Dr.Kohlhepp was this year's recipient of the Class of ’57 Faculty Award for excellence in teaching and tenure of service. We sat down together to talk about teaching and life in the middle of a rainy spell under the mountain. Here's some of what he had to say:
Tell us a little bit about what brought you here.
We moved to Berkshire in the summer of 2001 after two purgatorial years in Jacksonville, FL. At the time, we had a new baby and were looking for an engaging place in which to live, work and raise a family. A dozen years later, Berkshire has provided all that and more. Allie (12) and Max (10) have never known another home, and we can't imagine a better place to have raised them. I think that my wife (Virginia Watkins, web manager) and I have also "grown up" a lot during our years here!
Talk about your teaching philosophy.
I am definitely not the "sage on the stage," more like the coach in the corner. A lot of the work that I do goes to setting up the discussions and activities through which the students can learn, rather than memorize, the big ideas that underlie the minutiae of the classroom. The way I see it, no amount of information I provide them can take the place of their own interaction with the material.
Having said that, I also believe in the power and potential of storytelling and bring narratives into the learning environment to clarify and to reinforce, and I am also prone to Hamletian allusion to an extent that probably drives my students (and my own children) a little bit nuts. ("Really, DK?" they groan. "Do we really need to know how Polonius's offhand comment in Act II relates to the use of the semi-colon in contemporary tweets"?)
Do you have any teaching goals for this year and beyond?
I have taught every level of English at Berkshire School by now and am excited to take on the Advanced Humanities Research class this year. I am also thrilled for year two of a senior elective called College Writing Workshop, which course allows me to bring together my rhetorical training from graduate school; the potentials of online writing technologies; and the real needs of Berkshire students as they make their way into the next set of challenges they face.
Any other goals?
Outside of the classroom, I take great joy in my work with squash and baseball. My nighttime obligation in Buck dormitory provides further opportunities to interact with Berkshire's best and brightest, and my charge as academic advisor contributes endless opportunities to connect one-on-one. I find that the deepest bonds are often formed with students who have the hardest time at boarding school.
I think I come into every single school year wondering, "What’s next?" A certain degree of restlessness underlies everything I do and pushes me to explore new avenues and approaches for all aspects of my life at school and at home. Short version: I feel incredibly fortunate for the continuing opportunity to do meaningful work in a place that I, and my family, love so much.