I’ve accepted an offer from Greenwood Community Schools to teach seventh grade language arts and become the head girls basketball coach. The town of Greenwood is twelve miles south of Indianapolis, Indiana, the state where I grew up playing the game. My parents were both English teachers, and my dad was a coach.
The move is motivated primarily by a desire to put family first. If all goes according to plan–does that ever happen?–the position gives me the opportunity to teach in the middle school where both of my daughters will eventually attend. One of my dominant memories of growing up in Indiana is of my my mom, dad, sister, and me all piling into the car to head off to school together. I remember when my dad was the athletic director at Caston (name derived from Cass and Fulton counties) in North-Central Indiana, we’d take him dinner and have a sort of picnic in his office. In accepting the position at Greenwood, I imagine many times where all of us Torgersons will be in the same building doing the work of learning, teaching, and developing as members of a school community.
After ten years of not coaching, I found myself back in the gym coaching Charlotte and her peers when she was a second grader. Whether it was in Connecticut or North Carolina, we have regularly had lots of girls over to our house to work on their games in the driveway. Especially during the last two years, I’ve been scrapping for gym times, filling out insurance paperwork, and looking for gyms to rent. As I realized that what I liked best about my life was working with kids and basketball, I began to look for ways in which that activity could become a primary aspect of my job.
For the past eleven years, I’ve been a professor at St. John’s University in New York who taught First Year Writing courses. What I’ve enjoyed most about St. John’s is working with the students. Located in the borough of Queens where over one hundred languages are spoken, I’ve felt like representatives from all over the world have shown up so that we could write and learn together. As discouraged as I can feel about the prospect of different cultures sharing space in the world together, the classrooms I’ve inhabited at St. John’s continue to show me those from different cultures can not only coexist, but celebrate and learn from one another’s differences. Over the course of my career of working with young people for over two decades, few things have made me more proud than being able to say I am a professor at St. John’s University.
During the last three years, I’ve been splitting time between Asheville, North Carolina where I live with my family and New York City where I’ve continued to teach writing courses at St. John’s University. I have loved living in Asheville for the beauty of the mountains and the French Broad River, the opportunities to live an active outdoor lifestyle, and for the passionate community that surrounds the arts. As a lover of stories and storytelling, I’ve felt empowered by the audiences that have supported my writing and films during the time I’ve called Asheville home. As much as I’ve enjoyed living in Asheville, I’ve felt divided when it came to the time I’m able to give my family and the time I want to spend with my students at St. John’s. I felt it was time to wholly commit to one community. Once I decided I wanted to teach and coach, Indiana seemed like the place to do it for its facilities, enthusiasm for the game, my upbringing there, and the chance to work with a good friend, Greenwood Athletic Director Rob Irwin. Rob and I coached together when I was his assistant at Carroll High School in Fort Wayne.
While the upcoming move to Indiana will be a return to the area where I grew up, it will be the first time my wife and daughters have lived in the state. As I engage in the work of moving and changing jobs, I try not to think too much about what I am leaving behind and instead focus on looking forward to the opportunities available to me as a teacher who will get to spend at least five days a week with students. I’ll look for chances to provide some sparks of excitement when it comes to young people’s enthusiasm for reading, writing, and learning. I look to the ways in which I can also use basketball as a vehicle to give young people positive experiences. My friends with kids older than mine testify to the fact that their children’s childhoods have gone by fast. My youngest daughter Isabel is eight years old, and I can’t help but thinking that she’ll likely be graduating from high school in ten years. Knowing that, I can think of no better way to spend the next decade than sharing it on a daily basis with my daughters, my wife and parents, and in service to the young people in the Greenwood, Indiana community.