In The Classroom: Meet US Math Teacher Jud Ford

Upper School Math Teacher Jud Ford joined the Cutthroat faculty last August. The Connecticut native, math fanatic, outdoor enthusiast, and married father of two grown children most recently taught at the American International School Chennai in India, where he served as the Math Department Chair. Prior to teaching in India, Jud taught math at Saint George’s School in Washington from 1998-2018, teaching every math course including Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, AP Calculus AB and BC, and AP Statistics. He was also an active participant in the school's outdoor trips. And, oh yeah, he has climbed Denali. Here+There sat down with Jud to learn more about how he got to SVCS, his reflections about living in India, what he’s looking forward to experiencing as a Cutthroat, and his approach to teaching (and how he joined in on the Pineapple tradition). 

H+T: Tell us a little bit about your history. 
JF: "I'm originally from Connecticut, and I attended Northfield Mt. Hermon for high school where my aunt and uncle were ESL teachers. Between high school and college, I took a gap year and explored the U.S. a bit. First painting houses, then a semester with NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School), then some time in Kentucky working at an outdoor education center. That was probably where I first learned how much I enjoy being in the role of a teacher. I attended Colorado College, met my wife, got a degree in mathematics, and knew that I wanted to keep exploring the western U.S. But first, I went back to New York where I got my teaching certificate in Ithaca. Then, off to Seattle, Washington, for two years working in a Sylvan Learning Center as a Director of Education, then back to New York to teach middle school math for two years, then back west to Spokane. In Spokane, I received my master's degree in math from Eastern Washington University and found a job teaching math at Saint George's School, where I stayed for 20 years. Both my kids, Grace and Brett, were born in Spokane and Lael (my wife) and I made a great community of friends there.

Our daughter Grace went to Colorado College where she majored in mathematical economics. Our son, Brett, attended Colby College and has dual degrees in chemistry and computer science. When our son was a sophomore at Colby, Lael and I decided to live our dream and go live overseas for a time. India was never on our list, but when a job at the American International School Chennai opened up, we thought, why not? India was an amazing life of contradictions. Things there are beautiful and ugly, joyous and terrible, simple and incredibly complicated. We would highly encourage everyone to see India. It is a huge place and in our three years there we barely scraped the surface.

When the pandemic erupted, we knew we were going to need to be back in the States to be close to our children and to be safe ourselves. In the last year and a half, we have been in Spokane, then Salt Lake City, and are now thrilled to be settled into life in Hailey and the Wood River Valley."

H+T: Tell us a bit about your passions, adventures, and why you love the outdoors.
JF: "I love the outdoors. Whether it's just day hiking, or backpacking, rock climbing, biking, Nordic skiing, backcountry skiing, lift service skiing, or more adventurous trips, any time outdoors is time well spent. While at Saint George's, I took advantage of the outdoor program there, leading and helping run trips all over the Northwest. Working with students in the backcountry is an amazing opportunity, and I'm thrilled to be at a school where the outdoor program is front and center. My wife and I also love international travel, and we anticipate traveling overseas for vacations as soon as that becomes a more reasonable thing to do again."

H+T: Why math? 
JF: "I have always loved math. It just spoke to me somehow. In the last 25 years I have been practicing the art of teaching. I'd like to believe that I get better every year. At first, I was a very traditional teacher—stand and deliver. But over time I learned that most students do not just absorb what you say. They need to interact with it, get their hands dirty, be wrong a lot, and learn from those experiences—not unlike the way we learn in the outdoors. My last few years in Spokane, I had begun using a Standards-Based approach in the classroom and found that it really helped students see that what was important were the concepts, not the grade. My time at AISC was transformational. The school there had just begun implementing a Standards-Based Assessment and Recording system across the whole high school. I learned a ton about teaching while there and am excited to practice lots of those ideas at SVCS."

H+T:  What drew you to Sun Valley Community School?  
JF: "I was on a reaccreditation team for SVCS way back around 2009, I think. Since that time, the school has been on my radar. Back in 2017, when Lael and I were thinking about the next place to move, we discussed either moving internationally or living in a small mountain town. So, now we'll have had a chance to do both! " 

H+T: Being new to the Wood River Valley, what are you looking forward to doing? 
JF: "So far, we've loved the easy access to hiking, biking, and backpacking. We've spent multiple weekends at the City of Rocks and are excited for a ski season, fingers crossed. Professionally, I'm thrilled to be at a school that values the whole student. In my classroom we do a lot of thinking, and a lot of thinking about thinking. In order to do that we need to have safe relationships where we can be wrong sometimes, make mistakes, and critique one another. My impression is that the SVCS students are learning to be risk-takers; they know that sometimes life is not comfortable, and all of that is great for a learning environment."