Faculty Profile: Carl Benson
By Dani DuBois ’09
Photos by Sini Fernandez
Middle School math teacher Carl Benson summarizes his approach to life in a simple statement: “A healthy mind, a healthy body, a healthy spirit–all these lead to a healthy walk in life.”
Many call Carl level-headed and witty. Middle School Division Head James Woollard describes him as “a calm, steady ship that doesn’t founder easily.”
Teaching a healthy mind
As a teacher, Carl seeks to meet students where they are.
“I wasn’t strong in math, so I understand how to bring kids through the struggle to understand it. I enjoy the challenge of reaching kids and seeing the spark as they make connections,” Carl said. For this reason, Carl enjoys teaching Middle School. He sees the importance of laying strong foundations and connections to sustain the weight of future math concepts that students learn in Upper School.
Carl believes if his students trust him to be fair, they will ask more questions. He, himself, asks questions in order to learn and encourages his students to do the same. In doing so, Carl takes the time to invest in students, rewards them for asking for clarification, and makes sure they understand the material before moving on.
“Carl has more than one way of explaining math problems,” said Patti Domas, mother of Erik, class of 2012, who had Mr. Benson in grade 8. “He is in tune with how a student is doing in his class, and he tailors the lessons to the learning style of his students.”
Carl often asks his students to explain a concept to each other in class or to teach it to their parents. He says the best sign that students fully understand the material is that they can teach it to someone else.
In addition to the world of math, Carl learns about his students’ lives outside of the classroom.
“He’s very personable with the kids,” Patti said. “He tries to get to know them beyond the classroom—he’s a friend and mentor.” She described a time near the end of Erik’s year in Mr. Benson’s class when Erik was hospitalized for a period of time and fell behind. Patti recalls that Carl was concerned first with Erik’s health, and then with his math skills. He worked with Erik one-on-one to help him finish the year strong.
Bear Creek alumnus Michael Davisson ’10 agrees. “Mr. Benson is devoted to other people and dedicated to his students,” Michael said. “He wants to be with students; he cares about us.” Michael took Mr. Benson’s class in grade 8, but the relationship continued beyond that year. “[Mr. Benson] always said ‘Hi’ in the hallways, and always asked how basketball was going—that meant a lot to me.”
Coaching a healthy body
Before coming to Bear Creek in 2005 to teach math, Carl was an athletics coach. He taught physical education and coached since 1975, and he helped with the Bear Creek track program for many years.
Carl believes in the importance of details in both academics and sports. As with math, he emphasizes the importance of grasping fundamentals and details in athletics activities. “You can’t skip technique in math or in athletics. It’s like a math problem—you have to take time to fill in the voids and make a strong foundation before moving on to the next skill level,” said Carl.
Though Carl is no longer an athletics coach, he uses his avocation in new ways. He has given fitness and nutrition advice to individuals, including Mr. Woollard, as well as to the greater Bear Creek community, offering fitness plans for the gym. This past JanTerm rolled all of his interests into one with the Whole Body Fitness class he taught. Carl described the class as the integration of nutrition and physical fitness, with emphasis on connecting to God and His everyday presence in our lives.
Michael Davisson notes, “He’s always willing to serve other people.” Carl helped Michael and fellow alumnus Jamie Meyer ’10 develop a weight training plan to prepare for basketball season. “He tailored a plan to our strengths and weaknesses,” Michael recalled. “He inspired me to work harder.”
Living a healthy walk
Carl has found that the integration of a healthy mind in a healthy body makes for a healthy walk of faith in Christ. The beauty and symmetry of math illuminates the beauty and symmetry of our Creator. He enjoys illustrating this for his Middle School students: “Many times in math the idea of a Creator’s hand in the design of our world is there for me to highlight and help students make that connection,” Carl said.
He encourages his students to ask questions about God and their faith. “Our worldview is the lens we use to view all that we learn, and we must ask questions in order to gain deeper understanding,” Carl said. “It is important for me to connect the math concepts and explain how they can be used so students can move to the analysis level. This is where they can really see God at work in our world.”
In his athletics coaching, he finds similar satisfaction. When people are at their best and able to do their best with their physical bodies, they enjoy the goodness of God’s creation and see the goodness of God in making such a creation.
“Carl models the Christian faith,” Mr. Woollard said. At the beginning of class Carl leads a devotion, reading aloud the daily entry from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.
Carl said he uses the devotional in three ways: “To encourage each student to accept the challenge of the Christian model Jesus showed us, to constantly look to make our best effort in all we do, and to serve Christ by helping others.”
“He’s a Christian through and through,” Patti Domas said. “He weaves his faith into every aspect of life.”