Starting each school year at the Derryfield campus on River Road, new teachers and students alike find out if they are now members of Team White or Team Maroon. However, this fall there are two new members of the Derryfield faculty and staff that didn’t need to be assigned to a team. They both were already members of Team Maroon from their previous time here at Derryfield as students. Alexandra Donovan ‘10 and Harry Burnham ‘11 returned to campus this fall to serve respectively as the Assistant Director of Admission and as an Upper School Math teacher.
Up until joining the Admission team in the Gateway Building, Alex had been working in account management for technology companies in the Boston area. She began a new role in Sunapee, NH last summer but knew “in the back of my mind that I always had a desire to work in education. After connecting with fellow DS alumna Meredith Leyden ‘11 and learning about the role opening up at Derryfield as she departed for a new position, it just clicked.”
Prior to teaching Math, Harry “was pretty convinced that I wanted to teach Chemistry. I remember being in Mr. Bradley’s Chemistry class and finally hitting that stride where you both enjoy a subject and are also really good at it.” It wasn’t until his junior and senior years here at Derryfield that he “really fell in love with Math.” After graduating from St. Andrew’s in Scotland, Harry taught Math and Latin at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH before returning to Derryfield.
Especially for Alex, the community is what drew her to come to Derryfield as a staff member. “I was confident that I would jump in with a team of fantastic colleagues while also getting to work with many of the teachers and coaches who played in a role in shaping who I am today.” She was also excited for the opportunity to work with both current and prospective DS students. “Derryfield was the first place I was able to explore my passions and the thought of playing even a small part in helping another student cultivate their own path is invigorating.”
Returning to Derryfield for the opportunity to teach Math was a major factor for Harry. “I had been teaching Latin for a year at Cardigan but it wasn’t my first preference. I’m really grateful to have the chance to teach Math again here.” Coaching also played a role in Harry’s return: “I was also really excited to be able to coach a sport I’m still passionate about. Crew was a such a big part of my life at Derryfield so getting back into it on the other side was a huge draw.” Overall Harry notes, “from the initial phone call with Pete Brandt to the end of my (re)visit day, it felt as though people were invested in me as a whole person rather than a set of skills.”
Being back at Derryfield, what has changed since their days as students? Is there anything that hasn’t changed?
Alex notes the changes in program offerings: “The Global Trips available to students allow such a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in different cultures and become more independent along the way. Independent Senior Projects have come such a long way as well. I think 10 or 15 classmates completed an ISP during my senior year and now almost every student does one. Derryfield has been able to, thanks to such a strong network of alumni and community members, create more opportunities for students to follow their passions - it’s amazing!”
Even with the changes since he was a student, Harry mentions the teachers and coaches who have become Derryfield fixtures and how important they are to the whole community. “I think it’s really telling about what Derryfield means to people and how much people matter to Derryfield as an institution.” He does however note that “Diane Wall is a lot nicer to me these days now that I’m not raising hell in the hallways.”
Derryfield’s future excites both Harry and Alex. For Harry, “the new academic vision is so exciting along with the plan for new facilities. It feels like it will really push Derryfield to the next level.” For Alex, “I’m eagerly awaiting Fall of 2019 to take a tour of the new Athletics & Wellness Center along with the new Science & Innovation Center!”
Now that Alex has settled into her new role, she says her favorite experience so far has been as a 9th grade advisor. “I’m lucky enough to mentor an amazing group of young women this year who inspire me every day. Helping them navigate these early high school years is incredibly rewarding.”
Harry has relished his first Crew season: “I’ve really enjoyed my time on the water with the rowers this fall. It’s been a great way to get to know other students since I mainly teach freshmen and sophomores. I’ve also really enjoyed getting to share some of my old experiences with students who are in the same place I was 10 years ago.”
Derryfield is extremely fortunate to have such gifted and dedicated alumni back on campus making a difference for current and future DS students!