Mountain Classroom director, and former instructor, Annie MacKenzie shares the story of how one Proctor Academy family's life was shaped by Mountain Classroom.
The other day, someone asked me to explain the magic that is Mountain Classroom. My first thought was that Proctor Academy's Mountain Classroom changes student’s lives. However, knowing that in my gut is one thing, proving it is another. Here’s some proof.
Coco '07 (our current Mountain Classroom instructor) shares:
Mountain does a lot of things right. It keeps students just outside their comfort zone; it requires students to become stewards of their community and environment, and it blurs the line between learning and life so that students realize that the two are intrinsically intertwined. There is some essence of Mountain Classroom that I have never been able to describe. The essence is not tangible or concrete, but it is manifested in the students that have found a life passion while on Mountain Classroom. I see this essence in my brother, who is pursuing a career in immigration law after his experience at Annunciation House, and in my sister, who did her final project on backcountry cooking, and now teaches cooking classes and tells the story of food as a reporter for Heritage Radio. It was Mountain that launched me into a journey of place-based, outdoor education and it is Mountain Classroom that I reflect on daily as I try to facilitate meaningful learning experiences for those around me.
Coco’s sister, Lizey '08, writes:
Mountain Classroom was the most exhilarating part of my life. I was struck by how much everything made sense, the content of the classes mirrored what we were seeing, the nature of the work allowed us to dive deeper into the questions we had. I felt alive and angry learning about the history of Native Americans in our country and alive and ecstatic planning our backpacking adventures through uncharted territory. It was on Mountain that I found my intrigue in food. I am now working as a radio reporter for Heritage Radio Network, a radio station dedicated to telling the story of food and I am also teaching cooking classes in East Brooklyn. I have worked in restaurants around the world and spent a year at cooking school while in college. I have also backpacked all around the world and led many trips in snow and ice and heat. I absolutely hated camping before Mountain Classroom, and I rarely cooked. All of this changed for me, as did my character. I am forever grateful to Mountain Classroom and am so proud to have a sister that gets to lead students through the same adventure.
Their brother Danny '09 writes:
Mountain Classroom was without a doubt the most formative experience of my life. Six years after mountain classroom, I can't help but notice how my path in life is the one that began on that rambling bus--where we were challenged to open our eyes and hearts, bear witness to injustice, and engage the world around us. I often look back to Mountain Classroom and remember how at no other period in my life did I feel so present, happy, and fulfilled. The challenges of growing as a group, and the lessons that came out of that have been useful to me as a student and as a professional.
The magic that is Mountain Classroom is not one thing to one person. It is, however, one of the most profound experiences a student can have while they are at Proctor Academy, just ask Lizey, Danny and Coco about it.
Alumni, how did Mountain Classroom impact your life? Share your story in the comments below!