Oliver Cornell

Besant House Parent

How many years have you worked at Oak Grove?

I have worked at Besant House as a dorm parent since 2018, though I have been a parent at Oak Grove since 2013, and my wife Laurie has worked in the Early Childhood Programs during that time.

Why do you work at Oak Grove?

Oak Grove provides a learning environment for teachers, students, parents, and staff that is thoughtful and kind. It’s a unique community with a curriculum guided by a body of work that challenges everyone to look deeper into the human experience and our relationships to everything, including ourselves. It’s an inspiring and compassionate work environment.

A quote that inspires your approach to your job.

“True terror is waking up one morning to find out your high school class is running the country.” -Kurt Vonnegut

Where is your special spot on campus?

Either cooking and chatting in the Besant House kitchen or wandering through (and foraging) in Old McDonald’s garden.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee. Room for cream, please. (Though I have great respect for those who chose tea.)

What makes an Oak Grove education unique?

Our philosophy is guided by the work of one of the most intriguing thinkers of our time.

How do we prepare students for their life ahead?

By learning to quiet the mind and really ask oneself questions about common human experiences around love, fear, ambition, etc. I think students and teachers alike come to understand that we are creating the world we live in. My hope for our students, including my own children, is that they will know themselves, be themselves, and go on to have meaningful relationships and experiences that will shape both their lives and society in a healthy way.

What outdoor experience has been most impactful for you?

As a life-long surfer, watching my two boys learn to surf and fall in love with the ocean as much as I have has been magical.

The best live music performance/concert you ever attended is …

When my wife was going through breast cancer, her brother Vaughn Montgomery held a fundraiser concert called Bound for Laurie at the Libbey Bowl, Ojai’s downtown outdoor amphitheater. Her family is full of musicians, so not only did a dozen local bands play, but Jack Johnson and David Crosby headlined. Fifteen hundred people showed up from near and far to beam love and enjoy it together. The music was good, and it was a joyful, healing experience.

Which teacher in your life affected you greatly? How?

Tom Anderson. Not a teacher in a school, but my surf buddy’s father who would take time to make you food and coffee while smoking cigarettes and spinning tales for hours as you sat in his kitchen.

Name something that nobody knows about you.

I briefly sat on the ocean floor at 180 feet.

Person (dead or alive, famous or not) that you’d most like to share a meal with.

Tie among Richard Feynman, Tom Anderson, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Name a place you’ve always wanted to visit, but haven’t yet.

New Orleans.

Share a hilarious OGS experience.

After a long drive, stuck in LA traffic on our way to a concert at the Forum, I had to pull over and pee next to our Oak Grove van full of students. Then the van following us pulled up, too, right next to me. Maybe I should switch to tea?

Favorite Oak Grove expression?

It has to be Meredy’s now infamous line: “Oak Grove is the best non-competitive school in Ojai.”