An investment in lifelong learning

Posted by Jane Daniel - 16 November, 2011

Jean Wessel Templeton is a proud lifelong learner. She hails from a long line of teachers, and clearly values the strong commitment to education that was instilled in her from an early age. As a child, Jean moved frequently, but she always loved learning, and was grateful for the encouragement she received from teachers throughout her life.

In 2011, Jean and her children, James and John Wessel and Tristenne Wessel Robin, all of whom attended Randolph, endowed the Wessel-Robin Lifelong Learning Grant, with the purpose of encouraging faculty members of excellence to continue self-directed professional and intellectual growth during the summer months. Any faculty member of excellence who has a proven commitment to building relationships with students and colleagues and who has been at the school for one year is eligible to submit a proposal for work they wish to do over the summer. Preference is given to proposals that have a clear benefit to students and that are new initiatives that create connectivity within the Randolph community.

The first-year recipients of the Wessel/Robin Grant were Upper School faculty members Jennifer Rossuck and Ryan Liese.

For many years, Jennifer has used a year-long interdisciplinary theme to shape and unify her English classes. The theme for 2011-12 is “The Games People Play: Sports in Society and Literature.” By examining sports-related themes and motifs in novels, short stories, poetry and film, her students explore the experiences of athletes, coaches and fans as well as the many and varied controversial issues which abound in the world of sports.

One goal of this work is to build bridges between the pillars of academics and athletics and Randolph, for both students and colleagues. Whereas she routinely incorporates a new text or two each year in her course, this year Jennifer is using a majority of new texts, and a significant amount of research and interdisciplinary collaboration. Jennifer’s commitment to her own growth and development for the benefit of the students in her classroom required significant work over the summer months.

As a recipient of the Wessel/Robin grant, she had the opportunity not only to plan lessons for nine new texts, but also to establish a film component, game lab, campus field work, and community speakers panel in support of the broader interdisciplinary theme. The students in her English 11 and A.P. Language & Composition classes are surely benefitting from her commitment to extensive summer work on this interdisciplinary theme.

Revamping the Chicago trip
The second recipient this summer was history teacher Ryan Liese. Ryan shared a little about his summer work to revamp the freshman Chicago trip to enhance the learning experience and to effectively accommodate a larger freshman class:

During this past summer, I was fortunate enough to spend four days in Chicago to help increase the student experience for the 9th grade interim trip. As the 9th grade class has grown, the trip itself has had to change. I wanted to make sure that the trip would still provide the bonding experience that we have heard described in the past, but also felt that we could emphasize components of the curriculum that the students would encounter while in Chicago.

I focused on the museums because they are an aspect of the trip that remains largely unchanged year-to-year. I spent a significant amount of time at the Art Institute, Field Museum, and Frank Lloyd Wright Studio Home, speaking with members of the staff and outlining a number of connections to the 9th grade course of study.

I also explored the city, looking for new areas to take the students that would provide them with an interesting perspective on life in Chicago. I had some limited contact with the improvisational comedy groups that we see. I had hoped to talk to them about some team-building activities for the advisory program, but getting in touch with them and getting any information was rather difficult.

The trip was a great experience. It gave me an opportunity to take the lead on a project that I care about a great deal. The Chicago trip is one of the highlights of my year and I was glad to know that I was going to help each student have a meaningful experience. The trip was a great trip long before I started going, but hopefully some of the changes that we make over the next couple of years will make it even better.

Jean Wessel Templeton and her family are pillars of philanthropy in the Huntsville community, and many organizations are stronger for their generous support. When asked why this area of teacher professional development was one that they chose to support, Jean shared stories of teachers who had encouraged her and her children through the years. This was an area, she noted, where she and her family could make a contribution that could be built on, encouraging those men and women who have such profound effects on our children, and on children for years to come.

Jean, who is also a Randolph Trustee, sees this as an investment not only in her own children and grandchildren (four now at Randolph), but in all children who will learn and grow under the guidance and encouragement of Randolph faculty. Jean clearly learned from those who encouraged her, and now is the “encourager,” offering support and investing in the excellent faculty members who call Randolph home.


Topics: 11th grade, 9th grade, curriculum, family, Goal 4, interdisciplinary, philanthropy, strategic plan, teachers, trips, Upper School

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