Five Faculty Bid Farewell
by Eliza Scharfstein on Friday, June 5th, 2015
After a combined 115 years of dedication to Milton, five members of the upper school faculty are retiring as the 2014-2015 school year comes to a close. David Smith, Janet Levine, Maria Gerrity,
Mary Jo Ramos, and Juan Ramos will join the ranks of the many teachers who have ended their long and revered careers at Milton.
Mr. Smith came to Milton in 1981 as a member of the English department. In addition to serving as department chair for more than a decade, he also helped pioneer Craft of Nonfiction, a course he continued to teach for twenty years. Mr. Smith has taught a variety of other classes as well, including Performing Literature, Expository Writing, and English and American Literature, otherwise known as the two year English.
When asked how he thinks Milton has changed through the years, Mr. Smith notes the constants rather than the differences.
“The continuity is more striking than the changes. It’s just always had wonderful students, it’s always had a pretty serious emphasis on what happens in the classroom…It’s always had—I think—an atmosphere where people are awfully good to each other on the whole.”
Luis Vicera (II), a member of Mr. Smith’s two-year class this past year, touches on Mr. Smith’s strengths as a teacher. “I think his ability to let you grow as an individual and analyze and learn—not only on your own and from him, but also from your classmates— was truly unique to him as a teacher.”
Mr. Smith emphasizes the importance of creating the right classroom environment for students. “You have to learn how to create a space that kids want to enter. When you’ve done that, you’ve done it,” he says. “It’s really about, in a way, facing yourself and making the other people in the room the center of the activity.”
Aeshna Chandra (II), also a student of Mr. Smith this past year, notes the result of Mr. Smith’s approach to teaching. “His class was the center of the most lively, interesting discussions I’ve had in the previous few years.”
After teaching an estimate of a hundred classes and hundreds of students, Mr. Smith will begin his retirement with a trip to Italy in the fall with his wife. Continuing to entertain their love for travel, the couple will travel to India for three weeks in the winter. Mr. Smith also plans to volunteer at the Epiphany School in Dorchester, helping former Milton teacher David Foster share teaching experience and knowledge with fifteen interns.
“Lean in and enjoy it,” Mr. Smith advises. “It is enjoyable when it’s working right.”
Ms. Gerrity began at Milton eighteen years ago, working in the admissions office and Lower School before switching to teaching in the Upper School English department. Reflecting on her decision to start teaching, Ms. Gerrity says, “I really love literature; I love discussing it; I love working at it; I love language; and I like sharing that passion with kids, many of whom, here, also share it.”
Aeshna, who had Ms. Gerrity her sophomore year, expresses her appreciation for Ms. Gerrity’s teaching style. “Ms. Gerrity was a great teacher who always knew when to speak and prompt student talking and when to stay quiet and let students speak. I have grown more as a writer at Milton than I ever could have expected, and Ms. Gerrity was one major factor in that growth.”
Ms. Gerrity has taught English for years, including in New York before coming to Milton. After her multitude of experience, she recalls the changes that have occurred over the years. “When I first started teaching…teachers were still expected to have all the answers…There tended to be an idea that the teacher needed to convey a certain body of information about a work and certain accepted interpretations of works. And I would say that that attitude that the teacher’s the authority has really changed,” she says. “Now the teacher is there more to lead.”
When asked to recall his experience with Ms. Gerrity, Luis, who also had Ms. Gerrity for English his sophomore year, recalls that she “truly cares about each and every one of her students.”
Ms. Gerrity says she doesn’t have any specific plans for next year.
Ms. Levine, a member of the English department since 1986, retires from Milton after teaching a variety of classes and students. She served as advisor of The Milton Measure during her tenure.
Sarah Ford (II), who was Ms. Levine’s student sophomore year, says “Ms. Levine is the kind of person that’s been everywhere and has a story to tell for every place she’s been. You could listen to her all day.”
Mary Jo Ramos, who has served in a wide range of roles at Milton, is retiring after seventeen years of commitment. She has taught as a Spanish Teacher in the upper and lower schools, lived in Wolcott as a dorm parent from 1998-2015, was the faculty sponsor for Latino Association for nine years, and helped coach the Lower School speech team from 2009 to 2015.
To Milton students, Señora Ramos lends her words of advice. “Do not sign up for too many things so you have time to learn well, explore, make new friends, do community service, and get to know students from all over the world, and sleep. Make sure you read, listen, question, work hard, collaborate, develop your passions, say thank you and smile.”
Juan Ramos also retires after seventeen years at Milton. During his tenure, he “taught math, coached basketball and soccer, was class dean, worked in the skills center and lived and advised in Wolcott House.”
“The main advice I would pass along to others is to stay humble,” Mr. Ramos says. “Never assume that you have all the answers. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Look at both sides of the issue.”
Mr. Bland adds his own appreciation for the five retiring teachers: “Their dedication to Milton and [their] giving their lives to Milton in the way that they have has really been extraordinary.”
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=7113