Diane Webber: Always Trying Something New — Staying Open to Life’s Surprises
As Diane Webber prepares to retire from her teaching position at The Miquon School, she is adamant that she is simply moving into a next phase, “a new variation on teaching that is more about writing. I hope to work productively for the next couple of decades or more,” she says. “Well into my 80s would suit me just fine!”
Diane has taught grades 5 and 6 at Miquon since 2012, with a two-year stint before that. Although she didn’t attend Miquon as a student, two of her three children did, and her eldest, Ian, is an alum who now works in Center City as a research analyst.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Diane attended Temple University where she studied World Religions. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in 1984 from Chestnut Hill College with a major in elementary education and a minor in religion. Later, she enrolled in a Ph.D. track program in Semitic and Egyptian languages at Catholic University. The degree would have been applied to the translation of ancient texts, especially religious ones.
“One day, I stopped and thought, this is interesting work, but it’s very specific,” she says. When Diane and her husband, Scott, decided to move back to the Philadelphia area, Diane quickly connected with Quaker schools and taught at Friends Select. “That was my introduction to Progressive education,” she remembers. “It was a golden moment for me … to get to work with such strong, intellectually creative educators,” whose philosophies meshed with her own.
Diane’s first exposure to Miquon was as a parent, when she enrolled Ian. When a teaching position opened up there, she taught in the 3/4 class, but stopped to home-school her daughters, Allie and Kelly, which she did for 14 years, while Ian completed his Miquon education.
“As a Miquon parent, what I valued most—what was so interesting and stayed true throughout his career there—was that it was a place that valued all the parts of who he was,” she says. “Ian was a very academic person and our concerns about the other possible schools was that the focus was nearly only on the academic side,” she remembers. But his wider interests, including athletics and music, meant that the family was searching for a holistic approach that would value him as a whole person.
“Miquon does that so well,” Diane says. “Ian had activities and friends, but he wasn’t isolated into small areas of his strengths. He was part of a broad, diverse group of people—economically, academically, ethnically. Being a certain way is not held above any other, and it’s never about being better, just different.”
With Diane’s views of education aligning with Miquon’s, it’s not surprising that she found a second home at the school, where she has taught a mixed class of 5th and 6th graders for eight years. “I love this age group,” she says. “They can handle big ideas and yet, they are still wide open to all ideas.”
The curricula designed by Diane and her fellow Miquon educators are based on the skills they want their students to acquire, which shapes the direction they follow as they develop it together with the children.
“The essential questions in fifth and sixth grade are about how culture shapes worldview and how the clashing of these can create conflict and how humans have experienced and resolved that conflict,” she says. “This year, we studied Charles Darwin and the radical shift in thinking that evolution represented. Darwin and Lincoln share a birthday, so that was our launching point for turning our studies to examine the Civil War.”
She talks about studying the history of baseball with fifth graders two years ago, a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, its place in American history and its impact on literature, music, social justice and women’s issues, adding that goals vary based on the students.
Diane will leave Miquon at the end of the academic year to pursue an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Spalding University. “I’m ready to launch a new focus for my learning,” she says. “I lean toward historical fiction and nonfiction because I relish the research they involve; however, I am entering a cross-genre program in order to remain open to surprises.” The Miquon community will miss Diane, her dedication to her students, her thoughtful leadership within the school staff, and her openness to surprise and delight, very much indeed.