LAKEWOOD RANCH — Adam Seldis’ possessions are on a ship somewhere in the Panama Canal.
Seldis’ career has taken him everywhere, from Yokohama, Japan, to Wellington College, in the United Kingdom.
But his heart, which has always pumped for teaching but once strayed to the more lucrative accounting field, is here, at The Out-of-Door Academy’s Upper School in Lakewood Ranch, where Seldis, 36, began his new job Aug. 1.
Although he has spent his life teaching everywhere and everything — from music to economics — Seldis, ODA’s new assistant head of Upper School, finally has a home.
“I am struck not only by the journey this school has been on so far, but also the fact that it is entering a very interesting chapter in its life,” he said. “It’s gotten over the growing pains, and it’s ready for the rest of a fantastic journey.”
It’s a journey familiar to Seldis, who grew up outside Cambridge, England.
Born into a sort-of musical family — both of his brothers are or were professional musicians, although his parents have no musical talent — Seldis turned a gift of song into mentoring.
During a summer home from boarding school, a selective place he earned admission to on a music scholarship, a teenage Seldis taught 8- and 9-year-olds how to play the violin.
“I knew then teaching was where I wanted to go, but I knew I didn’t want to teach music,” Seldis said.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Northumbria, in England, Seldis took a year off and moved to New Zealand, where he was a teacher aide to children ages 8 to 13 — a demographic for which he had little patience. The experience made Seldis want to change careers.
In his mid-20s, he decided to find a more lucrative career. From 1999 to 2003, he served as a senior insolvency administrator for Smith & Williamson Chartered Accountants, in London.
He consulted businessmen who knew more than he did about how they could improve.
“It was absurd,” Seldis. “Here I was straight out of college trying to tell people what to do.”
That’s when he decided to become a teacher.
“The same day I passed a major accounting test, I said to myself, ‘What are you doing with your life?’” Seldis said. “‘Stop being an idiot. You’re a teacher.’”
It took one year for Seldis to earn a teaching certificate.
The next year, in 2005, Seldis started teaching at Wellington College, a school for high school students. There, he also met his wife, Maggie.
Newly married in 2010, Seldis wanted to explore the world.
He moved to Japan to head the social-sciences department and teach at the Yokohama International School. There, Seldis taught high school students mostly from western backgrounds. He also got a first-hand look at the exam-centric educational system that defines Asian culture.
He learned, as ODA promotes, that finding success in a fast-changing world requires skills gained outside the classroom.
Seldis took that concept and created the Global Citizen Diploma program. It features a system of categories that incorporate activities and achievements that define a global citizen. If a student is deemed proficient in all 15 categories, which is rare, they earn a Global Citizen diploma with distinction.
One student traveled to Tohoku, Japan, in 2011, after an earthquake and tsunami hit the country. She spoke to people who had lost their homes and created a cookbook of their family recipes; she dedicated the proceeds to recovery efforts. Her success, shaped by Seldis’ program, tells an important message he hopes ODA students take to heart.
“You are incredibly privileged to go to school at ODA, and with that comes an obligation to help others,” Seldis said. “Don’t be insular. There’s a big world over there. It’s a global world, and you need to know how to work with these people.”
Seldis proved his adaptability when, seeking a more permanent place to live after he and his wife decided they wanted to start a family, he learned about ODA at a job fair in Philadelphia.
There, Seldis shined in the speed-dating-interview format and proceeded to Skype chats, which he carried out from Japan.
Now, Seldis will take on a more administrative role — one with which he had to become comfortable.
“It’s still my big love to stand in front of a class and teach economics,” Seldis said. “No one becomes a teacher to sit at a desk. Suddenly my job is 90% administration and 10% teaching. But, in doing that, I can impact teaching and learning in a broader sense.”
At ODA, Seldis will help develop the academic program and administer discipline. He will assume some of the day-to-day responsibilities of Noel Dougherty, head of Upper School. He will also teach one class, history.
His wife just joined him in the new home they purchased in Lakewood Ranch. Their first child is due in October.
“I feel at home,” Seldis said. “I’ve found that educators here will walk over burning oil if it makes them better at teaching and learning. And I will do the best job I can so that I am walking there with them.”
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].