Charlie Ashton '86

Richard Bliss '79

Sometime in my junior year at Princeton I had an experience common to many – I realized I had no clear plan for what to do upon graduation.  Originally admitted to the school of engineering, I discovered that it was not a good fit and transferred to the music department, with no clear plan for a career.  Sometime that fall I saw the movie “Teachers”, starring Nick Nolte, and it planted a seed.  I eventually checked out the Teacher Preparation Program, thinking I might teach for a couple years while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.  Well, sometimes life has other plans.

Under the dedicated leadership of Henry Drewry and Ruth Wilson, I had a wonderful experience with the program.  I had a lot to learn, and drove my cooperating teacher crazy, but completed the program in the spring of 1986 and started my “temporary” position the next fall teaching mathematics at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School.  The experience of teaching and becoming actively involved in the school program through the theater department formed the person I have become, and my “teaching for a few years” turned into an incredibly rewarding thirty one years in the high school classroom.  It’s also where I met the woman I would marry (who was the director of the theater program), a fellow educator who has always been a great role model to me for her loving approach to her students and the high expectations she set for them.

Additionally, I started teaching during the summer at The College of New Jersey in 2004.  More specifically, I was teaching for the Educational Opportunity Fund’s Summer Program – a 5-week residential experience for incoming freshmen with financial needs.  These students often have less than ideal preparation, and may be the first in their families to attend college – a very different group from the privileged students I taught at the high school level.  I continue to work with EOF, and consider the opportunity to work with these promising young people to be a great blessing in my life.  And since retiring from the high school classroom, I’ve expanded my role at TCNJ to teaching year-round for the Mathematics and Statistics Department.

I’ve also enjoyed various free-lance consulting work over the years in the area of math education – including working with Grant Wiggins on an ambitious curriculum development project for the state of Mississippi – but the most rewarding of these projects have been the opportunities to reconnect and contribute to the program where it all started for me.  Starting in 2013, I have had the privilege of working as a CIS (Content Instruction Specialist) for students in the Teacher Preparation Program who intend to teach mathematics.  Additionally, I have been preparing the statistics for the ongoing program reviews that are a part of the annual cycle of the program.  Most recently, this involved the larger task of preparing the materials for the program review for accreditation by CAEP (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation) under the steady leadership of director Todd Kent.  After our site visit in November, 2019, and some Zoom follow-up meetings in the spring, we were happy to learn that we more than met their requirements.

My journey continues, with the opportunity to continue my work in education both at TCNJ and Princeton.  I am fortunate to have a job that never feels like a job – I love what I do – and will always be grateful to the Teacher Preparation Program for getting me started.

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