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EHS Pillars - Fall 2016

PILLARS - The Episcopal High School Magazine


AS IRON SHARPENS IRON The Rev. Phil Kochenburger joined the Episcopal High School community in July to serve as the Dean of Spiritual Life and Chaplain. Kochenburger sat down with English teacher and Pillars contributor Emma Lyders to discuss his background in education and the military and share his vision for enhancing and strengthening the Religion Pillar. Can you give me a little background on your career that led you to Episcopal High School? I felt called to the Army Chaplaincy after becoming a Christian as a young Soldier back in 1981. I became an active duty chaplain in 1999, and retired from the Army after 20 years of service just this past April. For the past 20‐plus years, I've been involved in numerous academic settings working with young students. I was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church through the Diocese of Central Florida in 1996, and served churches there—including my first church where Bishop Benitez had served some years earlier—before entering active duty. My last assignment was serving as the 101st Airborne Division Artillery Chaplain at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Prior to that, I served two years as the Deputy Garrison Chaplain and Resource Manager for all Religious Support Operations at the Defense Language Institute and Foreign Language Centre in Monterey, California, an intensive academic center for 5,000 students. How would you like to effect change at EHS? I'm thrilled to see what we are doing well, and learning more about that day by day. I would like to build on the spiritual formation potential we have here at EHS with our abiding commitment to the Religion Pillar through daily Chapel, community service, religion department classes, and all the other things we already have. I envision the Religion Pillar as necessarily suffusing all the other pillars; it is the bedrock. We have great potential for growth in spiritual formation that seems largely underdeveloped. Parent Education opportunities and Choices; relationship‐building; Bible study; prayer groups and better coordination in pastoral care support and communication are all areas ripe for development. Mentorship is another area that I see as crucial to all that we do in the EHS community. With our advisory groups, and small groups of students walking through their EHS experience with a mentoring figure, I think we have something here that is unique and can be developed into a powerful experience, both for the mentors and the "mentees." The fact that it is already happening, to a degree, is a larger key to EHS success than I think we may be aware of. As far as non‐academic counseling support, we have a great team here with the Rev. Beth Holden, Choices Counselor Sam Scharff, and psychologist Beth Fowler. Good coordination within that team provides powerful counseling support to our community, and I look forward to developing that support to our students and their families. How did you come to this career? Was it something you always wanted to do? I have always enjoyed working with teenagers and young people in general, and have spent most of my life dedicated to youth. It is indeed something I've always wanted to do. But much more significantly, I think, is my long‐time mentor and friend, Luis P. Alvarez. My story cannot be told without telling his as well. I met Mr. Alvarez—my math teacher—in middle school, and again at Kathleen Senior High School. Through my teenage years, he became like a second father to me. His mentorship and friendship have brought out the best in me throughout my life, and he continues to challenge me today. A few months back I noticed that he has been asked to return to Kathleen Senior High to teach again, even though he had been retired for a while, enjoying time with his family and grandchildren. Mr. Alvarez took me under his wing, taught me how to be a good man, how to treat people, and was the first person to really ever challenge me. We both enjoyed photography—a lifelong passion of mine—and I worked for him on the yearbook. I began to visit him where he lived and worked at the Florida Baptist Children's Home in Lakeland, Florida, as a residential care counselor, teacher, and tutor. I got to see up close the difference he made in all these young lives, and that inspired me to do the same. I would eventually become a residential care counselor there as well for about four years while I was in college. It was a great place to start! I think this experience, more than anything, is how I "came to this career" as you put it. 21

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