Bowdoin alumni remain connected to the College in a variety of ways. This semester, Ian Yaffe ’09 and Peter Hill ’02 are working with current students Christine Rheem ’15 and Dominique Wein ’15, respectively, to collaborate on community-engaged projects supporting the students’ academic and professional growth.
As a semester-long independent study, Christine Rheem ’15 is helping develop the curriculum for the Blueberry Harvest School, a hands-on, interdisciplinary, and project-based learning summer school for migrant students in Washington County. One of the program’s overarching goals is to prevent summer learning loss and disruptions to students’ education due to their migrant lifestyle.
This is the third summer the nonprofit Mano en Mano has hosted the Blueberry Harvest School, which serves children (ages three to thirteen) of migratory workers during the blueberry harvest. Ian Yaffe ’09 currently serves as the Executive Director of Mano en Mano and has been with the organization since March 2010. At Bowdoin, Yaffe majored in Latin American Studies and Minored in Education.
Rheem is a Spanish and Latin American Studies Major with a Teaching Minor. Her community-engaged independent study fuses her passions and academic interests into a tangible form. Rheem is particularly excited about weaving social justice themes into the Blueberry Harvest School curriculum, as well as imbuing the curriculum with project-based learning opportunities. “We want students to have authority over their knowledge and be able to create knowledge,” Rheem continued. This approach, she believes, will help inspire a lifelong love of learning within students.
Professors Melissa Rosario (Sociology and Anthropology) and Nancy Jennings (Education) are advising Rheem in her independent research. To guide her process of curriculum development, Rheem has reached out to Professor Susan Taffe Reed (Music) to learn more about American Indian music traditions in the region. Rheem is also researching Latin American resistance movements and alternative forms of production and engaging with the earth. Rheem, Yaffe, and another co-collaborator from the University of Maine at Machias meet bi-weekly (often over phone or Skype) to develop the curriculum.
“Our goal is to make the curriculum explicitly culturally responsive, relevant to students’ lives and experience, and validating and embracing of their cultural background,” Rheem explained. In addition to their ambitious goals and similar Bowdoin educational background, Yaffe and Rheem share another distinct experience – both studied abroad in Cuba as college students.
Another student-alumni connection to note is Peter Hill ’02 and Dominique Wein ’15. Upon entering Bowdoin, Wein knew that she wanted to participate in the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars Program, a group of undergraduate and graduate students “who seek to affect social change by becoming teachers through a rigorous scholarly and classroom-based preparation.” As part of the program, graduates receive a Maine State Department of Education Public Teaching Certificate, making them eligible to teach in any public school in the United States.
Wein’s work is supported by yet another Bowdoin alumni connection, the Snow family. John Snow ’57 and Ann Snow, along with other members of the Snow family, created an endowment to support the work of Bowdoin Teacher Scholars like Wein, with the intention of providing financial support for students who want to become teachers.
As a second-semester senior, Wein is engaged in a full-time, fourteen-week, student-teaching practicum at King Middle School in Portland. At King she teaches eighth-grade Physical Science with Bowdoin alumni Peter Hill. Hill entered Bowdoin aspiring to be a lawyer, then a field scientist, and after spending a summer on Kent Island, he realized that it was conversations around science that “energized” him. Hill decided to pursue teaching, and he is now a tenth-year teacher at King Middle School.
Early in her practicum, Wein started out observing Hill teaching in the classroom. She then began to follow-up on Hill’s lessons, and has now stepped in as the primary teacher. Commenting on Wein’s impact in the classroom, Hill was quick to note that she is hardly just “helping out.” It is “exciting to see someone with so much ability craft lessons and think long-range while also thinking on the micro level,” Hill continued. Wein expressed gratitude for the independence Hill has granted her in the classroom. They share a similar ideal of empowering students to generate their own knowledge, rather than simply being lectured at, which shapes the nature of their teaching. “Lots of young kids have an aversion to sciences or math, so I want to make science relatable to daily life,” Wein expressed.
Hill explained how his education courses at Bowdoin provided him with an understanding of the social justice piece of education and pushed him to “respect and understand each student as an individual learner.” Wein reflected the same sentiment, noting that the course “Educating All Students” with Professor Doris Santoro (Education) most clearly influenced her identity as a teacher. King Middle School is diverse for Maine. One-third of students are English Language Learners, and twenty-seven different languages are spoken. Wein has “every kid on her mind,” Hill affirmed.
“I grew up in Memphis attending inner-city urban schools and was very conscious of the inequality present in these environments. And I wanted to do something to change that,” Wein reflected. Wein has accepted a position with Teach for America in her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. After finishing with Bowdoin Teacher Scholars, she is eager to embark on this new journey – applying her skills and experiences to her own school district.
Bowdoin students and alumni connect in a diversity of ways, and many, as we see, are collaborating on issues they care about to positively impact their communities.