In Pursuit of Education

A POET AND HE KNOWS IT Upper School English teacher Kyle Vaughn composes his own poetry and prose for publication in literary magazines and poetry journals. Photo by Emily
They have each graduated high school and college and attained an academic degree in their own individual subject. A number of them have been teaching at Hockaday for decades, contributing to countless girls’ passions for learning. But many teachers have continued their own education well past their entry into the teaching profession. And, in many ways, this allows them to better relate to their students, even sharing concurrently in their experiences.
“There’s always something new to learn,” Middle and Upper School ceramics teacher Kevin Brady said.
Many faculty members opt to, on top of their primary responsibilities as teachers, expand their knowledge on a variety of subjects through outlets outside of Hockaday.
Upper School English teacher Kyle Vaughn further pursues one of the subjects he teaches in school, creative writing, by composing his own poetry and prose for publication in literary magazines and poetry journals.
“Being an English teacher has saved my writing in a lot of ways,” said Vaughn. “It helped me communicate more clearly since my writing was more influenced by surrealist writers and my own way of thinking.”
A writer who must undergo an extensive writing process that includes multiple stages of editing as well as multiple submissions to publishers and contests, Vaughn finds that publishing his own work has enabled him to relate to his own students.
“I’ve understood the internal aspects of what can help a writer make the leap forward,” he said.
As a full-time teacher, a father and an active member in his church, Vaughn struggles to cull periods of time from his schedule to write in addition to fulfilling his other commitments.
“I can’t say I’ve found a balance that’s left me with an abundance of sleep,” Vaughn said. For him, being a writer as a counterpart to being an academic teacher enriches and adds depth to his teaching, but he believes it varies from teacher to teacher. “It’s mainly important for when a teacher is passionate about something to bring it into the classroom and make it useful.”
Some other teachers decide to return to local, multi-year graduate schools and earn advanced academic degrees, such as bachelor or doctorate degrees, to further expand their knowledge and discover ways to supplement their class material.
Every Monday night from 7 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., Upper School history teacher Lucio Benedetto switches to the other side of the school desk to be a student at the University of Texas at Dallas, where he has been studying for nearly three years to earn a PhD in the Humanities and Literature with special focus on the American intellectual tradition. The information Benedetto has accrued from courses at UTD has influenced his way of thinking, especially through the cultural lens, he says.
“I enjoy having a night a week where I can be the student, and being able to go into the classroom from that perspective and learn,” said Benedetto. “That makes up for any pains of organization.”
Benedetto also says that he manages his time “sometimes not so well, sometimes better than others.” But he finds that taking a class forces him to procrastinate less, a problem he believes Hockaday girls can attest to. “I can empathize with students who write the JRP, because I have to write a JRP every semester,” Benedetto said.
Colleen Durkin, also an Upper School history teacher, relates more closely to students pressured by college application than those battling procrastination.
She has applied to Southern Methodist University’s liberal arts program, which offers a concentration in human rights. This is especially convenient for Durkin, who lives only a mile away from the campus.
“I do very much feel the stress of ‘I need to make my application really good’.” Durkin said.
The program, which offers a focus into political science, history and psychology, especially appeals to Durkin, who has always enjoyed being a student. However, the extra time and effort required to complete the course will be a very difficult task to handle. “I’ll figure it out, all of you guys seem to manage your crazy schedules,” she said.
Fine arts instructors chose to further their learning in their field by practicing what they preach (or, in this case, teach).
Brady creates his own ceramic pieces to sell at his home and in local workshops at local junior colleges, with many requests for his artwork particularly during the holiday season. Hockaday students, in addition to other Dallasites, can buy his works to give as presents. Brady believes that, by creating his own pottery outside of Hockaday, he furthers his ceramics knowledge to share with his students.
“I’ve been doing this for 35 years now, and I feel like I’ve barely scraped through the surface of the ceramics world,” he said.
In a way similar to Brady, Upper School visual arts teacher Juliette McCullough also produces and exhibits her own work on the weekends and especially during the summer. She paints and sketches in her garage, which she uses as her studio.
“I love being in my studio. It’s like heaven in there,” said McCullough. “Just the smell of the paint, the light, the solitude—is so inviting.”
Though her outside work is not strictly a secret, McCullough does not share with her students her own artwork. “I don’t want my students to think there’s only one way to make art,” she said.
Though McCullough has been making art ever since she was a child, she still encounters difficulty when confronted by the canvas. Being an artist places McCullough in the Saddle Oxford shoes of her Hockaday studio artists, who often struggle to produce art. “If I don’t go in my studio and struggle, I can’t relate to the girls who are struggling,” McCullough said.
Students such as sophomore Paige, who is in Vaughn’s Form II English class, appreciate their teachers’ efforts to further enhance the classroom with their own outside learning. “You would not usually picture a teacher as a student, but they have their own interests that they, too, want to further develop.”