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"Passion for English" Alumni

8th Grade English Teacher

Dominic DiBenedetto
Keene Middle School
Keene, NH

January 2009 - I recently got into hiking. There's a group of educators from the school system in which I teach eighth grade English that goes hiking every weekend, and they invited anyone who was interested to come along. As a full-time teacher, and concurrently, a full-time graduate student, I imagined that hiking would be relaxing and peaceful. And it was. The first hike we went on was in Hancock, NH, on a trail that took us (what I thought) rigorously 1,940 feet. We were surrounded by beautiful end-of-September foliage, and atop the summit, we had three-hundred-sixty-degree views. It was amazing. Our second hike was, well, different. I guess, in hindsight, what we did in Hancock was more of a nature walk; this hike had me scaling sixty-foot sheer rock faces (that were practically vertical) and standing atop a 3,000- foot summit...all in my all-terrain sneakers. Sanity aside, I knew for a fact that I was going to plunge to my early demise. From those experiences, I gleaned two lessons: If I plan on sticking with this hiking club, I am going to need hiking boots...and I need to prepare for nature walks, as well as sheer rock faces.

I suppose the lessons from these experiences can be translated into teacher speak: As an educator, I need to have the appropriate materials, and I need to be ready for any type of student. As a teacher of English literature and writing, especially, I have to have a broad skill set from which I can select any specific tool for a job. I need to plan well, but be flexible. I need to be energetic and creative, yet still have structure and routines. I also need to know how to have fun, and when to pull rank, so to speak. Whether one of my eighth graders doesn't know what a gerund is, or whether she has trouble recalling how to pick out a metaphor, I need to know how, when, and in what way to help her. I have to be a liaison between my students and the administration; I additionally must rely on the assistance of my colleagues, especially being a middle school educator on a team. As an educator, I consistently have to fulfill the paradox of being the masterful, confident provider of knowledge, and simultaneously be a learner. The reason I feel I am able to be a skillful teacher has definitely been influenced by my experiences as a member of Sigma Tau Delta, as well as serving as Vice President for a year. I had to rely on both my general members, as well as my fellow officers to accomplish the goals we all had. Sigma Tau Delta was one of the most exciting groups for me to be a part of, and I often think of the great times we all shared; whether I am climbing a mountain, reading a book, teaching a thesis statement, or discussing a character's motives, I continually reflect on many of the skills I gained from working with such a great group of people.