Meet Dr. Nolan



Katherine Nolan, Ph.D., is Inkwell’s new faculty advisor and the English teacher for sophomores and juniors in the Upper School for Boys.


Inkwell: We’d like to get to know you— tell us about yourself.


Nolan: Well, I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, but my family is originally from the New York area. When we moved, my 4th-grade class had a project on the food of Kentucky, and I was assigned the Burgoo stew. It’s traditionally made from wild game, including squirrel, and my mother was wondering how she was going to make Burgoo stew since she didn’t know how to prepare squirrel. So we always laugh about our introduction to Kentucky cuisine.

Later, I went to an all girls high school, which was an IB school. That was my first exposure to the IB program, as a student there. I then went to Fordham University for my bachelor’s degree, where I double-majored in English and History. I liked those two subjects, but I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it from there.

I was studying in New York City so I got involved with the journalism and publishing world. I worked on my student newspaper, the Fordham Ram, and was named copy chief my sophomore year. I had an executive board position for three volumes, so I was quite involved. It was probably 20 hours a week, and we pulled an all-nighter every Tuesday night, so working on the paper very much dominated my college experience. 

I did a couple of internships in publishing— one at Columbia University Press my junior year. I was always more interested in the editing side than the interviewing and reporting side, but that internship was very helpful and informative and a great opportunity, because I realized I really didn’t like editing as a full-time job; I liked to also be producing my own content. I was helping to edit academic books, getting the press releases, doing the photo credits. I just wasn’t engaged enough with it, so I pivoted from there and decided I don’t really want to edit or copy edit professionally. 

I had a summer job working with kids at a science museum in Kentucky, and so I wondered how I could combine teaching and research, editing and writing, and that’s when a professor said to me, “why don’t you try grad school, and look into becoming a professor?” I thought that sounded great, so I applied to grad programs— though I really didn’t know what I was doing— and ended up getting into the University of Chicago. 

I felt like I won the lottery! I moved to Chicago right after I finished my bachelor’s degree, and I specialized in 18th-century literature, the Age of Enlightenment, and also really early novels— the sort of foundations of the novel, which is something I still research. In fact, I’ve got an article coming out this summer on an 18th-century novel, so it’s something I still very much enjoy. While I was in grad school, I was teaching quite a bit, and I enjoyed teaching college, but my day was more researching than teaching.  

I went on an archival trip to England during my grad program, and I was working in libraries there and I just thought I want to be with students more— be spending less time in the library and more time in the classroom. And so I thought about pivoting again toward secondary education. I started working at the University of Chicago Lab School while I was finishing my degree, applied for jobs, and ended up here at Annie Wright. So it’s been a short career so far, but there were a lot of impactful experiences that led me to where I am now.


Inkwell: Where can we look for your article when it comes out this summer?


Nolan: You can look for that in the 18th Century Fiction Journal. It’s coming out in an academic journal so it’ll probably be coming out behind a paywall…


Inkwell: How did you decide to join the Annie Wright community?


Nolan: In a lot of ways, I feel like Annie Wright chose me. I’m a first-year teacher and AWS was like willing to be my first home, which is really wonderful. When I saw the job ad for Annie Wright, I’d never been to Washington State before. I thought Chicago was west! When I moved out there for grad school, I really didn’t know anything about the area, but I saw the school, and I was really attracted to the fact that it had the IB program, which was something that I really liked as a student. I also really liked the way in which Annie Wright has both boys and girls on campus, but in separate schools. I went to an all-girls school, my brother went to an all-boys school, and I think my all-girls education was really valuable and impactful. I liked that AWS really had that shared sense of values. I also really wanted to teach boys, but a lot of boys schools looked at someone like me and didn’t know if that would be the best fit, but I feel like Annie Wright is really a different kind of boys school. The fact that it’s attached to a girls school, that it’s really young and new, and that they’re willing to try new things made it seem to me like a really great place to start a career. 


Inkwell: Well we’re really glad you came! What is something your students don’t know about you?


Nolan: They don’t know how much I love Halloween. I don’t think they are prepared— mentally and emotionally— for how much I love Halloween. I’ve been wondering if it’s still a little too early to get the Halloween decorations for my classroom; I like to put them up on October 1st. So that’s probably something they don’t know.


Inkwell: And what are you looking forward to about this year?


Nolan: Just learning what I don’t know, I guess. Because it’s my first year, there’s a lot of stuff that’s going to be new, and so just getting in the swing of things and starting to feel like I fit in here is what I’m most looking forward to. Learning the traditions— there are so many traditions in the boy’s school— and getting to know those has been the most fun part so far.


Inkwell: Being from Kentucky, do you prefer the iconic hot brown sandwich or mint julep?


Nolan: This is a school paper! Can I answer that without getting in trouble? 

Hot browns are a little weird; I’ll be honest. They’re a little strange. And a mint julep made fresh— am I allowed to say this? I feel like I’m not allowed to say this— if it’s made fresh, is wonderful.