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This year The Harley School welcomed Dr. Rob Selkowitz to our Upper School, where he guides students through the fascinating realm of Physics. With a wealth of experience and a deep-rooted enthusiasm for teaching, Dr. Selkowitz brings a unique blend of academic depth and hands-on engagement to the classroom.

Although his primary background has been in higher education, teaching at Harley has been on his family’s radar, so when the opportunity arose, Dr. Selkowitz was ready to see for himself if Harley was as special as he thought. 

During the interview process, one aspect of the Harley community that left a lasting impression on him was the presence of dogs on campus. His introduction to Harley included the happy circumstance of meeting Walter, our Food and Farm Coordinator Lisa Barker’s dog, who had a visible fondness for brussels sprouts. Any place where a sprout-loving dog was welcome was appealing to Rob. The distinct offerings at Harley, such as beekeeping—and, really, the entire Commons building and the unique classes therein—created a stimulating and inviting atmosphere that greatly appealed to Dr. Selkowitz, despite his preference for cats.

In the spirit of giving back to his new community, Dr. Selkowitz discovered papyrus plants when he moved into his home and brought them to Harley’s greenhouse where they are now a renewable educational resource for art (papermaking) and history (Middle School world history/Egypt unit).

Teaching in Harley’s Upper School is marked by a setting where students are genuinely enthusiastic and engaged in their learning. One aspect that consistently pleases Dr. Selkowitz is the maturity of his students. Reflecting on their level of maturity, he notes how many of them seem more grown-up than he was at their age. He appreciates the overall sense of responsibility and commitment displayed inside the classroom.

One standout experience for Dr. Selkowitz was a lab experiment he had been conducting for two decades at the college-level. It involved recognizing a piece of trigonometry, and making a crucial realization about measuring the angle of a ramp. Harley’s students not only grasped the concept faster than any in his past twenty years of teaching, but also outperformed college students in their depth of understanding. 

Looking ahead, Dr. Selkowitz is excited about integrating science communication into his physics course, allowing students to explore and share scientific concepts through blogs, videos, or podcasts. Recognizing the importance of effective communication, he aims to equip his students with the skills they need, regardless of their chosen field after graduation.

Dr. Selkowitz’s philosophical approach to teaching revolves around justifying the purpose of learning, and emphasizing the value and importance of the material. He wants his students to see the structure in their learning, beyond a mere collection of facts, enabling them to build and organize their knowledge independently. They have also developed their own lists of application questions which the classes will attempt to answer as the year progresses. They have already addressed the visceral feeling of motion in a car or airplane, and the unusual penchant of rolled dice to occasionally hop high up into the air at random moments. This collaborative approach, he believes, not only enhances their understanding of physics and math but also makes them more capable individuals in general.

As the school year unfolds, Dr. Selkowitz cherished moments like the Halloween parade, where he felt a genuine sense of belonging within the Harley community. Whether watching his daughter in Nursery during the festivities or donning an Olaf costume to bring joy to the younger students, these experiences affirm his connection to the vibrant and welcoming community at Harley.

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