By Ellen Turchyn
Many members of the Brearley faculty have had the wonderful opportunity to take a sabbatical. The adventures experienced on these important and well deserved breaks from Brearley bring many a sense of renewed energy for teaching and new stories and experiences to share with their students. Members of the faculty are grateful to be able to have this period of time to travel, spend extended time with family in (sometimes) far away locations, spend precious moments with ailing loved ones, enhance their professional skills, and volunteer at organizations that are important to them. Brearley gives these faculty members no restrictions on their sabbaticals, trusting them know how to best enrich themselves and make the most of their time off.
Annabel Gordon, Music Department
Ms. Gordon’s sabbatical was a mixture of travel adventures and reconnecting with her family. Using London as her home base (she has friends and family there), Ms. Gordon spent lots of time traveling around Europe and other continents. While visiting Japan as a Westerner, Ms. Gordon was in “awe of the culture” and was fortunate to be there during cherry blossom season, where she took glorious photos of magical images around her. When touring solo throughout New Zealand on a bus coach tour, she was pleasantly surprised at how many people befriended her, and while she visited the South Isle of New Zealand, she marveled at the majestic glaciers and fjords. She also spent time in Singapore, en route to Australia for several snorkeling excursions on the Great Barrier Reef. Throughout the year, she visited friends in Paris, Normandy, Provence, and Sweden. In the Perigord region, she was thrilled to have the opportunity to see the splendid cave art from about 20,000 years ago.
What a gift it was for her to experience many different cultures during her travels and "test her brain." Ms. Gordon played in recitals during her months abroad, performing solo concerts in Antwerp and London. She ran string workshops and performed at the Yerbury School, a state school in northern London attended by her young nephew; during her time in London, she was able to grow close to her nephew and solidify their relationship. She also enjoyed volunteering at the Water City Music Festival, which gave hundreds of students the opportunity to perform at the Tower of London. While on sabbatical, Brearley sent Ms. Gordon to attend a string teachers conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia where it was “fascinating to listen to and learn from other string teachers from around the world." Attending the Slovenia conference and learning about other schools' music curriculums confirmed to her that “what we have here in Brearley’s Music Department is extraordinary." Ms. Gordon was amazed at the kindness of people throughout her travels, as well as “how relaxed and charming she could be because she was on sabbatical” experiencing new and different places and cultures.
While in New York, Ms. Gordon was foot loose and fancy free and had the time to take dance classes (taught by Marisa Ballaro) and yoga classes offered to Brearley faculty. She took a drawing class taught by Dale Emmart and also volunteered with the Lower School strings, where she assisted Brearley violin teacher Marc Szammer. She felt as if she was “getting a Brearley education on the sly." She also renovated her apartment, which was a daunting but satisfying task. Ms. Gordon describes the time during her year as “precious,” as she “learned to breathe and take life more slowly."
Douglas Levine, Physical Education Department
Mr. Levine was very grateful to have this time off to be a more present father and husband. He began his sabbatical by taking his ten year old daughter Leela and wife to Vietnam. The primary purpose of the trip was to give their adopted daughter a sense of her Vietnamese heritage. Their journey began in Laos where the Levines immersed themselves in the beautiful culture and people and helped elephants recover from mistreatment and abuse at Elephant Village, one of two sanctuaries in Laos. From there, they met up in Hanoi with nine other families whose adopted children ranged from ages 8 to 14. The Levines and their group traveled south from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. During their journey, they took time to return to the orphanage in Hung Yen province where Leela was born. The group stopped off in Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An, and Da Nang where they soaked up the rich culture and tasted amazing food! After the tour was completed, they continued on to Phu Quoc Island where they enjoyed the serenity and solitude of the beautiful beach.
Sadly, Mr. Levine’s father passed away during his sabbatical, but the time off gave him the opportunity to spend important time with his father before his death. Mr. Levine feels fortunate that his sabbatical gave him the gift of “quality time” with his family and taught him to appreciate every precious moment.
Katherine Swett ’78, English Department
Dr. Swett’s sabbatical was a mixture of traveling, writing poetry, reading and spending extended time with family. She visited Prague, Paris, Copenhagen, England and Italy. In August, she and her family drove to western Kentucky to see a total eclipse of the sun and toured the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, the third largest Shaker community in America. Dr. Swett also had the time to do some of the things she loves the most, reading hundreds of books and writing a lot of poetry, including the crown of sonnets about the Dutch painter Vermeer that you can find here: http://www.mezzocammin.com/iambic.php?vol=2017&iss=2&cat=poetry&page=swett
. She feels grateful that Brearley understands its faculty leads “rich, intellectually creative lives and needs the time to nurture that.” She notes that faculty members’ sabbatical experiences bring hard-to-measure knowledge to teaching future classes.
Kate Javens, Art Department
During Ms. Javens’ sabbatical, her work was featured in art exhibitions, she participated in a renowned art residency program, she spent hundreds of hours volunteering in her community, and she intensively studied sign language (a special loving gift to her best friend). Ms. Javens’ work was featured in a three-person show at Site/109 (a large exhibition space on the Lower East Side), in a New York Academy of Art fundraising exhibition at Sotheby’s and in a show in Philadelphia. She also was awarded a month-long residency at The Golden Foundation in New Berlin, New York that she found to be “incredibly productive.” While there, Ms. Javens worked with scientists who were doing groundbreaking work in water and acrylic mediums. She learned new techniques in image transferring and Turkish marbling, which she has since incorporated into the Class XI and XII curriculum.
During the year, Ms. Javens was also able to spend more time volunteering in her local community garden in Harlem, an organization with which she has been active for many years. The Rev. Linnette C. Williamson Memorial Park was built in 1965 as the very first vest-pocket park in New York City and the United States. During her sabbatical, Ms. Javens was able to take on a leading role in the Park Association’s Art and the Gardens summer youth enrichment program, hiring and supporting educators and being their board liaison.
Kate and another volunteer in the Park Association, Regina Hood, took on another challenge: learning sign language together. Regina is deaf, and Kate and her dear friend studied intensively together—both to be able to communicate better as friends, as well as to share it with the community. After six months and hundreds of hours of study, they were fluent enough to teach craft activities in sign. Having this experience provided Ms. Javens with an important tool to more “creatively teach” art. When she returned from her sabbatical, she began to incorporate small amounts of sign language in her art classes at Brearley. Ms. Javens explains that children are helped to “settle into their visual world” when they do not speak and are surrounded by silence. Ms. Javens hopes to introduce sign language more formally into the Brearley curriculum as a potential after school activity.
Clayton Squire, Science Department
Mr. Squire’s “transformational” sabbatical was a combination of service, travel, fitness and family.
Mr. Squire devoted a large part of his time to service, bringing his dog to a senior living facility for pet therapy, teaching science classes for pre-K at Rutgers Presbyterian Church, and volunteering at a soup kitchen and as a horticultural volunteer at Riverside Park, helping with mulching, planting, and weeding.One experience near and dear to his heart was when he volunteered through a program at Rutgers Church to be a welcoming escort to a Syrian refugee family of eight and was the first to be there when they landed at JFK. Mr. Squire is proud that, after just one year of living in the United States, all four adult children in the family have paying jobs and can speak English after taking intensive ESL classes.
Adventure was another large part of Mr. Squire’s time off. He and his wife visited Botswana, South Africa and the Greek Islands. Mr. Squire also participated in a Guide Land Based Conference at the Grand Canyon in Arizona where he learned guide training for the cultural, natural, and human history of the Grand Canyon plus relevant resource management issues. In addition, he attended the Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Florida with his brother, a sister and their friends.
During his sabbatical, Mr. Squire was more physically active than he had been in years, swimming one mile three times per week. He is very grateful to have been able to spend precious, quality time with his mother whose health was in decline during his sabbatical.
Although he loved and appreciated the time his sabbatical provided him, Mr. Squire missed the “strong community” at Brearley and the lively discussions he was used to having with his colleagues daily.