I am happiest when with the ones I love, both friends and family. I love being outside, especially by the ocean or boating of any kind on lakes. I also like to read, travel, enjoy the arts, spend time with my niece, and play cribbage. My favorite book is “Ishmael,” by Daniel Quinn; my favorite play is Shakespeare’s Macbeth; my favorite TV show is “The I.T. Crowd,” my favorite movie is Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds”; and my favorite song is “Midnight Train to Georgia,” by Gladys Knight and the Pips. Blue is my favorite color.
Education and Professional Experiences
I graduated from the public high school in West Springfield, Massachusetts, where I grew up. I then went to nearby Amherst College, where I majored in English and had the equivalent of a minor in art history. I have taught English in Vermont since 1999, working at Mill River Union High School, Williamstown High School, Hull Crest School, and – since 2009 – Winooski High School. I was a fellow with the Partnership for Change during the 2012-2013 school year and now am an independent project advisor in the Winooski iLab.
What has been your greatest learning experience? (in or out of school)
When I left college, I thought, like many teachers, that teaching was primarily about the academics. What I learned very quickly is that teaching is – first, last, and in between – about the students. My first full-time job in education was as a special education assistant at a school not-so-far from Winooski, and my students, all boys with emotional and behavioral challenges, taught me about the limits of authority and the importance of compassion, connecting individually, and – most of all – patience. Over the years, my students have been my greatest teachers, helping me become a better, more compassionate human being.
Who do you admire and why?
I tend to admire leaders who use their power to make the world a better, more humane place for others. Abraham Lincoln was my hero as a boy; later, I added Martin Luther King, Jr., for his vision, nonviolent strength, and ability to use rhetoric for good. Early in my career, I admired the work of my principal in Williamstown, Kathleen Morris, for taking on an effort for whole-school change despite the initial odds for success. And lately, I’ve been a keen observer of Pope Francis, someone who has endeavored to change one of the oldest and often most change-resistant institutions in the world through his demonstration of compassion and humility. Personally, I always looked up to my grandfather for his perseverance in the face of life’s challenges and look up to my grandmother for her enduring love and kindness.
What do you love about your current WSD position and the WSD community?
I love the gritty, underdog spirit of Winooski, which reminds me a lot of where I grew up. I love working on a faculty that sees the best in students rather than blaming students’ circumstances for challenges in school. (Winooski feels more accepting than many schools.) I love the resilience of the students, who in many cases have overcome life challenges whether they were born in the US or overseas. I love the size of the high school and the ability to know all my colleagues and the vast majority of the students personally. And finally, I love being part of a school community focused on truly redesigning high school to reflect the grassroots experiences of our families, community, and educators.