Andrew Wood is dedicated to living a focused, relaxed and well life. His actions, his way of attending to others and his voice all echo how important these values are to him. Now an elementary teacher at the Albert Bridge School in Brownsville, he was helping students collect sap from maple trees on the hillside above the school in preparation for boiling when we arrived.
According to Susan Chelton, one of Wood’s colleagues, Andy often commutes to the school from Woodstock by bicycle and spends his free time hiking, cycling and engaged in other outdoor activities. “The commute on my bicycle from Woodstock to Brownsville is beautiful and I love how I am addressing my carbon footprint while getting exercise at the same time,” said Wood.
“He is a master of mindfulness and inspires his class to reflect and just be,” Chelton said. “He encourages hands-on and outdoor activities as well as inspiring staff and students to take time to care for themselves with meditation and mindfulness. He eats healthy meals and encourages others to do so also. He makes me want to be like him. “
“Previous to coming here, I lived at the Cambridge Zen Center, a residential Buddhist community in the heart of Cambridge, MA located between MIT and Harvard for 12 years while serving as a teacher in the Newton public schools,” Woods said. “I founded and directed the Boston Area Mindful Educators Network, an organization with members from 10 school districts in and around Boston designed to help teachers maintain their own wellbeing and resiliency while also equipping them with the skills to teach their students to focus and stay calm. One’s wellness and self-actualization are the most important elements in a healthy community or classroom.”
“Because participating in intensive retreat work is an expectation of the Cambridge Zen Center, I became a Hemera Fellow in 2015-2016,” he said. “The Hemera Foundation supports educators with established contemplative practices to expand and deepen their practice and their support is based on the premise that first and foremost “we teach who we are”. “ In a high burnout caregiver field, maintaining your own balance and compassion is essential. My sabbatical year consisted of a 100 day silent retreat in Barre, MA, three months of monostatic practice in South Korea and a 30 day solo retreat in the Maine woods. It was after this I decided it was time to move in a new direction.”
Thus the Brownsville students and staff are now the recipients of Wood’s expertise. “I was introduced to Eastern thought in high school and have maintained a meditation practice for more than 20 years,” Wood said. “I now lead the Brownsville Area Mindful Educators network.” During our visit, one of his students led the entire class in a short meditation practice and when this commenced, several students shared something they were grateful for.
Wood’s students took on a major project earlier this school year; with his guidance they determined how they could construct their own desks from start to finish. Included within this project was learning how to seek funds to assist them in the purchase of lumber and what kinds of labor policies were in place at the local mills.
And if this all isn’t plenty, Woods is now an integral part of the Albert Bridge School Climbing Team.