Becoming Mr. Keating

Like any other nerdy, dreamy teen girl of the late 80’s / early 90’s, I was mesmerized by the movie Dead Poets’ Society. Instead of Def Leppard lyrics, my best friend and I copied the lines of Tennyson’s Ulysses on the backs of our spiral notebooks. In contrast to my typical suburban public high school, Welton Academy and its inhabitants – Meeks, Pitts, Todd, Charlie Dalton, Neil, and most of all Mr. Keating – represented to me a beguiling world of academic rigor, preppy striped ties, and beautiful gothic buildings. And sometimes a lone bagpiper honking into the mist. My early love for literature blossomed into a major in English, and after an alumnus came to talk to us about the benefits of teaching at a boarding school for a few years to save money for grad school, I knew what I wanted to do. I would become Mr. Keating.

I’ve spent my entire twenty-year career in independent secondary schools first as an English teacher and later as a college counselor. I’ve lived and worked at a military boarding school in the Midwest, a Pre-K through 12th grade day school in the deep South, an international boarding school in London, and two vastly different independent day schools in Boston. I loved teaching English when I was sharing my love of the American literary canon with eager students, but I became interested in college counseling and the more individualized work I could do with students. I was very fortunate to be working for an Upper School Head, now one of my best friends and my son’s godmother, who agreed with my curiosity about college counseling and helped me gradually move into this role. Over the years I have worked with many different mentors who have taught me so much about how best to help students and families navigate this very emotional, complex, and sometimes surprising journey.

While I greatly enjoyed my time as a school counselor and appreciated the opportunity to contribute to conversations regarding curriculum, assessment, disciplinary policies, and internal institutional needs, at the same time those were the very same school-based discussions that began to take time away from the actual student and family counseling that is at the heart of this relationship. I look forward to making the transition into independent college counseling, particularly with such a well-established and well-respected company as McMillan Education, in order to return to the essence of what I really love about college counseling: talking to the students and their parents, listening to their concerns, offering my expertise, guiding them forward, and witnessing the truly exciting transformation and journey that happens from grade 9 through to May 1 of grade 12 and beyond, when a senior has chosen a terrific college and eagerly looks forward to the next phase of young adulthood.

My favorite part of college counseling is helping the students see their innate gifts – the parts of themselves that are often overshadowed by the typical self-consciousness of adolescence. In order to succeed in finding the best college, students must go through an important developmental process of holding up a mirror and asking the important questions: Who am I? Who do I want to be? How do I get there? I like to remind the students that knowing the answers to these questions – especially at just 15, 16, 17 years old – is not the point. The point is asking the questions and being open to the answers that might eventually bubble up to the surface. I am honored to join the talented team of consultants at McMillan Education, and I look forward to meeting many amazing people – other independent educational consultants, families, and most of all students – in my future with McMillan.

About The Author

Amy Christie, M.A.