Garden coordinator Michael Covey, who taught chemistry at Country Day for seven years, harvests with second graders. (Photo by Alexis Covey)

Ex-chemistry teacher, longtime garden coordinator leaves ‘best job on campus’

After 21 years at Country Day, former chemistry teacher and current garden coordinator Michael Covey will retire this year.

Christina Kaufman, mother of senior Lia Kaufman and Theo Kaufman,’18, will replace Covey as the garden coordinator.

Covey taught chemistry for seven years at Country Day, first to the 10th grade and later the Advanced Placement course to the 12th grade. After leaving the chemistry department in 2006, Covey returned to the school two years later to work in the garden.

Covey immediately realized the garden needed a lot of work.

“Ten years ago, the garden consisted of about 15-20 8-by-3-foot garden beds and a whole lot of weeds, and I thought it could be better,” he said. “I originally started in the garden by volunteering, but when I realized that I was putting in around 10 hours a week of work into the garden, I talked to the school to make it official. In a way, working in the garden has been a semi-retirement.”

Covey said one aspect he will miss most about the garden is working with students.

“I have the best job on campus,” he said. “I got to work with kids as young as preschoolers all the way up to some high school classes.”

Covey added that he has enjoyed the simplicity of gardening.

“I never had to give any tests or invent a curriculum,” he said. “Every day I was able to view the beauty of nature. In the fall and spring, migrating cranes fly overhead, and the majority of people don’t notice it, but I was always lucky enough to be able to see and hear them.”

For Covey, retirement is bittersweet.

“This is an amazing job,” he said. “This garden has a great community, and I will miss it very much.”

Covey also enjoyed working as a chemistry teacher, saying there was “no better subject to teach.” But the job held less enjoyable aspects, too.

“I miss the classroom time,” Covey said. “But I don’t miss grading, writing tests, making labs or building the curriculum. However, I always really enjoyed my students.”After retiring from teaching, Covey headed the Farm-To-Fork elective. 

“About five years ago, (previous head of middle school Sandy) Lyon came to Ms. Burns and (me) with the idea for the elective,” he said. “(It) was always called the ‘garden elective,’ but Ms. Lyon wanted us to incorporate the harvesting aspect of the garden. Thus, (we) created the Farm-To-Fork elective.”

Students in it help take care of the garden, grow various fruits and vegetables and eat what they grow.

Freshman Craig Bolman was in the Farm-To-Fork elective for most of middle school and spent time in the summer working in the garden for community service credit.

“Mr. Covey knows a lot about how to do everything in the garden,” Bolman said. “Whenever I had a question, he knew what to do. If there were students freaking out over bugs, he’d come over and handle it. I always had a great time working with him.”

Overall, Covey said his favorite part of working at the school has been high school graduation.

“Young adults, who only four years earlier were just emerging from middle school confusion, are roasted and honored for their amazing high school accomplishments,” Covey said. “Graduation was always a time of joy and pride for all involved.”

In retirement, Covey plans to travel around the United States, to Costa Rica and to Japan.

Covey won’t be leaving the school forever, as he said he is willing to return as a substitute teacher.

—By Miles Morrow

Originally published in the May 28 edition of the Octagon.

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