Today the spotlight is on alumnus and Dean of Boys Matt Bartek!
Q: How long have you been teaching at Trinity?
A: Lord help us all, I am now in my 17th year of teaching at TSGL. Add my 6 years as a student, and you get…a long, long time that I have been here on this campus. I came right from my teaching practicum at Marian High School to Trinity School. They couldn’t keep me away. It really is hard to believe that it’s been that many years… What a place!
Q: What’s your favorite “Trinity” memory?
A: I have been blessed and cursed with a horrible memory over the years, especially as the Dean of Boys. My favorite memory…that’s a challenge for me. This will sound a bit cheesy, but there are so many little victories and triumphs around here that it is hard to focus on just one. On the faculty side, there are moments of unexpected joy… like a faculty member strapping ice packs to themselves during graduation to stay cool, or faculty seminars where we prove that teachers can consistently make some of the most ornery students. Even last year when the faculty sang at Fine Arts Night, that was something special for our whole school community. At least once a semester I will have the boys tell me a story that just makes me laugh out loud about our life together. Or the time I taught ninth grade girls and some cried when I told them the story of my daughter being born. The same story to the boys just made them cringe. I cherish memories of our students battling through challenge, showing their grit, making a change. Every year at graduation, when I look out at our seniors, it is pretty moving to think how far they have come, where they are going and what they have done. The evolution from “sevie" to senior is a wild ride to be a part of academically. I’ll never forget how our students have responded to things as serious as the loss of a family member, or loss of a teacher like Katy McShane, or to the the joy of finding out their new sibling was finally born. Or when a student pulls me aside after class and tells me about what’s on their mind or what they thought about something I said, and it just stops you in your tracks and makes you realize how different and wonderful each of these students really are. I love those moments when you walk away from an encounter and think: we have amazing young people here who are at the start of something tremendous. Of course it is not always flowers and sunshine, but when these moments happen, it’s pure joy.
Q: What are you reading these days?
A: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham…it’s a good Jefferson biography. I try to start every morning with a poem in my inbox…off of Writer’s Almanac. Of course we all have Steinbeck’s East of Eden open right now for our faculty seminar. I love to carve out a little time with the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times…whichever has a sweet subscription deal running! It usually only happens on extended breaks, but how great is it to hold an actual newspaper and read about the world?!?!
Q: What’s your favorite food?
A. If I’m stuck on an island and had to choose just one type…Mexican. Or…maybe Thai. I love to eat. Great food preparation is such a delight to be around with friends. I love the ritual of great meals.
Q: What music are you listening to?
A: I’m a U2 junkie. I remember being very young, it had to be sometime around 1983, and my older brother is playing this “Irish-Catholic punk-rock-band stuff…but they are serious about searching out their faith”-music in his room and I asked my brother what this magic was… The magic was U2’s War album and the rest is history. The first VHS home video that I ever saw was their concert “U2: Under a Blood Red Sky” at Red Rocks, CO. I think that was 1984. That was the day rock become real to me. Among many other things, I continue to appreciate the consistent poetry of their lyrics and the depth in their stuff. One of my favorite high school era memories involves a trip to see U2 with J Sanford (now Dr. J Sanford)…another story for another time. Even their most recent album, geez, it’s loaded with some fantastic tracks. The Miracle of Joey Ramone..are you kidding me? Or even Song for Someone? There is a great redemptive power in this stuff and a wonderful musical evolution in their sounds. They’ve had plenty of clinkers too. My kids love to listen to it now! Although my 5 year old son prefers to listen to The Black Keys on the way back from pre-school. (His Godfather and “Uncle Rich”, Trinity grads nonetheless, should be blamed for this.) That’s pretty sweet stuff though…and gives us a nice break when something on NPR gets to be rated PG-13. I have also been trying to dig into “Lover of the Light”, a very popular tune from Mumford & Sons, but it has some richness worth investigating. I’m pretty mesmerized by it right now. Add that all up, throw a serious dose of Bruce Springsteen, and you have about 98% of my playlists.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: My favorite “alone time” hobby has been running. I am not a fast runner, but I love getting out there, especially on the weekend long runs. It is prayer, meditation, therapy, peace, silence… all of it. It is my fix. I probably spend too much time on Friday daydreaming about the run on Sunday morning. My greatest treat of the week comes in that time right around sunrise and being out in the “church of the long run”. My wife is the real runner in the family, but she and I have been able to support each other in this time alone that we both need. The only slippery slope here is new running shoes….it is like candy to a sugar addict. Read: I love running shoes. I wish I had a new pair of shoes all the time. I think a dream job would be a running shoe road tester.
In the summer, you are likely to find me in our flower garden. Most of it is perennial, but takes up lots of energy. I always look forward to that first cut of flowers usually late June. I put those on the table each summer and just marvel at them and the variety the earth will produce. Better yet, I didn’t have to buy them at Martins! (N.B. I love Martins.)
Q: What do you do to continue learning?
A: As I tell my students, I like things simple, and this is the simplest answer I can give to this question: To continue learning I spend my days employed at Trinity School. It is a great place to be exposed to such amazing intellectual talent and adult friends at the same time. Hang around our faculty room long enough, and you’ll learn and learn and learn. I can admit that I wasn’t a strong student here at Trinity. I feel like I get a second chance at it as a teacher, almost daily. To that end, I feel like I am just now starting to get a hang of some, but not many, parts of teaching. Teaching teenagers on a regular basis will force you to learn. I cherish time to read quietly of course, although it proves so difficult to find that time. Some of my favorite learning time has come during accreditation school visits to other independent schools. There is nothing quite like watching others doing their craft in amazingly different ways. After a long day, a PBS Nova special or a TED Talk may be one of the most efficient ways for me to keep learning and unwind at the same time. It is always amazing when I tell other teacher friends at just about any level that we get together as a faculty to read and learn about a new topic each semester. Their jaws always drop and they wish they had that opportunity. It is consistent reminder of how good I have it here. And of course there is just working on listening: listen to our faculty and staff, listen to our students, listen to our musicians and our artists, and you will learn. That’s how I continue it most days.
Interested in reading more about our faculty? See more spotlight posts here: