Dr. Stephanie Capen has forever understood the awesome potential of education when a school links great teaching with great research.
Her first teaching job was at the University Laboratory School in Honolulu, across the street from the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s School of Education. University Laboratory School has intertwining missions to both deliver the best possible education to students, while also serving as an educational research and development community.
“We were a laboratory to pilot research-based innovation,” Dr. Capen said. “It’s where I became an educator. My first teaching experience showed me the power of research to transform teaching and learning.”
Dr. Capen, an Upper School science teacher since 2020, will be moving into a newly created administrative role after this school year, as she becomes St. Margaret’s first Director of Institutional Research.
The position was conceptualized by Head of School-Elect Jeneen Graham, a longtime proponent and practitioner of data-driven decision-making in education, and the ability of research to unearth answers to a school’s most overarching questions—namely, “How do we know we’ve been successful?”
“This is a very innovative role. Only a handful of independent schools have dedicated resources to a position like this,” Dr. Graham said. “We are so excited to have Stephanie take on this important work. She asks great questions, she has a strong capacity for analysis, and she has an ability to take complicated data and turn it into a digestible narrative. Her work will impact all corners of the school, and will empower our professional community to utilize data for the benefit of our students.”
In Dr. Capen’s role, she will select and design assessments that are tailored to St. Margaret’s Mission and Core Values, design assessment and data collection tools, analyze data collected in the classroom and across a range of school programs, and work closely with St. Margaret’s professional community to support and enhance the learning experience, among other duties.
When Dr. Graham announced the new position to the Upper School professional community earlier this year, she referred to the administrator as a “partner” with the professional community.
That word stuck with Dr. Capen.
“I definitely think of this role as a partnership,” Dr. Capen said. “I get to collaborate with incredible colleagues and continue to support the great work we are doing here at St. Margaret’s.
“Research is a mirror. It lets us see ourselves. It inspires creativity and innovation and promotes questioning. It can affirm the incredible work our school is doing, and it can show us opportunities for even more growth.”
Dr. Capen has been a science teacher at St. Margaret’s since 2020, teaching Upper School astronomy as well as Upper School and Middle School physics. Beyond her tenure at the University Laboratory School, Dr. Capen began her career in research with funding from the National Science Foundation focusing on cutting edge inquiry in the field of astronomy. She has conducted research on curriculum design, has been an education architect for the Janus Group, the academic dean at Maryknoll High School and a university lecturer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Prior to her arrival at St. Margaret’s, Dr. Capen was the director of curriculum development and outreach at the Island Pacific Academy, an independent school in Hawaii.
Dr. Capen earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Nazarene College, before earning her masters and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
While she settles into her new role, Dr. Capen will continue serving as an Upper School advisor, as well as teaching one astronomy class next year.
“I am an educator—that’s who I am,” Dr. Capen said. “I think each of my roles will inform each other, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to lead St. Margaret’s institutional research while still maintaining a close connection to the student experience.”
St. Margaret’s assessment and measuring tools, overseen by Dr. Graham in her roles as academic dean and Upper School principal, has received acclaim from organizations across the nation. She has spoken at several national conferences about St. Margaret’s cutting-edge approach to data, sharing more about the school’s mission-centered data analysis
and assessment tools that measure culture, belonging and connection.
She envisions Dr. Capen enhancing and broadening the school’s data and analysis, taking St. Margaret’s to new heights.
“This is a visionary role,” Dr. Graham said. “It will provide us with an understanding of how we are doing, and will allow us to move forward with a greater level of excellence. Stephanie is the perfect person for this role, and I can’t wait for her to get started.”