Dean of Students, History, Trustee
“We approach our work with teenagers as a lifestyle, with a shared view of helping young people on their way to adulthood.”
I was inspired to become a teacher as a young boy, watching my grandfather, who taught science at a public high school in Philadelphia. I admired his love of knowledge and his desire to help the students. It was a surprise to everyone and dismaying to me, when years later, I found myself having to repeat the tenth grade!
I had been attending a public school in rural Virginia. I really did not enjoy it, even though I wanted to become a teacher like my grandfather. The turnaround came when I transferred to a Quaker school in New Jersey, where the curriculum was rigorous and the atmosphere much more competitive. The teachers were demanding yet kind; ready to help the students, going out of their way to give extra help if needed. I chose to repeat my sophomore year — one of the best decisions of my life. With grandfather as my mentor, I went from being a weak student with poor grades to a devoted one with straight A’s (with the exception of a “C” in chemistry, a subject which was and will remain a great mystery to me).
That three-year experience made it clear to me that teaching was my calling. Now I feel that every day that I can reach my students I am repaying a debt to those teachers. When I work with a student who is struggling, I remember what I went through. I believe every student has the potential to succeed; I just have to help them realize it!
The challenge in teaching teenagers in the 21st century is meeting their need to be active in their learning process. The old model of sitting in a chair listening to a lecture is no longer effective (if it ever really was). One of the solutions when teaching history is what I call the conference model. This involves students representing a country or a region as ambassadors — or similar diplomatic role — in structured historic reenactments; for example, last spring the freshmen class recreated the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, complete with chairperson, moderator, scribe, and formal dress. They loved the experience, requesting additional sessions like it on other subjects. Our students really do have a thirst for learning but, now more than ever, they struggle with information being delivered “at” them (think lecture). They thrive when playing into and acting out events of the past and will dig deep to inform themselves of the details and events.
The students were similarly engaged when they undertook the revitalization of our Student Council, which had begun to lose its effectiveness. They adapted a new approach based on the principles of Dynamic Self Governance, and quickly became an effective voice for students, working with faculty on class schedules, program offerings and social policies for the school. Their success inspired the faculty to reorganize its structure using the same principles.
I believe in the value of living a life of service to others. In addition to my role at High Mowing, I am involved with two committees in our local community. I’ve been a member of the town of Wilton’s Budget Committee since 1985, serving for the last fourteen years as chairperson. I was also recently re-elected to serve on the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District board. With this service, I’m helping the community and enriching the school’s place within it. Most importantly, modelling community service to our students is a way of affirming my hope for a future in which every person has a chance to shine.