Harding forsees traveling, volunteering

By Jessica Barzilay

 

Several years ago, a high school student greeted English teacher Geri Harding with an unusual request: to participate in class discussion while reclining on a yoga mat. The student recently graduated from medical school.

“All that reclining must have agreed with him,” Harding said. “He certainly learned a lot.”

Over the course of her 24 years at the school, Harding has seen it all, from the overly relaxed student to the 1989 merger between Harvard and Westlake Schools to a rapidly evolving interface between teaching and technology.

She retires in June after teaching students of every age, helping to coordinate the independent study program and working on the faculty development committee, which is responsible for organizing teacher grants and trips.

Born in Adelaide, Australia, Harding did not anticipate a future as a high school English teacher while a teenager herself. In high school, Harding was a part of the Royal Academy of Dance training program. She went on to earn a conservatorium degree and taught performing arts.

Enrolling at University of California Los Angeles in order to obtain a formal college degree, Harding had planned to go into law. However, with two young children and a passion for her English courses, Harding decided to pursue an English degree instead. She studied medieval, Renaissance, nineteenth century American and nineteenth century British literature in her PhD program.

After working in a community college for a few years, she transitioned to Los Angeles public schools for a period before her children’s high school counselor recommended her to Westlake School for Girls.

Harding said that the relationships she formed within the school were the most significant aspect of her experience.

“I will miss the kids the most—just watching them grow, being with them, learning from my students,” Harding said.

Faculty friends have also expressed their fondness and respect for the former English department head.

“I’ll miss Ms. Harding’s great wit and sense of humor, her marvelous articulateness- and exquisite accent- and her unbending dedication to our profession: the art of teaching effective reading and writing,” English teacher Jeff Kwitny said.

“One of the things I’ve always wanted to do as an English teacher is to teach kids to really read a book and create the world of the book in their own head,” Harding said.

In the upcoming years, Harding looks forward to pursuing many of her hobbies. She plans on enjoying time at home, volunteering at her grandchildren’s schools and travelling abroad.