1. What is the best part of teaching middle school kids?
I love that middle school kids have the passion and commitment of older people but the openness and optimism of younger people. This makes middle school the perfect time to tackle topics of social justice. I also love that, typically around the second half of eighth grade, students experience a tremendous intellectual leap and are able to grapple with complex ideas in increasingly sophisticated ways, whether through language, music, or art. It’s fun.
2. What inspired you to leave Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey to teach in Bulgaria?
My husband and I both wanted to teach internationally, so we interviewed for a few jobs. Then we met with the Director of the American College of Sofia, and we were really impressed by the school and the notion of living in this fascinating corner of eastern Europe. It turned out to be a wonderful choice, and we were very happy during our five years there.
3. What do you do in your free time?
I love playing with my kids, yoga, cooking, reading (of course!)... Here, I like exploring pockets of culture and cool in São Paulo. The city is so vast, and it has taken me a while to feel like I have even the foggiest notion of how to get around!
4. What was your first job after you graduated from Mount Holyoke?
I was a Teach for America corps member on the border of Mexico, in Texas. I taught seventh and eighth grade English, both standard English language arts and English for recent immigrants, and I coached volleyball!
5. What is your most treasured possession?
I’m not really a “stuff” person. I don’t have many things that I consider irreplaceable, but my wedding rings are really special. I have an engagement ring from my husband, which I treasure, but my other two rings are my grandmother’s engagement ring and wedding band. She died shortly before I was married, and I am honored that my mom and her sisters suggested that she, Noonie, would have wanted me to have them.
6. You’re fluent in Spanish and Bulgarian. What surprised you when you started learning Portuguese?
The biggest surprise is that there are fewer cognates than I assumed there would be. In the initial months here, I would say something in my version of Portuguese and just watch the listener’s face for a sign as to whether I was using recognizable words or making things up from a Spanish base.
7. What do you most value in your friends?
I value a down-to-earth, balanced approach to life combined with a passionate desire to make the world a better place. I’m very lucky to have close friends who embody this ideal.
8. If you could give a piece of advice to middle school students all over the world, what would it be?
I have a few pieces of advice that they may already be hearing at home such as “Put down your phone,” “Read!” and “Go outside to play more often.” To avoid the broken record effect, I’ll add another one that’s more personal to me. I really regret that I don’t play a musical instrument, so I would encourage anyone with the opportunity and the inclination to pick up an instrument and learn to play as many kinds of music as they can! It’s such a joy to be among people who know the language of music and who can play for others.
9. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
I can’t compare any kind of love that I’ve felt before to that which I felt--and still feel--when I first saw each of my children’s faces. Clichés are clichés for a reason, right?
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
I love the professional community here. My teaching colleagues in the Middle School and the support I have felt from the administration make a job that I would enjoy almost anywhere a true pleasure. I also love the food in the cafeteria!