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Talk of the Town: Assistant Superintendent Kate Burke Reilly

Kate Burke Reilly, Moorestown Public School District's assistant superintendent for curriculum, on being a lifelong learner, what gives her hope for the future, and what she'd like to do if she wasn't an educator.

Moorestown Patch: Do you have a particular initiative, or program, or piece of technology that you’re dying to get for the district?
Kate Burke Reilly: It’s not about me, it’s about what we do as a team. So, many of the ideas that come into this office come from parents, students, teachers, other administrators. What we’re dying to get is really not about a thing, but it is about—we want our students to be as well-positioned as they possibly can be to take that next step.

Patch: Was there a formative moment, either in your childhood or as a young adult, that sort of informed your desire to get into education? A moment where you first realized, “Okay, I think I want to do that?”
Reilly: It wasn’t really doing that as much as just, I love learning. I’ve always been an adventurer. I’ve always been the one that asked the questions. Like, “I get this, but what about this?” I was raised in a family where education was extremely important. That was the top priority in my family. It wasn’t questioned that we went to college; it was just kind of assumed. So I just think that I’ve always been involved in some sort of learning … So obviously it’s a perfect fit. I didn’t always do this. I’ve also had other jobs. I was a subtropical ichthyologist (the study of fish). That has nothing to do with education. It was all about research and discovery. It's all about learning and how you access information. It wasn’t like in second grade I said, “I want to be a teacher.”

Patch: The world, in many ways, is a mess right now. How do parents talk to their kids about the problems in the world, that maybe aren’t affecting them right now, but will? And keep them hopeful that their future will still be bright?
Reilly: Well I know their future will be bright. I’m an optimist that way. There are amazing things that happen each and every day. And those days come from individual people who make good decisions, and make decisions based on what they can do for someone else. I have grandchildren. Those conversations start with them, so, “What can you do for your neighbor?” “What do you see that you think should change?” … How can you not be optimistic about the future when you see the brilliance and the type of thinking that comes from our youth? I mean, it’s absolutely amazing to me … The United States—we’re creators, we’re innovators. We’re people to solve problems.

Patch: How are today’s students most different from the students you were around when you taught? (Reilly has been an administrator for roughly 20 years.)
Reilly: I think that maybe the people themselves are not different, it’s just what they’re able to do. The ability to get an immediate response. So you need an answer. Instead of saying, “Well this weekend we’re going to go to the library and figure that out,” it’s kind of instant gratification. We expect results really fast … It’s not about knowing things. It’s about finding things.

Patch: Is there a flip side to that instant gratification? Like maybe it’s a double-edged sword?
Reilly: Absolutely … Do they curl up in a chair on a sunny day with a good book?To me, you can’t replace that. You can’t replace rich dialogue and conversation.

Patch: If you could attempt any other profession other than your own—outside of education—what would it be?
Reilly: I would love to go back at some point and be able to invest a long period of time again doing some type of scientific research. I did that starting out and I really, really enjoy it. So something delving back into the world of subtropical ichthyology or marine biology.

Patch: What profession would you absolutely never want to undertake?
Reilly: Probably many of them, I just don’t know enough. I’m not purposely avoiding anything I’ve seen. I just think there’s probably a lot out there I’d say, “I don’t think I’d be very good at this” or “No way.”

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