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Special Sabbatical
courtney murray 11 staff writer
May 27, 2010

Offered to faculty as a mark of tenure, sabbatical is a program where teachers are relieved of their classroom and coaching duties. Teachers are expected to use their time off to research in a field that interests them, while returning to campus with a plan to enrich the curriculum in their field of study.

“I think we both feel like change is good, but also just the idea of spending time to do the things we put on hold, such as looking at new courses and travelling.” said Ms. Valk.

History Teacher Conrad Pitcher and Science Teacher Heidi Valk will be on a unique sabbatical next year. Though they will not be teaching classes, both Mr. Pitcher and Ms. Valk will be coaching their varsity sports, Girls Soccer and Boys Basketball. They will take separate trips during their off seasons, while taking a bigger family trip in May to Brazil.

While she is here during the soccer season, Ms. Valk will be developing the new junior/senior biology course. The new course is a result of the curriculum shift in the science department, where freshman begin with physics rather than biology.

“In the winter, I will be going on a biological conservation Earthwatch,” said Ms. Valk. Earthwatch Institute is a scientific community that facilitates research and conservation trips around the world.

“In September, [Mr. Pitcher] is going on an Earthwatch program to South Africa, where he is going to help with animal surveys in the national park,” said Ms. Valk.

For the rest of the fall, Mr. Pitcher will be working on a new globalism unit for the United States history course currently at Deerfield. He will also be visiting with college basketball coaches across Massachusetts to learn new coaching strategies and prepare for his upcoming season.

In early May, Mr. Pitcher and Ms. Valk will take a family trip to Brazil, to visit the Sérvico Socialdo Comercio high school. Two teachers from the school, Luiz Gustavo Gavião and Gustavo de Paula, visited Deerfield for two weeks in early April to observe classes.

“We want to see what they have for their senior research program and to help establish a relationship between Deerfield and SESC?,” said Ms. Valk.

Their sabbatical is very unique, as many have stayed on campus during their year off, but no one has coached as well.

While this year is mainly to enhance the curriculum, it is also a time for Mr. Pitcher and Ms. Valk to travel and explore the world after eighteen and nineteen years here at Deerfield. “We both felt excited for a change, to do something different.” said Ms. Valk.