Among the new faculty joining Brooks on campus this fall is a star skateboarder, a flamenco dancer and a regional Tony Award winner!
The seven educators arrive with a fascinatingly wide range of experience from previous positions around the globe.
To give students and their families a head start on getting to know the brand-new Brooksians, we asked each to share some of their story with us. Read on to learn a bit about each person's past, their goals for the future on Great Pond Road, and what it will be like in each of their classrooms first semester. They're just as excited as you are to get started!
Olivia Budd-Pearson '15, Spanish
The Davis Teaching Fellow grew up in Atlanta and after graduating from Brooks attended Wesleyan University, where she rowed and served on the university's Athlete of Color Leadership Council. Budd-Pearson lives on campus in Merriman.
Why did you want to work at Brooks? "I came across the opportunity to work at Brooks after having been evacuated from the Peace Corps in Cameroon a few months ago. I wanted to come back and be a teaching fellow because I felt that it was a great opportunity to reconnect with my alma mater. I've been telling my friends and family that going back to work at Brooks is the ultimate five-year reunion surprise! I'm looking forward to rejoining the Brooks community in a different capacity, exploring the profession of independent school teaching, learning from my new colleagues, and doing my part to make the school a better place.
What are your goals for the year? "I'm particularly excited about coming back in this role, because having graduated from here five years ago, I have a pretty good understanding of what it's like to be a student at Brooks. I hope to be able to use my own experience to connect and empathize with students about what it means to study at Brooks. I'm also looking forward to working alongside, continuing to learn from, and getting to know the faculty — especially those that I didn't have while I was a student, and who have arrived since I've graduated."
What is something about you (special talents, experience, hobbies) that might surprise students? "I love learning new languages. I majored in Spanish, took Arabic classes while studying abroad in Chile and studied French, Fulfulde and Mboum while living in Cameroon!"
Favorite movie/TV show? "My favorite TV show is Call the Midwife. My favorite movie? Maybe Remember the Titans, or Howl's Moving Castle."
What can students expect in your classes this fall? "They can expect for me to work just as hard as they do!"
Max Nagel, Media Arts
Originally from New Jersey, the Boston-based art director and photographer has worked in New England for the past eight years on a variety of photography and film projects. Nagel earned a Studio Diploma from The School of The Museum of Fine Arts and a B.F.A. from Tufts University.
Why did you want to work at Brooks? "During my interviews, it became clear to me that Brooks places a large emphasis on mentorship and holistic education. I love this approach to education and the energy it invests in the 'whole' student. The fact that everyone I spoke to felt they were integral parts of the community was the icing on top. I'm beyond excited to be joining Brooks!"
What are your goals for the year? "My first goal is to be a mentor with whom students can feel comfortable talking openly and to make my classrooms welcoming spaces for honest and free expression. I believe art is a perfect tool to unpack the feelings and ideas that are developing during the distressing instability of 2020. Coming of age today comes along with a new set of challenges. Because of this, I hope students can find their individual voices through a stable art environment that encourages experimentation while also fostering the refinement of one's skills."
What is something about you (special talents, experience, hobbies) that might surprise students? "I've been skateboarding since I was 12 and try not to go more than a couple of days without it. From ages 16-20, I had a shop and some regional sponsorships. I also love biking and camping, and have camped off my bike from Boston to Montreal. Lastly, while I was at SMFA and Tufts I also ran a Jazz Bar in Boston's South End."
Favorite movie/TV show? "Because of my obsession with lens-based art, I am a cinephile and my favorites tend to change by the week. I saw The Lighthouse recently and it has really stuck with me. I really enjoy the mystery behind much of the symbolism and the questions it raised. As far as TV shows go, I have been stuck oscillating between Shameless, Ozark and This Is Us. Yes, I know it's cheesy."
What fictional teacher are you most like? "I have to say I fall somewhere between [Dead Poet's Society's] John Keating and [The Magic School Bus series'] Ms. Frizzle. I know how ridiculous that sounds, but hear me out: Like Keating, I have a deep respect for the arts and their consequence on the world, and that passion drives me daily. He is a mentor that treasures the effect he has on his students' lives. However, I am high-spirited, have many eccentricities, and Ms Frizzle's 'classroom' was much more colorful!"
What is your favorite thing about teaching? "I get such satisfaction from helping others and I am constantly thinking of new ways to experiment with and conceptualize photography. Teaching provides a space for these experiments to become useful tools that can engage others. By having multiple 'roads to Rome,' I get to draw from specific experiments to meet individual needs."
What can students expect in your classes this fall? "They can expect to find classes that facilitate the acquisition of both classic and contemporary techniques through physical experimentation, conceptual exploration, and a teaching direction that takes into account what excites them most as individuals."
Nieves Rios-Moya, Spanish
A native of Seville, Spain, the former investments executive transitioned to teaching after 15 years in the business world. The Southern New Hampshire University MBA has taught and tutored locally in a variety of learning centers, including Brooks and the high school in neighboring Andover, Mass., where she lives.
Why did you want to work at Brooks? "From the first time I walked on campus to tutor a student, I fell in love with everything here. My student was a joy. He represented what Brooks students are about. I met the Spanish department teachers and it was exactly what I was looking for. The teamwork and their dedication to the students and the language is truly inspiring."
What are your goals for the year? "My goals for the year are: contribute to this wonderful community, make my students fall in love with Spanish and inspire them to become citizens of the world through their acquisition of a second language, and make my students feel comfortable with me as a teacher and as an adult they can go to for help on campus."
What is something about you (special talents, experience, hobbies) that might surprise students? "I love flamenco and, yes, I dance flamenco! Flamenco music is always on in my car. I love cuisine and I enjoy exploring new recipes from around the world. The best of my cooking is that I can share what I cook, so be ready for my baking. I also love traveling. When I was in my twenties I travelled as a backpacker and visited many countries in Europe, Central and South America. I go to Spain every year and try to be there as long as possible. Once there, I try to see theater plays, movies and concerts to absorb as much culture as I can so I can have enough until my next visit. At home, my family and I love to hike, bike and spend time in the middle of nowhere, at any mountain. My favorite sport is swimming and I am part of a swimming adult group at a local aquatic center."
Favorite movie/TV show? "El Abuelo is one of Pérez Galdós masterpieces that was made into a movie and is my favorite. As far as TV, definitely La Casa de Papel (Money Heist). This is the most popular show currently in Spain and the best-known Spanish show internationally."
What fictional teacher are you most like? "There is a TV show from Spain called La Otra Mirada, featuring a history and art teacher named Teresa, who is a feminist and revolutionary for her time. The show is about a boarding school for young ladies in 1920's Seville. Teresa is the new teacher that comes from another country with very modern lifestyle ideas that doesn't fit with the typical women's roles of that time. I identify with her view of life and the way she has a trustworthy relationship with her students. She is able to inspire her students to dream big and go for it!"
What is your favorite thing about teaching? "My favorite thing about teaching is the interaction with my students. I am in that amazing position to open their minds from a different cultural perspective. When you teach a language you are showing a different way of doing things, a different way of approaching things, a different way of explaining things. I can bring my students to my 'side' of the world for a bit every day and hopefully I can spark enough interest in them so that they go above and beyond just the learning of the language."
What can students expect in your classes this fall? "They are going to love Spanish. During my classes they will have to speak. My class is a safe space where mistakes are welcome and used as a learning tool. I am a planner and I like to lay down what we will be covering at the beginning of each section, and make sure it is clear before we move forward. Students will be able to reach me anytime for questions. And most importantly, I will be available to meet for extra help, especially early mornings, at my classroom. We are a team. Learning a language is teamwork and I am a great team player."
Gina Sauceda, History
A Williams College graduate from Laredo, Texas, Sauceda lives in Concord, Mass. Prior to Brooks, she taught at the Pomfret School. Walnut Hill School, Taft School and the Maimonides School.
Why did you want to work at Brooks? "All of the faculty I spoke to during the interview process were incredibly kind and sincere, which stood out to me. They provided me with a window into Brooks as a community I wanted to be a part of."
What are your goals for the year? "To try to feel as comfortable as possible by reminding myself to take each day as it comes and not be too hard on myself when something goes wrong. We're all works in progress."
What is something about you (special talents, experience, hobbies) that might surprise students? "I don't know if this is that surprising since I have three, but I love dogs. They always make me smile and improve my day. Anyone who wants to chat about their dog should always feel free to come sit by me. I'm always all ears, and if you have pictures, it's even better!"
Favorite movie/TV show? "It's impossible to pick just one! It all depends on the mood I am in. That being said, I am never in the mood to be scared, so horror is always out."
What fictional teacher are you most like? "Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter. She is a serious teacher with high standards who knows her subject well, but whenever Harry or any of her other students need her, she has their back."
What is your favorite thing about teaching? "I love being able to connect with my students as people. Teaching is a lot of work, but those connections make it all worth it. Whenever I feel myself running low on steam, they are what keep me going."
What can students expect in your classes this fall? "I think there are lots of ways to show historical understanding, so creative assignments have typically been among my favorite things to do in classes."
Nova Seals, English
Connecticut College's former Librarian for Special Collections and Archives, and the U.S. Coast Guard's Director of Reference and Instruction, the Floridian most recently served as Director of Library Services and Archives at St. George's School, where she taught philosophy. Seals lives on campus in Peabody House with her family.
Why did you want to work at Brooks? "The sense of community at Brooks was immediately apparent while walking through campus during my first visit. Community — the idea of it, as well as the people that comprise it — has always been an important concept for me because it really is the people that make a place or institution great. I could easily see myself and my family in the Brooks community. The people and the place are welcoming and wonderful."
What are your goals for the year? "During my first year, I'd like to develop and deliver engaging curricula for my students while figuring out where I can best contribute my skills and talents to the Brooks community."
What is something about you (special talents, experience, hobbies) that might surprise students? "I'm really passionate about learning. My life goal is to learn something new every day and, as such, I have built a really weird arsenal of extended amounts of trivial knowledge, developed an interest in really esoteric activities and spent time enjoying really random aspects of popular culture. I can usually find some point of common interest with everyone with whom I interact, and my curiosity about other people's knowledge and their stories usually outweighs my introversion."
Favorite movie/TV show? "I like movies that make me think and challenge me. One of my consistent favorite movies is Christopher Nolan's Inception. My favorite TV show right now is The Umbrella Academy, but that will likely change when I start watching The Expanse with my eldest son.
What fictional teacher are you most like? "I'm probably most like Katherine Ann Watson from Mona Lisa Smile, because I really want to help my students appreciate the act and process of learning while I get to know them. I also want to use knowledge to help them achieve their goals despite the expectations or limitations that may be placed upon them by society or themselves."
What is your favorite thing about teaching, and why? "My favorite thing about teaching is witnessing the moment of intellectual discovery in my students. That 'A-Ha!' moment when they learn something new or finally figure out a concept with which they were struggling."
What can students expect in your classes this fall? "Students can expect to be challenged and engaged while learning about literature, others, and themselves. I'm also hoping to have fun with my students, too. Learning should be fun!"
Sarah Spollett, Art Technical Director
The Cambridge, Mass., Andover native worked as a freelance carpenter for regional theaters, and a shop foreperson at Boston's Huntington Theatre Company, before stepping into education. Spollett comes to Brooks from Emerson College, where she taught technical theater and carpentry.
Why did you want to work at Brooks? "I'm so excited to get to build on a program that was just gifted with a beautiful new facility. I can't wait to introduce students to the scene shop!"
What are your goals for the year? "My main goal is to make sure that students and faculty feel comfortable accessing the performance and shop spaces. I want everyone to know that they are welcome to drop in anytime to learn and create, and that I'm there to help them."
What is something about you (special talents, experience, hobbies) that might surprise students? "A fun fact about me is that I was part of a theatre that won the regional Tony award. My students at Emerson refer to me as 'Tony-award-winning Sarah Spollett,' which I think is very amusing. Other than that, I have lots of hobbies, but mostly enjoy delicate crafts like cross-stitch or crochet."
Favorite movie/TV show? "I love anything 80's or musical. I also have a really soft spot for Star Wars and Dr. Who."
What fictional teacher are you most like? "My stepson says I am most like Harry Potter's Professor Minerva McGonagall, but that's mostly because I make him do his homework. I think I may be like her a bit but I'm much more laid back. I expect a lot from my students, but that's only because I know they are capable of achieving a lot."
What is your favorite thing about teaching? "My favorite thing about teaching is when students come to the realization that what I do is within their grasp. Not as many people grew up like I did, using tools from a young age, and it can feel intimidating. It's really gratifying when someone has a breakthrough that, yes, they can absolutely use the table saw (or jigsaw or drill)! These are life skills that can help you in a myriad of ways, and I love helping people feel comfortable and empowered."
What can students expect in your classes this fall? "To have a lot of fun, while also working hard. Technical theater can be very taxing, both physically and mentally, but the reward at the end is very worth it."
Jiamu Wang, Chinese
Born and raised in Beijing, China, the teacher also known as "Amy," earned a degree in political science from Peking University and graduate degree in Education from Beijing Normal University. She has been teaching in China and the U.S. for the past 17 years. Wang lives in Marblehead, Mass.
Why did you want to work at Brooks? "The people!"
What are your goals for the year? "I want to get to know the community and learn about Brooks."
What is something about you (special talents, experience, hobbies) that might surprise students? "I love birds and once had 60 birds at home (Raising birds is an interesting traditional culture in Beijing). Also, I have traveled to New Siberia and taught in a small town outside of Yakutsk. Besides that I love fitness dancing, enjoy driving four-wheelers, horseback riding, singing karaoke, playing D&D and watching Japanese animation."
Favorite movie/TV show? "There are so many of them . . . Movies: Braveheart, Jumanji, Wonder, Me Before You, Feel the Beat, Step Up Revolution, Center Stage, Save the Last Dance, Coco, and Zootopia. And TV: Growing Pains, 2 Broke Girls, and Stranger Things."
What fictional teacher are you most like? "Yoda, because I speak in idioms."
What is your favorite thing about teaching? "I love teaching because it helps keep my heart youthful and my mind curious about the world."
What can students expect in your classes this fall? "Open conversation, enthusiasm and fun!"
OTHER RECENT STORIES
School Spirit Day Success
Students, alumni, employees and friends of Brooks separated during the coronavirus crisis came together, virtually.
Forty Years Later
Four decades have passed since the first female students arrived at Brooks. These are some of their reflections on that exciting time.
Serious Competition to be Funny
The theme of Brooks' annual Wilder Speaking Contest this year encouraged students to share a humorous look at life — and did they ever!