The McCallie Faculty Fellows program annually rewards outstanding educators at the school who make a positive impact on both the academic and character development of their students. Former Board of Trustees Chairman Ed Michaels ’60 proposed his plan for the development of a faculty fellows program several years ago, and it was born in 2008. It is designed to acknowledge outstanding faculty members during their professional review year. A committee will select the Fellows from the review pool and award each a $2,500 supplement per year for four years, funded through an endowment established by Mr. Michaels.
McCallie’s faculty is evaluated every four years, so the fellowship selection process was built into the existing review process. All teachers are eligible for the honor in conjunction with their review year. Faculty are evaluated based on classroom observations, class surveys, a professional improvement plan, department input, response to strategic questions, a personal teaching portfolio and nominations from alumni and parents.
The fifth Fellows class includes seven outstanding instructors: Rebecca Burnette, Richard Campbell, Tim Chakwin, Jack Denton, John Lambert, Rob Lyons ’88 and Bart Wallin ’99. Mrs. Burnette, Mr. Chakwin and Mr. Lambert are receiving the honor for the second time.
Middle School English
On this honor affirming her role in the classroom – “The effective education of students is a team endeavor. Being recognized by the parents shows me that I am doing a good job. I want parents to be comfortable with me and to understand that my singular goal is to facilitate the achievements of their sons in a way that always takes into account their sons’ best interests. Being recognized by the students is important because it shows me that they understand that I take learning seriously and that it is a passion of mine. It also shows me they have noticed that I am genuinely concerned about their best interests.”
On character development fitting into her daily teaching routine – “I believe that character is best taught by example. Since my days are spent with sixth-graders, I have ample opportunities to teach the correct way to behave. That may mean a word of private recognition to a boy who has shown compassion and kindness. It may mean reminding a boy to put his jacket inside his locker because keeping the hallways clean is everyone’s responsibility. Every moment of every day is an opportunity to teach character.”
How does this program reinforce the importance of the teacher – “As many cultures teach, humility is an honorable trait. Being singled out can be disconcerting to me. However, my experience this year was that being recognized in the newspaper opened a dialogue. Many inside and outside of McCallie congratulated me which led to discussions about effective educational practices. Since I want a good education for all children, I feel the more folks talk about educational practice, the better we will be as a society.”
On his reaction to his selection – “Given the reputation accorded the McCallie faculty, and knowing that such reputation continues to be exceedingly well-deserved, I felt unworthy to be singled out.”
On this honor affirming what he does daily – “It affirms my belief that students respond to high expectations which are leavened with a bit of humor, occasional grace and consistent behavior which says, 'I like you, and I want to help equip you to do well in my classroom as well as outside my classroom.'”
On character development fitting into his teaching methods – “Since Veterans Day 2007, I’ve collected stories from my military and fraternity days which my 'student in charge' can choose a once-a-week retelling. These stories cover a gamut of personal experiences, both positive and negative. I get to share lessons learned in a non-threatening, non-preachy way. Character is not taught, it is mainly caught. To the extent that it can be taught, I have every student memorize “The True Gentleman,” a passage I had to learn as a fraternity pledge. It encourages goodwill, propriety, self-control, frankness of speech, sincerity, sympathy, trustworthiness, thinking of the rights and feelings of others, honor and virtue, while cautioning against flattery of wealth, cringing before power and boasting of possessions or achievements. Hopefully, a few of these characteristics are occasionally present in my teaching routine.”
On character development fitting into his daily teaching routine – “Character development begins with classroom management. In the assignments we plan, the discussions we manage and the intellectual curiosity we encourage, all teachers must work to ensure students feel safe and comfortable. In fact, a teacher who does not make character development a top priority risks having a classroom with very little learning. I place a lot of emphasis on the writing process so students acquire the skills and confidence to grow as writers.”
How does this program reinforce the importance of the teacher – “The Faculty Fellows program reinforces McCallie’s belief that all faculty and staff are teachers. Early in my career, I thought that the more time I spent planning and grading would make me a better teacher. But as you look through the list of Fellow recipients, you see educators who spend a majority of their time outside the classroom as coaches, dorm faculty, student advisors and administrators. The more involved we are outside the classroom, the more effective we can be in the classroom.”
On his goals as he enters the classroom every day – “I want to help students develop a voice, a literacy and a plan of action that will help them grow as men who approach the world with empathy and a sense of integrity. These traits require an intellect and experience necessary to lead others that can only be achieved through constant reevaluation of the self and one’s place in the world. The English classroom provides a context for this process.”
Upper School Art Chair
On his reaction to his selection – “As I was considering retirement, I thought this would be a great punctuation mark to begin the next phase of my life as an artist out West.”
On this honor affirming what he does daily – “My goal was always to provide a positive learning climate in the studio in which McCallie men could find success on a daily basis by being introduced to the best art concepts of Western Civilization.”
On his teaching style – “I am content driven as a teacher. My life as an artist and an art teacher has always been blurred. I have always tried to model the work ethic, attitude and cooperation needed for a studio art experience.”
On character development fitting into his teaching methods – “Issues of plagiarism, honesty, leadership and cooperation are constant elements in the art studio.”
Upper School English
On this honor affirming what he does daily – “It’s enormously gratifying. If you see teaching as a vocation, then part of what that involves is taking the long view. There’s a lot of planting seeds that goes on, and you never know what you say or do will take or fall by the wayside. It may take years to hear back from a former student that somethingyou said stuck with him (in my experience, it’s almost never about the actual literature you’re teaching but about small acts of care or offhand comments made in a conversation). So it’s pretty humbling to have some more immediate feedback."
On character development fitting into his daily teaching routine – “There’s a book on education I like called “The Students Are Watching.” The premise is contained in the title and suggests that good teaching is a lot like good parenting – what you do speaks volumes. So I hope I model things like being a good dad, having personal resilience, compassion, open-mindedness, a love of lifelong learning. Certainly the discipline of English opens doors by its very nature to grappling with questions of what it means to be alive. Great literature has the power to move us along that journey.”
On his goals as he enters the classroom every day – “The classes that feel the most successful to me are ones in which my students are doing most of the work, quite frankly. I’m one reader among the 15 or so in a class, and though I have a leg up on my students in decades of reading, and often in encountering a work multiple times, they have a freshness of insight I value. I love walking out of a class feeling like I’ve learned something new.”
Rob Lyons ’88
Upper School Math
On this honor affirming what he does daily – “There are many times when students come back to tell me that calculus was easy compared to what they did in our pre-calculus class. I always have them restate that to hear them call a college-level math course easy. Pre-calculus is simply the building block to calculus and other higher level courses, so it is crucial for them to understand the material in this class. Parents have always been extremely supportive. Their sons have to get used to the work load of this class early on."
On his teaching style – “I like to keep students involved, and I like showing them that they can get excited about math topics if they just let it happen. There are other times that it can be less exciting, but overall, I hope to show students that math can be fun and exciting and extremely important in life. Humor plays a large part of class as well. I want them toenjoy the class. I’ve learned that I can’t take myself seriously all the time. If I can laugh at myself, students can laugh at me as well. Although sometimes I am the only one laughing at my jokes. I have to do a lot of lecture, so there is always a serious portion to the class, but I do feel that students can have a good time in our class.”
On character development fitting into his teaching methods – “I want to instill in these young men the idea that Honor, Truth and Duty are not just words on a wall at McCallie. As teachers, we need to exemplify these ideals in class to our students. The world is filled with people who do not have tenets like these to follow, and we need to show that high moral standards still exist.”
Bart Wallin ’99
Middle School History
On his reaction to his selection – “Actually, I was floored. The group of other teachers in my year of evaluation includes some that I had as teachers myself, and so I know how excellent they are. I was honored and surprised that I was selected from among such a distinguished group.”
On his teaching style – “I feel I am a very engaging and, I hope, a challenging teacher. Even though it’s seventh grade, the content and skills that we learn help prepare the boys for college already. I want to not only know my content, but know these boys and their lives. Teaching is a ministry, and it goes beyond just high expectations inside the classroom. I hope to mentor boys as they grow through their teenage years into men.”
On character development fitting into his teaching methods – “While there are times where character comes into the lessons in a very planned-out way, I think the best ways to instill character in boys is to try to live a life of honesty and humility before them and to take the opportunities as they present themselves during the day. The key is to be intentional in looking for those opportunities. If you are observant, then the boys will let you know where there are successes and failures in their lives, and they will graciously invite you to speak into those places. It is these moments that allow the greatest opportunity for character development: the paradox where intention and spontaneity intersect.”