Alumni Stories - In Focus

Coming Home: Alumni Who Work at Dwight, Part II
Coming Home: Alumni Who Work at Dwight, Part II

With fond memories of their years as a Dwight student, alums come back frequently to their alma mater to visit. A few have come back to stay, helping to educate future generations of graduates! We asked each Dwightonian now on the roster of faculty and staff the same five questions. Because they had lots to say, we shared their responses in two parts: the first was earlier in the year; the second is here:

Ted Belcher '05, Physical Education Teacher

No doubt, you have many fond memories of Dwight. Please share one or two.

My best memory was winning the baseball division championship when I was in tenth grade. I was starting as catcher during the game and we went into the last inning up by one run. With two outs and a runner on second, the opposing team was very close to tying the game. And because the runner was leading too much off third base, as catcher, I attempted to throw him out. Unfortunately, my throw was low and I thought I blew the championship. In that one instant, I felt all the dread in the world pile on top of me. With a low throw, the opposing runner decided to try and score at home to tie the game for his team. Luckily my teammate, Adam Skollar '04, at third base was able to block the ball from going into the outfield and threw it home. Everything went by so quickly, but I was able to catch the ball and tag the runner before he could touch home plate.

Next, the only thing I could feel were my teammates jumping on my back as we celebrated our win and title as champions!

How did Dwight foster your spark of genius?

Starting in seventh grade, I had a strong love for everything medieval, fantasy, and science fiction. My first fantasy book was borrowed from the Dwight library. With this love of fantasy came a strong desire to design and create art. Even though I do not have a job in the field of design or art, I still work on both as hobbies almost every day.

Where did you continue your education?

I went to the Florida Institute of Technology to study forensic psychology.

What brought you back to campus?

A fellow Dwight alum who works here told me of an open position. I applied and have never looked back!

What's the best thing about working at your alma mater?

I love working with faculty who taught me in seventh grade. It's amazing that they are still teaching here. The hardest part about that is not calling them "Mr." or "Ms," now that we are colleagues!

Sorush Panahi, Timothy House Teacher, attended Dwight from 1999-2001

No doubt, you have many fond memories of Dwight. Please share one or two.

So many memories, indeed! If I had to isolate just one or two, I would definitely pick my interactions with the great Radomir Kovacevic as being profoundly impactful. I was an energetic, but also impulsive, young man and Radomir helped me understand that my actions can have consequences, both good and bad. He helped me see that I need to be accountable for how I represent myself at all times, whether or not anyone is observing. Secondly, I still have vivid memories of Sandy Darzy's science classes! I distinctly remember learning about the composition and structure of atoms in her class and being truly awe-struck. What a paradigm shift!

How did Dwight foster your spark of genius?

Ever since I was a youngster, my prevailing spark of genius has been my interest in, and appreciation for, different cultures (both traditional and hybridized). At Dwight, global vision and international mindedness were always at the center of the School's culture and curriculum. I remember that the humanities were an area of emphasis. Between my geography, history, and literature classes, I learned so much about perspective and cultural relativism. This really set the tone for me moving forward in my academic and intellectual journeys.

Where did you continue your education?

After Dwight, I (begrudgingly :)) moved to Long Island for high school and then onto Binghamton University for my undergraduate studies. I just finished my double master's degree in education and literacy at Bank Street College of Education.

What brought you back to campus?

Actually a combination of things. Having tried my hand at a few different internships and jobs during my latter years of college and after graduation, I was at a crossroads. No particular career was calling me. On a whim, I decided to apply to an open administrative position at Dwight. I had always felt that there was unfinished business for me, as my time as a student ended much more abruptly than I would have wished. C'est la vie. Fast-forward five years and here I am, back at Dwight and immersed in globally minded, inquiry-based education. I'd say things turned out pretty well!

What's the best thing about working at your alma mater?

Being a complicit agent in the exciting changes that are taking place, of course! Dwight is a dynamic school in all senses of the word and is constantly looking for new ways to invigorate students, families, and teachers. Being part of such a robust and increasingly diverse community is what truly piques my interest as an educator ― and as a citizen, moreover.

Blake Spahn '89, Vice Chancellor

No doubt, you have many fond memories of Dwight. Please share one or two.

I have a wonderful memory of competing in the Doris Post Oratory competition. It continues to be one of my favorite traditions here at Dwight. My topic was animal rights. I spent a great deal of time researching what was happening in the farming world and how chickens were treated, with no space to roam and basically reduced to egg-laying machines. During all this research, I developed a sense of outrage about the issue and wanted to communicate everything I had learned to other students. The competition made me realize the importance of mastering the skill of effective public speaking, and now at Dwight we start public speaking training even earlier in our Lower School programs. The topic also stuck with me ― I am still concerned about animal rights, and food quality and sustainability; and this is part of our current health, wellness, and food programs.

Another memory that I will never forget is intense morning and afternoon workout sessions with Olympic Judo champion Radomir Kovacevic, who was the head of Dwight's P.E. Department. It was a tremendous benefit to have an Olympian teaching at the School and he always pushed the bar higher, going beyond the call of duty to share his passion and drive with students before and after school.

How did Dwight foster your spark of genius?

Dwight really allowed me to pursue my passion for tennis in high school ― I had the flexibility to train at a high level without having to sacrifice anything on the academic side. That training allowed me to reach my full potential as Captain of a Division One team at Columbia and cap an undefeated season by winning the Ivy League title.

Where did you continue your education?

At Columbia, where I graduated with a major in political science and then earned an MBA. My master's and doctorate degrees are from Oxford in comparative international education.

What brought you back to campus?

It was always my desire to continue our family's tradition of helping Dwight students reach their full potential. Also as a father and educator, I wanted to find the best possible education for my children. When we were looking for a preschool for Kyra, we didn't find a program anywhere in Manhattan that met our standards. That's what drove me to start what is now the Dwight Preschool, where we have the same Dwight ethos and the IB Primary Years Program curriculum starting at age two.

What's the best thing about working at your alma mater?

The people ― I really enjoy working with our leadership, faculty, and staff. It is great having a perspective of where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.