I graduated from BCD in 1969. The school had recently added the 9th grade, and I was one of the lucky 1st classes to enjoy an extra year at Brook Farm. I began BCD as a first grader at the old house on Walker Street. I can still picture my classrooms and teachers from those years, especially Mrs. Church whom I had in 2nd grade. She was wise and warm and wonderful but also firm. She sent me to Mr. Oakes, my first and only trip to the principal. She said I was talking too much, and I am sure she was right.
At Brook Farm, I had my first male teacher, Mr. Marks. He would swing us around on the playground and made learning and recess magical. I was challenged in middle school English, reading classics like A Tale of Two Cities, Antigone, and The Crucible. Little did I know that I would teach all of these books later in my own classroom. Mrs. Jones taught us to look backwards and forwards in social studies, and Madame Grad made French a true adventure. I remember reading The Little Prince in French, a book of exquisite beauty, and I remember being riveted by her tales of Europe during World War II. So often I have wished I had written her to tell her how much she inspired me in my own teaching of the Holocaust with my own 8th graders. I remember Mrs. Potter who taught us how to run track and play field hockey. She helped us learn to play fairly and how to win and lose with grace, certainly lifelong lessons.
I went on the St. Margaret’s, a boarding school in Waterbury, CT, where my sister had gone, and graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a BA in English. I later earned an MEd from Tennessee State University. My husband and I moved to North Palm Beach, Florida, where he had been offered a job teaching history at The Benjamin School. We were up for a tropical adventure, but the real adventure came when I was offered a job teaching 8th and 9th grade English. I had never intended to teach but saw it as a great opportunity. BCD did not so much influence my choices as it did prepare me for anything. It instilled confidence. I remember how I had learned best at BCD and used those memories in my own classroom. It was a tough 1st year, but I knew I had found a job I loved. Books and kids – what a combination!
After 9 years in Florida, we longed for 4 seasons and a place with a greater sense of community for our 2 boys. We found a wonderful new home in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Ensworth School. As my grandparents were both Nashvillians, I even had cousins there, and the hills reminded us of the Berkshires. My husband became the Assistant Head of School, and I taught 7th and 8th grade English. The school gave me the freedom to choose the books I loved and ones I felt could help my kids navigate the tricky years of adolescence. Much like BCD, it offered a warm and supportive environment, and I felt so lucky to spend my days with 13 and 14-year-olds, with all their heart, their humor, their angst, and their open minds.
Ensworth felt strongly about continuing education and sent its teachers all over the world. I was lucky enough to travel to England, Italy, Austria, Poland, and the Czech Republic in connection with my teaching. I was able to take photographs at Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and Theresienstadt to share with my students and give them a more personal sense of these places as we read Night by Elie Wiesel, Hitler Youth by Susan Bartoletti, and a great young adult novel, Gentlehands by M.E. Kerr. I was also able to visit many art museums which helped me in our term papers done in conjunction with the art department. Each 8th grader chose a painting at the National Gallery and then wrote a biography of the artist and a critique of the painting. When we would visit the National Gallery on our annual DC visit, the students would find their subjects. My fondest memory is the students running up to me, excitedly saying things like, “Mrs. T, I found my painting and it is huge and beautiful!” The art had become theirs, and I loved that.
After 24 years in Nashville, we have come home. We are living in a small town called New London, NH. It is so heavenly being back in New England, and much like I did when I was at BCD, I pray daily for snow. I am about to teach a class with my husband; we will be teaching adults through the local college in town. It is a little scary, but it will be fun to try something new, and BCD really did teach me that learning is discovery.
At BCD, I learned so many lessons. I learned that laughter plays such a crucial role in the classroom and in daily life. I learned that friendships really can last a lifetime, and that a solid academic foundation is a gift forever. To current students, I would say that BCD is an exceptional school. Revel in it! Ask questions because you will never be in an environment more open to them. Savor your days there because they really will fly by. Take a few risks because you’re in a safe and nurturing place. Look around you and appreciate the incredible beauty of your surroundings. Finally, be grateful for what your teachers and parents are offering you. BCD is something special.