Teachers at The Orchard School are passionate about stretching students and challenging them with new ideas and high expectations. They take pride in searching for students’ strengths and using them as a vehicle for teaching. And they feel it’s their responsibility to interact with each student as an individual.
David has been at Orchard since preschool and is currently in sixth grade. He likes hanging out with his friends, playing in nature and distance running. David also has dyslexia, which created extreme anxiety and stress in the classroom leading him to consider quitting the cross-country team this year. David simply puts it, “Every year school just got harder for me,” he said. “It was too much.”
Allison Housefield, David’s fifth grade teacher and cross country coach, was determined to keep David focused. “I made it a point to run with David at practice in order to encourage him and build his confidence in both his academic and athletic abilities,” Housefield said. This sparked David’s interest in running to the point of him wanting to run a marathon. Miss Housefield immediately registered both of them for the Monumental Half Marathon and training began.
Kristin, David’s mother, is thankful for the teachers in his life. “David had so much support and love from the faculty that he gained an untold amount of confidence. Only at Orchard would a teacher take up distance running to help a child with anxiety and confidence.”
Miss Housefield recognizes there were other things that she probably could’ve been doing during that time, but she wouldn’t trade those runs or running talks for anything. “I love being a classroom teacher, but I truly love and appreciate opportunities in which I get to work with students in a different environment,” Housefield said. “Particularly those students who may not view school as their jam.”
They started training three weeks before the marathon by running everyday between three and five miles. And on weekends they did their long runs between seven and 10 miles. It was also not uncommon to see the two of them running throughout the campus after school. During this time, a bond between the two was created and David discovered a new passion for running that was benefiting his classroom work, for which he gives all the credit to Miss Housefield. “Running with Miss Housefield really helps me handle my stress.”
Their goal for the Monumental Half Marathon was to break two hours. They finished in one hour and fifty-four minutes.
“David was bobbing and weaving in and out of the crowd like the Muhammad Ali of long distance runners,” Housefield said. “The other runners were in awe, and I was right there with them. Here was a 60 pound, 12-year-old kid who was just going for it!”
A main tenet of progressive education
is understanding that students gain confidence in the power of their ideas and their ability to advocate for themselves when teachers honor their individual voices, solutions and thinking. The teacher and student are partners in learning. “David’s determination, grit and drive were what kept me going during our training process,” Housefield said. “He has motivated me to do my best, and I seriously admire and appreciate him more than I will ever be able to express.”
David says he’s excited to train with Allison again for the half marathon in the spring. “Miss Housefield is the best teacher that I’ve ever known because she helps me through life. She just knows how I’m feeling.”