A new principal is a big deal. And while many of us may have had a chance to meet Mr. Barney, we thought it would be a great idea to sit down with him (virtually) and ask him a number of questions, so that we can all get to know him better. So here are ten questions I (Susan) came up with and Mr. Barney’s answers to them.
1. Please tell us about yourself! Are you married? Have any children? Have any pets? Where are you from? What college did you attend?
My wife Ashley and I celebrated 10 years of marriage this last June. We have two children: Alethea just turned 3 and Atticus just turned 1. We do not have any pets, but Ashley has recently been adopting more plant babies to spruce up our apartment.
We recently moved here from Wheaton, IL, in the western suburbs of Chicago, where I served as the Academic Dean for Clapham School. I grew up in the San Francisco bay area and came out to the midwest for Wheaton College, where Ashley and I met. Ashley grew up in Wisconsin and we still visit her family up there regularly.
2. What influenced you to become a teacher?
In college I double majored in English and Ancient Languages and was planning on pursuing pastoral ministry. Since Ashley had one more year at Wheaton before we got married, I thought I would look for a job in the area to get some life experience under my belt before working on the MDiv. I had always loved learning and discipleship.
My advisor in the English department, Dr. Leland Ryken, recommended that I reach out to the local classical Christian school that had just started a few years before. When I visited and saw how the students were able to interact with ideas and be discipled in their faith—intellectually, morally and spiritually—I was astonished. Thus began a journey that led me into classical Christian education.
3. What is one of your hidden talents?
I did gymnastics when I was young. So I can still do handstands and flips. But don’t tell your students, otherwise I may continue to get forced into being a performing monkey once a year for the rest of my life!
4. What is your favorite book and why?
There are few harder questions that one could ask than this! I think I would have to say Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, as strange and nerdy as that sounds. I can’t think of any book that I keep coming back to again and again, always finding something new, perplexing, inspiring, and challenging. Of course, Aristotle’s explanation of virtue ethics and the idea of virtue as the mean between two vices is powerful (e.g. courage stands in between cowardice on the one hand and recklessness on the other). But the discussions of friendship and the intellectual virtues, happiness and the meaning of life are so perennial and suggestive, that I don’t know of any other book (than the Bible obviously, which is really many books) that is more thought-provoking and continually engaging.
5. What are your hobbies?
Reading is a major hobby. I like to read widely in the philosophy of education and modern best-sellers that have important implications for education, like on peak performance, leadership and personal development.
Blogging and writing are the natural expression of much of this study (see http://educationalrenaissance.com/). As a biblical exegete/interpreter (MA in biblical exegesis from Wheaton College), I also read a fair amount of theology and biblical studies material, and I definitely work to keep up my chops in the original languages (Latin, Greek and Hebrew).
I also enjoy playing with my kids, walking and going to parks and other nature areas. Strategy board games are fun, but harder to make happen with little ones. Spending time with Ashley and getting lost in long discussions is the best.
6. Is there a quote or saying that you live your life by?
For some years now (ever since an exegesis of Romans course I took back in grad school) an underrated verse in Romans has been reverberating with me and calling me up to a life of full devotion to Christ: “to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Rom 2:7 ESV). I love this verse because it describes the Christian life in a way that is so counter-intuitive to much of modern American cultural Christianity.
7. Who has inspired you in your life?
So many people have inspired me, but I will mention a high school teacher, from whom I took Freshman Honors English and Latin all four years at a large public school in California. He stood out as a classical educator in the midst of a pragmatic and progressive educational ethos. Equipped with bow tie (and sometimes a top hat), he daily expressed his enthusiasm for the subject matter, provided helpful qualitative feedback on essays and Latin translations, did not over-emphasize grades, and trusted his students. His classes were a breath of fresh air, and it is to him in large part that I owe my journey into classical education.
8. What gets you up in the morning?
Currently, a good cup of coffee out of a French press, a chapter or two from the Greek New Testament, and the privilege of serving students on their journey toward the good life in Christ.
9. What historical figure would you like to spend a day with?
I think Leonardo DaVinci would be an incredibly interesting person to spend a day with. I imagine him going from invention to invention, one artistic project to another throughout the day—all while (hopefully) carrying on a vibrant and meandering dialogue about great ideas.
10. What would we be surprised to learn about you?
I’m not sure. We’ll just have to wait and see….
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