While students are away on summer vacation, Brewster remains abuzz with activity—and one of these activities is the long-running Brewster Summer Institute (BSI) for new faculty members. BSI first took place in 1993 as a part of the newly envisioned Brewster Model, which held that faculty, regardless of their prior teaching experience, engaged in six weeks of summer professional development to ensure all were equipped with the most effective teaching and learning practices. Last week, BSI 2021 commenced. While now only four weeks, the impetus is still the same—to ensure new faculty are ready to fulfill Brewster’s mission of preparing diverse thinkers for lives of purpose.
The BSI Program is divided into four parts. Assistant Head of School Dolph Clinton and Director of Special Projects Bret Barnett spearheaded the first part of the experience, giving participants a general introduction to Brewster. New faculty and staff learned about the history of the Academy, spent time engaging with the mission and vision, and did a deep dive into what makes Brewster unique. In reflecting on the first part of BSI, Clinton noted, “The group has really coalesced. We’ve brought together a diverse group of people who are already building community and fostering the enhanced positive culture we consistently strive for.” Week Two is focused on classroom teaching. Led by Assistant Head of School for Program Raylene Davis and Academic Dean Matt Butcher, participants learned about visible learning, best practice innovations, and classroom specifics like how to use Canvas, our learning management system. Davis commented, “I am really impressed by this new group. They are invested in intentionally designing curriculum that maximizes student learning—I cannot wait to see them in action.” Week Three will closely examine all dimensions of difference including cognitive, behavioral, and demographic. And Week Four, which will happen right before the school year begins, will prepare new faculty to hit the ground running, learning about advisees, schedules, and meeting protocols.
Like any great learning experience, BSI mixes in a bit of fun. New faculty were the guests of honor at a Welcome BBQ at the Boathouse July 18, and Barnett (a known devotee of trivia competitions!) hosted a Trivia Night in the Bobcat Den the following week. Current faculty and staff mingled with the new faces on teams that battled for trivia dominance—but really just enjoyed getting to know each other and having some laughs. “It’s important to have opportunities to meet new colleagues before the school year starts,” said Director of Communications Suzanne Morrissey. “Especially for staffers like me, who through the pandemic have been working from home and not on campus, putting names and faces together in person was a treat! The new faculty I met at the trivia game had such a fascinating range of professional and personal backgrounds—it’s so clear they will add a lot to Brewster.”
Unlike the vast majority of schools that entreat their new faculty to arrive a couple of days before others, Brewster invests in their new employees throughout the summer to guarantee the very best for our students. Barnett notes, “When I think back to my BSI experience 18 years ago, I feel so fortunate to have had the time to get to know the school and my colleagues. We bonded and forged connections that I will never forget. Now, working so closely with this group, I am a bit jealous…I wish I could do it all over again.”
Those embarking on this journey share similar feelings. New English faculty and crew coach Katy Varga-Wells said, “This experience is reenergizing all of us and bringing us together. I’ve learned in the first two days more than in any professional development I can remember.” As the excitement builds for the arrival of our students and the start of the 2021-22 school year, know that Brewster is active in its preparation: beautifying campus, making improvements, and, as Brewster has for more than 25 years, ensuring its new crop of teachers is ready to make a difference in the lives of the students in our care.
Pictured in the feature photo: L-R, Amy Livermore '15 (Math), Justin Connell (Science), Sarah Goodale (Spanish), LL Kourse (Science)
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