Returning to Oliverian as an experiential teacher, Mike Sallade will leverage his background in adventure learning and team development to manage student engagement on an individual and community-wide basis.
Mike Sallade, who worked with Oli as dorm parent and adventure teacher from 2007 to 2009, has rejoined our staff as experiential teacher. Working alongside Greg Vogel, Executive Director of Program and Culture, Sallade will be instrumental in streamlining the Oli’s three pillars of student life — counseling, academics, and dorm life — to best care for the individual needs of each student.
For Sallade, who said he and his wife have wanted to move from the Seacoast Region to the North Country for a number of years, returning to the White Mountains is in many ways a dream come true. He sat down with us to share more about his background in adventure education, the benefits of experiential learning, and the culture that distinguishes Oliverian as an incredible home base for growth.
A: It’s such a pleasure to be on campus again. For the last decade, I’ve worked with team development in nature education. In 2015, I joined the team at Project Adventure working full-time to facilitate their youth and college programs. In this role, I oversaw the challenge course, hired and trained all of our new staff, and managed retention and professional development, in addition to maintaining and updating our policies and procedures as necessary.
I also have a bachelor’s in adventure education from Prescott College, so I’ll be able to leverage both of those skill sets in my new role as an experiential teacher. In essence, I’ll oversee Oliverian’s engagement program. This means working with students on an individual basis to ensure that they’re on track and feel supported, that they’re motivated to pursue the academic path that interests them, and that they’re having experiences outside the classroom that encourage them to invest in their coursework and connect to their network here.
A: At Oliverian, we have three departments involved in student life — the counselors, the academic faculty, and the dorm parents. I will work with Greg Vogel across these realms to ensure that they perform cohesively to create the healthiest community possible.
I’ll also help provide additional support to students on a case-by-case basis. I will help coordinate the three departments when a student is struggling to participate fully in one or all of those areas and, when necessary, I will help them re-engage through the method that’s right for them — whether that means simply getting them out of the dorm or bringing them outside for an adventure break, where we can get a bit of distance from the immediate situation, discuss what’s occurring, and brainstorm how to get them back on track.
A: In a safe and supportive environment, adventure is a fun, engaging method of experiential education where students practice social and emotional learning. Some might think “adventure” doesn’t apply to a boarding school, but “adventure” doesn’t just mean a hike or a challenging ropes course. Though there is plenty of that kind of adventure at Oli, high school itself is an adventure, too. We’re all navigating a journey, developing empathy, establishing new relationships, forming healthy routines, and making progress toward the futures we dream up.
Adventure can be particularly beneficial to students who are dealing with anxiety and lack of motivation. Acquiring a new skill — even one as simple as tying your shoes, for example — can be frustrating and time-consuming. It requires you to give intense focus to the task at hand and every physical movement you make. Eventually, this process becomes a second nature, because you’ve assimilated knowledge and gained the confidence that you can perform this skill — and master the next one.
Adventure follows this same sequence — you find yourself faced with new, and perhaps uncomfortable, challenges; you proceed by trial and error; you acquire knowledge through execution; and you overcome an obstacle that initially felt insurmountable.
If we conceptualize adventure as a set of circumstances with an unknown outcome, we open ourselves up to the possibility that it can take place anywhere. Whether Oli students are backpacking in the White Mountains or exploring a new subject, the learning process is underway as they acquire the flexibility and self-assuredness to persist in new situations, dispel anxiety, and propel themselves toward an idea of success that they can now believe is truly achievable.