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A teaching life

TOWNSHEND—Linda Rood has taught English to every high school grade at Leland & Gray since 1988.

Before that, she taught English on Long Island. 

She has nearly 30 years in the trenches, doesn’t know if she’ll retire soon (although she now qualifies for her pension), and teaches with the intensity of a novice and the engagement of someone who loves her job.

English classes are divided into Level 1 (usually college bound) and Level 2 (for students needing a little more support, some of whom are also on the college path.)

This semester, Rood is teaching three English classes — a senior advanced placement class and both levels of junior class students. Each group is unique, Rood says, and she varies her assignments and reading for their sakes, and hers.

The senior Level 2 class is taught by one of the other teachers in the three-teacher high school department.

For just this one session of Level 1 juniors, Rood had corrected papers, planned the class content, and handed out relevant information, including a calendar for each student. She told them time management was one of the best skills to acquire, and the calendars were there for their use.

Rood’s time, although she’s in control of it, is pretty much dictated by her classes.

The previous Sunday, she said, she began working on assignments at about noon, and took off enough time for a 10-minute walk, a quick lunch, and a pretty quick dinner.

“I was done at 10 p.m.,” she said.

Time management has served Rood and her family very nicely.

She grew up in Southampton on Long Island, where her mother, a bookkeeper, was raised. Her father, a technician who did research for Western Union and worked for Con Ed and other companies, first made his living on his chartered fishing boat, but gave that up when he married. He died with Rood was 12.

Rood has an older brother and two younger sisters.

“My mother really thought education was important, especially after my brother’s fourth-grade teacher told her that my brother had to go to college,” Rood said.

The four siblings were all college-educated. Linda was awarded a New York State Regents scholarship, which had to be used at a state school. She was also a National Merit Scholar, and she chose to go Hobart and William Smith, a college in Geneva, N.Y., where, although it was a co-ed school, women and men lived separately.

She said she liked the living arrangement at HWS, and that the school offered her complete financial aid. She did a double major in French and English.

“I loved it. It was the best time of my life,” she said.

Following college and some uncertainty, Rood followed in her brother’s footsteps, decided a Ph.D. was in order, and she was accepted at the University of North Carolina.

Rood said she had everything planned from eighth grade on. She’d watched her brother’s trajectory and pretty much figured that it was a useful path.

But the Ph.D. glut, and the absence of encouragement, led her to finish her master’s degree and enroll as a special student in the education department, allowing her to take courses and teach.

“I left school with an M.A. and a teaching credential. I decided to take a teaching job at Westhampton Beach on Long Island, and I stayed there for seven years.

During that stint, she married Roger Turner, who was a special education teacher at Leland & Gray. He’s retired now, but he’s still a part-time case manager for the district.

Turner’s family had a summer place in Plymouth, Vt., and the couple decided Vermont was the place for them. Turner got a job at Leland & Gray in 1980, and Rood began a condo cleaning service at Mount Snow, a business that allowed her stay home with her children — a son, Ted, born in 1981, and a daughter, Liz, born in 1986.

They lived for a while in Newfane, and then bought their house in Dummerston, where they still live. Both children are college graduates: Ted from Yale, and Liz from Haverford. He’s working for an art gallery in Manhattan, and she’s living in Brattleboro and working as a barista at Mocha Joe’s.

A half-time job opened at Leland and Gray in 1988 after long-time teacher and Townshend gadfly Tis Garfield retired. Rood’s been at the school ever since, starting full time in 1993.

“Teaching here was very different from my Long Island job,” Rood said. “The population here is very homogeneous, and I also was unprepared for how open and friendly the community of teachers was.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #87 (Wednesday, February 9, 2011).

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