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.
We are ‘educators’ by profession, but our responsibility to our students extends well beyond the walls of our classrooms. We serve as examples for our students: in the dining hall, in assembly, when we play with our own children, when we interact with our peers, and when we volunteer our time in the local community. Students arrive at Proctor having been shaped and molded by their own parents, and our role as a boarding school is to build upon the foundation their parents provided.
An underlying theme of our work as teachers this year has been engagement. How can we best engage our students and engage ourselves in the Proctor community. This engagement comes in many forms - in classrooms, on teams, in dorms, and in advisories - but central to helping students feel connected and invested in community is our willingness as adults to meet our students where they are, understanding the stressors and motivators in their lives.
For two summers, I had the privilege of building dry stone walls with fellow faculty members Josh Norris '92 and Peter Southworth. It was hard work, but the results were tangible. We would walk away from the job site each day seeing what we had built; the well placed foundation rocks, tetris-like fits locking the wall into place, flat tops and square corners. There was an immediate gratification and instant feedback with this summer job that stood in stark contrast to the usual delayed feedback experienced by educators.
Following the 1997 fall athletic season, Proctor faced a decision: would they find someone to revitalize a struggling football program or would they simply move away from the sport that had been a part of Proctor’s history for more than 90 years. Proctor’s leadership decided to choose the former and began a search for its next coach.
Most educators enter the field soon after college or graduate school. They cut their teeth as young teachers, learning to manage classrooms, teams, and dorms, to gain expertise through experience as only teaching can provide. Rarely does a teacher decide to enter the profession at the age of 62. Even less often (perhaps never?), does the former Chair of the Board of Trustees decide he wants to start a new career teaching and coaching at the age of 62, but such was John Pendleton’s approach to life: always learning, always growing, always seeking to make an impact.