School NewsJun 16, 2022
— updated Jun 16, 2022
Sue Lovell Retiring
A serious teacher who embraces fun in the classroom
Teaching Science, Sue Lovell explains, is fun. It stands to reason then, that learning science should be fun. Three decades of Sue’s students would likely agree.
However, Sue’s fun in the classroom is coming to an end. She is retiring and wrapping up 31 years at MHS and 32 overall as an educator.
“I was teaching at a school in New York State, but it was temporary, for a teacher on maternity leave,” Sue says of her path to Miss Hall’s. “One day, a teacher who lived near Pittsfield saw an ad in The Berkshire Eagle, and she brought it in to me, and I applied. The rest is history.”
Sue joined MHS in 1991 and guestimates she has taught some 20 different courses — AP Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Biology, Chemistry, Introductory Physics, and Physics, and among them. This year, for the first time, she taught math, adding Algebra I to her resume, proof that she’s always game for tackling something new.
Chair of the Science Department from 1996 to 2016, Sue was a campus resident for about 12 years and has served on countless MHS committees. She has been a member of several visiting committees for NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditations, and, for several years, has graded Advanced Placement Biology essays for the College Board.
In 2019, she was the recipient of the Paternotte Family Travel Grant, traveling to the Galapagos Islands. There, she followed in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, studying biodiversity in the face of climate change, invasive species, and ecosystem decay.
“That was the trip of a lifetime,” she says. “I had been talking about it for years and to have that opportunity was amazing.”
Something else Sue talked about for years was the need for a new science building on campus. It was a mission she took on shortly after the School completed the Anne Meyer Cross ’37 Athletic Center and the Humes Euston Hall Library in 2001.
“Between that time and until we built Linn Hall, it was constant,” Sue notes of her advocacy. “In fact, I became pretty irritating to Jeannie and Jenny,” she adds, referencing former Head of School Jeannie Norris and former Dean of Students and Assistant Head of School Jenny Chandler. Along the way, Sue has also been an advocate for on-campus housing.
“Science teachers have the best toys, and we play with those toys while learning science concepts, and I enjoy the ‘a-ha’ moments. For me, teaching is fun.”
Both were realized with the 2016 opening of Linn Hall and the new residence hall. “I’m almost glad we did not get the building in 2000 because it would already be outdated by now,” Sue admits. “Now, we have building that’s really built for the future.”
It’s that ever-changing nature of science that appeals to Sue.
“The biology we taught in 1991 isn’t anything like the biology we’re teaching today,” she explains. “Back then, it was plants and animals. Now, it’s DNA and biotechnology.”
How science is taught has also changed.
Thirty years ago, it was a lot of lecturing, notes on the board, and testing based on those notes and the textbook,” she adds. “We had ‘lab days’ with specific labs that supported the notes on the board. Now, it’s much more organic. Instead of labs designed to get to a certain solution, they are much more open-ended, inquiry-based projects. We also use a lot more technology, which is great for all different kinds of learners, and we don’t have ‘lab days’ anymore. Every day is fun-in-the-classroom day.”
The fun is amplified by Sue’s enthusiasm for teaching 9th-graders, which she has done from the get-go at MHS.
“They make so much progress in one year,” she explains. “It’s exciting to see, and it’s fun to be a part of, and they’re also pretty funny, both when they mean to be and when they don’t mean to be. They’re energetic, and they can be challenging. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows.”
For years, one of Sue’s favorite projects was examining the Holmes Road and Williams Street intersection down the road from MHS with her 9th grade Physics students.
“We’d take measurements and record the timing of the stoplight, how long it took to stop, and the speed on the road,” Sue explains. “We would run the physics, and prove it was an unsafe intersection. We sent the mayor of Pittsfield a letter every year, and it was 10 years before we got a response. Then they fixed the intersection, so we couldn’t do that experiment anymore.”
But, for every successful experiment, there are plenty of others that don’t go as expected — and that’s the whole point, explains Sue.
“Labs don’t work out all the time, because things that are supposed to happen in a perfect physics model don’t happen in real life,” she says. “That’s part of learning. If everything worked perfectly every time, that’s no fun. What’s the fun in that?”
In retirement, Sue plans to do a lot of reading (science fiction, no doubt), traveling to visit her 12 grandchildren, spending more time with family — daughter Melissa is a nurse in Berkshire County and sons Joe and Mike are both lawyers in Florida — and doing some political activism. She would also like to return to London, which she first visited on MHS school trips in the ’90s.
Looking back on her career, Sue appreciates the opportunity to be a part of the MHS community. “One of the things I have most enjoyed over the years are my colleagues, both teaching and non-teaching,” she notes. “They have been a remarkably professional, fun, and dedicated bunch of adults to work with.”
And, of course, she will miss the students.
“What I like most about teaching is interaction with the kids,” she adds. “Science teachers have the best toys, and we play with those toys while learning science concepts, and I enjoy the ‘a-ha’ moments. For me, teaching is fun.”