Aviva Walls leaving, will lead day school in Fairfax, Virginia, next year

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BP Photo by Neima Fax

FUTURE: Ms. Walls implemented August essay-writing workshops and other initiatives to make students more comfortable with the college admissions process.

Jacob Joseph Lefkowitz Brooks, Editor-in-Chief

Ms. Aviva Walls, Shalhevet’s Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of College Counselling, will be leaving next year to become Head of School at Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax, Virginia. She will remain at Shalhevet for the rest of the current school year.

“I have been wanting to do more within school leadership and college counselling is such an important part of Shalhevet,” said Ms. Walls in an interview, “and Shalhevet’s culture is that it wasn’t possible for me to do both college counselling and do more within the administration.”

Ms. Walls joined Shalhevet in 2013 as Director of College Counseling and was given the additional title of Dean of Academic Affairs in 2017, making her the first female educational administrator in the school’s history.

During her time at Shalhevet, Ms. Walls brought in many college admissions officers from around the country and even Canada to meet students. Under her tenure, Shalhevet graduates enrolled at colleges and universities which none had attended in the past.

Ms. Walls also changed Shalhevet’s college culture. She moved the “wall of shame,” a bulletin board on which students can choose to defiantly display their rejection letters, to a less prominent location and gave it less emphasis. She also set up optional college essay writing workshops with students before the start of the school year.

She also arranged meetings with each senior class prior to college admissions decisions being announced, where the grade decided how they wanted to handle the sharing of decisions amongst themselves and with the wider school.

In her role as Dean of Academic Affairs, Ms. Walls was responsible for student welfare and discipline as well as interacting with the Just Community. Ms. Walls served as a faculty advisor to the Agenda committee in the 2017-18 school year.

Gesher, located in Fairfax, a suburb of Washington, D.C., which runs from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade, was founded in 1982 as a kindergarten and grew to a K-8 school in 1999. 

On its website, the school describes itself as a “pluralistic community,” which has a student body that is 34% unaffiliated , 31% Conservative, 28% Orthodox and 9% Reform or Reconstructionist. 

Gesher’s current head-of-school Dan Finkel has served in that position since 2015.