Rachel Lintgen '90 was named the William L. Schoff Memorial Alumni Chair for Distinguished Teaching in English during the end-of-year faculty/staff breakfast, which was held on Connor Quad on June 10, 2021. (SEE PHOTOS)
The William L. Schoff Memorial Alumni Chair for Distinguished Teaching in English is awarded every three years to a current full-time member of the Middle School or Upper School English faculty. The selection is based on teaching ability and on overall value of the faculty member to the Academy.
Head of School Rich Schellhas 1760 presented Lintgen with her chair. Former Schoff Memorial Alumni Chair recipient Dan St. Jean introduced Lintgen:
A few weeks ago, after advisory, I stood outside my classroom to repeat a message that I had delivered in an interminable, nightmarish loop for months: “Hey, folks! Good to see you. Could you spread out a little please?” [ ]. I considered, at a low point in February, stealing a skeleton from the science department, dressing it in khakis and a blue button-down, and playing those words through a little speaker on its shoulder. It would be like Kevin McCallister with the Michael Jordan cut-out in Home Alone. The silhouette in the window, the model train…
Anyways, I saw a cluster of junior boys approaching and prepared to address them. They looked rough, even by pandemic standards: sweatpants, baseball hats; there may have been a stained Snuggie involved.
Before I could say a word, however, another force interceded. My neighbor pulled the boys aside. “Gentlemen,” she began, generously. “The ‘Dress-Down Challenge’ is not a thing.”
It went on from there. Clarity, firmness, an undercurrent of humor. “I’m the grown-up here,” her manner announced. “And this is some nonsense.”
Chef’s kiss. Rachel Lintgen: What a boss.
Rachel runs her English classes with the same brisk self-assurance that she dresses down dressed-down junior boys. She manages hyperactive 9th graders and the “dude-bros” who gravitate to her popular War in Literature elective with equal aplomb, like a seasoned trainer at the Philadelphia Zoo: stay; sit; stop touching each other. She expects students to read attentively, to write clearly, and to support their claims with actual evidence: when a young scholar begins a statement “I just feel like…,” she needs to see some receipts.
Rachel is smart and funny, passionate and plainspoken. Although she sometimes describes herself, in corralling-9th-grader mode, as “mean mommy,” I maintain that she is also, like Maya Rudolph’s Kamala Harris, their “fun aunt.” She brings literature down to earth, tracing tropes between Wuthering Heights and teen soap operas, Frankenstein and Black Mirror. She invites young people to relate the texts that they study to their own observations and experiences, to consider, through literature, who they are and what they value. She strives to develop students’ empathy and capacity for self-reflection; she assures them, through her words and her actions, that they belong—both in her classroom and in the GA community.
Rachel puts in the work and sweats the details. She finds, or wills into existence, time to confer with each of her students as they outline their arguments. She responds to every essay in every towering digital stack with care, recognizing moments of growth and mastery, targeting weaknesses, and urging students ever onward and upward. She labors over model paragraphs and fill-in-the-blank, Mad-Libs-style thesis statements. She works at inclusion, honing beautifully clear, simple questions that invite everyone in the room to enter the conversation; she plans and replans lessons to ensure that, by the time the bell rings, she has heard each student’s voice.
Also: What a colleague. Rachel is my GA neighbor, and we often pop into each other’s rooms to ask for advice or a fresh pair of eyes: How are you spacing out those interim deadlines? Is this lesson plan delusional? Here’s the prompt I’m thinking about. How could a 9th grader eff that up? Rachel is clear-eyed and pragmatic, and she knows kids; I trust her judgment implicitly. Regardless of what I share with her, she makes it sharper, clearer, and more effective. I could say the same thing about her influence on my teaching.
Rachel is also the first person I go to when things don’t go well, when the new activity flops, when all that I can say for myself at the close of 55 minutes is that I didn’t tell a child off or openly weep. On more than one occasion in the past year alone, I’ve slid melodramatically down her classroom wall in defeat. In those moments, she doesn’t offer advice. “I’m sorry,” she says. “That sucks. It’s not you; it’s them.” As we all know, regardless of the details of the situation, this is always the correct response. Despite the many demands on her time—as teacher, administrator, and super-heroic daughter, wife, and mom—she always, somehow, drops everything when I need her. I feel so lucky that my next-door neighbor is also such a good friend.
Wow. What a boss. It’s fitting, and perhaps inevitable, that Rachel should become my actual boss as she transitions into her new role as the Upper School’s passionate, principled, and eminently qualified Dean of Students. I am delighted to name her the next recipient of the William L. Schoff Memorial Alumni Chair, and I hope that the chair itself will remind her, as she leads GA forward, that she will always be an English teacher at heart.