The full impact of a North Fork education only dawns on students after they experience college classes.
1. "What about NFS has not influenced my college experience? Where would I even be without NFS?"
“Surely, I never would have learnt to think very well. Any inherent artistic talent would have been wasted on simplistic themes and ideas. I would not read to expand myself, but merely to distract myself. North Fork — I say this with perfect honestly — created me as a thinker. It created the structure by which I LEARN. And learning is the most important thing an individual can do.
Perhaps more tangibly, North Fork is the reason I have taken college classes that have really expanded my perspective on the world. It taught me that I should strive to excel in the most difficult classes, because that is where I will learn the most. The measurable outcome of that on my career is quite clear.
More tangibly, even, I learned how to write and to speak. It is astonishing how few people in college can write properly. Thoughts do not cohere, words are spelled or used incorrectly, and a mere two pages of double-spaced text seems an insurmountable feat. The vocabulary, usage, technical ability, and thought-generation skills hammered into my head at North Fork will never leave.
I now will always be able to express myself coherently and with less-than-average effort; if ever I am writing eleven NIH grants (as is the head of the lab I work in) these skills will prove vital. In fact, on Friday I submitted a grant proposal of my own; despite never yet having set foot in a lab, my PI declared it to be one of the best undergraduate proposals he has seen.
Before North Fork, I could not express myself verbally very well; I talked a lot, but this is not the same as speaking well. At North Fork I learned to develop ideas in my head while speaking and, then, vocalize them in a coherent and convincing manner.
As an engineer in a rapidly-developing field, I will constantly need to convince others that my ideas are sound. Life is but an accumulation of moments, isolated from both past and future. What I learned at North Fork is now so fundamental to my mind that it influences EVERY decision I make in EVERY moment.
Unlike many educational institutions, North Fork does not teach structures or patterns. As T.S. Eliot asserts:
"There is. . . limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment,
and every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been.”
Instead of imposing structures, the NFS curriculum teaches students to constantly make connections and realize, in every moment, a valuation of the universe.”
— Gerrit Egnew,
North Fork & MDHS class of 2013
Montana State University, 2018
“Being at North Fork allowed me to discover how to learn, why to learn, and to love it.”
— Gerrit Egnew, class of 2012
“You showed me how to love poetry and literature. More importantly you forced me to write my first poems. You took these art forms which felt completely inaccessible to me and showed me how to begin unraveling their intricacies for myself. You will always be inextricably associated with my experience of written expression.
On a related note, you were the first person in an academic setting who had the opportunity and the skill to train me to see things in a new way. For instance, instilling a lifelong love of poetry in a kid who thinks he can't write. It was HARD for me. And your example became the foundation for my dedication to things that are hard to grasp or engage with.
For instance, I started playing the cello about 4 years ago and it's as hard as anything I've ever done. The fingerboard, a blank canvas, is so nebulous. Hewing some familiarity out of it took me years of horrible playing, and creating a world of possibilities on that empty fingerboard has made my heart so full. To my knowledge, reading and writing with you were the first prolonged experiences where I was continually confronted with these challenges, with this expansion of my awareness and abilities. Your image is woven into the love/hate sort of grit that I muster in my methodical dedications to music, writing, science, etc.”
— Danny Kaiser ‘12
2. "North Fork was my only indication that education doesn’t have to be absolute misery."
“I just wanted to thank you again for the years at North Fork. As I finish up my last essays and assignments before [college] graduation next month, the writing skills that I acquired (sometimes so agonizingly) through thousands of line edits and hundreds of drafts during 8 years at North Fork continue to deliver.
Yesterday I got a graded essay back from one of the [Syracuse] journalism school’s most respected professors — a former dean who, among other things, sometimes serves on the Pulitzer Prize jury. He attached a one-page written response to my paper, and one of the notes was: “You must have had some excellent writing teachers along the way.”
He said mine was the best paper he received from the class of 90 students (all seniors in the journalism school). I am also getting A’s on my essays for a 700-level anthropology seminar, and last weekend I presented a paper at a graduate history conference at Rutgers.
My professor’s remark about excellent writing teachers along the way reminded me of you, of course, since you are one of the only writing teachers I have had along the way and certainly the most important. I don’t hesitate to credit my love of writing and my ability to write well to you and to my overall experience at North Fork.
[On applying to graduate schools in anthropology]: Who could have guessed that I would feel free and inspired by the prospect of a life in academia? Though the problem was never learning, it was (and is) sitting through classes being bored to the point of physical pain and being made to do senseless, tedious tasks. North Fork was my only indication that education doesn’t have to be absolute misery. Now almost all my classes are like North Fork, and I expect graduate school to be even better. A dream! ”
— Kathryn Pope,
North Fork & MDHS class of 2009
Syracuse University, 2013
3. "Thank you for showing me what passion is."
“I want to tell you how much I have appreciated your teaching and benefited from your instruction at the North Fork School. In one year, you taught me how to write persuasively, read analytically, and edit endlessly.
I learned that writing well isn’t necessarily an innate skill — it takes lots of hard work. But in your class, I never dreaded the heavy work load or intensive class sessions. Each time we met, I became engrossed in the material or discussion. This is what learning should be all about.
After taking English at the North Fork School my sophomore year, I went back to the high school to take College Writing, Journalism, and Advanced Placement English, a college-level course. In each of these three classes, I used information I learned from you at the North Fork School.
"I acquired a set of skills that have not only helped me to become a better student, but have helped me to become a more motivated, organized, and confident person."
“Last night I was packing up my room and found my old North Fork binders, so I decided to go through them and take out the pieces that were meaningful to me. I had so much fun going through all of the poems, short stories, and essays. My mom was working downstairs as I was looking through everything, and I kept interrupting her to read her the pieces I was finding.
On top of that, I got my final grades back [from WWU] for the past quarter and I am proud to say that I finished the quarter with a 4.0. This is especially exciting because I am finally in all education classes; the more I learn the more beneficial it will be to my future career.
“Innovative ‘Agile’ methodology is the leading edge in business today. This iterative critical process requires flexibility to revise and self-correct working drafts. It is essentially THE North Fork way. Like my fellow NFS alumni at Google and Uber, I use this core technique daily, helping Fortune 500 clients deliver value with speed."
— Alina Everett, Cornell Johnson School of Business MBA candidate; previously at Slalom Consulting, Boston MA. North Fork/Thacher School ’08; Dartmouth College ’12
“North Fork enriched my public school education, and set me up for college success. Nearly twenty years later, I so appreciate my NFS education. We worked hard, very hard. We read closely and critically, wrote draft after draft, and received extensive teacher feedback. This committed practice trained us into much better writers, thinkers, and learners.”— Laura Bechdel, Director of Studies, Alzar School. North Fork/MDHS '01; University of Puget Sound '06; MAT Westminster College '12
I received a 95% on my AP English final, which was two essays (one I got a 100% on). I am just proud of that, and owe some of the credit to you. At the end of the year, I was selected to be co-salutatorian with Sean Gould, and we wrote our speech together.
I also used my writing knowledge when applying for college. From college essays to scholarship essays, I felt comfortable writing about myself. I truly feel my North Fork School experience played a large role in my acceptance to all four colleges to which I applied.
Thank you for showing me what passion is.”
— Laura Bechdel, Director of Studies, Alzar School. North Fork/MDHS '01 (Salutatorian); University of Puget Sound '06; MAT Westminster College '12
I guess what I am saying is that it has been especially apparent these last couple of days how beneficial North Fork was to my education. I feel like North Fork went much further past merely educating me. Through North Fork I acquired a set of skills that have not only helped me to become a better student, but have helped me to become a more motivated, organized, and confident person.
I was accepted into Woodring College of Education as of spring quarter last year and have fallen in love with the early childhood special education program. For the past year I have worked at the Child Development Center on campus in the two year-old classroom and simply love it. I love going to work and being greeted by 12 little ones say “Ms. Kesley, Ms. Kesley!”and rushing to give me a hug.
I have reached a point where I am so satisfied with life and I honestly can say that North Fork has been a huge asset towards my getting to this point. ”
— Kelsey Mack, class of 2009
"During my first semester as a freshman at the University of San Francisco, I was enrolled in an Honors English class reserved for incoming students who had in high school received a “4” or “5” (the highest grades) on their AP English exams. The class focused on exploring ways in which modern technology either has or has not improved how people today learn and gain knowledge.
For our first major assignment, I wrote an essay defending the reading of historical texts. For the class following the turn-in date of this assignment, my professor had run photocopies of my essay for my classmates to read as an example of the kind and quality of writing he was looking for. I received an “A” on the assignment, and very quickly became the go-to editor and proofreader of my peers’ papers.
In reading their essays, I often found basic grammar and syntax-related errors, errors that I had learned to avoid because of the intensive editing process emphasized in my NFS classes. I definitely credit my strong writing and academic success in large part to my education at the North Fork School.”
— Kirsten Wiking, English teacher, Japan Exchange and Teaching Program(me) (JET) Iwamizawa, Hokkaido
North Fork/MDHS ’09; Marlboro College ’14
“I just wanted to express how thankful I am for North Fork and your incredible teaching. I am currently working for a start-up online company in the East Bay and thriving in this business environment because of my solid writing skills. The Community Manager has me edit everyone’s blog post, even my boss’s.
We also went through an intense two week period of renaming the company and developing our core messaging. Thanks to all of our poetry and essay analysis, I felt extremely comfortable discussing positive and negative connotations associated with words and phrases, while providing crucial input and revision advice. I’m pretty shocked at how few editing skills people possess and feel beyond blessed that North Fork ingrained, maybe even pounded, quality editing techniques into my consciousness. Even though, during my sophomore year in High School I wanted to torch my Word Smart, I now have the clarity to look back and foster deep appreciation for all of our classes together.”
— Katie McDaniel, class of 2009; Prescott College, 2014
"I don't know if Hattie has gotten in touch with you yet after her graduation from St. Lawrence U. It does not seem possible that 4 years have gone by since her days in North Fork and MDHS. The writing skills that you helped her to develop were so important at SLU and gave her confidence in her writing ability. She had a piece that was accepted for the SLU spring '18 literary magazineYou were very right about how important those writing skills would be in college and it amazing how unprepared many students are."
—Dave Geist, father of Hattie, NFS '14 and MDHS Salutatorian; St. Lawrence University, 2018
“Gymnasium here is much more serious business than high school in America. The classes remind me more of North Fork than of high school; students are graded fifty percent on participation and fifty percent on monthly essay-exams in all the subjects.
I think that English in the thirteenth grade here is much more advanced than anything at MDHS. We read like, Tennessee Williams and George Orwell and must compare and contrast the texts with respect to the American Dream, things like that.
Anyway, the English teacher loves me, and my telling her that I went to private school for English validated all of her worst suspicions about the American public school system. She said something to the effect of, “You are the first exchange student I have ever known in fifty years of teaching who actually KNOWS something. I knew you couldn’t have gone to public school. I KNEW it.” So funny. She is a very strict little German lady with a very proper British accent.”
— Kathryn Pope, class of 2009, from her Germany Rotary Exchange program in 2008. Kathryn now attends law school in Seattle, WA