SUMMIT, NJ - The faculty in both the coed K-6 elementary and all-girls middle- and high-schools at Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child received a unique educational and professional development experience when David Carl, associate dean of graduate programs at St. John’s College, brought his teaching seminar to Summit.

The seminars, which focused on James Baldwin’s short story, “Sonny’s Blues,” and Plato’s “The Republic,” were taught through the lens of St. John’s teaching philosophies, which include encouraging ownership of texts by learners, embracing the authority of the text, and learning from the work instead of simply learning about it.

One of the goals of the seminar, which focuses on a wide range of literature and philosophy, is to present works not through lectures offered by an instructor, but through a conversation of learners. 

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Coleen Bradley, an Upper School theology teacher and member of the Campus Ministry, said the seminar offered her “a complete shift in perspective” in how she teaches.

“The question that I kept asking myself was 'how I can bring this experience to my students and can I take this experience and make my lessons more stimulating, giving my students cause to think more',” said Bradley.

 As for the format of the seminar itself, she said she found it “incredibly rewarding,” especially in being able to hear colleagues’ insights. “I found that to be very stimulating,” she said.

Bradley, who also coaches middle school softball, said she was also interested in how Carl spoke of an interdisciplinary teaching model, as he taught math despite his background being primarily in the fields of literature and philosophy.



“He inspired me to think about different areas,” she said.

Carl is a senior member of the faculty at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM, and a co-founder of the St. John’s College Film Institute. He has a bachelor’s degree from Pomona College, a master’s from Claremont Graduate School and a Ph.D. from the University of California. 

St. John’s College, a liberal arts institution, also has a campus in  Annapolis, MD.