Getting to Know the Proctor Community: Jennifer Summers

Posted by Scott Allenby


Living in Colorado and working professionally as an actor and carpenter in the theater industry, Jennifer Summers moved to New Hampshire with her husband, and Proctor alum, Gordon Bassett ‘96 in the summer of 2013 not knowing how her career might evolve. Gordon had just been hired to take over Proctor’s machine shop from longtime industrial arts educator Everett Jones ‘49 and to coach kayaking alongside fellow alum Corby Leith ‘92.


With longtime theater educators Terry Stoecker and Michael Littman stepping away from their roles in the performing arts at Proctor, an opportunity emerged for Jen to step into the Proctor community at the same time as Gordon did. “The timing was somewhat perfect for me as Terry and Michael stepped away. I had only worked in the professional world as a stage manager, carpenter, and actor, but this role at Proctor seemed like a perfect fit for me, and the past ten years have been a gradual taking on of different responsibilities within the community.” 


Jen’s role evolved from just doing the technical theater side of productions to directing theater productions each winter and spring to teaching acting classes. This year, Jen directed the winter musical and a spring theater production, while also teaching English classes, coaching Mountain Biking in the fall, and serving as an advisor. Throughout her various roles on campus, Jen loves being engaged with such a variety of students across disciplines and interests, “I love being able to see students who never thought of themselves as being able to perform see themselves in a new light. My Art of Expressions class was a perfect example of this as we witnessed students who did not really believe in themselves as performers step forward and experience something completely new, even though it was incredibly challenging for them.” 


This summer, Jen will embark on a new professional adventure that will stretch her own comfort zone. She will begin her Master’s Degree at Middlebury College Bread Loaf School, pursuing a theater arts into English program. Jen was one of a handful of recipients of the Teaching, Writing, and Acting for Change Fellowships offered by Middlebury. This fellowship covers the summer study costs at Bread Loaf, while seeking to engage a networked cohort of teachers in the investigation and development of practices for working across and within differences and towards social justice. Jen and her “Change Cohort” will develop collaborative school or community projects that involve using literacy practices to build understanding and change across differences. Jen notes, “I feel as though this program was created for me. I am so excited to dive into classes and a program that focuses on integrating a more experiential type of learning, bringing the written word to life, by creating dialogue about how we connect and understand each other.” 


Combined with a literary critique course, Jen is thrilled to bring this summer work back to Proctor. “I can’t wait to dive into these classes and this side of my own learning. Next year, I hope to bring this work into the freshman English curriculum as part of my fellowship work and cannot wait to see how it all evolves in the coming years. I am so grateful to Ellie Moore and Shauna Turnbull for encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone and pursue this program, and, of course, to Gordon for holding down our farm this summer with our girls Hadley and Hannah!” 

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