Innovation at St. Margaret's

Creating our everyday tomorrow.
Our Tartans are always looking up, reaching higher because they are excited about learning and the unlimited possibilities of their futures. St. Margaret’s is known for unrivalled academics and programs that nurture and support the learning and growth of talented, enthusiastic students. Our Tartans motivate us every day to continually create and advance the most vigorous and innovative learning environments and experiences for them. So we too, are always looking up and reaching higher.
This makes the very best everyday for today, and tomorrow.

Strategic Plan

The launch of a visionary Strategic Plan in 2016 by the Board of Trustees and Head of School Will Moseley set a bold, aspirational and transformative course for St. Margaret’s, its students and professional community, with a purposeful focus on our mission and core values and the needs-of students in their learning, growth and well-being.

When St. Margaret's stepped away from traditional strategic planning driven by metrics and business-style analysis and leveraged the inherent skills, expertise, dedication and talents of the professional community, to home in on the evolving needs of today’s students, the results were transformational to both students and the institution. 

In the past few years, this fundamental shift in strategic planning allowed St. Margaret’s to discover authentic student needs for deeper connection and relevance in their learning and a whole-child approach to student health and wellness. The results include the creation of  exciting and inventive new academic programs:

  • New school schedule, which continues to evolve
  • Student health and wellness programs,
  • Redesigning the service learning program,
  • Innovation mini-courses in the Upper School that explore life skills, well-being and student areas of interest,
  • New experiential, interdisciplinary and cross-divisional studies, expanded elective offerings,
  • Enhanced STEAM curricula
  • Scholar-in-residence program
  • New learning environments like the Lower School STEAM Center, Upper School Engineering Lab and the Early Childhood School Demonstration Lab. 
  • The innovative, multifaceted Every Tartan, Every Day school operations plan upholding and in many places exceeding safety and health guidelines and allowing all 1,234 students to be in-person, on campus every day through the pandemic beginning in fall 2020. 

WATCH: Assistant Head of School Ryan Dahlem's January 2022 Innovation Strategy Update presentation to the parent community. 

St. Margaret's Innovation Strategy

The plan has been implemented with an empathy-driven design thinking methodology developed by Stanford University. Importantly, this approach puts student needs around their educational, growth and well-being at the center of the innovation process. Today, St. Margaret's has evolved this approach into its unique approach: Innovation Strategy.

St. Margaret's Innovation Strategy uncovered authentic student needs for deeper connection, relevance in learning experiences and a holistic approach to student health and wellness. These insights led to exciting and inventive new academic and student programs, many listed above, as a result. It has also yielded an important and enduring byproduct—an entirely new way of thinking and approaching challenges and opportunities by St. Margaret's professional community, a renewed energy, enthusiasm and collaboration for school planning and change, and a schoolwide culture of innovation among the entire professional community.

St. Margaret’s signature Innovation Strategy is similar to Design Thinking, and has unique characteristics to St. Margaret’s:
  • Guided by an ongoing, replicable process to continually design and actualize the future of the school
  • Student-centered and heavily influenced by principles of design thinking (empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, iterate)
  • Relies on the educational expertise of the professional community and fiscal expertise of the Board of Trustees
  • Results in the identification of aspirational strategic priorities within the school’s Core Values (Character, Community, Balance and Breadth, High Expectations and Equity and Inclusion) and institutional sustainability
  •  Relies on diverse teams from across the school collaborating to generate creative solutions
  • Embraces piloting to test action steps at small scale before full implementation
  • Evolves beyond traditional “Strategic Plan” name and approach, and moves toward continuous “strategic thinking” mode

St. Margaret's has been recognized as a leader for its Innovation Strategy by the National Association of Independent Schools.

List of 1 members.

  • Photo of Ryan Dahlem

    Ryan Dahlem 

    Assistant Head of School
    (949) 661-0108 x1275

Ryan Dahlem, Assistant Head of School

“Our approach to innovation is inspired by the creativity and success of Silicon Valley tech companies where the human-centered design process begins with empathy.  The guiding principle of “fall in love with your end user” clearly resonates with us and our relationship with the most important element of our innovation process: the student.”

Top ways St. Margaret’s is INNOVATING every day.

List of 4 items.

  • Cultural Competency

    Cultural competency is the skillset of DEI work, possessing the understandings, perspectives and skills needed to recognize and honor diversity, and effectively communicate, interact and build relationships across differences, both within our school community and in the larger world.
  • STEM & Technology

    St. Margaret’s STEM program serves our students’ natural interest, engages them through experiential, project-based curriculum, allows them to make sense of the technological world, builds critical and creative thinking and higher-order reasoning skills, and prepares them for college majors and 21st century careers in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
  • Experiential Learning

    Tartans are active learners! St. Margaret’s provides myriad opportunities for them to get their hands as busy as their minds, to explore, discover, solve problems and make a difference. Experiential learning at St. Margaret’s allows students to apply their learning in real situations and settings outside the classroom, immersing themselves into the work and taking time to reflect on the process and learning.
  • Unique Courses

    We continually seek student learning interests or opportunities within our curriculum, inspired by everything from industry trends and current events to technological advances and evolving learning styles, and pursue them through an extensive Academic Leadership Team process of research, analysis and development. Explore courses and programs only offered at St. Margaret’s.

Innovative Partnerships

List of 4 items.

  • UCI Henry Samueli School of Engineering

    The UCI School of Engineering is a higher learning research institution offering 12 undergraduate and 10 graduate degree programs. The school educates students to be the best engineers and leaders in the nation and world by engaging them in a stimulating community dedicated to the discovery of knowledge, excellence in scholarship, and service to society; and to develop tomorrow’s technologies that will make a global impact.
  • Pacific Symphony

    Pacific Symphony enriches the human spirit through superior performances of symphonic music and community engagement. Led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, Pacific Symphony is the largest orchestra formed in the U.S. in the last 50 years. The Symphony presents more than 100 concerts and events each year and a rich array of education and community programs, reaching more than 275,000 residents—from school children to senior citizens.
  • Breakthrough SJC

    Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano is a tuition-free program providing academic enrichment opportunities and support for highly motivated, underserved middle and high school students so that they can realize their potential to excel in high school and graduate from college. Nearly all Breakthrough SJC students are from low-income backgrounds and will be the first in their families to go to college.
  • edX

    Founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, edX is an online learning destination and MOOC provider, offering high-quality courses from the world’s best universities and institutions to learners everywhere. The world’s leading universities, nonprofits, and institutions comprise edX’s more than 90 global partners.
An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California
St. Margaret's Episcopal School does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, sexual orientation or national and ethnic origin in the administration of its educational, admission, financial aid, hiring and athletic policies or in other school-administered programs.
St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
31641 La Novia Avenue
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
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