A lifelong humanities student, Robert Tisdale, humanities instructor and director of Residential Life at St. Andrew’s, has always been a curious learner and explorer. But it wasn’t until college — and until he had the freedom to really think — that he became fully interested in education and, he said, “the power that it can have.”
This year marks his 11th with St. Andrew’s, where he leads the Residential Life department and teaches English. As the director of Residential Life, Tisdale, among other responsibilities, oversees the institution’s residential program and implements the residential curriculum, plans orientations and organizes cultural events on campus, and trains student proctors. As an instructor, he teaches English III/American Studies. “We study classic American literature, emphasizing the skills related to analytical/critical reading, thinking, and writing,” he said.
He is also a Dorm Parent, an adviser, the leader of the newly formed Residents’ Council, and a member of both the Disciplinary Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee. On top of all that, he’s a devoted father to five children.
An avid outdoor adventurist, Tisdale’s love for the great outdoors was likely the result of a childhood spent outside. Growing up with four brothers and sisters in Dedham, Massachusetts, he hiked, camped, canoed, and fished “a lot,” he said. He also played a wide variety of sports. Between basketball and baseball, soccer and football, skateboarding and biking, “I was always outside,” he said.
He brings this passion for the outdoors to his position at St. Andrew’s, where he also leads the Rock Climbing Club and directs the Summer Camp program, which includes a ropes course Adventure Camp and a Life Long Adventure Camp that encourages climbing, kayaking, surfing, paddle boarding, and hiking.
Despite an early interest in education, Tisdale didn’t plan on being a teacher. “It just sort of happened, after college when a friend referred me for a job as the director of a writing center at the New Hampton School in New Hampshire,” he said. Instead, however, he was hired as an English teacher. After five years there, he spent two years teaching English at Parker Academy, also in New Hampshire, before moving to St. Andrew’s.
“All through my school years, my favorite classes were English and history,” he said. “I always loved to read and write and have always been an abstract thinker and one that focused on thinking about what it really means to be human.” Tisdale passes this on to his students. “I love to talk to students — I love to make them think, to hear their thoughts, and to help them clarify their thinking about themselves and the world,” he said. “Their breakthroughs are what makes my job great.”
It was these very students that impressed Tisdale on his first day at St. Andrew’s with their willingness to be taught and, in return, teach. “They drew me in immediately,” he said. Since then, Tisdale has leaned a great deal. “Because of them, I am more patient, more creative, more flexible and adaptable, and more thoughtful,” he said. “Maybe more importantly, they teach me about the minds of younger generations.”