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Faculty Focus: Henry Turner

By Wendy Ma
Published: May 2010

There is a great more to Goldrick housemaster, Henry Turner than many might guess. Turner was born in Boston and grew up in Melrose, Massachusetts; his passion for teaching stems from both urban and suburban roots.

At Melrose High Turner he was an outstanding student who loved history, biology, calculus and chemistry. Something else caught his attention. As one who loved both academics and athletics, he also swam for a club team as well as his high school team. “I did free style and butterfly, Turner said. “It was an excellent outlet. I had all kinds of travel opportunities and I made important friendships.

Turner’s father had been an elementary teacher and is now a professor. What pushed Turner to become a teacher himself was an added influence’€his three-year high school history teacher. “He was a great teacher, Turner said. “I respected him, and he was inspiring and made history come to life, says Turner. The impression his history teacher left was huge, and it shaped who Turner is and what he does today.

Following his academic and athletic passions, Turner chose the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, where he had numerous outstanding history professors both at UMass and in the greater Amherst area. “It was good value for money, said Turner. “I also had a scholarship for swimming.

Turner read history and swam all four years; he was elected captain of his team in his senior year. “We became Atlantic Champions, said Turner. “It was an opportunity to travel throughout New England and up and down the East Coast.

Asked about his most interesting college class Turner said it was one on political history. “The class had great depth, said Turner. “My professor pushed us to look for alternative voices in American history, he wanted us to know not only the politics and the ideas behind them, but the people who voiced those ideas. Turner not only learned about 1960s Civil Rights figures in a general sense but specific groups and individuals. “It got down to the level of Jewish women who had participated.

Not surprisingly, upon graduation Turner chose to become a history teacher. “I wanted a job where I could make a difference, Turner said. He started off his teaching career in Lexington, where South’s former principal, Van Seasholes, encouraged him. “He believed the classroom was the central place in a school, Turner said.

At South, as Housemaster and American history teacher, Turner has liked the philosophy about the importance of teaching, including for those who are administrators. “Unlike other places, Turner said, “everybody teaches. He finds others at the school are enthusiastic about “working with people and making an impact on their lives. Administration and teaching go together for Turner; it encouraged him that at South he could still teach the subject that he loves and help others solve problems.

“I like the challenges of the job…every day my job here is completely different, Turner said. The element of surprise is important to him. “I like it that when I walk into the building, I don’t know how my day will end.

Turner reminisces about himself as a teen going through high school and tries to use his experiences to guide and help South students. He has experienced his fair share of high school drama and he even admits that in high school he “was kind of a geek. However, his sense of humor and comforting smile make Turner an engaging figure, popular with and admired by his many students.

Turner loves to connect with his students in as many different ways as he can. “The students push me as a teacher to seek new ways of exploring content…I make good connections with my students through this kind of exploration, Turner said. Which is what, for a real teacher, it is all about.

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