Andrew Barter (French) comes to us after five years teaching French and coaching lacrosse at Landon School, a day school outside Washington, DC. An alumnus of Tabor Academy, Andrew has also taught and coached (lacrosse and skiing) at Cardigan Mountain and at Tabor. He has also spent time putting his French to practical use as a bilingual service representative for John Deere in Canada, and he is a Peace Corps alumnus, having served in Madagascar in 2001-2002. Andrew holds a B.A. in French from Gettysburg College, and an M.A.T. in French from Johns Hopkins.
In the middle of a busy November, he answered some questions about teaching and his experience in schools. Read that conversation here:
When did you start teaching?
My first experience teaching was as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar. I was teaching English in a rural, farming town at a public school. It was a result of my experiences in the Peace Corps that I decided to pursue a career as a teacher. Although very few of the students in the town where I lived actually went on to college, I was helping them to learn English, a requisite subject for admittance to college. I was most attracted to the dynamic nature of the work, in addition to the ability to help students learn things that would serve them later in life. It is this same idea that motivates me now: the work that we do helps students to develop cognitive skills that will be of benefit in the future. Also, I like to think that we have a lot of fun along the way!
Which courses are your favorites to teach and why?
I really enjoy all of my classes, but Advanced French IV is my favorite course to teach. It is centered on the notion of the power of self. I have integrated lots of projects into the course that get students thinking about real world projects like cooking a meal, finding an apartment in Paris on a budget, or researching a student’s consumption of technology at Berkshire. I try to provide opportunities for students to take ownership of these projects and apply what they know about the French language and culture to them. In the second semester, we delve into existentialism and the novel l’Etranger by Albert Camus, oftentimes the first French novel that students have read. Advanced French IV is definitely a year of fun and challenging projects that I love to teach.
Do you have any memorable teaching moments with particular classes?
The first semester at Berkshire has been incredible! I keep asking myself, “Does the year always start off with this much energy?” Of particular note was the first day that Anna and I made crepes in the kitchen. I feel so fortunate to be in an environment where I have the opportunity to co-teach a class with my wife - she is amazing! Every one of our students learned how to make batter, and cook their own crepes. Flipping them in a pan was a requirement. The part that has stuck with me most is that some of our students had never cracked an egg or had the chance to cook. Several of our students that were more comfortable in the kitchen stuck around the whole day to assist the others. In addition, I have had many memorable discussions with my classes that stemmed from the presentations by Deogratias Niyizonkiza and Chris Herren.
What brought you to Berkshire?
Before coming to Berkshire, I taught at the Landon School in Bethesda, MD for five years. Our motivation to move was inspired by many factors. Anna and I started to reassess our priorities when Jack was born. We both wanted to be closer to family, and my parents live in Central Massachusetts. In addition, we both wanted to find a more bucolic setting to raise a family. The first time I came to campus for my interview, I was alone. I was blown away by the students, faculty, and administrators whom I met, and I loved the campus. I visited during Pro Vita week, which gave me a really good idea of the school spirit. I was impressed by how committed the school is to its mission and motto. While I was leaving campus, I called Anna to tell her about my day. By the end of the conversation, she had purchased a plane ticket to come up the next day. We were both sold! And in fact, Berkshire was in need of two French teachers. Anna, who also teaches French, and I both feel so fortunate to have the chance to collaborate and teach together.
I am impressed by the students. They have been so kind and willing to try new things. They have also been so welcoming to my family and me.
What do you teach at Berkshire?
I am currently teaching French II, Advanced French II, and two sections of Advanced French IV.
How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
My educational philosophy focuses on the whole person. I view academics, the arts, athletics, and moral development as co-curricular activities that should be used as a means through which I can help students grow and develop into positive members of society. I love the many roles that educators play within independent schools: teacher, coach, and mentor. I genuinely enjoy working as a boarding school teacher because the position allows me to educate, inspire, and mentor students in many facets of their lives. As a teacher, I embrace the diversity of my classes and the uniqueness of each student. It is my role to teach in a way that meets individual needs. My lessons draw from a variety of teaching strategies, cater to multiple learning styles, and maintain interest. When possible, I provide students with the opportunity to select projects that are personally significant. I also use the foreign language classroom as a place in which there is regular exposure to French and Francophone cultures. In a time when the world is divided by political and cultural dissimilarity, I believe that students must learn to appreciate diversity and become more globally aware. Ideally, I would take my students abroad in order to further enhance their cultural experience, but I also incorporate cultural vignettes and authentic resources into my lesson plans so as to create an immersive experience. I also make a deliberate choice to only speak in the target language so as to push my students to depend on their ever-improving skills.
Could you tell us some of your goals at Berkshire for this year and beyond - for you and your students?
One of my primary goals is to focus on keeping French fun and relevant to the school’s curriculum. French is a valuable international language that is spoken on five continents, and it is among the principal languages of diplomacy. I would like to generate more excitement about studying the language. One of my goals is to continue to provide cultural experiences here at Berkshire. Also, trips overseas are an essential component of a successful French program. Students need the opportunity to experience francophone cultures, improve their speaking skills by interacting with native speakers, and learn first-hand about diversity. Anna and I hope to offer a Pro Vita course in Quebec and also create a program in France. These programs are going to take some time to get going but ideally in the next year and a half, we would like to get things started.
One of my other interests is coaching lacrosse. At this point in the year, the spring seems a long way off. One of my goals is to help to support the program and players.
Tell us a little bit about your family.
Anna and I have been married for five years. We met while taking high school kids to France. We have a 6-month-old son, Jack.
Mr. Barter also sat down with Ms. Connell to talk about life under the mountain and beyond. He even went so far as to have the same conversation, first in French and then in English. Or almost the same conversation. The first person who emails me - firstname.lastname@example.org - the one thing that didn't translate gets a gift certificate to Shawn's Place!
Watch the interview in French:
And then in English: