Head of School Aaron Cooper Honors Faculty and Staff Service Anniversaries

The following remarks by Head of School Aaron Cooper were delivered the night of the Annual Meeting & Dinner on Sept. 13:

Please join me in congratulating: those entering their 10th year at Country School:
Kathy Diomede – School Nurse.
Sanj Maliakal – Upper School Science Teacher and Advisor
Dara Webster – Math Department Co-Chair and Lower School Learning Resources Teacher.
With a fantastic 20 years of service, I would like to recognize Scott Lilley
Scott began his career in education here at NCCS as an apprentice teacher, where - incidentally - he met his wife, Davina Lilley, who incidentally is an alumna of the school. It is now a family affair as their three children are all students here: Frances, in kindergarten; George, in 3rd grade, and Arthur in 4th.
Scott began teaching science in the Middle School before moving the Upper School where he teaches 7th and 9th grades. He has been instrumental in connecting our students to nature, whether by fully exploring the resources of our 75-acre campus, or leading them in off-campus trips all over the region, country, and hemisphere. In addition to teaching, Scott is the head coach for both the varsity football and girls’ ice hockey teams.
He is passionate about environmental citizenship, lifelong learning, and teaching early adolescents. As a coach, teacher, and colleague, Scott is encouraging, steadying and always has something positive to contribute.
Scott, we thank you for your service. Please stand to be recognized.
And now, with an extraordinary 30 years of service … Lilani Balasuriya
Growing up in Sri Lanka, the importance of education was instilled in Lilani at a very young age, and she chose to pursue a career in education because it was so highly esteemed. When reflecting on her career, Lilani recently remarked that what she has learned during her time at NCCS is that the image she had as a young woman of a teacher standing at the front of the room imparting knowledge was mistaken.
Lilani describes her teaching practice in the following way: “At Country School, we don’t teach ... we stimulate the desire for curiosity. We feed the insatiable appetite for knowledge. We don’t engage in didactics. We engage in nourishing the child. … The answers already lie within them. We just lead them there.”
And for 30 years, that is how she has fostered a classroom environment that has ignited curiosity in so many young students both during the school year and in the Horizons program every summer.
Lilani loves music, literature, theater, and opera, and believes that students as young as first grade should be introduced to and are capable of enjoying a broad range of classics. Lilani’s daughters are a great source of pride AND thriving NCCS alumnae. Liani graduated in 2004 and Pria in 2009. Upon graduation both attended Phillips Exeter. Liani went on to Georgetown University and then Northwestern Law, and is currently practicing law. Pria went on to NYU and is working in film production.
Lilani’s colleagues revere her as a voice of wisdom and as a mentor. They said: “Lilani brings integrity, professionalism and intellect to her practice with children, parents and colleagues. Among us, she is a voice of reason, maintaining a logical perspective and a calm demeanor further fostering community and connectedness. She helps me see the best in myself.”
Parents agree. One wrote: “I cannot even begin to express how grateful we are to you for all the love, attention and instruction you have offered my children.  There wasn't a single day when my daughter wasn't excited to come to school, all due to the warm and inviting community that you established in 1B.”
Lilani, congratulations on 30 wonderful years at Country School, and thank you.
Also celebrating an extraordinary 30 years is Fraser Randolph
Fraser started out his career teaching 8th grade in the Danbury public school system. But a family friend whose children attended NCCS “harangued” him (his words) to apply for a job at Country School. When he finally took the advice and wrote to then Head of School Nick Thacher, it turned out there was an opening in fifth grade. Fraser told Nick he would “try it” for a year …  and 30 years later, Fraser is a legend in the Middle School.
Fraser epitomizes the experiential, hands-on approach that is such a quintessential element of a Country School education. Whether he is up on top of the Middle School roof for an egg drop or out in the field launching rockets, you can hear Fraser shouting with excitement right alongside his students. He always travels with a pack of trivia cards that can be pulled out for a quick quiz at a moment’s notice, and a camera to capture the ways he sees his students shine. These are just a few of the skillful ways Fraser helps students feel included, welcomed, and celebrated.
As 6th grade teacher, Horizons teacher for more than 20 years, and basketball and baseball coach, Fraser is beloved by students and colleagues: In 2002, students in his 6th grade class at NCCS nominated him for USA Today’s “Top 20” teachers. In 2010, he was chosen by his colleagues as a Faculty Chair.
A parent described Fraser as: “knowledgeable, yet not pedantic, structured yet not boring, witty yet not uncontrolled.  His caring sensitivity, humor and fairness helped make my child’s most enjoyable year at Country School.”
Recently, a colleague wrote to Fraser: “You give students your time, your energy, your sense of humor and your support, and yes you give them your donuts, jolly ranchers and Tootsie pops, and on occasion let them use your camera.  Students, parents and colleagues alike recognize your unique dedication and devotion to teaching and your unselfish capacity to give.”
Fraser, congratulations on 30 years of phenomenal and impactful service and thank you.