Mt. Abe’s Amanda Bodell bids adieu after 37 years

BRISTOL — Amanda Bodell doesn’t remember the first day she entered a classroom at Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School in 1982, but she does remember the job interview.
“That was interesting,” Bodell said in a recent phone interview with the Independent. “I’m not sure I knew what to expect, but I was driving from Burlington to Bristol, and walked into a room and there was a U-shaped table with 15 people sitting around it. It was a little intimidating, although incredibly friendly and encouraging.”
Needless to say, she got the job.
Now, after 37 years teaching Family Consumer Sciences and Health Education in both the high school and the middle school, Bodell, 58, is retiring from Mount Abe.
“Unwinding 37 years has given me a chance for some reflection,” she said. “Cleaning out files, sorting projects, organizing materials for my successor have reminded me of all the great work that we have done and continue to do as a school.”
Some of the older photographs she’s unearthed feature students who are now parents of her current students.
“I’m on my second generation of students here,” the Waltham resident said. “We also have people who work in this building who went to school here, which I think speaks to the school community. People really like to be here. It’s a very positive place.”
She’s enjoyed giving her current students photos of their parents when they were students, she added.
Bodell first saw the appeal of teaching when she was in high school in Rhode Island, she said.
For her senior project she worked in an elementary school classroom while also assisting a research professor at a local hospital who was doing work on child development.
“I definitely started being interested in kind of working with people at that time in my life,” she said. “Then when I went to UVM, I got interested in the child development and human development classes there. I think I was probably destined for this career,” she added, laughing.
She’s naturally drawn to people, she explained.
“I’m increasingly interested, too, in a lot of research about the brain and learning. I just think that’s really fascinating.”
Because so much of her work at Mount Abe over the years — teaching life skills classes, then health classes — is prevention-based, it can be hard to measure, Bodell confessed.
Sometimes she’s seen light bulbs go off, though.
“For me and what I teach, especially at the middle school level, that happens when I see them actually practicing the things that we’re doing in class,” she said. “When I hear students using the language we’re teaching, or when I see someone stop or take a moment to pause to do something differently, or hearing student stories about a time when they’ve maybe reached out for help when they’re struggling, instead of struggling on their own — those are moments that I realized, like, ‘Yeah, this is working.’”
Though teaching health and human development to adolescents would seem to provide plenty of opportunities for embarrassing teaching moments, Bodell took it all in stride.
“There were lots of students who have tried to throw me off my guard with embarrassing questions and things, but I don’t tend to get embarrassed very easily,” she said. “Because of the nature of a lot of what I’m teaching, which is personal and health-related — like growing up and changing and sexuality and things like that — I tend to be pretty well prepared for most anything.”
What will she miss the most?
“Now you’re going to make me cry,” she said. “I think,” she began, then paused to collect herself. “I think I’ll miss coming into this building and being with all these great students, being around their energy and enthusiasm. Especially the middle schoolers — I’ll miss their joy.” She paused again. “Yes, that’s definitely what I’ll miss as I sit here looking at photographs of the kids I see every morning in advisory.”
Bodell is sure that there are things she won’t miss about teaching, “but we don’t need to get into that,” she said, laughing.
Though she’s putting down the chalk for good at Mount Abe, Bodell can see herself wanting to get involved with young people again someday.
“But at this point I don’t have any major plans for that,” she said.
For now, her post-retirement plans are quite simple.
“I think I’ll take off my watch.”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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