VDA Teacher since 2001
Tell me a little bit about your personal and educational background.
I'm an expatriate Australian. I moved to the United States in 1995, so most of my education was in Australia, where I received a bachelor of education and masters equivalency degree in philosophy from the University of Melbourne. I later spent two years at the University of Southern California, where I pursued graduate studies in philosophy.
When and why did you decide to become a teacher?
Becoming a teacher was something of an accident, although I'd been 'tapped' as a future teacher by my middle school teachers. Straight out of high school, I was going to be a professional musician—a rock'n'roll drummer/percussionist to be precise. So, I studied music in college. I chose a music teacher's college—it was one of the two most reputable college music programs in Melbourne, Australia—and played music. Along the way, I inevitably took some education courses and, combined with some early teaching experiences and a burgeoning interest in philosophy, I became more interested in teaching and training young minds. After my first full-time teaching position didn't work out, I went on a career walkabout for a few years, eventually moving to the United States to pursue a goal of helping shape the future by training young minds, one way or another.
If you specialize in a particular subject area, why did you choose that specialty?
I'm the history guy, although that was never my ambition. I enjoyed studying history in middle and high school (good teachers helped) but never planned to do anything about it. Many years later, I was intrigued by philosopher Ayn Rand’s comment to the effect that Thomas Aquinas brought reason back to civilization and started the Renaissance. I understood the philosophy involved, but I wanted to know exactly how that had happened. So, I began investigating: Aquinas hadn't been born in a vacuum, so there must have been thinkers before him. Who were they? What had they done? As I dug deeper and deeper I found more and more leads and really enjoyed the process. But that was only one phase of European History. When I started teaching here, I had to research all of history. And I still am.
Miss VanDamme’s second child Greta brought me to VDA in 2001. As Miss VanDamme asked me to fill in for a few weeks of maternity leave, requesting that I adapt an adult history course I'd given to present to her bright elementary students. Of course, I also had to teach several other subjects. The entire experience was so rewarding and enjoyable, for both me and the students, that after Greta was born I stayed on the job, and I've been here ever since.
Do you have any favorite stories about your teaching experience?
Oh, there are too many for me to remember. Too many great students able to make historical connections that I haven't considered, too many fun moments playing Australian football or hide-and-seek, too many touching experiences watching our young students go off to high school, college, and now even professional lives. Too many great moments.
What do you like to do in your free time?
"Free time"? I've heard of that. I'm a huge science fiction fan, so I read and watch a lot of that (my book and DVD libraries are both overflowing). I try to stay fit, teach at philosophy conferences in the summer, and that's about it. I'm also back playing music for the first time in almost two decades.
Do you have children of your own?
Hundreds of them; some people call them students. I also have two cats (does that count?) named Jedi Jack O'Neill Lewis and Frisco Skywalker d'Anconia Lewis.
Is there anything else you think parents or prospective parents should know about you?
I take my teaching very seriously; it's an enormous privilege and responsibility, and I will always give it all my effort.