RIDGEFIELD, Conn. -- When teachers model curiosity and passion for their students, it inspires the same within those students. It’s no surprise, then, that when teachers are awarded enrichment experiences through Ridgefield Academy’s Faculty Enrichment Grant Program, students reap the benefits, too.
For Christine Hruska, grant recipient, English teacher and town resident, re-discovering her passion for writing and nature in Maine over this past summer recharged the English teacher’s energy and self-actualization, and has directed and fueled her classroom lessons ever since.
Hruska, who has been teaching at Ridgefield Academy since 2007, always loved nature as a young girl. Her parents’ home ran adjacent to nature conservancy property, where she regularly retreated to divert streams and build dams and forts for hours on end. She was also an avid writer who filled journals with her thoughts and ideas. As she got older, however, writing began to take a back seat to the demands associated with adulthood.
“There are women out there who are an inspiration because they can juggle it all - having a family, working and even exercising. But at times it’s daunting. My writing was always pushed to the side, or done in small bursts.” -- Christine Hruska, Ridgefield Academy teacher
“It was not an easy balance,” Hruska said. “There are women out there who are an inspiration because they can juggle it all - having a family, working and even exercising. But at times it’s daunting. My writing was always pushed to the side, or done in small bursts.”
The lack of personal expression bothered Hruska, who felt she needed concentrated time to jump-start her writing. “I looked at the problem much in the same way as you’d look at someone in cardiac arrest who needs those paddles, a defibrillator,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t do that around my family. I love my family and they’re supportive but, at the same time, they have their own needs. And when you’re a part of a group and everything that’s happening with that group, it takes you away from the quiet place you need as a writer.”
She applied for the grant, which RA offers to teachers to provide them with experiences that will broaden their knowledge and enhance their teaching.
Hruska’s plan was to take some time to connect with nature, and herself, and write for uninterrupted periods of time. She rented a cabin at Acadia National Park in Maine, and for eight days she hiked, wrote and thought. It was precisely the time, place and experience she needed.
“Hiking with no one around allowed me to think thoughts to completion,” she said. “That might sound odd because we think thoughts all the time, but to actually follow them through to the end or just to have the time and conditions for inspiration allowed things to come up to the surface that I hadn’t really considered or thought about before.”
Hruska struggled at first with the idea of feeding her soul to promote her craft and passion. She questioned whether she was being selfish. But in the end, she knew it was the right decision for her, her family and her students.
“We try to take care of ourselves physically, but we also have to take care of ourselves spiritually and mentally,’’ she said. “I look at it as crucial to be connected to ourselves. For me, that means being outdoors, being in touch with who I am and not losing sight of that. My wish for my students is to stay true to who they are and to follow what interests and passions they may have -- to try and collect memories rather than material things.”