John Harlin III

LAS Journal

John Harlin III

Staff Feature: John Harlin III

Staff Feature: John Harlin III


We hire educators that we are confident will expand our students' horizons, show them new perspectives, take on new challenges, and share their contagious passion. One of these educators, who has now been with us for seven years, is John Harlin III. John plays many roles in our community including Director of the Alpine Institute, facilitator of LETS (Local Elevation Transect Survey) Day and Globe Day, LAS edge teacher, and so much more. But before we jump into that, let's backtrack a little.

John's connection to LAS extends far beyond his years as a staff member. His parents were among the first teachers at LAS in the 1960s. For 3 years his mother taught as a science teacher and his father was an athletics director. Although John was too young to attend LAS at the time, he always knew that he wanted to return to LAS someday - a dream which became reality in 2014 when he returned to run the school's International Award program and enroll his daughter, Siena, as a student. 

Since 2014, John's role has expanded to encompass so much more than the International Award. He has increased the number of citizen science opportunities on campus with projects including LETS Day, an ongoing study that allows students to examine how ecology changes from the valley to the summit of the Tour d'Ai; Globe Day, an annual student conference that supports students doing project-based learning in all fields to share their work with their peers; and the development of the Alpine Institute, an institute that works with teachers across the curriculum to help students connect as deeply with our mountain as possible through investigations in mountain science, sports, environment, and culture. 

At the heart of all these projects lies John's desire to connect students with the environment and in doing so instil within them a sense of caring for climate issues. As a passionate environmentalist and mountaineer himself, John spends much of his time studying and familiarizing himself with the Alps. In his own words, his favourite part of working at LAS is "being in these mountains myself. These are some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. I don't think there's any other place that's better - the scenery is my playground. And I love connecting with students who share the same passion and watching these mountains become a part of them too. When I see that happen it's just marvellous." 

It's hard to find a mountain in Leysin's skyline that John hasn't summited. So familiar is he with Swiss mountains that he finds it hard to name a favourite peak that he's conquered. The most beautiful, he believes, was the North ridge of Piz Badile, which he summited with two fellow LAS teachers. The most meaningful journey, however was the Eiger, which he climbed forty years after his father's death on the same climb - an experience he recalls in his memoir, The Eiger Obsession

In his own words, "Climbing is something you can do for your whole life. It's not about how hard the routes are, it's about how much you enjoy doing them. I don't see any reason that I'll ever stop." We're so glad that he has brought this passion to Leysin and shared it with our students. Because of John, the many students who come to our school (often from cities) are able to connect with our environment in an incredible way - something that they will carry with them long after graduation. 

Thank you John, for all that your do for the LAS community. We're lucky to have you!

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