Dr. Sandy Perot is all in.
Since arriving at Berkshire in the fall of 2017, Dr. Perot has jumped into school life with gusto. She teaches U.S. history, coaches both girls cross country and track and field, serves as an advisor and a dorm parent in CGR, and leads Berkshire’s Advanced Humanities Research (AHR) program.
The “all in” approach resonates with her perhaps because it’s how she’s always lived her life. “I’ve had an interesting series of life experiences,” Dr. Perot explained. “I have multiple degrees, have traveled extensively and lived in various countries, have worked in museums, taught from 6th grade through university students, stayed home to raise our family, and I have never stopped exploring, challenging myself, or believing in myself. If there is any takeaway students can find in my experiences and through our interactions, I hope they know that life is a grand adventure.”
Dr. Perot’s grand adventure included taking over the reins of Berkshire’s AHR program in September. AHR is a yearlong course offered to students with a deep interest within the humanities—languages, literature, history, philosophy, or the arts—who wish to progress beyond the AP program. The course approximates the undergraduate experience in top liberal arts schools.
During the summer, students choose their topic of study. As Dr. Perot explains, this independent process is itself a “critical test in discovering an important, compelling topic and how to include a new conversation into the existing discussion” about it. “Students come excited to learn in AHR,” she said, “and I am fortunate to have a collection of highly motivated, curious, and creative thinkers in my classes.”
As the year progresses, various skills are taught with the intention of developing students’ ability to think critically. Students are challenged to look for the essence of the argument in a variety of authors’ works, analyze academic and creative essays, compile a collection of annotated bibliographies for their topic, and read, edit, and analyze their peers’ work while presenting their own in various formats. Each of these skills encourages students to imagine how their work fits into a larger intellectual discussion and understand how an audience perceives their writing, all in the name of making them eloquent and effective communicators, agile thinkers, and persuasive writers.
“The process of writing what is now a 30-page paper really gave me the writing skills I'm confident I will use (and need) in college next year,” said Elias Sienkiewicz ’19, whose paper is titled, “Architecture, Daylighting, and Their Effects on Health and Happiness.” “Writing in a distinct and outlined progression was key to making the paper flow from point to point and remains one of my most valuable lessons from AHR,” he said.
Ashanti Bruce ’20 is taking advantage of Advanced Humanities Research to study a topic close to home and to her heart. “I live in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn,” she said, “and thus witness the impacts of gentrification in my community on a daily basis.” Ashanti’s paper, “An Inspection of Gentrification’s Significant Imprint on Brooklyn, New York,” was inspired in part by Loretta Lees’ work Super-gentrification: The Case of Brooklyn Heights, New York City. “Throughout this process,” Ashanti said, “my passion for writing and for my hometown have both increased because AHR has given me the platform to investigate both.”
While writing powerfully and persuasively will no doubt serve students well in the classroom, Dr. Perot sees the skills as a platform for even more growth. “What I most of all hope that students will take away from AHR is a lifelong love of learning, discovering, creating, and thinking.”
A graduate of Princeton University, Dr. Perot earned her M.A. in English, as well as a teaching credential in English, from San Jose State University. She went on to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. in History and Museum Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In addition to her experience as a curator and educational program director in museums across the world, she has taught English and history to students in middle school through the university level.