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Know Your Pelicans

Meet Stacey Pierre-Louis

Dean of Student Life & Leadership

Know Your Pelicans

Can you describe a favorite or memorable moment you've had in the classroom?

Teaching through a pandemic has been an adventure. Students enter my classroom with different stories and experiences, and sometimes they need a moment to simply breathe. We open class with mindfulness moments and engage in deep breathing exercises, but the best moments are when we engage in mindful coloring. Whenever possible, as a way to end class, I pull out supplies, and my 10th graders spend time on the simple task of coloring and clearing their minds. If someone were to peek into the class you would think you were just looking at teenagers coloring, but the opportunity to listen to some music or sit in silence and just fill in the shapes on a sheet provides comfort.

Share a time when you've learned something from your students. 

Early on in my career, I understood it was important to listen to the voices of my students, but my students also taught me that I didn’t need to have a solution for everything. I began my career as a houseparent and my role required me to act “in loco parentis”, or "in the place of a parent" in Latin. I was young, deeply committed to supporting my students, and felt that I needed to have the answer for everything with which they were struggling. One day, a group of students came to me frustrated about a situation for which there wasn’t a quick fix. Simply allowing them to sit, vent, and acknowledge their emotions was all they needed. They wanted to be seen and heard by another adult in the community, and it gave them the encouragement they needed to problem solve with one another to use their voices to advocate for themselves. The power and care that exist in the simple act of listening and saying, "I see you and I hear you," are invaluable.

Name a book/artwork/piece of music that changed your life and explain how.

I was born in Trinidad, and although I moved here when I was three years old, I grew up listening to soca music. Soca music is my happy place. When I am stressed or frustrated I can play soca and immediately smile. My mind becomes flooded with the best memories of dancing in the street during Trinidad Carnival, celebrating at my wedding, Saturday mornings with my family, and dancing with my beloved granny (who is no longer with us but knew how to move when soca was playing). As someone who has moved around quite a bit in life, soca has always provided me the comfort of home no matter how far away I am from my loved ones.

Growing up, did you have a teacher who was particularly influential for you?

His name is Dr. Kevin Mattingly. At the Lawrenceville School, he was my basketball coach, my academic advisor, and my unofficial college counselor, but I never had him as a classroom teacher. Despite never taking his class, I learned a tremendous amount from him and could easily write an essay about the impact he had on my life. He was an adult who I could trust, who gave me space to simply be me, and who believed in me at times when I didn’t believe in myself. He was honest, selfless, and would never give me the answer when I came to him with a problem. He would listen, ask questions, and even when he knew I just wanted him to tell me what to do, he always gave me the space to arrive at my own decision. I call him before I make any major decision in my life, and in 2015 he was there as I walked down the aisle. 

Then one day we reached a milestone together that I thought would never happen! Seventeen years after graduating high school and missing out on the opportunity of having him as my science teacher, I entered a classroom as a graduate student, and he entered that same classroom as my professor.

What is something most Packer people wouldn't guess about you?

I only began to appreciate my naturally curly hair about 9 years ago. I grew up wanting my mom to straighten my hair, and for years I brushed every hair down with gel and tied it up in a bun. My identity was often questioned because I had “good hair”, and ironically that wasn’t my definition of my hair. What I saw was a long, untamed, frizzy mess that I was not equipped to take care of. One day I noticed my curls were limp after years of raking my hair straight. In 2013, I began my journey in reclaiming my curls, and I never looked back. Yes, my hair still has a mind of its own at times, and my curls don’t always fall the way I need them to, but fully embracing my crown of curls has allowed me to fully embrace myself.

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