By Austin Block
English teacher Dr. Heath Moon may be the only high school dropout to ever teach English at Harvard-Westlake. In the early 1960s, Moon was a rebellious teenager. Bent on painting and writing poetry, Moon, a year older than the rest of his classmates, dropped out of high school and enrolled in an unaccredited “experimental college,” he said.
“I’ll always remember the very first class I took at that place. It was in an old Victorian house and the first class I took was a class on Plato’s Republic, and that’s what I wanted to do,” Moon said.
He later took night courses at a community college, and at age 22 he enrolled in a four-year college, filled with a “driving hunger” to learn. Moon was so passionate about learning that after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, he went to graduate school and earned his doctorate.
“I was kind of a rebel. My experience as a student has been different,” Moon said. “Education is not an issue of practicality or of an avenue towards a career. It’s a kind of deep inner hunger … You just want to know, you want to sink your teeth into the great works that have been created, and come hell or high water, it doesn’t matter if you’re going to spend your life doing whatever, that’s what you have to do. Teaching is just sort of a natural outgrowth of that.”
Moon’s hunger for knowledge is undiminished. Now, after spending six years at Harvard-Westlake and 25 years teaching English and working as an administrator at the Pilgrim School, Moon is retiring to feed that hunger more fully.
“I love working a classroom, it’s my element …. the only frustration that I have with teaching is that I haven’t had the time to feed that hunger … and I want to go back to do that. That’s one of the really main reasons I want to retire. Even before I started college I was reading, I started for example, a systematic reading of the major works in English literature, starting with Chaucer.”
In retirement, Moon wants to read extensively, study art history in a “consistent and disciplined way,” go to lectures at art museums and return to studying philosophy. He said he will also continue to teach part time at a community college or as a substitute for teachers on maternity leave.
Although he is excited about his studies, Moon said he will miss teaching at Harvard-Westlake. He said the best part about teaching at Harvard-Westlake was interacting with the students.
“I’ll miss the students terribly. The decision to retire has not been easy, in fact, rather painful, and last week when I taught my eighth period class, I realized, because I’ve been blocking this out, … that was my last Harvard-Westlake class and I went home just monstrously depressed,” he said. “It’s just something you have to deal with … And I don’t only love teaching students, I love [how] we tease each other, and there’s this back and forth going on … I’ll miss the students. But I’ll have new students. If someone wants to have a baby in the English department you’ll see me around.”