Jeffrey Biersach '03, Upper School English and History Teacher, Durham Academy (he/him/his)
Describe your career in Education: I have been teaching in independent schools or in graduate school since the early ‘90s. I am currently a member of the Department of English and of the Department of History at Durham Academy, Upper School in Durham, NC. DA is a PK-12 school with roughly 1,280 students. I have been teaching at DA for eighteen years. Before DA, I taught at Episcopal High School for two years, at The Cambridge School of Weston for roughly three, and at Middlesex School for four years.
What was your major at Williams and how does it inform your career journey? At Williams, I was a history major, but I actually took more courses in English, Literary Studies, and a Journalism Winter Study. My undergraduate courses also featured four core courses in economics as well as four courses in art history. Williams was excellent preparation for graduate school at Cornell, where I enrolled in a Ph.D. program in ’92. After teaching at The Choate Summer Program, I decided that I liked teaching high school juniors and seniors, so I finished my M.A. and then started teaching at Middlesex. Taking a broad range of courses helped not only for graduate school but also for the various roles I have played in different schools. Over the years, I was able to interview at schools that had openings in English, history, and, most attractive to high schools, economics. If not for the breadth of my undergraduate and graduate coursework, I would not have been able to land jobs at the independent schools where I have been lucky to teach. Independent schools love candidates with liberal arts backgrounds for a host of reasons, and I know this now from the hiring side.
What skills, interests, and values show up in your work? As for values and interests, I am unusually tied to my academic roots. I love my students, but I love literature, history, and economics more. I hope that the seniors I teach recognize my genuine intellectual curiosity and become motivated by my example. Also, I have avoided training specific to education. I have never taken a single education course, but I have taken countless courses in all sorts of other interesting subjects as professional development over the decades. I have never taught in an independent school where we sought out candidates with education degrees – in fact, at a few schools, we intentionally avoided resumes with ed school degrees.
What is your advice for students getting started in the field of Education? My advice: get a subject masters, then hit the job market and gain experience. Bear in mind that the pay is worst when the work is hardest in the early years, but the pay gets much better than most think once you have twenty or more years of experience, right when experience makes teaching easier.
Make a EphLink and LinkedIn profile! Linkedin is the best way for teachers to keep in touch with former students’ progress and achievements. One of the best things about lengthy teaching careers is seeing all of the remarkable things your former students accomplish. We reap the true rewards of teaching not when our students sit before us in the classroom, but years after, when our students take what we have taught them and move into college, graduate school, and life. Development offices at independent schools are great about keeping teachers informed about alumni – and it’s because we all know that hearing about a graduate’s job promotion or new book or new medical discovery is one of the most gratifying aspects of teaching.
Jeffrey Rubel '17, Upper School Science Teacher at The Episcopal Academy (he/him/his)
What is your current role? I'm currently an Upper School Science Teacher at The Episcopal Academy outside Philadelphia. This year, I'm teaching an introductory biology course and accelerated chemistry. Next year, in addition to continuing with biology, I'll also be developing a new introductory Earth and environmental science course.
What was your major at Williams and how does it inform your career journey? At Williams, I majored in Geosciences, focusing primarily on paleobiology and paleoclimatology (lots of coursework with Phoebe Cohen and Mea Cook!). My passions for education and the Earth existed before Williams, but I feel like they were both nurtured in the Geosciences Department. I was a Teaching Assistant in Geosciences courses for five semesters, starting my sophomore year––four of those semesters were with Phoebe who became (and still is) a mentor and role model. (I've actually adapted two of her labs for my courses at EA!)
What I love so much about Geosciences is its focus on the Earth as a system. The discipline is concerned with interconnectedness. How can tiny bacteria change the atmosphere? How can an asteroid change the course of life on Earth? It's this training in drawing connections between the big and the small, the global and the local, that has informed a lot of my pedagogical philosophy. I want students to see what their learning as part of a wider network of knowledge. Nothing sits in isolation.
How has your liberal arts education informed your career thus far? Whenever somebody asks what I studied at Williams, I say: "Geosciences... and food studies... and art history... and creative writing." Because all of these humanities disciplines are as much a part of my identity as my science coursework. My senior year, I took a year of fiction writing with Jim Shepard and did an extended independent study with Darra Goldstein on retirement home cuisine.
I actually often identify more as "historian" than as "geoscientist." I got my master's degree in the History of Science, largely inspired by my work with Darra Goldstein. Williams taught me to be a deeply interdisciplinary thinker, and this is something I actively and intentionally bring to my classroom. I want to demonstrate to my students, as so many of my Williams professors demonstrated to me, that every cultural product –– including science –– sits in a wider social context, shaped by people, their interests, and their desires.
I see my future in the education space shaped by my interdisciplinary interests. I can't say I know exactly where this might lead, but I do know that Williams instilled in me a passion for connecting the unexpected and exploring the overlooked –– and I want to keep doing that and inspire others to do the same.
What skills, interests, and values show up in your work? What I love about teaching at an independent school is that I have a good amount of freedom to try new things. This year, I've tried countless new labs and lessons. Because of this, I can bring almost any of my interests into the classroom, with a little clever finagling –– I've taught lessons on the chemistry of baking, the historical influences of Darwinism, and the nuances of how we smell.
The skills that show up in my work vary widely. There's, of course, the need to communicate clearly and effectively –– something that Williams really helped me fine-tune, especially in all my writing-heavy courses. There's also the need to be nimble and flexible, be empathetic and connect with students, and be passionate about what you're teaching. All of these are skills I developed (or fine-tuned) as both a TA in Geosciences and working at Mt. Greylock.
What I love about teaching isn't actually teaching chemistry or biology. Rather, it's giving students the tools to see the world in a new way. I want to help students discover new passions and connections. I want them to come away from my course with an appreciation for the discipline and its importance in the world, even if they don't want to go off and become chemists or biologists. So, I really value how knowledge and learning can broaden perspectives, change outlooks, and open doors. Being able to do that for students every day is inspiring. And it's almost irrelevant if the discipline I'm using is biology, chemistry, or environmental science.
What resources/experiences do you recommend current students should take advantage of at Williams? If you're interested in education, work with the Center for Learning in Action! Take advantage of the amazing Williams outreach programs! I am forever indebted to Kaatje White at CLiA for giving me opportunities to explore teaching. I spent four years working at Mount Greylock High School, where I got to wear almost every hat possible: Writing Fellow, Science Fellow, science curriculum developer, program founder (ScienceBlast), coach, and program coordinator.
Through the Williams Center at Mt. Greylock, I got the opportunity to fine tune my teaching approach and philosophy. I got to see the inner workings of a school and develop a greater sense of how a community functions –– and the role I could play in that space. In so many ways, Mt. Greylock became a playground for me, a place where I could learn and grow as an educator by wearing basically every hat I might want to try on.
Take advantage of the entire Williams curriculum. These are "your 32" classes. Use them to explore. You never know what discipline might grab your attention and how it might help you see the world –– and your place in it –– differently.
Practically speaking, if you want to work in independent schools, work with a couple of placement firms. I'd encourage you to pair up with some small placement firms, in addition to the big ones. For instance, I worked with Educator's Ally, and they sent my resume off to jobs that I thought I was unqualified for. I wouldn't have gotten my job at Episcopal if it weren't for Educator's Ally encouraging me to send it in.
Do what you love. Study what you love. Schools –– especially independent schools –– value the unique spin YOU can bring to a community. So nurture that.
Katrien Vance '97, Middle School Teacher at North Branch School, Afton, Virginia (she/her/hers)
What is your current role? I am a middle school teacher at North Branch School in Afton, VA. I teach history, English, music, and math to 7th and 8th graders. We have a 3-person team for our 7th and 8th graders, and I am the leader of that team, so I call myself the Middle School Coordinator. I create curriculum, run homeroom and Advisory, oversee the social and emotional learning program, and generally have my finger in everything the 7th and 8th graders do.
What was your major and how did it inform your career thus far? I was a double English and American Studies major. As the daughter of two English teachers, I had a pretty good idea that I would be an English teacher. I had never heard of American Studies, though, and when I began to take those courses, I realized that this was my actual true love. I love combining everything about culture--the music, art, literature, politics, history, and sociology and seeing how they all inform each other. When I was first teaching English, students would say, "Is this English class or history class?" because I was always bringing in history and culture for context. The curriculum I have created for my 7th and 8th graders combines our Humanities and Reading classes so that the two disciplines work together and complement each other. I know I'm doing it right when I can also bring in art, music, math, and science.
How did your liberal arts experience at Williams shape your interests and career? My favorite experience at Williams was having genuine conversations with professors about books, history, and ideas--conversations in which I was a full partner and contributor, rather than simply a receiver of the "right" answer. The thrill when I would say something a professor had not thought of and found interesting and useful was wonderful. I find this to be my style as a teacher, as well. I love having conversations with students--in history, math, or reading groups--and letting them know how often they say things that I have never thought of before. This is the best part of teaching--it's constantly new, and I am constantly learning. I want my students to have that same pride in their ideas, that same thrill of thinking for themselves, and that same delight in discovery that I enjoyed at Williams.
What skills, interests, and values show up in your work? The number one value in my classroom is a love of learning. You're never too old, experienced, or expert to learn something new, even about a book or an era or a person you've studied over and over. Recently, I am using my American history curriculum to give voice to the stories told less often--Black Americans, women, Native Americans, immigrants--and noticing the ways all of these voices shape American culture and history. I am committed to telling a more complete story of American history with and for my students. Finally, I want my classroom to reflect a genuine love of my students. It is a safe place that honors them. I challenge my students, definitely, but not because there is anything wrong with them; in fact, I challenge them because I know what capable people they are. We tend to minimize or dismiss 13 and 14-year-olds, and I think they are great thinkers, passionate people, and full of curiosity and possibility.
What advice do you have for students interested in education? I recommend getting into a classroom right away. I worked for two summers at Woodberry Forest Summer School (summer after my junior year and summer after my senior year), and these summers were crucial in giving me on-my-feet experience, first under a master teacher and then on my own, to create a curriculum and deliver it. A summer program like this, especially one that teams you with an experienced teacher, is a great way to see what being in a classroom feels like. I do not have an education degree, and I sometimes wish I did, as it would allow me to teach in public school. But in terms of preparing me for my work, nothing can beat being in the classroom, learning what works and what does not. Finding a mentor teacher is also an excellent idea. Loving your subject and loving young people are requirements--but knowing how to build a lesson, support struggling learners, adapt on the fly, and manage challenging classroom dynamics help take that raw love and turn it into masterful teaching. In terms of expanding your skill set, teacher resources are abundant and powerful, especially during the pandemic. I have loved the way the teacher community has come together to support each other by teaching each other everything from how to use all of the technology needed to teach virtually to encouraging a change in math mindset. There are wonderful, creative mentors out there on Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook working to help teachers give students creative, powerful experiences. Find those communities. Go to conferences held by NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) and NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics), and in those seminars, you will find wonderful resources and mentors. Be a sponge. I'm in my 33rd year of teaching, and I've just completely re-vamped my approach to teaching math, re-writing my entire Algebra and Pre-Algebra curricula from scratch, as well as re-writing my American history curriculum in the past few years. I didn't do that by myself; I listened, absorbed, and gave myself permission to try new things.
Megan Siedman '20, Fellow; Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bulgaria (she/her/hers)
What is your current role? After spending my first semester after graduation studying remotely at the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics Education (BSME), I’ve recently begun a fellowship at an equity-centered research and design program. The program funds projects that bring together diverse educators, researchers, and product developers to co-design materials for high quality math instruction for low-income Black and Latinx students. My principal function is to serve as a bridge between the program’s researchers and the national council of educators that they partner with, ensuring that the educators’ voices are fully elevated and integrated into the research and design work. I’ll also get to conduct my own capstone research project.
In September, I’ll be teaching high school English & American Studies as a Fulbright fellow in Bulgaria, a year after what was originally scheduled. Surprisingly, my placement city is shockingly similar to Williamstown: it's a small town surrounded by mountains, bordering two countries, with one major street to shop on. All that’s missing are the purple cows.
What was your major at Williams? I double majored in Sociology and Mathematics which means that a lot of the time, I still don’t exactly know what my career journey is going to look like because I have a lot of goals that I want to accomplish and I’m never certain which order I’ll pursue them in. Currently, I’m fortunate to be doing a perfect intersection of my two majors: I get to spend every day thinking about how we can address and act on the structural inequalities in our math education system.
Regardless of what I'm doing, both disciplines always play a big role in how I approach my thinking. Sociology is critical to how I approach education as a whole whereas mathematics in it of itself has a rich subculture that is in constant dialogue with the sociologist in me. If I could, I would be doing both things––teaching math and researching sociology––simultaneously. More realistically, I’m hopeful that I will find creative ways to switch between the two throughout my life. I would miss one too much if I spent all my time just doing the other.
How does your liberal arts education inform your career? I spent a lot of my time at Williams in the local community. With respect to education, I had a leadership role in CLiA’s local school outreach programs that served as a stepping stone in building my resume for summer teaching fellowships. CLiA’s programs are not only one of the most fun ways to earn work study but also offer professional development opportunities and are a really meaningful way to engage outside of campus.
My work at Brayton Elementary actually inspired my senior sociology research project. We were playing tag at recess one day and had to remind the students not to “puppy-guard” the jail. On the car ride back to campus someone asked if anyone called it “goose-guarding.” I’d never called it that but my neighboring town did so I started wondering if it was similar to regional dialects or if playground games spread like folklore does (and, to a certain extent, how I now believe “math-lore” does). Another Williams student also mentioned how it was troubling that we put students in “jail” during tag when this makes light of an American carceral culture that personally impacts many students. The event made me think a lot more about the social construction of play and I became interested in studying the intersections between playground design and playlore. I took a religion course on Play Theory with Professor Israel that supported a lot of the theoretical background for the project and, although it was ultimately truncated by the pandemic, I am hopeful that I will return to this research at some point in my future.
What skills, interests, and values have shown up in your work? Having served on the Lehman Board for Community Engagement at Williams, community-based and community-responsive work has risen to the forefront of my priorities and values. A lot of Williams students engage with the wider Berkshires sporadically during their four years, but making a commitment to consistently engaging with the community is an essential part of re-grounding yourself in the context that has made your learning possible as well the reason why your learning matters.
Community-based principles played an enormous role in my Fulbright application process. As a low-income student and JA, I’d never travelled anywhere before: I could have landed anywhere on the map and it wouldn’t have made a significant difference. Instead, I narrowed my search to commissions that had a demonstrated history of fellows engaging deeply with their host communities. After a lot of research (and some shameless stalking of former fellows), I saw a lot of these same values institutionalized in Fulbright Bulgaria.
I’ve also seen my values reflected in my current role as a research assistant. The program I’m working for takes an asset-based approach with its community partners. The educators and districts that we work with are considered full experts––just like the researchers––and the expectation is that, at the end of the program’s five years, we will have co-designed tangible products that directly benefit their communities. This program has served as a critical model for me in doing research without compromising my values.
What resources/experiences do you recommend for students starting out in the field? I strongly encourage any math students who have even the slightest interest in education to apply to the NSF’s Teaching Experience for Undergraduates (TEU) program. The program is modeled after REUs but is focused entirely on doing innovative, equitable math education. Recognizing that small liberal arts college students don’t always have access to education courses but are equipped with strong math backgrounds, the TEU pays undergrads to take a math pedagogy course at Brown and teach in a summer high school. My experience not only radically restructured how I conceptualized the math classroom, but also made an enormous impact in my Williams career. Having just had a really difficult experience with math anxiety in Abstract Algebra, I was fully prepared to stop pursuing the math major (to the point that I didn’t even declare); however, the TEU transformed my idea of what it means to be successful at math and reminded me of the aspects of math that I love the most. If that kind of approach can have such a life-changing impact on a college student, it’s exciting to imagine what kind of thinkers we might be able to foster if we start implementing those strategies from Kindergarten up.
I would also encourage Williams students to remember that education is not synonymous with psychology. As a first year who entered Williams with a pronounced interest in education, the psychology narrative was pushed onto me a lot. Although it’s never a bad thing to learn more in other disciplines, I regret taking Psych 101 because I felt like “I had to” for my career. Taking a course in American Studies might inform just as much, if not more, of your classroom philosophies than Developmental Psych might. If you want to pursue psychology because you love it, by all means do, but don’t discount the validity of the learning you do in other disciplines. You’ll be bringing all aspects of yourself into the classroom so make sure you’re learning what you love and care about.
Judy Silver '90, High School Literature Teacher at Ridgefield High School (she/her/hers)
What is your current role? I teach literature electives on Social Justice and Identity at the high school level. One course is called "Individual Identity and Social Justice" (9th grade) and the other is called "Teen Voices in a Changing Society" (10th grade).
What was your major at Williams and how does it inform your career journey? I majored in American Studies with a minor in African American Studies. My career journey started with an interest in Public Health, but after spending a year teaching in Honduras, I completely shifted my focus and decided that I love to be in the classroom. It's amazing how much my major currently informs my curriculum, especially the agency and variety of mediums I use to teach teenagers. My courses closely resemble American Studies classes at Williams, except we read contemporary and provocative young adult novels. I am the co-coordinator of a powerful schoolwide program called "Names Can Really Hurt Us" which is sponsored by the ADL. I have been the advisor to the Unity Club, a club that looks for ways to unify the school, and I coached the field hockey team for 6 years. I served as the Student Life Coordinator as well. My liberal arts education has helped me become a more well- rounded educator.
What skills, interests, and values show up in your work? The courses that I teach reflect the issues, questions, and concerns that teens have about their world. I encourage curiosity, inquiry, and engagement. Self assessment is built into every challenge that is presented. I try to assist kids to develop their voices in a reflective, thoughtful manner. The book selections are constantly changing depending on the year, and I provide lots of agency for student projects. I would say that critical thinking, inquiry, and an open mind are the key components to my teaching.
Do you have any resources/experiences that you recommend for students starting out in the field? Williams students should try to spend time in schools to observe different teaching styles and subjects. Spend a day with a teacher so you can get the feel of a full day of school. There's nothing more valuable than experiencing a classroom in real time.
Education Consulting & Recruiting
Alison LaRocca '06, Managing Director at Luminary Evaluation Group; Senior Advisor at Civitas (she/her/hers)
Hear from Alison! Or read the transcript below.
What is your current role? My name is Alison LaRocca and I graduated from Williams in the class of 2006. I am from Berkshire County and I’m currently living in Berkshire County right now. My professional role is Managing Director of Luminary Evaluation Group. Luminary is a national evaluation firm and we specialize in conducting program evaluations for nonprofits and foundations, so really taking a look at different kinds of public serving programs--everything from early childhood learning through education at the elementary level all the way up through college readiness, career preparation, etc. I’m also a senior advisor with Civitas Strategies which is a national management consultancy that focuses on strategies for helping mission driven organizations increase their impact. Prior to entering the world of nonprofit consulting, I was an elementary educator at the Community Day Charter School in Lawrence, MA, and I did that right after graduating from Williams.
How did your major and liberal arts experience at Williams inform your career journey? When I was at Williams my major was History. I was really drawn to how ideas and relationships shape society over time. I also really enjoyed research and writing, which I got to do a lot of at WEPO. So history was a really great fit for me. When I entered Williams I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career or a major. I was really exploring different areas as a first generation college student but there were some ways that Williams really helped me. The first was the encouragement to really branch out to try different kinds of classes and study different subject areas. The second and most important for me was the professors and the staff. Everybody at Williams really cared about teaching students; I felt like people were really invested in helping us as individuals grow, everything from building our academic skills and critical thinking to identifying opportunities and things we could do after Williams to continue to take the next steps in life. I found that taking smaller classes, especially tutorials, really offered that opportunity to make connections with professors and other students. This whole cultivation of connecting with people and helping them really progressed for me at Williams and definitely influenced my decision to go into teaching afterwards. And it continues to influence me as an evaluator. I see teaching and working in education as a really formative experience especially in my current career because when I’m looking at programs and writing about them and interviewing and conducting focus groups and making recommendations to help programs continue to grow and evolve, the context of actually being in the classroom and experiencing day to day work with children and families is so important to be able to do all of those things effectively.
What advice do you have for students interested in education? I have some advice for any student who would like to go into teaching or education, especially if you are interested in teaching in a public school setting: it’s really important to make a plan to acquire the basic certification that you’ll need. For example, in Massachusetts you need to have a preliminary licensure to be able to teach, and so what I did after Williams was I studied and took the test through the Department of Education and then having that credential put me on the path needed to continue the other certifications. I eventually got my master’s degree and a professional licensure. You’ll want to have all those things as you grow your career as an educator, especially in public education. My educational experience and working as a teacher in Lawrence was so formative and was really the foundation for everything I do now so I really appreciate the idea that Williams pushed me to do that, to enter a life of service and a life of helping others.
Anita Gajula '98, College Counselor at CollegeWise (she/her/hers)
What was your major at Williams and how does it inform your career journey? I was a Psychology major at Williams. It taught me more about human behaviour. More importantly, it taught me how to make connections between things that may seem unrelated. I also took so many great courses in Economics, Art History, and English which have so many overlaps to Psychology and helped broaden my ways of looking at the world. Finally, I learned how to ask good questions, rather than seek answers, during my time at Williams.
How has your liberal arts education informed your career thus far? I was incredibly active at Williams both outside the classroom during the school year and with my summer internships. Those experiences helped me meet people I would have never met otherwise, develop "real life" practical skills, and get me out of my comfort zone.
What skills, interests, and values show up in your work? The keys to my work are building relationships quickly with students and parents, while also digesting large amounts of information and using that knowledge appropriately. You must be trustworthy, resourceful, flexible, motivated, and empathetic to do this work well. I find myself asking lots of questions, supporting students with writing their personal narratives, and learning on my own.
What resources/experiences do you recommend current students should take advantage of ? Oh there so many! Where do I begin?! Admissions positions are a nice entry to the field, whether you are a campus tour guide or in the office. The professional organizations in this field are great: NACAC, IECA, and HECA in particular. Collegewise has such great free resources on the website, as does the College Essay Guy. Finally, there are so many College Bound Organizations (CBO's) or small business owner education consultants that could use the support of interns. Contact me or a local professional to do an informational interview.
Brett Bodnar '07, Senior Placement Manager at Educator's Ally (she/her/hers)
What is your current role? I am a Senior Placement Manager at Educator’s Ally. Educator’s Ally is a placement agency that helps independent schools around the country with their hiring. Simply put, I’m a recruiter for educators—everything from first year teachers through senior administrators and non-teaching roles such as admissions and development.
What was your major and how did it inform your career thus far? I was an English and Psych double major. Being a strong writer is a valuable skill in any career and I have drawn upon that daily in all the jobs I’ve held. Thinking critically, making connections, and being able to communicate my thoughts clearly is a key part of my work. I interact with a variety of people all day and need to do a lot of listening. The job search can be stressful and in our office we often joke that we serve as our candidates’ therapists as they share a lot of personal and confidential details with us about what they’re looking for in the future. I often think back to one of my favorite psych classes with Prof. Heatherington, Psychotherapy Methods and Research (this may not be the exact title!), where we learned about different strategies for how to listen to and support people, especially when they’re stressed.
How did your liberal arts experience at Williams shape your interests and career? I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation, so I just took classes in subjects that interested me. It was great not having the pressure to declare a major early on and have the freedom to explore. I was a varsity athlete in high school, but took the JV sports route at Williams. I do well when I’m part of a close-knit team where everyone supports each other and works together towards a common goal. I’ve taken a roundabout route to my current job, having worked in sports marketing and boarding school admissions previously, but a common theme is that I’ve always worked for smaller organizations where my colleagues and I have to wear many hats. It’s not unlike being at a small, liberal arts college.
What skills, interests, and values show up in your work? I love hearing people’s stories and listening to what motivates them to do what they do. Working with educators is so inspiring as they are all extremely dedicated to helping others and mentoring the next generation of leaders. I’m always learning something new whether it’s how a school is implementing an anti-racist curriculum or how a candidate is teaching their 1st graders how to code. Helping my candidates find their dream job and seeing how excited they are when they accept an offer is so rewarding, particularly if it’s their very first job ever. I’ve been fortunate to have many incredible teachers in my life, so knowing that future students will be learning from a passionate educator who I helped to place in a school is a great feeling. Additionally, I didn’t realize how many Ephs worked in education until my current job where it seems I’m meeting alumni frequently so that’s an added bonus! The friendships I made at Williams are arguably the most valuable thing I took away from my experience, so I will always be excited to bond over our time in the Purple Valley with a fellow alum.
What advice do you have for students interested in education? At Educator’s Ally, we pride ourselves on taking a personal approach to the search process. We get to know both our client schools and candidates well to learn about what they’re really looking for and connect them with opportunities that are the right fit for them. This tailored process extends to all stages of the job search from helping to make sure candidates’ documents are as strong as they can be, assisting with interview prep, answering questions along the way, and serving as their advocate. Using Educator’s Ally for your job search, even if teaching is just one of several avenues you’re considering after graduation, is a great place to start and we serve as a resource to our candidates and schools throughout the process. In the majority of cases, independent schools don’t require teachers to be certified, so you don’t need to have been an education major (but do take classes with Prof. Engel if you can!). Schools are looking for are candidates who have a demonstrated interested in working with kids. So, volunteer to tutor at Mt. Greylock or Williamstown Elementary, coach youth sports, work as a camp counselor, TA for a professor, join the Writing Center. Showing that you’re an involved member of campus is a plus too, so get involved in extracurriculars, whether that’s playing a sport (varsity, JV, or club), singing in an acapella group, writing for The Record, serving as a JA, or pursuing whatever your particular interests are.
Selena Castro '17, Director of Talent Acquisition at Freire Schools (she/her/hers)
What is your current role and career path thus far? I am currently the Director of Talent Acquisition at Freire Schools, a college-preparatory charter network in Philadelphia, PA. As a member of the Class of 2017, I majored in Chemistry and American Studies with concentrations in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Africana Studies. After Williams, I taught 6th Grade Science for 2 years in Camden, NJ through Teach for America. This experience further opened my eyes to the barriers and educational inequity that children from underserved communities face, so I decided to shift into educational recruitment. After teaching, I worked with the School District of Philadelphia, hiring Special Education teachers for over 200 schools around the city. Now, I am with Freire Schools as their hiring lead. I am responsible for network-wide hiring; a central focus of my work is maintaining equitable and inclusive practices to get a passionate, diverse, and qualified educator force in front of our students.
What was your major at Williams and how did your liberal arts education inform your career journey? My path at Williams allowed me to dabble in tons of areas I was interested in without feeling constrained. I was able to use my identity as a first-gen Afro-Latina in order to carve out my post-grad path. When I wasn't studying to fulfill the requirements for my two majors, I was working with the Dean's Office on First Generation student initiatives or with the Black STEM Student Association (BSTEM) to increase support and community for BIPOC students within STEM disciplines. I became very active within the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion sphere on campus without realizing it, because it was so inextricably tied to my identity and beliefs. These co-curricular activities motivated me to move away from a traditional medical or research path, and shift into urban education in order to target the achievement gap and remove barriers for Black and brown students by providing them with a restorative and relevant education.
What resources or advice do you have for students exploring this field? For students who want to know where to start, use summers and Winter Study to explore different roles within education. Since Williams is in more of a rural area, I branched out and did the TeachNYC program as well as an ASIP fellowship over my sophomore summer with KIPP's operations team. There are plenty of opportunities to get into urban education through the connections that you make in the Purple Bubble!
"Office Hours" are casual conversation with Williams College alumni that touch on their professional and personal endeavors. A student-led project through the Office of Alumni Relations.
Christopher Sewell '05 EdD, Former Associate Dean of First-Year Students, Williams College (he/him/his)
What was your major at Williams and how does it inform your career journey? I was an American Studies and History double major with a concentration in Afro-American Studies (now African Studies) while at Williams. Being so steeply invested in the experience of African Diasporan peoples while at Williams really helped me to interrogate how race and racial policies continue to impact the experiences of the most marginalized in our country. It shaped my intention to go into education to really try and give voice and support to those who needed it most.
How does your liberal art education (including co-curricular activities) broadly inform your career? I think that going to Williams really allowed me to take courses across the curriculum that helped inform my own teaching when I left Williams and my current research interests (representations of Black giftedness in the media, Black gifted student experiences, and the experiences of Black students at PWIs). I have been able to speak across various disciplines and also learned how to conduct research through winter studies, courses, and my senior thesis. I also think having worked as a tour guide, with preview weekends, as a pre-orientation leader and director, and on various campus committees helped me to understand how to help people transition to and through space which is critical to the work that I have done post-Williams.
What skills, interests, and values show up in your work? I am passionate about helping others so that shows up daily in the work that I do. For me, it is about listening to people and seeing how I can help them find their best selves so being in the Dean's Office allows me to do just that! I also think that my involvement in Williams Alumni networks has really helped because I can point students to others who may have
Do you have any resources you recommend for students starting out in the field? Are there any experiences that you advise students to explore? If you want to start out in higher education, I would find ways to be involved at Williams like HC, JA, or any campus leadership role. It will really help you to think about the student experience and how institutional choices work. Speak to people who work in offices on campus that you can see yourself doing post-college (OCL, The Deans Office, The Davis Center, etc.) to see how different people entered the profession to get a sense of the multiple pathways to where we are now.
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