How old were you when you started Camp?
How were you introduced to Coniston?
Both of my parents went to summer camp and wanted me to have the summer camp experience, too; however, for various reasons attending either of the camps they had gone to as children wasn’t going to work. So, my mom turned to Google and started researching summer camps in New England. After extensive research, she landed on Coniston. When I came here as a camper for the first time I knew no one.
Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?
Yes! I studied Biology and Environmental Science at the College of William & Mary!
What is your current job?
I am a high school biology and environmental science teacher.
How has your career journey evolved?
Immediately after graduating undergrad, I took a summertime seasonal job in Fairbanks, Alaska working for the Department of Fish & Game studying migratory songbirds. This was only a temporary position so when it ended I returned home to Virginia to figure out my next steps. A call from a professor ended up leading to a full-time job as an environmental consultant at an engineering firm. That job exposed me to many different aspects of applied environmental science from wetland permitting to bat, bird, plant, and reptile surveys.
After nearly 3 years at that job, I decided to switch things up in order to work somewhere with a mission that aligned more with my values of working towards a better future for people and the planet. A conversation with a bird-watching mentor from my teenage years led to a job as an intern at the Highland School, an independent private school in Northern Virginia. During my intern year, I taught semester-long elective classes in marine biology and ecology and supported a teacher who was instructing virtually. Now, I am a full-time high school science teacher, teaching AP Environmental Science, Biology, Marine Biology, and Ecology.
Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?
Absolutely. I never had an interest (that I was aware of) in teaching. Truthfully, for a long time, I didn’t think all that highly of the career of teaching because of my perception of teachers as people who “couldn’t make it” in the “real world”, and because of the low pay. Because of that mentality and a focus on biological research while an undergraduate, I never took any classes in education, secondary or otherwise. When I threw myself into teaching I leaned on the only substantial experience I had working with kids, which was being a camp counselor at Coniston. I like to think that I teach like a camp counselor in that I try to do little things to keep life in the classroom light and fresh, and I tend to focus heavily on social-emotional education. The actual nuts and bolts of teaching, such as curriculum and lesson planning, I have been figuring out as I go. For the record, I now think teaching is an incredible career that can be incredibly difficult but also extremely rewarding.
I also believe that Coniston increased my willingness to take risks, like beginning a new career with close to zero preparation. As a 16-year-old at the CIT-led vespers, every CIT was tasked with sharing one sentence about how their time at camp had influenced them. The one sentence of wisdom that I shared was, “At camp I have learned to become comfortable going outside of my comfort zone”, meaning that taking big risks and jumping headfirst into the unknown was something that I felt more confident in doing. I strongly believe that this mentality developed at camp has played a large role in my career and life in general.
Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
Thinking on my feet! Expressing gratitude. Working with children. Collaboration. Being creative. Working while exhausted. Listening to and empathizing with others. Building relationships.
Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
Thanks to the annual schedule of a teacher, I have been able to return to camp after a 7-year hiatus, so I have many fresh memories to pull from as well as older ones from my time as a cabin counselor. At this point, it’s easiest for me to identify what has been most impactful to me over the past two summers from my time working in the kitchen and as the camp naturalist since those experiences are freshest in my mind. For myself and many of my friends, the stress, isolation, and uncertainty of the pandemic caused me to become more reserved and withdrawn and dulled my social skills. Returning here to this environment of constant interaction with friendly, kind, and interesting people has helped me redevelop and build on atrophied interpersonal skills.
My memories now are not so much specific big events, but a mosaic of smaller events and conversations with dozens of people on hundreds of occasions. That being said, there are some sunset paddles, reunions, and social events that I will remember for a long time. I also have loved sharing memories with others. This summer, for example, a former cabin counselor of mine from my last year as a camper, Steve Dacey, visited for an afternoon. I enjoyed sharing with him my memory of the overnight solo our cabin had on top of Penny Royal during the Perseid meteor shower and how I remember my cabinmates and myself being very open and vulnerable with each other.