I pray we can all use our ER particularly when we notice negative thoughts and emotions toward our fellow humans. This is what God has called us to do. My personal and professional experience, validated by research, has shown that girls and women have a great capacity for empathy. Every day, I see Maryvale students embracing their ER.
GM – Growth Mindset – means acknowledging that you have things to learn, that listening and seeking to understand is the most humane thing we can do for one another. It means letting go of being right, and instead, centering love and community even when times are hard.
We need to help girls flex their GM, to learn to be comfortable not being right. Often girls are reluctant to voice ideas unless they are sure that they are correct. GM, though, can’t happen without mistakes. Listening, learning from mistakes, and finding common ground connect people and ideas. That’s when we get to the best part of the equation: BB, being a Bridge Builder.
On Monday, we paused to remember and celebrate one of our nation’s and history’s champions of building bridges – the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. When I reflect on his legacy and take an honest assessment of where we are today, as a society, with inclusion and belonging, I can’t help but think that Dr. King might be disappointed in adults today, me included, by the example we’re giving young people.
Today’s rhetoric often has adults saying one thing to young people and doing something else. As adults we shouldn't be just learning, but unlearning things that we've done and modeled that haven't worked. Young people really need us right now to step up in this moment and be better and different, quite frankly, in 2024.
At Maryvale, we have been blessed with a beautiful foundation upon which we can build. We are a Catholic school founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and this will be an essential component of our success as we use our Empathy Reflex, push toward a Growth Mindset, and Build Bridges.
Our faith shows us that we are not afraid to talk about love, joy, community, connectedness, and togetherness. It’s central and core to who we are. But to succeed, it’s going to take on the part of adults, some unlearning, moments of being uncomfortable, and some cultural humility. We need to make room for all. It's basic kindness, the Maryvale Way of Respect, Dignity, and Inclusivity.
Yes, it’s a charged time and a charged topic, but there is always hope– just ask Damar Hamlin. On January 2, 2023, Damar Hamlin’s heart stopped during a nationally televised football game. Twenty-one million people of all different backgrounds stopped and prayed for that young man’s life. Our humanity, as a country, was on full display. That is who we really are. Don’t be distracted by those trying to tell you otherwise.
Before Damar Hamlin had a cardiac arrest on national television, he started a GoFundMe page to purchase toys for the children in the neighborhood where he grew up. The fund grew from $4,000 to $6 million in a matter of months. That is who we really are.
We can do better. We can love across differences. We can be empathetic. We can grow. And we can build bridges.
At Maryvale, we are answering a greater call. As we are reminded in Romans 15:5-7, May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Damar Hamlin’s story is one among many examples of our collective humanity. When we intentionally turn our focus toward all that is good, we are flooded with optimism and joy. It does take a concerted effort, but I can promise you that it will be worth it– for you and for future generations.
We are here to love one another, to find how ER + GM = BB resonates within us, so that we can build the bridges Dr. King dreamed of – bridges that we will engineer together.
My first job in education coincided with the leadership development movement touting soft skills or emotional intelligence (EQ). Today, problem-solving, ethical decision-making, collaborating, and team building – the softer skills – are widely recognized as essential to leading in the 21st century.
First, a little EQ history: The Army actually coined the phrase “soft skills” in the late 1960s to mean any skill that did not require machinery. Their definition included inspecting troops, supervising people, preparing reports, etc. Over the next few decades, the need for computer scientists and engineers to be as skilled in what we now include as soft skills as they were in software and hardware development created “professional practice” skills in computer science curricula. The idea took hold across all fields and was all the buzz at the first teaching conferences I attended.
I believe that the most important soft skill a leader can have is to know how to nurture community and care for people. As a school leader, this makes good business sense. When you nurture people and motivate them to be excellent, you get the best work out of them. Any leader at any level can’t do that if they are not paying attention to others’ needs as humans. People need to feel heard and valued.
I first learned I could influence a group in Mrs. Alfred’s first grade classroom at Campfield Elementary School in Gwynn Oak, Maryland. Each morning, Mrs. Alfred would ask the class who was buying lunch and who brought lunch. One day, the cafeteria option was pizza or hamburgers. I felt compelled to convince every kid that they should get pizza. I have no idea why, but I remember mouthing “pizza” to classmates, nudging them, or making eye contact with my friends as Mrs. Aflred went through her routine.
Most chose pizza. I was feeling very pleased for making a decision for the group and getting everybody on board – until Mrs. Alfred called me out into the hall. She said that she knew I was trying to get everybody together, but that I needed to let people make their own decisions and, sometimes, even let them lead.
I learned three key lessons that day. First, I had the ability to bring a group together around a common goal. Second, I don't always have to be the loudest voice. And I learned how to take direction, how to follow, to let others share their voice, all critical skills in building community.
At Seton Keough High School, I became a connector for people. I encouraged my friends to take risks. I would go with them to play tryouts or debate club practice, wherever they needed support. In class or a group conversation, if one person wasn’t contributing, I would encourage them to share their opinion.
Fostering community is a critical leadership skill at Maryvale. Our faculty and staff know that if you don’t create a safe environment for girls to learn and engage, they won’t. I make sure our adult interactions at Maryvale foster the same values.
At Maryvale, we teach girls to lead in formal and informal ways. Our Mitchell Leadership Institute, now in its 10th year, offers classes, workshops, and internships. Clubs and sports teams provide critical lessons in leadership. The most consequential opportunities to lead at our school are also the most inspiring to me and embrace the critical EQ skill of creating community: the spirit our students have for Maryvale and each other.
The blessing of geography helps to inspire this. The Middle School and Upper School share the same buildings. I see our older girls saying hello to the younger students and asking if they need help and how their day is going. They attend Middle School athletic events and theater programs. Younger girls connect with their older role models countless times each day and support Upper School events. This creates community engagement – another educational buzzword – but what it really does is nurture the Maryvale sisterhood.
These are traits our students have grown up with since we attract families who also believe in community. It also speaks to our mission, Catholic background, Catholic social teaching, and to the hallmarks of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
It speaks to our future as a school and as a society as well. When I see the girls being kind and nurturing, I feel very hopeful about science, economics, and finance. Our girls excel in those areas because they're being delivered a world-class curriculum. They will continue to excel in those areas as they ascend to different leadership positions because they have honed their EQ at Maryvale.
There are a slew of management books right now on the idea of connectivity, how big and small groups like friends or spouses can still feel lonely. At Maryvale, we think about how we make people feel seen and less lonely in a busy, crowded world. That's a real concern of mine for adults and kids. Every little bit of kindness that we think is inconsequential is, in fact, consequential.
This month, there are already numerous examples of our students taking the initiative, flexing their EQ skills, and connecting our community. Our Founder’s Day liturgy on February 2 began with students sharing information about St. Julie Billiart and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and how they helped others in 1804. For Black History Month and Lunar New Year, our Black Student Union and Asian Student Association created different activities that highlighted their cultural heritage from red lanterns and dragons for the Year of the Dragon to the BSU leading an assembly discussing Stations of the Cross and relating each station back to justice.
During the second week of February, with the wonderfully symbolic coincidence of Valentine’s Day falling on the first day of Lent, we focused on God’s love incorporated into both important days. We create the places for our students’ passions to find root and connect others to their passions. At the heart of each of these programs and initiatives is the respect for each person’s value and what they bring to our Maryvale community.
In my first job, I had the gift of a master teacher in blending the so-called “softer” skills with the technical. I was a 22-year-old teacher getting financial advice from the school’s chief financial officer, a man in the male-dominated world of finance. I got great advice on what to do with my teacher’s salary. And he did it in a way that was equally supportive and affirming. I had big dreams and goals of what I wanted to do, and he educated me in a way that made me feel validated and knowledgeable.
One of the most important things I can do as President is model this for our students. But I learned very early on that, at Maryvale, our students are masters of this EQ skill. They jump at the chance to support one another, to connect. This drives engagement and accountability, skills they also need to lead.