Poised and thoughtful during our interview one Tuesday afternoon in mid-September, Mr. Mooney quickly impressed me with the depth and range of his vocabulary. Always taking time to carefully craft responses to my questions, Mr. Mooney spoke eloquently and with great precision. Both his affinity with the English language and his calculated delivery soon reminded me of Dr. Fast, my wise English 4 teacher. During our conversation, Mooney even quoted William Faulkner, arguably Doc’s favorite author, further meriting this comparison, one to be envied by any young English teacher, reader, or thinker.
Mr. Mooney’s passion for English and the Humanities clearly accounts for the size of his lexicon. Since growing up on New York City’s Upper West Side, he has displayed talent in English and History. Attending Hunter College Elementary and then Hunter College High School, a highly competitive test-in school in Manhattan which he proudly proclaims to be the “second best 7-12 school in the country,” Mr. Mooney fell in love with a community in which he could challenge himself and effectively explore his academic interests. Peers, friends, teachers, and the Hunter network which he has maintained have proved invaluable for Mooney, an experience that I’m sure parallels many Belmont Hill graduates’ feelings about their alma mater.
Maybe his most impressive experience at Hunter, in 7th grade Mooney was taught English by Lin-Manuel Miranda, now famed Hamilton creator, playwright, rapper, and MacArthur genius. Lin-Manuel Miranda also attended Hunter College High School. Being a big Hamilton fan, this fact actually initially drew me to interview Mooney. Mr. Mooney revealed to me later in the interview that he decided he wanted to be a teacher at the age of 13, which would have made him a 7th grader or rising 8th grader, having just completed a year of English with legendary Lin-Manuel Miranda… I find the chronological correlation too strong to be a mere coincidence. Given his undeniable ability with rap, rhyme, and the English language, I reason that Lin also likely began the cultivation of Mooney’s vocabulary. Fortunately catching him in the only year he taught at Hunter, Mooney was impacted by Miranda’s charisma, commitment, and emphasis on the power of free writing. With his English 1, English 3, and American Literature students, Mooney continues to stress the need to welcome the inevitable messiness of the writing process. He often oversees in-class writing exercises in which students are encouraged to write freely. By harnessing a flow of ideas and thoughts before editing and rephrasing, writers can use their original, unabridged thoughts to initiate the drafting process.
Following twelve years at urban Hunter College Elementary and High, transitioning to secluded Kenyon College, a small liberal arts school in Ohio which Mr. DiResta also attended, was not necessarily easy. Mr. Mooney remembers anxiously calling his mother on his first night at Kenyon when he heard howling outside his dorm. At Kenyon, Mooney majored in English and American Studies and also played varsity football. Drawing on his college experience, he currently coaches 4th football and will also coach Middle School baseball in the Spring.
Finding a job at Savannah Country Day School immediately after graduation, Mr. Mooney wasted no time in achieving his goal to become a teacher, taking on responsibilities in the English and History Departments. In Georgia, Mooney also involved himself in the community and diversity program, which he will help guide and advise at Belmont Hill. Drawn to Boston’s academic atmosphere, the stellar reputations of its high schools, and its proximity to his parents and home in Manhattan, after four years of scorching summer heat Mr. Mooney began searching for a job at one of Boston’s private schools, schools he feels often develop students that are incredibly well-rounded. Finding a dynamic faculty and a “much more accepting, inclusive community than I ever would have expected at an all-boys school,” one that “the students set and faculty help foster,” Mr. Mooney was excited by the prospect of teaching on the Hill. His first few weeks have affirmed high expectations.
Studying for his Masters in English at the Middlebury Bread Loaf School over the summers, Mr. Mooney continues to be both a student and teacher, thus possessing a unique ability to empathize with Belmont Hill’s student body. In addition to working with SAFE (Students Actively Fostering Equality), coaching football, and coaching baseball, he will assist the middle school literary magazine and advise the newly founded short story club. To conclude our interview, Mr. Mooney emphasized his satisfaction in the education sector: “I feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve gotten into teaching.” Convinced of his desire to remain teaching English and mastering vocabulary, Mr. Mooney’s presence will be appreciated at Belmont Hill now and for years to come.