Though Malinda Polk considers herself a relatively new member of the Milton faculty (she joined the English department in 2011), independent school life is part of her DNA. Malinda’s father taught at Lawrenceville and Groton, so she was a self-described “fac brat,” living on campuses until she graduated from college. She attended Connecticut College as an undergraduate and earned her M.F.A. at the University of Iowa. She holds a second master’s degree in American studies from the University of Massachusetts–Boston. At Milton, Malinda teaches one section each of Class IV English, Performing Literature, American Literature, and the Craft of Non-Fiction.
Before joining the Milton faculty, Malinda branched out into other fields, working as a legal secretary and as a commercial real estate manager. Though her father was a teacher, and her mother a school social worker, she wanted confirmation that teaching was the right path for her. “I was probably always going to be a teacher, but because I grew up with it, I needed to do other things first,” Malinda says. “I wanted to be sure I was making a choice to teach.” She began her teaching career as an adjunct professor in a community college, where her students’ dedication was inspiring. “I taught night classes, and the students had all worked full days before coming to class. That level of commitment is extraordinary. And I was the youngest person in the room, which I liked, because there was an understanding that I could learn from all of my students.”
Malinda says her favorite course to teach is whatever course she’s teaching at that moment. “One of the many things I’ve liked about teaching here is that every year is a little different. Performing literature is always a lot of fun—you get a lot of extroverted kids, so the discussion kind of takes care of itself. American Literature is great because our juniors are ready to discuss ideas in new and more challenging ways, and I love teaching Class IV English. I love the way our ninth-grade year brings the students together as a class. I didn’t teach Class IV last year, and I was surprised at how much I missed it.”
In her own education, Malinda has been “blessed with wonderful teachers,” in particular Hugh Fortmiller, her advisor at Middlesex School, who is “just a gift of a human being.” Mr. Fortmiller learned that Malinda loved writing and he encouraged her creativity. His influence comes up in Malinda’s advisory. “He had a way of just showing up, of just casually bumping into me when I needed to be bumped into. He had an incredible way of being present.”
Milton students’ collaborative spirit is something Malinda appreciates. “I like teaching grammar in Class IV. I have a really great group this year, and they help each other out. It becomes a team endeavor. I love that. It’s learning at its best.”
Centre Connection, Milton's online newsletter for parents, is published five times each year through the efforts of the Milton Academy Communication Office and Parents' Association volunteers.