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40 Years of Glenn Stanfield

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Stanfield teaching style is on full display every moment of every day.

Stanfield teaching style is on full display every moment of every day.

Eric Ingersoll

Eric Ingersoll

Stanfield teaching style is on full display every moment of every day.

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One day, about 15 years ago, Glenn Stanfield was teaching a class. The students were attentive as usual, save for one of them, who had fallen asleep. As soon as Stanfield noticed, he approached the student and stood up on top of the table. He leaned down and said, “Hello!” The student woke up sheepishly. Then Stanfield jumped down from the table. However, this was no ordinary jump. This jump prompted the class to first go silent and then explode with unbelieving laughter as the reality of what had just happened sunk in: Stanfield had backflipped down from on top of the table.

Stanfield was born and raised in Eureka, California. He and his brother were raised by a single mother, and throughout their childhoods, she had one goal: for her children to have access to education.

“My mom tried to graduate from college – didn’t make it… [She] always talked highly about education, for my brother and me. He and I ended up both getting our college credentials. The only two of our generation from our mother’s side of the family.”

Stanfield attended Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa. After that, he returned north to go to college at Humboldt State University. As a student in college, he was especially interested in the cultures of Spanish-speaking countries. At 21 years old and living on his own for the first time, Stanfield experienced life in a Spanish-speaking country that determined much of the rest of his life.

“I went down and studied for a semester in Mexico…and loved it. I loved the culture, I loved the people, I loved the freedom that I had as being a young adult living on his own for the first time, making my own decisions. [I] fell in love with Mexico, and still have that passion.”

At 24 years old, Stanfield interviewed for an open Spanish teaching position at Marin Academy, a young, independent school in San Rafael, California. Although Stanfield didn’t precisely know this at the time, this position would allow him to return to Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries many, many more times. He was hired in 1978. And he has been here ever since.

Because Stanfield has been at MA for 40 years, he has witnessed the school’s evolution better than anyone. As MA has aged, Stanfield has acted as a rock around which an ever-changing river has swirled and flowed. Since his early twenties, Stanfield has continually given off his infectious combination of high-energy and kindness. Through the years, he has witnessed the school expand, capped off by the new Science and Innovation Center that has been built right outside his classroom window.

“We had 6 classes a day, every day; they didn’t rotate like they do now. And they were 50 minutes. … I definitely prefer the block system that we have now. [40 years ago at MA] you knew everybody. I think that that’s one of the biggest differences. … There wouldn’t be a year in those early years that there was somebody graduating that you didn’t know.”

Without a doubt, Stanfield is renowned for his energetic teaching style. Students are pleasantly surprised when they walk into his class and are greeted with a loud ovation each day, fraught with smiles and high spirits.

“The body won’t sit still for me and I’m fortunate even at my age right now that I still have that energy that I can use in a classroom when things get tedious with the lessons. I hope that the physicality of what I do might get somebody just to sit back up a little bit and get interested…get involved — it helps me.”

Oftentimes, it feels as though Stanfield is not just teaching, but rather playing a sport in the classroom that demands the exertion of high energy at all costs. This energy is transferred to the students, who become far more engaged in his class.

Stanfield’s high energy is not only present in his teaching, but also in his extracurricular activities. In high school, he played football, baseball, and wrestling. These days, he remains active, sometimes playing frisbee with students at lunch and leading outings. He’s also active during the winter.

“I’m a snowboarder…If I could do that all the time I would.”

During my freshman year at MA, I was pleasantly taken aback by the difference in Spanish class in high school than in middle school, which was far more subdued. In Stanfield’s Spanish II class, I felt constantly engaged and excited for Spanish. During Stanfield’s 39th year at MA, one day, a candidate for a new Spanish teaching position auditioned for the role, using our class as a model. He was not particularly boring or unengaging. However, as soon as he left, the true teaching style of Stanfield was in full effect. It was very clear just how lucky we were to have a teacher so passionate about his subject and so engaging with the material.

“I’m happy doing what I’m doing now. … I found the profession that I would spend my life doing. (laughs) I am really lucky. I have wonderful students….I am blessed”

There is little doubt that Stanfield’s many students over the years feel the same way.

On a January 19th Thursday afternoon, I walk into Stanfield’s classroom very excited to interview my former teacher. We sit next to each other in two student chairs. Stanfield has papers for grading in front of him, with a pair of glasses laid over them. He gives me his full attention, taking all of my questions very seriously and elaborating fully without being asked to. At the start, he remarks that it will be odd speaking to each other in English, but that he thinks we can handle it. We then converse for over 45 minutes; our discussion ranged from his childhood all the way to his plans that very weekend (a fun excursion with his family).

Five days later, on Tuesday morning, I once again enter Stanfield’s classroom, this time to observe his Spanish III class. He had altered his class plan slightly so that I would witness a more exciting lesson. As soon as I walk in, Stanfield addresses me brightly and offers me a chair, instructing one of the other students to sit next to me so I would know what was going on in the class. As the class progresses, Stanfield offers that I participate if I want, so that I would feel welcome in his class. He needn’t have worried. Because that’s exactly the kind of guy Stanfield is.

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