You wake up early before school to take your dog Carly, a seven-year-old mixed lab, out on a walk. When she has been fed and falls asleep, you travel to school by car, something unfamiliar for you. Here, you prepare for the school day, and complete some perhaps unfinished work from the day before. After teaching a day brimming with math classes, including Algebra II, Precalculus, and AP AB Calculus, and coaching cub basketball after school, you return home. However on Tuesday nights, from 7:30-10:00 p.m. you sing for The Richmond Symphony Choir at The Carpenter Center. What you have just read is a typical day in the life of new Upper School math teacher, Mr. David Kehlenbeck.
Mr. Kehlenbeck spent his entire childhood in Needham, Massachusetts, a town 25 to 30 minutes outside western Boston. His father has been teaching math for 41 years at the same high school that he attended, taught him BC Calculus, and was his a capella director as well. “I think that my music and my math passions both came from him,” says Mr. Kehlenbeck. After applying to multiple colleges, his decision was ultimately between William and Mary and Collegiate favorite The University of Virginia. He would eventually decide to attend the former, which provided him with his first connection with the Virginia area. During his time at UVA, Mr. Kehlenbeck helped volunteer through the Madison House and the ASPCA. In addition, he sung in an a capella group seven to eight hours a week. “That was a huge part of my life there,” says Mr. Kehlenbeck, who would eventually became the group’s president after four years. Mr. Kehlenbeck majored in Russian East European Studies and believed he wanted to get into politics and government affairs. However, he “decided quickly early on that he did not want to become a diplomat, spy, or something like that.”
Coming out of college, Mr. Kehlenbeck began teaching at a Quaker day and boarding school called Oakwood Friends School, two hours north of New York City. He lived in a dorm and taught history for the first two years of his tenure. “I didn’t like myself as a history teacher, didn’t like the way I was doing it,” says Mr. Kehlenbeck, as he explains how he became disenchanted with history, “… but I loved teaching” he adds. Following in his father’s footsteps, and realizing that history was not his calling, math was the avenue that drew him back towards teaching and reignited his passion. For the next three years he taught history and math together.
After five years at Oakwood Friends School, Mr. Kehlenbeck’s life underwent a drastic metamorphosis when he decided to move to Switzerland, into a small village called Leysin, within the Swiss Alps. The population was a mere 3-4,000 people. He taught math and helped out with the musical program at Leysin American School (LAS), a boarding school. While in Switzerland, Mr. Kehlenbeck loved and enjoyed the outdoors. Leysin has a ski resort right in town, and as a result, “winter was the highlight of the year,” says Mr. Kehlenbeck. “In the winter, everyone went skiing and snowboarding as much as they could,” he adds. Much to my jealousy and astonishment, all winter, on Tuesdays and Thursdays The Leysin American School ended at noon to go skiing. In addition, Mr. Kehlenbeck loved to travel. “Being right in the heart of Europe, I was two hours from the airport. Once I got to Geneva, I could fly all over the place.” As a result, he has been to many European cities, such as Madrid, Stockholm, Dublin, and Belgrade.
After two years in Switzerland, Mr. Kehlenbeck decided that he wanted a change. “When I left Switzerland, I knew I wanted to be in a city. Being isolated in the mountains, unless you were traveling or teaching, there wasn’t much [else] you were doing.” With this in mind, he was drawn back towards the East Coast. He found Collegiate through a job fair, and when Mr. Kehlenbeck thought of Richmond “it seemed like a natural place.” Being a day school, it differs greatly from his prior seven years of teaching at boarding schools.
When he first arrived, he was pleasantly surprised “at how busy day school life can be,” because business in the boarding school world is always continuous. It also took some time to get used to driving to school, rather than waking up and taking “45 seconds” to walk to his classroom. This difference is a positive change for Mr. Kehlenbeck, as he now has a bit of time to himself during the evening. When comparing his prior school experiences to that of Collegiate, “Collegiate knows who they are,” says Mr. Kehlenbeck, “so many of you guys have been here for four, eight, and 13 years, that you know exactly what kind of school it is… you know how to incorporate new students and new ideas, while still maintaining the core identity of who Collegiate is.”
Mr. Kehlenbeck’s impact on Collegiate is shown through the students that he teaches. Virginia Syer (17’) says that he “is always open to help someone who is struggling in class” and Alex Parham (16’) states, “he is a pretty cool guy, he knows how to teach in a variety of ways.” In addition to his enthusiasm and passion for school, Mr. Kehlenbeck has began extending his help to other parts Collegiate as well. With Upper School teachers Mr. Vlastik Svab and Mr. Stew Williamson, he helped coordinate and perform satirical Christmas carols for the senior boys at Feast of Juul in November.
Mr. Kehlenbeck came to Collegiate as one of the many teachers that became part of the community this year. His diverse and experienced teaching background allows him to give a new perspective to happenings within our school, and he is excited and content here as he says, “I’m glad I found a school like Collegiate, it feels very much like home to me.” If you see him around the halls, don’t be afraid to wave or give him a quick hello.