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Upper School

Dr. Reid Cottingham

Director of the Upper School

Dr. Cottingham has been a passionate independent school educator for over twenty years. Since joining Pingry in 2015, she has made a tremendous impact on the community as an Upper School English Teacher, Academic Dean, and Director of Teaching and Learning, K-12. 

An integral member of the Administrative Team, Dr. Cottingham is committed to developing strong and meaningful relationships with Upper School students, as well as with faculty, form deans, administrators, the academic support team, and school counselors. In particular, she is dedicated to nurturing the intellect and character of Pingry’s older students as they prepare to offer their talents to the world at large.

Dr. Reid Cottingham leans against a brick wall.


Upper School: A time dedicated to developing independent thinkers, collaborative workers, and honorable, compassionate citizens. At Pingry, students are challenged and encouraged to strive for academic and personal excellence. Learning is hands-on and experiential, wherever possible, and occurs everywhere—in the classroom, laboratory, and art studio, around the campus trails and campsite, and on the stage and field, as well as through individual research, participation in group discussions, and one-on-one faculty conferences that encourage critical thinking and innovative problem solving within a close-knit community. Participation in co- and extracurricular activities is encouraged—from athletics to the arts, Global Programs, student government, science clubs, leadership experiences, and much, much more—in order to explore new interests and hone existing talents. 

Our Upper School students are also active members of their communities, donating thousands of hours to community service projects each year—hours beyond the minimum 10 required of each student per year.  

Upper School Schedule


Poised on the brink of great opportunity and adventure, Upper Schoolers engage in a college preparatory curriculum that draws on both a diverse array of unique course selections and more traditional pedagogy. In doing so, we build on students’ strengths and test the areas that most challenge them, laying the groundwork for an imaginative and intellectually vibrant life that will sustain them in college and beyond.

Our Upper School curriculum is designed to provide an engaging, comprehensive, and stimulating academic program that prepares students to perform at the highest level in college as well as to lead and serve honorably in the larger community. Students are encouraged to think and perform independently and to solve problems in innovative ways through group discussion, one-on-one conferences with faculty, and individual work. Through their course work, students have the opportunity to develop an informed, nuanced picture of the world as viewed through the various disciplines and diverse lenses of perspective; to practice and hone their powers of higher-order thinking and analysis; to refine their skills of lucid, persuasive written and oral communication; to exercise and expand their creative imagination; and to establish a lifelong passion for learning.

In addition to the core academic curriculum, students must take courses in health and fitness to promote the wellness and mind/body integration essential to adolescent development. Courses in the arts are also required to develop appreciation for and facility in the creative, intuitive dimension of life as well as the analytic. Information literacy skills—the ability to locate, evaluate, and use information critically—are taught in the context of research assignments in the various disciplines and, in every instance, the use of lucid, persuasive written and oral communications is encouraged. At the end of their 9th, 10th, and 11th grade years, Upper School students engage in Spring Intensives, short interdisciplinary, experiential courses in which students learn by doing. And, at the end of their Pingry career, each student has the opportunity to pursue a real-world learning experience through an Independent Senior Project, the capstone of their high school education.

For Pingry's full Upper School Curriculum Guide, see the course offerings navigation below. Or, access our summary of Upper School courses by Department.

Sample Course Offerings:

  • The Ethical Dilemma: An exploration of the ways in which writers have tried to make sense of the world by portraying ethical people searching for guidelines in an unethical world.
  • China and Modern East Asia: A history course examining the development of East Asian history and culture from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, with a particular emphasis on China and Japan.
  • Advanced Topics in Computer Science: A project-based course on data structures and program design.
  • Movement for Actors: A course focusing on an actor’s daily warm-up, including centering exercises, body isolations, rhythmic movements, locomotor exercises through space, and relaxation work.
  • AP Macroeconomics and Microeconomics: The equivalent of two semesters of college-level economics, this course covers macroeconomic principles such as supply and demand, inflation, unemployment, and fiscal and monetary policy, as well as microeconomic topics including the nature and function of product markets, price determination, perfect and imperfect competition, efficiency, equity, stability, growth, and the role of government.
Girl helping other student in class