Provided by Ellen Austin
Mr. Samuel “Butch” Keller, Jr., Head of School
We say K through life, and Mrs. Keller and I are going to embrace that for life. I do a quote of the day every day, and I have forever.
There are Harker graduates and kids from the eighties that I coached basketball with, even their parents, that I’m sending quotes of the day to, every day. It’s a connection, and I look forward to going to their weddings and seeing their children. It is a lifetime. Sometimes you form those bonds with kids.
I want people to know there’s more to me than just having meetings in my office with kids who don’t do what they’re supposed to do. That’s not my goal in life. My goal in life is to make you a better person than you are when you came in the door. I’m getting no pleasure out of suspending somebody. You get an education to help you grow to be the best you can be, not to punish you for something wrong.
These pictures [in my office], those are players that I’ve coached that have died. I want to always look at them every day. I don’t want to live my life in a sterile environment. I want people to know I’m more than that.
Mrs. Keller’s health kicked the whole [departure] into motion. Our family wanted us to leave right away and come to the east coast. It just seemed like, after 40 years, it was time to retire and move. We have four grandchildren and one on the way in March, so it’s time to be there. I’m looking forward to having a whole Thanksgiving week, like every other normal person does, and spending it with my family.
Ms. Jane Keller, Math teacher and Director of LIFE Program
We have five kids, and we now, as of March, have five grandchildren. And the cancer diagnosis was pretty life changing for Mr. Keller and I, and it kind of helped us realize that life is a little short, and we really need to spend time with our family. So we decided it was time to go home.
I can’t imagine us working at two separate schools. Over our years, we don’t see working as just the morning to morning to whatever time job, we’ve kind of lived our whole lives at the schools where we’ve taught and worked. Now we attend all concerts, plays, sporting events, anything and everything we could possibly do to help support our community. So it’s always been very important for us to be the same school.
The Harker community has impressed so much on the two of us in regards to equity and inclusion, diversity, appreciating people for who they are. And we’re really looking forward to being with our family and having all these experiences that I had in California, to help my grandchildren grow up with a different perspective of life, and what they might be getting just in their world, and to help them see a different culture.
Ms. Ellen Austin, Director of Journalism
I have lived in the world by paying attention to the world. That’s what photographers do. I have to turn off my eyes when I’m not working as a photographer, because I notice everything. And if I am photographing, it’s like I click on a switch, and I see everything. That’s what it means to be an artist. That’s what it means to be someone who pays attention.
Most of the stories that I want to tell are nonfiction stories of really amazing people. That’s where I’m going to start, and I want to see how that goes. I used to think, I’m not good enough [to write books]. I can’t do this. What kind of arrogance do I have? And I’ve realized it’s not arrogance — if you are someone who needs to tell stories, you have to tell stories.
Brandon Stanton started the Humans of New York project back in 2010. He moved to New York, and he wanted to make it his new home. One way to do that was to go out with a camera, open-minded, open-hearted, open-eared. He hit on a mythical truth: that we are the stories we tell. We hope that our stories don’t die with us, we hope that our stories go on. We want to be remembered. We want to be known.
Dr. David Hart, Director of Instrumental Music
I’ve been here for a total of twelve years, and it’s been a huge percentage of my life and time in education. I came with the goal of sharing my love of music and sharing my belief that music can change with your life. If it was [the student’s] passion, giving them a home. One of my joys was teaching at the middle school, but I also got to teach a high school class. I like teaching diverse ages and this setting helped me to do that, and I’ve always held that close to my heart.
I grew up in the Bay Area and had parents as teachers. I promised myself that I would never be a teacher and went to college and fell in love with the idea of learning and sharing things that you are passionate about and helping them find a passion. Being around a school environment is special to me. This is where so many people made music a centerpiece for me, but through music I built a community that I’m still in touch with and I wanted to give back. Harker provided that opportunity. There is a K-12 program here, which allowed me to participate at a deeper level with growth and create a music rich environment here at Harker. I’m inspired by all the music teachers we have here. At the middle school, it was forming connections and finding those musicians.
The students here believe in learning at a deep level. Harker allows teachers to freely explore the best ways to teach our subject matter. At the high school, seeing students grow up and their talents flourish. It doesn’t just end here, my heart will stay at Harker.
Dr. Shaun Jahshan, Mandarin teacher
[I want to be remembered for] challenging students and helping them grow intellectually as learners and as human beings. I always try to emphasize consideration for one another in my classroom and forming that team of learners. I hope they have learned, as students have commented over the years, that they learned how to work with groups and how to work with students of different skill sets because foreign language always brings together people from a variety of brands, challenges and different learning styles. It’s always interesting to see when they work together.
[My favorite memory about teaching here was] just moments in the classroom when students really understood something or did something especially remarkable with a project or just watching the classroom culture develop in a positive way.
Ms. Luanne Stanley, Front desk receptionist
My husband and I were given an opportunity to move out to the Pacific Northwest, which is where we’ve planned to retire. Our plans just got moved up a bit. The school has changed. It went from a pretty small, tight knit community to a significantly larger body than it was 23 years ago. I’m definitely going to miss some of the people. I will miss seeing the students when they’re just being silly.
My favorite part about working here was spirit week: the opportunity to do silly things. I would hope that when people think of me, they think of someone they could talk to, someone who would listen and someone who was generally kind.
Ms. Roxana Pianko, History teacher
I’ve been here for eight years, and I started with teaching World II, but I also got to help create the curriculum of the Genocide and Holocaust studies course. When I think about my own background, I get to teach about the Cold War, and I take those opportunities to share my own experiences and to tell students that this stuff is relevant to your own lives.
We all have a history and we’re all connected to this planet and it’s part of the bigger picture of history. It’s our responsibility to connect with the past so that we know it and can make better decisions for the future.
My first visit here was a warm, welcoming feeling. Students are really open and kind. The community that is here, the people I get to work with and teach, I will be taking those with me. I feel like this is a place where I can always come back to visit. The most amazing thing here at Harker is the community I’ve been able to establish with my students. I’m grateful for that and that’s really comforting.
Ms. Katy Rees, History teacher
When I first came to Harker, it felt like the humanities was maybe on the sidelines for a lot of students and was seen as something to get through. I think, both in the nature of what we’ve done within the department and also across the school, that’s changed dramatically over the past years. I hope that my legacy would be an excitement for history and a willingness to do that interdisciplinary exploration, regardless of what you decide to pursue professionally or academically — an interest, a curiosity and a desire to pursue understanding.
[My biggest takeaway from teaching at Harker] is definitely the people and the relationships. I’ve worked with incredible colleagues in the history department and across the school. I’ve learned so much from them. Also, every year, there are great students that are a lot of fun to work with and that are always teaching me new things.
[My favorite memory over the years is probably] the trips that I’ve taken with students. I’ve been able to do a lot of travel, both chaperoning other groups and leading student travel. Those are always really great experiences to get out of the classroom with students to explore a new area to kind of open new interests and to see the students in a different light as well.
[I’m leaving for] a mix of personal and professional reasons. At the end of the day, it was a really hard decision to leave. It’s always hard to leave a community that you’ve been in long enough that you have those relationships. It’s not something that any teacher does lightly. It takes a couple of years to get into a school and get into the community, and then it feels like family. But the timing was just right.
A previous version of this article used “Ms.” instead of “Dr.” in Shaun Jahshan’s heading. The article has been updated on June 6, 2022, to reflect the correction of this error.