List of 6 frequently asked questions.

  • Q. What was your path to Millbrook School?

    I went to college at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania and dual-majored in English and psychology. Upon graduation, I received a job working at Scholastic Books in lower Manhattan. I left Scholastic after a few years and began working with film and television production crews as a production assistant before picking up a full-time position at HBO.
     
    And then the Columbine shooting happened. I became extremely disturbed and worried about typical school life. I started thinking about how schools should aid adolescent development and thought that we had really dropped the ball. So I went down to the Board of Education and began seeking a teaching job. I became a science and English teacher in a special education program in Brooklyn, with absolutely no faculty support. I was pointed towards a book closet and told, “Teach what ever books you’d like. You can do what ever science you want with these students. They won’t pass the Regents exams, so just control them until we can find a way to get them out of our system.”
     
    I became disillusioned with the public school system. I found that experience to be so disheartening and felt that the dysfunction in the system was larger than anything I could fix. Friends alerted me to an opening at Packer School in Brooklyn Heights, and soon thereafter I was offered a position teaching high school biology. At the time I didn’t know anything about biology, and I worked rigorously for a few years to teach myself some very sophisticated material.
     
    A few years later, I met my wife, got married, had children, and headed to Millbrook School. I immediately fell in love with teaching in the boarding school environment. My career path has been quite interesting, and I think that it’s very important for students to know that life’s not always going to be a straight line.
  • Q. What makes teaching at a boarding school special for you?

    If teaching is about building relationships, you are only getting a slice at day school. At boarding school I can be sitting in the lounge talking to students and end up teaching in a completely different context than in the classroom, and that is extremely satisfying. Teaching can happen in so many unexpected ways.
  • Q. What do you like most about being a part of the Millbrook community?

    Like everything at boarding school, it is a blend of the personal and the professional. I love having more than professional relationships with my colleagues. I have to say that I absolutely love the location and living in a natural environment. I grew up in suburban New Jersey and lived in New York City. The sirens, people yelling at each other, gunshots even at times—I don’t miss them.
     
    I also can’t understate how much I love working here and having small children. Being able to eat lunch with my kids every day has been a gift. To be able to be so connected to my children and still have a full-time job is amazing. I feel absolutely lucky that I have been able to spend this much time with my children as they are growing up.
     
    Also, Millbrook has an interesting commitment to its core values, which are very supportive of the work I want to do with kids. At the same time, I feel it’s open and nimble. The school knows how to respond and adapt to changing practices, innovations in teaching, and ways of running schools that I find very invigorating. It’s this great blend of being connected to tradition, while being very forward thinking.
  • Q. What classes do you teach and how do you approach them?

    I teach Conceptual Physics using the “modeling instruction.” This instructional method is something that the school adopted the year after I arrived. It is a very student-centered approach, focusing on covering fewer topics, but in greater depth.
     
    It is critical to me, as head of the Science Department, that we are teaching our students to think and behave like scientists. That means understanding the value of science and what differentiates science from non-science.
     
    On my best days, when I’ve orchestrated a class just right, I can stand back and let the students walk in. They know what to do, how to speak to each other respectfully, make arguments that are based on evidence, and find the underlying truth without me having to explicitly tell them what the truth is.
     
    That’s what I shoot for. When the class pulls themselves along together and reaches a unanimous decision through collaboration, you can't beat it.
  • Q. What role does technology play in your classroom?

    With technology in the classroom, you don’t want the cart driving the horse. You want the technology to be supportive of your best practice. I’m very comfortable experimenting with new technologies, and sometimes I end up stumbling upon something great that enhances what I do.

    A recent example is that I have changed how my students present their current events projects. In the past I had students research current events, print out articles, put pictures on a CD or USB drive, and stand in front of the class to present their findings. Now, through our website, students can post direct links to articles, post pictures, discuss their findings, and see what students in other sections of the class are talking about. Having archival access between classes lets students really engage the topics and spend as much time as they want reading cool articles that are curated by their peers.
  • Q. Do you play any other roles on campus?

    I’ve been advising the Engineering Club for the last three years. Recently we have purchased a diesel engine from a late 80’s Ford truck. It’s a very powerful 6.5L, 8-cylinder engine. With the help of a diesel mechanic, we have mounted the engine to a frame and gotten it up and running.
     
    The night when we started it for the first time, it just roared to life. It was such a moment of triumph! There were high-fives, and there were hugs. It was just such a fun night to be revving out a diesel engine in the science workshop.
     
    These students all want to be engineers when they’re older, and I can only hope in my idyllic teacher heart-of-hearts that one day they’re going to be talking to someone and say “one day in high school we got this diesel engine, we got it running, and it was totally awesome.” That was one of my favorite days.
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