Friend, Bridesmaid and Coworker

The story of two JMU COE graduates

College of Education

by Jenisha Mainali


SUMMARY: College of Education graduates Kathryn Dilley ('12, '13M, left) and Ashley Boyle Schiraldi ('12, '13M, right) are beginning their 10th year of teaching at Phoebe Hearst Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

Schiraldi (left) and Dilley (right) in 2014

We've all done silly little things to keep us entertained. Ashley Boyle Schiraldi's idea of a harmless prank during her undergraduate was to throw random objects with a slingshot and try to hit a hammock across her place. Kathryn Dilley, the owner of said hammock, would often wonder where these random objects on her deck would appear from. It wasn't until graduate school that she invited Schiraldi over, and she would later confess that it had been her all along. "She didn't even tell me right away! She texted her group chat that she was in the 'hammock girls' place first!" Ms. Dilley chuckles as she fondly recalls how she met her best friend whom she has now been teaching with for over 9 years.

Ms. Ashley Boyle Schiraldi is a Double Duke who graduated from the JMU ECE program in 2012 and completed her Master's in 2013. She now teaches 2nd grade with her fellow JMU ICE graduate Ms. Kathryn Dilley at Phoebe Hearst Elementary School in DC. Dilley teaches 5th grade and is also the Social Emotional Coach for Hearst. Schiraldi and Dilley are in their 10th year of teaching together. They speak very highly of one another about how brilliant and wonderful they are as teachers and human beings.

Among the tales of women raising each other up, Dilley and Schiraldi deserve a special mention. Besides being each other's pillars of strength, Dilley was Schiraldi's bridesmaid. Schiraldi is glad that she has Dilley to talk about a difficult day at work; sometimes her husband is not the right person to talk to because only another teacher can understand how she is feeling. According to these two brilliant and empathetic teachers, the key to working with students and parents and navigating through difficult education policies is having a great friendship you can always rely on.

“It is certainly an interesting time to be an educator. The field is in a state of tumult across the country and in my opinion has been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The added stress of working through a pandemic while being held to the same high standards of student achievement has pushed so many to switch careers. Those who remain are fighting for both what our kids need to thrive and what we need to keep doing this job, despite being largely villainized for doing so. I’m very proud to be a teacher and feel fulfilled in my calling every single day, but I also feel more exhausted than ever. I hope that education programs like JMU can continue to harness enthusiasm for the next generation of teachers, while also giving them the tools to set boundaries and make this a manageable career path.” — Ashley Schiraldi

Dilley further adds that she is happy to be teaching in a district where her library looks the way she wants it to look. She loves to teach her 5th graders about diverse identities, races, and authentic history, and watch them grow into full individuals by the end of the year. She is still in contact with Dr. Jen Newton, one of her teachers from JMU with whom she shares the same philosophy: that teaching is political. Dilley follows Dr. Newton's work through and gives her credit for making her into the kind of teacher she is today.

Schiraldi (left) and Dilley (right) in 2022

Schiraldi is also still in touch with two teachers that JMU set her up to do student teaching with, Mrs. Jean Lofaso and Mrs. Jena Streett. She feels honored to have learned so much from both due to them being veteran teachers when she was in their respective classrooms. As Schiraldi starts her 10th year of teaching, she has been thinking about the advice that Mrs. Lofaso gave her, saying that if she could make it to ten years, she could make it to retirement.

Dilley credits JMU for instilling a problem-solving approach in their education students. She believes that reflecting on the class, students, and lesson plans has made her a better teacher. Schiraldi echoes Dilley's sentiment as she also agrees the JMU education program prepared her in the best way by getting her in the classroom as much as possible. "You may never feel prepared to write report cards or meet with parents, but you just have to bite the bullet," advises Schiraldi. Both recommend that current COE students build a support system within the teaching community because channeling the power of collaboration is the best way to get this job done. Dilley sums up the 9 years of collective learning by her and Schiraldi, saying that it is easy to make teaching your entire life, but aspiring educators should learn to prioritize their mental health and develop the right boundaries.

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Published: Thursday, September 29, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, October 13, 2022

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