For the past five years, Deerfield has been a part of the Boarding School Teaching Residency, an innovative two-year Fellowship program between the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and nine of the country’s top boarding schools. Teaching Fellows earn master’s degrees at UPenn, all while teaching, coaching, advising, and working in the dormitories here at Deerfield.
Fellows are an integral part of the school’s community. Each year, Deerfield Academy, along with eight other boarding schools (Northfield Mount Hermon, Hotchkiss, Lawrenceville, Miss Porter’s, Taft, Loomis, Milton, and St. Paul’s), employs three to four new Fellows through the BSTR.
Currently, Science Teacher Hannah Insuik ’13, English Teacher Chinyere Odim, and Math Teacher Elliot Sakach are all in their first year as UPenn Fellows. Meanwhile, English Teacher Anna Gonzales ’12, Computer Science Teacher Khizar Hussain, and Theater Teacher Adaire Robinson are finishing up their second, and final, year.
Fellows teach two fewer sections than most other Deerfield teachers, because they also have their own school work. Aside from coaching, advising, teaching, and living in or being associated with a dorm, they attend weekends at the University and at other boarding schools involved in the program. At these weekends, they are able to work with their cohort of Fellows from other schools, share their experiences, attend classes taught by Penn professors and deans, and learn how to improve their teaching craft.
The Fellows appreciate the structure and balance of the program. “I feel fortunate to be in a program like this one, where Deerfield understands that I am working on my master’s, and UPenn knows that I am also teaching,” Mr. Sakach said. “The program is set up to allow me to do both to the best of my ability.”
Mr. Sakach described one of the most rewarding parts of his Fellowship thus far as talking and learning about how to teach, and then applying those things to his own class. He is grateful for the motivated and passionate students he teaches. “It is a privilege to be working at an institution where students are engaged and eager to learn,” Mr. Sakach said.
He has also enjoyed the opportunity to speak with other Fellows about their experience, and looks forward to spending this summer reflecting on his first year of teaching.
“The combination of support from fellow Deerfield faculty members and the structure of the UPenn program was the best possible introduction to teaching I could’ve had,” said Ms. Gonzales, when asked to reflect upon her past two years at the Academy. “The faculty was extremely willing to help me learn how to become a better teacher.”
She said that Deerfield and UPenn were both very supportive in helping her to become intentional and thoughtful, while letting her explore her own ideas.
A Deerfield graduate herself, Ms. Gonzales has often found her own experience helpful in understanding what challenges current students are facing and the stress they experience every day.
After serving as a fellow for the past two years, she looks forward to moving into a full-time teaching job at the Academy next fall as a one-year sabbatical replacement. She will continue to teach Voice and Vision to ninth-graders and American Freedom to eleventh-graders in the English Department. “I’m excited to be totally present at Deerfield and to be teaching a full course load,” she said.
The BSTR Program is beneficial to Deerfield in numerous ways, including bringing young teachers to campus who are new to the boarding school model. Ms. Gonzales says that “the Fellows program is a great way for Deerfield and other schools to continue their effort to diversify the faculty and to attract people who would not normally come to work for a boarding school.”