Alex White joined the Alta Vista Middle School faculty this year. He hails from Bethesda MD, but also lived in Paris, France as a young child. He most recently taught at the Edmund Burke School in Washington, D.C. and he speaks 6 languages, including Elvish. We caught up with Alex recently to pose a few questions:
What is the most exciting thing you’ve learned from a student?
The class I taught on Quenya (Elvish) happened because three passionate students came to me and asked me to teach them. I ended up writing my own textbook and there are YouTube videos of my students performing skits in Elvish That class was an independent study where 13 students gave up lunch periods to learn a new language!
If you weren’t a teacher, what profession would you pursue?
I’d probably still work in IT, but at a non-profit whose mission I care about. I like working in school technology partially because I love working with kids, but partially because I like working in a community where people are passionately dedicated to making the world a better place. Like most Oberlin grads, I’d rather work in social justice than make money, which is pretty unusual as technology professionals go.
What is your favorite amusement park ride?
The biggest, scariest roller coaster I can find.
If you could try to break a world record in anything what would you try?
I want to be the first person to unicycle across the Pacific.
What is your favorite “juicy” word?
I have a document where I track my favorite words. It’s really long. A couple of my favorites are syzygy, augur, haboob, and scry.
Which musical instrument do you think best describes your personality?
Well, I play trumpet and piano, but I’d probably say the theremin; it seems fun and easy at first, but there are some unexpected depths to it.
If you could bring to life any imaginary creature, which would you choose?
The daemons from His Dark Materials always fascinated me: an animal companion who’s basically part of your soul and a representation of your innermost self.
If you could invite one famous person to speak to the AVS Community at morning meeting, who would you choose?
I always wished I were friends with Kishi Bashi (the musician Kaoru Ishibashi) so he would come play at the schools I work at; his studio work is great but he’s spectacular in person. Look up his Tiny Desk performance if you want to see somebody doing extraordinary things with a violin, his voice, and a looping machine.