5Q4 AronWalker heroA Nueva alumnus, Aron is one of the founding faculty of the Upper School. Before returning to Nueva, he spent four years with the Peace Corps in Tanzania, teaching at a secondary school and a teachers’ training college. Aron studied chemical engineering and earth, atmospheric, and planetary science, and has done research on paper-based diagnostics, metabolic engineering, and carbon sequestration. He is an avid hiker, traveler, and orienteer.

 

 

 

 

 

1. If Nueva were an element on the periodic table, which would it be and why?

Perhaps manganese. Perched in the middle of the d-block, where simple myths like the octet rule crumble and a more nuanced complexity emerges, manganese is found in a wide variety of colorful oxidation states, each with unique traits. Manganese easily changes forms among these states, adapting to the local redox conditions. Several manganese compounds are excellent catalysts – species that facilitate difficult transformations by reaching out with bonds to support the transition state. Elemental manganese itself is a metal – resilient and tough – and also beautiful.

 

2. You graduated from Nueva in 1999. What are some things that remain the same since your time here? What’s changed?

The deep spirit is the same: Nueva is learning by doing and learning by caring. Our core beliefs are that students learn best by doing real things, choosing what they do, and being supported in their endeavors. As Nueva expands, it is vital to remember the root: authentic and hands-on experiences, guided by teachers, chosen by students. The well-articulated frameworks that facilitate these experiences – our catalysts – are now as they were then: social-emotional learning, design thinking, substantial autonomy for faculty to both innovate curriculum and cultivate its emergence, and substantial freedom for students to immerse themselves in learning that matters to them.

 

3. You teach an orienteering PE class. What is orienteering and why do you teach it?

Orienteering is navigating with a map and compass. Competitive orienteering is like a cross-country race, in which participants also need to find their way. And it is really cross-country – off-trail, over streams, under trees, and through bushes. I love being outside, running, and solving visual-spatial problems, and orienteering combines these three. The experience seemed like something Nueva students would also like, and so this year I offered an Orienteering PE class. I think it is really important for students to get experience outside and being in nature, and orienteering gives them a chance to both be immersed in nature and gain comfort in it.

 

4. Who is your hero and why?

People at Nueva so frequently exhibit heroism in ways that always inspire me, whether it be a student speaking up for what is right, or a teacher having the courage to deeply question their own practice. I am really impressed with people who have the courage to look deeply into complex situations to recognize the good, and those who reach out with concrete actions of care. I really respect the students and teachers who say that they do not know something, so that they can further their learning, and I really respect those who help other people learn.

I also am inspired by the students I taught in Tanzania, who were just so dedicated, capable, and creative. Not many students made it to their level in school, so my A-Levels were in many ways a gifted population. One day I would love to be part of a school like Nueva in Tanzania.

 

5. Your wife just matched for residency in emergency medicine at UCSF-Fresno, and so you are both moving there when the school year ends. What is something you will remember about your time at Nueva?

My spouse has always wanted to be a doctor and I am committed to supporting her in this goal. Given the nature of medical training, my time at Nueva has always been finite. That said, USCF-Fresno is a particularly excellent program for her interests, and so it great that when we need to move, it is to such a good match.

I am really excited to see our first cohort complete upper school, and to know both the growth they have shown and the incredible people they have become. I would like to think that I am “graduating” along with them; I certainly feel like I have learned as much!

As for what I will remember – so many things! Most of all, the people. Nueva has been an incredibly welcoming and joyful environment, where everyone is caring, doing, and constantly learning. I am so thankful to have spent this time among thoughtful, reflective, and passionate students, parents, faculty, and staff.

 


 April 21, 2017

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