Faculty Highlight: Helen Berkeley, Upper School English Teacher, English Department Chair

Faculty Highlight: Helen Berkeley, Upper School English Teacher, English Department Chair

For more than 230 years, Friends School’s educational journey has equally emphasized the mastery of content with the mastery of essential skills required to succeed in the world - skills like critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and empathy - to name a few. Meet some of our outstanding faculty who guide our students through this journey each and every day.

Helen Berkeley, Upper School English Teacher, English Department Chair

M.A., Boston College, and B.A., Wheaton College

At Friends School since 2004

Q. Why did you choose Friends and/or what do you love about teaching at Friends?
A. I love teaching at Friends because of the students, because of the professional community here, and because it is a faith-based school.  I love being in a community where our faith commitment requires us to pause to consider each individual person in all their uniqueness.  I love Meeting for Worship and pausing for silence at the beginning of meetings. I am grateful for the Quaker commitment to resisting dogma. As a Friend said to me once, “Our task is to raise seekers who will still be seeking in twenty years. We need not interrupt their process with our answers.” I appreciate our elective program in English, in which students and teachers can explore their passions. I appreciate this beautiful campus that we are stewarding together.

Q. What do you love about teaching your subject in particular?
I love the trust that we place in students to help direct and develop the discussions: it’s such a treat to learn whole new ways of thinking about a novel I’ve read twenty times, and also such a treat when a student hands me a new poem or novel that opens my world a bit. 

Q. How do Friends School's Upper School curriculum and teaching prepare students to succeed?
A. Friends School students can learn that it doesn’t feel right to be in a space where everyone is expected to think the same thing. They learn to listen to various voices and stories, and then to answer George Fox’s question, “What canst thou say?”

Q. Something fun about you - a motto or hobby, perhaps?
A. I once accidentally (it’s a long story) parked a Friends School bus at the Pentagon for a weekend.  It got towed, and I had to ride in a Pentagon Police car to the impound lot to get it back, and when I returned to campus, I had to explain myself.  Everyone was very nice about it. 

Friends School took 100 students to see Obama’s first inauguration.  They were concerned about traffic and wanted to get there early, so they planned to leave at 4:00 a.m.  In order to not be stuck waiting for students to arrive late at 4:00 a.m., we had those 100 students sleep in the Upper School building.  I was one of the faculty chaperones for the overnight part.  We played Apples to Apples and had cheese fondue while the kids slept, and in the morning, they told us they could hear us laughing through the vents in the HVAC system.  It was really fun!