From students to colleagues

Teachers and students develop unique connections at school

Nate Burke '23, Sports Editor

As I reflect on my seven years spent at Greenhills, one word comes to mind: community. As soon as I arrived, the tight-knit connection between students and teachers alike was as clear as day; it was one of the main reasons why I decided to enroll and continue to attend throughout high school. While the relationships I have built with my classmates have been extremely impactful on my life, I cannot help but acknowledge the profound effect that my teachers have had on my life as I transition into college life and beyond. The intimate setting of our school–growing to 676 and 132 faculty members–has fostered deep, personal connections that stretch far outside of academics. In the following paragraphs, I invite you to walk with me through the hallways of Greenhills and explore the life-changing relationships I’ve formed with my teachers.

My journey began in sixth grade when I first met Señor Olson, my Spanish teacher and advisor. From day one, his energetic demeanor and contagious laughter brightened our classroom and encouraged an interactive and immersive learning experience. I remember before our first speaking test, everyone was on edge while waiting in the classroom to get called out into the hallway. Señor Olson must have realized my nervous demeanor as I was met with a resounding smile and a truly genuine “¿Qué tal?”. After talking casually for another minute, my fears quickly subsided and my confidence rose, which allowed me to score well on my test and left a big smile on my face. After getting to know Señor Olson through advisory and inside the classroom in 6th and 8th grade, I began to realize how much he and other teachers cared about me as a person in addition to students. His consistent check-ins, authentic conversations, and recognizable effort to get to know me on a deeper level allowed me to develop an essential connection early on at our school. His unwavering support encouraged me to embrace my true self, helping me discover myself throughout my years in middle school.

Transitioning into high school, I was introduced to an unexpected experience: academics in the age of COVID. My passion for engineering was further sparked by Mr. Monte-Sano, whose Applied Engineering class presented me with opportunities to explore my passion for creative problem-solving, sustainability, and innovation. Even taking classes via Zoom, his comedic demeanor and mentorship shined through, especially when he would greet our class with a joke or a roast at 8:30 in the morning. Having us partake in small-group projects facilitated creative brainstorming and brought our ideas to life. When designing a catapult made from popsicle sticks, he encouraged us to think outside the box and trust our instincts, working together as a team to let ideas flow and let the final product be a combination of our diverse ideas. Even though I didn’t have him as a teacher after that year, he graciously volunteered his time to mentor me in building a solar-powered phone charging station for my independent study project this year. His continued personal support to students like myself–even after having them in class–as well as his passion for engineering has pushed me to strive to become an ethically and environmentally conscious engineer who wants to make the world a better place.

As a junior, I was introduced to Ms. Sterling, an advisor, who similar to Mr. Monte-Sano, challenged traditional teacher-student dynamics. By treating us as colleagues rather than students, she fostered an environment of mutual respect and understanding. I remember our weekly advisory discussions; they felt more like a group of friends checking-in and talking about their lives rather than a typical advisory dynamic. Encouraging us to express our opinions on complex social issues and problems with the school, Ms. Sterling valued our input and created a safe space for open dialogue, empowering us to think critically and develop our own perspectives. It was essential at this point in our lives to start to receive this kind of support and guidance; transitioning from childhood to adulthood is an extremely difficult process to navigate alone and Ms. Sterling provided just what we needed.

Dr. Lund, my journalism and AP Government teacher, also has made a significant effort to get to know me as a person rather than a student as well. Walking into the classroom for AP Gov last Spring, I immediately felt welcome and at home. Dr. Lund mixed Mr. Monte-Sano and Ms. Sterling’s approaches and cultivated a classroom culture of humor and collaboration. As I got to know Dr. Lund through our routine conversations, he displayed how much he cared about me as a person. Asking about sports games and how social and academic life is going, I appreciated his authenticism and ability to talk with students as colleagues. Moving into Journalism this year, I continued to experience this culture. While our classes are productive, we are able to lace our time with casual conversations about anything and everything. Dr. Lund has continued to push me outside of my comfort zone academically and has supported me throughout issues and successes.  

At Greenhills, my time l has been marked by the unforgettable bonds I’ve forged with my teachers. Their persistent support, encouragement, and understanding have transformed me into the person I am today and want to be. To my fellow students and the faculty members of Greenhills, I encourage you to develop and cherish these connections, as they will make more of an impact than you will ever realize.