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Pursuing One of My Greatest Passions

Recently we wrapped up the first semester of the 2018–19 school year. As such, the elective I teach, Leadership and Public Speaking, came to a close. My time with the ten students in this elective course was such a joy, truly a highlight of my year. I thought I’d share a few thoughts and reflections about this class and the students with whom I had the pleasure to work with this semester.
Leadership and Public Speaking is an elective, open to the students in grades 9–12. There is no prerequisite and there is no honors or AP incentive for students to enroll. The class attracted a healthy cross-section of our Upper School student body: three seniors, three juniors, one sophomore, and for the first time, we allowed freshmen to enroll in the class, and three of them did so.

I was admittedly nervous at the start of the year.

I had taken a couple of years off from teaching. Would I still have it? How would seniors and freshmen interact in a healthy way? Would the guest speakers I invited to share their leadership journeys take time to join us?

Alas, my concerns proved to be unfounded. As we dug into the qualities of genuine leaders, the students found a unique bond of trust and honesty. They told very personal details about their lives during their in-class speeches and received unconditional support and encouragement from their classmates.

Our guest speakers, leaders from many fields, generously shared stories of their own success and challenges as leaders. Students heard from entrepreneurs, bankers, Wall Street financiers, corporate executives, and nonprofit leaders. The advice of our guest speakers became the recurring theme that permeated through our class discussions.

For me, teaching this class is partly a selfish decision. I choose to take on this labor of love because doing so allows me to:
  • Connect to the life of the school. I'm fortunate to be involved in many of the programs and activities that create the Sanford experience; however, teaching in our Upper School brings me back to why I chose the field of education years ago—I love working with students.
  • Remember some of the demands our teachers face. Navigating mySANFORD HUB, planning class, grading assignments, and writing comments are time-consuming tasks.
  • Focus on two topics I am particularly passionate about—fostering leadership and teaching public speaking. While I believe that some individuals may be more naturally skilled as leaders and speakers, both skills can be taught. Strong leaders and gifted speakers are made, not born.
Lastly, and most importantly, my time in the classroom reminds me of what a special place we have here at Sanford. Working with students who support one another, who are eager to learn, and who enjoy the process is a gift. I am honored to have played a small role in the lives of my students this year, and I look forward to doing it all again during the 2019–20 school year.

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