ALUMNI STAFF PROFILE
by Hannes Thum '03, Upper School Science
n the wall in my classroom, right above my desk, I have tacked up a photo of Drew Stoecklein's (my classmate of 2003) red Jeep Cherokee, with all of the off-road accessories, parked high up on top of the huge snowbank at the edge of the parking lot where it meets Trail Creek. I remember the morning, when we were students, that he did that: It was a little bit dangerous, a little bit unsightly, but really funny. Now, I don't think that a student would get away with parking like that. But that's OK. Last fall, some of the tenth grade boys took it upon themselves to start a new tradition: "Tailgate Tuesdays." They fired up grills in the parking lot, played loud country music, and had a blast. I was overjoyed to be a "faculty sponsor" (official, or unofficial, I would have been there anyhow) for this event. I stood there with a hot dog in my hand, watching young Cutthroats follow up on their own, unique ideas, not ten feet from where Drew used to enact his own version of parking lot antics. These days, students don't park like that anymore, but we didn't used to tailgate on Tuesdays. Things are different, but still the same. It's all OK.
A couple of weeks ago, during spirit week, I wore one of the t-shirts that our soccer team received from Bob Brock and Richard Whitelaw when we had one of the best seasons in Cutthroat Soccer history, but lost a heartbreaking game at the state tournament and ended up missing out on the Championships. The t-shirt has some questionable language printed on it; something along the lines of "18-1 and All We Got Was This [expletive] T-Shirt." One of my colleagues remarked that such a t-shirt probably wouldn't be printed at school anymore. He's probably right. But, that's OK. This year, the passion with which our boys' soccer team played through the season and at State Championships (they also only lost one game at the tournament) was truly moving. I was emotional on the sidelines many times up at the beautiful Sagewillow fields this fall. The t-shirts may be different, but the way the Cutthroats play on the field isn't.
I'm writing this in the Biology classroom in the newest iteration of the Science Building. Many of Harry Weekes's books and notes are still in the room, and his spirit still lives here in the form of his students' projects that are still propped up along the countertops. This fall, a student has been working on an Independent Study project in Botany in my classroom. The sprawl of grow lights, humming water pumps, and bags of seeds and soil, at times, reminds me of the living jungle that Harry once had dominating one end of his classroom. There are currently three fish tanks in the classroom, in various states of life and death, that add to the clutter. An impressive array of ungulate body parts, including a deer heart in a glass jar on a shelf (complements of one of my advisees, who spends much of his fall hunting), add to the scene, and the aroma. The room, according to some of my students, smells like "biology". I remember, when I was a student, the indoor tortoise pond that Harry had created and the unique smell that always seemed to permeate the room. I'd like to think that that smell of biology is a good indication of a good biology classroom - it was then and it is now. The turtles have been replaced with plants and skeletons and (when we can keep the tanks in order) fish. Different, but OK.
This morning, I got to share the last of a pot of coffee in the faculty lounge with Pilar, who was looking for a caffeine boost at the same time that I was. I clearly remember the narrow, steep steps up to her old Spanish classroom and the warmth with which she greeted all of her young Estudiantes. She still greets them that way, although her new language classroom is in a building more, shall we say, "up to code". Other teachers of mine are now my colleagues: Mike Wade, Phil Huss, and Paul Hartl are all still holding down the fort. I miss some of the other teachers that meant so much to me as a student, but it's OK. Different faces, but the same passion for education and authentic learning still exists here.
Much is exactly the same. Trail Creek still splashes and swirls past the windows of the library, giving plenty to look at when one is supposed to be studying. Students still gather in the Quad in all kinds of weather: to relax in the sunshine; to catch leaves blowing in the wind in October; to turn their heads back and catch snowflakes on their tongues in the winter's first snowstorm. The parking lot still feels like the coldest spot in town in the early November mornings before school. Engl Cup is still a colorful, roiling, circus on snow, as well as a great way to spend time with students and teachers from other grades. Students going into their junior year are still nervous, excited, and curious about how they will feel on the Solo trip in the spring. Teachers laugh and share stories with students at the beginning of each class. The halls are still crowded at lunch time with sprawling legs and the sound of friends chatting about whatever it is that teenagers chat about. Play practice is in full swing this week in preparation for the upcoming opening night, and all of the actors are in there each evening, alternating between practicing their lines on stage and working hard on their math homework in between acts. The Cutthroats keep swimming. Sometimes it feels different, but sometimes it doesn't. It's all good.