Get to Know Mr. Mellor


Don Mellor ’71 at Pitchoff Wall in the Adirondacks (Photo: Mike Groll / AP).

According to the blurb on Northwood’s web site, Don Mellor ‘71…

… serves as English teacher, and Rock/Ice Climbing coach. He attended the University of New Hampshire and received his M.A. from St. Lawrence University. Don is an avid climber, with ascents of El Capitan, Half Dome, and most of the other major rock faces in the USA. He is the author of eight books, including area guidebooks, American Rock, Alpine Americas, and Rock Climbing: A Trailside Guide.

Staff writer Olivia Paul ’21 sat down with Mr. Mellor to get to know him better. Here is her report.


Don Mellor ’71 on a break from climbing in the Adirondacks (Photo by Phil Brown).

Throughout his 42 years of teaching at Northwood, Mr. Don Mellor ‘71 has had various jobs. He now teaches 10th grade English but in his teaching career, which is in its sixth decade, he has taught Sociology, Political Geography, and Earth Science. He was also Dean of Students for about 20 years and Assistant Headmaster for about four years. For much of his time here he was also the school counselor.

When he’s not in the classroom, Mr. Mellor has provided hundreds of students with unique athletic opportunities. He offers Rock and Ice Climbing as a sport and leads camping trips multiple times a year. Mellor is widely known as the Adirondack’s premier expert in rock and ice climbing and is responsible for giving the “climbing bug” to countless Northwood students.


Don Mellor ’71 on rock in the Adirondacks (Photo: Carl Heilman II)

Mr. Mellor believes in the independence and autonomy of high school students and he is a consistent advocate for their resilience. “I don’t feed off of kids’ lives like you would expect. Some people go, ‘Oh, it must be so gratifying to play a role in the lives of developing kids,’” he said recently. “No. I don’t connect myself to the kids’ failures or successes,” he replied and then referenced the doctors’ Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.”. “Instead, I try not to do any damage [to their lives],” he said.

“I think my role as a teacher is to make the school a healthy flower pot for the kids,” said Mellor. Kids are growing little things, and they grow by themselves. But if there is poison in the soil, it’s hard to grow. Some of the kids here promote the growth of others, while some are like poison in the soil. I recognized that when I was Dean of Students.”


Don Mellor ’71 (Photo: Mr. Michael Aldridge)

“I am forever passionate. The kids can screw up as long as they want, and I’ll still love them. But I have no tolerance for kids who poison the soil and make others’ growing up hard”

Mr. Mellor is an influential member of the Northwood community and has impacted a lot of people’s lives throughout his years here. “Northwood is unmatched by any other boarding school in that we have a town like Lake Placid. It is also very comfortable here, and that is what drew me to working at Northwood.”


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