“I am a big advocate of switching curricula as often as possible. We need to keep things fresh from year to year. I think it is our obligation, our duty, to keep abreast of how history continues to emerge.”
The book can never be closed on history.
With a background in archeology, Rick Taylor enjoys digging into the past, trying to leave no stone unturned. Yet this is a history teacher who knows the present has something to offer.
“I am a big advocate of switching curricula as often as possible,” Rick says. “We need to keep things fresh from year to year. I think it is our obligation, our duty, to keep abreast of how history continues to emerge.”
In Rick’s view, the best teachers are those who are students themselves. He says curiosity for continuing to learn is essential.
Rick was inspired by his history teacher, Don Perrault, at Valley Regional High School in Deep River, Conn. Mr. Perrault taught Western Civilization and a local history course, both of which intrigued Rick.
“The passion he showed for the subject — to bring it to life for us — and the fact he offered a local history course, I think it became clear that history is truly all around us,” Rick says. “It did not need to be something far flung on the other side of the world.”
As a high school senior, Rick took a UConn-accredited history course and got to do some original research for an essay assignment. That research piqued his interest in history even more.
After high school, Rick attended Harvard University, graduating in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in the history of art and architecture with a secondary concentration in archeology. He earned a master’s degree in classical archeology from the University of Oxford in 2012.
He went on a few archeological digs in western Turkey. One rare find was a coin made of electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of mostly gold and silver. Electrum coins are thought to be the first metal coins. As Rick says, it is one thing to read and study about something and another to actually see that coin, hold that coin, feel its weight.
Rick started teaching at Loomis Chaffee in the 2012–13 school year, his first of three stints on the Island. Circumstances took him away each time. He went back to England in 2013 as a research-based doctoral candidate in classical archeology at Oxford but realized he missed the classroom. He came back to Loomis in 2014. During his second stint on the Island, he started dating his future wife, Emily, who was working in the Alumni/Development Office.
Both were from Connecticut, and they decided to move to Boston in 2016. It was a chance to live in a city, try something new. Rick taught at schools in the Boston area, but after the couple’s first child was born and the COVID-19 pandemic set in, the city life no longer appealed to them. They now have two young daughters and live on campus. Rick also is an assistant soccer coach and admission affiliate.
“Loomis took me back another time,” Rick says of returning in 2020. That must say something for his impact as a teacher. “I’d like to think so,” he says with a laugh, “but I won’t push my luck again.”
He appreciates the school’s history, the beauty of the campus, the diversity of experiences among students. And then there are his colleagues in the History, Philosophy & Religious Studies Department. “They are awesome,” Rick says, repeating the word “awesome” three times, louder each time. “The collegiality in the department … I think we have something really special.”
This year Rick teaches four sections of World History and has mostly first-year students in his classes. He says it is important to meet the students where they are “and let … curiosity take us into some interesting areas. Sometimes those areas are not entirely pertinent to what we are discussing, but that is OK because if there is a certain level of comfort in the classroom, we will get there.”
Among the things Rick says he could not live without professionally is Emily’s support and understanding of the time-consuming nature of teaching. Also crucial, he says, are coffee and two whiteboards — one for projections, one for writing.
“I am trying as much as possible to bring a past to life for students,” Rick says. He helps them visualize history by projecting things and by “flying” his students (via Google Earth) to places they are studying to give them a sense of the distance from campus.
Rick thinks a lot about not only the past, but also “our relationship to the past and how uncertain and tentative we should be in describing what happened or may or may not have happened.” He encourages his students to use “tentative language” when describing and writing about the past. “Part of that is recognition that we don’t always know,” he says, “and sometimes it is important to admit that and be open to additional evidence that could come up later on.”
In other words, leave no stone unturned.