Faculty Have Big Plans This Spring and Summer

This spring and summer, several faculty members are pursuing opportunities outside of The Gunnery campus to expand upon their professional knowledge and experience. All hope to bring the expertise they gain back to their Gunnery students, whether in the classroom or on the playing field.
Coaching the Coaches

Stephen Gritti, who teaches history and is Head Coach for Varsity Football and Assistant Coach for Boys JV Hockey, was a featured speaker May 11 at the Maine Football Coaches Association's 2019 8-Man Football Clinic. Held at Bates College in Lewiston, the clinic was well attended by about 75 coaches of football programs of all levels, and was supported by a grant from the National Football Foundation.

Gritti spoke about defense in eight-player football. He was among four top football coaches from the Northeast who presented at the day-long event. His co-presenters included: Tom Radulski of Hebron Academy, Pat Livingstone of Holderness School, and Mike Law of Union High School District No. 32 in East Montpelier, Vermont, also known as U-32.

“It was a great opportunity to get out into the community,” said Gritti, who enjoyed talking with fellow coaches who are moving from 11-player to eight-player football programs, as The Gunnery did four years ago. He said there is ultimately no difference between the two formats, other than the fact that there are fewer players on the field. “You tackle players and you block players. It’s all the same. All the rest is just details that are not as important as the basics,” Gritti said.
Previously, Gritti served as a defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator for the Division I AA football team at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and he coached defensive lines at Syracuse University and for the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders. He also coached the Kent Hills School football team to three All-State prep school championships.

Kent Hills School is one of four schools that have signed on to the New England Independent School Eight-Player Football initiative, of which The Gunnery is a founding member. Also joining the league in fall 2019 are: Dwight-Englewood School of Englewood, New Jersey; Hebron Academy of Hebron, Maine, and Hyde School of Bath, Maine.

An Academic Dean

Science teacher Brian Taggart will spend seven weeks at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) as Academic Dean this summer. He will be responsible for everything from evaluating 70 faculty members to setting up classrooms and materials for 320 students from grades 7 through 12, who will study in-depth science, international politics, microeconomics, astrophysics, genetics, neuroscience, innovations in engineering and more. “Not what you expect to see a high school student taking,” Taggart said.

Founded in 1979, the program provides “gifted and talented academic opportunities” for students in grades K through 12 with locations from California to New York to Hong Kong.

“There are more than 165,000 CTY alumni around the world, including the founders of Facebook and Google, Regeneron Science Talent Search winners, Rhodes Scholars, and MacArthur Fellows,” the nonprofit organization notes on its website.

Lessons are offered in two, three-hour blocks with two hours each evening devoted to guided practice. “They’ve really thought well about how to structure academic time and ways of balancing the need to get information across with keeping kids active,” said Taggart.

Having taught at Taft Summer School, Taggart decided to seek out a summer program that would provide administrative experience. The Center for Talented Youth caught his eye when he noticed there was a location in Saratoga Springs, New York, at Skidmore College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in biology. He also holds a master’s in marine biology from Northeastern University and received his Graduate Diploma in Education from James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, where he began his teaching career. Now in his eighth full year of teaching, Taggart taught science at Randolph-Macon Academy and science and math at the Fay School in Southborough, Massachusetts prior to coming to The Gunnery.

He plans to use his free weekends in Baltimore to visit the National Aquarium and take in area baseball games, when the Orioles and the Washington Nationals are at home.

A Fellowship for Teacher-Leaders

For two weeks in June, LaDarius Drew of the History Department faculty will join 75 teachers from around the world at the Klingenstein Center Summer Institute for Early Career Teachers.

Based at The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, the institute brings together teachers with two to five years of experience in independent or international schools to explore teaching styles, educational philosophies, and current educational issues such as diversity and cognitive skills.” Time also will be devoted to developing a curriculum and assessments for participants to bring back to their current schools.

Drew said his enrollment in the program was suggested by Head of School Peter Becker two years ago. “I see myself working in education for a long time,” Drew said, crediting friends and former coaches with steering him toward a career in education, which he has found to be “very impactful and very rewarding.”

“I do want to be a Head of School one day,” he acknowledged. For now, he said, “I’m just trying to figure out how to be a better educator, and through that improve my leadership skills, and through that see where that takes me.”

Upon completing the institute at the end of June, Drew will travel to New Hampshire, where he will serve for his fourth consecutive year as a member of the faculty at Wolfeboro Camp School; it will be his fifth summer as a member of the residential staff at the school.

Drew graduated from Wesleyan University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in government with a concentration in international politics. While at Wesleyan, he played football, competed in track and field, and was the football and track and field representative in the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC). He currently teaches U.S. History, Public Speaking for juniors, which is part of The Gunnery LEADS program, and co-teaches The Highlander newspaper class. He is an Assistant Coach for varsity football and boys varsity tennis, Head Coach for boys thirds basketball, and the faculty advisor for the Black Student Union (BSU).

A Passion for Poetry

Tim Poole of the English Department faculty responded with great enthusiasm when he learned in April that he had been selected to attend the Poetry Foundation’s annual Summer Poetry Teachers Institute in Chicago. By chance, he received word of his acceptance on the evening of The Gunnery’s annual Poetry Recitation Competition.

Poole became interested in attending the poetry institute after learning about it from his mentor, who was accepted into the program last summer. “It was the first I’d heard about it and since then, I’ve wanted to go,” Poole said. “The Poetry Foundation is my preferred source of new poetry. I trust them a lot in their curating of contemporary poetry, so much so that it’s the basis for what I use in my Contemporary Poetry class. That aspect of it is really cool.”

While the content covered by the institute varies from year to year, it features workshops led by some of today’s most compelling poets. “Participants will study and discuss poetry with renowned poetry practitioners and expert teachers to develop lesson plans to bring back to their classrooms,” the Poetry Foundation said. “We believe that poetry is broad and inclusive; there is a place for everyone in poetry. And yet poetry is mysterious and open, so teaching poetry is uncertain and no one has the answers. A poem can be something you can carry with you and experience again and again in different ways. We believe teachers can instill a passion for poetry as they find multiple entry points for different students.”

“I'm not uncomfortable with teaching poetry,” Poole said. But he was looking forward to talking with other teachers of poetry to learn more about their best practices.

Asked why it is important for students to study poetry today, he recalled that he was a “math and science guy” in high school, and in still interested in “that side of things.” But there is value in pursuing and learning about both: “Humanities in general are important to the world. In terms of the questions of, ‘what we can do’ and ‘what we should do,’ humanities speaks to what we should do. That, I think, is a very strong argument for the well-rounded education, the balance of the two. I think that poetry is one piece of that. I also think it is one of the best ways to look at what language is. Poetry is often based in the failure of language. It gets to something beyond language, so why not learn about that? It’s the same as why I do the translation unit. When you read poetry in two languages, you see the differences and talk about why the translator is deciding to take some things and ignore some things in the translation. With mono-lingual kids, that’s a little harder, but we can still explore that aspect by looking for structural things such as rhyme and sequences. We can still look at the fact that something is being lost.”

Poole holds a bachelor’s degree in English and received a master’s degree in education from the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to teaching English at The Gunnery, he is the Head Coach for Girls Varsity Crew.

Coaching Olympic Hopefuls

Lincoln Turner, a member of the Visual Arts faculty and Head Coach for Boys Varsity Rowing, has been selected as a coach for U.S. Rowing’s Olympic Development Program. He will coach top U-17 athletes in the ODP Summer Camp at Nathan Benderson Park in Bradenton, Florida, from June 14 to July 15.

“I'm honored to have been selected as a coach for US Rowing's Olympic Development Program,” Turner said. “It is a great opportunity for me to help young rowers who are interested in being a part of the national team system to hone their skills. It is also a great opportunity for me to learn from, and maybe contribute to, the very talented group of coaches assembled for the Bradenton camp."

According to U.S. Rowing, the program is designed to “focus on developing the mindset and skill needed for success within the Olympic system” and will culminate in an event, the ODP Summer Cup, which will be held in nearby Sarasota the week of July 7‒14. “Participants in the USRowing U19 ODP program have the opportunity to develop as athletes, receive quality instruction, be exposed to regional, collegiate and national team coaches, race against top-level competition, and represent their region in competition,” the organization said.

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Founded in 1850 by abolitionist, educator, and outdoorsman Frederick Gunn, The Gunnery is a coeducational college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades 9 through 12/post-graduate. Dedicated teacher-mentor-coaches challenge students to reach their full potential in a home-like setting where character and citizenship are valued as much as intellect and achievement. Individualized attention and high expectations help young learners develop not only the skills and confidence they will need in college, but also the moral compass and love of learning that will serve them well in life. The school attracts ambitious, academically curious students who will both shine as unique individuals and thrive as contributing members of a deeply connected community. By the time they graduate, Gunnery students have become well rounded, grounded young adults with a sharpened sense of who they are and who they want to become.