All who take the Religion and Philosophy teaching path know of the wonders and pleasures of the journey. Amy arrived at our school having already traveled far as a very rare old-souled young person. Having grown up a Mormon with love for the world, she pursued world religions through graduate studies and sojourned in India and Israel before joining us. She and her husband Clark, whose adventures so intertwine, both walk to a rhythm too supple and real to be fully captured in writing. From his love of outdoor leadership and spring student trips to his 40 night wilderness solo, Clark the carpenter, pilot and Walt Whitmanesque man will leave a smile on our faces forever. Students are still shocked to hear how these two are leaving, but by the mythic rule of thumb that Gifts have to keep moving, I offer these words to go with them.
As I form words of thanks as a colleague, it is hard to know where best to start and end them. Amy has a way of rippling outward that defies easy circumscription. As a Religion & Philosophy teacher it did not take long for her to bring forth a new ring of electives. Each of these courses hold its own unique sway and power, while the sum total displayed great diversity. All that Amy takes on she gives her “Thou” to, in a way that combines rigor and empathy. While she was not an expert in Islam on arrival, her diligent cultivation in this field resulted in the Islam and Middle East Case Studies courses, the latter of which is a school classic. Where else can students gain expertise in and role play the Jerusalem conflict in ways that honor the full human and religious complexity? Amy’s myth and ritual class has long enchanted spring seniors and her work teaching Ethics has helped this subject become the most sought after R&P elective.
Amy’s department persona for these fleeting eleven years has combined real friendship and vibrant vision. We have each been both affirmed and challenged by her as she urged us ever onward. Spreading herself further, through the wave-steady role she played as a Kripalu yoga teacher, she forged brand new forms of chapel credit encounter and provided a much-loved community outlet. Her voice has rung clearly in school meetings, Humanities lectures, Ambrecht room talks, and faculty meetings as the song of her compassionate worldview. And the ripples continue past where we can trace them through doula work, hospital chaplaincy, Unitarian church and CSEE leadership, New Jersey Scholars teaching, and out to where their prime-mover bids them.
Most teachers fall clearly into student categories of the “hard” or “soft” mentoring styles, but Amy has managed to fill both bread baskets through her demanding yet intimate classes. I have heard words like “tough, fair and inspiring” used as a trinity-mantra to describe her more than perhaps any teacher. To offer just one student testimony: Amy brings a refreshing perspective to learning–she is one of the most enthusiastic teachers I have met in my entire life. She comes to class prepared for not just the material we are learning, but with current events and news articles. She is not a teacher who simply has a set curriculum and does the same thing each year. She incorporates what is happening in the world today and now into the class. I can honestly say that Amy has been one (of) the best mentors in my life–without her my outlook would not be the same. When I was reading Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish’s novel, tears filled my eyes and I thought about how Amy has changed my life in so many ways, and always for the better. Amy, I wish you peace and good fortune in Colombia, and I hope to visit you in the future wherever your journey may take you.
As these words make clear, for many Lawrentians, the bond with Amy and Clark extends past the classroom, and lends wings to lives, dreams and plans for the future. The alluring sense they both give for the wider world’s promise and its need to be changed for the better has helped students achieve a sense of calling with dramatic life implications. Just yesterday, I spoke with a young man who felt his course for college and beyond had been set by what he learned in Middle East Case Studies. In encountering a senior so advanced in his interests and balanced in his realistic idealism, I saw how Amy had helped him know himself–which is pretty good for one lifetime.
Although they will be missed dearly, it seems right to me that Amy and Clark should leave now to spread more goodness elsewhere. Moving to Colombia suits them admirably, and as we treasure the ways they have enriched this place, we will wait for the news to circle back around about them.
—Phil Jordan, Chair of the Religion and Philosophy Department at The Lawrenceville School