A Joyous Fifty Years: Frank Dippery
Annie A. Lockhart
Posted June 9, 2011
With the conclusion of the 2010-2011 academic year, Frank Dippery P’85, P’88, P’93 concludes his 50th year of teaching, 39 of which have been at The Hun School of Princeton. When asked what kept him teaching for so long, his answer is simple, “I enjoy working with the kids. I enjoy seeing them understand things and see things in a way they never did before.” English teacher, advisor of the early American woodworking group in his beginning years at The Hun School, advisor for the yearbook for 28 years, and for many years the host of a July 4th picnic for summer school students at his farm: these are but only a few ways in which Mr. Dippery has had the privilege of working with students in and out of the classroom.
As Mr. Dippery watches students grow, he enjoys hearing about their life after high school. “It’s nice when the kids come back to visit. I like to hear about their accomplishments and know that they are doing well.” He tells about a recent E-mail he received from a student he taught at Princeton High School prior to his tenure at The Hun School. “The kid ran away from home for a short time and ended up having to live with me for about a week. We keep in touch from time to time through E-mail. His daughter just graduated from college and she wants to teach. It’s nice to hear the updates about the students and their children. I love seeing people doing well and helping them along the way.”
Much has changed in the five decades Mr. Dippery has been teaching. He notes that the most dramatic changes within the classroom are a result of advanced technology. “It’s nice to not have to decipher students’ handwriting anymore,” he jokes. He states how technology helps students to produce more and access more information. As a result, more can be demanded of them. Another change Mr. Dippery sees between the kids of the 60s and 70s compared to the kids of today is a wider variety of experiences and opportunities. “Not only do they know more about the world because of easier access to information, but they are involved in so many more things and are interested in doing so many things.”
As Mr. Dippery reflects on the changes in students he notes exciting physical modifications over the years at The Hun School. “It’s been really nice to see the upgrades and additions to our physical structure. The more facilities we have for kids, the more we can do for them. We’ve also added a lot of electives to the curriculum, especially the arts, and that has been nice. It’s nice to be able to offer a wide variety of activities for a group that seeks a wide variety of activities when other schools have been cutting back.”
Yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same. “Even with all the differences in abilities, they are still kids. They have a lot more of the electronics and different tools, but they have the same worries about their future. They still get tense for a quiz; they still get bored, if class is boring. They may have different things and more experiences, but they have the same concerns.”
In addition to being an English teacher, Mr. Dippery served as chair of the English department and is currently the director of junior and senior academic programs. The change from full-time teacher to administrator has been a mixed blessing. “I love the classroom and the type of connection that only happens in the classroom, and I miss getting more of that. But I get to connect with the kids in different ways. I’ve also gotten to work with faculty. They are great! I love talking with other faculty and figuring out ways to help the kids in a broader way.”
While many things have changed during his tenure as a teacher, as he looks toward the future of education, he believes one thing will always remain the same. He said, “At the end of the day, it will always be about the relationships of teachers and students in the classroom. When I started teaching everyone said that the classroom teacher would soon be a thing of the past and different models came and went. But we will still have teachers in classrooms. With all the new technology, we fear that kids will become text people instead of talk people, but education is a way to keep kids talking. I imagine that if you visit The Hun School in ten years many things will be different, but the core will remain the same—teachers will be connecting with kids.” Connecting with kids is what Mr. Dippery has loved the most throughout his teaching tenure and the reason that he has a joyous 50 years doing just that.