Jennifer Besgen, mom of four and Associate Director of Athletics at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, shares her favorite family activities and why she loves living in Ridgefield!
How many kids do you have, and what are their ages?
I have four children: Christopher (22), Thomas (19), Nicholas (18), and MaryCatherine (16).
Where do your children attend school?
MaryCatherine is a sophomore at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, and Nicholas is a senior there. Thomas and Christopher also attended St. Luke’s before heading off to college. Christopher is a senior at Loyola University Maryland, and Thomas is a sophomore at The University of Dayton.
Having my kids at the school where I work has been wonderful for our family because while most parents only get to see their children after school, I get to see my kids throughout the day. I can almost always attend special events at the school, from biology presentations to impromptu choir performances to sporting events. I also get to secretly see them interacting with their friends and teachers, and if someone is having a bad day, I’m there to be a mom.
Tell us what you do at St. Luke’s School and how long you’ve been there.
I am the Associate Director of Athletics and teach Phys Ed to our 6th graders. I serve as the point person for our Middle School athletic program. I’m also a coach for Middle School soccer and basketball, and Upper School lacrosse. I’ve been at St. Luke’s for 24 years and love it!
At St. Luke’s, every student participates in an after-school activity, and more than 90% of Middle School students play one or more sports. I love that at St. Luke’s, we have a place for every child to play on a team regardless of skill level. Not everyone makes varsity, but everyone gets the chance to explore, play, and learn. We have students try new sports all the time. My daughter, who always played soccer and lacrosse, came to St. Luke’s and tried so many new activities. She played field hockey, volleyball, and basketball. She also explored beyond sports and joined the musical. The Middle School program allows everyone to try new things. It’s great! Any age, any ability can come out and be a part of a team.
We also use an inside coaching model, where most of our coaches and activity leaders are teachers at the school. This gives students an opportunity to see their teachers outside of the classroom and gives teachers the chance to see their students excel in areas other than academics.
What is the best part of your job?
I love sports and athletics and kids! Seeing the students’ excitement is my favorite part of the job. When they do something good—make a good pass, score a goal, make the catch—they light up. I love being able to help them find their passion, gain confidence, and build leadership skills. As someone who works in the Middle School, I get to see students, often from 5th grade, grow and explore all the way through graduation.
What have you learned from the students?
They have taught me that they are happy just being with friends and playing. Students at St. Luke’s are kind and supportive, always cheering on their friends at games and practices; it’s quite inspiring. They are fearless too. I love seeing kids coming out for sports that they have never played before. They are teaching me to go out and try new things too.
When did you move to Ridgefield, and what led you to settle there?
We moved to Ridgefield in June 1999. My husband (then fiancé) was from New Canaan, and I was already working at St. Luke’s School.
What are your favorite family activities in the area?
We enjoy going for walks in the neighborhood, attending concerts in Ballard Park, apple picking, tree cutting at Jones Tree Farm, and the Christmas walk in town. Our family also enjoys spending time together skiing at Jiminy Peak and Mount Snow.
Name one thing people would be surprised to know about you.
I love to spend Friday nights home with my family playing board games. My favorite game is Dominoes, but Qwirkle and Rummikub are close seconds.
When you need “me time,” what are your favorite ways to escape?
I enjoy going for walks in the neighborhood with my two-year-old golden retriever, Finn, and 8-year-old hound dog, Fern.
What’s the best advice you’ve received from another mom?
Small children have small problems; big children, big problems. Everyone will get “there” at their own pace.
Any words of wisdom?
Do not be tied down because of a nap or feeding. Kids are resilient if we give them the opportunity. If we are rigid when they are young, they become rigid when they get old. Take time for yourself.
The Local Moms Network likes to support local businesses. What are your favorites?
Have dinner: Gallo
Spend time together as a family outdoors: We like to go for walks and listen to summer concerts.
Grab coffee: Tusk and Cup
Shop for the perfect gift: Audrey Road