Brittany Collins ’14

Educator, Founder of Grief-Responsive Teaching, and Author of “Learning from Loss: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Supporting Grieving Students”

What advice would you give to a girl graduating from Williston today?   

Find your mentors and keep them close! The most meaningful interpersonal relationships, professional and academic opportunities, and life advice I have had the privilege of receiving have all originated from authentic, reciprocal mentoring relationships—from Williston, to college, to the workplace and beyond. Collaboration and connection are pivotal to learning and growing in both personal and professional spheres. Never overlook an opportunity to learn from someone you respect and trust. Send them an email, share a book recommendation, visit office hours or ask to schedule a time for coffee. Intergenerational connection is one of the most empowering and enlightening elements to achieving one’s dreams.

What motivates you in your work and life?

Though I may not have known it at the time, I was lucky to discover my passion and purpose at Williston: Utilizing storytelling, in all its forms, to promote connection, identity development, and well-being. Today, I work in two spheres: writing education (at the secondary and postsecondary levels) and social-emotional learning (specifically grief-responsive, trauma-informed teaching). In both spheres, I am motivated to create brave spaces for young people and adults to share their stories, speak their truths, and forge connections that support both individual and communal wellbeing. When I design new programming or pedagogies, I always remember facilitating Cultural Identity Development nights in the Williston dining hall as a teenager—and writing my first personal narrative essays among the brick walls of the Schoolhouse. Through my work, I am motivated to create similar spaces for teachers and learners of all ages to feel empowered, valued, and supported.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

An incredible college mentor once told me before a challenging presentation “Ask not ‘How did I do?’ but ‘What can I learn from this?'”

I have since sought to apply that re-frame, that growth mindset, to all aspects of work and life, and I bring the phrase to mind in times of uncertainty.