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Know Your Pelicans

Meet Annie Wedekind

5th Grade English and History Teacher

Know Your Pelicans

What do you teach? What is one of your favorite parts of the curriculum?

I teach 5th Grade "Core" — English and history. I'm spoiled for choice when it comes to favorites in our curriculum: from prehistory to the Neolithic revolution; mythology from Ancient Egypt to Greece; issues of power sharing in early democracies and republics; reading and writing memoir and poetry; diving into literary analysis with whole-class novels and book clubs ... it's an abundance of riches.

What are the strengths of your department?

The passion, dedication to the nurturing and challenging of our students, depth of knowledge, and sheer excellence of my colleagues in the English and history departments astound and humble me on a daily basis. I sit down to grab a cup of coffee in the Commons and get to experience the wisest, most insightful, and helpful fifteen minutes of chat that enlarges, inspires, and actively guides my teaching, through a simple, brief exchange of ideas. This extends beyond our departments as well — I particularly relish cross-departmental and cross-divisional collaboration and exchange.

Tell us about a specific time you found your job especially rewarding.

I find particularly sharp joy in supporting a student grappling with something personally challenging — whether it's digging into sources for an essay on Ancient Egypt, nerving themselves to perform in a Greek play, or pushing through doubt to finally see themselves as a poet — and then applauding when they've conquered that mountain. Recently, witnessing student groups working supportively and equitably to transform their research into pithy, clever, penetrating arguments for and against the assassination of Julius Caesar in a mock trial has been fairly astounding!

What are your impressions of Packer? Our students? Your colleagues?

I've had the somewhat unique – and very lucky – experience of teaching in the Early Learning Center (Kindergarten), the Lower School (Fourth Grade), and now the Middle School. The bright threads that weave across all divisions are our remarkable, diverse, captivating students and the equally brilliant faculty, staff, and administration dedicated to their education. From the moment I climbed the stairs from Joralemon Street as a curious substitute teacher (and career changer), I knew I'd found a home.

Tell us about a time you learned something from our students.

Our students' capacity for perspective-taking, empathy, and making connections between history and literature and their experiences and our present time are a constant source of inspiration. Next door to this is their generosity of spirit and intellect, which brings me to my most immediate example, just from this morning. We were sharing feedback and observations from (again) one of the Caesar trials, and the student who acted as judge received many hosannahs from her classmates. Rather than simply basking in the praise, she took the opportunity to speak eloquently about the performance of the other judge (in a different class), noting their different styles, pointing out strengths, and effortlessly creating an atmosphere of collegiality and appreciation rather than competition.

Besides your subject, what's something you hope to teach your students?

To follow their inborn, boundless capacity for wonder; to weather self-doubt and hard moments, knowing that the only constant is change; and how to play the card game Racing Demons.

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