“After East Hill my life took a very dark, lonely turn for several years until I got back together and married… I didn’t realize at the time how important it was. I did know that it was the only job of so many I’ve had that was always worth getting up for in the morning.” – Bill Mutch
“Looking back, East Hill was probably my favorite job. Toward the end of the second year, although I had applied for research jobs at a universities, I didn’t want to leave East Hill because I was so happy there. … One day around lunchtime, Dan called me in. The school would be reorganized. Everyone not certified, about five of us, would go. I asked if I could stay on if I took night classes and sought certification. Dan looked uncomfortable, and then said no. I asked permission, since I shared a room with Cindy (who was certified) to go home for the afternoon to think things over. Dan advised me that I had a research doctorate and hence should pursue that, and then, after another pause, he released me for the afternoon.
I lived in a snug attic apartment. As I came in, hesitating, from the steps outside, the phone began to ring. It was the chairman of the Mathematics Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Was I still available? Literally shaking, I said yes. In that way, although I couldn’t know it at the time, I began a twenty-five-year lark as a research mathematician. Who would have guessed?
On the road
I was so passionate about mathematics. In retrospect it reminds me of a film: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. A bunch of us did math like they robbed banks.
After two years in Texas, I worked in Illinois and Minnesota, then Utah where I’m living now. That’s the standard part. The lark was algebraic geometry, practiced partly as adventure travel. A month in Paris on a French research grant, then more in London, Madrid, Oslo, Torino, Copenhagen, and a splendid year (87-88) near Stockholm with a group of friends, supported by the people who give Nobel prizes. Still, throughout, faithful to what I love, I missed East Hill.
Back to school again
In the mid-90s, teaching calculus in Utah, my friend Chuck Walter and I lost patience with our home department’s standard-model, unreflective way of teaching.
Like others at that time, in a roughly constituted movement, we started to experiment. We handed out a set of time-lapse photos (Muybridge, 1880s) of a moving cat. Based on information in the pictures, how fast was it moving in frame 10? Frame 20? On what basis do you know? It was like East Hill with those three boys, except now I was literally running up stepped aisles in a lecture hall for 240, dropping in on conversations as the students worked in groups, contrasting and debating explanations. Lovely, unexpected things emerged. We wrote two papers on that task that went around the world. Well and good, we thought. It was a start.
At bottom, though, we wanted to help teachers. Not in universities, mainly, but in schools. Regular schools. Public schools on streets with kids like we had been, with teachers like the ones whose love and dedication changed our lives. So, as an explicit protest to official, sterile pedagogy, Chuck and I tithed one tenth of our paid time at the university to help a small, public, neighborhood elementary school in the Salt Lake valley. We worked closely with a group of very dedicated teachers there, who wanted to rethink and rebuild their program so that the school’s children, everywhere they went, could be more active and creative learners. We got grant support for the teachers and the school, not us, and stayed there for ten years.
We learned a lot, wrote more, and, maybe best of all, we got away with it.” – Bob Speiser
” …What insight Dan Lee. ” Maybe we’re way off in left field here, but we think they will face a better life after this” ….I can speak for myself in saying there is not a day that has gone by that I have not used what I learned at East Hill School. And yes we were all WAY out in left field. It’s more fun out there!!!” – Kate Daugherty-Formichella
“The past four years I’ve been in urban high schools in DC, hoping to help kids get ready for the sort of university I had been teaching at — American U. Not much success — our kids come from a devastated neighborhood very much still suffering from Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. They are just passed along despite minimal effort and come to 9th grade at an average 3.1 grade level in math, and then are given the standard college prep curriculum so they can take the school-defining and job-maintaining tests. The 50 percent who do not drop out are passed along with phony grades and make-up courses, so there is little incentive to do the work. Yikes! See the details and some of my recommendations on the education blog at calebrossiter.com. Boy, does American urban education need East Hill School more than ever!” – Caleb Rossiter
(Caleb Rossiter had a brief foray as a student teacher in Pat Holmes classroom in the early ’70’s.)
“I did about 2.5 school years at EHS before we moved and I went to “normal” schools. I missed learning to write in cursive, but other than that and some issues with authority figures, I did pretty well. The other downside was that it was such a great experience that I never really got over having to leave it. My public school education was good enough, but it was pretty dismal by comparison.” – David Nordheimer
Anon: What was it like to leave East Hill for another school?
It was a little like going back to prison after getting three years off.
Anon: Among other things, it has given me great respect for young adults who are willing to throw themselves into a social experiment. I don’t think I appreciated the teachers’ radicalism then as much as I do now. Back then, I just thought they were really cool.
Anon: I’m sure that East Hill has affected my decision to be a writer.
“I just wrote an article about the racist history of swimming.” – Karen Carr
Jim Houghton is a professional cartoonist and illustrator in Ithaca.
Brad Olsen is a pastor and power-lifter. “Brad holds 4 world titles in weight lighting – a sport in which he is still competitive.” – Mary Olsen