Reshaping education in San Diego.
John Jay Institute Alumna
B.A. in History, Yale University
current position and location
Founder & Head of School at The Cambridge School, San Diego, California
Jean Kim entered the Witherspoon Fellowship after hearing about it from a friend who worked at Family Research Council at the time. She still remembers fondly her time with many excellent books, great peer discussions, and the challenges of writing thoughtful responses to all the readings while also working in a D.C. lobbyist environment. For her internship, she worked for the education department analyzing new legislation.
Prior to entering the Fellowship, Jean had earned her Bachelor of Arts in History at Yale University, and returned to her home state of California to teach high school. As a teacher, she found that students tended to look at education as a means to success and financial security, not as a source of pleasure or meaningful living. The Fellowship, Jean says, “helped me to think about a thoughtful, intelligent faith and the impact it could have on society.... It shaped my interest in the integration of faith and learning and deepened my sense of calling/vocation and stewardship.”
She married entrepreneur Scott Kim in 1998. When their oldest son began kindergarten, she found that there weren't any schools that fit the high standards for education that she had understandably acquired––schools that focused on character as well as intellectual development. Rather than home school their three children in this way, she decided to reach out and see if others in her community were craving such an education for their children. In 2006, she started a classical Christian school with nine children from seven families. Eight years later, enrollment at The Cambridge School has grown to 203, covering K-9th grade and likely to expand through 12th grade. In an area where students are driven by an idea of success and ultimately financial gain, a classical education, which fosters a love for learning and a cultivation of rightly ordered affections and excellent habits of mind, is revolutionary. Families are willing to pay nearly $15,000 per year and, in some cases, drive an hour each day to bring their children to The Cambridge School.
In the beginning, Jean worked 80 to 100 hours per week without pay—doing the duties of janitor, secretary, substitute, curriculum-maker, and admissions counselor. Today, as Head of School, Jean remains involved, hiring and training teachers and designing curricula, ensuring that the vision remains at the forefront of all endeavors. Some days, she says, it still feels surreal—running a school where students love to learn, where teachers feel ennobled by their craft, and where parents feel supported by the school’s agenda.
Among the Witherspoon Fellowship curriculum, Jean remembers the readings from Abraham Kuyper. “It was the first time I’d thought so deeply about Christianity’s influence on culture; it has had a lasting impact on my work with the school.”