When I was in high school, a mentor of mine gave me a copy of Walden, Henry David Thoreau’s classic reflection of a life in search of solitude and meaning. While I did not accept all of Thoreau’s teachings, I found myself appreciating his perspectives on the juxtaposition of purpose and place. The pond gave him the opportunity to reevaluate the principles and values by which he wanted to live, and to reconsider the frameworks that governed his existence. “I went to the woods,” Thoreau writes, “because I wanted to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” As I read his words, I could not help but think about how I constantly balanced the demands of academic achievement and athletic performance in my own life, with the desire to somehow seek a higher level of meaning and purpose. While I loved the intellectual life of being a student, and the unconditional connection of being a teammate, I still asked myself what “deliberately” meant for me.
Through college and early adulthood, I continued to find happiness in the books and on the field, but I also continued to search for a deeper level of satisfaction with what I was doing. Eventually, I knew I had to find a setting that would allow me to “front only the essential facts of life.” For me, the facts were that I wanted to help others in a meaningful way and serve the community through the world of education. When I had the opportunity to teach for the first time at New Bedford High School in New Bedford, Massachusetts, I knew that I had found my own Walden Pond. The classroom quickly became the place where I learned how it feels to live a life of purpose. The large, urban public school was the first of several educational environments where I experienced the pleasure of adding value to the minds and spirits of young people, and over the years this work has brought me closer to the sense of happiness that I sought in my youth.
Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work in schools that have helped me cultivate my own philosophy of education. I have always enjoyed the pursuit of knowledge, I have learned how important self-awareness and identity formation are to the process of learning, and I have grown to appreciate how the community of a school can be a home for people to feel connected and loved. When I first visited Hopkins in 2013, I found a place that embodies all of these values that had been growing within me since my early days of reading Walden. So when I was called to be a part of the next chapter in the storied history of the School, I saw this place as a natural fit for me.
The start of this year has opened my eyes even more to the beauty of this place. I am inspired by the character and kindness of our students, and enlightened by the commitment and dedication of our faculty and staff. All of us value the life of the mind, and the community works together to care for the individual. Collectively this fall, we have been energized by the excitement of a new season together, we have transformed challenges into opportunities for growth, we have shared our hopes for what tomorrow will bring, and we have found comfort in our connections on this campus. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the people who have built the 357 years of this school. All of your stories and experiences inform my goal of hoping our students reflect on Hopkins as the place where they began to find a sense of purpose in their own lives.