The workshop with Smith, who taught at the academy for 32 years and currently serves as the director for arts and humanities at St. Joseph’s College in West Hartford, provided students with a history of the campus, meant to increase their effectiveness as guides. Over a period of three hours, Smith engaged the students with historical anecdotes about various areas of the campus that are stops along their tours, as well as an overview of the historical transition of education from the academy standard to public education, and why Woodstock Academy has maintained its independent status.
Former teacher returns to Woodstock Academy for presentation
“It’s important that you provide an accurate narrative of the history of Woodstock Academy during your tours,” Smith said to students in the program. “Your role as ambassadors is to bring Woodstock Academy’s history forward from the past, to a new generation.”
Smith urged students to speak to the strength of the arts and athletic program at the academy during tours, as well as the variety of programs offered. He advised the ambassadors have a larger responsibility than merely handing out programs. “It’s a life safety role,” said Smith. “You need to stay at your post, scan the audience, and to be alert for any medical emergencies that may occur during an event.”
Students asked questions including why the fountain stands where it does in the field house and why the school’s mascot is a centaur. Students brightened visibly over questions surrounding rumors — including whether there had been a death at the academy that led the school to hold off on implementing a football program in the past. Smith acknowledged a death had occurred at the campus, when a principal living in the Academy Building died of pneumonia in the 19th century. But he said the sports-related death is an old wives’ tale that occurs “wherever a school does not have a football team.”
Asked why she joined the ambassadors just over two weeks ago, Hanna Mueller, a 10th-grade student said, “I like the idea of being able to share your love for your school with other people and get them to understand why people go here, and what they are going to get to experience if they come here.”
Brianna Bissonnette, a junior, has been with the Ambassadors since the beginning of last year. “I think this workshop has been very interesting,” she said. “I love learning about history that applies to me, and these are all things that are really good to know.”
“I didn’t realize there was so much that went into the making of the school,” added Hanna. Both girls said the information they received from Smith would aid them in their ability to provide more insight into the history of the school during tours. “You will be the ones that keep the history of Woodstock Academy alive,” Smith said as he ended his presentation last Friday.