Tag Archives: Easthampton history

Swanee’s Magic

I happened to drop by Swanee’s US History class on the day he had promised to take them outside for a “field trip,” around the corner to the cemetery where Samuel and Emily Williston’s memorial is located, among other monuments.

But first, he was putting the finishing touches on a discussion in class about the Chicago 1968 convention and infamous riots that occurred during that event.  I admit that I wondered how he was going to connect the trip to the cemetery to that lesson; but that he would pull it off was never in doubt.

As he so famously does, Swanee forces his students to see things differently than they might otherwise, by challenging their ideas, by asking, “Why?” or “How do you know?”

Swanee teaching about Sam and Emily

Sure enough—after a brief lesson about Sam and Emily’s history and the challenges of having a family, as signified by the row of tiny headstones—Swanee spoke about different epochs of Williston’s past.

He told his captive audience of the day in 1970 when the senior class walked from Easthampton into Northampton to join a demonstration in support of the students at Kent State, and how then headmaster Stephens found himself at the front of this group of young men whose youthful resolve and conviction were on display—two attributes still prized by Williston’s students to this day.

Another wonderful learning moment thanks to this particular master teacher.