Education: B.A., English Language and Literature, University of Maryland; B.A., Secondary English Education, Georgia State University; M.Ed., Secondary Leadership and Administration, The Citadel
Holy Trinity’s tagline is: “Start Here. Go Anywhere.” How do you envision helping students to live this motto?
I hope to show students that high school is not only a means to an end. Foundational intellectual interests often begin in a high school classroom, and the community focus of Holy Trinity provides students with a joyful and safe environment in which to grow. Holy Trinity’s core values of respect, work ethic, cooperation and ethical decision-making are hallmarks of any well-lived life.
How do you inspire a student who has a hard time with your subject area?
In her 2008 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck examines the power of the growth-mindset (vs. fixed-mindset) in academic and personal achievement. She asserts that teachers play a critical role in fostering how students see themselves as learners. She writes: “Every word and action can send a message. It tells students how to think about themselves. It can be a fixed-mindset message that says: You have permanent traits and I’m judging them. Or it can be a growth-mindset message that says: You are a developing person and I am interested in your development.”
I taught a student who was not recommended for AP Language and Composition by a previous teacher but decided to enroll, seeing the value in the course objectives. He struggled in the early months - uncomfortable with the content and his composition and reading results. We discussed that he should never compare himself to others but rather to his own growth. He learned that success is obtained by effort and the belief that our understanding and competence can grow with time. Low stakes formative assessments with teacher feedback provided him with the breathing room to experiment with his voice and make mistakes. He was thrilled, though not surprised, by his final AP result, a 5. Growth mindset is a choice, and students can learn it exists and is accessible.
What do you love about teaching?
It is impossible not to feed off the energy of 20 teenagers in a classroom. Every day, every class, presents a new opportunity for connection and student growth. Teenagers bring a natural intellectual inquisitiveness to their learning, and it is especially fulfilling to see them excited about language and literature (and even grammar). I recall a grade 11 student, who, after having read Tim O’Brien’s How to Tell A True War Story, exclaimed, “That was the best 8 pages of anything I have ever read; how did he do that?” These are the moments that make me love teaching the most, when students allow themselves to appreciate and interact with the beauty and complexity of well-composed expression.
What are some of your interests and passions outside of the classroom?
Having lived in bustling cities for the past 15 years, I am reveling in the quiet and peace of the sea-side life. The sounds of the surf provide the perfect background music for reading the novels and poetry that tend to pile up during the nonfiction focus of the school year. During our free time, our family prioritizes travel and cultural experiences. We especially love the Greek island of Hydra and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
If you were not teaching, what would you be doing?
I would stay in the education field and move into non-governmental organizations that provide infrastructure and sustain community-based initiatives to serve the most vulnerable of the world’s children.
What are some of your favorite books?
I was fortunate to catch the reading bug at a young age. My earliest memory is the bedtime reading of Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I moved onto the ubiquitous pre-adolescent works of Beverly Cleary, and my teenage self became immersed in the novels of Stephen King, Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker. I credit my Junior English teacher for exposing us to great American writers such as Faulkner, Hawthorne and Fitzgerald. Shakespeare was illuminated in Grade 12, and his plays and sonnets are some of my favorite texts to teach today. There are too many favorite authors to catalog here, but some that stand out are: Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles; Joan Didion, Blue Nights; Steven Pinker, Angels of our Better Nature; John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany; Joe Simpson, Touching the Void; Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried; Katherine Boo, Beyond the Beautiful Forevers; the poetry of Billy Collins and Sylvia Plath; the drama of Tennessee Williams and the new media podcasts of Malcom Gladwell, Revisionist History and Stephen West, Philosophize This.