If you ask a KO student about the best part of KO, many will say “the teachers.” If you ask a teacher the same question, they are sure to respond “the students.” English teacher Ron Monroe is the epitome of a true KO teacher: fun-loving, caring, and invested in each student’s growth. As he put it, “KO is all about the people.” A veteran teacher, coach, advisor, administrator, and friend, Mr. Monroe has positively impacted the lives of so many people in the KO community. His retirement after a 35-year tenure is much-deserved and serves as a point of reflection for our school on the true legacy of a KO teacher.
At Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, Mr. Monroe received his BA in psychology. For most of his college years, Mr. Monroe had never considered a career in teaching until he had a career-defining experience in the summer before his senior year. “My idea about teaching came from this experience I had after my junior year in college, at an outdoor education camp on Cape Cod,” he shared. “I really, really loved it, and that’s what got me thinking about teaching.” At the camp, Mr. Monroe taught mini-classes held outdoors where students studied the environment.
While Mr. Monroe interviewed for many jobs out of college and heavily considered a career in business, teaching emerged as his true passion. Although he began teaching at KO in 1987, in his very first year out of college, Mr. Monroe taught fourth grade at the New Canaan Country School in New Canaan, Conn. Soon after, he began teaching English at the King School in Stamford, Conn., for eight years.
Across his teaching career at the King School, he taught both 6th and 10th grade English; he also concurrently began studying teaching and English on his own in graduate school to further his knowledge. He received his Master’s degree in education from Fairfield University and completed his Certificate of Advanced Study in English from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn
In 1987, Mr. Monroe stepped foot on KO’s campus, not knowing how many lives he would impact and how much light he would bring to the community. He began at KO teaching freshmen, juniors, and seniors, and he now teaches sophomores and seniors. “In my time here at KO, I’ve taught every grade except sixth,” he noted. Additionally, Mr. Monroe served as an advisor for both Middle and Upper School students throughout his tenure.
Mr. Monroe has held numerous coaching positions at KO, including boys varsity cross country and varsity football, but his heart always stayed with coaching Upper School girls basketball. “In all of my time here, I’ve been involved in girls basketball,” he said. “I started with the JV team, then I went to the varsity team for 23 years, and I’m ending with the JV team.”
In addition to being a teacher, coach, and advisor, Mr. Monroe has worn many administrative hats. He served as the English Department Chair for 12 years and Director of the Upper School from 2008 to 2012. Mr. Monroe is also the president of KO’s chapter of the Cum Laude Society and a faculty advisor for the Martin Nicholson Scholars program.
Mr. Monroe will miss teaching English, as it gives him the opportunity to help his students grow as learners as they come to know themselves. “It’s so much fun for me to work with such great adolescents that are open and willing to learn new things and to talk about literature,” Mr. Monroe reflected. “So much of the study of literature is a reminder of what it means to be human, and I think it’s really important that we read and learn about other narratives, other ways of looking at the world and points of view. The skills I have been able to teach students over the years in reading, thinking, speaking, and writing are skills that really translate to the rest of one’s life. It’s been a real pleasure of mine to be a small part of that over the years in my classroom, and that I’m going to miss.”
During his time at KO, Mr. Monroe’s favorite memory is not one moment, but a common epiphany that he witnesses day to day: the “aha” moment. “It’s that moment,” he described, “whether it’s in my class, on the basketball court, or in any kind of environment in the school that I’ve been a part of. It’s when a student has that little epiphany, that moment of growth where they are not only learning something new but learning something new about themselves: when they are aware of their possibilities for the first time. Whether I’m a part of that or simply get to be witness to that, it is so special to me. They’re small epiphanies, but they’re so important.”
Mr. Monroe admires his students’ willingness to try, both on the basketball court and in the classroom, and seeing their growth is the most rewarding part of his job. “A productive life is one where there are those small epiphanies all along the way,” he said.
Looking ahead at retirement, Mr. Monroe is most looking forward to having the time to pursue his personal interests. In addition, he is also excited to travel and spend time with friends and family. He insightfully noted that being a teacher has given him a better picture of what retirement will look like. “Teaching is a great profession in so many ways, but in terms of retirement, the summers are kind of like a little practice for retirement,” he said with a laugh. “You get this expanse of time, and I’ve never found myself twiddling my thumbs not having anything to do, so I’m confident that I’ll do that in retirement, and I’ll find new interests and ideas that I want to pursue.”
In addition, Mr. Monroe noted that he is looking forward to giving back to his community during his retirement through volunteer work. “As much as I could certainly see myself staying here even longer, because it’s a wonderful place, I also wanted to be able to step aside to try these new things while I still can,” Mr. Monroe reflected. “One thing I’ve learned over the years of living is that life is finite, as is my better health. I enjoy very good health now and I hope to continue to, but I don’t want to assume that and so I want to make sure I have the opportunity to do some of the things I’ve been wanting to do.”
Mr. Monroe is truly a one-of-a-kind teacher, and his lessons impact his students for years beyond his classroom. “English 4 honors with Mr. Monroe has been one of the best classes I have taken at KO,” sophomore Georgia Louis commented. “He is able to create a line between fun and learning which makes English so much more enjoyable. I’ll be sad to see Mr. Monroe leave, but I’m so glad I got to be taught by him at least once.”
Mr. Monroe implores students to enjoy these high school years and take time to do the things they love. “Make time for fun,” he advised. “Students are so busy and driven, and they can be interested in so many different things. I hope they can make time to relax and to have fun for themselves. One thing I like about teaching is that it keeps me youthful, and I kind of get that through the osmosis of being around young people – part of that has to do with allowing time for play and finding those moments of fun. Make sure you’re continuing to do that. Don’t think when you’re 25 or 30 that you can’t have fun anymore. Keep that up, because it’s so important.”
Reflecting on his 35 years at KO, Mr. Monroe will most miss the people. “The connections, the friendships with my colleagues, being able to see students grow and develop through the years and taking some sort of gratification in that, it has all been terrific,” he noted gratefully. “Much more than I could have ever hoped for when I entered this profession 44 years ago.”
While KO won’t be the same without Mr. Monroe, it will forever be better because of him. We wish Mr. Monroe nothing but joy, relaxation, and fun in his retirement!