Lawrence Academy Announces Graduation Speakers

Pamela Nwaoko ‘06 will keynote LA’s 225th commencement exercises

As the school eagerly anticipates Lawrence Academy’s 225th commencement exercises, we are excited to announce that Pamela Nwaoko ’06 will be Lawrence Academy’s 2018 Commencement Speaker.

Pamela Nwaoko '06

Pamela Nwaoko ’06

A member of LA’s Class of 2006, Pamela was born and raised in New Jersey to Nigerian immigrant parents. While in Groton, Pamela engaged in a diverse set of co-curricular activities, including directing a One Act play, founding of one of LA’s first affinity groups, working with students and faculty to develop the Cultural Coffeehouse Series, and, on the weekends, spending much quality time in the library.

After graduating from Lawrence Academy, Pamela attended Georgetown University, the University of Oxford, and Harvard Law School. At Georgetown, she was named a Top Ten College Woman by Glamour Magazine, a Goldman Sachs “Global Leader,” and she addressed her graduating class as a Senior Convocation Speaker. She attended Oxford on a full-tuition scholarship as a Healy Scholar and was recognized during Harvard’s Commencement Ceremony with the Dean’s Award for Community Leadership.

Ms. Nwaoko now practices law in Washington, DC at the multinational law firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, representing and advising national and international financial institutions.

“I am excited for the opportunity to return to where my challenging, yet rewarding, educational journey began,” said Nwaoko. “I look forward to meeting the class of 2018!”

Head of School Dan Scheibe will lead the proceedings on June 1 on the Lawrence Academy Quad. Joining Pamela at the podium will be Class of 2018 president Gavin Slattery and peer-selected senior speakers AJ Mastrangelo and Jorie Van Nest.

Sean Sheehan ’87: Finding the Best Fit

SheehanFrameGrab

Like most faculty on the Lawrence Academy campus, Sean Sheehan wears many hats: Director of LA College Counseling, history teacher, varsity football coach, assistant boys’ varsity hockey coach, and advisor.

To cap it all off (no pun intended) he is also an alum, having graduated in 1987.

It’s not about the job…

“I’d have to go back to when I was a student here,” Mr. Sheehan said when asked about his decision to become an educator.

“I was really amazed at how much time and energy the teachers invested in me, which made a huge difference in my development as a student.

“So, when I was in college and started to think about what careers might be attractive to me, I kept coming back to the impact that some of the adults in the Lawrence community had on me,” he said.

Mr. Sheehan remembers, as a student, “one of my former coaches coming over to my house during the summer to have dinner with my parents to explain how the whole college process would work, because no one in my family had ever gone to college.”

This action on his coach’s part stuck with him.

“I was like, wow, this person…this isn’t about his job, he really cares about people, and I think that’s where Lawrence Academy — if you go back to our mission — we really live it: we meet each kid where they are, and then really try to make them better, in all areas of their life here.”

Transformations

Today, Sean finds himself coaching, teaching and providing the same level of guidance and encouragement he received from his coach so many years ago. In the process, he has witnessed and experienced his fair share of transformations.

“We had this one young man,” he recollected, “and I remember when he graduated, he was sitting on his bed crying.  And I said, ‘What’s up?’, and he said, ‘I can’t put into words how much this place has changed my life.’

“And if you’d known this student as a freshman; he was struggling in the classroom. However, through his hard work and the investment of the adults in him, he was a first-generation kid going to college—it completely transformed his life.

“So, I think that’s the cool thing when you get to see five hundred other stories like that,” he said.

In the college office, Mr. Sheehan emphasizes, “what we’re trying to have kids figure out is, what’s the best fit for you academically, socially, extracurricularly, and then let’s explore some options where you’re going to be able to continue your growth.”

The fact that Mr. Sheehan is also able to teach history and coach multiple seasons is something that he sees as a major asset to his work as a college counselor.

“When I get a student who becomes my counselee in the college office, most likely I’ve either taught that student or I’ve coached them, so I get to know them in a real genuine, authentic way,” he explained. “So, when it comes time for me to write about them and advise them, I’m coming from a position of really knowing the student in a much different, probably deeper way.”

Broadening Horizons

In a way, Mr. Sheehan has been able to connect his expertise in history, which he majored in at Bowdoin, to the kind of work that occurs in the college office; the two seem to complement each other well.

“I love thinking about the past and how it informs what’s going on in our world today,” he said. “But I think even more important than just history, as I often tell the kids, [is that] it’s a great way for them to learn how to write well, how to communicate well, and how to create arguments and back them up with evidence.”

Reflection, self-awareness, communication: in the college search, as well as in the classroom, it all goes into expanding and broadening student horizons.

by Allie Goodrich ’13

One in a series of occasional features on Lawrence Academy faculty…

Eliza Foster: At the Intersection…

Groton, MA — Academic experiences that stay with you are hard to quantify; you’ll often find them outside “direct systematic instruction.” When history and English teacher Eliza Foster reflected on her school years at the Academic Awards Assembly on Wednesday, September 20, she emphasized this point.

“I want to tell you about my 23 years in school in a way that represents where my best learning has happened,” she said. “And by ‘best learning,’ I don’t mean every academic success or accomplishment.

“I’d like to tell you about the kind of learning that has actually made me who I am.  The kind of learning that is exhausting, overwhelming, but also makes me feel more alive than anything else.”

The How and Where

For Ms. Foster, this kind of learning is not so much about the “what” as it is about the how and where.

“As I thought of these moments, I realized that they all had something in common,” she continued. “They all happened at the intersection of so many factors other than just the process of giving or receiving systematic instruction.

“The best way I can explain this to you is by telling you about two places where I constantly feel like my brain is on fire:  Bread Loaf, which is my graduate school program, and LA.”

Perhaps most rewarding is the connection between her time at Middlebury’s Bread Loaf Graduate School of English and LA has shaped itself into a kind of positive feedback loop.

“This system actually works in both ways for me,” she said. “Being a student in the summer makes me a better teacher, and being a teacher makes me a better student.

“My experience as a teacher in the classroom is something I can’t separate from my best learning moments. I teach because I love reading, writing, and thinking with you all…and that’s because of what you bring every day.”

Final Draft

After a seven-week struggle with a creative assignment during her first summer at Bread Loaf, Ms. Foster remembered standing before the printer, “watching the ink hit the page” of her final draft.

“I wrote much of that assignment at a picnic table with three of my classmates,” she recollected.  “The moment I watched my work print was surrounded by all the moments before it—all of the relationships to the people, and to this place.

“That’s the kind of learning that has shaped who I am.”

by Allie Goodrich ’13

One in a series of occasional features on Lawrence Academy faculty…