Dr. Mark Ott’s English class is one that many students remember fondly: the large typewriter that sits in the middle of the table, a stack of The New Yorker cartoons with daily jokes, and the iconic acronyms such as “WITAT2U?” (“what is the author trying to teach you?”) written on the board. He teaches his students to write “inch wide, mile deep” essays, encouraging the process of digging at all of the intricacies that lie in literature.
Dr. Ott joined the Deerfield English department in the fall of 2007 from Honolulu, Hawaii, bringing years of teaching experience and expertise to enrich Deerfield. Dr. Ott is a noted Hemingway scholar and the author of three books. Having received his Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii-Manoa, Dr. Ott continued to pursue his career as both an educator and researcher across the country.
During his time at Deerfield, Dr. Ott served as the English department head for five years, during which he was able to bring notable poets and writers to campus, including W.S. Merwin, Billy Collins, Robert Pinksy, and Natasha Tretheway. This year, Dr. Ott invited renowned author Tim O’Brien to campus, providing students an opportunity to listen to the author read from his book, Dad’s Maybe Book, and to speak with him over lunch and during English classes.
In addition to his contribution to the English department, Dr.Ott coached several varsity sports during his time at Deerfield, including alpine skiing and track and field, and was a dorm resident in Johnson and John Williams.
Reflecting on his time at Deerfield, Dr. Ott said that he has been “enormously enriched and rewarded” and is “grateful to be able to teach such amazing young people and to be able to coach them, to be with them in the domiritory, and to sit down and have meals with them to share in their triumph and support them in their journey.”
“What I love about my job is that I don’t feel like working,” Dr. Ott said. “Everyday, I get the opportunity to go into the classroom and talk to young people about literature. It’s a really special place to be when you feel like you are not working because you love what you do. Every day has gone by too fast.”
Maggie Tydings ’20, one of Dr. Ott’s previous students, explained the profound impact Dr. Ott has had on her and her education. “I‘ve had my fair share of amazing teachers throughout my time at Deerfield,” she said, “but Dr. Ott stands out among the bunch. I had the privilege of taking two years of English with Dr. Ott and throughout those two years, I learned not only about literature, but about myself. I could not be more grateful for all that Dr. Ott has done for me as my Deerfield experience simply would not be the same without him!”
Other students agree. Emily Pajak ’21, a current junior in his English class said, “Dr. Ott’s class was my favorite [class] this year at Deerfield. He is a three-dimensional teacher, and by that I mean he didn’t only teach me about English, but also things about myself and life in general I didn’t even know that I didn’t know. Dr. Ott also taught me that books can teach you how to LTD (live the dream).”
Dr. Ott will be embarking on his new journey as the Head of School at Windsor School in Albany of Bahamas, but his goal remains the same: to support the students and help grow the community. “I will be able to, hopefully,” he said, “have an impact on the community, strengthen the school, and support the students.”
To his students, both former and current, Dr. Ott offered one last piece of advice: “Be grateful for your Deerfield experience and education, and continue to do the amazing things that you are doing to make Deerfield proud of you.”
It is indeed a bittersweet goodbye to Dr. Ott. While he will certainly be missed dearly by the community, the impact he has had on Deerfield and his students will remain forever.