10 Questions News

10 Questions with Keith Robinson

Keith Robinson, Instructor in Biology, has taught at Andover for 21 years and was appointed Department Chair of Chemistry and Natural Sciences in 2020. Outside of the classroom, he is a house compliment counselor in Foxcroft House and Head Coach of Girls JV2 Soccer. In his free time, he loves to read, watch TV, and spend time outdoors.

  1. What are your goals as the Department Chair of Chemistry and Natural Sciences?

I think some of it is just evolutionary change in the program; thinking about what we teach and why. One of the things I’ve done in biology has been working different [teachers] through electives, and just mixing that up a little bit, so giving everybody a chance to teach one of the electives. And changing up and offering some new electives [for students] as well.

  1. What stood out in your experience as the Department Chair of Chemistry and Natural Sciences during the pandemic?

It was not what I envisioned stepping into the role. There were large parts of the first year [where] I was one of only three or four people in the building helping to oversee things here. I didn’t anticipate it, but what ended up being part of the job was figuring out who could be in which room and when, so that [the Office of the Physical Plant (OPP)] could come and clean the room. Then all sorts of discussions––week to week everything was changing about what was the schedule going to be to do this, how are we going to do the online thing, all of that, so kind of really reactionary and hectic, but it worked out, we did the best we could.

  1. What do you like do for fun on and off campus?

Do I have time for fun on campus? Probably a lot of it is just getting out and doing stuff outdoors, so hiking, cycling, kayaking, skiing, a lot of that stuff, and then some of the things on-campus are just spending social time with other faculty members or when I actually find the time to read, or when I actually find the time to watch TV, to watch some shows. But…getting outside is one of my favorite things, especially when the weather is beautiful. 

  1. What’s memorable about coaching the Girl’s JV2 Soccer team?

We had a game yesterday. We won 6-0 against [Brooks]. It’s pretty fun. It’s a super fun team, and it’s just fun for me to get outside in the afternoons after a day of classes and all, just go out there and blow off steam. We take it as seriously as the kids want to, there are days like last week when Coach R. and I had them after picture day have a haunted-house gingerbread-house building competition. It was just the right thing at the right time, and that’s a lot of the fun of it, just getting out, having them play, and having them play well, but also realizing it should be fun.

  1. What’s your favorite fun fact about Biology?

That the number of bones you have changes as you age because they fuse together. So you have more bones when you’re born, technically, than when you’re an adult. And, people have a different number of bones, some people have extra ribs, other people have a different amount of bones in their feet and stuff like that.

  1. What is one book you want to recommend to your students?

I think my favorite book to read for a long time has been “The Cider House Rules” by John Irving. I just really like that book, I’ve read it multiple times. My son right now is in 8th grade, and he’s started reading “The Fellowship of the Ring” [by J. R. R. Tolkien], and I love the whole sequence of that, and now, I’m pretty much obsessed with every Friday watching “[The Lord of the Rings:] The Rings of Power”, so I’d recommend that. In terms of science things, I actually really enjoy a lot of Bill Bryson’s work, so “A Short History of Nearly Anything” or “The Body [A Guide for Occupants]” because I feel for a student to read it’s super fun and interesting the way he writes. He puts his complicated things along with the funny and you learn something while reading which I feel is important.

  1. You got your masters in 2020. How was your experience getting your master’s while being an Andover faculty member?

Brutally difficult, but ultimately rewarding. I was taking classes. There were a couple of sabbaticals I had. I took some classes over the summer, and others I was taking like one class a term while teaching. The worst term was when I was on sabbatical for the fall, so I was taking three classes through Harvard Extension [School]. I was going to Harvard a couple of nights a week for some of the classes, and then in that November we switch into winter term, so I started teaching again in early December, but it was the end of the [Harvard] term, so I was taking three classes in Cambridge, while I was teaching and coaching. That was probably two of the more difficult weeks of my Andover career. Somewhere in there I also had to make sure my children were fed and things like that, but my wife was able to help pick up the slack there.

  1. What’s your most notable experience as an Andover teacher?

I coach nordic in the winter, but I was helping out a group in [Outdoor Pursuits] go on an overnight trip in the winter. It was beautiful… We went in, set up camp, camped the night away. It was fine, it was beautiful weather, like 15 to 20 degrees. We were hiking out in the morning. One kid had his ice axe in wrong, so we stopped, and we were fixing it so it wouldn’t be aiming at his head, and we get up, we keep going, we go to the next intersection and nine of the kids were gone. They had kept going and we didn’t know which trail they took. We spent the next couple hours running up and down the first bit of four trails, couldn’t find out where they went, and we were debating whether it was time to go out and call New Hampshire Fish and Game to come to find them when they came wandering back down the trail and asked, “Where have you been?”… There were four kids with us who were good enough to have waited at the intersection and were like, “We hit this intersection and we stopped, we didn’t see where they went,” so they had to spend basically several hours hanging out with us, while we were trying to find these missing students.

  1. If you could give one piece of advice to new students taking classes in natural sciences for the first time, what would it be?

Find a way to work hard half the time, and [don’t work half-hard] all the time. I think one of the best things you can do as a student here from my experience being a student here is work when it’s time to work, but then also get time away from the work so that you feel like you have downtime. Because that will make you do better when it’s time to work. 

  1. What could you not live without/

I mean lots of things, air, oxygen is pretty fundamental, we need that. I’m going to go with oxygen.