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For the first time ever, over a dozen Nueva faculty members will walk in the shoes of their middle and upper school students, as they complete a year-long Quest in myriad areas of study. While the end goal and personal motivations of those participating vary greatly, everyone involved views the opportunity as a way to build empathy with their students, experience Quest first-hand, and thereby improve their ability to advise and consult current and future students.

The Quest Program, directed by Kim Saxe and based upon the eighth-grade Recital Projects, gives students the ability (and high school credit) to “Create Your Own Magic!” by conceiving and designing a project that lands in that special spot where excitement meets uncertainty. Kim shared, “Once accomplished, a successful Quest should redefine your own abilities and encourage you to keep expanding yourself over time. Too often in schools, students lose sight of their interests, and lose the power to explore their curiosity outside of classes or clubs. Quest keeps this alive! Many graduating seniors mentioned that Quest helped with their college essay writing and interviews during the application process.”

Over the years, several I-Lab team members have done their own Quest-type projects — just for the fun of it. At last August's Faculty Retreat, a number of teachers expressed interest in doing their own Quest, so the opportunity was opened to upper school faculty. In his second year at Nueva, Rob Zomber, who teaches the ninth-grade Quest classes, is guiding these faculty members during regular lunchtime meetings.

Like many of our freshman, most of the faculty participating are new to Quest. They will follow the same guidelines, due dates, and expectations assigned to each of their students.

10 Adults Faculty Quest BM DSC02929“The teachers have been enthusiastic about going through the full cycle with their projects — working with mentors, turning in homework assignments on Canvas, and even presenting at the Quest Expo,” Rob explained. “It is a great way to discover the benefits and struggles of the program from a student’s perspective. From time management to motivation, we will be working side-by-side with our students and faculty all year. This initiative has the potential to teach the faculty a lot about the student experience at Nueva first-hand instead of just through talking to students and listening to feedback.”

Over the course of the year, participating faculty are pursuing interests through Quest like learning a new language, taking up knitting, expanding their creative abilities into the realm of digital art, recording, and furniture-making. Others are using the opportunity to develop long-standing dreams of designing a new school and cultivating a routine writing practice.

Math teacher Wes Patton shared, “I want to be at least conversational in Spanish by the time we get to Peru in late April. I also want to design a piece of furniture for my family in a way that does not waste a lot of material through using proper techniques of joining, gluing, and planning before assembly.”

Right from the outset, teachers have encountered the same struggles our students often confront when their best intentions collide with the reality of practice. “I have been thinking a lot about art as a meditative process," said upper school Spanish teacher Jo Newman. "Over the last few weeks, I have worked on making some mandala art and practicing calligraphy, and I am finding that the amount of focus it requires is actually painful and leaves me in discomfort. So, I am currently feeling that I may need to change my direction or intention for my Quest.”

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Just as students are tasked with finding a mentor to help them along in the process, more than half of the faculty have already identified mentors to work with over the course of the year. The faculty’s mentors include experts in their respective fields, other teachers at Nueva, and, in true Nueva style, a handful of teachers will be mentored by their students.

Middle and upper school computer science teacher Jen Selby reminded the group, “All mentors do not have to play the role of expert instructor, teaching new skills. Mentors can simply provide feedback, and this is something I seek, and receive, from students all of the time.”

Rob added, “One reason working with a mentor is so important is that they often have a clear sense of what constitutes a reasonable goal for a student given the timeframe and scope of the project. Quest gives people the opportunity to get uncomfortable, frustrated, and sometimes lost. Learning problem solving is important, but being successful at the other end of it teaches confidence. We want everyone to find their way.”

The Faculty Quest team will be meeting twice a month for the remainder of the year and will present their work at Quest Expo on April 5, 2018.


 September 29, 2017

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