Talented Teachers: A Glimpse into the Lives of the NCHS Faculty


Meera Srinivasan, Story Editor

Throughout the school, teachers are often only known for their subject and love for students, however, what many don’t know is that several teachers have interesting hobbies outside of school. The Courant met with a few teachers to get the inside scoop on their passions aside from teaching.


Science teacher Tim Haag has spent the past several years building a house in upstate New York for him to retire with his wife. From a young age, Mr. Haag began woodworking as a hobby, often constructing tables or furniture, but never any major projects. His background in woodworking gave him the push to begin building the home he’d always wanted to create. After speaking with a few friends in architecture, he bought a plot of land for sale in upstate New York on the banks of Lake George. “We wanted the perfect location,” he said. “We were looking for something secluded and beautiful, so Lake George was perfect.”

The house Mr. Haag is building is situated overlooking Lake George in New York. Photo contributed by Tim Haag

The first step in his endeavor was demolishing the small home that was on the plot of land which required several permits. “The most difficult part of the process is probably getting the permits,” said Haag. “You need a permit for the fireplace, the lot, the wells – the list could go on and on.” Undoubtedly the most time consuming, Mr. Haag remarked that he didn’t know how long obtaining the permits would take.

Of course, as with any big project, there were even more bumps in the road that prolonged the finish of the home. In the property, there were constraints that prevented the house from being built quickly. “The property was a hill, which of course made the foundation even more complex to build, but the hardest part was staying overnight in the unfinished home when it was zero degrees out in just a sleeping bag.”

While he originally hoped to build the home entirely by himself, he eventually got help from engineers, architects, and a builder. “I had a friend who created some blueprints for us to start with, there were a lot of parts of the house that we needed someone else to finish,” he said. Mr. Haag even hired someone to complete the masonry on his fireplace in order for it to have the professional finish. With a busy teaching schedule, Mr. Haag had to balance between work and finishing the house.

Mr. Haag is passionate about teaching and woodworking which he says has inspired him to builds home. Photo by Meera Srinivasan

Because upstate gets so cold in the winter, he looked for a way to include heated floors throughout the first and second floors. “Heating from ducts is very inconsistent and makes one part of the home hotter than the other which is why I chose to include floor heating,” he said. Mr. Haag added how building the heated floors into his home took the most effort out of any part of the home. It took several hundred metal plates to conduct the heat into the wood from red piping. Not only was adding the metal plates time consuming but, it also was a new, technologically advanced way to create radiated floors which added to the stress.

Mr. Haag began building his home three years ago and hopes that it will be finished next summer. It’s not every day that you find someone who has built their own home, especially here in NCHS! Next time you see Mr. Haag in the halls, try asking him about his house or a woodworking project you might have.


Donna Kemp, biology and chemistry teacher, first got into running in college when she’d take long runs to relieve stress and calm her nerves. What initially began as a hobby soon transformed into a passion. After 11 marathons in 8 years, Ms. Kemp has stopped her running career but still enjoys running for fun near her home.

Mrs. Kemp has run 4 New York Marathons and says that running has saved her life. Photo contributed by Donna Kemp.

In fact, Ms. Kemp says running truly saved her life. “When my dad died, I used to run to deal with my loss; I felt safe running – it’s a sort of therapy for a lot of people and I found that effect on me as well,” she said.

Before running her first marathon, Ms. Kemp got an injury which doctors told her would prevent her from running ever again. She indeed defied the odds by continuing to run with her determination and passion.

After running her first marathon in New York in 2003, Ms. Kemp continued and has run the New York Marathon 4 times since. On top of those four, she has run marathons in Chicago, Vermont, and San Diego.

Mrs. Kemp believes one of the hardest parts of running the marathons was the extensive training. Every day, she’d have to run 5-6 miles after setting up water bottles along the way. Before running, Ms. Kemp stretches and drives along the route to place water. She essentially sets up a “mini marathon” which takes a long time to prep.

Aside from running, Ms. Kemp enjoys watching Rangers games and following hockey in the winter.


Aside from being a chemistry teacher and avid track coach, Jeffery Brentson is involved with music outside of the classroom and track. Starting when he was just five years old, he discovered a love for singing and the guitar.

In high school, Mr. Brentson was in the school band and even considered music as a career later on in his life. “I considered it as a potential college major,” he said. “I’d been picking up instruments since I was younger and really clicked with it.” In his school band, he played several woodwind instruments including the flute, clarinet, and saxophone.

During his college years, he sang in the University of Connecticut’s (UCONN) concert choir and often performed in front of audiences with his roommate. “My college roommate and I were both in the chorus at UCONN and we’d sing Brahms Requiem and other classic pieces,” he said. An extension of his high school and lifelong passion, the UCONN concert choir was a way to stay involved with music.

More recently, Mr. Brentson has sung in community choral groups and was a part of the chorus at Milford’s First United Church. “I sang with them and also taught the youth,” he said, “I helped them learn the ropes for music and stayed involved.”

Mr. Brentson continues to be passionate about music and plays the guitar outside of NCHS when he doesn’t coach or teach. You can sometimes find Mr. Brentson performing a song or two for his biology students.


About Author

I am Meera Srinivasan, a junior for the Courant and avid reporter. I'm interested in giving students access to interesting parts of our town and school through the Courant!

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