Venne, Julie

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NSU University School
Mount Holyoke College (BA)
University of Texas (MA)

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, my parents moved our family to South Florida when I was six, where I grew up. I ventured to Mount Holyoke in western Mass. for college and stayed in the Pioneer Valley after I graduated for another ten years. I met my husband, Bill, while working as a computer programmer and then as a portfolio analyst at MassMutual in the Investment Management division. We have two adult (as they keep telling me) daughters, Mary and Anna. Mary graduated from the University of North Florida and lives in Jacksonville, FL, and Anna is a senior at Tufts University in Boston. Both Mary and Anna are graduates of Pine Crest, an independent day school in Fort Lauderdale, where I taught Math for 15 years.

What book has made you think the most? The answer to this is "always, the last one I read". Whether the book is fantasy such as "Winter World" and "The Solar War" by A.G. Riddle, or Anita Diamant's "The Red Tent" which offers a female narrative to the biblical story of Dinah, or the historical fiction presented by "A Gentleman in Moscow", or last summer's faculty reading of "Teach Like Finland", or my current book, "Educated", by Tara Westover, I am full of questions and curiosities about the time and perspective of the characters and author. The world of books is like a welcoming lake that is just the perfect temperature on a sunny day; I can't wait to immerse myself.

What teacher has had the greatest impact on you? Why were they special? My Algebra teacher in high school had the most profound impact on my life, because she made a personal connection with me when my home life was in turmoil. One day after school, I sought out the space under her classroom desk to have a good cry. Rather than scold me or try to comfort me from above, she crawled under the desk with me and said the simplest thing, "Tell me all about it." Her demonstration taught me to meet students where they are, not where I need them to be.

How would your friends describe you in three words? Friendly, logical, dependable, peppy, curious, adaptive, thoughtful, empathetic

What is your favorite course you have taken in high school or college?  Russian Literature at Mount Holyoke. It took me out of my comfort zone. Until that course, I had dutifully read each book that was assigned. But the authors we encountered in Russian Lit - Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev - were brought to life by my professor and I was figuratively transported along with the characters. He enriched the experience by supplementing the reading with cultural explanations and language nuances that I would have missed had I read the books on my own. 

If I can give a second, I'd have to also say Tony Lake's "The Vietnam War" course at Hampshire College. Through essentially story-telling, he built the framework from the history, so that we knew all the political players and their invested interest in the conflict. He probed us for our analysis at every step, and offered deeper explanations for decisions that were made. The exam was the simplest question (but the hardest to answer) that I have ever encountered, "You are the President of the United States (pick one) during the Vietnam War. What would you do differently? Explain."

What is your favorite outdoor activity? I'm not sure I can pick just one. I enjoy hiking, golfing, gardening, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, skiing, sledding ...there are so many things to do outside! Looking up at the leaves high up in the trees, swaying in perfect time with the breeze, helps me to find my pace, to remember my role in this world.