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The Call to Teach: Carole Cates Pennock ‘67

Q&A with Amy Reynolds, Communications Specialist
This article appeared as part of a series in the Spring 2018 issue of the Tower Hill Bulletin

Tower Hill’s alumni database turned up nearly 200 alumni who entered the field of education, and the more we researched, the more we found. They are early childhood, elementary, middle and high school teachers, college professors, psychologists, coaches, admission counselors, non-profit administrators… The list goes on and on, remarkable in its variety and breadth. Here we highlight just a few across the decades, representative of the many alumni who chose to make teaching their life’s work, and in turn, make a meaningful impact on the lives of young people.

Carole Cates Pennock ‘67 spent 34 years at The Bement School in Deerfield, Massachusetts, as a kindergarten teacher, lower school head, parent, Parents Association president and trustee. She earned an M.Ed. from Smith College.

Why did you decide to go into education?
I went into education because my mother had been a teacher (before she had four children) and her mother had been a teacher (as well as a school principal and member of the local school board...two jobs similar to mine as lower school head at Bement and trustee at Deerfield Academy.) As the oldest of four, I was always trying to teach my siblings something, and I have fond memories of a little blackboard and map I used in a makeshift classroom off of our kitchen when I was five.
What are your proudest accomplishments from working in education?
I used to have a large envelope full of notes from parents and teachers thanking me for all I did to make things run smoothly for them. One of my favorites was from a mother who thanked me for being a role model for her daughter. Of course, the best were drawings from students that said, “I love you!”
How do you see K-12 education changing in the next decade?
As I was retiring, there was much more emphasis on technology and its role in education. Luckily, at my school, as technology was becoming more prevalent (and required) in the classrooms, the school bought a nearby parcel of wooded land and started an outdoor skills program. I like that balance.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the classroom since you started teaching?
When I started teaching kindergarten, it was a full-day program with a half-day option. It was a play-based, hands-on program. Today the kindergarten program is full day and has an academic curriculum that formerly would have started in the 1st Grade. Although there are still lots of hands-on experiences and plenty of outdoor time, the kindergarten students spend more time sitting at tables and doing paper/pencil work than in the past.
What aspects of education are timeless?
I think the most important aspects of education are relationships. I have seen wonderful teachers with terrific personal skills make a big difference in children’s lives. New technologies and curriculum are wonderful tools, but warm relationships between students and teachers are timeless.