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Alumni Spotlight: Sam Geer

Post Oak eighth grade class of 2002

by Sam Geer
From the January 27, 2012 edition of The Weekly Post

I have a lot of memories from my time at Post Oak. Some of them are whimsical and joy-filled, like climbing the mast of the old wooden pirate ship that used to sit beached in a sand pit in the playground. Some of them are mysterious, even spiritual, like the middle school field trip we took to a Native American sweat lodge. And some of them are difficult and somber, like the unexpected death of a classmate’s father. None of them, however, are strictly academic. They’re all profoundly experiential.

Because my younger brother went to St. John’s, I was aware from a young age that education was being done differently at Post Oak versus other schools. The specific implications of that difference didn’t really hit me until I arrived at Episcopal for my first day of high school. Switching classrooms every hour was an adjustment, and the constantly rotating bevy of people in those classes took some getting used to as well.

Beyond the social change of going from a class of eight students to one of 150, I found myself completely prepared for the academic rigors of a traditional high school. The loose, conversational nature of lessons at Post Oak gave me the confidence and urge to participate often in class discussions in high school. The close bonds I developed with my teachers at Post Oak inspired me to try and create the same sort of relationships with my teachers at EHS. I’d often drop into various classrooms after school to ask teachers specific questions or further discuss a topic touched on in class that day. I was fortunate enough to create several relationships with teachers at EHS that have carried through college and into my adult life.

As far as college goes, the most important value Montessori imparted me with was self-motivation. The independence one is given in college can lead to a lot of distractions, sometimes at the peril of one’s GPA. I can recall various research papers assigned during college that had prompts as wide-open as the Grand Canyon. Discussing the prompts with other classmates, I got a real sense of panic from them with regard to the vague direction given by the professor. This always puzzled me because vague or indirect prompts never threw me; rather, I quite enjoyed them. Thinking back on this now, I realize my love for digging into research and finding the topics that interest me harkens back to my middle school days at Post Oak. Von Niezgoda assigned us a research paper in the 7th grade with the instructions to write 10 pages on basically any historical topic we wanted. It was intimidating for a 13 year old to have that freedom of choice, but having met that challenge then allowed me to meet those challenges with ease in college.

This powerful self-motivation has become crucial in life post-college. Something that stupefied me initially upon graduation from USC was that life after school had no direction. I could literally go any way I wanted and there was no prescribed course load left to get me there. I’ll admit, at first this prospect terrified me. And some days it still does.

But mostly, it just excites me. Post Oak is the reason behind that excitement. More than anything else Post Oak left me with the conviction that education isn’t just an institution. It’s not somewhere you go to have factoids and formulas spoon fed to you. It’s not a company you work at “to pay your dues” in the hopes that someone notices you and gives you a promotion.

Post Oak taught me that education, in its purest form, is that drive, it’s that need within oneself to explore and understand. That’s education. And it doesn’t end with a graduation. It’s a process, it’s life.

Another value Post Oak instilled me with that’s carried into adult life was a love for community service. From helping teach kindergarteners to read to delivering meals to the elderly, my two years of middle school community service at Post Oak left me with the conviction that helping others is sacrosanct. Here in LA I volunteer at a non-profit called 826LA. There I help other volunteers tutor kids from first grade to high school, helping them with their homework, studies, and extra-curricular writing. There’s very little in life I find more fulfilling and I know volunteer work wouldn’t be as large a part of my agenda were it not for the early impetus I got at Post Oak.