Introducing Lawrenceville’s New Teaching Fellows

Get to know this year’s teaching fellows and learn about their experience at Lawrenceville so far!

Get to know this year’s teaching fellows and learn about their experience at Lawrenceville so far!

Nick Martin:

English Teaching Fellow Nick Martin seems to be enjoying his time at Lawrenceville so far. Other than his bedroom’s missing door, which Facilities Services fixed “like lightning,” he has had a positive experience and is excited for this school year.

Prior to graduating from Colby College, where he double majored in English and education, Martin was a competitive basketball player with hopes of playing at the national level. After sustaining four concussion injuries in high school, though, he diverted his interests to the humanities, namely English. Still, he plans on coaching Boys Freshman Basketball in the winter as well as House sports with Cleve House in the spring. He is also a member of the duty team in Dickinson House. “I’m already deep in it,” he says, referring to how quickly House spirit and pride have become a part of his identity.

Initially, Martin was not interested in teaching at all, especially since his father was a teacher. He later realized, though, that he was just being “hard-headed” and “trying to go against the grain.” Eventually, he decided to contact Lawrenceville through Educator’s Ally, an agency which connects educators to independent schools, and applied for his fellowship.

Currently, Martin is busy dealing with the challenges that come with virtual classes. While he wishes he could interact with his students in a physical classroom and often suffers from ‘Zoom fatigue,’ jokingly adding that his “brain feels like a bowl of oatmeal after some classes,” Martin understands that his difficulties are almost negligible in comparison to many students across the globe struggling with time differences.

Despite the obstacles ahead, interacting with “young, bright individuals” was the very reason he applied for this job, and though there may be awkward moments, on Zoom or otherwise, he wants his students “to feel comfortable, to feel safe, and most importantly, to feel brave.”

Martin is still anxious about being a new teacher, lacking the time and experience other teachers have, but his primary goal is to “feel good, do this job well, do right by [his] students, and by the School itself.”

“I must have faith in myself to be a decent person behind the screen and in person, [and] I think that’s all I can ask of myself and everyone around me…It’s going to take work, but I’m ready, [along] with my students, to do that.”

Summar Ellis:

It was in third grade that Mathematics Teaching Fellow Summar Ellis realized her love for math. She excelled in the class and was well ahead of her classmates with her multiplication tables, but when she moved to a new school, her “pursuit of math was distorted” by an unsupportive academic environment.

Throughout her early years, Ellis found that she had to constantly “prove [herself] to others,” especially as a black woman pursuing STEM. Speaking on the common prejudgments she faced, Ellis said, “Before I even step into the room—before people read my resume and see my credentials—they…already look down on me and [assume] I may not know what I am [talking about] before I even speak.” Instead of allowing these stereotypes to discourage her, Ellis has pushed herself to overcome them.

Her four years at Spelman College were a fortunate change of affairs. As a historically black liberal arts women’s college, Spelman provided Ellis with ample support and opportunities, which, frankly, she does not believe would have been presented to her had she attended a predominantly white institution (PWI). Here, Ellis found a nurturing environment to truly grow as both an individual and scholar, graduating last year with a Bachelor’s of Science in mathematics and a minor in education studies.

Upon graduation, Ellis knew that teaching math was her true passion, and for her, “the ultimate joy is that moment when something clicks in the student’s head.” Ellis has always been, as she put it, a “hyper-upper.” She loves encouraging people and “making [them] feel good about themselves,” even if it takes a while to get over the learning hump. After all, according to Ellis, “If something doesn’t click in one class, there’s always another class.” Her goal is to not just teach students mathematical formulas and concepts, but also “get them on the road to a different mindset of learning”—one that involves applying math in different contexts and developing a sense of awareness for real-world issues.

Looking forward, she is excited to begin in-person classes and meet more members of the community. In addition to teaching in the Mathematics Department, Ellis also serves on the duty team in McClellan House and as assistant coach for Girls Junior Varsity Field Hockey. In her free time, Ellis enjoys dancing, painting, playing the clarinet, spending time in nature, and most importantly, catching up on the latest episodes of UK Love Island.

Ashley Cleary:

In this day and age of remote learning, technology seems to be more important than ever to students’ education, and History Teaching Fellow Ashley Cleary is perfectly specialized in that field. While navigating a digital platform or working through the difficulties of Zoom may seem essential to teaching, forming student connections despite physical barriers remains the greatest challenge for many teachers.

This past year, Cleary worked for an education technology company, where she developed resources for online learning. Although she enjoyed her time working there, she realized that she was more interested in directly working and forming interpersonal connections with students. “Youth empowerment is really important…which is why I wanted to teach,” she said. After speaking with a friend who completed the Independent School Teaching Residency master’s program at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), she decided to apply for the fellowship and successfully landed a position at Lawrenceville.

Prior to her fellowship, Ashley Cleary graduated from Bates College, majoring in history and English. She is affiliated with Carter House and will be advising the Big Red Farm in the fall and the Girls Varsity Crew Team in the spring.

Due to a slight health issue, Cleary was unable to attend her first week of classes, though she has still been enjoying her time at the School, meeting with fellow students and faculty. Having not attended boarding school herself, Clearly admits that she is still assimilating to the unique culture at Lawrenceville, comparing its atmosphere similar to that of a small liberal arts college. She recalls being amazed by the clear sense of community at Lawrenceville, noting the warm welcome she received when first arriving on campus.

One of Cleary’s biggest challenges so far has been adapting traditional teaching strategies to a remote context. “A lot of what we learned about in the fellowship is the importance of building community and how to structure a classroom…and so obviously with this big caveat of our first two weeks being on Zoom, that is something that is hard to do,” she said. “Learning and teaching are socially driven and emotional, which I think really helps the process of learning itself.” Despite these challenging times, Cleary feels that students have adjusted well and is confident that they will overcome obstacles together as one united community.

Catherine Livingston:

A problem solver at heart, Catherine Livingston loves all things complex. Perhaps that’s why she chose the Rubik’s Cube as her quarantine hobby—now being able to solve one in under 45 seconds—or perhaps that is what initially drew her to the sciences.

Livingston attended Wellesley College, in her hometown of Wellesley, Massachusetts, where she received her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, with a minor in biological science. At Lawrenceville, Livingston is a teaching fellow in the Science Department and does duty in Carter House. She will also assist in coaching both the Girls Varsity Swimming and Crew teams this year.

While Livingston has prior experience in the teaching world, what initially drew her to Lawrenceville was its focus on community: “This school has the resources of a big [institution], yet people seem really invested in the community here and trying to get to know each other, which I really appreciated when I visited.”

The restrictions on in-person learning has been one of the challenges Livingston has faced so far, noting that “it’s been harder to get to know students over Zoom, because [they] haven’t had any casual interactions” outside of the classroom. However, consultation periods, as well as her daily walks around campus with students in Carter, have helped her form and strengthen these bonds.

Within the classroom, she appreciates her students’ “thought provoking” questions, which often push discussions in new directions. Her students’ genuine curiosity and passion, in addition to the variety of collaborative educational tools and online activities that fellow teachers recommended, have made her classroom experience truly immersive.

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