When Someone Types “Loomis Chaffee” into Google

Courtesy+of+Olivia+McCaughey+%2716

Courtesy of Olivia McCaughey ’16

When someone types “Loomis Chaffee” into Google, the following words show up:

“Loomis Chaffee is an independent, co-educational, college preparatory boarding and day school for grades 9-12 located in Windsor, Connecticut.

Many consider boarding school to be an “additional 4 years of college right before the real thing.” And it is undeniable truth that Loomis is a school very similar to a small-sized college, and to some, may resemble a college more than it does a high school.  Nevertheless, we are still a “college preparatory school” – just like any other high school. Joining us this year at Loomis are more than 20 new faculty members, working in various parts of our school. Some are alumni coming back to the Island to teach, some are coming from other prep schools, and some are coming to Loomis after teaching at some of the most prestigious colleges in the nation. Those faculty members are Dr. Erica Gerace and Mrs. Clare Parker Fischer in the science department, and Dr. Ben Fischer and Dr. Hudson Harper of the math department. Below are a set of five questions which they answered themselves, and hopefully, this will serve as a way for the Loomis community to get to know them better.

Photo courtesy of Tracy Kuo'18
Photo courtesy of Tracy Kuo’18

Dr. Erica Gerace

Dr. Erica Gerace was born in Vermont before moving to Dayton, Ohio. She attended Purdue University where she majored in Biology and Harvard Medical School to study genetics and epigenetics. She lived in Melbourne, Australia for three years before returning to the States to teach at the Department of Biology at Georgetown University.

Q1. How did you first hear about Loomis Chaffee? What was your first impression of the school when you first set foot on campus?

As a Midwesterner, boarding schools were not something I had any knowledge about or experience with in any context.  When I realized that I wanted to make a career shift to working with younger students, I began to explore the possibilities in the boarding school world.  I didn’t find Loomis Chaffee, but Loomis Chaffee found me, and when it did, I was struck by two things – the sense of community and the rich opportunities provided to students.  First, I was pleasantly surprised by the LC community – students, faculty and staff alike.  Everyone seemed to be very supportive and focused on the wellbeing of the group as a whole.  I was also very impressed with the opportunities for students.  I can speak specifically for my field, science, and know that the classes and research opportunities at Loomis Chaffee are very advanced and unique compared to other schools of this caliber.

Q2. A week of classes has passed. What do you think the biggest similarities between teaching at colleges and teaching here are? Biggest differences?

I’ll start with the differences, which are mainly logistical such as class size, pacing and schedule.  I used to teach large classes with up to 170 students.  I would lecture a few days a week on two giant screens in a setting where students do not often actively participate in class.  Even though the class setup is very different at LC, the students are similar, highly motivated and interested, and I feel that I can still teach my subjects at a near college level and I can bring new science to the classroom.  I also have a handful of students working with me on Guided Research Projects, and we are conducting novel experiments for an authentic research project connecting immunology and neurodegenerative disease, which allows me to actively engage in research and mentor students in the lab like I used to at the college level.

Q3. Looking out at the year as a whole, do you have any expectations?

That’s a tough question!  I think my expectation for the year is to find my groove in the community and be able to give in all of the ways I can, including in my expected roles as a colleague, teacher, coach, and advisor, but also in small ways through supportive conversation and listening.  My expectations for the students is that I hope they can slow down and appreciate their time here, and that they stop by and say hi – I am happy to chat about college life, navigating future endeavors, or just about anything else.

Photo Courtesy of Tracy Kuo '18
Photo Courtesy of Tracy Kuo ’18

Mrs. Clare Parker Fischer:

Originally from Albuquerque, NM, Claire Parker Fischer attended Reed College to study biology. She was a part of the Tufts University Biology Program, where she discovered her love of teaching. She is currently working on my doctorate and hopes to finish her dissertation soon.

Q1. How did you first hear about Loomis Chaffee? What was your first impression of the school when you first set foot on campus?

Ben (Fischer, my husband) was just finishing up his doctorate and looking for teaching positions in academia when his colleague, Hudson Harper, told him about this great position he was just offered, and would Ben like to apply, as there was another math position open. I came down from Boston with him to see the school and talk to the science department about teaching part time while I finished my dissertation if Ben got the job. My first impression was that Loomis is a lot like Reed College! It has the same brick architecture and the same open spaces, with room for ponds and water birds. From the first time we spoke to anyone, Loomis has been an incredibly warm and welcoming place.

Q2. A week of classes has passed. What do you think the biggest similarities between teaching at colleges and teaching here are? Biggest differences?

I would say that the content of what I want to teach is very similar to what I have taught and enjoyed teaching at a college level, although we have a year to go through it instead of just a semester. In fact, later this term, we are going to do the exact same lab I used to teach to college freshmen! The biggest difference is that everyone’s time is much more accounted for – including mine. I’ve been thinking about homework differently as well; I want homework time to be structured and productive, but not boring. I also see much more of my students, which is great! In a college class, you rarely know what any of your students do outside your class. I’m looking forward to seeing all the different things my students are interested in and excel at.

Q3. Looking out at the year as a whole, do you have any expectations?

I expect there will be a learning curve ahead, and I’m probably going to hit some unexpected stumbling blocks. This is a busy term for me… it’s surprising how much planning you can put into only one class! And even though I’d love to spend all my time on Loomis stuff, I really do need to get this thing written. I would love to get involved on campus. I hope to make some connections to students who are interested in the environment and conservation. I’ve got a bunch of thoughts for how we could use our beautiful campus!

Photo Courtesy of Tracy Kuo '18
Photo Courtesy of Tracy Kuo ’18

Dr. Ben Fischer:

Dr. Ben Fischer grew up in a small town in Eastern Oregon and attended Reed College, where he met fellow new faculty member Clare Parker Fischer. He studied math at Reed and then went to graduate school at Boston University.

Q1. How did you first hear about Loomis Chaffee? What was your first impression of the school when you first set foot on campus?

It was Mr. Harper, who I knew from Boston University, who notified me about the opening at Loomis Chaffee.  I had not considered a boarding school before then, but I was intrigued by his impression of the students and the school’s dedication to great teaching.  I was pretty impressed when I first visited Loomis.  In many ways, it felt a lot like my undergraduate college.  Certainly when I was in high school I had no clue that a place like this existed.  And it was refreshing to see so many people walking around with smiles on their faces – a big change from graduate school!

Q2. A week of classes has passed. What do you think the biggest similarities between teaching at colleges and teaching here are? Biggest differences?

This is not true at every college, but most math classes at Boston University are quite large, often with more than 100 students.  There’s very little opportunity for face-to-face contact in that kind of environment.  Also, it’s hard to drum up much enthusiasm out of the students.  Here, the students have so far been extremely engaged – I feel like I can push them a little further out of their comfort zone.  They like to ask questions and test out their ideas.  I’ve been very impressed!

Q3. Looking out at the year as a whole, do you have any expectations?

I expect that this year will be as much a learning experience for me as for my students.  There are so many great teachers here, and I’m eager to pick up lots of new tips.  

Photo Courtesy of Tracy Kuo '18
Photo Courtesy of Tracy Kuo ’18

Dr. Hudson Harper:

Dr. Hudson Harper, who is originally from the South, has his MA in mathematics from Boston University, where he also  taught different undergraduate classes from Calculus for the Life and Social Sciences to Number Theory. More personally, I’m from the South originally, and I love any sport that involves a flying disc.

Q1. How did you first hear about Loomis Chaffee? What was your first impression of the school when you first set foot on campus?

I heard about Loomis Chaffee through Carney, Sandoe, & Assoc., a firm that works with independent schools to place teachers. I loved how beautiful the campus was when I came for my interview, and I felt at home because of the friendliness of everyone on campus. I could tell that the community was very open and welcoming.

Q2. A week of classes has passed. What do you think the biggest similarities between teaching at colleges and teaching here are? Biggest differences?

One thing that Loomis has in common with colleges is the level of achievement and independence that’s expected of the students. Teaching at both levels is similar in that I have to help foster those two things. It’s different coming from a larger university in that classes are more intimate and there’s the time and space to have more one on one engagement. This allows me to be there to support the students in their journey to discover the math for themselves.

Q3. Looking out at the year as a whole, do you have any expectations?

This year I expect a lot of discovery and surprising revelations. This goes for both the students and me. I teach for the aha moments and the excitement it brings. Obviously I want to see my students have these epiphanies, but there’s a lot that I hope to learn about teaching in a high school.

Last year, Dr. John Morrell joined us from Vanderbilt University as the new head of the English department, and having been here for a year after teaching many years in the college scene, I asked him for a word of advice for the new faculty. His words are as follows:

“One of the great advantages of teaching in a high school environment is the opportunity for consistent and sustained classroom contact over the course of the year. The students I have met at Loomis Chaffee have been remarkable in their enthusiasm for ideas, and I would encourage new teachers to make the most of this setting by working to build a collaborative classroom community.  When students have the support and structure to engage critically with one another, the classroom can become an inspiring space for inquiry and growth.”

Once again, thank you Dr. Gerace, Mrs. Parker-Fischer, Dr. Fischer, Dr. Harper, and Dr. Morrell for your time!