Parent Newsletter by Franny Shuker-Haines
Dear Buxton Families,
Nice to be back in touch! The beautiful fall weather has been holding, and we all feel collectively grateful for the warm sun in the day, the crisp cool of the nights, and the splendor of the leaves in this spectacular part of the country.
Speaking of spectacular: It was Mountain Day last Friday! The seniors did a great job keeping it secret, and the day turned out to be perfect: not too hot, the leaves were at their peak, and the hike was a particularly scenic one. Congratulations to the seniors for their hard work and good planning!
It feels like we are deep into the school year, even though it has been just over a month since opening day. Classes are simmering along, and I hear snippets of conversation about Chartres cathedral, the properties of plastics, the Vietnam War, the Great Gatsby, and more as I make my way around the campus and through the day. I also hear bits of the orchestra rehearsing, lines being memorized, and creative writing being read aloud. And during our twice-weekly working lunches, I have seen the costume crew in deep conversation with Timothy, have walked in on the students reps in focused conversation about school issues, and have found myself in important conversations about the election, constructions of gender, and the state of the environment. All this interspersed with the usual goofiness, good humor, and enthusiasm of adolescence—it’s a great time to be at Buxton!
Speaking of great times and Buxton, I have wonderful news to report: Chiara Carrino and Matt Kramer had their baby on Sunday, October 13th! Baby Levon came a little earlier than expected, but is doing great! When I announced his birth to the students, the sustained applause was one of the most joyful experiences I’ve had in a long time. John Kalapos (one of our teaching fellows) took a video to send to the new little family in the hospital, and they loved it.
Chiara and Matt’s classes are in good hands. Their ever-popular health class will have a series of guest teachers covering areas in each of their respective wheelhouses—from Chef Greg teaching about nutrition to our school counselor, Katelin, teaching about mental health, among others. Matt’s Agriculture class will be led by the student farm managers for a little while, and Chiara’s freshman English class will be led by another teaching fellow who has been embedded in the class for a while.
Which brings me to a new development at Buxton I am really excited to introduce and explain to you! This year, Buxton has established the Teaching Fellowship in Progressive Education, a brand new initiative that is already proving to be a great success. The fellowship is designed to bring bright young people who are interested in teaching to our campus. They will be mentored by master teachers at Buxton, learn about progressive education both first-hand and in a series of classes and talks on the subject, and will work their way up to running classrooms of their own. The mutual benefits are many: these young people get to learn about progressive education from a school that has been steeped in the philosophy and practice of progressive ed for over 90 years; we get to train teachers intentionally and carefully in Buxton’s unique way of approaching both the classroom and the life outside the classroom; and our students get to benefit from these young professionals’ energy, excitement, optimism, and special insight into young people.
Even though it is the first year of the teaching fellowship program, we hit the jackpot with three really impressive Teaching Fellows:
• Harry Trask, graduate of Bard college and recent Master’s degree recipient from Yale Divinity School, has been hearing about Buxton from his close friends at Bard for years. The more he heard, the more he wanted to be part of this community, excited to share what he has learned with bright young people and, in turn, to learn from them and the adults at the school. Harry has thrown himself into all aspects of the school, from helping out the soccer team to working with the work-program bike-repair crew to attending and observing and participating in a number of Buxton classes over the last month. He will be covering Chiara’s freshman English class while she is on leave, and those kids are in wonderful hands with Harry!
• Nyasha Franklin is a Buxton graduate who just graduated from Mount Holyoke College last spring. Nyasha is a scholar and an activist, spending time in both Central America and Africa during her college years. Nyasha is living in the Barn and is, therefore, already deeply immersed in the lived experience of the students. Nyasha has been embedded in both the sophomore English class and the current-events class, while also rotating through a number of other classes. Nyasha also brings a strong background in African dance to the school, and Kathleen is excited to have her help in that program. It is a pleasure to have Nyasha back on campus!
• John Kalapos is also a Buxton grad, who then went to Pitzer College and graduated a few years ago. After graduation, John went to work in politics, helping the democratic party with on-the-ground campaign management. While he loved that work and felt excited to work for candidates and causes he cared about, he found that he was missing the community-oriented life he had found both at Buxton and at Farm & Wilderness Camp. John jumped at the chance to return to Buxton. John is already co-teaching the video-production class with Timothy (who has a Master’s in film in addition to his Ph.D. in American Culture and who—fun fact!—was the editor of a short film that was nominated for an Academy Award back in the day!). Timothy has the film chops and John has the computer skills, making them a killer combo! John is also living in the Main House, has been helping Derek coach soccer, and is already proving to be a really great and effective mentor to the Dorm Supervisors.
We are so pleased and happy to have all three of these Teaching Fellows here this year, and I look forward to having all of you get to know them better over the course of the year as well.
I’m going to stop here for now so this can get sent out to you ASAP.
Hoping you are all having a happy fall!
All the best,