While the long-awaited summer will finally bring warm weather and time away from school, the end of the school year will be a bittersweet moment for the community, as it marks Mr. Henson’s departure.
Though Mr. Henson is leaving St. Luke’s, he will not be retiring. He will remain a teacher, but he will have a new group of students: young, underprivileged children who attend Title 1 schools – schools with large concentrations of low-income students – in Sarasota, Florida. Prior to continuing his educational work, Mr. Henson will spend his summer pursuing his passions: helping others, woodworking, (possibly) writing a book, and soaking up the Florida sun.
“My father and his wife funded an educational program down in Sarasota, Florida starting about eight years ago. They piloted a program for Title 1 schools … they didn’t have preschools and some of them didn’t even have kindergarten. The results and the positive effect of the program on the students were phenomenal. My father was getting older and he wondered if I could help him run the foundation, so it was a tremendous opportunity to help people and to also move down to the warmer climate,” says Henson.
Mr. Henson has had the opportunity to experience all that St. Luke’s has to offer on multiple levels: as a student, parent, and teacher on campus. He came to the Hilltop as a junior in 1972 and graduated in 1974. He returned 32 years later, and after years of serving as an Alumni Director, he became a 7th and 8th grade English teacher. During his time as a teacher, he also welcomed his two sons, Jack ‘11 and Elliot ‘13, to the school.
He remembers the great moments that he experienced as an SLS parent and teacher. He describes that one of his favorite memories on campus was watching his sons play during home games representing the school.
“My sons played sports from 7th to 12th grade,” he explains, and adds that he also was a coach for the baseball and basketball teams.
Some of the moments that he will always remember include singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” at a choir concert and watching students transform during the Decatur Declamations.
Additionally, because of his unique opportunity to get to know St. Luke’s for over 47 years, he explains that there are two aspects of the school that he would like to see change in the future.
“The first is a different type of class that deals more with self-reflection than how to express it. I really believe that kids today are so busy, and so programed, and also ambitious at school taking Honors [and] AP [classes] and [playing] outside sports. They don’t often have time to really process everything that they are going through, so this would be a different class here that doesn’t have academic goals and [instead] has personal goals,” he explains.
For example, he stresses that rising seniors should take the College Writing workshop, which was formerly run by himself, Ms. Bell, Mr.Vehslage, and Mr. Martin, because students will learn about their own story. He hopes that the emphasis on self-reflection seen in the summer course is incorporated into other classes offered to Upper School students.
His second wish is that “we [as a school] . . . encourage and possibly enable more students to take a gap year. My sons went to high school and straight to college. They sought internships and jobs over the summer. No adventures, meaning they go somewhere far away and off of the beaten path. The cliché version would be backpacking in Europe. Some of the smartest, and happiest, and wisest people I know, did gap years.”
While Mr. Henson is not taking a gap year or a self-reflection course himself, he will have time to think deeply and possibly write stories. His story of Macanudo and his compelling meditations are just some of the stories he plans to write about in the future.
“I really want to write a book and short stories. I want to write some of the stories that I have told here into a book… I really love stories, telling them, and learning them. I don’t think that I am going to stop doing that,” he adds.
As we look out for a future book by Mr. Henson, he wants the SLS community to know that he will miss us greatly and he will be sure to visit. Farewell, and we will miss you, Mr. Henson!