Catching up with Alumni: Jason Lewis '94
Please tell us about your journey after you left Breck. What led you to education, and how did you end up at the Fessenden School?
Following my graduation from Breck (‘94), I headed off to Skidmore College where I double majored in Psychology and Exercise Physiology. At the time, I had ambitions of pursuing med school and working my way into sports medicine. After graduation, however, I found myself back in my parents’ basement (something I do not recommend for anyone) for a few months. Fortuitously, I was able to return to Breck to serve as a tutor and then a one-year sabbatical science teacher and coach in the Upper School. It was there, teaching 10th grade ecological biology, that Dr. Jake Miller ignited a passion for teaching in me and served as an incredible mentor. Breck, and Dr. Miller, provided the platform from which my career in education was launched. Doc was instrumental in not only fostering a love of science, but in modeling how to create an inspiring classroom atmosphere. He was a master of the discipline, but more so loved engaging the students and fostering in them an appreciation of science. After leaving Breck and Minnesota, I spent seven years teaching biology at the Greenwich Country Day School (CT) and became the science department chair. It was then that I became interested in school administration and decided to pursue graduate studies. I headed west and spent a wonderful year in Palo Alto earning my Master of Arts in Education from Stanford University. Despite the beauty of the Pacific, I returned to Connecticut where I served as head of middle school and associate head of school at the Chase Collegiate School in Waterbury, CT. After eight great years there, I moved off to Boston where I currently serve as the head of the upper school at The Fessenden School in West Newton, MA.
How is Fessenden School coping with COVID-19, and what does your new day-to-day learning look like?
Like so many schools, Fessenden has endeavored on a whole new approach to teaching and learning. Within a very short period of time, schools have had to reinvent themselves through distance learning and online instruction—a daunting task to say the least. What I am witnessing at Fessenden, and I am sure is occuring at Breck, is that the quality of the instruction has not changed. The confluence of teachers’ talents and their dedication to students has resulted in meaningful and dynamic distance learning experiences. In terms of my days as a division head, I really miss the interactions with students and teachers in my office, the halls, the courts and fields, and across campus. I do, however, truly enjoy “sitting in” on classes and seeing teachers engage students and instil both an understanding of content and, more importantly, a development of skills. Other than that . . . it is Zoom, Zoom, Zoom throughout the rest of the day working with students, parents, teachers, and administrators. This effort is currently made a little more complicated with a three and seven year old at home, but it has also allowed for great fun with them.
Is there anything that is helping you to stay positive right now, or that has helped over the past month?
There is no illusion that these are stressful and unpredictable times and there is no certainty in terms of when routine will resume. But again, I will return to the fact I am inspired by the thoughtfulness of the teachers and the dedication of our students. We still gather almost every day as an entire upper school community for Morning Meeting. Despite the fact that we have over 200 students, including those from 15 states and 17 countries, there remains a sense of community that transcends both location and the screens from which the meetings are held. It is this commitment to Fessenden that provides me with tremendous belonging and motivation.
Do you have any advice for the class of 2020 as they are preparing to leave Breck in very uncertain times? Any advice for parents who are trying to support their kids?
It is hard to give advice for something that no one could possibly have foreseen just a few months ago. I suppose if I were to offer thoughts, I would suggest that the seniors focus on their journey and not solely on the destination. Think about those times when you did not feel you would succeed--a test, a game, a recital, a project—and how you overcame that. Who was there to support you and offer encouragement? Reflect on the relationships that have played a role in broadening your perspectives. And take great pride in the fact that you are soon to join the ranks of Breck alumni—a community to which you will always belong. I offer advanced congratulations to the Class of 2020 and wish you nothing but the absolute best in your futures. Hail to Breck! #MustangsUnite
Jason can be reached on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasonplewis/
Breck Upper School students Joseph Purvis ‘21, Ayres Warren ‘22 and Maddie McDermott ‘22 share their experience interviewing Leslie Redmond, a local community organizer and former President of the Minneapolis NAACP. They also share their excitement for the MLK Symposium and Amplify Our Love with Pie events happening at Breck this upcoming week. Ms. Redmond will be the Upper School keynote speaker for the our 20th annual MLK Symposium.
On Sunday, January 17th, Breck will co-host Sweet Potato Comfort Pie’s seventh annual MLK Holiday event: Amplify Our Love with Pie, to honor the 92nd birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breck student, Kai Miller ‘22, has been working behind the scenes to get ready for the event. The communications team at Breck did a brief interview with Kai to ask about her experience working on the event.
Natalia Rico Hernández, Ed.D., Head of School, updates the Breck community on the School's response to Wednesday's events.