All posts by Emily Gowdey-Backus

Mary Jo Salter on Common Human Experience

DSC_0821The best ideas and strangest rhymes come to her when she is half asleep said poet Mary Jo Salter on November 11 during her Writers’ Workshop Series lecture at the Williston Northampton School.

Madeleine Blais, co-founder of the Writers’ Workshop Series, likened Ms. Salter’s poetry to “the gift of water from ice,” in her introduction of the John Hopkins professor. Ms. Salter was the fourth and final speaker in the 16th annual series.

“She takes the moment that is utterly forgettable and turns it into something utterly memorable, which is to say her words are shapeshifting and miraculous,” said Ms. Blais.

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William Kamkwamba to Speak at Fourth Annual Wattles Perry ’77 Lecture

Mr. Kamkwamba with his windmill in the background (Photo courtesy of HarperCollins)

Malawi is a country struggling to overcome the effects of famine, poverty, and AIDS. The country has limited electricity, their main source of light in rural regions is kerosene lamps; these areas also have little access to running water. However, thanks to the ingenuity of William Kamkwamba, a boy from a farming community, one village was able to overcome these limitations. Mr. Kamkwamba will address the Williston Northampton School in the fourth annual Sara Wattles Perry ’77 lecture, on December 5 at 8:30 a.m. in the Athletic Center.

Forced to leave school when his parents could no longer afford the $80 fee, Mr. Kamkwamba continued his studies by pouring over books in the local library. He developed a love for science and technology, and wanted to find a way to bring electricity and running water to his home.

Mr. Kamkwamba atop his windmill (Photo courtesy of HarperCollins)

After reading donated textbooks, Mr. Kamkwamba designed and built a windmill from scrap metal that continues to supply his village with electricity and running water today. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, which he co-authored with journalist Bryan Mealer, chronicles the creation of this windmill. In an interview with publishing firm HarperCollins, Mr. Kamkwamba said, “All things are made possible when your dreams are powered by your heart.”

Currently a student at Dartmouth College, Mr. Kamkwamba travels across the country speaking to groups about his life since building the windmill and the publication of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Rebecca Makkai: The Distance Needed to Write a Story

RM-Blog-2“Fiction becomes interesting when a line is crossed,” said author Rebecca Makkai during the first public lecture of the 16th Annual Writers’ Workshop on October 3.

In her lecture Ms. Makkai addressed how she came up with the idea for her award-winning first novel, The Borrower, which is centered on the relationship between rebellious librarian Lucy Hall and 10-year-old book lover Ian Drake, whose parents are forcing him to attend weekly anti-gay classes. Kidnapping, followed by a road trip from Missouri to Vermont, and references to classic children’s texts are all facets of the plot in Ms. Makkai’s novel. Continue reading

16th Annual Writers’ Workshop

From October 3 to November 11, the Williston Northampton School will host the 16th Annual Writers’ Workshop Series. This year the series features award-winning authors Rebecca Makkai, Patricia McCormick, Elinor Lipman, and Mary Jo Salter. Lectures are free and open to the public and begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Dodge Room of the Reed Campus Center.

Rebecca Makkai, author of The Borrower, will visit campus on Thursday, October 3 to speak about her short stories and upcoming novel, The Hundred-Year House. Williston will welcome National Book Award finalist, Patricia McCormick author of Sold and Purple Heart on Monday, October 7. Elinor Lipman, parent of a Williston alumnus and author of such novels as The View from Penthouse B and Then She Found Me, will return to campus on Tuesday, November 5. Poet and former Mount Holyoke College professor Mary Jo Salter will conclude the series with her talk on Monday, November 11.

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The Boundless Energy of Mr. Seamon

Within the first week of school, Joshua Seamon, the new head of the math department at the Williston Northampton School, had posted five links on his new blog to help students learn about the Microsoft Surface Pros and an article on technology in his classroom.

Mr. Seamon carries his new tablet device everywhere he goes and tweets updates with photos of students using them. Although he has been on campus for less than a month, it’s safe to say Mr. Seamon is excited about the direction the school is headed.

Math & Technology
“I’m coming in at a fortuitous time. The potential for transformation is high,” said Mr. Seamon, who is particularly enthusiastic about two programs dear to his heart: campus-wide integration of the Microsoft Surface Pros and Williston’s Ultimate Frisbee team.

Mr. Seamon’s goal with new technology is to use it in a way that will have a positive impact on the classroom experience. At St. Johnsbury Academy, where Mr. Seamon worked for 10 years, technology was at the center of his teaching ethos. For the past six years, he has worked with a similar convertible tablet to the Surface Pro. He said it eliminated mandatory note-taking requirements and allowed him to record lessons for students who were unable to attend class. It also created a platform to share new materials and streamlined presentations.

In addition, his use of the tablet provided him the opportunity to reflect on and hone his teaching style. “I started listening to myself on a daily basis, which is incredibly brutal and a very valuable thing to do,” he said. “It made my lessons more effective, and freed up an enormous amount of time.” Continue reading