This year, Dr. Town announced that he will be leaving Lakeside. Those who have been in his classes most likely remember his playful personality and unique teaching style. Those who do not have probably heard of the academic rigor of his Honors Physics class. I conducted an interview with Dr. Town, where he shared anecdotes and experiences during his time teaching at Lakeside, as well as his thoughts and plans behind making the decision to pursue something different after being a part of the school community for so many years. The answers have been edited and paraphrased for clarity.
Q: How long have you been teaching?
A: This is my eighth year at Lakeside. Before Lakeside, I taught at University Prep and Tech High School in the South Seattle area (which doesn’t exist anymore). I’ve taught high school for about ten years and taught at the university level for a bit. I was also a Taekwondo instructor for about 20 years.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the reason behind your decision to leave and how you feel about that?
A: It’s a complicated decision. I love working at Lakeside. I love teaching. I love being in the classroom. But the pandemic has presented a lot of challenges (professional and personal). I’ve lived a few lives at this point — as a data scientist, a climate scientist, and an educator. My students know that I try to infuse some of those experiences into the classroom. As I move on from Lakeside, I will explore what I can do with my skills in science, when incorporated with the lens of social justice I’ve developed as a teacher and communicator, while also providing more security for my family.
Q: How would you describe your years at Lakeside?
A: There’s lots of memorable things that come to mind. I have had a lot of good memories in the classroom with students. Making skateboards with students of the Advanced Physics Application in Engineering class has been a highlight. It was always a pleasure to see students combine their creative, artistic, and technical skills. I’ve also tried to connect the academic program with the Service Learning program in collaboration with Zinda Foster. The skateboard unit is an example of a project we turned into a service project in which students designed and built decks for at-risk youth. One year a physics class and I helped out with a climate change video game project. Outside of the classroom, I have had vivid memories on the outdoor trips, such as when I took my advisory on the Ross Lake canoeing trip, which was a great bonding moment. During another trip to Ross Lake, we got caught in a thunderstorm. Instead of crossing the lake one afternoon, we decided to take a nap. We woke up 20 minutes later and tried to race across the lake to beat the arrival of a tremendous squall. We lost that race.
Q: How do you think/want people to see you as a teacher and colleague?
A: I think about that a lot right now because I’m leaving. I hope people think of me as good-natured, goofy, concerned with social justice, and passionate about science.
Q: What are your proudest accomplishments?
A: I’m proud of a class I created called Advanced Physics: Applications in Engineering. It combines a lot of my skills in and passion for science, geoscience, and design with my passion for social justice.
Q: Do you have any regrets from your time at Lakeside?
A: I regret naming the engineering class “Advanced Physics: Applications and Engineering.” During one Back to School Night, a female parent/guardian pointed out to me that I shouldn’t put ‘engineering’ in the name of the class — it made the class seem intimidating, which clearly explained why there were so few female students in the class. The other female adults in the room agreed. I’ve tried to get the enrollment in the class to better represent the school as a whole, with only moderate success. Hopefully, something will be done in the future to encourage folks from all backgrounds to consider taking that class.
Q: What are your plans for the future? Will you be doing scientific work like environmental science or something else?
A: I have nothing set in stone yet. The private sector works on a different time scale than education. I’m treating the first few months after leaving as a sabbatical and a chance to learn something new. My top priority is considering my family, but in general, I’ll be looking to do something that allows me to continue to learn and grow, something meaningful from a social or environmental justice point of view, and hopefully something fun!
Final words to the community: I’m grateful for my time at Lakeside. I hope that I stay in touch with all my friends, colleagues, and students in the years to come!