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Faculty Q&A with English Teacher Michelle Koza

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

Michelle Koza comes to The Beekman School from the trenches of New York City public schools.  Born in Brazil to a Brazilian mother and an American father, she grew up loving books and left her home country in 2001 to attend Boston College, where she earned a B.A. in 2005. After working for a year, she attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, earning an M.L.S. in library science. In 2008, she was chosen to become part of New York City’s highly selective Teaching Fellows Program, which placed her in some tough inner-city high schools. How did you get into teaching? Even as a child growing up in Brazil, I knew that I wanted to read literature and bring great books to students for a living if I could.  When I landed in college in the United States, I set my sights on becoming an academic, though I soon saw that, with the job market flooded with English Ph.D.’s, it was going to be a tough road. So what did you do after graduating? In college, I’d worked in a fine arts library. My love...read more

Topics: English, private school, teaching, James Vescovi, Michelle Koza

Faculty Q&A with English Teacher James Vescovi

Authored by The Beekman School

James Vescovi loved to write stories since the time he could hold a pencil. He grew up in Michigan and attended Miami University, majoring in English. After spending a year abroad, he earned a Master’s degree in American literature at Columbia University and then worked for twenty-five years as an editor and freelance writer before coming to Beekman. How did you end up becoming an English teacher? At the age of fifty, I’d been working for twenty-five years as a writer and editor and needed a career change. I’d been doing some adjunct teaching at City College and I loved it. A move into teaching seemed the right step. How does your previous career affect your teaching? Teachers complain that their students can’t write. I can tell you that the same is true among so-called professional writers. I wrote and edited thousands of stories, so I know how clear, interesting prose reads. If a student submits a dreadful first draft, I’m unfazed. I can determine quickly what she needs to do to...read more

Topics: English, teaching, literature, writing, James Vescovi

Faculty Q&A with Math and Physics Teacher Linli Chin

Authored by James Vescovi, English Teacher

Known for her hands-on teaching, Linli Chin grew up in Malaysia. While she enjoyed all subjects, from an early age she remembers the principles of chemistry, math, and physics coming easily to her. After attending college in Malaysia and at Fresno State University in California, she earned a B.S. at Baruch College with a degree in business and industrial psychology.  During college, Linli had done internships in the financial sector of the business world, but found the environment not to her liking.  “Most of the people lived to work. I love my work, but I like to enjoy other things in life,” she says. In 2000, she began tutoring in math and physics at The Tutoring School and, working one-on-one with students, discovered how much she enjoyed helping young people understand how the world around them works.  A year later, she was hired as a full-time teacher at The Beekman School and has never looked back.   You have a reputation for being a hands-on science teacher. Can you give an...read more

Topics: physics, faculty, q&a, bowling, pi, James Vescovi, Linli Chin

Newton's Laws of Bowling

Authored by Linli Chin, Physics teacher

Name a game that can be enjoyed by the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, the tall and the short, male and female alike, and that list will be fairly limited.  One that makes it to the shortlist would be BOWLING!  It is a time-tested game that has been enjoyed by millions around the world in various forms.  The one that we are most familiar with is ten-pin bowling in our neighborhood bowling alley. Growing up with a family that loved bowling, the game has always had a special meaning for me.  It reminds me of good times, camaraderie, cheerfulness and sometimes, playful heckling.  I wanted to share the experience with the students in my classes, since, along with the fun and laughter of the game, there is also a lot of science to explore.  This year (as with every other year I have taught at Beekman), I brought the students in my Physics classes to play a game of bowling, where we saw Newton’s Laws of Motion in action!  We had a great time trying out the...read more

Topics: bowling, physics, field trip, Linli Chin

"It's Not Fair!"

Authored by Cavin Thuring, Computer/Technology teacher

Teenagers are obsessed with fairness. Every parent with a teenaged child knows that the slightest hint of a perceived injustice will cause a child to yell, “It’s not fair!”  And as parents and educators, we know full well that our decisions and actions will be scrutinized on whether they are fitting and balanced.   But why are teens so wrapped up in fairness? Conventional wisdom teaches that fairness, or more broadly, the issue of right and wrong, is a learned response to observation.  After all, notions of fairness seem to require an advanced understanding of behavior.  But if that is the case, why do children get caught up in issues of fairness so early on in life? It may be that fairness isn’t learned, but rather it is innate.  Children may be born with at least a basic understanding of right and wrong.  Although there are many studies that suggest children prefer nice behavior, a couple of studies taken together stand out in their suggestion that babies have an incipient...read more

Topics: fairness, psychology, teenagers, Cavin Thuring

It’s Time for Teenagers to Hold Adults Accountable

Authored by Anastasia Georgoulis, History teacher

On Tuesday, November 5th, Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio and Republican candidate Joe Lhota will compete for the position of New York City mayor.  Most of our students do not meet the age requirement to vote for either candidate.  Too many students will use this restriction of their age to justify their indifference to the upcoming election.  Indifference, in this case, would be the wrong choice. Every teenager not yet 18 needs to recognize the influence they carry within their social and familial circles. They also need to acknowledge their future’s dependence on the current choices of the adults in their lives. It’s time for teenagers to hold adults accountable. If you still question whether this election could affect you, ask yourselves the following questions: Do you want job security following college graduation? Are you okay with paying rent that takes up more than 1/3 of your monthly salary? Do you trust the police force? Should the city ban sugary drinks? Has the subway...read more

Topics: election, vote, de Blasio, Lhota, New York City, politics, history, Anastasia Georgoulis

Interview Today, Start Tomorrow: Beekman's Unique Admissions Process

Authored by George Higgins, Headmaster

One comment that we often hear during interviews for new students is the speed of our admissions process: interview today, start tomorrow.  Prospective parents and students come in expecting the typical lengthy application process, during which a school’s administration purports to determine whether or not the student is a good fit.  I’d like you to consider a different approach.  Most students who apply to The Beekman School are coming to us from programs that have already been preparing them for a college education.  Since core academic subjects in all such schools tend to be relatively standard, it’s understood that a student coming to Beekman is usually already at (or at least close to) grade level in a college preparatory program.  We have found throughout our experience that we do not require an artificially prolonged process to determine that the student is ready to make the academic transition to our school.  The only question is whether or not the student is ready. When I...read more

Topics: private school, New York City private schools, admissions, transfer, George Higgins

History on Repeat

Authored by Ian Rusten, History teacher

I’d like to believe that everything I say has great meaning, especially when it comes to my children and my students. My words of wisdom may guide them; it may help them find their footing.  However, most times, what I see as my greatest advice (“don’t touch the hot stove,” “actually study for your test,” “don’t just continually refresh your Twitter feed”) are words not heeded. Children must try running really fast in rain boots to learn that enormous cracks in the sidewalk will actually trip them and students have to learn from their own mistakes. We all must learn from our own mistakes. Somehow, it seems that the mistakes of others do little to alter our own actions. Is history the same? Do nation states, with trails of loss, sorrow, and a collective conscious after a devastating war, use that memory to guide their actions in the future? Or is it as George Bernard Shaw said, “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”  Imagine the world today if Hitler had carefully...read more

Topics: history, teaching, wisdom, responsibility, Ian Rusten

No Bullying at Beekman

Authored by James Vescovi, English teacher

Sadly, bullying is on the minds of many parents and students, and why not?  Clannish and mean-spirited behavior isn’t just a product of face-to-face interaction, but also raises its ugly head in cyberspace. The anonymity of the Internet has allowed cowards to make nasty comments about students they don’t like. Recently, newspapers have reported on a 13-year-old girl who jumped to her death in Florida after being hazed and tormented by fellow students, ages 14 and 12. Like most high schools, Beekman takes bullying seriously. However, Beekman’s unique character and mission address the bullying problem like few schools can. Because the school operates on a rolling admissions basis, many Beekman students know what it’s like to be “the new kid in class.” That experience creates a kind of empathy in our student body.  If you, who arrived in November, were warmly welcomed, wouldn’t you do the same for a student who enrolls three months after you? In addition, Beekman’s small class size of no...read more

Topics: bullying, private school, community, New York City private schools, transfer, James Vescovi

Does Literature Matter?

Authored by Michelle Koza, English Teacher

I had no expectation of teaching To Kill a Mockingbird this year. After all, The Beekman School is a high school, and most American students encounter Harper Lee's seminal work in middle school. But, to my astonishment, many of my students (and not just the international ones!) had not read the book. I myself had not cracked it open since the 8th grade. Teaching this book not only reacquainted me with Lee’s lifelike characters, but it also reminded me of why I chose to teach literature in the first place. Everything about To Kill a Mockingbird is a testament to why we study literature. Atticus, an upright lawyer in the Deep South town of Maycomb, is the living example of the central lesson of the book: always try to see the situation from the other person's point of view. Reading literature is an exercise in empathy, the kind we should be expressing in everyday life—the kind Atticus exercises towards Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. Even though the town is...read more

Topics: English, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, literature, empathy, justice, Michelle Koza

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