Academic Departments

Ninth Grade Program

Define Yourself at Emma!

Emma Willard School's Ninth Grade Program is designed to guide students through their pivotal first year of high school and set them on a path to becoming confident, prepared, appreciated, and reflective citizensThe ninth-grade year offers a rich learning landscape. The ability to think more abstractly and more critically occurs at the very time that peer relationships become more meaningful and one’s own sense of identity is nourished. The transition into high school has a critical impact on a student’s path toward achievement and wellbeing. We designed the curriculum for ninth graders with these key factors in mind.

The journey begins here...


At the beginning of the year, ninth graders spend time together in retreat at Camp Chingachgook on Lake George. Students bond together over team-building activities. Note: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Chingachgook retreat will not happen in 2020, but other activities will be used to create this vital bond.

Getting to Know You

All ninth graders have an opportunity to participate in activities that allow them to get to know one another and explore their own identity. They write a letter to themselves, which they will get to open and read when they are seniors. They gather for hot cocoa and cookies with Head of School Jenny Rao in the winter, and participate in get-to-know-you activities all year long to bring the class together.


Although all students benefit from an advisor, there is a dedicated team of ninth grade advisors who only work with ninth graders each year. These advisors are very familiar with the ninth grade experience and with the unique challenges students face when coming to a new school.

Ninth Grade Curriculum


“What does it mean to be an Emma student?” “Who am I at Emma?” Emma READY supports students' transition to Emma Willard School and helps students answer these questions by reflecting, conversing, applying skills, getting curious, listening, and sharing. In Emma READY, we explore the many skills that are critical and relevant in a students’ life, merging the academic student and the well/healthy individual.

So What?

The question may seem simple, but this Essential Question (EQ) is designed to focus students' attention on learning with purpose and connection. We challenge students to reflect not only on what they are learning but why they are learning it. To supplement this shared EQ, each department adopts discipline-specific EQs focused on the skills, content, and methods of their subject.

Student-Led Comments

Rather than the traditional practice of teachers sending comments to students each semester, the Emma Willard School Ninth Grade Program promotes student-led comments. That means that students have the opportunity to assess their own performance and feelings about their progress. Teachers then respond to the students' comments with their own observations.

History Class Reimagined

As a supplement to the ninth grader's exploration of Classical Mediterranean History, the six-week History Seminar expands each student's thinking beyond their standard history curriculum. Students will learn to see history and the world around them through lenses of empathy, cultural awareness, and diversity. Topics covered include point of view, empathy, social class, cultural differences, tolerance, humility, patience, race, ethnicity, and all-girls education.

Reflection for Growth

Reflection practices are embedded in the day-to-day workings of each course at Emma Willard School. Throughout the year, students will be asked to reflect on their work and progress in each of their classes. The musings, insights, focused reflection, and resulting actionable goals set by students and their teachers are recorded to support students in developing agency in their learning and create a culture of self-reflection for growth. 

Expanded View of Learning

Emma Willard School offers students a rich learning experience that goes beyond what is traditionally seen in a high school classroom. Project-Based Learning (PBL), Problem-Based Learning (PrBL), Experiential Learning (EL), and Service Learning (SL) are foundational tools that allow our students to expand their understanding of what it means to learn. Students experiment, apply knowledge and skills to novel situations, and engage in authentic creative expression.

List of 2 news stories.

  • Chelsea Y. '22

    Signature Meets STEAM 9

    By Melissia Mason
    This semester, Emma’s Signature and STEAM 9 programs converged when Chelsea Y. ’22 set out to teach ninth graders what she’s learned about Processing, a language for coding within the context of the arts. This exciting part of Chelsea’s Signature project is a wonderful example of student becoming teacher.
  • Ninth Grade Sets the Foundation For Success

    Suzanne Romero Dewey
    You’ve read the research that indicates how the first year of high school is critical. You want your child's high school years be filled with joy, community, and academic success. Emma Willard School wants to partner with you in this journey.
View All News

Grade 9 Curriculum Team

Peter Hatala
Director of Curriculum and Innovation

Laszlo Bardos
Math Instructor

Caroline Buinicky
Director of Research and Library Resources

Evangeline Delgado
Health and Residential Faculty
Esther Dettmar
English Instructor

Katie Holt
History Instructor

Megan Labbate
Science Instructor

Sabra Sanwal
Language Instructor

Lindsay Slaughter
Art Instructor, Class Dean
285 Pawling Avenue, Troy, NY 12180 | P: 518.833.1300 F: 518.833.1815
Welcome to Emma Willard School, a private day and boarding high school for girls in Troy, NY, and a leader in girls' education for over 200 years. 

PLEASE NOTE: All visitors to campus must check in with Campus Safety, which can be found at the red flag entrance to Sage Hall (Pawling Ave. entrance).