Mike Webber teaching science at Trinity-Pawling School

Mike Webber is a listener. Leaning closer, taking an extra pause, he will nod. Then thoughtfully, carefully, he builds ideas — selecting each word.

It all starts with language. When Webber’s son, Joe Webber ’18, was a senior, the two devised a Winter Project dubbed Find Another Word, inspired by a Choate Rosemary Hall YouTube video that evinced the pervasive use of the phrase “that’s so gay.” Webber’s older son Larry ’17 graduated from Trinity-Pawling as an openly gay teenager, so both Joe and Mr. Webber desired a lasting change in campus discourse. During that winter project, they found that students resonated on a single idea: just be kind.

“Even though the focus was language, as we brainstormed it developed into understanding stories, empathy, kindness, and sharing.” The project capped with a Trinity-Pawling production titled Talking Kindness, which gained perspective from students and faculty alike.

Webber’s 18 years at Trinity-Pawling have shown a commitment to life-long learning. Leaving the business world behind, Webber came to Trinity-Pawling to make an impact in the science classroom. Coaching on Dave Coratti’s championship football teams in the 2000s, Webber was later appointed as the head varsity baseball coach. Yet, in the spirit of the boarding school triple threat, one of Webber’s major highlights has come in the less tangible realm of boarding school life: the time between our scheduled events.

After the original project period, the father and son duo felt that the thrust of their work needed to extend beyond the winter. They began an anonymous collective called T-P Allies that gathered monthly to talk about inclusion, kindness, and empathy towards marginalized populations on campus. After Joe Webber graduated, Ben Yoon ’20 gained leadership and by the fall of 2020, small groups of seniors were practicing a socially-distanced Trinity Method, speaking and listening with patience in groups of three to further an intimate empathy towards our varied stories.

“It is important for there to be an evolution, for involvement in the community towards better communication,” Webber says. The seasoned educator knows this work is dynamic — he’s been listening.

by Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris