A Matter of Experience


At a place like Norfolk Academy it is important that every member of the faculty have a range of experiences outside the narrow world of a field of study. That is, when you set about the noble task of helping youngsters turn into adults, knowing your Shakespeare or your physics is necessary but simply not enough. It is one reason we put so much stock in the teacher-coach model. The intellectual development of young men and women is an important part of growing kids up, but it is hardly our sole objective. Perhaps the best way to phrase it is that we seek to ensure that our students will be wholly prepared to deal with the unpredictable nature of the world they enter upon graduating.

Horstman 1It necessarily follows, then, that each member of our faculty needs to have had experience dealing with the unexpected. We strive to hire and retain teachers and coaches who can pass along what they have learned in confronting the unfamiliar in their own lives. I have polled the Middle School faculty and have confirmed that we have achieved considerable success if that is in fact our goal.

To wit –

Jack Gibson once saved a lamb from drowning in a river in Germany.

Nick Merklin played semi-pro football in Serbia.

Lisa Marie Priddy taught English in Thessalonica, Greece.

I once posed for a summer camp catalog cover photo with a 350 pound brown bear. Concealed from the camera was the squeeze jar of honey I had previously offered to get the bear to rise on her hind legs and come for me.

Elbert Watson danced in New Zealand as part of a multi-media presentation featuring former lower school art teacher Tim Mark.

Heidi Pollio served as an au pair for the children of two nudists in New Jersey. She needed the money, okay?

Woody Poole ate a five-year-old fermented chicken egg while stationed in the Philippines. The fact that he was in the Navy provides no explanation.

Mike Horstman was air-lifted overnight to the jungles of Vietnam while training in sub-zero Alaskan temperatures for “Operation Polar Strike.”

You can’t top that one, I’m afraid.

Our kids will certainly be stretched intellectually here. In the Upper School alone there are four PhDs. (I love that Richard Oberdorfer, who shares an office with Natasha Naujoks and David Rezelman, refers to his space as “two doctors and a patient.”)   But Tunstall students are also exposed to a lifelong EMT and an emergency room volunteer and a former Navy Seal. Not only do the students rub shoulders daily with these men and women, Tennisbut as a faculty we do as well. I cannot tell you how much my view of the world has been expanded by sharing a campus with such a stunningly broad scope of personalities and life stories among the faculty.

I think I’ll go get some advice from a fellow (Mike Duquette) who beat Andy Roddick in tennis twice, once on a hard court and once on clay. Bet he has a thing or two about competition he could teach me.

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