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After 34 years of service to Rowland Hall in capacities ranging from second-grade teacher to technology innovator, Brent Larsen is retiring. But don't worry, the beloved teacher whom Head of School Alan Sparrow describes as "quiet, compassionate, and caring," isn't going away altogether. Mr. Larsen will continue to support students as a tutor in Rowland Hall's Middle School.
Mr. Larsen began teaching at Rowland Hall right out of college in 1981. From the beginning, Mr. Larsen's University of Utah education professors predicted a typical public-school classroom would not be the right fit for the guitar-playing outdoorsman. Instead, they directed him toward Rowland Hall for an interview with then-Lower School Principal Carol Lubomudrov. "When I arrived on campus, I saw Greg Zeigler and Dave Hall rappelling down the side of the Van E (Building) on the Avenues campus. I knew at that moment that Rowland Hall could be a unique place to learn and teach," Mr. Larsen said.
Indeed, Mr. Larsen is both learner and teacher. His lifelong love of learning is one reason, according to Mr. Sparrow, that Mr. Larsen could easily adapt to teaching 4PreK, second, fourth, and fifth grades, physical education, and Lower School computer lab. He even developed innovative programs as a Middle School technology integration specialist. "Brent is a gifted teacher and parents throughout the years have commented on his deep insight into their child and every child," Mr. Sparrow said.
Mr. Larsen completed a Master of Education degree in 1988, received the Sumner Faculty Award in 1997, chaired the Faculty Development Committee from 1996 to1997, and over the years attended professional development workshops in such areas as technology, arts, brain development, and curriculum development.
He says he became a teacher to give him mobility to travel and explore, "so staying at Rowland Hall for 34 years is a little ironic. But the job has given me the opportunity to work with talented professionals, supportive parents and families, and most of all, to have worked with eager students who have provided me with a deep sense of fulfillment and adventure."
As part of the fifth-grade team from 2007 through 2014, Mr. Larsen impressed his fellow teachers Sarah Button, Stuart McCandless, and Chad Obermark as a creative thinker with genuine concern for each student's success. "He had a growth mindset before growth mindset was cool," Ms. Button said. Mr. Obermark added, "Brent is a team player, always offering ideas, and willing to give and receive feedback."
A student from Mr. Larsen's 1997 second-grade class recently shared that she looked forward to the part in the day "when Brent would get his guitar out and we'd sing songs he'd taught us, like 'Beans In Your Ears.'"
Mr. Larsen reflects on the past 34 years with special fondness: "I can't imagine what my life would have been like had it not been for the connections and bonds that I have formed with the many students that came into my room, bringing me a reason to enjoy each day and to live for each moment. I have felt a sense of accomplishment knowing that my colleagues and I have influenced a generation of children, many of whom have gone on to devote themselves to public service and have often taken a divergent approach to living their own lives."
Over the years, Mr. Larsen occasionally brought his two cherished golden retrievers to school. The fact that he could so without reprimand or a disapproving look from Mr. Sparrow meant Rowland Hall passed Mr. Larsen's litmus test—he held the school in high regard as a unique, generous institution. " Alan never did say anything other than to acknowledge the presence of my treasured animals," Mr. Larsen said. Years later when Mr. Sparrow had to tell Mr. Larsen about a school-wide decision prohibiting animals on campus, the teacher said he respected the decision and admired the years of tolerance and acceptance. "I acknowledged my gratefulness, and that of my students, for Rowland Hall's dedication to thinking outside of the box," he said. "I know that Rowland Hall continues to find ways to think beyond the norm and that is the beauty and legacy that I hope will continue as the school moves forward with an inclusive and empathetic curriculum and culture."