Retiring Faculty and Staff
Charlene “Char” Grant
Athletics and Physical Education Department, Coach
Member of the Faculty, 1979–2018
They say “time flies when you’re having fun,” and it seems like only yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Charlene Grant, one of the physical education teachers at the Girls’ School. I was impressed with Char’s philosophy toward athletics and physical education. Our initial meeting was back in 1980, and it is hard to believe I stand here today celebrating Char’s 39 years of teaching and coaching at Milton Academy.
Char has been a valuable member of the Milton faculty since 1979. She has seen significant changes during her tenure. She has been a physical education teacher, a head coach, and an athletic director for the Middle and Upper School from 1984–1991. Char has been instrumental in the development of new programs such as the girls’ varsity ice hockey and coed swimming teams, as well as the expansion of the third and fourth teams for most girls’ sports, providing greater access for young women to participate in competitive athletics.
Char came to coach varsity soccer, varsity basketball, varsity softball and to teach physical education. Not only was she a varsity head coach for three seasons, Char simultaneously served as the head coach of the JV soccer and JV basketball teams for five years. Since 1979, no other coach has overseen three varsity programs. In her inaugural season, Char coached the varsity soccer team to their first winning season. What a way to start a career! Serving as a three-season varsity head coach for five years is amazing, and it demonstrated her commitment to Milton Academy students.
Among many facts and statistics about Char’s coaching career, there is one that stands out. Seven of Char’s seasons as the head coach of the girls’ JV soccer team were undefeated: 84 consecutive wins. Coaching one team to an undefeated season is rare, and coaching seven seasons without a loss is incredible.
Char has always been a staunch advocate for growing the girls’ athletic programs. She has remained true to her philosophy and firmly believes every student should learn how to play a lifetime sport as well as learn how to appreciate different types of physical activity.
Hearing comments from her students such as “That was so much fun,” “I never thought I could do that,” and “Can my friend and I come back and play during our free period?” is not unusual.
For those students who did not see themselves as athletes, Char provided a safe environment where they could still find success. Her calm demeanor and words of encouragement provided a comfort zone for all to try new and challenging activities. Observing her students taking risks and mastering new skills provided Char with joy and satisfaction.
Char is a professional who has a positive influence and has been a role model to students throughout her career. Milton has benefited from her unwavering commitment to and advocacy for the physical education program, especially for girls’ sports. I will miss our conversations and the chuckles that came with them. We wish the best of luck to Char and Carol as they begin their new adventures.
by Larry Fitzpatrick
Athletics and Physical Education Faculty Member
Head Athletics Trainer
Upper, Middle and Lower School English and Performing Arts Departments, Speech Coach
Member of the Faculty, 1980–2018
Debbie Simon is one of most acclaimed speech coaches in America.
The Massachusetts Speech and Debate League voted her into the Coaches’ Hall of Fame. The National Speech and Debate Association voted her into its Hall of Fame. Two years ago, the NSDA chose her as Middle School Coach of the Year. And just last year, the Speech Communication Association of America chose Debbie as Co-Teacher of the Year.
These awards have come because of her extraordinary work here at Milton. As a coach of the Upper School and Middle School speech teams, Debbie has guided individual students to local, state, district and national championships, and her teams have done as well. We’ve lost count.
Debbie’s versatility as a teacher is legend, too. For 37 years, she taught “Growing Up Female” to hundreds of Class IV girls, the last vestige of the history of Milton as two schools. She taught English in the Upper School, from Class IV grammar to Class I electives; oral interpretation in the arts program; and a host of performing arts courses. Most powerfully, Debbie has directed over 50 plays at Milton, in the Lower, Middle and Upper Schools.
All of these facts about Debbie’s career are amazing, but they only suggest the special personal story. They point to what we all know — that Debbie is tireless. This committed teacher never stops, giving her talents to everyone, student and faculty members alike. The light in her room or office is on later than anyone else’s. Her weekends are spent at tournaments and coaching. When called upon to help, Debbie simply will not say no.
The facts also suggest Debbie’s unusual creativity. Give her a novel to teach, and she will turn it into a wild visual experience. Have students study plays, and they will be writing one-acts at semester’s end. Have her coach a speech performance, and she will invent new actions, voices and characterizations for the student on the way into the national finals. Give Debbie a Middle School play to direct, and she will create a script for 40 students. Where does this never-tiring invention come from?
What the facts do not tell us at all is the very large heart of Debbie Simon. Her dedication to teaching, her care for her students, her passion for the arts all emanate from the love that Debbie pours forth daily. Her time at Milton has been one very big, welcoming embrace, and we will not find another person like Debbie Simon soon.
By Dale DeLetis
Founder of the Speech Team
Former Chair of the Performing Arts Department
Children sat snuggled together on the couches, overstuffed chairs, or on the floor in the library, listening intently to Joan Eisenberg’s every word. Soft-spoken by nature, her quiet voice drew them close, creating an intimate space where they could cozy up, settle in and hear a great story like Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie, or The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. In the dark of winter, when everyone needed a boost, she’d help to plan a pajama day and children would scurry across the circle in their PJs, where she’d even provide hot chocolate. Every child loved going to library, and they especially loved Mrs. Eisenberg.
They appreciated her because she really got know them, to know what kind of a reader they were, and to recommend books that she knew they would love. She hooked reluctant readers by talking with them and finding out their passions. One book at a time, she reeled them in, and before they knew it, they were begging for more. From the home reading program in the Junior Building to the annual Summer Reading book project each fall, to the Caldecott unit in Grade 3 and the Massachusetts Children’s Book Award challenge in Grade 5, Joan made reading adventurous and fun.
The Lower School naturally wanted to make a book for Mrs. Eisenberg in honor of her retirement this spring, and each member of our K–5 community, all 192 of us, created a written tribute to her. Time and again, students expressed their love and gratitude, thanking her in pictures and words for her insightful literary recommendations, and for guiding them to a love of reading.
Always a teacher, Joan was also a lifelong advocate for social justice. In the late 60s and early 70s she was a VISTA volunteer on a reservation in North Dakota, and an elementary teacher on a Zuni reservation in New Mexico. In New York City, during the women’s liberation movement, she, along with 45 other employees of Newsweek, successfully sued the magazine for gender discrimination. She was a union rep during the time she worked at the Cambridge Public Library prior to coming to Milton, and has always been a supporter of literacy programs for underserved populations. Joan cares deeply about others and about our connected humanity. She also believes in connected curriculums and interdisciplinary learning, and found a lively place to do so in Milton’s Lower School.
Part of the infamous Cambridge/Somerville carpool for the past 18 years, Joan is definitely not going to miss slogging through daily traffic on the Southeast Expressway. Soon, she’ll be moving back to Falmouth with her husband, Paul. They look forward to spending more time with their 2-year-old grandson Teddy, and enjoying all that retired life will bring them.
By Sandra Butler
Lower School Art Faculty Member
In Reconstruction in Philosophy, John Dewey wrote, “Scientific principles and laws do not lie on the surface of nature. They are hidden, and must be wrested from nature by an active and elaborate technique of inquiry.” In the 28 years Linde Eyster has been teaching at Milton Academy, she has been uncovering the hidden world of biology with her students.
In my time at Milton, Linde has been the heart and soul of our department, and a champion of the messy and yet productive process of scientific inquiry. When Linde came to interview for a job at Milton, she was serenaded by Tom Sando and Jim Kernohan. It is a miracle that she decided to take the job, but we are thrilled that she did. One of Linde’s former students said, “She had an ability to create a unique, tight learning community that really felt like a separate world in itself. She had a skillful way of evoking and harnessing our own curiosity such that it felt like she was more guiding us through this strange world than ‘instructing’ us in a top-down sense. It would be hard not to compare her to Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus.”
Students who entered Linde’s classes were often intimidated for the first few sessions. Linde always expected a lot from her students, and this started from the first day of class. What they learned quickly was that her intensity was compassionate, and her expectations were equally strong for herself. I have had the distinct pleasure of observing many of Linde’s classes, and I can say that I have never seen a more thoughtful practitioner. In The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer wrote, “Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.” Linde’s classroom weavings are beautiful and intricate, but never too showy or overly complex. She has an amazing talent to pace her classes for the students in front of her, and not for some exterior standard.
Linde’s teaching awards are many. She holds the Pratt Chair for teaching at Milton, she was the Norfolk County Science Educator of the Year, and she was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching. Linde inspired Milton Academy students to find their voice in Helix, our campus science magazine. She also has been instrumental in the development of the Honors Biology curriculum. While these awards and achievements are impressive, I would say that the impact she had on students and faculty each day will be her enduring legacy. I am a better teacher because I have been Linde’s colleague, and I am the tip of the iceberg. There are legions of former students inspired to understand their world through the lens of biology because of Linde. Milton Academy is a better school because of Linde’s time here, and her shoes will be hard to fill. It is with great respect and admiration that we say goodbye to Linde. I am confident that through her art, and because she is a teacher to her core, her impact on others will continue.
By Michael Edgar
Science Faculty Member
I met Susan Wheelwright in the late 1980s, when we both worked at Fayerweather Street School. Arriving at Milton in the fall of 2003, Susan already had a long and distinguished career. Beginning what would be 15 years as part of the dynamic third-grade duo that included Jane McGuinness, Susan’s kind, caring and straightforward nature was immediately a perfect fit for our community.
Susan has shared her steady and gentle spirit with students and faculty alike. Likened by a colleague to a “child whisperer,” she spoke to children in such a warm, quiet way, she could reach any child and bring out the best in each of them. Her classroom was a whimsical place where kids found and created magic.
To fully appreciate the immeasurable gifts that Susan Wheelwright bestowed on her students, one only had to walk into her room and study the walls and surfaces. They were filled with found objects from nature: shells, nests, hives and rocks, along with guidebooks, knick-knacks and amazing works of student art. Susan’s classroom was carefully orchestrated for her students, to maximize their engagement. Her ability to notice the interests of her students is legendary. It was magical for both child and teacher, and the connection grew and strengthened so that the bond between them solidified. Susan’s students spent the year knowing that each day would bring engaging activities filled with purpose and possibility.
Susan knows children’s literature, and which books would elicit passionate discussions. Their imaginations ignited, her students crafted beautifully written reflections they loved to share with classmates. She masterfully guided students to a deeper understanding of immigration as she read carefully selected immigration stories and led the students into steerage — in character — and onto a “ship” that sailed in the early 20th century.
Susan’s love of poetry, ice skating and monarch butterflies were all hallmarks of the third grade. Every year, the love of the natural world that Susan infused into the third grade ended with the excitement of a culminating trip to the Farm School.
Shepherding third-grade students, and guiding us all with her warmth and humanity, Susan leaves behind a legacy that is long-lasting. We will miss Susan, and we wish her well in this new chapter of her life, as she spends more time with her daughters and her grandson, and gets to do some exploration of her own.
By Gary Shrager
Lower School Dean and Science Faculty Member