Congdon reflects on teaching at Blakely Island

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Professor Bruce Congdon of Seattle Pacific University. Photo courtesy of spu.edu

Bruce Congdon, PhD, stepped onto Blakely Island with his first class at the SPU field station 33 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. With the retirement of LeRoy Hubbert and Cindy Hubbert, Blakely Island’s main caretakers at the field station, Dr. Congdon reflected on his time with them and his experiences as a professor on the island.

When Congdon first sought to hire a caretaker for the Blakely Island Field Station, he went on a national search and eventually met LeRoy.

With skills in construction and landscaping, LeRoy’s unique personality has livened up the field station since 1985. Paired with Cindy’s cooking abilities, the couple have been a cherished treasure among SPU students and professors.

“I recommend every student experience Blakely,” says Dr. Congdon, who taught ecology courses at the field station for 14 years.

While traveling to the island, which requires a drive up to Anacortes and taking a private boat that serves the San Juan Islands, can be time consuming and daunting, Congdon strongly believes that the trip is worth it.

With limited to no cell phone service, students are able to soak in the peacefulness of the island and focus on their studies. Unfortunately, when climbing up Blakely Peak, the highest point on the island, Congdon has seen students pay more attention to their phones than the spectacular view the peak has to offer.

It is on the peak that many come to realize that Blakely Island takes students away from the stress of the outside world.

The greatest gift the ecology course, as well as any other course, offered at Blakely Island is getting a hands-on experience and the ability to reflect in an inviting environment. More often than not, classes partake in group activities where students can be themselves and engage in different methods used to teach course material.

Within this, however, Congdon has faced challenges with students over the years.

“My greatest challenge with my students has been when one fails to engage or show up to class activities,” he said.

While Congdon realizes he cannot force participation, he cannot help but feel sadness when a student does not take advantage of all Blakely Island has to offer.

“We are all dependent on each other when going to Blakely,” he emphasized. “When someone doesn’t show up and you’re going into the woods for a day, it’s important to see what’s going on with that student.”

Even with such challenges, Congdon describes his time at Blakely as a treasure that he has buried and hopes to dig up again someday. It has been a couple of years since he has been back, and every day leaves him itching for his return to paradise.

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