At the end of this year, Teachers Michael O’Donnell, Sonja O’Donnell, and Virginia Invernizzi will leave Deerfield and begin their sabbaticals. A sabbatical is usually a once-in-a- career opportunity, and these three teachers are ready to make the most of it.
Mr. O’Donnell, chair of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department, and Mrs. O’Donnell, who teaches English and coaches novice crew and Girls Varsity Swimming, submitted a 12-page proposal that outlined their extensive travel and learning plans for their sabbatical.
“We have many countries on our list,” Mrs. O’Donnell said. “We will start in Europe, with a term at Oxford, but we will be ending up in Asia and possibly as far as New Zealand and Australia.”
The purpose of their travels is more than just to visit the monuments.
“We will be more than tourists in the places where we will go,” Mrs. O’Donnell explained. We will experience knowledge in context, explore, wonder, communicate and investigate similar opportunities for students in the future. I want to go global.”
During their sabbatical, the O’Donnells plan to tackle big topics. “It’s a pretty intense and ambitious set of problems we want to investigate,” Mrs. O’Donnell said, “from the use of technology to the meaning and practice of true teaching and learning.” She added that they will be “investigating schooling itself” by taking classes and homeschooling their son, Julian.
“What does it mean to be schooled in the 21st-centruy? What can happen outside the classroom that can bring deeper meaning to it?” are just some of the questions the O’Donnells hope to answer.
Although the O’Donnells will be busy, Mrs. O’Donnell explained that renewal will be the most important part of their year away from Deerfield. “I think I’m really most excited about taking a big, deep breath,” Mrs. O’Donnell said. “ I want to learn how to slow down. I want to learn how to build in more reflection into my work, and into the students’ lives that I come into contact with.”
Dr. Invernizzi, chair of the Language Department and Spanish teacher, shared Mrs. O’Donnell’s sentiment. “I think it’s renewal for the faculty members,” she explained. “It’s renewal in many different ways, academic and personal–-so that you come back a better teacher, and a more rested soul.”
In addition to going to Italy and other countries in Europe, Dr. Invernizzi will go to Uruguay to work on tango. “I do teach a tango unit in my Spanish 6, and I just want to work on that tango unit and make it better and better.” Other focuses of her sabbatical will be technology, foreign language teaching and “seeing new places and learning new things.”
Both O’Donnells and Dr. Invernizzi expressed their excitement to take time away from the pace of life at Deerfield, but they also agreed that they will miss the students and school that they are leaving behind.
“Seeing the students every day, coming to class, teaching your classes is what I’ve been doing forever in my life, and I can’t really imagine a whole year without that,” Dr. Invernizzi said.
Mrs. O’Donnell will “miss that contact with you all. There is a wonderful energy here and it keeps you young, it keeps you alive, it keeps you active, it keeps you fluid, it keeps you sharp.”
These three teachers will be deeply missed, but their time away from Deerfield will benefit them and the school community greatly.