I’ll never forget receiving the phone call years ago from my disappointed kindergartener who had forgotten his change of clothes for a trek with Hammond’s naturalist-in-residence, Tom Mancke. To a five year-old, missing a morning excursion with Mr. Mancke is a crisis of monumental proportions—a missed opportunity to discover animal tracks in the woods, admire a beaver dam in the making, or scoop tadpoles from a stream.
For any other reason, I may have refused to return to school … forgotten homework or an overdue library book, but I recognized the importance of these trips that moved the classroom into the great, big world. I returned to school to find Tom and his small group of explorers preparing to go explore the wild.
Tom Mancke could likely be compared to a unique set of parentheses that frames the Hammond experience. The only faculty member to work with students throughout Hammond’s 14-year program, Tom is one of the first teachers a student meets when at Hammond, and one of the last. The same young students he introduces to the world that is smaller than meets the eye are the same seniors he spends a week with prior to graduation. Their fondness for his mystique, and the brilliant innocence with which he views the world, never diminishes.
Tom’s talent lies in the ability to help students discover magic in what may appear at first glance mundane: the many and varied uses of the humble deer foot … the inner relationships between creatures large and small … and a penchant for discovering miracles all around us. As I handed off the clothes, Tom gave a quick wave goodbye and led them off into the wonderful wild where these young students would learn firsthand the mystery and marvel of the web of life.
Years later at graduation, the same child who only 13 years earlier had forgotten his trekking clothes, approached me in cap and gown and said, “Mom, look what Mr. Mancke’s wearing. That is the most amazing person I’ve ever met.” I turned and there he was, Tom Mancke, in academic regalia, as he is every year at graduation, lining up to lead seniors into the service alongside the rest of the faculty.
But what set him apart was the leather cording hanging around his neck that held a well-worn sheath with a neatly pocketed knife. It wasn’t lost on me that having an instrument to cut is one of the most important tools a person needs when going out into the world. Our seniors were heading out into the world that day and graduation was the tangible proof that we were all cutting ties of one kind or another.
As my senior and his childhood friends graduated, I couldn’t help but recall the day so long ago that I watched these same students as kindergarteners being led out into the wild to discover the web of life. And here was Tom again in the midst of the faculty procession that would lead them to their final destination … graduation … and back out to discover for themselves the web that is life.
The varied and unique opportunities a Hammond education affords exposes children to an experience unlike any other. Teachers and coaches alike develop lasting relationships with students in a carefully crafted program that enhances future possibilities. We know the influence of a great educator lasts a lifetime.
We invite you to explore the Hammond Experience for yourself. Please join us for a Lower School Interactive Open House on Sunday, October 22 at 3 p.m. by reserving your space here. For more information, visit our website at www.hammondschool.org or contact our admission office at 803.695.4018.