Science Teacher, Maine Coast Semester
Since I was a child I have been motivated by an immense love for animals and curiosity about the natural world. As a kid, I spent summers carefully observing the life cycle of monarch butterflies and exploring nature until I had more questions than answers about the world around me. My love of nature, eagerness to engage in hands-on research, and drive to be part of a close-knit school community brought me to college at College of the Atlantic (COA) in Bar Harbor, Maine. At COA I was able to conduct my own research on small mammal ecology on various Maine islands and revelled in the wonder and interconnections inherent in an interdisciplinary, place-based education.
Following my experience at COA and an enriching internship at the Duke Lemur Center, I decided to go to graduate school to pursue my dream of studying non-human primates in the wild. My PhD research at Yale University focused on lemurs in Madagascar and better understanding how these endangered primates are impacted by human activities. I spent a total of 17 months living in a tent in the forest, immersed in the daily lives of lemurs. The experience was soul-enriching and dream-fulfilling, and the results of my research helped to inform conservation of landscapes where humans and lemurs can coexist. Besides falling in love with lemurs and Madagascar while in graduate school, I also discovered my passion for teaching and fostering student excitement about science.
Following graduate school and before joining Maine Coast Semester, I taught courses on human-wildlife conflict and coexistence, primate conservation, and ecology and evolution at Yale.
Latin Teacher, Maine Coast Semester
After years of teaching Latin and ancient history at a number of colleges and universities, I decided to make my home in Maine largely because of its natural beauty. The woods, water, and rocks that dominate Maine’s landscape seem to me not just spectacular but meaningful. To be among them is to experience the spiritual discipline that Emerson wrote about in his famous essay on “Nature”: they remind us, in the gentlest possible way, of the larger reality of which we are only a small part, and of the necessities that lie at the foundation of all human life.
The study of ancient languages and cultures also serve to remind us of important truths that are easily forgotten in the modern world. In historical terms, it is only very recently that large numbers of people began to live at a distance from the land, resources, and forms of work that sustain our civilization. The Romans were great city-builders, but they still lived with an awareness of their dependence on the natural world, and this awareness is present throughout their literature. The longer I taught history, the more I became convinced that it was important for students to understand the very different lives lived by most people throughout the centuries, lives which were lived closer to nature and which thus entailed an awareness of truths now easily forgotten in the artificial worlds created by present-day technology. Naturally, I was excited, after three years in Maine, to learn about the existence of Chewonki’s Maine Coast Semester program, and I’m grateful to be able to play a part in it.
Living in Waterville (north of Augusta), I have a long drive to the Neck which takes me down the east bank of the Kennebec and gives me the pleasure of observing the changing seasons along the river in a semi-rural landscape. Apart from my classes at Chewonki, I also work as a copy editor and translator.
Interim Head of Semester School
Joining the team at Maine Coast Semester as Interim Head 2021-22 combines my passions, values, experiences, and love of place and community. I am thrilled to return home to Maine from California after 17 years as a teacher and school leader at Midland School, a small rustic boarding school on almost 3,000 acres with a focus on college preparation and experiential learning. Since starting my career in independent schools at St. Andrew’s School in Delaware, I have been drawn to schools of purpose that build character and community.
I love educational environments where students can see direct links between action and impact, self and community, taking care of place and taking care of others. Ultimately, education should develop the belief that what we do matters in our communities and the world. I am called to facilitate learning pathways that empower students and faculty.
I confess I bring wild enthusiasm for life on the shores and in the forests of Maine, along with the belief that there is possibility in the air at Chewonki Neck. I have enjoyed a lifetime exploring landscapes with my husband, Jeff Goddard, a marine biologist and naturalist, and our twin sons, Will and Ziggy (Maine Coast Semester 64), who are cross-country runners on their ways to Bowdoin and Middlebury. I love hiking, skiing, writing, fiber arts, and messing about in boats.
Paloma Garcia Montes
Spanish Teacher, Maine Coast Semester
My first experience teaching was at an American abroad program in Valencia, Spain.
There I created a course connecting the medieval altarpieces collection from the Museum of Fine Arts, their guild techniques, and the materials used. We then applied them to modern subjects for our class. I really enjoyed this place-based learning.
After I graduated from UNH, I wanted to explore other ways to use my language skills and I became a National and Federal Court Interpreter for the Massachusetts Trial Court. My intention was to combine teaching Spanish and interpreting. I soon realized, although compatible, my stronger vocation was as a teacher and decided to concentrate my efforts in learning more about different ways of second language acquisition pedagogies.
I was very interested in the Harkness method of teaching and learning and after I worked for Phillips Exeter Academy, I was able to incorporate it into my Ph.D. research. I believe that students in the language classroom move towards a process of self-discovery while learning another language and culture. As I choose content and support students in their communication skills, the students challenge me to expand my knowledge which in turn fuels my pedagogical creativity.
Docere, Delectare, and Movere (to guide and teach, to delight, and to touch emotion) defines as well the art of Harkness where I, the instructor, am equally engaged in the joy of learning.
I offer knowledge and love of the subject, patience and commitment of trial and error, the ability to improvise, and a disposition to allow students to explore their creativity.
I love spending time with my family and friends in Spain. Hiking in the Pyrenees, sharing the best tapas and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea are some of our treasured things to do.
Teaching Fellow, Maine Coast Semester
Originally from Allentown, PA, I grew up spending most of my summers outside in Montana and New Hampshire, developing a love of nature and the outdoors that led me here to Maine and Chewonki! Before coming to Chewonki I spent a year leading place-based and outdoor education youth programs in northern Maine as an AmeriCorps VISTA educator with Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters’ education program, the Katahdin Learning Project. I graduated from Trinity College (CT) in 2020 with a history major and classics minor and was a leader of the outdoors club, environmental house, and part of a number of theater productions. I also led incoming students on backpacking trips along the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut as part of a pre-orientation program. Working with the Student Conservation Association I spent my summers in college leading hikes, tours, and educational programs with the National Park Service at Stones River National Battlefield in Tennessee and the US Fish and Wildlife Service at Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
Working all across the country I developed a passion for working with youth and using the places we inhabit to shape how we learn—a passion I’m excited to share as I work with Andrew Hunter to support US history classes here.
In my free time I love to run, cook, read, and hike wherever I can.
Art Teacher, Maine Coast Semester
Teaching art is an absolute joy. Along with students, I love to explore the idea that art can be anything, and that art is everywhere. There is no one way when it comes to creativity. The pattern, texture, color and history present at Chewonki are all waiting to inspire an art project.
I began my teaching career almost by accident, and in doing so discovered a natural capacity for encouraging and supporting young people in the process of self-discovery. I have taught high school studio art and fashion design, arts integration as an elementary classroom teacher, and elementary art education. Place has been, and continues to be, at the core of my personal and professional experience, having lived in New York, Virginia, California, Barcelona, Arizona, and Colorado before moving to Maine in the summer of 2018, after purchasing an 1850’s farmhouse, sight unseen. In addition to my role as an art teacher at Maine Coast Semester, I am the director of the Bowdoin Summer Art Camp. Fun fact, I was recently certified as a personal stylist, something my inner child is extremely happy about.
My creative path has incorporated printmaking, collage, bookmaking, film making, fashion design, styling, and an ongoing deep appreciation for tape. My interests include electronic music, vegan cuisine, wearing fun outfits to do chores in the house and garden, exploring, and most of all I love a road trip with my husband, Tim, and our young children, Winston and Daisy. What I love most about being an artist is the lens through which I experience the world.
Teaching Fellow, Elementary and Middle School
Originally from Burlington, VT, I grew up having Green Mountains at my fingertips. During summers, my parents would bring my sister and I backpacking along the Long Trail. In the winters, my entire family would pile into the car with all of our gear, getting to the ski mountain early to make the first chair. These experiences in Vermont granted me an extensive appreciation of the natural world. As I grew older, I began to seek out these experiences for myself, eventually hiking the entire Long Trail at age 17.
My love of the outdoors brought me to the coast of Maine to attend Bowdoin College, where I was in close proximity to the ocean for the first time in my life. I participated in Bowdoin’s Marine Science Semester, where I took classes exclusively learning about the intertidal ecology of Maine. For one of the first times in my education, I was learning things about where I lived. I completed a research project on the metabolism of carnivorous snails, which I presented at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. The next semester, I studied abroad in Cochrane, Chile, where again I was immersed in local ecology and conservation issues. These experiences led me to become passionate about place-based education and community engagement.
In addition to my love of science and the outdoors, I love sewing my own clothes, practicing handstands, and running.
Teaching Fellow, Elementary and Middle School
Growing up in Charlotte, NC I spent many hours exploring the woods behind my house and this love of exploring led me to attend the Maine Coast Semester (Semester 50) during my junior year of high school. After graduating from Charlotte Country Day School, and before attending college, I took a gap year and volunteered at the Humane Society of Charlotte training dogs and other volunteers. I also did an immersion and service program for three months in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Peru. After taking Spanish in school for twelve years, I wanted to use and improve what I had learned in the real world.
For my undergraduate studies, I went to Colby College and majored in Biology with a concentration in Biochemistry. I enjoy the outdoors and while at Colby I took as many field biology courses as possible including Vertebrate Natural History, Ecology, Taxonomy of Flowering Plants, Ornithology, Ecology, and Woody Plants. For two summers I did research on the Belgrade lakes analyzing water quality through identification and quantification of algae and cyanobacteria. While at Colby I led a Colby Outdoor Orientation Trip (COOT) for college first years. During my senior year, I designed my own independent study on Acer rubrum (Red Maple) leaf morphology and pigmentation. During this project, I collected and preserved over 1000 leaves from across campus. Pressing plants for nature specimens and making jewelry or art with leaves is what I do in my spare time.
After college I worked as a naturalist at Echo Hill Outdoor School in Maryland with students from 1st to 12th grade. At Echo Hill, I taught an appreciation of the natural world using place-based experiential learning on the Chesapeake Bay. Following this experience, I moved back to Maine and was a long-term substitute in a 3rd-grade class at Benton Elementary School. The following Spring I was a lab instructor for Introductory Biology at Colby College, my alma mater. My most recent project has been collecting cicada specimens to add to my artwork.
My time as a student at Chewonki (MCS 50) was the first time I felt like I belonged at school, and truly enjoyed learning, so having the opportunity to grow with the Chewonki Elementary and Middle School program and give that feeling to more students is what I want most. Being a teaching fellow is an opportunity to do a job I am passionate about in a place that I love.
Dean of Students and 5/6 Literacy and Social Studies Teacher
Mike Curran comes to Chewonki after having worked as a teacher, coach, advisor, and administrator in independent boys’ schools over the past fourteen years. For the past nine years, he worked as an English teacher and coach at Belmont Hill School in Belmont, Massachusetts. In addition to these roles, he served as Director of Innovation and Academic Technology and as the Head Fourth Form Advisor. As a classroom teacher, he has helped students develop skills and confidence as readers, writers, and speakers. In his administrative roles, he worked with students, teachers, and parents to craft a meaningful, demanding, and rewarding experience for students. As an advisor, he helped students navigate the challenging and rewarding journey from 7th through 12th grade. He loves books and the power books have to help us learn more not only about ourselves but also about those who are different from us. He believes strongly in the types of relationships and sense of community that independent schools foster, and he is excited by the day-to-day work of learning and supporting young people.
Outside of his work in schools, Mike lives on Westport Island and is a father to two boys, Ned and Finn, and partner to Aimee Jack. His roots in Maine trace back to summers in Western Maine, and his passion for the outdoors started as far back as he can remember. Some of his best memories from childhood are of hiking in the White Mountains, canoeing, fishing, and bushwhacking with his brother and dad. As an adult, he enjoys woodworking and carpentry, and he strongly believes in the type of learning that can only come through the experience of using one’s hands. During the summer, he can be found fishing for stripers, gardening with his boys, and wandering the trails and conservation preserves on Westport Island.
He attended Colby College in Waterville, ME, where he studied English and theater. He earned his master’s degree at Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English.
Returning Educators Savor the Summer:
Elementary and Middle School Art Teacher, Coreysha Stone, spent time at Chewonki’s Debsconeag Lake Campground with her family and started training for her first marathon. She also worked on illustrations for a children book she authored.
Head of Elementary and Middle School, Kat Cassidy, took an oceanography course at Bigelow Lab for middle and high school teachers, where she and fellow educators joined scientists for field studies on the Damariscotta River.
Middle School Math Specialist, Rachel Buttenot, spent time at Chewonki’s Debsconeag Lake Campground with her family. She also went on an adventure to Peaks Island with her three-year-old daughter, who hiked 4.5 miles carrying her own backpack with a little coaching from mom.