Star student: CFA Headmaster Don Berger makes the grade
Don Berger is one of the new kids at Cape Fear Academy this year. But, as the new Headmaster, he brings years of experience in education including the past 12 years leading an independent school in Cary.
“There is no typical day, and that’s why I love this job. You never know what challenges will arise,” he said on a recent Tuesday afternoon.
His day began with a 7 a.m. breakfast meeting with the chairman of the Cape Fear Academy board of trustees followed by responding to about 25 new email messages received that morning. Between 9 a.m. and noon, he met with a parent, a local clergy, the school’s director of advancement about marketing Cape Fear Academy and snuck into a fifth grade science class to watch students present experiments on molecular density. Then, he retreated to his office where a big gumball machine full of brightly colored M&Ms welcomes all of his visitors.
“The number one thing I like is watching students achieve and accomplish, seeing students be successful in the classroom, on the stage, on the athletic field and realizing that I’ve helped put things in place to help students succeed,” he said.
The Harvard grad who received his master’s degree in education, administration, planning and public policy has taught every grade from sixth through twelfth except eighth grade. In addition to teaching English, he has coached boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, lacrosse, baseball, basketball and chess.
He remembers being inspired by one of his high school English teachers in Long Island, NY, where he grew up.
“What I loved about Dr. Ruesch’s class was he had a wonderful blend of seriousness and humor. He would make learning fun by incorporating into his classroom humorous anecdotes, occasional playful banter during certain points in class to wake us up and energize us. Then, he’d bring us back and we’d work hard,” he said. “That’s how I modeled my own teaching.”
He helped build Cary Academy from the ground up in 1996, as its headmaster until accepting the position at Cape Fear Academy earlier this year. The toughest part of the job, he said, is deciding “how to use limited resources most effectively in the best interest of students, because that’s what it’s all about.” Like any business, Cape Fear Academy has competing needs for a limited pool of resources.
“We have way more needs than we can meet. We have to figure out what’s the most important for students,” he said. But, among the 600 scholars eager to take on the academic rigor and challenges posed at Cape Fear Academy this year, Don Berger is at the head of the class.
Cape Fear Academy has been a leader in the educational community of southeastern North Carolina since 1967. Known for its academic excellence and outstanding college preparatory program, the pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade curriculum emphasizes hands-on learning across academic disciplines. For more information, visit www.capefearacademy.org or call (910) 791-0287.