By Steve Mintz, Upper School Science Teacher
Over the last 20 years, I’ve had the privilege of travelling to schools across the country, consulting about how to create vibrant and effective school cultures. The foundation of this work is about relationships. Regardless of a student’s innate skills or abilities, if the teacher and student have a strong relationship, that student has a greater likelihood of progressing. And, not coincidentally, the teachers who foster those relationships are more excited about and satisfied in the work they do. Meaningful relationships, among teachers, students, administrators and families are a win-win-win-win for everyone.
18 years ago, my eldest daughter became the first of my 4 children to arrive at Heilicher as a student. Carol Hjulberg warmly welcomed Molly into her Winnie the Pooh filled room, beginning a relationship between them that set the tone for an awesome start to her schooling. 8 years later, Jenny Palmer (then Kryzkwa) did the same for my youngest.
While I loved (and still love) consulting with schools, but when the opportunity arose to teach science to middle schoolers at Heilicher, I jumped at the chance. Most people think I am nuts, but I love teaching this age, at this school. Why? It’s simple … Relationships. Every day, I get to help amazing young people learn about how the world works, and I know that to do that successfully, I need to spend my time trying to learn about how they work - not just academically, but as people.
It is through this process of discovery, both for them and for me, that we all end up moving forward, and that’s an incredibly rewarding thing.
I love to mow my lawn (Wow, Steve, that’s quite a non-sequitur!), but teaching is not like that task. When you cut the grass, or rake the leaves, you instantly see the results of your work, and for a few days (or minutes, in the case of the leaves), you can feel satisfied that you’ve done a good job. With teaching, we have moments when the light bulb goes off in a student’s head or they ask a great question, that feels satisfying, but ultimately it is not about learning a particular topic, and it is definitely not about getting a grade - it is about helping students develop into whole, capable, kind and successful people. That’s not something that happens over an hour, or a day, or even 9 years. We only get to know if we were ultimately successful, when we run into a former student at the grocery store or they come visit us at school (really hard to do during a pandemic) and they fill us in on the person they’ve become. There’s nothing better.
Being part of a small, tight-knit school, where relationships are at the core of everything we do; where being part of the Heilicher community means that we’re likely to run into a student, or their parents, at the grocery store; where we care about one another like family… That’s why I love teaching at Heilicher.