It isn’t every day that seniors Lily Brown, Atsuo Chiu, Annya and Katia Dahmani, Miles Edwards, Sonja Hansen and Theo Kaufman make speeches about their teachers.
But on March 12, the seven Lifers (those who have been at Country Day for 12 or more years) held a dinner at Piatti Italian Restaurant & Bar to honor history teacher and college counselor Chris Kuipers and middle school math and history teacher Ed Bolman, whom they chose as the Lifer teachers of the year.
Each year, the graduating Lifers select one or more teachers that have had a profound impact on the students’ lives both academically and personally.
It was Kuipers’s second time being chosen. His first was two years ago.
While the 2016 Lifers burst into his classroom and held a “proposal” ceremony for him, this year one of the Lifers told him during a college counseling meeting.
“It wasn’t quite as formal, but it was nice,” Kuipers said.
Bolman has been chosen two times before – first in 2012 and more recently in 2014.
Unlike Kuipers, Bolman said he found out he was chosen when the group visited his classroom.
Chiu said that decision was very difficult for the Lifers.
“Any teacher at this school is a great teacher, so they can all be perfect candidates,” he said.
When the Lifers met with dean of student life Patricia Jacobsen to discuss their choices, Chiu said they couldn’t come to a consensus.
However, Brown said that half of the Lifers wanted Kuipers while the other half wanted Bolman, so the final decision was easier.
Edwards said he chose Kuipers and Bolman because of the impact they had on him both academically and personally.
“I liked the way they taught their curricula,” Edwards said. “(And) they were always there to talk to as a person or teacher.”
Chiu said Bolman’s energetic approach to teaching made him stand out.
“His classes aren’t just sitting around and staring at a piece of paper – they’re active, which can be appealing to many students, especially sixth graders,” he said.
“I just remember how enthusiastic he was,” Brown said. “He made class super fun.”
Though Chiu didn’t have Bolman for math, he said one of his favorite memories of his history class was the Greek Olympic Day.
“We played games, made shields and ran around,” he said. “The whole day we didn’t have any classes.”
Bolman said being chosen as the Lifer teacher was extremely flattering.
One of his favorite memories was Katia Dahmani being nicknamed “Kafka” because someone mispronounced her last name.
He also remembers that Brown received a unicycle when she won the math lottery in sixth grade.
Whenever he sees her, Bolman said, he asks if she’s ridden her unicycle yet.
Kuipers’s teaching involved fewer outside activities than Bolman’s, Chiu said, but instead had inspiring lectures and fun activities.
“Before him, history class was just memorizing dates,” Chiu said.
Chiu – who was born in Japan – said one of his favorite activities was the Japan game in Kuipers’s World History class, which he said was a really nice way to introduce students to Japanese history.
In this game, students formed teams to represent different Japanese clans and attempted to conquer Japan by placing as many of their clan’s thumbtacks on the paper map as possible.
Brown said that Kuipers is one of her favorite teachers because his activities, especially the Four Corners game, helped increase her confidence.
In that game, Kuipers labels the four corners of his classroom as “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Disagree” or “Strongly Disagree.” Students must pick one of the four corners as their opinion on the statements he presents.
After picking a corner, students argue their opinion while Kuipers moderates.
Brown said that she was a shy student before taking part in Four Corners.
Kuipers said he was extremely happy to receive the title from students he has known from seventh grade to senior year.
“(Being chosen as the Lifer teacher) is among the biggest honors that I can have as a teacher because it comes from students that I have taught for many years,” he said.
Though Kuipers said he doesn’t recall memories of specific students, he does remember them taking part in the Renaissance Fair and going on the eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C.
Furthermore, both Dahmanis were in his AP European History class this year.
But despite knowing the students very well, Kuipers said that he was amazed at how well the students’ families knew each other at the dinner.
“It resonates with me this year especially with Elsa, my daughter, in Pre-K,” he said.
“I’m wondering, ‘Oh my gosh, who of these classmates, who of these parents, are we going to know still in 13 years?’”
During the dinner students first made speeches about the Lifer teachers. Then parents and students told the teachers what they enjoyed about the school. And at the end of the night, Bolman and Kuipers shared their favorite memories about each student.
The Lifers’ families also presented a donation to the school in the Lifers’ memory, Kuipers said.
The Lifers, their parents, the Lifer teachers, assistant head of school Tucker Foehl and head of school Lee Thomsen were present.
While Chiu did not make a speech, Brown and Edwards did.
Edwards said he improvised his speech, but Brown said she wrote out her speech for Kuipers.
Bolman said he initially agreed with Kuipers to talk about only half the students each, but once he started talking, he just couldn’t stop.
“I really enjoyed having dinner with (the Lifers) and seeing them more as adults and less as kids,” Bolman said.
“As the years go by, it gets harder to remember things, but then once you see them, you talk to them for a few minutes, and it all comes back in a rush.”
—By Héloïse Schep