Ben Evans has worked at IS183 Art School in Stockbridge, MA as the Ceramics Studio Manager. He has taught Wheel Working, Hand Building, Tile Making, and Slip Casting, and he has been the Summer Camp Ceramic Instructor. Ben received his BFA, majoring in Ceramics, from the State University of New York at New Paltz. His other teaching experience includes work at Morningside Elementary School in Pittsfield, the after-school program at Taconic High School, and as an art club teacher at Richmond Consolidated School. He has also worked as a studio assistant for Michael Brod in Rhinebeck, NY, and Mary Roehm in High Falls, NY, and as a teaching assistant for Jeff Zamek at the Penland School of Crafts in NC.
Robert Oakes received a B.A. in English from Montclair State University, where he was awarded the McGee Scholarship, the English department’s highest award for excellence in literature studies. He has worked as a writer and editor for North Jersey Newspapers, AAA, Canyon Ranch and Dr. Mark Hyman and has served as an on-call substitute teacher for both BCD and Lenox Public Schools. He has extensive knowledge of numerous graphic art design software and has created websites, newsletters, ads, and invitations. Robert is also a singer/songwriter, performing and recording as part of the Berkshire-based folk duo Oakes and Smith.
Sasha Sicurella is the Coordinator of BCD’s Visual Arts Program and as a K-6 arts instructor. Sasha is an arts education specialist, artist, and consultant. As the Director of Education at Omi International Arts Center in Ghent, NY, Sasha has spent ten years developing and implementing public, arts-based programming for people of all ages. Through her work as the founding director of the I AM: International Foundation, Sasha provides opportunities for children to explore identity through art and self-portrait photography. To date, the I AM: Projects have served more than 1,000 children in 15 countries across 5 continents. Her work has been exhibited in the United States and internationally at museums and art centers in Tel Aviv, Milan, Mumbai, Addis Ababa, Bratislava, Ulan Bator, Sao Paulo, and New York.
Max Spitzer is experienced in a variety of media and processes, from mold making to oil painting to ceramics to woodworking. Max has taught art to students ages 5-13 as the Head Studio Instructor at Omi International Arts Center and at a summer camp in Vermont for four years. He has also worked as an Artist Intern at Salem Art Works in Salem, NY, as a Resident Artist at Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, as an Artist Assistant to Tom Sachs and Gregory Barsamian, both in NYC, and a Junior Luthier at S.E. Spitzer Guitar Company in Kinderhook, NY. Max attended Brown University, and he received a BFA with Honors from Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied sculpture. Max lives and maintains a studio in Hudson, NY where he also works as a luthier.
Jon Suters is an accomplished musician and teacher, and is well-known throughout the Berkshires and beyond as a professional musician and bandleader. Jon plays the piano, guitar, string bass, cello, violin, trombone, saxophone, drumset and percussion, and steel drums. He has performed music with Charles Neville (the Neville Brothers), Ed Mann (Frank Zappa), Eugene Friesen and Paul Halley (the Paul Winter Consort), and has shared the stage with Taj Mahal, Rickie Lee Jones, Tuck and Patti, Martin Sexton, Madeline Peyroux and many others. Jon works with students, beginning in Grade 4, who choose to study a band instrument and participate in the group lessons that are offered once a week. After a year of lessons, students are invited to join the Beginning Band which performs at various concerts throughout the school year.
Phil Knoll teaches a Drawing class each trimester, and Tom O’Neil teaches a Painting class during the winter and spring trimesters. Both have shown their work extensively in solo and group exhibitions, have been included in numerous arts publications, and are current BCD parents. Phil, who has extensive teaching experience, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Tom, who has previously taught an inspiring Arts Block course at BCD, received a B.S. in Fine Art and Art History from Skidmore College, and he has studied at Rhode Island School of Design.
Years and grades at BCD: Preschool-9th grade (1973-84)What are your fondest memories from BCD?
I spent 11 amazing years at BCD, and made friendships and learned lessons that have literally lasted a lifetime, so to fully do this question justice would require a book of its own. Among the many highlights, I remember with great fondness Tracy MacGruer – in my mind, the archetypal kindergarten teacher – who combined just the right mix of fun, guided instruction and sharp wit. Mrs. MacGruer got me and my class off to a flying start at BCD. Mme. Grad may have been diminutive in stature, but she holds an outsized presence in my learning experience. Thanks to her, I learned the rules of French grammar inside and out. In an age before widespread computer use, when good penmanship had greater value, I had the privilege of helping to transcribe Mme. Grad’s famous cahier – her notebook of rules and examples (I was considered to have good handwriting at the time, something that will come as a surprise to anyone who has seen me hand-write anything lately). Mrs. Fawcett’s Latin class was similarly influential for me, from the basics of grammar to Caesar’s Gallic wars to the poems of Catullus, the excellent grounding I got in both Latin and French helped me learn other Romance languages far more easily in high school and college. Mr. Fawcett’s 9th grade English class is still the best literature course I’ve ever had the privilege of taking. Finally, although I myself was never a particularly accomplished athlete, I have great memories of our soccer and baseball teams and the bus trips we took to play neighboring schools. We may not have always won, but regardless of the outcome, we had a lot of fun.
Where did you go once you left BCD?
For 10th grade, I went to Pittsfield High School (PHS), followed by a year abroad in Milan, Italy as an exchange student, where I lived with an Italian family and attended the Liceo Scientifico Elio Vittorini. I returned to PHS for my final year of high school. From there, I attended Columbia University in New York, where I majored in U.S. History.
Along the way, I cultivated an interest in Latin America, and that led me to spend the spring semester of my junior year in Lima, Peru, at the Universidad Católica. I traveled widely throughout Peru during the six months I spent there, despite a raging civil war that effectively closed off large swaths of the country. After my semester abroad ended, I went to Macchu Picchu (the highlight of my trip and still the most amazing place I’ve ever visited) followed by a five-week-long trip by train and bus through Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.
In the year before starting my doctoral program in Latin American History at Rutgers University, I spent 10 months living in São Paulo, Brazil, learning Portuguese, working as an intern at a human rights organization and teaching English on the side. I was fortunate to be able to travel Brazil from top to bottom while I was there. I returned to Brazil in my fourth year of graduate school on a Fulbright fellowship to do my dissertation research, living this time in Rio de Janeiro for over a year. I finished my Ph.D. in January 1999.
Where are you living and what are you doing now?
I live in Columbia County, NY. I work (primarily remotely) for a company in New York City called eMarketer that provides businesses with insights and information about digital marketing trends. I serve as the lead mobile analyst, which means I spend a lot of time helping our clients understand the latest developments in mobile devices, content, commerce and marketing. On the surface, it’s a long way from my academic training, but I actually end up putting many of the same critical thinking skills to work. Although it may sound ironic coming from a trained historian, I think of it as helping people grasp the future rather than delving into the past.
Last year was a particularly busy year. In addition to living temporarily in Austin, Texas, where my wife Barbara was a visiting scholar at the University of Texas, I co-authored Mobile Marketing: An Hour a Day (published by Wiley/Sybex in December 2012). The idea behind the book is to offer insights and practical advice that readers of any experience level can absorb in an hour a day.
I am happy to say that both my children now attend BCD. Max, age 5½, is in Kindergarten in the same classroom where I went to Preschool (later the school’s first computer lab), and Zora, age 3½, is in the Beginner 3s program.
What are your plans for the future?
I hope to write more books and look forward to a role as an active BCD parent.
How do you think your time at BCD influenced the choices you’ve made?
I think often of the School’s motto – discere explorare est (Learning is Discovery). It has shaped a love of both learning and the journey that accompanies it. And it’s a lesson I’ve tried to impart to my own children as they begin their time at BCD, knowing they will share in a similar adventure.
What about your time at BCD are you most thankful for?
The excellent teachers, the inspiring curriculum and the many friendships I developed in the 11 years I was here. Having an entire institution dedicated to encouraging students to indulge their interests and develop and strengthen skills is, in my experience, incredibly important, and creates a vital base for future achievement.
What advice can you offer current students at BCD?
The great thing about BCD is the level of trust teachers put in students and the doors they are willing to open for them. One illustrative example: Long after I graduated, I asked Mr. Fawcett about the advanced reading list for our 9th grade English class, which included works by Mikhail Lermontov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and he simply said something to the effect of, “I thought all of you could handle it.”
My advice: go through as many of those doors as possible. The curriculum alone is terrific, but the combination of creative and talented students, dedicated teachers and the additional learning opportunities they can provide is nothing short of remarkable.
Upon my family relocating to the Berkshires from New York, I attended BCD from mid-year in 7th grade through 9th grade graduation in 1984. I was terrified to join the class mid-year, but the students and teachers made my transition an easy one. Every class must hear from faculty and parents that they are a ‘special’ group, but we really were! We were the largest graduating class up to that point. By ninth grade the 20 of us were a wonderfully cohesive group. My kids attend BCD now (Toby is in 6th grade, Henry is in 3rd), and I delight in the dynamic I see in both of their grades. BCD is still providing that same sense of community to this generation.After BCD I attended Berkshire School where I met the boy who would become my husband. A failed attempt at a large university taught me that I yearned to return to the community feeling of a small school. I wound up at Antioch College in Ohio and thrived! All through college Pieter and I stayed in touch and began dating after graduation. We married in 1997. We lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia for 16 years where I worked for Pottery Barn. Our 2 boys went to a wonderful school and I quickly became involved in volunteering at school and in our community, though we always dreamt of moving back to New England someday.When the economy exploded Pieter’s company closed. It was evident to us that, rather than waiting for things to return to ‘normal’, we needed to invent a new normal for ourselves and our family. Someday was now. We decided to move to the Berkshires. I was so excited at the prospect of my kids attending BCD. I told them all about MY school and now, three years later, I am thrilled that BCD is truly THEIR school.
Last Spring I opened a business in Lenox called Second Home. It is a home-design shop featuring upcycled home furnishings and accessories. Finally my small business training and design experience have melded together into a satisfying career for myself! This is my new normal. I love living here, raising my kids here and being able to be involved with BCD and the community as a parent! There are so many ways to volunteer and be involved at BCD and by doing so I hope I am teaching my boys the importance of being a part of something.
I hope my kids, as BCD students and beyond, can gather the courage and the confidence to make their own path in life. To realize that it’s never too late to change their course, and that if they’re willing to contribute to a community then they’ll always be able to come home.
Greetings from Moscow!I did Grades K-5 at Berkshire Country Day School, then my family started wintering near Philadelphia and I did Grades 6-7-8 there, before going to boarding school and on to college. Despite all my traveling, I have been back to the Berkshires every year of my life. I feel very connected to Lenox and to Berkshire Country Day School.I had some wonderful teachers at BCD. The ones that jump to mind were Mrs. Moore in K and Mrs. Aronoff in Grade 5. We were in the group of kids that first went to BCD on Walker Street, and then had Grades 3-4-5 at Brook Farm. I grew up on Main Street in Lenox and walked with my brother and sisters (John ’67, Nini ’63 Gilder, and Louisa ’61) to Walker Street. The move to Brook Farm meant that our mother had to drive us down Rte. 183, but the campus was great – plenty of room to run around, with all new playground equipment!
I began a lifelong love for skiing with the Ski Friday’s bus to Bousquet. Being a skinny kid, I felt the cold a bit. I will never forget the trauma of watching my glove, frozen to the rope tow, go zipping up the beginner slope without me.After BCD, I went to Episcopal Academy outside of Philadelphia for three years. We returned to Lenox every summer, and I tried to keep up with my classmates as best I could. Then, as now, Berkshire Country Day School students were scattered around the county. I went to boarding school at St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH, then to Yale, where I majored in Latin American Studies. Restless by nature, I escaped boarding school twice, for study abroad programs in France and in Colombia. I also broke away from college to study and travel in Brazil and South America for nine months.
Since then, I have worked as a foreign correspondent – first for The New York Times in Africa, Brazil, Canada, Japan and Korea. Now, I live in Moscow, where I am the Russia/former Soviet Union bureau chief for Voice of America. For work, I have had the fun and privilege to report from at least 60 countries. Last month, I added a new one with a 10-day trip to Lebanon. Next month, I will make my first reporting trip to Armenia. So, there are always new challenges on the horizon!
My sons have picked up the travel bug. All three were born in Brazil, when Elizabeth and I lived in Rio de Janeiro. Every five years I renew their Brazilian passports. That has come in handy. Next month, Alex, now a 20 year old at Middlebury College in Vermont, travels to Florianopolis, in southern Brazil to bring his Portuguese up to fluency. His twin brother, William, also a Middlebury junior, follows in July for a semester in Rio. In July, the three of us plan to triangulate – from Moscow, New York and Florianopolis – for a week in Rio.
Berkshire Country Day School and the Berkshires exposed me to the wider world around me, but also provided me the psychological anchor. I could globetrot, but also knew where I was from.
Last May, it was fun to return to Brook Farm to spend a day talking to students about travel and work around the world. My message was simple: “I sat in your chair many years ago – you could be me!”
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Years and grades at BCD – 1982-1988; 3rd-8th gradeWhat are your fondest memories from BCD?
My fondest memories include, unfortunately, frequent trips to the assistant principal’s (Mr. Douglas) office. While I may have been considered a difficult kid at BCD, my intent was never malicious. The lessons learned from Mr. Buttenheim, Mr. Douglas, Mr. & Mrs. Fawcett, Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Livsey, Mrs. Sadhigi, and so many more were truly formative in who I am as an educator. When I am in the classroom or abroad with a difficult student, I often think back to the many times I wound up in the principal’s office at BCD and the advice I received. I cannot help but have patience and understanding for my students and I often find myself internally smiling as I think, “please, I invented that one!”Where did you go once you left BCD?
I attended George School in Newtown, PA, graduating in 1992. I then went to Trinity College in Hartford, CT, graduating in 1996 with a BA in History. Finally, I attended Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY, graduating in 2001 with a Master’s in Education. I have traveled quite a bit over the years, primarily to the Caribbean, Mexico, and southern Africa.Where are you living now?
I live in Mamaroneck, NY
What are you doing now?
I am a middle school history teacher at Brunswick School in Greenwich, CT. I also run a non-profit called Leadership Exchange www.lecommunity.org. In 2003, my family created a non-profit called Somarela to provide direct support to AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in southern Africa. Prior to his death, my father was planning to move to Botswana to not only become a pilot working with various conservation projects, but also to set up a basic needs center for street children. From this grew Leadership Exchange. Every summer we lead service learning trips to Botswana and Zimbabwe, providing direct aid and support to organizations that meet the needs of children at risk and their families. In the past, we have painted schools, tutored, and built a number of pit latrines. We built a home for a family this past summer.
The mission of Leadership Exchange is twofold: to focus on the social, emotional growth of teenagers and adults through cultural exchange and service-learning trips, and to advance humanitarian work in developing nations through direct funding. Leadership Exchange is a global community network that connects individuals of various socio-economic backgrounds. Through service learning trips and exchange programs, participants are able to learn about and understand members of their own peer group who come from disparate backgrounds. Through dialogue, focus groups, team building, and shared experiences, students find similarities beyond their differences and identify the advantages and influence they possess to have a positive influence on their local and global communities.
What are your plans for the future?
This spring we will be traveling to Haiti with students from Monument Mountain Regional High School. The plan is to work with a local school on building a computer center and painting, in addition to exchanging ideas and cultures. This pilot trip will hopefully lay the groundwork for future trips to Haiti, further extending our network of assistance and exchange. I am also eager to begin bringing students from Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Haiti to the US. We are an exchange program and while we have had students from Botswana visit the US in the past, I would like to make it an annual event. The concept is identical to the current format, where youth from developing countries visit the US, do family home stays, and provide direct assistance to service organizations here. These exchanges help dispel myths and allow kids the opportunity to find similarities in peers outside their comfort zone, both domestic and abroad. Ultimately, Leadership Exchange seeks to improve the leadership capacity of youth to function in a global society. We recognize these trips as an important piece of adolescent development and aim to improve global consciousness and social justice awareness of the participants. These trips have been a transformative experience in the lives of our students, adult chaperones, and the organizations with whom we partner. Ultimately, we were compelled to act as responsible global citizens—to use our economic and educational resources and privilege to reach beyond the local to the global community. We learned that privilege must not only be accompanied by responsibility, but more importantly, must be tempered by compassion. None of us will ever forget the experiences we shared.
How do you think your time at BCD influenced the choices you’ve made?
BCD instilled in me a strong sense of community, responsibility, and compassion. Mr. Douglas, et al., always supported me despite my every attempt to thwart their assistance. As I mentioned earlier, I was not an easy student to have in the classroom. The teachers at BCD never gave up on me and gave me many of the tools I use today as an educator. BCD taught me what it means to care for someone other than myself. It took a while to sink in, but ultimately, I was able to use these skills to build my program and develop my ability as a teacher.
What about your time at BCD are you most thankful for?
BCD gave me the room to mature as a student and always supported me through my many struggles as a learner – I am incredibly grateful for the patience and support of the school. However, I am most thankful for the friendships that developed at BCD. I still have many very close friendships that started as early as 3rd grade with Mrs. Valentine.
What advice can you offer current students at BCD?
Take advantage of every moment they have with their families, their friends, and the school. BCD is a wonderful and safe place, but sometimes we lose sight of what we have. It all goes by so fast, we need to focus on slowing down. This is an exciting time and information is right there at the literal touch of a button (or iPhone screen). It’s easy to become desensitized to the noise. Stop. Look at a sunset. Say thank you to the store clerk. Tell your parents that you love them. Recognize the privilege that you have and use it for positive change.