Art and Design Faculty
Jonathan Amory - Engineering/Robotics Teacher
Mr. Amory was an advanced robotics engineer for five years at Boston Dynamics, where he helped design a number of robots, including BigDog, RiSE, RHex, and LittleDog. He had always been interested in education and had been helping students in local schools with their engineering projects. Working with kids, he began to realize that the skills that made him a successful engineer were not the skills he had learned in high school or that he saw being taught in high schools. This realization moved him to teach. And he has now been teaching engineering for four years in Freeport (one year in middle school, three in high school). He has focused on building skills through large-scale, student-led, real world projects, such as a wind tunnel that clocked the highest wind speeds ever recorded in Maine.
Mr. Amory also has a background in naval architecture and philosophy, which he studied along with engineering at Trinity College. He has a master’s degree in design studies from Harvard University. He accomplished all this after struggling as a younger student, an experience he is quick to share with his students: “I am extremely dyslexic and could not read until I was in 7th grade.” He believes every student can be taught creativity and every student can succeed.
Mr. Amory worked to design Baxter Academy’s unique Flex Friday program. Mr. Amory grew up in Portland, attending Waynflete. He lives here with his family.
Fun facts about Mr. Amory: He has sailed to Norway. He has climbed mountains on every continent except South America and Antarctica. He is an outlier when it comes to math and music: “I butcher every instrument I touch, but I can press play on a CD play, iPod and cassette deck."
Matthew Barnes - Art & Design Teacher
Mr. Barnes’s personal motto is: “He who dies with the most tools wins.” He uses his tools to hand-carve slate tombstones, to motorize toy airplanes, to add micro-cameras to Estes rockets, and to repurpose 1950s rotary phones into his home’s intercom system. He knows how to cast metal, solder wire, and weld sheet steel. He can run a lathe and drill through glass and design a textbook. (Want to see more of what he can do? Go to mattmakes.weebly.com.)
Mr. Barnes has a bachelor’s degree in education from Notre Dame College in Manchester, N.H., and also started a successful company that designed and manufactured tiles. His most important work recently, though, has been staying home on Peaks Island with his two small children.
Baxter has brought him back to the mainland and to the classroom. He remembers his first visit to the school: “People were excited to be there. They WANTED to be there and it showed in everything I saw. Students helped students in unselfish, uncritical ways and supported one another. Teachers were part of their classes and waded directly into whatever was going on rather than hovering on the edges. The mantra of "Let's try it" elevated everything happening at Baxter and for me, it was like Dorothy stepping into the colored world of Oz. I spent a long time thinking, ‘This can't be actually happening,’ but it is, and I can't wait to start.”
Fun facts about Mr. Barnes: He’s a pilot, a scuba diver, and the cemetery keeper for Brackett Memorial Cemetery on Peaks. He can write with either hand and walk across the bottom of a pond. Ticks freak him out. He loves the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series and can quote anything from Monty Python (but please don’t ask him to do that in front of his family because it embarrasses them).
Dave Connor - Art and Fabrication Teacher
Mr. Connor comes to Baxter with a wide and varied background. He has been has been in education as both student and teacher for 20 years. Before joining Baxter in 2017, he taught vocational and employability skills for seven years at an alternative high school in Portland. Before that, he was an English teacher at Sanford High School for four years. “Having taught in both an alternative and traditional setting, I feel Baxter combines the best of both worlds all under one roof.” Mr. Connor teaches art and fabrication at Baxter and is really excited to be able to combine both of his loves and help kids develop their own appreciation for each.
Mr. Connor is a veteran of the Coast Guard where he spent three months in the Bering Sea doing search and rescue and two months in the South Pacific doing drug interdiction. He spent his remaining three years as a photojournalist in and around the San Francisco Bay area. Mr. Connor has an Undergraduate degree in English/Creative Writing from the University of Maine at Orono, an Associate’s degree in Construction Technology from Southern Maine Community College and a Master’s degree in Teaching and Learning from University of Southern Maine.
Mr. Connor is also a print maker and does original linocuts. His work has been shown in numerous restaurants, businesses and galleries around the Greater Portland area and he’s done a number of commissions for individuals, rock bands and local craft breweries. When Mr. Connor isn’t doing art or teaching he loves to ride his motorcycle, tend his large garden, play in his greenhouse, and care for his bees, chickens, ducks, cats and dog. He’s also a husband and parent to two teenagers.
Fun Facts about Mr. Connor: He has been a year-round surfer in Maine for over 25 years. In California, he had a shark swim past him about 10 ft. away. He’s hung out the back of an airplane while it was flying, and he’s gone 35mph on a skateboard.
Hal Larsson - Computer Science & Programming Teacher
Mr. Larsson moved from Pennsylvania to teach at Baxter after hearing about Baxter’s approach to student ownership of learning. He teaches computer science at Baxter.
He brings with him a wealth of experience from working in the industry, most recently Advanced Workstations in Education, where he was a Senior UX Developer. His experience in learning design and technology spans from being a Research Associate at LeapFrog Enterprises to being a Senior UX Developer.
Mr Larsson earned a B.S. in religious studies from Haverford College and a M.S. from Stanford University School of Education.
Fun Fact: Mr. Larsson spent a year after college in a Clinical Pastoral Education program, training and serving as a non-denominational hospital chaplain.
Sunny Stutzman - Fabrication & Engineering Teacher
Mr. Stutzman describes himself as a teacher, an industrial designer, a maker, a farmer, and a musician who wants to help build a program at Baxter that “embodies the spirit of making.” He arrives from Yarmouth High School, and his passion is sharing the knowledge he’s accumulated through years of product design. He introduces his students to new technologies and techniques that are relevant to today’s creative economy and that has helped them make everything from carbon fiber skateboards and surfboard to hovercrafts and human-powered vehicles. He himself once designed a prototype bicycle for use in Antarctica, and the project won a National Creative Genius Award.
“After only a few minutes at Baxter Academy I could tell that Baxter was a place I could call home,” Mr. Stutzman says. “I grew up on a small vegetable farm in Sangerville, Maine. There is a certain energy that surrounds the farm that I have also found at Baxter. It is derived from the sense of community and the coordinated dedication found in both the staff and the student body. Ideas are allowed space to grow and flourish. Project-based learning allows both students and faculty to discover new subject matter in a manner that gives both relevance and purpose to the curriculum.”
Mr. Stutzman has also coached the Science Olympiad and has served as assistant director in the drama department. In his free time, he surfs, hang glides, snowboards, and plays music.
He has a bachelors degree in Business/Economics from the University of Maine at Farmington, and an associates degree in specialized technology from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where he majored in industrial design technology. He’s done industrial design for L.L. Bean, Maine Discovery Museum, and Moosehead Manufacturing, among others.
Fun facts about Mr. Stutzman: He surfs year-round in Maine’s coastal waters. He’s been a professional musician since age 11 and plays the saxophone, upright bass, harmonica, guitar, cello, fiddle, didgeridoo. Plus he sings. He gained important experience maintaining small engines through his hobby of hang gliding—using a harness outfitted with a small two-stroke high-performance engine attached to a folding propeller.