#KnowYourPelicans: Bessie Oster
What is your favorite thing about Packer?
At Packer, it feels possible for both students and adults to try new things. For instance, I was able to develop a Wintersession course called The Art of Bicycle Maintenance. Students get their hands dirty (literally) learning to re-build salvaged bikes to donate to kids across NYC. In truth, I think I am always striving to create experiences for our middle schoolers that I wish I'd had as a kid — and I love that many of my students and colleagues at Packer are up for the adventure.
Describe a favorite or memorable moment in your classroom at Packer.
Teaching sex ed for the past seven years at Packer has provided many moments of levity — though out of respect for my students, I will never tell!
So, instead I will just say that one of the highlights of my year so far was working with Seventh Graders to build a boat for our Refugee Crisis Equity Simulation. After the event I heard Eighth Graders describe gaining empathy for refugees, a better understanding of the crisis, and a desire to undertake next steps to support refugees in our city.
Name a book/artwork/piece of music that changed your life and explain how.
In the process of developing the Refugee Crisis Equity Simulation, Director of Diversity and Equity Semeka Smith-Williams and I went to the Ai Wei Wei exhibit, "Laundromat," and I wept looking at children's shoes left behind at a bombed out camp in Greece — thinking about just how fortunate my own children are to live in a stable, safe world.
What is something that most Packer people wouldn't know about you?
I'm a pretty open person, so there's probably not much people don't know. As a committed over-sharer, I can't pick just one fact, so here are a few random ones... I'm vegetarian with a bacon exception; I was in a circus and I can walk on stilts; I studied economics; my cat is toilet trained; my public health work has taken me from Packer to Tokyo to Rwanda to Kenya; and my greatest adventure so far is being a mom.