Academics / Community

Mr. Kieran Fitness, math teacher and Renaissance man

Mr. Kieran Fitness, the newest addition to the Dana Hall Upper School Mathematics Department, has a tendency to diminish his accomplishments. This is a quality that was highlighted by his wife, Dr. Emma Towlson: “I think he is modest to the point of massively underselling himself.” In addition to being a teacher, Mr. Fitness is also a photographer, a calligrapher, and a trampolinist. “But don’t make it out like I was a star!” he stressed while discussing his trampolining career. Even so, he said this while talking about how he had made it into the national trampolining league in the United Kingdom and coached the South Africa national team during the world championships. 

Mr. Fitness is originally from Bolton, England, a town located in the Greater Manchester area, and received his degree in Mathematics from The University of Warwick. In 2016, he and his wife, Dr. Towlson, moved to Boston, Massachusetts, after she was offered a research position at Northeastern University. Mr. Fitness began his teaching career in England, and continues in the profession at Dana Hall, where he teaches Algebra II with Applications, Precalculus Honors, and Calculus. 

His trampolining career began when he was a child, before the age of 6. He had been taking piano lessons, but his family’s financial issues made those lessons a challenge. After coming across some free trampoline lessons, Mr. Fitness switched gears and said, “I never stopped. I got to a point where I was training 6 to 7 days a week for 3 to 4 hours a day.” He also coaches other gymnasts as well, and has done so since he was 15 years old. Mr. Fitness was invited by his alma mater to teach as a volunteer in underprivileged schools, which eventually led to his coaching the national South Africa team for the world championships. When he saw in the newspaper one of the people on the trampolining team needed support,“I was excited to see the representative for South Africa was nearby, got in touch, and quickly began working with them to develop their skills.” The gymnast that Mr. Fitness coached ended up adding an extra move he’d never done before to his routine.

It was also in South Africa that Mr. Fitness met his wife when they were both doing volunteer work near Johannesburg. “She actually turned up late because she was presenting her research at a conference in South Korea, and my first thoughts of her were, who turns up late to volunteering?” Mr. Fitness laughed. But after more conversation, it turned out she had been working to meet the commitments of her Ph.D. in order to be there at all. They even discovered that they had attended the same university, in the same department, at the same time, yet didn’t meet until this service trip years later in South Africa. 

When asked if he’d prefer to live in the U.S. and U.K., given the tense political climates in both, Mr. Fitness answered, “My response will be tainted by the current climate. I have not liked the way British politics has been going for quite a long time. There’s been a lot of slow erosion of social support/security, and a huge increase in inequality. They’ve reduced the amount of money you can get for disability allowances and other aid for the vulnerable, and made it more difficult to get these benefits. On that same topic, here Americans don’t have some of the same protections that are being eroded in England, including guaranteed access to healthcare. But the political conversation here is pushing that, which gives me hope for the future of this country.” This then turned into a lengthy discussion regarding the political and social realities of life in both the United States and the United Kingdom. From differences in paid maternity leave, pensions, and taxes, all bases were covered. Even differences in American and English chocolate were addressed: “My problem with chocolate here is it tastes kinda grainy, over sweetened, and artificial because it’s so sugary. I prefer a more natural flavor of chocolate.” (Off the record, it was later agreed that Belgian and Swiss chocolate is the best). 

Cultural differences aside, Mr. Fitness is thoroughly enjoying his time at Dana Hall and in Boston. “I love how the general feeling in the school is so liberal and open, and am inspired every day by the aspirations to idealism. It makes my opinions feel valued. Everyone’s welcoming and nice to me, and I’m making a lot of friends.” He also noted, “I’ve been to a bunch of places around the U.S. since I’ve arrived, and Boston easily feels the most like home.”

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