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2021 Retiring Faculty Honors - Jon Davie, Charlene Hoyt, and Stephanie Sanders

Jon Davie - By Bill Clapp, Math Department Chairperson, Upper School Math Teacher

What do you say about a person you have known longer than not? Meaning I have known and worked with Jon Davie almost every day of every school year since 1988. I have known him for more years in my life than I have not known him. 

What do you say about Jon Davie? You tell Jon Davie stories!

Not many people can say that it has taken them 44 years to get out of high school. 

Now you all know about Jon’s skill as a storyteller and his knack of terrifying ninth graders over the years. He regularly terrified his nieces who called him “Uncle Scary.” 

But you may not know that he can also tell long stories. While on a hiking trip up Katahdin many years ago, I heard him regale us about the adventures of Oogie-Boogie, who was a fuzzy panda. What amazed me is that he talked non-stop for almost five hours as we were hiking. 

Jon has a quirky and unique style, and many people have stated over the years that “only Jon Davie could do that.” You also might have heard about the famous cross country practices on a Friday where the runners could play “Davie-ball.” This game is the epitome of Jon, no rules, or more accurately any rule that he makes up on the spot, and the kids loved it. 

Jon's unique approach has been a mainstay of many hiking and rafting trips and athletic practices. And even though swimming silently to tip over inflatable kayaks might seem unsafe, Jon knew the line and also the emergency procedures from his years in the Meriden Fire Department and South Berwick Rescue Squad. He really did once have to respond to a rescue call at the very moment he stepped on stage to give a JV Lacrosse speech.

His dry sense of humor has fooled many people over the years. I’ll let you in on a secret, when he is teasing you he will have a slight tilt to his head and a small downward curve on the side of his mouth, but even with this you still don’t quite know

The analogy of a journey is a common one in these moments. It was Jon who first told me about the planes on September 11. Jon was the first one who showed me how to lead students on a backpacking trip back in 1989. I have watched how he has raised three wonderful children. And how he and Polly gave Torey, Jessie, and Lincoln their diplomas, sent them off to college, and continued to support them. 

There are a few aspects of parenting I don’t recommend. It became a family tradition for Jon to place a large rock in the kids pack the night before a trip on one such occasion (I remember the story from Jen Onken that it was Jessie, Ted Sherbahn remembers it was Torey, which might just mean that it occurred more than once) they were at the top of a 4,000 ft mountain when Jessie/Torey pulled out a rock the size of a softball and said: “Oh, Dad,” chuckled, and tossed the rock aside. 

A lesser known part is that on a different trip Jon and I were heading up Whiteface with a group of students. As he was pulling out the lunches he removed a large rock, might even have been a brick, put it aside, but then placed it back into his pack. In classic Jon Davie logic, he said he won because he knew the rock was there and he still carried it up the mountain and back home.

Everyone knows that Jon has an amazing work ethic, every night spending hours researching and gathering videos and current articles for his students. He is a voracious reader.

He generously gives to others and the School. He supports his colleagues by covering classes and going on JV bus rides to Hebron. In the words of Hap Ridgway–Jon is a consummate school person. I would be remiss if I did not mention the support he has given me. With personal experience and a gentle presence he was always there for me. I know he has done this for others as well.

Jon has continued being a role model for me, and I am now seeing how to exit this profession as gracefully as he has. 

I ask that you take a few moments to remember a Jon Davie story–there are so many. Ask Raegan about the stick in his leg, or Michael about the machete, or Dover Pool, or Ginny about the FU scrabble letters. Reflect upon how Jon, through his daily interaction, has influenced and shaped you. Then please extend this reflection to the other departing faculty. And then to everyone here. We all are connected in our interactions. All of us influence, challenge, and strengthen each other. 

So what do you say about a person who has been a source of support, a colleague, a mentor? You say that I have the honor and privilege to call Jon Davie my friend.

Ginny Vatcher:
One of my favorite stories with Jon was when we were scrabble letters for Halloween. I was "F" and Jon happened to be "U". We were walking back from lunch just happily chatting and I was on the right side with my "F" letter and Jon was on the left side with his "U" oblivious to any statement we might be making. So as people walked toward us, someone pointed out that we were "F U" to any oncoming walking traffic. We could have changed position, but decided not to and just kept walking with a smile on our faces. Classic Jon humor.  
I also wanted to say that Jon is just one of the most generous people I know. I know that a lot of people use the expression, "He would give you the shirt off his back" but Jon truly would, and probably has. He is such a great role model, always jumping in to help cover classes or chaperone wherever he is needed.  
I also love having my office next to the classroom he teaches in. I would sometimes hear him start his classes with ninth graders hammering his huge gavel on the desk and yelling, "Sit down, and shut up!" Sometimes that's how he'd begin his classes, but everyone knew it was just Jon kidding around. I think I remember that he was talking to grandparents on Grandparents and Special Friends Day during his Biology class about the fact that in terms of our species' survival and continued existence, the grandparents were actually now irrelevant and using up precious resources.  

John Downey:
1. I remember Jon telling me a story of when his three kids were young they would go hiking a lot and on one adventure Jon had repacked his kids' backpacks for them and unbeknownst to them he had put a brick in each of their packs. He only divulged his prank to them when they reached the summit. (My kind of dad!)
2. On each and every eleventh grade rafting trip, when the time came to drift and float in the "dickies" Jon always got a particular look in his eye that I knew what was up next, like a Navy Seal, Jon would go into stealth mode and sneak up on those in rafts and surprisingly pull them in to the river. As soon as the first went in, there was a continuous feeling of paranoia wondering who Jon would pull in next.
3. During a sports awards ceremony Jon was walking up onto stage to give his speech. Next you saw him reach to his hip, check his pager, and he left Chris Mansfield on stage to give his speech because Jon had been called away to an EMT call.

Kim Kryder:
For so many years, I looked forward to the ninth grade trip and a big part of that was a chance to hike with Jon Davie. He would so carefully plan out the perfect hike for our group and was unrelented when I would throw in curve balls or special requests. It was always a joy to walk beside him up those mountains and listen to a lifetime of stories of working with teens and raising his own children to love the outdoors. I give him credit for deepening my understanding of why reducing my meat intake was an important environmental act and he also gets credit for my new favorite therapy to promote–Forest Bathing!  
Back when we ate in The Commons, I would look for him at lunch to sit with because I never knew what the topic of conversation might be–I love that about Jon and will miss his presence on campus!  
Christine Bessette:
I have countless Jon Davie stories—he has played a huge role in my existence here—I really don’t know where to begin. A colleague, a mentor, and a friend, Jon is one of the most thoughtful and selfless people I know. He would drop everything to help me whenever I needed it–whether it be to trouble-shoot a lab, or help me find the perfect article to tie into my class, or give me a ride to my car when it was in the shop for maintenance—Jon was always there to help.
Jon has absolutely been doing what he was meant to do for the past 44 years–it goes without saying that teaching has been his true calling. He has a big heart and cares deeply about what his students take away from the classroom. Information and content is important, yes, but he places greater value on shaping and guiding his students to become competent and compassionate individuals, who understand the personal responsibility necessary to effect change in their communities. Jon’s students learn lessons beyond the content, lessons beyond the classroom skills. Jon’s students learn how to be good citizens.
I have many more, but really have a hard time writing them down without bursting into tears. I don't know what I am going to do without Jon next year. He has been so much more than just a colleague. I have been fortunate to have been able to work alongside a strong mentor, trusted advisor, and dear friend all these years.
But let me know what else you might need....
Michael Buensuceso:
I didn’t immediately recognize Jon Davie when we first saw each other outside of school. I was new to Berwick, and I generally find it challenging to place colleagues outside of the work context, outside of work clothes, and in this case, it was outside of any clothes at all. It was 6 a.m., at the Dover Indoor Pool and I was probably distracted by the fact that we were both in Speedos. Jon, I’ll miss seeing you, fully clothed, on campus, but I will always look forward to sharing a lane.  
Raegan Russell:
I have many memories of working with Jon, especially as he initiated me–a complete novice to running–to cross country and somehow got me up and running to coach Girls Cross Country on my own. I have no idea what a "regular" cross country program is like, but Jon's creative Navy Seal style workouts and invented running games are probably not the norm, but they will certainly be remembered by each of his runners–unless they have blocked them out of their memory in sheer mental preservation. It is also worth noting that Jon made it a point to recruit ninth grade runners on the ninth grade trip each year telling them it was a required activity.
 I remember many a long run followed by Powderhouse intervals or the dreaded Mt. Agamenticus run. Fun Fridays were always a favorite where we would mix the girls and the boys teams with touch football, weird invented relays, and the brutal play til you drop game, Sheep and Wolves.
 But this is the stuff that legends are made of: one year while Jon was taking his team on an end of the season bog run (it involved some water, mud, and off-trail terrain), Jon caught a stick in his leg and it really punctured and tore a deep wound. He bandaged it up and took the school bus home to Eliot where he sutured up his own leg and came back to run the next day. That blew me away...
Jim Maldonis:
The first thing Jon Davie ever said to me was at a lunch table early in the fall four years ago. The School had just announced that students couldn't go to their cars during the school day (or something like that) and we were discussing it at the lunch table. Jon turned to me and said "well where are the kids going to smoke?" and then got up and left. For some reason, I always laugh when thinking about that comment...

Charlene Hoyt - By Ted Smith, Upper School Director

For 22 years, Charlene Hoyt graced the Berwick campus with her energy, positivity, function dances, and brain warmers. Arriving as a late-summer hire, Ms. Hoyt may go down as one of Berwick’s all-time hidden gems, a swoop of good fortune that allowed us to nab such a stellar teacher from a sister school down the road. With an omnipresent smile and impossibly upbeat nature, Charlene has turned many a math-naysayer into students who believe in themselves and their computational abilities. On any given day, you could walk past Ms. Hoyt’s classroom and hear her pumping up a deflated ego, imploring a student to try a problem one more time, choreographing a sort of karaoke dance that helps students learn functions, or warming up her students’ brains by asking them to “pick a number between one and ten, multiply by five, divide by the number you started with….” until, a dozen rapid-fire steps later, a chorus of responses came shouting at her, hoping they would be the one to win that day’s chocolate prize. Charlene was a swim coach, advisor to the Peer Tutor program, Class Advisor, and especially in her later years at Berwick, a rejuvenated student herself as she dove headlong into research on the brain, attending some of the most elite schools and seminars in the country to learn about neuroscience and its effect on student learning. 

Ms. Hoyt’s proudest moment in her career was handing her sons, Alex (class of 2012) and Mark (class of 2015), their diplomas as they graduated from Berwick before they went on to successful collegiate and professional careers. As impactful as her classroom teaching was Charlene’s deep relationship with her advisees spanned more than two decades. Whether it was morning (always edible) crafts, course sign ups, and academic planning, or just plain moral support when needed, Ms. Hoyt was one of the most sought-after advisors on the faculty over her entire career.

We will miss her smile and upbeat presence on campus, and we are grateful for Charlene Hoyt’s 22 years of dedicated service to Berwick Academy.

Stephanie Sanders - by Cathy O'Brien, Orchestra Director

It is my honor to talk about the wonderful Stephanie Sanders. After 17 years teaching at Berwick Academy and a total of 43 years of teaching music to kids in Nebraska, Colorado and Maine, our beloved colleague has decided it is time to put away the baton, pack up the instruments, and retire from teaching music. 

Most of us know Stephanie as an amazing band conductor. If you have had the pleasure of hearing her Middle and Upper School bands perform at the Berwick concerts twice a year you know what a treat it is. She sets the bar high with creative, polished, and dynamic performances after months of tireless teaching and preparation. Stephanie is trained to teach upwards of 30 different band instruments. In any given year she has a classroom of beginners who want to learn many of those different instruments. She manages to teach these middle schoolers their unique instrument in a group setting and have them ready and polished enough to play together for a performance in a few short months! Incredible!

When Berwick Academy decided to go back full time in person, Stephanie didn’t hesitate. She came back and embraced all the COVID policies and guidelines. The hardest one to deal with was of course that there would be no playing of any band instruments per the Maine state guidelines. This meant that she had two classes of middle schoolers and one Upper School class that couldn’t do what they signed up for or what she is trained to teach. She had to recreate the class weekly, and sometimes improvise daily, to keep the kids interested. I mean no wonder she is retiring, I don’t know how she did it.

In addition to band she has also taught Grades 3 and 4 music, music survey, music theory, ukulele ensemble, E music, and world music. She introduced all but Middle School band and Grades 3 and 4 music into the curriculum. Most recently she also served as the music department chair. We will all miss her informative emails and guidance on inputting grades, our ever changing schedule, and her wonderful sense of humor. 

Stephanie brought a level of professionalism to Bewick Academy and was rewarded for that with her Dororthy Green Teacher of the Year Award, and TI:ME (technology in music education) Mike Kovin’s National Teacher of the Year Award voted on by previous recipients of the award and presented at the national conference in San Antonio. She is held in such high esteem by her peers that this summer she has been asked to lead a session in a national conference held by MusicFirst.

Stephanie’s kids love her. She is devoted and runs a structured, well planned class. I talked with one of her Upper School students, Noah Roble, who shared with me that band is the class he most looks forward to without fail. He said simply, “I love Mrs. Sanders. She is witty, energetic, disciplined, passionate, and encouraging.” Another former student, Crosby Smith, mentioned at the US Baccalaureate that Mrs. Sanders' class was more than just a place to learn about music. “She wanted students to learn about themselves and be good people. Imagine, those are just two of the thousands of voices and lives she has impacted.

I am not worried about Stephanie after graduation. She has so many passions; I wonder how she will find the time to fit them all in. She is an avid birder. She loves to photograph them and other subjects, and shares her beautiful shots with her friends. Her photos are stunning. She loves nature, good food, and a cocktail… or two. She loves her dogs, her friends, and travelling. After this jig she will be off to Africa in the summer to photograph gorillas and other animals (while glamping of course), and then in the fall to Alaska to photograph bears for another adventure. 

I know life will be different for Stephanie after Berwick Academy and a lifetime of teaching. She has made a significant impact on so many students and her fellow teachers. She has so many wonderful memories to reflect on and savor. 

Stephanie you are amazing,wonderful, and loved, and Berwick Academy and its students have gained so much from you over the years. You will truly be missed. 


Berwick Academy

Berwick Academy, situated on an 80-acre campus just over one hour north of Boston, serves 600 students, Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12, from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Deeply committed to its mission of promoting virtue and useful knowledge, Berwick Academy empowers students to be creative and bold. Berwick strives to graduate alumni who shape their own learning, take risks, ask thoughtful questions, and come to understand and celebrate their authentic selves.