Teacher Profile: Ms. Sisson

Devon Wenzel, Editor-in-Chief

Why did you want to become a teacher?

When I was younger I always played teacher with my younger sister. I’ve always loved the idea of planning lessons, making handouts, and being a leader. And when I went to college, I went with a very open mind; I didn’t even know what I was going to major in. Actually, I thought that the two things I was not going to major in were going to be English and anything pre-med. And the reason I was nervous about majoring in English was because I was really shy in high school and I was afraid of being wrong in my English classes so even though I did well and I could write well, I was still very nervous about speaking in an English classroom, so the thought of a college English classroom scared me because I lacked the confidence that I would have needed to be excited about it. But after about six or seven months at UNC, I had started off as a voice major; I was a music major, and then I followed all these different paths: I tried out the journalism school. I then switched over to American studies and then when it came time to register for my fall classes, the only classes that stuck out to me were the history and the English classes. So I ended up double majoring in English and history. When I was a senior, I didn’t know what my career was going to be, but I found out December of my senior year that it was possible to teach English when you haven’t been through a formal MAT [Master of Arts in Teaching] program. So I was excited about the opportunity to give teaching a try without necessarily investing the time and the money into a program I didn’t know was going to translate into a career. But I ended up being able to find a middle school humanities job with my English and history degree from Carolina, and it was the best decision I ever made to be able to dive into a classroom. It was a quick transition to be a college senior in May and to be a fifth grade humanities teacher in August; it was a huge change! Luckily I was able to prepare for that first teaching position by working at a summer school at Durham Academy; they do something called “Student U” which is designed to help keep struggling students at grade level over the summer, so I taught 8th grade English that summer. Working with that age group is something that when I was teaching fifth grade was always in the back of my mind. The reason is that I left my fifth grade teaching job is because I wanted to teach older kids. I’m grateful now to have the opportunity to teach both 7th and 9th graders. It just all kind of happened. I continued to take advantages of opportunities that came my way and after my first year of teaching I decided that I wanted to pursue a master’s degree in English, not in education, but what’s nice about the degree program that I enrolled in at Middlebury is that it is really and truly designed for high school English teachers. You get the MA in English, but there are so many opportunities for you while you are doing your summer work to communicate with teachers, to share lesson plans, to talk about pedagogy. Even two or three of the classes that I had to take for the degree focused on teaching English.


What are your hobbies outside of school?

I love any form of exercise. Exercise is my stress management. I bike, I hike, I walk, I run. I’m a huge fan of  BARRE classes. I’ve started to do more yoga and I’ve even dabbled in the Orangetheory field and have seen some PDS students there when I work out including Kyra. I love to read for pleasure. I made a resolution to read at least one pleasure book a month this year, and I am still trying to figure out whether or not listening to audiobooks counts. Because if they do count then I definitely have met my goal. I like to bake and cook when I can. However, the lack of an oven in my apartment at Pretty Brook makes that difficult! I love to travel. Both my brother and sister live in New York City so I hop on the train many weekends of the year to go visit them. My parents are still in Connecticut so New York City is the perfect halfway point, so I spend a lot of time in New York with my family and friends from college. I’m also not afraid of a long road trip! So when I have the time to get away I will drive as far south as South Carolina and as far west as New Mexico! I’ve tried to develop as new habit of attending as many lectures as possible at Princeton. My first year of teaching was very stressful, and now that I finally have gotten into a better rhythm I find that I have more time to take advantage of what’s going on in our community.


What are your favorite books and why? If you can only read one book for the rest of your life what would it be?

I really like The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I read it in grad school and was so struck by the language but also the important message that Chopin communicates about the expectations society has for women. When I was in college/grad school, I gravitated towards courses that focused on the study of gender and sexuality. My honors thesis was about a woman who made a place for herself in 17th century England with her very authentic and kind of odd writings. I love celebrating what female authors are able to do because they are able to call attention to experience and ideas that some male actors can’t because they simply haven’t experienced it. That’s why I love The Awakening. I wrote my paper on what it means to be a natural women.


Do you have a favorite PDS memory?

I would have to say putting together the Winter Wonderland Ball. It was a huge undertaking; we had an ambitious vision in mind, but our ability to pull that event together showed a lot about what hard work and dedication can do when it comes to planning an event for the student-body. It was an expensive effort which is why we didn’t have another one again this year, but I still consider it to be a huge accomplishment for the Student Life Committee here at PDS.   


Fun Facts about Ms. Sisson

  1.    She was a tap dancer in middle school.
  2.    She was on America’s Got Talent for approximately two seconds of airtime.
  3.    She was a girl scout from 1st grade until 12th.
  4.    She is a classically trained singer and went to UNC as a voice major.
  5.    She has been driving the same car since sophomore year of high school.
  6.    She was her senior class president and is still responsible for organizing reunions for her high school class.