Oral Histories

Branson Lawrence and Christian Nøkkentved

Streaming Media


Branson Lawrence and Christian Nøkkentved



Dr. Christian Nøkkentved interviews Branson Lawrence, former science faculty and principal, about his IMSA experience. He begins by discussing how he first came to teach at IMSA. He was a public school science teacher and started teaching at a IMSA's summer programs in 1989. When it was first suggested he apply for a faculty position, he was unenthusiastic, but with encouragement he came around, accepted a job offer, and started in the fall of 1992.

Recalling his first impressions, he says he was intimidated by the faculty, for about the first week. He had a lot of experience teaching gifted students, so he didn't find IMSA students a surprise. They talk about how the class schedule worked. Mr. Lawrence recounts a couple accidents that happened in his chemistry lab, one resulting in his having to go to the emergency room and another resulting in setting off the fire alarm on a cold January day. They discuss the Perspectives program, which developed intentionally interdisciplinary curriculum, and the value of the humanities in a STEM environment. Outside of regular classes, Mr. Lawrence was the first director of the Energy Center, and he started the engineering program.

They discuss changes to curriculum and scheduling over time. Lawrence says the integrated science course was probably the best thing they did in terms of curriculum, but it was very demanding on teachers and became untenable in the long-term. The motivation behind developing that model was to help students understand science, and the world, more holistically. In the 1995-96 Dr. Stephanie Pace Marshall and a group of faculty worked to develop a new schedule, changing from 8 50-minute teaching periods to 20 mods. In the process the humanities classes lost time. The integrated science curriculum started in 2000, following a year of transition between the two curriculums. Dr. Nøkkentved asks what sort of impact the science curriculum had on students, and Lawrence believes that they gave some students eye-opening experiences that wouldn't have been available to them at the home schools. Unlike other schools, student demand shapes the elective courses that are offered, giving students scope to explore their interests. They also discuss the Mentorship / Student Inquiry & Research program and Presentation Day, renamed IMSAloquium, and the math curriculum. They reflect on the student body and programs overall, including the sports program

To close out the discussion, they discuss the role of principal and Lawrence's time in that role. He says the best part of the job is being able to go into different classes and watch the teachers, because they're all so good at what they do. He likes seeing the bigger picture, how the different parts of the school fit together, but he misses teaching. Reflecting on his own experience, Lawrence says every teacher should have to teach junior high and everybody should have to sit in the position of principal, because having done both of those things they gave him perspective. Branson Lawrence retired at the end of the 2014-15 school year, having worked at IMSA for 23 years.

Duration: 1:07:31




curriculum; faculty; history classes; humanities; IMSAloquium; math classes; Presentation Day; principal; research; scheduling; science classes; sports; Student Inquiry & Research


Oral History


Digital Video Recording


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Branson Lawrence and Christian Nøkkentved