Teacher of the Week: Allen Garner

Name/hometown/alma mater?

Allen Garner, Philadelphia, PA, Bowdoin College.

Where do you teach?

The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT.

What do you do there (i.e., what subject do you teach, what sport do you coach, do you live in a dorm or supervise a club, etc.)?latin teaching fellow

I am a teaching fellow – I teach two classes of Latin, coach Girls Swimming and Water Polo, and live in an underclassmen Girls dorm.  I am also involved in a teacher development program through the University of Pennsylvania.  As a student in the Penn Residency Master’s in Teaching program, I am working towards my Master of Education simultaneously through summer class, weekend seminars, and online coursework.

What is your favorite place on your school’s campus?

Probably the dining hall – but preferably early in the morning or towards the tail end of dinner.  There is something very reassuring about the calm, fellowship, and food.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part no doubt is being able to interact and engage with students on all levels of life.  Not only do I teach them in the classroom, I also have the opportunity to coach and live alongside them.  It reminds me everyday how much teaching and learning occurs outside the classroom, and how significant those experiences are to a true “education”.  The real life meal plan doesn’t hurt either.

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is probably the flip side to my previous answer.  While I do enjoy the full access I have to students, it is certainly a lifestyle.  There are times when I want to be completely alone and that, both fortunately and unfortunately, rarely happens.

What is one unique thing about your school?

Because of Hotchkiss’ geographic location in northwest Connecticut, I often drive through three states (Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts) just to run a few errands.

What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself since you started at your school?

I have always considered myself somewhat of an extrovert, but in my time here have developed quite an appreciation for solitude.

Who was your placement associate/counselor at CS&A?

Jill Reilly – I am forever grateful that she endured my poor email abilities and delivered so many promising opportunities.  We communicated regularly throughout my search and she was quite thorough in understanding my needs and what I had to offer.

Who are your mentors?

There are many who have influenced me along the way but a few of the notables have been my 9th grade history teacher, Anne Hilton, my college swim coach, Brad Burnham, my college professor and advisor, Barbara Weiden Boyd, and my current Hotchkiss mentor, Richard Davis.  Each has helped to instill and cultivate my sense of self and capabilities.  All also valued humor, and I’m not sure I would have made it through if not for the laughter.

What advice would you give to aspiring teachers at independent schools?

There are days when all I want to do is sit in a dark closet and cry, and there are days when I feel like I have undeniably changed a student’s life forever (no doubt in one class period).  Be humble and unrealistically enthusiastic – sometimes when you’re riding on fumes, that optimism is just enough to get you through.  Fake it till you make it!

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