Senior English teacher retires after 2018-19 school year.
“I think, therefore I’m dangerous.”
That adage adorning GPS senior English teacher Todd Wells’ board spoke volumes. English Department Chair Catherine Ingalls says Wells, who retired after the 2018-19 school year, was the consummate teacher and an example to all faculty in the primacy of critical thinking.
“He was always pushing students and teachers alike to think about all angles of a situation, including those that were not always popular to explore,” Ingalls says. “He constantly asked questions to get students to support their thoughts and actions.”
At GPS for 25 years, Wells taught senior English classes for 24 of those. He came to GPS after a climbing expedition interrupted his previous work as a teacher in the area. Among his recognitions, he was awarded teacher of the year, and his students consistently receive high AP scores; last year 100% of his AP students passed the rigorous test with a 3 or higher (out of 5) with an average score of 4.36, compared to the global average of 2.62.
Today, he’s a legend in the English department, leaving a lasting impact on thousands of girls who took his classes.
“If you could survive his class, you could survive anything,” says Jenise Gordon, Head of Upper School. “He prepared students for future professors, twists in life’s road, and unmitigating circumstances he knew they’d face. He went beyond just teaching analytical skills in English.”
Beyond the Text
As a senior teacher, Wells encountered students at the pinnacle of their GPS experience. He says he had the luxury of teaching girls in their last year without a necessarily set curriculum, and he credits the stellar English teachers who prepared the girls leading up to their senior year.
“I had the chance to include texts they may not read or think about till college,” Wells says. “We all took college prep seriously, expecting girls to operate at a sophomore level as freshmen in college. I threw things in that would give them that experience.”
From Moby Dick to The Handmaid’s Tale and Crime and Punishment, Wells selected texts in AP Literature and English 12 classes to drive engaging conversations. He pushed students to extrapolate ideas from texts and together they discussed how those messages relate to the world we live in now. They dedicated time talking about philosophical and ethical perspectives raised in every book they read.
Beyond literature, Wells spent significant class time coaching girls through the college essay experience. With four rounds of revisions and individual conferences, he pushed them to improve their craft and write with clarity, hopefully enabling them to one day be the harshest critic of their own writing.
Known for his explicit challenge to students, demanding and asking that they think critically, Wells certainly left a mark on generations of students. Ingalls and others found he left his own unique impression on them as a colleague—warm, caring, and kind.
“His teaching made it clear that upholding your professional and intellectual integrity as a teacher is something that can be a part of every day,” Ingalls says.