Faculty Profile: Doug Welch
Here at Orchard House School, it’s common for our faculty and staff to play many roles, bringing their whole selves and their full talent to school. Doug Welch’s service is varied--while he works with students daily as a Fifth Grade Homeroom Teacher and Sixth Grade Math Teacher, he also works behind the scenes as Director of Operations and Athletics Director. However, one of his roles is a little more behind-the-scenes than usual.
Mr. Welch is--shhh!--the Birthday Fairy.
We caught him during a birthday-laden week and got the low-down on this aspect of his role at Orchard House.
Who do you make the birthday cards for?
We make them for all the Fifth Graders, whether their birthdays are during the school year or during the summer.
When do you make the ones for summer birthdays?
We do it that final week of school and sing happy birthday to all the summer birthday girls and they have the option of either bringing their card home on the last day of school or having it delivered over the summer for their birthday.
You have a few hats you wear here--does this feel divergent from some of those?
Well, it’s part of one of the most important hats that I wear, and that’s being a Fifth Grade homeroom teacher. Plus it gives me a chance to be a little artistic and creative. One of the things I sometimes share with students is that my favorite class in middle school was art. I used to love my art classes in middle school, so this is kind of a nice way to use a different part of my brain.
How do birthdays get celebrated here?
We sing “Happy Birthday” at Morning Meeting, and then we do a personalized card for each fifth grader and sing to her in homeroom. Then we coordinate a “surprise” delivery of the card, usually at the end of the day. All of the girls know it’s coming, but we all sort of pretend like it’s a surprise, which is a lot of fun. So they get their card normally at the end of the day, and all the girls have signed it and put little personalized notes in it.
How do you get the girls to sign it?
We have to be sneaky. We hide the card in Ms. Lafoon’s office and at some point during the day, each girl sneaks in there to sign it. We let them know when it’s there and when they can go in to start signing.
Do you personalize the card design to the student?
Sometimes there’s some general themes that I like--like in the winter I might do snowmen saying Happy Birthday, or sometimes I’ll do a birthday cake. Sometimes I’ll personalize them--if a girl is really into gymnastics, I might do a gymnastics-themed birthday card.
Are there certain non-seasonal themes that come up often, like gymnastics?
I don’t plan it out too much. I open up the card and go with the flow.
Have you gotten better at certain kinds of typography or designs? These are really good bubble letters.
Apparently I was a graffiti artist in my other life--
Or maybe in this one, but no one’s telling!
Ha, yeah! I sort of have a graffiti-esque look to my style.
In the end, the birthday cards are less of a birthday celebration and more of a celebration of the girl, as well as a celebration of the bonds formed by the Fifth Grade class, who are still just getting to know one another. In this simple act of camaraderie, the sisterhood that lasts through Eighth Grade and beyond starts with personalized well-wishes, conspiracy to celebrate, and one dedicated birthday fairy.