A fly tier since he was 6, John Wight has tied 41,925 flies in just under three years, including the 1600 which comprise the American flag he stands beside. photo by Pamela Chodosh Pamela Chodosh Buy this Photo

 

John Wight was a science and math teacher at Gould for 31 years. He also coached. A proponent of experiential learning and a Registered Master Maine Guide, he continues to take people of all ages out into the wilderness to learn. He and Susie, his wife of 48 years, have a daughter named Amanda, a son named Nathan, four grandchildren, ages 5 to 11, and a dog named Sage. 

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I was born in Montpelier, Vermont in 1945. My grandfather Lawrence Wight, who was a private school teacher at the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, summered in Bolsters Mills where he ran a boys camp in the 20s and 30s. The other side of my family came from Southern Vermont.
Dad had a job at the Dublin School in Dublin, New Hampshire. That is where I grew up and also went to school.
My dad was always taking kids on mountain and canoe trips. He held me off from going on those until I had the skills, which was when I was 12 or 13.Once I was able to go with him on the Rangeleys, I could do everything—cook, cut firewood, canoe, and set up camp.
In ’59 or ’60, my dad found the Allagash country. That became his thing. I was still in prep school, but it hit me too.
I went to the University of Vermont (UVM) for a while, but I wasn’t putting much effort into my studies and they eventually asked me to leave.
I got drafted in ’66 and enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve. I spent the next six years in Manchester, New Hampshire as a Sergeant with the E5 Weapons Platoon.
Not wanting to return to UVM, I went to Windham College in Putney, Vermont to continue my studies in geology. Because I already had so many credits, I was asked to teach a lab section. That’s where I met Susie.
I graduated from college in 1970. Because Sue hadn’t yet, I hung around Putney to be near her. I got a job in a crappy little paper mill there, but I did not last very long.
At some point, I came back to Dublin to visit the son of the former head of school. He said, “I could use someone to coach cross country and teach upper-level math, if you are interested.” I said, “I’ll start tomorrow.”
That next year when he offered me a full-time job, I asked Sue to marry me.
We moved into a tiny little dorm. I coached three sports and taught four different classes, all for $4200 a year.
About that time, I began working for Al Ordway at Camp Winona. Al was president of the board at Gould Academy. Over the years, he often heard me complain about working at my little school. One day he said, “We could use math and science people at Gould. Write a resume, and take a look.”
I made the switch to Gould in 1979. Susie and I lived in a dorm at first. I taught six different levels of math, two levels of physics and one chemistry.
In my second year, I started working with Charlie Newell in the soccer program. He was head coach, but we eventually switched roles. Though I brought my technical knowledge, I never knew a man who could get kids into good physical shape as Charlie could. We had both been Marines. We were very tough, but kids would look us in the eye and say, “Give us more.”
Then Bill Clough became Gould’s Head of School. Bill had come from Holderness, where skiing was big. He wanted Gould to participate in an overall skiing championship. He decided we were going to jump. Paul McGuire had stopped coaching ski jumping just before Bill came. I had jumped in high school, so I jumped right in.
I rebuilt the tower, and we built two more jumps. A father who had an electrical supply business gave us wires and lights. That added a tremendous amount. We could jump late into the afternoon. I would sometimes call the day students and say, “It’s a perfect night.”
We did not have snowmaking and grooming, so I did all of that myself. It would take 17 passes of tight steps and jamming in my heels to pack that hill after a foot of snow. I’d go home, then do more, then go out between classes to ski pack again. I never let the kids ski in poor conditions and we never had an accident in 18 years.
We won the prep school overall and the jumping competition a few times, but the work involved for me to keep the hill in shape was getting to me. At age 50, I decided not to continue jumping anymore. As I told my kids, when you sit on a bar and look down and you don’t have that feeling that you are going to make it, it’s time to not do it anymore.
I retired from Gould in 2010, the year after my dad passed away, though I shouldn’t have. I was 65. I probably would have given up some coaching, but I could still be teaching. Right now at 74, I can still bring it to the classroom.
This is my 6th year teaching aquatic etymology twice a week to Gould’s environmental studies kids. The other day I put them in waders and got them out here in the river. We collected insect samples. Then, in the lab, I taught them to identify the insects at the order level. The kids get me cranked up to do more and more. They were so good they have caused me to have to study.
All of my years of teaching weren’t great, and there were times when I really struggled, but looking back I don’t remember the tough times as much as I remember the great things that happened.
I am a jack of all trades and master of none. I have a lot of experience and have done a lot of things. I have never been bored.

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