The end of Semester 49 will mark a full seven years here for me. Each year, I have made a practice of reflecting on accomplishments and, mundane as it sounds, updating my curriculum vitae. But a friend wisely suggested that in addition to the required logging of professional accomplishments, I should catalog my favorite moments as well. And so here they are, in no particular order:

Getting visited by two coyotes during the middle of an English class in the woods on campus.

Watching shooting stars with a semester group in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Witnessing an entire class of students spontaneously jump in a settling pond after I read them a Mary Oliver poem.

Howling at the full moon with students as part of a “break” during the middle of evening Study Hall.

Seeing a black bear cross our Morning Watch trail (a path that students walk every morning on campus before breakfast) in the early fog.

Sledding down the campus trails after a beautiful snowfall.

Receiving letters from alumni about the impact of my class and/or their OA experience.

Hosting advisory groups over to my home at least once during the semester to cook and eat dinner together.

Watching students face their fears and discover the joy and empowerment that comes from climbing Cedar Rock and Looking Glass.

These are the sorts of moments that make our semester school powerful and unique. And when I consider the transformative elements of education in general, I realize that it is moments, not accomplishments, which can change everything for us—the moment we discover we are passionate about climate change resiliency or mushroom identification or linear regressions. The discussion about Ishmael in class in which our worldview is turned upside down. The steep day on the trail with classmates when we discover that we do, in fact, love backpacking after all. The accomplishments will follow, but the experiences must come first.

By Katie Harris