“The things that keep you here are your colleagues and your students,” says Rich Aaronian, the Harlen Page Amen Professor of Science and longest-tenured faculty member at Exeter. In his 45 years at the Academy, he has likely taught more students than any other current instructor.
“The kids stretch you,” he says “I learned a long time ago that kids will ask questions about everything. They’ll ask something, and I’ll think, ‘I’ve never thought of it that way.’”
Rich approaches every class as if for the first time, asking new questions to help his students immerse themselves in discussion and tailoring the coursework to cover advances in science and technology.
“As a faculty, we’re always learning from one another,” he says. “The advantage of being in a larger school and department leads to cross-fertilization of ideas and teaching techniques not only among my Science Department colleagues but those in other departments as well. I rarely do the same thing one year to the next because I’m always learning.”
Both rapid developments within his field and in teaching at Exeter have helped sustain an environment that has been stimulating and challenging throughout Rich’s career.
“I’ve been able to help introduce both Marine Biology and Ornithology, which had not been taught here before,” he says. “Exeter embraces the opportunity to teach a variety of biology courses — both introductory and specialized offerings.”
The 24/7 nature of the boarding school experience also means Rich has opportunity to work with students beyond the classroom. He spent 14 years living in Exeter’s dormitories, coached JV hockey for 26 years and is still involved with JV baseball.
“The advantage of being at a place like Exeter is that you get to see kids from different points of view. They’re different in a dorm versus a classroom setting, and we get to be part of that… Most of the personal relationships I’ve built with students over the years have come through the dorm and athletics. Knowing that I had some influence in their lives keeps me here.”