by Cassi Clausen, Open School staff and co-founder
April 25, 2017
In January of this year, Aaron Browder joined our staff in a full-time position. He came to us from Seattle, and at 27 is our youngest staff member. Aaron’s background reveals one of the main reasons people come to work at Sudbury schools. He was working in software development and found, through playing with kids in his neighborhood, that he enjoys just being with kids. After a foray into volunteering with educational programs (one a tutoring program and the other in a public preschool), he realized that something was missing in the way our society addresses children. He began reading up on child development and education, and ultimately stumbled upon Free to Learn by Peter Gray. This was the first he had heard of authentically learner-centered education, and it intrigued him. He read everything he could find on Sudbury schools and unschooling, working his way through most of John Holt’s (rather hefty) books.
By this time, Aaron had been living in Seattle for a couple of years and realized that, though he’s talented in software development, the job didn’t complete him. He wanted to get more involved in Sudbury schools, so he started looking into what it would take to become a staff member. He contacted Brooke Pazoles from Arts and Ideas Sudbury School in Baltimore, who had written online about her experiences as a staff member. He asked her, “What do you think? Could I be a staff member, coming from computers? Is it possible?” Her reply surprised him: Actually, she said, we’re hiring. Why don’t you apply?
Once Aaron made the decision to switch careers, he didn’t look back. He knew he wanted to work at a Sudbury school, and he would move anywhere for that opportunity. He applied at Arts and Ideas as well as The Open School. Our school was looking to fill the position more urgently than A&I, and, being in our early stages, we had a lot of work that needed to be done. Aaron says that he knew he would be needed at The Open School and that he could dive right into his role here.
Aaron spends his day at school divided between his administrative duties, which include managing the website (coding it from the ground up), administrating the blog (he had to remind me a few times to get this article together), chairing the Facilities Committee, serving on the Electronics and IT Committee, Budget Committee, and as the Attendance Clerk and more.
He also makes time to play. If you visit and see a 20-something guy running around like a lunatic, playing zombie tag, swinging on the swings, or giving rides on his bike, that is Aaron. Aaron is also our current Cooking Corporation czar, and if anyone wants to bake cookies or make lemonade, you’ll see Aaron in the kitchen patiently supervising and teaching kids how to safely use cooking equipment.
Having Aaron on staff has truly brought our school up to the next level. He is devoted and steadfast. He’s empathetic, patient, and trustworthy. He challenges other staff members in a way that’s respectful and strong. Oh, and he can play a mean ukulele.