Hurricanes and COVID: New Faculty Journey to Lakeville


Marcelle Soto

Ms. Sidran taught middle schoolers at the Carol Morgan school, an international American school in Santo Domingo before coming to Hotchkiss.

Fourteen new faculty join the community this year from places all around the world, including the Dominican Republic, Spain, France, and Massachusetts. Although many faculty members accepted their jobs in February, before the global spread of COVID-19, others faced the difficult decision of moving to a new community during a pandemic. 

Travel restrictions complicated the move to the school for some faculty. Ms. Amy Sidran, the new farm education coordinator, and her family were living in the Dominican Republic. Ms. Sidran was teaching middle schoolers at the Carol Morgan school, an international American school in Santo Domingo. In March, the Dominican Republican was closing the country due to the pandemic, so Ms. Sidran and her family left their home with a one day notice. Their journey to Lakeville included a cross-country road trip with two large dogs, a delayed arrival due to a hurricane, and a camping trip at the Fairfield Farm without power for a week. Ms. Sidran said, “I choose to come to Hotchkiss partly because of the farm and the ability for the farm to provide experimental education, a chance for students to learn where their food comes from. The cafeteria was also a big draw for me because it supports local farms.”

Ms. Renee Marcellus, English teaching fellow and assistant director of diversity, lived and taught three to five year olds in Spain before coming to the school. In addition to teaching, Ms. Marcellus is a Penn Fellow currently working on her masters at the University of Pennsylvania. Like Ms. Sidran, she was glad to come at an unpredictable time and believes the need to adapt to current circumstances has helped her teaching. Ms. Marcellus said, “I think that what is great about coming to the school in a time like this is that everyone is thinking about new ways for teaching. I am coming in as a new faculty member at a time where everyone is trying to figure out the best way to teach, so I have lots of room to experiment.”

For Mr. Benjamin Sorkin, assistant director of admissions, coming to the school was a major transition. He graduated from Harvard University in May, and working at the school is his first post-graduate job. Despite the pandemic, Mr. Sorkin believes his transition into the school community has been smooth and has found it easy to adapt to a new environment.
Due to the pandemic, new faculty have had more responsibilities this year than they would have had in other years, including chaperoning outdoor activities and meals. Ms. Andrea Barrows, teaching fellow in French, previously lived in France and taught English at a public middle school before coming to Lakeville. Ms. Barrows said, “The biggest challenge has been getting used to a fast-paced life at a boarding school and then adding on top of that all of the new restrictions that come with the pandemic. Learning how to balance has taken time.”

Despite the challenges they may have faced, new faculty are glad to join the school community. Ms. Sidran said, “Coming to Hotchkiss gave my family the ability to be a part of a community, but to also feel safe within that community.” 

Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity.