Advice From the Experts: Our Teachers

Starting at a new school can be nerve wracking. Starting during a pandemic is, well, the reality for Brooks School's class of 2024. Good thing they have a supportive, welcoming community at Brooks!

We enlisted a few third-form teachers to share a bit about what incoming third-formers can expect in their classrooms and advice they can use today and in the future. Read on for the scoop . . .

"My teaching style is fairly traditional, but I hope never boring! I love the give and take of classroom discussion, and I work hard to help every student feel known and included." — English Teacher Mr. Haile

The 2020 school year marks Mr. Haile's thirteenth year teaching at Brooks, and forty-second year overall. His first eight years at Brooks were spent as the dean of faculty, and he returned to the classroom full-time in 2017.

  • What's your favorite part about teaching?
    I love the opportunity to get to know my students in a variety of ways — as a teacher, of course, but also as a thirds soccer coach, advisor and dorm parent. One of the greatest things for me is helping students to become better writers.
  • What can students in your classes expect this fall?
    We'll be spending lots of time exploring both who we are and what literature has to say to us. We'll write frequently — creative, personal, analytical, and do lots of talking about poetry and short stories of various kinds.
  • What do you remember about your first day at Brooks?
    I remember being really impressed with how friendly the students were and how easy it was to get lost! I must have walked the wrong direction five times that first day.
  • Advice for incoming students?
    Work hard on getting to know one or two people well — perhaps, but not necessarily — an advisor, teacher, coach or prefect. Choose an adult and an older student you admire and make a point of spending some time with them.

Learn All About The Teachers New To Brooks This Year

"What can students in my classes expect? Besides my unbelievable (some would argue terrible) jokes?! They can expect to have to build something along the way... I am a huge fan of projects." — Physics Teacher Ms. Rooney

In her eighth year of teaching at Brooks, Ms. Rooney describes her teaching style as "student-centered," as she gives students autonomy to take control of their learning.

  • How do students steer their learning in your classroom?
    I strive to facilitate students in the learning process and seek to encourage engagement rather than solely achievement. I follow the methodology "see one, do one, teach one," and I expect students to utilize their peers in their learning process. I was (hopefully still am) an athlete, I believe strongly that many of us learn by doing, and that mentally has crept into my classroom. You would never run a play in a game that you hadn't run during practice! The same concept applies to Physics, how can you learn about gravity without you yourself dropping eggs off the balcony in the science forum?
  • What's your favorite thing about Brooks?
    The lake. It holds a special place in my heart. Nothing beats a morning practice out on the water, followed by a cinnamon toast bagel from Perfectos that Mr. Smith has made sure to arrange. More importantly, I would say the people at Brooks. I have formed friendships with adults, students, and parents that will last me a lifetime. I see Brooks Alums everywhere I go, and the school will forever hold a special place in my heart.
  • What do you remember about your first day at Brooks?
    Well, I remember playing field hockey games on the Brooks fields back in high school (as a former Tabor Seawolf)! When I first started at Brooks, I began as just a rowing coach, and what I remember most about that first day was how impressed I was with Brooks' facilities, not many high schools have rowing tanks! Mostly I was impressed with how the team interacted with the coaches. The athletes worked hard and showed tremendous respect for the sport, which I feel still holds true to this day.
  • Advice for incoming students?
    Use your advisor as a resource often, and early! Your advisor is a tool at your disposal while at Brooks. Whether it be for what to do if you're going to miss a class for a dentist appointment, or how to handle a disagreement with your roommate or a bad grade on a math test, your advisor is ready to help you. One of my advisees who recently graduated would pop her head in my door once in a while and say, "Hey, you're going to hear about my math test... It wasn't my best!" but that meant that by the end of the day, I had a chance to talk to her math teacher and help her develop a plan to improve. Communication with your advisor allows you to have an ally while at Brooks and speaking as an advisor, I can do a better job when I'm more informed on the happenings in my advisee's lives.

"To me, it is not about the teaching style, it is about the learning styles." — Mathematics Teacher Mrs. Goodman

The Director of the Leaning Center, and mother of four Brooks students/alumni, first came to Brooks as a full-time math teacher and dorm parent from 2003 to 2007. She returned to Brooks as a full-time math teacher in 2010.

  • What's your favorite part about Brooks?
    The diversity. Brooks students and faculty bring so many different backgrounds and perspectives to the table There is much to learn!
  • What can students in your classes expect this fall?
    An exciting opportunity! Blended learning will be an adventure for everyone this fall but by bringing your full self to class each day (whether in person or remote), we can expect an awesome semester.
  • Advice for incoming students?
    Ask questions! There is such a great support system available at Brooks: advisors, teachers, coaches, classmates. People are always willing and eager to help. Asking for help is a sign of wisdom.
  • What do you remember about your first day at Brooks?
    I have one vivid memory about the start of my teaching at Brooks. It was a hot and humid night before classes started and I was in my classroom (room 205) doing some heavy lifting of desks and books when the headmaster at the time, Mr. Becker, walked in. This made me super-nervous and yet, he rolled up his sleeves and said, "What do you need help with?" Together, we moved the furniture and set up the classroom in a way that made me comfortable and ready to invite my students the next day. I would never have asked for help and yet, Mr. Becker pitched in because he wanted to see me succeed. This is one of the many wonderful qualities of the Brooks community. Caring for one another so that we can all achieve and flourish.

"Students can expect to think collaboratively, listen attentively, and, hopefully, share openly!" — Self in Community Teacher Mr. Skinner '08

An eight-year member of the faculty, Mr. Skinner formerly served as associate director of admission. In addition to teaching in the classroom for the first time this fall, Mr. Skinner will be working as the school's Director of Physical Wellness, running the fitness program and providing opportunities and resources for students to be more active and incorporate healthy habits into their lives.

  • How do you feel about teaching this year?
    I'm so excited! Mostly, I'm looking forward to creating a fun and supportive environment where we can listen to, and learn from, the collective experiences we've had up to this point in our lives and examine how that affects the way we exist at Brooks and in the greater community.
  • What do you remember about your first day at Brooks?
    I began my career as a student at Brooks in 2004, a day I remember well! Although I arrived an anxious and shy 14-year-old, each interaction I was brave enough to have made me feel more and more confident that this was a community I would cherish for a lifetime. Look at me now!
  • Advice for incoming students?
    If I had two pieces of advice for you all who are starting new, I would say, first, take the time to get to know the adults. Your teachers, dorm parents, coaches, advisors, and other employees are here to make your high school experience the most meaningful one you'll ever have. Second, don't be anyone but yourself. Of course, many of you will try but at some point, you will come to the realization that we cherish you for exactly who you are! Why not start that way? I can't wait to meet you all soon!

"I think there are lots of ways to show your understanding of historical concepts, so I love trying to come up with creative options for my students to do that." — History Teacher Ms. Sauceda

This being Ms. Sauceda's first year teaching at Brooks, the former Pomfret School, Walnut Hill School and Taft School teacher says, "It's quite the unique introduction! And it definitely means that I am guaranteed to always have a really good 'first year' story."

  • How would you describe your teaching style?
    I love "the story" aspect of history and looking at all of the different aspects that are driving the story. Whatever period I am teaching about, I aim to bridge the distance from the current day by being sure to humanize the people being studied. And it helps that there are so many stories that grab you and won't let you go.
  • What's your favorite part about it?
    My students have always been key players in my favorite parts of teaching. I'm guessing that will be true at Brooks too.
  • Advice for incoming students?
    There is so much to take in right now. Knowing that, take a deep breath and just focus on doing one thing. It can help keep you from feeling overwhelmed. And remember to be kind to yourself, especially if you have a rough day.

"I don't exactly love lecturing, so I orient more toward exploration and discovery as the primary modes to seek understanding." — Mathematics Teacher Mr. Jester

Starting his second year teaching at Brooks, Mr. Jester recalls his first day on campus clearly. "Honestly, I remember being surprised. It was such a reprieve from the kind of stale, suburban world by which we are immediately surrounded — and such a beautiful and idyllic campus."

  • What's your favorite part about Brooks?
    The size has been a huge plus for me. I've been thinking about any kind of "meaningful" education as necessarily relational, and the size of Brooks really facilitates our ability to provide meaningful experiences. Additionally, how cool is it to feel like you know one third of campus in the first couple months?!
  • What can students in your classes expect this fall?
    Expect a class format different than what you've probably experienced before (in more ways than one). Expect high standards and a support system within which to achieve those goals. Expect to work hard and have fun doing it!
  • Any advice for incoming students?
    Remember that your education is not what you're given, but what you make of it. It is up to you to substantively take ownership of your learning. Make connections, ask questions, and be prepared to be flexible and adaptable!

Follow Brooks School on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see all the activities, projects and happenings in our community during the school year.


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