Students, Teachers, Staff Welcome CJ as the new Senior Grade Dean

Jones Eckhardt excited to take on new position in Upper School

Nya Manneh, Staff Writer

We have all experienced so many changes in the past six months, from COVID-19 to widespread Black Lives Matter movements, so it is understandable that any more change could throw some of us off the deep end. Luckily, the addition of CJ Jones Eckhardt as the new Senior Dean might just turn the Senior Class year around.

Jones Eckhardt has been at Blake for 4 years, starting as the Associate Director of Admissions and Upper School Coordinator in 2017. During her time in admissions, students may have witnessed her amazingly warm and welcoming spirit as she roamed the halls to say hello. Students may have also known her as an active participant in the affinity group, SHADES, as the lead faculty for Admissions Ambassadors, or as the JV Softball Head Coach.

Although Jones Eckhardt was great at her job in admissions, when the opportunity arose to become the Senior Dean, she knew she wanted more: I could have stayed in admissions, things would have been just fine, as far as I know, Blake wasn’t trying to get rid of me. But this was an intentional job. Right now we’re two weeks in, already, and I have never felt so connected. I’ve never felt so… this is natural. It just fits. It’s exhausting, it’s exhilarating, it’s fun, but I’m happy now. Y’all [the class of 2021] want to drive me CRAZY, but it’s definitely worth it.

Many members of the Blake community wish her well in her new position. When asked about how she felt after learning Jones Eckhardt was becoming her new grade dean, Lorna Kruesel ’21 said, She’s really cool and she brings a lot of positive energy, which I think all of us need right now.î Most students are drawn to Jones Eckhardt’s personality. Kenna Vavrichek ’21 explains, She’s hilarious and knows a lot about many things and gives me great advice, and she’s a really fun person to talk to.Even for faculty, Jones Eckhardt is such a positive influence. For Adriana Matzke, who worked with her in admissions, She’s a truth teller, she’s honest, which I appreciate, and her energy that she brings to work and her willingness to listen to other people’s ideas, she’s a good collaborator she’s a wonderful, supportive, positive, upbeat colleague. Librarian Lizz Buchanan said something similar: I like that she checks in with people. I like that, at least once a day, she comes by to just say hey, and to see what’s going on.

Physics teacher Steve Kaback and Class of 2023 Dean Mike Canfield, who were on the panel of interviewers for her job in admissions and the dean position respectively, knew she’d be a great fit. Kaback adoringly states, I know that she has a wonderful personality, she’s incredibly articulate, caring, and she has such a great background to help out the class of 2021. Similarly, Canfield explains that he values her overall personality, approach, depth of experience of different things, her athletic experience, teen approach, all of those things, like knowledge of institutional those things.

Jones Eckhardt states that her hope is to get to know as many of [the Seniors] as I can. The ones that maybe I said hi to, I want to understand who they are, I want to understand how they work, I want to understand how I can make their experience [in their last year] at Blake the most memorable and as smooth as possible. That’s my goal What I’m excited about is those relationships. I’m excited to, hopefully, though COVID-19 exists, make sure that you can say, Wow! That was a really cool senior year! Oh my gosh, we had so much fun. My hope is to make sure that you all still feel confident in your experience at Blake, and excited and prepared for college.

Luckily, both the faculty and students seem to have total faith in her. I think that she’ll do a great job of getting to know everybody, and advocating for all of us, says Vavrichek. Similarly, Kruesel states, “I think she’s going to make us nicer…she’s going to help keep us hopeful and bright. It sucks that this is senior year, but I think she’s helping get the energy more happy and hopeful. Billy Dunlap ’21 believes that she’ll prevail in bringing us all together, helping us be aware of what’s going on in the world. Kaback explains that Jones Eckhardt’s greatest accomplishment and hardest task will be ushering the seniors to graduation during these unprecedented times: I’ve found that she’s been very proactive talking with the advisors of the senior homerooms, and the lines of communication are really healthy, and so I think all of those things will add up.î Canfield likewise commended her, assuring she would excel in guiding the seniors to graduation: She’ll respond and help students from all different perspectives get through this year, and I think that’s the sort of the strength of her character and personality that will allow her to do that.

     Finally, equally as enthusiastic Buchanan says, ìThe first year at a job is always weird and hard, and I think that CJ has got a little bit of a jump because she has the institutional knowledge. I think that she’s going to make this year as great as she can for seniors given everything that’s going on, and I think that within a few months, it’s going to feel like she was always your dean. And I think that that’s going to be her biggest accomplishment, making you all feel like she’s always been there as your dean!

     From the moment Blake welcomed her into our community, Jones Eckhardt has been positive, social, comedic, and conversational with everyone she interacts with. Many students look to her as the person who they can trust and confide in, whether it be hanging out in her office or venting to her in between classes. She has affected everyone around her in the best way, and it’s clear to say that the students and teachers alike are excited to see her shine in her new position.