Every five years, each academic department chooses a new Department Chair. This year, in the English Department, Michael Schloat will be handing over the position to Christian Austin.
The Chair is responsible for both the administrative side of running the department as well as observing and supporting other teachers within the department. Austin is most looking forward to the latter aspect.
“Since I have started working at Deerfield, colleagues of mine have become role models for me. I am looking forward to having part of my day carved out because I am meant to be supporting my colleagues,” said Mr. Austin. “I just feel so lucky.”
Austin has been teaching at Deerfield for the last four years. While his primary role on campus is as an English teacher, he also coaches girls’ Varsity Tennis and girls’ Thirds Squash and is a hall resident on Louis-Marx. He had been a hall resident on Doubleday Three, up until last year. He says that some of his favorite memories at Deerfield were those made on that hall during his first year.
“The kids who started out in the Freshman Village with me have been here for four years, and I am glad to have entered Deerfield at the same time as them,” Mr. Austin reflected.
When asked why he decided to teach English, he responded that he “just loves books,” and could not teach anything if he was not as passionate as he is about the subject matter.
“I don’t think I could sell high schoolers on something I was less enthusiastic about,” Mr. Austin said. “It’s all based on my enthusiasm and love for literature.”
His philosophy is that if he is enjoying what he is teaching, he finds that students also seem to be more excited about the class, he explained.
“If I am having fun working with the material,” he said, “student interest seems to take care of itself.” Many of his students seem to agree.
One student, Ellie Shilling ‘21, said, “I have loved having Mr. Austin as my English teacher this year. He approaches English in a way that is interesting and engaging to us, and keeps the content relevant to our lives.”
Kareena Bhakta ’20 added, “He is a great teacher because of his embracement of diversity of thought in discussions, as well as his dedication to creating an encouraging classroom environment for students to feel comfortable to explore and take risks with their writing.”
While Mr. Austin says that he loves teaching everything, he mentioned that, even though he no longer gets to, he will always love teaching Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, especially to kids who have never read it.
“There is nothing more incredible than watching a student discover how beautiful literature can be,” he said.
Mr. Austin is looking forward to undertaking everything that comes with his new position as English Department Chair.
He will be teaching and coaching less in order to make room for his new role, but he explained, “Even though it is a little less teaching, it will be worth it.”