We all understand that teaching is a calling. Naming teaching chairs gives the Milton community a chance to affirm how much we value our faculty, and to highlight several outstanding teachers among us. In a ceremony on September 29 recognizing four faculty members who now hold prestigious chairs, board president Fritz Hobbs ’65 quoted Joseph Campbell’s reflection that “The job of an educator is to teach students to see the vitality in themselves.” He underscored the essential role of Milton’s faculty in the life of the School and the extraordinary education gained by today’s students as well as alumni over many decades.
Following tributes by administrators Rick Hardy, Sarah Wehle and Dottie Pitt, the chair-holders reflected for the guests on their points of view about teaching. Holder of The Jessie Bancroft Cox Chair In Teaching is Ana Colbert of the Modern Languages department; Ana acknowledged that her approach to teaching reflects the powerful influence of her parents: “Indeed my father [a public school principal in Ana’s native Spain] had the right approach: revolution is achieved by changing one person at a time. And my mother [a teacher] had the wisest insight: teaching is the path to continuous learning.”
Science department faculty member Linde Eyster holds The Ellen H. Pratt ’24 Teaching Chair In Science. Although her original goal was a career as a forest ranger, Linde also credits a family full of curious, inventive, patient and kind teachers for her eventual turn toward a life of teaching and learning.
Nancy Fenstemacher holds the The Hong Kong Chair in Asian Studies, which promotes developing an awareness of Asian culture. Nancy cited John Dewey’s premise that “if education is a process of living, then the classroom experiences should be related to the real world…. [That premise] also implies a particular approach to learning,”… one in which children actively participate in constructing knowledge. Dewey’s concept is the philosophical basis for the integrated, semester-long curriculum on China that Nancy, with the participation of her colleagues, developed for second grade students.
Jane McGuiness has begun her third year as holder of the Elizabeth Greenleaf Buck Teaching Chair in Elementary Education. The Buck chair supports curriculum innovation, and Jane has used the Chair’s auspices to promote project or performance partnerships between teachers in the Middle and Upper Schools with Lower School teachers and students, capitalizing on a wealth of interdisciplinary opportunities.
The evening offered a consensus that teaching may begin with aptitude, but develops only with careful, thoughtful tending: watching and listening well,
studying technique, sharing with others, loving ideas, making experience matter, modeling what you want your students to grasp, and learning while you are teaching.