Introducing New Head of School – Rebecca Yacono
Austin, Texas – October, 2021 – The Board of Trustees at The Girls’ School of Austin has voted to appoint Rebecca Yacono as the next Head of School. Selected after an extensive international search, Ms. Yacono brings years of experience in independent school education and expertise in building communities focused on a student-centered experience. Rebecca will begin her headship at the Girls’ School of Austin in July, 2022.
An educator with over 25 years experience, Rebecca’s commitment to girls’ education and developing excellence in every child comes from her vast knowledge and deep commitment to progressive education that integrates pedagogy, curriculum, child development, social emotional learning and DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) instruction. For over 10 years Rebecca worked at and directed Girl Scout Camps throughout New England, finding joy and strength in the all-girl learning environment.
“We saw great competence in Rebecca’s ability to set and move strategically towards a vision for the future.”
-Tricia Yost, Board of Trustees Chair
Rebecca understands that supporting and integrating the many facets of school life – from pedagogy, to teacher development, to parent community involvement – in service to its students is fundamental to creating an exemplary educational experience. Under her leadership, the Girls’ School of Austin is poised to be at the forefront of girls’ education in Austin and beyond.
At the Girls’ School of Austin, girls are empowered to speak out and share their voice. In alignment with this mission, the students were both key participants in the process and ultimately, what excited Ms. Yacono about becoming the next Head of School.
“I am excited to be a part of a school community where students are challenged to be more than mere reflections of academic rigor; their understanding of themselves and their relationship with the world around them is essential for any intellectual knowledge to have real value.”
– Rebecca Yacono
A graduate of University of Texas, Rebecca also holds an MA in Teaching from Boston University. Outside of the classroom, Ms. Yacono has extensively presented, facilitated, and published at NAIS People of Color Conference, NAIS Independent Schools Annual Conference, Harvard Education Press, and New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Rebecca is currently the Head of Middle School at Worcester Academy in Worcester, Massachusetts. Additionally, she has served as an Graduate Instructor at Shady Hill School Teacher Training Center and as the inaugural Director of Diversity and Multicultural Development at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin. In every role, Ms. Yacono’s leadership, expert knowledge and lived experiences resulted in profound and lasting organizational and cultural change in her communities.
Originally from Austin, Rebecca and her wife Robyn will relocate to Austin for the start of the 2022 school year.
Dear Girls’ School Community,
Less than three weeks ago, I sat in a chair in the MUB in front of the most important constituents in my interview process: the student interview group. I had already met with Dr. Peña, the Search Committee, Neely Michaelis, and the support staff. I had already helped with morning drop off, and I had another day-and-a-half of meetings ahead of me. But this was the moment I had been looking forward to since Rachel Nguyen sent along my schedule. In our hour together, the girls posed to me some of the most interesting, thoughtful, and challenging questions of the 2+ days I spent on campus. The conversation was organic and dynamic; we talked about everything from books, heroes, mistakes, and strengths. That hour with the girls confirmed it for me: I wanted to be the Head of School at the Girls’ School of Austin.
The truth is that throughout the interview process — starting with the initial interviews back in May and June — all the conversations I had and all the observations I made contributed to my sense that everything in my career up to now led to this position at this school. Seventeen years in the classroom showed me how much students learn when they are challenged and enabled to make meaning from their own learning. Fifteen summers attending and working at Girl Scout Camps taught me the best of what “sisterhood” can mean. In addition, because Austin is my hometown, our city’s history had a profound impact on my worldview. My family lived in the multicultural setting of UT’s Colorado Apartments; I was a beneficiary of AISD’s desegregation efforts in the 1980’s; and I have lived in the four major quadrants of the city: north, south, east, and west. I know firsthand what it means to have the city of Austin as a classroom.
Most importantly, I feel a real connection to the deep and deliberate sense of community at the GSA. Not only did I have the privilege of participating in that Friday’s Community Meeting, I have also viewed the recordings of Community Meetings during 2020’s remote learning period and the virtual graduation from that same spring. I’m learning the words to the school song, and I can’t wait for the first time I will get to see the transition of girls from the fourth grade to the middle school.
During that hour I spent with the student interview group, the girls wanted me to know how loving the community is, and that it is like a family, even when things are challenging. They are excited about the prospect of becoming a more diverse community, and they want to return to pre-COVID days, when there were even more opportunities for students to have a voice in the school. It was an honor to be asked to be the next head of the Girls’ School of Austin, and I accepted the position without hesitation. I am looking forward to joining the community next July.
Rebecca E. Yacono
Rebecca Yacono’s career in education began in 1983 at Porter Junior High, when she taught an eighth-grade classmate how to do vibrato on the viola. When her classmate subsequently beat her out for first chair viola in the All-City Orchestra auditions, Rebecca knew she had found her calling—not as a violist, but as an educator.
As an undergraduate in the Plan II Honors program at the University of Texas at Austin, Rebecca researched community-based learning programs for her senior thesis. She went on to earn her Master of Arts in Teaching at Boston University. Throughout her undergraduate and graduate education and in the early years of her career, Rebecca spent ten summers working at Girl Scout Camps in New England and the Adirondacks. It was in those settings – as well as in her five summers as a Girl Scout Camper in Texas – that Rebecca saw how girls thrive, collaborate, grow, and lead in extraordinary ways in all-girl settings.
Rebecca’s first formal teaching position was teaching integrated Humanities at Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, MA, which reinforced her belief in student-centered, project-based learning. She took that philosophy back to Texas with her, where she taught Humanities and U.S. History in the Austin Independent School District and at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. Rebecca went on to establish the position of Director of Diversity and Multicultural Development at St. Andrew’s, which is also where she met her wife, Robyn Mabry. In 2011, Rebecca returned to New England to teach at The Shady Hill School in Cambridge, MA. She became the Head of the Middle School at Worcester Academy in 2017.
In her time at Worcester Academy, Rebecca helped craft the strategic plan, instituted initiatives for social-emotional learning, elevated institutional commitments to equity and inclusion, and alongside the faculty, strengthened the culture of the middle school to address the unique needs of early adolescent learners. In addition, she was an integral member of the team that shepherded the school through the COVID-19 pandemic by prioritizing health and safety while maintaining a robust academic program and strong sense of community.
Rebecca is excited be joining the Girls’ School of Austin in her hometown and to continue the work of cultivating a learning community for girls that prioritizes challenge, creativity, and belonging.