More Than Just a “Fair” Brother!

At Cherokee Creek Boys School we proudly claim that we are the small school with a BIG heart. One of the biggest hearts on our campus belongs to our Operations Director, Phil Fairbrother, who recently celebrated his 10-year anniversary with us.

Phil Fairbrother, Operations Director, Cherokee Creek Boys School

Phil Fairbrother, Operations Director, Cherokee Creek Boys School

Phil is a multi-talented individual with a background in engineering, construction, business, teaching, and outdoor adventure. So when he learned about our desire to holistically blend academic learning and therapeutic counseling with outdoor recreation and nature, Phil was intrigued and attracted to the school.  After coming on board in September of 2003, Phil, his wife, and two others operated the school for a few months (just the four of them!) to bring the dream to fruition.

In the early days Phil taught Math to the boys and served as a second shift counselor. A year later when he was invited by Sports Illustrated to complete a project for them at the Summer Olympics in Greece, Phil still committed to stay connected with the boys by teaching them through an interactive curriculum program.

Throughout the years Phil has taken on the challenge of various roles and responsibilities. In his current position as Operations Director he oversees such departments as Bookkeeping, Human Resources, Nursing, Maintenance, and the Kitchen. Each Thanksgiving, he is in charge of roasting the turkeys using his special pit-cooking technique. On top of all of these things Phil also serves as the community water safety officer for our area.

Watch as we sing Happy Birthday to Phil!

Watch as we sing Happy Birthday to Phil!

A little known fact about Phil is that he has earned a couple of black belts in martial arts. He enjoys studying the Katana, which is one of the traditional swords made and worn by the samurais in feudal Japan. Phil gave us a martial arts demonstration once that impressed all of us, but especially the boys!

We’d like to thank Phil for his many years of hard work and dedication. Cherokee Creek Boys School is a better place because of Phil, and countless numbers of students have been impacted because of his academic instruction, his wisdom about life, his joy of nature, and his example as a positive role model.

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments Off on More Than Just a “Fair” Brother!

To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before…

Spencer Palmer joined the Treks team at Cherokee Creek Boys School in September 2012 having just finished a summer stint as an expedition leader for Deer Hill Expeditions in the Four Corners area of Colorado. While in Colorado, Spencer led extended backpacking and rafting trips with adolescent clients. He’s a 2012 graduate of Toccoa Falls College, with a major in Outdoor Leadership and Education.

Spencer Palmer - CCBS Trek Manager

Spencer Palmer - CCBS Treks Manager

Spencer’s involvement in the outdoors has been lifelong. He was active in Boy Scouts and attained the rank of Eagle Scout. He was an avid hunter and fisherman growing up in the Toccoa area with his two brothers. At the local Y Camp near Talullah Gorge, Spencer was assistant adventure director, working with campers on outdoor trips and rope course activities.

In 2008, Spencer “thru hiked” the Appalachian Trail, taking just under five months to traverse the mountains from Georgia to Maine. “Thru hikers” usually adopt a nickname for notes and sign-ins along the trail. Spencer’s moniker was “One Flop”. Since he is a stickler for details (something that continues to shine through in his work at Cherokee Creek), he walked every foot of the trail and made sure that every side trip began and ended at the same spot on the “AT”.

Spencer also brings a love of wild water to complement his overall love of the wilderness. He’s an experienced kayaker, paddling Class IV water all over the Southeast. He shares his organizational talents with the paddling community by helping to organize festivals on the Tallulah River in Georgia and the Ocoee River in Tennessee.

We are blessed that Spencer is able to bring all of these talents and passions to bear on the whitewater canoeing program at Cherokee Creek.

As our new Treks Program Manager, Spencer hopes to create new outdoor activities for the boys, continue to maintain our enviable safety record (like all our Trek staff, Spencer is a certified Wilderness First Responder), and further integrate our PATH work into the outdoor curriculum. Right off the bat, he’s instituting new methods of staff training and development so that everyone involved with the Trek program is on a continuous path of self-improvement.

Everyone at Cherokee Creek is looking forward to working with Spencer. He brings a wealth of knowledge and a passion for the outdoors to our students.

Thanks for being on our team, Spencer!

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments Off on To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before…

Plan Q Ain’t So Bad

Oconee State Park is one of my sacred spaces. There is nothing fancy about it, in fact, quite the contrary. It is plain and purposeful with living history at every bend in the trail. Perhaps it is the history that feels like a warm blanket and serves as a reminder that this special place has seen generations of families pass through its gates.

A few Saturdays ago I walked into the meeting room at Oconee to prep our most recent Family Trek. I took a moment to inhale the scent of wood smoke, antiques and Murphy’s Oil Soap. I thought about the Family Trek 2 years ago that challenged every fiber of my Type A being over the course of 4 days, taking my “Plan A” on a journey to “Plan Q.” In November 2009, our Family Trek was intersected with the remnants of Hurricane Ida and the Swine Flu. The rain came down unabated, the river rose to flood stages and a few folks found themselves isolated in their 80 year old cabins sans internet, TV or phone connection to the outside world.

Plan A was quickly discarded for Plan B, and so on, as our team of staff adapted to the changes in weather and circumstances. Plans B through G were out too and continued problem solving down the alphabet until we arrived at a very creative Plan Q!

Personally, few experiences have offered more growth in such a limited amount of time. The lesson? “Be open to outcome,” the same lesson we study every fall in our Learning Community at Cherokee Creek. Learning how to let go of the things you cannot control and becoming more flexible, trusting and resilient. Our Family Trek is designed to offer opportunities for these lessons to be experienced.

I can’t deny that it feels great to end on Plan A, because it feels awesome! There is an incredible sense of power when it all comes together exactly the way you envisioned it. However, being faced with adversity and meeting it with resilience is different – it is empowerment. And it is through resilience and empowerment (and quite a bit of flexibility) that we learn about equanimity and balance to grow the strong roots that see us through the storms.

It is my most sincere hope that each of our participating families discover the real and true depth of their resilience, their flexibility and feel empowered as they discover the new plan.

I look forward to seeing some of you in May! Until then, enjoy the slideshow below of the last Family Trek at the beginning of this month:


posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (4)

Middle-School Motivation

Academic Dean Denise Savidge

Academic Dean Denise Savidge

I’m the “new teacher” at Cherokee Creek. With a bit of trepidation and excitement, I set forth to get to know my students and discover what motivates them to perform.


Motivation…It means many different things to everyone. What works as a motivator for one person is of no interest to another. Some folks are self-motivated, others need the carrot on the stick just outside of their reach to keep moving forward. To some it’s money, to some it’s power, to some it’s prestige. Others haven’t given it a thought because their motivation is just the desire to do something well because it’s the right thing to do.

Most teachers teach just to see a child smile. To make a child’s life easier. To make a difference. Plus it’s pretty comical stuff on any given day, and teachers like to laugh. And middle-school boys keep a scorecard on how many others they can amuse in one day.

In class the other day, I handed the boys a motivation checklist. I really wanted to know what was going to make them produce…What would help them do their best…Which carrot smelled the most delicious to an adolecsent boy. Silly me. They’re not about to let that nut get cracked by simply asking. No, this was an opportunity to ignore the multiple choice answers and make it a fill-in-the-blank adventure. It was a perfect occasion to amuse  and entertain the new teacher. The multiple choice answers focussed on peer praise, prizes, prestige or public recognition. But ours are not fill-in-the-bubble boys. They quickly unraveled the code of answers and decided they had better ideas:

Q – If you really did well on your science project, what would you prefer the teacher do?
A – Keep Quiet!
Q – You are on a roller coaster and a photographer from a newspaper takes your picture. It appears on the front page the next day. What do you do?
A – Sue the newspaper company.
Q – What do you like best about your birthday?
A – That the Good Lord has given me another year.
Q – If you found a $10 bill on the playground and turned it in to the school office, what would you want the principal to do?
A – Give it to ME!

Pity the teacher who asks our students to answer within the box. They’re innovative, creative, amusing and charming young men. It’s been a delightful ride to get to know them.

When are you a teacher and why do you teach? Do you know what motivates the different members of your family? Do they know what motivates you?

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comment (1)

The Golden Apple

CCBS Math and Science Teacher Nick Linscott

Nick Linscott, CCBS Math and Science Teacher

You remember your favorite teachers forever. They inspire, provoke, challenge and celebrate your abilities. Under their influence you thrive; your possibilities expand.

Imagine if you were asked to nominate a teacher for the coveted “Golden Apple” award for teaching excellence. How would you persuade the voters that your candidate was the best?

This is exactly what Academic Dean and Language Arts Teacher Denise Savidge recently asked students to do in an assignment tackling the persuasive essay. Many of our students responded with essays about Cherokee Creek Math and Science Teacher Nick Linscott (LEGO League Coach extraordinaire!). Nick has been a valued member of the CCBS team for over 7 years and is loved for his unique style.

Excerpts from students’ essays are below:

I feel that Nick Linscott deserves the Golden Apple. He helps us learn when we need to. He is assertive in the way that he talks and tells us directly what he wants us to do.

Nick helps me learn more math than I already know. I can trust that he will help me when ever I might need it. He is very intelligent and can answer almost all the questions I can think of. When I am confused with something I can ask him and he will explain it to me in amazingly accurate detail.” – Anonymous

Nick is loving ans caring. I like his personality. I also believe that if I work with him, he works with me so in turn I am very appreciative of him.” – Alec

Nick is an exceptional teacher because he helped me go from 6th grade to Algebra 1 in one year. He taught me physical science and biomedical science. He is helping me learn today in science.

Nick is a good friend that I can trust about anything. I can talk to him and he will listen to me.” – Jon

What are the common denominators of great teachers? Looking at the boys’ responses, it appears they recognize that teaching is only part of the equation.

Nick Linscott definitely deserves a Golden Apple! He is a talented and effective teacher. His caring and compassion are appreciated by staff and students alike, and that adds up to an inspiring educator.

Nick often repeats the words of wisdom given to him by his mother, “To get a friend, you have to be a friend.” Golden words to live by.

Therein lies the difference between a good teacher and a “Golden Apple” recipient.

As we contemplate what is “real and true”: What kind of teacher are you? Who have been your greatest teachers? What made them great?

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments (2)

River Lessons (Part 6)

We continue the River Lessons, a series of blog posts from our students’ perspectives.Students recently reflected on their Treks experiences through writing and made connections to the Lessons of the Medicine Wheel and the 4 aspects of self they learn to explore while enrolled at Cherokee Creek: the Warrior, Visionary, Healer and Teacher.

Note: A “duck” or “duckie” is an inflatable kayak. They are frequently used with beginner and novice paddlers to experience whitewater rivers. They are by no means “baby boats” and require effort and skill to move and keep on course.

Student: Dominic
Aspect: Teacher
Statement: I am Flexible

“For me I was flexible because I haven’t duckied before much less been by myself in and on the river. I was originally going to go in a double duckie with Zack but we all did singles so I had to learn and make all the decisions.”

Dominic demonstrates the Wisdom of Flexibility and the capacity to address a challenge alone.

When have you unexpectedly found yourself alone in your own boat and faced with new challenges? What have been your greatest accomplishments of flexibility?

Lessons of the Medicine Wheel

Cherokee Creek Boys School is a therapeutic boarding school for middle-school boys, ages 11-15, located in Westminster, SC.

posted by jleslie in River Lessons and have Comments Off on River Lessons (Part 6)