Enigmatic teachers proffers wisdom

Abby Seitz, Online/Associate Editor

An oasis of creativity occupies the end of the 100s hallway. Cinderblock walls display an array of posters, featuring everything from Walt Whitman to The X Files. near a wooden desk, flooded with papers. A towering man sits at the desk, sporting a few ear piercings, a collared shirt, and infamous dreadlocks.
“My dreadlocks are a pseudo-spiritual measure of time,” English department head Lindell Palmer said. “T.S. Elliot once wrote, ‘I measure my life in coffee spoons.’ My dreadlocks measure my life.”
Palmer grew up in South Hill, Virginia, a small town about 20 minutes from the North Carolina border. He graduated from The College of William and Mary with degrees in anthropology and English. While he dreamed of being an anthropologist, a career in teaching was a “natural progression,” according to Palmer.
“My father is a principal, and my mother is a teacher,” Palmer said. “I grew up in schools, waiting for them to be done so I could go home. I love talking about English, and now I get to do it every day.”
Palmer has taught a number of courses, including mythology, American Civilization, and English 10. He currently teaches AP Literature, creative writing, and English 11.
“My favorite part of teaching is meeting wonderful students and interacting with them,” Palmer said. “I love discussing literature and film and introducing students to different elements of it, and seeing their reaction when the light bulb goes off and they understand it.”
Palmer developed his student-centric teaching philosophy through education classes and trial-and-error.
“I believe in facilitating learning with a little bit of instruction and lecture, but then I stand back and let students discover things with my guidance,” Palmer said. “If a student has an interest, we can pursue it together.”
Palmer’s AP class is infamous for time-consuming projects; however, students find the work worthwhile.
“[Palmer’s AP class] makes me laugh, makes me cry, and changes my life,” senior Danielle DiLisi said. “He’s hip and funny. He’s lenient, but he’s still tough when it comes to work. He’s a paradox, and I love it.”
Palmer said students play a large part in their learning.
“My favorite projects were student suggested,” Palmer said. “One year, a student was struggling with understanding happiness, so I had the class research happiness and write a paper. I continue to assign that project today.”
Colleagues, such as Lee Lorber, enjoy working with Palmer.
“He’s never too busy to stop and talk to teachers,” Lorber said. “He’s not all crazy when it comes to his ideas; he’s flexible in his thinking. He’s always upbeat. His laugh is his signature.”
Palmer has sponsored Voices and Visions, the school’s literary magazine, since he first began teaching at FHS seven years ago.
“My favorite part of Voices and Visions is working with students who love the arts and graphic design,” Palmer said. “I like working with students outside of the classroom environment and seeing the best art and prose and poetry in our school.”
AP student and Voices and Visions design editor senior Tony Frank said that Palmer’s compassion for students sets him apart.
“Not only is he a good listener, but he’s a good conversationalist,” Frank said. “He’s open minded, and he’s not as judgmental as other teachers. He doesn’t look down on students.”
Outside of school, Palmer’s interests vary from watching American Dad to dance.
“I like modern dance; I danced in college,” Palmer said. “With ballet, it’s all about pretty and point shoes. In modern dance, there are contractions and contorting.”
Palmer directs Stonewall Jackson High School’s color guard, which is currently ranked number one in the country after a first place finish at the 2012 Atlantic Indoor Association Championships in Raleigh, NC.
“I was a natural at color guard when I did it in high school,” Palmer said. “There was a girl I liked who invited me to do it. She quit, but I fell in love with [color guard]. I like coaching because I enjoy watching students progress.”
Palmer cited Sherman Alexie and Toni Morrison as his favorite authors.
“My favorite work of Alexie’s is The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” Palmer said. “It’s a collection of short stories that are intertwined, so you can read them as one, or read each story individually.”
If he isn’t watching history documentaries or jamming to Radiohead, Palmer can often be found interacting with the natural world.
“I like going for nature walks and hiking,” Palmer said. “I like driving down back roads and getting lost. It’s my dream to live off the grid.”