A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

Nancy vanArkel

Nancy van Arkel is a life-long Quaker with a deep faith that Friends' education is uniquely positioned to prepare young people to be leaders in a changing world. With advanced degrees in both English and Library Services, Nancy has been both a middle and upper school teacher, and worked with students pre-K through 12th grade as Director of Library Services. She served in a national advocacy role as president of the Independent Schools Section with the American Library Association. As Middle School Principal, Nancy has overseen the introduction of Mandarin, integration of a 1:1 iPad program, expansion of the athletics program, development of a social / emotional learning (SEL) curriculum, and transformation of the student leadership program to reflect Friends' inclusive decision-making processes. She firmly believes that - despite all our fear-fueled expectations - the Middle School years are a time of exciting intellectual curiosity and can be navigated with joy.

Recent Posts

Ready, Set, Learn!

Posted by Nancy vanArkel on August 22, 2018


Getting ready for school takes more than a new notebook and bookbag. Help your child be ready for success by taking a few additional steps now.

Sleep: Many of us change our sleep patterns over the summer. Now is the time to begin to adjust your child’s bedtime and wake time back to a school-year routine. Adequate and consistent sleep makes a huge difference in a child’s ability to learn, and a child who is sleepy for the first week of school may have a hard time recovering.

Summer Reading: You can’t read too much in the summer! If your child completed their summer reading earlier in the summer, take some time to review the book so the story and characters are fresh in their minds. Page through the book, create a chart of characters and relationships, or journal about a particular plot twist.  

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids, Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens

Homework - Help Your Middle Schooler Succeed

Posted by Nancy vanArkel on November 14, 2017

Getting your Middle Schooler to focus on academics is one of the great challenges of parenting. Friends, social networking, sports, video games, and even just staring blankly in the mirror can all hold more interest. Here are six things I’ve seen great parents do to help their children focus on learning.

  • Act as if your child is already the responsible person you hope they will become. Our kids rise – and fall – to meet our expectations. Whether we say them out loud or not.
  • Be interested in your child’s learning – and share your own. Instead of just asking what she learned in school today, share what you learned at work or on the news. While your children work on homework, set aside your own time for reading, writing in a journal or learning to do something new. Communicate through your actions that you value learning as a life-long activity, not just to get good grades in school.
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Topics: Building Self-Esteem in Teens, Help with learning