Sharon Howell, Character Readiness

The Path to Higher Ed is a SchooLinks hosted podcast community that explores trending topics and issues in the area of college and career readiness. Our featured guests are pushing education forward by constantly learning from, innovating and applying their college and career readiness practices. Listen to gain their insights and apply them to your own college and career readiness practices.

In this episode, Sharon Howell, Head of School at Indian Springs School in Indian Springs Village, Alabama, talks with us about the value of character development in college readiness. With a perspective that is informed by experience working for Harvard in higher education, Sharon believes that students experience a lack of college readiness when they become too focused on external and outcome-oriented motivations. While subscribing to the John Dewey model of education, Sharon seeks to maintain a culture that revolves around student democracy and ownership.

About Sharon Howell

Sharon Howell is the Head of Indian Springs School, a 300-student day and boarding school outside Birmingham, Alabama. Before that she was Associate Head of Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts,​ and a faculty member and dean at Harvard University. Sharon is an idealist in education, and believes it can transform individuals, communities and societies.

About Indian Springs School


Guided by the motto Learning Through Living, Indian Springs School fosters in students a love of learning, a sense of integrity and moral courage, and an ethic of participatory citizenship, with respect for individuality and independent thought.

Core Values

Innovative Thinking

Indian Springs believes strongly that innovative thinking and creative problem-solving are critical to meeting the challenges of an increasingly global and competitive world. The school values the fact that each of its students brings to the school community a unique set of interests, beliefs, abilities, and passions, and it strives through thoughtful and flexible academic program, varied extracurricular opportunities, and meaningful faculty-student interactions to enable students to grow as individuals and as independent thinkers.

Intellectual Curiosity

Students have the capacity to solve some of the most challenging problems that our world faces. Before they can find meaningful answers, they must learn to ask meaningful questions. Indian Springs seeks to foster in its students a lifelong love of learning and an appreciation for how much more we have yet to explore.


Indian Springs values personal integrity and seeks to develop in its students a sense of moral courage to make honorable choices, both in and out of the classroom. Because the right choice is not always the easy choice, the school strives regularly to highlight instructive examples of integrity in thought, word, and deed.


Indian Springs believes that in order for students to meet their full potential, they must be able to trust that their community accepts them for who they are. The school strives always to be a community of inclusion that embraces and promotes diversity of background, belief, and thought.

Infinite Respect

Indian Springs believes that strong communities are built on mutual respect and an appreciation for all, regardless of differences. As a supportive community of students, faculty, alumni, parents, and friends, the school seeks to foster and demonstrate limitless respect for one another, its campus, and the world.


Since the school’s inception in 1952, participatory citizenship has been a cornerstone of its educational philosophy. Indian Springs believes that each of its students has a personal responsibility to continually shape and improve the school community. Involvement comes in many forms: taking part in student government and other activities, engaging in meaningful discussions in and out of class, collaborating actively with peers on group assignments, and engaging in community-minded efforts that better the campus and world.

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