Workshops & Keynotes > Schools
Learning sticks when we practice, fumble, and revise,that’s why I invite discussion, laughter, reflection, and role plays in my work with independent schools
Dr. Thurber has inspired learning since 1985, when he began teaching swimming in South Portland, Maine. Today, he engages professional educators and youth leaders around the world in the exciting journey of their own professional development.
Featured In Conferences For
Dr. Thurber is a favorite presenter at conferences such as TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools), NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools), BSA ([British] Boarding Schools Association), and ABSA (Australian Boarding Schools Association) as well as at individual schools on five continents. Each year, his workshops on boundaries, mental health, communication, leadership, residential life, and acculturation are in high demand.
Dr. Thurber has taught elementary school French, swimming and life guarding, and co-instructed undergraduate courses in linguistics and adolescent development. He has also coached swimming and archery. He now teaches the Introduction to Psychology course for seniors at Phillips Exeter Academy.
Why Schools Hire Dr. Chris
Our school benefited from having Dr. Thurber present as part of our opening faculty meetings. What we most appreciate about his presentation is how directly he is able to speak to the challenges we face in boarding communities. He acknowledges that we endeavor to create caring, supportive, nurturing communities, but that we also must always be aware of our professional boundaries and authority with the students. He presents realistic case studies and opens up a dialogue that helps faculty and staff explore complicated issues in a productive and open way. We constantly refer back to our session with Dr. Thurber and look forward to our next workshop with him!
Jody Soja Head of School, Indian Mountain School March 19, 2019
Chris, your sessions are so valuable to us! Several faculty have already told me how you changed their thinking about boundaries and energized them to start the year. Everyone also enjoyed your workshop on "intelligent failure." This year, we are teaching our boys about grit, and part of grit is being able to fail, dust yourself off, and try again. Our faculty have communicated with parents about letting their sons fail, and your talk has helped advance that conversation immensely. Thank you!
Monica Lucey Dean of Faculty & Academics, Hillside School October 15, 2018
Dr. Chris Thurber's workshop on Effective Messaging at Seattle University was exceptionally effective. Within an hour, Dr. Thurber had guided our diverse group of professors to craft a catchy slogan and value proposition for our Revolutionizing Engineering and Computers (RED) group. We have successfully featured those messages in all of the publicity for RED projects funded by the National Science Foundation. Thank you, Dr. Thurber!
Dr. Teodora Rutar Shuman Professor & Chair, Mechanical Engineering Department, Seattle University October 5, 2018
Dear Chris, I wanted to share with you how wonderfully received you were by our faculty and staff! Many made a point to express to me their appreciation of you, the questions and reflections you brought forth, and how engaging and approachable you were. Thank you for sharing your expertise and for facilitating such important education and dialogue.
Jenneil Gross-Kriever Director of Counseling Services, Chatham Hall October 5, 2018
Dr. Thurber, Thank you so very much for your illustrated boundary workshop. As someone who has taught many one-to-one and smaller group sessions (in the UK), it was of immense benefit. Your advice inspired me to consider using a GoPro as a teaching tool for dramatic purposes--to identify different viewpoints from characters in plays, ensembles, and choirs. Many, many thanks!
Michelle Cressida-Bliss Director of Music, Chatham Hall October 5, 2018
- Chris was one of the most interesting and engaging presenters I have seen. I left feeling like the entire faculty of my school should get to have the same experience. Discussions were engaging, examples and clips were on point, time management of breaks and activity was well planned
- Chris was is one of the best, most knowledgeable, easy to listen to, effective presenters I have had the pleasure of working with.
- Chris was fantastic! He presented with warmth and humor on a challenging topic: professional boundaries.
- Chris, your presentation was fabulous. You were able to make an uncomfortable topic for some an engaging and comfortable experience. Your videos and case studies were thought provoking and beneficial.
Conference Participant Evaluations ISACS Chicago Conference 2018 October 5, 2018
"Chris, thanks for your excellent workshop today. Based on everyone's conversations later in the afternoon, it was extremely well received. It certainly gives us a strong leadership foundation for our work this summer."
Andrew Walpole Assistant Head, Wolfeboro Boarding School January 21, 2018
"Dear Dr. Thurber, I cannot thank you enough for your awesome presentation on Teaching Students to Fail last week at Purnell for the Association of Independent Schools of New Jersey! We learned a ton and it has already helped me as a teacher and a parent!"
Dr. Nicole Lynn Martone Head of Upper School, Ranney School January 20, 2018
“Dear Chris, I heard you speak a couple times at American Camp Association conferences in the past year and wanted to thank you for sharing your experience and insight into not just managing, but inspiring the leaders of tomorrow. The energy and charisma you bring to the table makes me excited to continuing making improvements at my camps despite the associated challenges.”
Katie Feldhues Military Kids Program Manager, Ohio State 4H Extension September 11, 2017
“Thank you so much for your thought provoking Boarding Schools’ Association seminars. They helped consolidate prior knowledge and boost my understanding of positive psychology. Mindsets *do* matter. Your positive futures slide has helped me to feel confident to walk forward and disseminate this information to my colleagues. As professionals in the boarding schools, we are all involved in enabling our pupils to gain a real sense of value and values; of belonging and self-worth. Your seminars have helped me better provide the kinds of supports that meet my students’ needs.”
Jacqui Irven Matron, Collinson House, Mill Hill School–London, Mill Hill School September 11, 2017
Dear Chris: Thank you!!! Reports from the Groton faculty are that you hit a single or a double during your first visit, as you were adjusting to us, and this time around, your workshop was a homerun. Thanks so much for helping us on the thorny and often uncomfortable topic of Preserving Professional Teacher-Student Boundaries. With gratitude.
Temba Maqubela Headmaster, Groton School September 11, 2017
“Chris, I’ve heard nothing but positive comments from faculty members following your workshop on Monday. Thank you so much for taking the time to come all this way. Your presentation was perfect (and that’s saying something–as you know, boarding school teachers, especially teachers who’ve been in the profession for many years, can be a skeptical audience!).
A couple of things stand out to me as making the workshop particularly successful. One is the fact that you are a boarding school teacher yourself, and able to “speak the language.” Another is the fact that while you included examples of times when teachers violated sexual boundaries with students, you didn’t focus on those. Instead you provided a number of examples of more nuanced boundary violations, then invited the audience to discern those violations for themselves. You also have a wonderful and very engaging way of connecting with your audience. The workshop was informative, authentic, and thought-provoking. I know our faculty will continue to discuss the cases you presented and the ones you left with us.”
Nancy Starmer Head of School, George School September 11, 2017
“Chris, thank you for a fabulous keynote at ASSCSI. What a treat for everyone involved! There was quite a wonderful buzz after the workshop. You gave us such good information and you were entertaining as well. Your shared wisdom will make a difference in the lives of the students counseled by our participants. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Debra Shaver Director of Admissions, Smith College September 11, 2017
“Thanks, Chris, for our workshop today. It was VERY well received. You were lively, the nuances and complexities of a fascinating topic were heard, and folks felt it was a more than worthwhile morning–actually important. Thank you! You helped get our faculty off on the right foot, and that gets the year off on the right foot, kids and parents all.”
Jay S. Stroud Headmaster, Tabor Academy September 11, 2017
“Dear Chris, I really enjoyed your workshop on preserving professional teacher-student boundaries. The other faculty and I found your perspective as a mental health professional who works at an independent school extremely helpful. Thank you!”
Kate B. Jones, MSW, LCSW Director of Counseling, Lake Forest Academy September 11, 2017
“Dr. Thurber’s presentation was dynamic, thought provoking, and highly relevant to anyone working with students. The session provided opportunities for deep reflection and interesting discussion around the topic of professional boundaries. Chris is a master at delivering a balance of humor and seriousness in a package from which even the most seasoned veteran can draw significant benefits. The pace was perfect and the presentation was lively; before we knew it four hours had passed and we were wiser and better prepared than ever to work with our students in a positive way.”=
Tim Richards Headmaster, Pomfret School September 11, 2017
“Many faculty have come up to me and expressed very positive reactions to your presentation, including: “one of the best we have ever had…a vital topic well presented” and “very informative…Chris was well spoken and made a potentially awkward presentation engaging, appropriately serious, and humorous at times” and “one of the best presenters we have had in my now 10 years at WMA. His pace and sense of timing was excellent, and it was obvious that he understood our school.”
Donald Kelly Dean of Faculty, Wilbraham & Monson Academy September 11, 2017
“Dear Chris, Thank you for spending a day with us this past week. You presented the materail on Preserving Professional Teacher-Student Boundaries so very well. I appreciate the thought you’ve put into developing it. Your workshop was by far the most earnest and intellectually stimulating presentation that I’ve experienced at Brooks.”
The Reverend Bob Flanagan Brooks School September 11, 2017
“Without a doubt, Chris’s workshop was well-received by all faculty, ranging from lower school core teachers to 9th grade dorm heads. Frankly, it was the most positive feedback we received about an in-service day in many years. Drawing on his personal and professional experiences, Chris’s easy going style encouraged our faculty to open up and reveal their worries and challenges in a way that benefitted our entire group. His stimulating sessions helped to energize and empower faculty as the headed back into the trenches. I highly recommend Chris Thurber!”
Mark A. Devey Head of School, Indian Mountain School September 11, 2017
“Chris, we greatly appreciated your work with our faculty. Even the most veteran of teachers/coaches/mentors benefits from an airing of the professional closet, so to speak, and I appreciated that your presentation was smart, engaging, respectful and direct. The workshop was funny—caused some squirming at times—and overall really quite masterful.
You met our faculty with their good energy and intentions and helped them think about the responsibilities that we have to our students as fiduciaries. That’s a big word and an important concept, not one that often finds its way into our daily school vernacular; using the concept and phrase adds to our consideration of ourselves as responsible experts and professionals. Your presentation and the related materials offered us the opportunity to listen to each other on point and develop, in the room, a renewed sense of our faculty ethos that we can agree and build upon as a professional standard in which to take pride.”
Kathleen C. Giles Head of School, Middlesex School September 11, 2017
“Chris, it was really great having you at our staff training day. In our difficult work, a person who can deliver an upbeat message and at the same time hold the staff’s attention is really very valuable…Many of the students we serve have multiple psychiatric diagnoses, trauma-related symptoms, learning disabilities, are several years behind in school and in their physical, social and emotional development, have a history of failed interventions and an average of two psychiatric hospitalizations…
Therefore, our staff experience a great deal of pressure from all sides as they go about their daily work. Your message…made them feel it is worthwhile because children grow and thrive from their effort. They are doing something at which others have failed. There is something to say about making people feel good and still understand what they need to do to improve and grow in their life. I felt your message left people thinking that life is good if you work at it. I am 83 and I still keep this idea in mind…I hope we will see you soon again.”
Dr. Samuel Ross Managing Director, Friends of Green Chimneys; Founder, Green Chimneys September 11, 2017
“Dr. Chris Thurber made his presentation relevant to all members of our community and participants complimented him both for both content and style. The way in which Chris used a variety of approaches including case studies, video, and humor created engagement and encouraged participation in the discussions. Said one faculty member, ‘I was impressed by his broad approach to a layered subject and the space to ask our own questions and formulate answers. I left actually feeling empowered and comfortable.’ Another said ‘I feel that I gained a lot of valuable knowledge and insight that will contribute to my immediate growth as a coach, residential faculty member, and teacher. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and making it fun and exciting but also real and relevant.’”
Thomas Mueller Dean of Academics and Faculty, Saint Mary’s School September 11, 2017
“Given the wide range of developmental challenges inherent in working with children between 4 and 14, The Pike School’s leadership was concerned that it would be difficult for one presenter to provide meaningful professional development on the topic of teacher-student boundaries. I’m happy to report that Chris provided an engaging and interactive presentation that was universally well received. The conversations that have taken place since his workshop have helped us to better serve our students.”
John “Muddy” Waters Head, The Pike School September 11, 2017
“Dear Chris: Thank you for coming to Shady Side! Administrators and faculty were equally impressed and appreciative of your presentation on preserving professional teacher-student boundaries. You have such a great demeanor when talking with people individually or addressing a big group from the stage. Your presentation genuinely triggered meaningful follow-up conversations with many of our faculty. Thanks for being such an effective catalyst! Thanks as well for your great work and continued support of our counseling team. They were so happy to have spent time with you.”
Thomas M. Cangiano President, Shady Side Academy September 11, 2017
“Thank you so very much for the time you spent with us. You struck just the right balance of humor, enthusiasm and seriousness about the topic. The case studies were quite relevant and you approached the topic in a way that was uplifting and insightful while not being insulting to the experience and expertise of our faculty. It is particularly valuable and meaningful to have a consultant who brings both the professional training of a clinical psychologist and personal experience as a teacher and youth leader to his work. There is increased credibility and passion that comes from the fact that you too have been a teacher and a coach and are a member of a school community. From the perspective of your audience, “you get it!” We are already looking forward to your return!”
Dr. Katherine G. Windsor, Head of School, Miss Porter’s School Ms. Carol Santos, Dean of Faculty, Miss Porter’s School September 11, 2017
“Having seen Chris at a number of different conferences, I was excited to have him speak to our faculty in my first year as headmaster. Chris worked closely with our administration to identify relevant topics, plan his visit, and tailor his presentation. Our faculty gathered for the day and engaged with Chris in discussions about student-teacher boundaries and interpreting student conversations. Chris did an excellent job presenting practical information, helpful research, and case studies. Our faculty especially enjoyed his use of video clips from well-known movies to illustrate his points and elicit questions. Chris kept the energy level high throughout the day and our faculty has already asked me when he might return to share other presentations. The Hill School Faculty is more prepared, thoughtful, and enthusiastic after spending a day with Chris Thurber.”
Zack Lehman Headmaster, The Hill School September 11, 2017
“With true professionalism, expertise, profound wisdom, and good humor, Chris has an uncanny ability to lead a group of educators who are in various stages of their careers through complex dialog. The fact that he is “one of us” helps build his credibility and enables him to connect with all kinds of teachers. We succeeding in booking him last January, and my colleagues raved about his presentation on “Preserving Professional Teacher-Student Boundaries.” Many wished that he could come every year. Through his use of video clips, case studies, and open and relaxed discourse, Chris’s session inspired us all to grow professionally, and left us with so much more to consider. The final stamp of approval came from our Head of School at the end of the day when he said about Chris, “He’s good. Really good. He just gets it.” I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for coming to Chatham Hall, Chris!”
Emily Johns Dean of Students, Chatham Hall September 11, 2017
“Chris, the time with you flew by! It was exciting and inspiring to think of all that our Community Connections Committee could do for our students, equipped as they are now with the tools and strategies you’ve provided. I really and truly enjoyed every minute you were with us. Thank you!”
Amie Creagh Dean of Students, Deerfield Academy September 11, 2017
“Dear Chris: Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for your work with our faculty yesterday! We loved your workshops on multicultural intelligence, collaborative problem solving, and positive psychology. It was a great day and I think many enjoyed it. I got a text from a faculty member before you even left thanking me for helping bring you to the school!.”
James J. Greenwood Associate Dean of Multicultural Education, Northfield Mount Hermon September 11, 2017
“What a dynamic, engaging presentation that you provided the JBSA! I love how you tune in to who your audience is and make every effort to customize your message to their needs and experience. The new teachers / dorm parents / coaches left yesterday with great insight and some newfound confidence. You have a great presentation style and you always make sure that every question gets answered. Chris, I can’t thank you enough for making the time to be with us yesterday.”
Kenneth Howe Director of Residential Life, The Fessenden School September 11, 2017
“Dear Chris, I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about your time with us. Anne and Kathy chose well in inviting you to present; they planned well in including faculty and staff; and you exceeded all expectations. Colleagues have specifically mentioned your blending your obvious knowledge and expertise with useful props and your wonderfully engaging style to make for a thoroughly effective presentation. Many thanks for coming to Millbrook. I wish you all the best for a successful and satisfying year.”
Drew Casertano Headmaster, Millbrook School September 11, 2017
“Chris’ most powerful message for the students was that they were in control of their emotional destiny. They realized that their frame of mind regarding happiness could actually generate authentic happiness. One of the great benefits of this realization is that is that the students no longer put “good” and “bad” upon others, but rather see their own responsibility and ownership for “good” and “bad” days. The students themselves have now taken ownership for creating a positive school environment.”
Matthew P. Heard Head of Upper School, Fay School September 11, 2017
“Chris is a dynamic and well-versed speaker who sheds light on all the ways we can have impact in our daily interactions with peers and students alike. He was warm, engaging, and had the room role playing, telling stories, and experiencing the power of positive psychology. Chris should be on everyone’s must-see list!”
Kristen Kaschub Director of Admissions and Summer Programs, The Besant Hill School September 11, 2017
“Dr. Chris is a legend! Inspirational, engaging, and full of incredibly useful leadership techniques. A lot of speakers make a few jokes, give a few tips, and it’s all totally forgettable. Dr. Chris actually understands the ups and downs of working with kids, as well as the intricacies of how staff work together. Memorable, practical, and very American (that’s a compliment!). Thank you, Dr. Chris!”
Alex Read Counselor, Oxford Royale Academy September 11, 2017
“Chris, it was great to have you here with us at Winchendon School. Our faculty found your presentation style ‘engaging’ and ‘dynamic’ and they experienced your ‘soulful engagement and connection’ as ‘truly one of the most worthwhile professional development days’ ever. Your personal anecdotes, professional experience, and interaction with our faculty around relevant case studies was something that faculty found ‘worthwhile,’ ‘relevant,’ and truly ‘important.’ Thank you for a great day!”
Lauren Lambert Associate Head, The Winchendon School September 11, 2017
“Chris has worked with our faculty at Cardigan Mountain School for the past two years. His professional development is accessible, relevant, and engaging. Chris was able to tailor his workshops to specific areas of school life that resonated for us as a junior boarding school for boys. He is a dynamic presenter who is attuned to making sure that his workshops provide each participant with tangible take-aways that encourage putting theory into practice. In very short amounts of time with our faculty, Chris has helped us to move important work forward at Cardigan and we look forward to inviting him back.”
David Irwin Director of Student Life, Cardigan Mountain School September 11, 2017
“Dear Chris: Thank you for your stimulating, relevant, captivating and so ‘right on’ talk on Preserving Professional Teacher-Student Boundaries. I’ve thought so much about your workshop over the past several weeks. You have a wonderful way of approaching this awkward topic with openness and insight so that no one feels defensive or on-the-spot. I can’t really pinpoint how you do it. In my eyes, it remains a magical, clever, thoughtful combination that works. Every time. You are an awesome teacher-presenter and I am so glad you came I hope we get to cross paths again, Chris. It’s terrific working with you. See you soon at TABS or NAIS!”
Wendy Skinner Director of Residential Life, Shady Side Academy September 11, 2017
“Chris Thurber delivers practical wisdom about the struggles that girls and boys encounter as they learn and grow in schools and camps. Our faculty appreciated hearing from someone who knows first-hand what it’s like to be in the classroom and who brings the insight of a highly trained psychologist to teaching and learning. Chris’s wonderfully precise vocabulary, humor and casual manner earned him a lot of big fans at Avenues!”
Ty Tingley Co-Founder, Avenues, The World School September 11, 2017
Dr Chris provides these category of workshops.
Topics in this category include professional boundaries, providing feedback, and running effective meetings.
Topics in this category include situational leadership, emotional intelligence, and collaborative problem-solving.
Topics in this category include residential life, cognitive and social development, and cross-cultural agility.
Topics in this category include student mental health, suicidality, self-harm, and evaluation of your school’s health center.
Topics in this category include physical and emotional safety, bullying prevention, hazing, and evaluation of your aquatics program.
Missing a Topic?
Can’t find the topic you’re looking for? Click the puzzle icon to contact Dr. Thurber and propose a fresh new workshop.