English Teacher Kalkstein ’61 Writes Novel Featuring a Bipolar Character

Instructor in English Paul Kalkstein ’61 has taught at Phillips Academy for over 30 years, but as he seeks to publish his first novel, he is proving that he has perhaps even more enthusiasm and determination to remain an important contributor to the academic community than ever before. The novel, which was completed during his sabbatical last year, is titled Jump the Kennebec. Drawing deeply from Kalkstein’s personal experiences as an English teacher at the Academy and Choate Rosemary Hall School, the novel follows the fictional life of a teacher in Maine who learns that he suffers from bipolar disorder. Mr. Kalkstein had originally intended to write the novel about an entirely different topic – a sixteenth- century slaughter that occurred in France. But after helping his bipolar brother moderate an Internet forum for those suffering from the disorder, he was inspired to change the focus of his novel. “I began to read the posts [on the Internet forum], and they were extremely poignant,” Mr. Kalkstein explained. “The suffering and bravery demonstrated by these people gave me the push that I needed to change [the topic].” Mr. Kalkstein said that because of the poignancy of the topic and his own personal ties to the story, it was at times difficult, and even painful, to sit down each day and write. “It required discipline for me to write some every day – even when I didn’t want to,” he said. Now that the novel is completed, however, Mr. Kalkstein is able to focus on editing his work and seeking a publisher willing to print the novel. Though it is the first time that he has tried his hand at fiction, this will not be the first time that Mr. Kalkstein has had his works published. The English Competence Handbook, Combinations for Competence and Good Writing – all guides for English teachers and students – are also among his published works. In addition to his job as a English teacher and an author, Mr. Kalkstein has also held a number of positions with nationally prominent educational organizations, including the Council of Basic Education, the National Council for Teachers of Writing and the Educational Testing Service. Since first coming to teach at Phillips Academy in 1970, Mr. Kalkstein has served as the athletic director, a varsity coach for both lacrosse and basketball, an advisor to WPAA and the founder of Summernet, an Internet writing program. In the early days of his Phillips Academy career, he also played a key role in revamping the Academy’s English 200 course, increasing its focus on writing and helping to shape it into the course that it is today. This effort was met with a considerable amount of national attention, as Mr. Kalkstein and his colleagues were even featured in one issue of Time magazine. Despite his success in the field, Mr. Kalkstein said that he had not originally intended to become a teacher. “I had always wanted to be a lawyer,” he said. “But at college, I took a law course, and I found it incredibly dull… I thought I’d teach for a while until I could figure something out, and I guess I just never found a real job.” Mr. Kalkstein began his teaching career at Choate, but eventually his fond memories of his time as an Andover student led him to return to the Academy as a teacher. “Since I’ve first come to the Academy, I’ve seen the student body become and more eager to learn as the school has grown more selective… I am newly amazed each term by the things students are able to write,” Mr. Kalkstein concluded.