Story Southworth, Humanities Teacher, grew up on a boarding school campus in New Hampshire (Proctor Academy), always knowing that she wanted to be a teacher as it allowed life and education to merge in a poignant way. She benefited from experiential education in high school, which propelled her into the world of Outdoor Education and spending 4 summers leading backpacking and pack trips in the Wyoming Wilderness. It wasn’t until attending Connecticut College and finding a history professor who made the subject more than memorizing names and dates that history became a passion. While there, she earned her B.A in Modern History and graduated from the Secondary Education Certification Program.
After loving teaching History and English for 3 years at Buxton School, a small boarding school in Massachusetts, Story decided she needed to explore more of the world herself, and so took off to live in New Zealand for the year. WWOOFing took her from remote sheep stations in the snowy mountains to small Maori communities tucked onto golden beaches. These experiences all reinforced that we become richer when we surround ourselves with a wide variety of ideals and belief systems, and that history is always a matter of perspective.
However, the pull of teaching kept her dreaming of returning to another school where she could spend her day asking questions, go on walks through the beautiful NH woods, and giggle through shared experiences with students and colleagues. Oliverian allows the freedom for passion to dictate learning – in trusting teachers to design their own curriculum, in trusting students to use their voices to direct the school, and in trusting implicitly in the power of community.
What do you love most about working at Oliverian?
“The people are what first drew me in – my initial conversations with faculty who, after years of working, were still just as excited about the magic of Oliverian. Then I talked to some students and was reminded first hand of what happens when you step away from preconceived notions and engage in conversations with the sole intent of sharing ideas. I am most excited to throw myself back into a community of diverse thinkers and do the day-in-day-out hard work of living together with intention. I am invigorated by the idea of digging in gardens to grow our food, of building up an outdoor program to take advantage of the mountains at our backdoor, and creating space for students voices to enact positive change.”
What motivates you to work with young people?
“For me, studying humanities is the lens through which we learn how to ask questions, how to craft arguments, how to identify multiple perspectives outside of our own and to celebrate diversity. Oliverian felt like the right fit from the start as it encourages individualizing education to fit the student and the teacher. I love teaching as I build off of teenagers’ energy and ernest, unapologetic, ever changing sense of self. Teenagers have taught me that half of success is having the conviction to say what you believe, and then to really listen when someone disagrees as they might offer a new, better informed perspective. Or, maybe it is an opportunity for you to teach that person something – but you never know until you listen!
Mostly though, spending my days with teenagers is a guaranteed way to spend my days laughing and opening my eyes to new worlds.”