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Know Your Pelicans

Meet Rich Pyrczak (he/him)

World Language Teacher

Know Your Pelicans

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

I am loving it here. My students are incredibly inquisitive and kind. I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them, and they have helped me adjust to my new position with their smiles, encouragement, curiosity, and humor. My colleagues are lovely, and I have felt completely supported every step of the way in my transition.

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

I teach Spanish and French. I love seeing students realize they can communicate something real about themselves in another language. One of the great joys of teaching the beginning levels of a language is that progress is generally quick, and my students often surprise me and themselves. Once they start to feel comfortable taking risks, they often come to realize that they can say and understand much more than they might have thought. I also love watching students make cultural connections. As we learn more about communities through their linguistic and cultural practices, we always uncover aspects of our own culture and practices that may have remained hidden to us or that we might have just taken for granted. Helping learners make often unexpected connections is a big part of what I get to do.

Why do you teach? What do you like about being a teacher?

Curiosity is a beautiful thing. It's what has always driven most of our progress as a species. I love that my job is to foster curiosity in my students, to the extent possible during a school day — curiosity about other cultures, themselves, and their friends. I also love helping students see that our bodies and our minds are interdependent. We learn in all kinds of ways, and we can't learn when we don't take care of ourselves. A big part of the kindness we all prize is also learning to be kind to ourselves in a culture that often discourages self-awareness and self-care.

Outside of your job at Packer, what do you love to do?

I have a lot of interests. This often impedes my progress in any one of them, unfortunately! I love to take long walks, camp, climb, do yoga, surf, read, see great art and film, do photography and listen to great podcasts and music. I have always had a very strong interest in literature and philosophy. My doctorate is in French Literature, and I have taught history and literature at different points in my career, in addition to language. I also used to be a trip leader for multi-day backpacking outings in the Southwest and group travel abroad. Right now, I am working on a professional certificate in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Massachusetts.

What's one thing most people at Packer wouldn't know about you?

I love bike commuting, because it reminds me of the mountain biking I had to give up due to repeated injuries. I'm lucky to be here in one piece!

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

There have been many! But I would say perhaps hearing my students spontaneously sing songs we learned in Spanish class and watching French students try to draw each others' houses based on descriptions classmates read to them.

Tell us about a specific time you learned something from your students. 

I learn something new from my students every day. I've learned a lot about the wonders of meme-making recently.

What are the strengths of your department?

The teachers in my department are extremely kind, helpful, and respectful. Anytime I have a question, someone is always happy to help me. I have also noticed a lot of active listening and collaborative decision making. I think my department is an excellent model for students and really any group of people trying to work together to learn and make a difference.

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