New Faculty Spotlights
by Chris Bucci on Friday, October 2nd, 2015
Mr. Blanton, new History Teacher and Boys Varsity Soccer Assistant Coach
Matthew Blanton played soccer and earned his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Dartmouth College on a pre-med track. After college, Mr. Blanton taught math at the Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, and consequently developed a love for teaching. He returned to school and earned a Masters in African-American Studies from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D in American Studies from the University of Michigan. After a brief time teaching at Wellesley College, Mr. Blanton joins Milton’s History department excited to teach U.S. History, Modern World History, and to coach Varisty Boys Soccer.
How did you get into teaching?
I majored in psychology in college and was pre-med, and I intended to become a medical doctor. I had taken all the requirements except for the MCATs, so I could not go to medical school right off the bat. I did not have a teaching certificate, so that limited my options to [teaching at] private schools because public schools require one. The Taft School in Connecticut picked me up as a teaching fellow. I found out that I really enjoyed teaching, so after one year they hired me back. Six years later, I was no longer interested in becoming a medical doctor and was more interested in staying in the world of teaching… I was very interested in social issues which were issues that pertained to race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. So, after six years at Taft, I went to get my Masters in African-American Studies, which was a two-year terminal degree, which means that there were no options to go further in that program. So I applied to Ph.D programs and eventually got a Ph.D in American Studies from the University of Michigan. Between Michigan and Milton, I taught briefly at Wellesley College in their History and American Studies department. Ultimately, I think that I fell into teaching, but ended up discovering that I really enjoyed it.
What do you think is the best characteristic of Milton so far?
When I first arrived, when I was still in the application process, I was impressed by all the attributes of the school that the people associated with Milton displayed. Once candidates commit to schools, a more realistic display of the school emerges because people no longer need to “sell” the school. At Milton, however, people continued to be truthful and show that Milton is a great place, and not only that Milton is a great place, but people affiliated with the school, whether they are teachers or students, loved it, and really do like Milton. I have been really impressed with the warmth and kindness and generosity of students since I arrived. Only a few weeks in, that has been my most positive impression of Milton.
Is there anything you are excited for in the upcoming months and years?
I’m not sure if students know this, but all of the new teachers have mentors, people that show them the ropes. So Ms. Foster is my mentor, and she has been fantastic in terms of bringing me up-to-speed and filling in the gaps of whatever it is I don’t know– kind of helping me calibrate what it is I know to the “Milton way.” In a few years, if it works out, I would like to propose courses that fall into my wheelhouse, potentially a couple of senior electives. There are not really these “grand goals” that teachers try to accomplish. Most of us are in the business because it is about the smaller bright spots that happen on a regular basis. Someone could not write a great paragraph and suddenly they craft a killer argument. Someone cannot figure out the chain rule and suddenly they are rocking integrals. That is not life-changing or world-stopping but it is what we signed up for.
How has coaching helped your transition into Milton?
Prior to the school year in late August, I attended the Boys Soccer pre-season Team Prep Camp in Maine. It was a great way to get to know 30+ kids that are already involved with the community. While our focus was mostly on soccer during the week, conversations certainly drifted towards Milton more holistically, so it was a great way to get introduced to a big chunk of kids outside of the classroom… The combination of strong leadership from our seniors as well as chemistry on the field has made that part of my day extremely rewarding. It is not so much the fact that we are winning but that those folks who are committed to soccer are looking forward to going down to the field and finishing their day there.
What is your favorite movie?
Good Will Hunting
Mr. Deehan, a new member of the psychology department
Gregg Deehan first began his work in education working with college freshmen and sophomores at the Georgetown University branch in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar. Mr. Deehan remained with Georgetown in many different educational roles. He went on to become a psychological intern at a Boston area charter school and most recently has worked at a local psychological hospital. Excited to be working again in education, Mr. Deehan joins the Milton community to teach Topics in Psychology as well as the sophomore and junior affective education classes: Values and Social Awareness.
What do you enjoy most about teaching high school students? What do you enjoy the least?
What I least enjoy is that you guys have no time to get between classes, so I’m finding myself running all over the place. What I enjoy the most is that everyone here at Milton seems incredibly enthusiastic, and that’s been awesome. It’s always great to work with really enthusiastic students.
Is there anything in particular that drew you to Milton as a teaching opportunity?
I had some friends who had taught here and are teaching here, and they’ve had tremendously great experiences. They’ve spoken very highly of the community and say it’s been a unique place. I wanted to find out what all the buzz was about, so when this opportunity came up I jumped on it.
In your field, do you have anything that you’re most passionate about. If so, why?
I think in the field of psychology in particular, I really like what we call “abnormal psychology.” Basically I like teaching about and working with folks who are going through mental health issues. In particular, I find depression to be a fascinating topic. Looking at history and social sciences in general, I also find social justice and international affairs interesting, so I’m always looking at ways to kind of combine all those interests in the classroom.
Do you have any favorite stories from being in the classroom?
I had a student bring his pet boa constrictor to class and put it around my neck once. That was an interesting experience. This was while working overseas. They are no longer allowed to bring pets to school over there- let’s just leave it at that.
What are some of your goals as a teacher and as an educator at Milton?
One of the things that I think we want to do with the psychology courses is to give kids an opportunity to learn about psychology and to be able to relate it back to their own lives. I want to allow students the opportunity to reflect on, for example, how they were brought up and how they want to bring up their own kids one day. In general, as a teacher in this community, I am hoping to be able to get to know a little more about the Milton world, which is still very, very new. Currently I have discovered that 6th period is an impossible period to get lunch in if you’re late. I guess that’s a newbie mistake.
I know it’s a popular major on many college campuses, but do you find that psychology is a common part of a high school setting? Is it at the same level?
Milton’s not the only school that does it, but Milton is unique in offering a psychology program. I think that wherever you go, when you offer psychology or other kinds of electives where students can get down into sort of the nitty gritty of issues that affect their lives or topics that they are passionate about, my impression is that enrollment tends to go up.
If you were on a desert island, what 3 things would you bring with you?
Classic answer: Sunscreen because I burn, food, and a boat to leave the island.
What age do you wish you could be forever?
One hundred, because that will mean I would have lived to be that old.
What’s your favorite movie?
Wes Anderson’s film–The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
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