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Rus Benson
Excellence in Education

When you entered Rus Benson’s classroom, you entered an intimate world where the words on the page may have been flat, but the collective energy and intellectual curiosity of the teacher and his students would inflate each topic to three-dimensional proportions that could be examined in crystalline detail.

Rus Benson joined the NAHS English Department in 1973 with a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from the University of Maryland. His 31-year career began under Department Head Vic Lister, during the era of open campus, team-teaching and a newly established elective program. He taught a variety of courses (level two through honors) to all grade levels, but eventually settled into level one Sophomore English and a few favorite electives: Gothic Literature, Creative Writing, Utopias and Writing Workshop.

According to Rus Benson, “Teaching, when it works, builds intimacy in the best sense of the word. Stuff we live on.” Consequently, in the classroom, Rus tried to “create an open and honest dialogue about literature and the arts, have students recognize and challenge their assumptions, instill a sense of expertise and pride, and share the joy over work well done.” His “emphasis on student writing and presentations” grew out of his belief that “students’ investment in their products was paramount.”

In addition, Rus was an enthusiastic curriculum designer and later director of “Project LITE,” a federally funded arts-in-education project. Under Mary Ellen Palenchar, Rus would eventually lead the NAHS community into the era of technology as the supervisor of the Humanities Writing Lab, a program that encouraged teachers to incorporate technology into their daily lessons and offered students the opportunity to use technology as a tool to enhance their academic repertoire as writers and researchers.

Like all great teachers truly invested in their students, Rus worked closely with students outside the classroom as well as advisor to Galadriel, the NAHS literary magazine. He also joined former colleague and fellow Excellence in Education Award winner Charlie Ayotte in 1995 and again in 1998 to chaperone several students on summer trips to Paris, France. Rus is extremely proud to have worked with such great educators, especially Elaine Bedard and Bob Hanold.

Rus is an avid photographer who will be joined in retirement this year by his wife, Ginny, who worked for ten years as a Media Specialist at North High. The Bensons have two sons, Mikel and Brian. Brian and his wife, Amelia, have three children—Joshua (7), Mikayla (5) and Noah (1).