I’ve never been much of an academic, never one for math or science. The highlight of my report card was the consistent A in acting class. My cynical and stubborn brain took a negative stance on institutionalized education, and it stayed that way until Chewonki, until Natural History of the Maine Coast, our science class.
I remember meeting my 2 science teachers, Eric and Megan, and learning about their unique passions. I think it was our first science class when I realized how lucky we were: 15 jaded high schoolers in a classroom all looking at Eric, who had the daunting task of making us care about trees. It worked. He went on about his genuine love for moss, and Megan chimed in with various facts about whales. Surprisingly, it was the most interesting science class I’d had in a while.
One of the things I was most excited about in this class were the species quizzes. Normally, I dislike tests and quizzes because they have no real-world application. However, this is not the case for Natural History of the Maine Coast. I know it’s not the case, because now I can tell you with certainty how to identify a staghorn sumac, and I know that the little fuzzy berries on it taste quite good.
I distinctly remember the moment right before the first species quiz. It was our first quiz of the semester, and most people were freaking out. Eric came around to hand out the little sheets of paper, and as he handed it to my friend Charlotte, he said, “Hey, you’re gonna do great.” She looked confused, as did everyone else in the class, but Eric continued on. To every single student, he would say something along the lines of, “Hey, you’re gonna do amazing on this,” or, “You? I trust you’re studying and you’re gonna do great.” On he went, reassuring every student in the most simple yet unheard of way. This amazing teacher had just put everyone at ease.
I think that was the moment I knew the teachers here really, actually, cared about us. I find that a lot at Maine Coast Semester. The teachers want you to succeed, whether that be through wishing you well before a test or connecting over scones and tea. Every single one of my teachers genuinely cares about both what and who they teach.
Iris Pelli-Walbert, The Masters School, New York, NY