As the 2021-2022 school year comes to a close, several beloved teachers in the Pace community are retiring: Upper School Ceramics teacher Mark Knott, US World Language Chairperson Cappy Lewis and US English Department Chairperson Marsha Durlin.
For the past 10 years, Mr. Knott has taught ceramics to the students in the Upper School. His vibrant personality and motivating attitude allow the environment of a classroom to be a safe place for students to work freely with their artistic designs. Mr. Knott encourages his students to be innovative and create unique pieces that express their individuality. “It has been challenging working with high school students, but for the most part, we try to be disciplined with our teaching and make it like a college class where students can come up with their own ideas and have freedom with their work and be passionate to make them better artists,” said Mr. Knott. While being a ceramics teacher is part of his identity, here at Pace, he is also known for his gracious support of students outside of the classroom in athletics, the arts and other extracurriculars to help encourage those activities on a deeper level. Before teaching at Pace, he lived in Gwinnett County and taught some classes in community centers and colleges, but mostly felt comfortable pursuing ceramics in his home studio. Mr. Knott has been a studio artist for about 20 years where he enjoys making teapots, large planters and gigantic jars.
Once the year ends, Mr. Knott is moving to the Baja Peninsula in a small town called El Pescadero where he already built a house and an art studio there. In Mexico, Mr. Knott will teach some classes and continue his endeavors in ceramics. “I am honestly really sad to leave Pace. I’m super grateful to have taught here, and it’s been an amazing experience. I love all of the students I have taught, and it has probably been the best 10 years of my life,” said Mr. Knott.
Mrs. Durlin arrived at Pace in the fall of 1979, and for the 43 years that she has taught here, she has made an impact on our community with the English Department, the students and the faculty. You probably know her as the teacher who does the famous “Friday Dance” with her classes but only when class is held on the last period of a Friday to celebrate the golden moment and excitement of the weekend. In 1982, Mrs. Durlin was named the English Department Chairperson and is so appreciative of the amount of support and professional respect she has received in that position throughout the years. She has received numerous recognitions including a Yearbook dedication in 1990, the Lawrence Fellowship and various others. Mrs. Durlin has inspired many to grow in their English writing, become more confident in their work and bring characters to life from books read in class. Mrs. Durlin wants to leave students with one last piece of advice before leaving: “Make sure to maintain contact with teachers because they truly love hearing from you and want their students to succeed. Also, make sure to utilize the dean system which started around ’96 because they are truly there to be your advocate.”
Previously, Mrs. Durlin attended Chamblee High School and later worked in DeKalb County at Berkeley High School. She also studied poetry at Oxford and Princeton, and her fun fact is that she loves watching foreign films. In 1979, Mrs. Durlin heard there was an opening at Pace and jumped onto the opportunity. “I just sort of fell into position here. I was so happy, and Pace has just gotten better and better in the time I have been here,” she said. After Pace, Mrs. Durlin looks forward to spending her summer in Colorado as she has for the last 40 years with her husband Bill who is a retired college professor.
Cappy Lewis has taught at Pace for the last 46 years since 1976 and has been a key factor in the World Language Department. Mrs. Lewis attended Vanderbilt University for both her undergraduate and master’s degree, and she spent her last year in college studying abroad in Spain. Mrs. Lewis has enjoyed watching students grow with their Spanish speaking skills and is amazed by their progress from freshman to senior year. “The students, hands down, are my favorite thing about Pace. They’re just awesome and different and can be themselves. I have just learned so much from them, and I love my colleagues as well. Pace is just a great person magnet,” said Mrs. Lewis. When Mrs. Lewis first worked at Pace, she was a math teacher during the time when the Upper School went from seventh to twelfth grade with no Lower School. However, she soon switched to being a Spanish teacher since that was her true passion. Mrs. Lewis also offered a last piece of advice to her students: “I would love for students to do their best and remember they are not just a number. I want them to build life skills and know that their time at Pace is not fully about getting into a college but about finding out who you are as an individual and not derive your self worth from a transcript.” She has endless possibilities for her time after Pace but is excited to spend more time with her two daughters.
“I have loved having Señora as my Spanish teacher because she always welcomes us into class with a big smile and makes sure we have what we need in order to understand and succeed in her class. She is always willing to answer any questions you have, and I am going to miss her so much next year,” said sophomore Eva Tucker.