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In 1980, these seven faculty members came to 1219 Broad St.

to be a part of
a new experiment in education. Twenty-five years later, it is still this place
that they call home. Now, they tell us how they got here, why they’ve stayed,
and what they think makes this place so special...

abiders
The

by lauren e. everhart

abide \ vi 1: to remain stable or fixed in a state 2 : to continue


in a place : SOJOURN syn see BEAR, CONTINUE abid er n

22

www.ncssmalumni.com
dr. don houpe
foreign language
“The students, the faculty, everybody, felt for the first
few years like this was something special and it was exciting
to be a part of it, no matter who you were.”

Dr. Don Houpe, a Virginia native, completed his undergradu- guage to teach, however, is Esperanto, an “invented or planned
ate work at Hampden-Sydney College in Hampden-Sydney, language,” Dr. Houpe explained, that was created in the late
Va., where he majored in Spanish and French and minored in 19th century. (To dispel the rumors, Dr. Houpe has only stud-
German. He went on to study at McGill University in Mon- ied 13 languages, but he insists he can’t speak all of them. And
treal, Quebec, Canada, where he obtained his Masters. no, he doesn’t speak one of the African click languages.)

After winning the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, giving him a One of the things that truly sets Dr. Houpe apart is his unique
full scholarship to study at any university in the United States style of teaching “That plant’s name is Roberto, he’s Roberto
or Canada, Dr. Houpe came to North Carolina to work on Planta,” Dr. Houpe told me, pointing to the bright Golden
his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Pothos on his top shelf. “He does paintings.” Dr. Houpe takes
While attending the University, he began teaching Swahili Roberto to class, where students compete to win a painting by
part-time at Duke, where he remained for two years after the now infamous plant turned painter. Roberto has been hard
finishing his Ph.D. in 1978. at work for seven years and is now up to 117 original paintings.

After hearing about NCSSM through local media, Dr. Houpe Also among Dr. Houpe’s more unusual teaching tools is his
was intrigued by the prospect of teaching several languages. list of rules that are written in whatever language the students
Learning that John Ehle and Governor Jim Hunt were in- are studying and must be translated. For example, “Students
volved gave him further motivation to explore how he could at Science and Math are not allowed to carry frozen squirrels
be a part of the School. More than anything, Dr. Houpe was in their bookbags,” or “Students at Science and Math are not
excited to be a part of something new. “We knew, those of us allowed to enter class without a pulse,” and my personal fa-
who came the first year,” Dr. Houpe said, “that it would be vorite, “Students at Science and Math are not allowed to swim
exciting because we would be able to invent as we went along, in the biological pond.”
to create as we went along. There was a certain feeling of
discovery. I think the students, the faculty, everybody, felt for But according to Dr. Houpe, there is indeed a method behind the
the first few years like this was something special and it was madness. “Students expect teachers to say normal things,” Dr.
exciting to be a part of it, no matter who you were.” Houpe said, “and when you say strange things, the best students
will understand and the students who don’t quite understand are
Considering the School’s focus on science and mathemat- really trying to understand.”
ics education, Dr. Houpe said he “really didn’t know for
sure how much emphasis would be put on foreign language. Of all the things Dr. Houpe loves about NCSSM, he says “the
However,it became very clear that they intended to have most important thing is teaching and being with the students.
strong humanities and have ever since. We were able to do
what we wanted in foreign language and make it the best “This is a very special place,” Dr. Houpe continued. “A lot
program we possibly could.” of people know that, most people associated with it know
that. I think that as time continues to march on, it will be more
26 Since he began here, Dr. Houpe has taught everything from and more revered for its standing and for what it has done and
Spanish and German to Latin and Russian. His favorite lan- continues to do.”

www.ncssmalumni.com

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