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connections

Interconnections Striking accord at music reunion
Periclean Alumni winner Andrew (Snyder) Ha-Levi '88
Kemball-Cook winner Trustee and music supporter Bob Ladd
Club connection San Francisco Bay cruise
T'bred Hall of Fame Five alumni and Coach Segrave inducted
Skidmore Interactive Skidmore brand goes online
Trustee transitions Howley '80 to be chair; Traylor '68 and Fulmer '76 join

 

Teacher wins Alumni Periclean citation

From Harvard Square to rural Mississippi, from theories of reading and literacy to the daily tasks of teaching teenagers, Andrew (Snyder) HaLevi ’88 has covered a lot of ground. After a sabbatical in Israel, he traveled to Skidmore last fall to receive the Alumni Periclean Scholar Award at Celebration Weekend.

He does have a home base: Charleston, S.C., where he was cited as teacher of the year in 1999 and made it into the final five for statewide teacher-of-the-year honors. Earlier, he admits, “I was unsure whether I’d want to spend a career in the classroom. It seemed too limiting, financially and intellectually. It took years for me to break free of my suburban, middle-class bias against teaching as a career.” But by the time he was named Charleston County Teacher of the Year, he was telling his students, “I love you guys, and I get up every morning because I love to come to Burke High School.”

An English major at Skidmore, HaLevi earned a master’s in education at Harvard. Then a “sense of adventure” led him to join a rural-teaching program and move to poverty-ridden Heidelberg, Miss., as a reading specialist. The next year he started a doctoral program at the University of Michigan, with the idea of entering academe. But his glimpse into the professorial life soon convinced him it wasn’t what he wanted, so he steered his studies toward secondary-school teaching, earning his PhD in English and education.

In the mid-1990s he arrived at Burke, where his emphasis on vocabulary, semantics, and other language skills has helped students succeed on the SATs and earn college admission. When he received the county award, according to the Charleston Post and Courier, he told his students, “Burke High School for many years has been a symbol of what’s wrong in education. But that’s changing.” He called his 130 sophomores “stars” and agents of positive change in the school and city.

With his teaching honors and his PhD, HaLevi could have entered school-district administration or other higher-ranking positions. He says the awards did “open doors to new experiences at the state level that allowed me to develop a broader perspective. But thankfully I resisted the temptation to leave teaching.” Instead he enriched his professional life by starting the nonprofit Charleston Futures, which assists high-achieving, low-income students in planning and preparation for college. Since its inception in 1998, Charleston Futures alumni have been accepted to, and graduated from, Clemson, Skidmore, Georgetown, and other colleges across the country. In 2003 he also launched the Charleston Teacher Alliance, to promote school-district policymaking that relies on good research and data as well as the experiences of classroom teachers.

To extend his reach from creative classroom work to nonprofit and professional development, HaLevi has built lasting alliances. And he advised the Skidmore audience of Periclean inductees accordingly. “Nurture relationships while you’re here,” he said, “not because you need a recommendation letter or a job lead, but because you just might get an idea someday that could benefit from a Skidmore partnership.” When he started Charleston Futures, he says, he sought advice from the college’s Jim Chansky in special programs, and he now collaborates with Skidmore’s admissions and opportunity-program offices. He also recounted a more personal connection—“a wonderful visit I had in Jerusalem with English professors Catherine Golden and Michael Marx.”

Friendships near and far, professional and alumni honors, new programs and networks…it seems HaLevi has made the most of his vocation to classroom service. Some of “the very best days of my life,” he says, “have been shared with my students.” —SR