Keep Calm and Erickson


In March, Mr. Erickson’s senior advisees clinched a victory in the Smartest Advising competition for the third year in a row. I talked to a few of them, as well as Mr. Erickson himself, to understand what lies behind their success.

What really goes on in Mr. Erickson’s advising? Many students may imagine them forgoing course signup and other day-to-day tasks to instead study practice questions or go on runs to train for the scavenger hunt. Mr. Erickson tells me, however, that, “We don’t practice for the competitions, but we review procedural plans and strategies.” That’s more than most advising groups can say, but still, Mr. Erickson’s advising is not all seriousness. They have a tradition of taking turns bringing in snacks to share. Mr. Erickson cites Justin Terhaar’s baking skills as particularly outstanding.

A number of factors have contributed to the group’s success. The members know each other well and know how to work together. They lost one member after freshman year and gained Diego Castano this school year, but other than that, the composition of the group has been stable. It also certainly does not hurt that the majority of the advisees are in Knowledge Bowl. The students are grateful for Mr. Erickson’s knowledge of school history as well as his organizational skills. “Mr. Erickson is renowned for his organization,” says Nick Haeg. “He takes it seriously.”

Mr. Erickson, for his part, appreciates his advisees’ “mature confidence and willingness to work as a group.” Each one of them, he says, contributes not only to the group, but also to the Prep community. Mr. Erickson expects his advisees to approach the competition with integrity — that means no lying to other groups during the scavenger hunt. “The attitude and process are important,” he says.

I asked a few of Mr. Erickson’s advisees if they have any advice for the freshmen who will be coming into his advising next year. “Be as good as us,” says Lila Furcht. She also recommends that they make sure to share Mr. Erickson’s enthusiasm for the competition. Justin Terhaar advises them to continue the tradition of bringing in food.

Anything can happen in Smartest Advising. Some may be surprised to learn that Mr. Erickson’s advisees did not make it up onto the stage for the final round as freshmen. “At least we made up for it the other three years,” Mr. Erickson says. He tells me that he favors Mr. Grandy’s juniors, who have been on the stage every year, to win the competition next year. With no personal bias whatsoever (besides being a member of Mr. Grandy’s advising), I hope that he is right.