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Faculty Hall of Fame: Jill Walker and Tom Broderick

Reno's Northwood Teachers' Hall of Fame

What better time than the holidays and New Year to induct two of the most generous teachers that I have ever met? For about five decades between them, Jill Walker and Tom Broderick have been giving all of themselves to their classes, administrative responsibilities, extracurricular contributions, and most importantly, to the students who value their friendship and advice.

Jill Walker

Jill's impact on our science students' education has been immeasurable. Alumni invariably list her biology classes as among their favorites at the school.  I wouldn't be surprised to hear from her students that I didn't do her justice. In 400 words or so, I will do my best. 

When Jill teaches, she unlocks the mysteries of the human body's complex systems with a wonderful combination of wit and reverence. Her classes are somehow all business and much fun. Nothing attests more to her impact than the number of doctors and nurses among her former students, who are all quick to acknowledge how she fostered their love of science. Just as importantly, she has done much of the heavy lifting as the department grows in its offerings. Her development of our Advanced STEM Research Program has given our students a chance to explore a particular scientific topic they are passionate about. The EE Ford Foundation gave Northwood a substantial grant to enhance this offering after watching last year's students make their year-end presentations.

Jill lives the philosophy that guides her teaching: I hope that when students leave my class, they are more curious about the human body works and how we connect to the environment around us. I want them to find learning about the human body fun and interesting. Hopefully, even if they never study it again, if they hear something interesting in a conversation or on the news, they will want to learn more. If this happens, I can be happy about the work I have done. Typical of Jill, when I asked her about the highlights of her teaching, she recounted stories about the accomplishments of her students. The list was too long to include here, but in most cases suggested how the character traits of these forty young men and women she mentioned pushed her to become a better teacher by virtue of their extra effort and passion for learning.

As with many great teachers, her excellence in the classroom suggested to headmasters that it might be a great idea to lessen her classroom responsibilities so she could become a part-time administrator. To be fair, Jill was a great Dean of Faculty. She had our respect and attention. And she never forgot that she was a colleague first and an administrator second, and she never lost her sense of humor. In her case, that is probably too substantial an item for her to lose. Jill, you are awesome.

Tom Broderick

Since 1988, Tom Broderick has been an ebullient presence in those places and activities that make Northwood Northwood. From our opening day orientation's Brodypalooza to the Olympic Arena to the classroom to the Innovation Hub to quiet conversations with students seeking his advice, Brody has filled numerous roles, not the least of which is our stentorian Master of Ceremonies, whether at weekday school meetings or all-school events. 

In his three decades here, Brody has undergone a remarkable transition as a classroom teacher. In his early days as an instructor of US History, he was, by his own account, the "sage on a stage." Now, particularly in his Entrepreneurship classes, he is "the guide on the side." No more heavy emphasis on memorization (100 history terms a week) and three-hour final exams, but a commitment to giving agency to students as they "find relevant content and self-direct their work and use design thinking to problem solve." What hasn't changed is the high standard he sets for himself and his students and the expectation that "success is tied to hard work." No matter what he's taught (Ethics, Government, Innovation, and Design, to name a few), his own commitment never flags. 

Outside the classroom, Brody has coached both boys' and girls' hockey, soccer, and lacrosse with great results. His energy and fire become part of the ethos of every team he coaches. His players feel a responsibility to him. Beyond being History Department Chair, he has been Head of Residential Life, Dean of Students, Assistant and Associate Head of School, and Director of the Annual Fund.

His excellence in all those roles can be attributed to his most obvious trait – passion. His competitiveness blends with his dedication and loyalty to push him to maximum effort in all he does and, in doing so, to get the best out of others. Like all great leaders, he also conveys the depth of care he has for those working with him. He is the ultimate teammate, captain, and mentor.