An artist turned academic, Massanutten Military Academy’s Head of School knows that there must be some art in the science of education to unleash the full potential of all students.
Kim Elshafie-Layman is Massanutten’s top administrator and her supervision of more than 150 cadets (plus the entire faculty and staff) is guided by decades of scholastic experience. That background includes understanding that who teaches a student can mean as much as what was taught.
Shunning the all-male environment that most military schools maintain, Massanutten Military Academy’s co-ed environment is a purposeful element of the school’s experience. Working everyday with female teachers, officers, administrators, and staff members helps cadets understand the importance of equality in the 21st century.
“My main female influences growing up were female teachers,” said Elshafie-Layman, who is the first female Head of School in the 120-year history of Massanutten Military Academy. “They were definitely strong and left quite an impression. They made me see what I could be. There is nothing more powerful than having people who really believe in you, and for me those individuals were teachers.”
Raised in a military family, Elshafie-Layman moved often as a child until they settled in Front Royal, Virginia. When she wasn’t playing soccer or running track, she was often working on art projects. In college, Elshafie-Layman initially was intrigued by marketing, however education quickly called and she answered. After earning a bachelor’s degree in English and two Master’s degrees in Adult Education & Training and Administration & Supervision, she began her academic career teaching in public schools. After 12 years in public schools, Elshafie-Layman joined Massanutten’s faculty in 2011.
“Massanutten Military Academy offered autonomy in the classroom and an opportunity to really get to know my students,” she said. “I was also presented opportunities to be in a leadership role, and that was appealing. I felt I could make a difference in the academic program MMA was offering at that time.”
Initially an English teacher, Elshafie-Layman became a department chair before being named the Academic Dean in 2013. In 2018, she was named the Head of School and has seen a steady rise in attendance numbers during her tenure.
“One reason I wanted STEM for all MMA cadets was the fact that many females shy away from math and science,” Elshafie-Layman said. “Our STEM program allows them to choose a path they would like to pursue, and most of them leave MMA with a foundation and great ideas of the opportunities that are available to them as females.”
Approximately 20 percent of Massanutten Military Academy’s student body are girls and with a female Head of School as a role model, anything is possible for our future graduating Colonels.
“Females have a long tradition at Massanutten Military Academy of becoming leaders and integral members of the Corps of Cadets,” Elshafie-Layman said. “There is nothing our female cadets cannot do or aspire to do; the sky’s the limit!”