New Head of the Religion Department Dan Christy Randazzo. Photo from friends.org.
Nearly every year, at least one teacher retires or moves away, leaving a hole in the MFS community; last year, when Priscilla Taylor-Williams left, everyone knew her absence would be felt. But in the 2016-2017 school year, the gap has been filled by new Chester Reagan Chair Dan Christy Randazzo.
Randazzo graduated college around 16 years ago, and decided to go into youth ministry, where he worked for seven years. Deciding to go back to work instead of finishing his graduate studies, Randazzo recognized his love for teaching, and worked as a graduate and undergraduate teacher in Baltimore. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to engage with students, and learn from them…the process of seeing students uncover new information, the burst of curiosity, it’s an amazing thing,” Randazzo told WordsWorth. In his career, Randazzo has taught numerous age groups; “[From teaching] 2 year olds up to 80 year olds, every time I have some sort of electric charge.” Intrigued by the fact that MFS is a Quaker school, and by the amount of energy devoted to religious programs here, Randazzo decided to come work at MFS. “As a Quaker, I really appreciate what Quaker schools are about,” said Randazzo.
Randazzo is not only a new teacher joining the MFS community, but also the new head of the Religion Department, replacing PTW in that role. After transitioning into the roles in September, Randazzo recognized his biggest challenge thus far; “The 6 day cycle is incredibly difficult,” he said. “I’ve gotten the handle of it but it’s a definite cultural twist and shock.”
As a religion teacher, Randazzo instructs all 7th and 8th grade religion classes, one section of 9th grade Quakerism, both Junior World Religion sections, and co-teaches Peer Leadership. Rather than feel overwhelmed by his numerous responsibilities, Randazzo has taken his work into perspective: “I think that it has provided me an invaluable opportunity to learn about MFS from the inside out,” said Randazzo. “I think that I’ve had to learn a significant amount of stuff in a short amount of time in order to be effective at this job…This job has taken the learning curve and jacked right up.”
In addition, as Department Head, Randazzo acts as the advisor to three clubs: Agenda, Service Committee, and the Worship Planning Committee. “I appreciate how welcoming the students have been,” Randazzo said about club members. “They’ve been very kind, and have opened up space for me to learn about the club and the history of it.” Finding these clubs as a less formal way to interact with students in the MFS community, Randazzo recognizes it as a valuable opportunity to learn more about MFS. Randazzo told WordsWorth, “It’s a wonderful aspect of this position, that there are so many opportunities to engage and make an impact on student life.”
As for the MFS community, Randazzo recognized the importance of MFS traditions, such as Spirit Week, and he has enjoyed spending time learning about them. “You all have some long-standing, significant traditions here,” Randazzo stated.
Randazzo is also enjoying MFS lunch. “I actually look forward to it,” Randazzo said of lunchtime. Appreciating the fact that he does not have to cook lunch everyday, Randazzo commented on the food, “It’s not only healthy but actually tasty.”
As for his time outside of MFS, Randazzo enjoys hiking and backpacking. He tries to hike somewhere new at least once or twice a month, and generally walks at least five miles a day. “[I enjoy] just sort of getting out and taking the opportunity of being quiet in the present world,” Randazzo said of his walking. He also enjoys watching Longmire on Netflix. His favorite book series (besides the Quaker Faith and Practice, of course) is Aubrey-Maturin by Patrick O’Brian, a historical fiction series set in the Napoleonic Wars. Randazzo owns a 12-year old black lab-pointer-mix named Mani.
Though past teachers like PTW will never be forgotten, new faces such as Randazzo continue to positively add to the MFS community.