No time for rest
June 16, 2022
When it comes to the summer months, teachers are often assumed to be relaxing after an at-times demanding school year.
Allison Bass-Riccio, on the other hand, has her whole summer—and much of the remainder of her year—already planned out. And it’s looking busy.
A four-year veteran at Cheshire Academy, Bass-Riccio is CA’s English Department chair, teaches English courses, advises students, and leads the Center for Writing, while living in Motter Hall as a dorm head. She is the recipient of the 2022 Robert D. Gardiner Excellence in Teaching Award, presented at the annual Academic Awards ceremony.
During the week of June 6, Bass-Riccio traveled to Provincetown, Massachusetts, to participate in a writer’s residency at the dune shack previously owned and inhabited by author Hazel Hawthorne Werner.
Located on the Peaked Hill Bars Historic District, Werner’s shack, named Euphoria, provides renters with a propane-fueled refrigerator and no electricity. Water is pumped from a well not too far from the residence. Euphoria is one of several shacks offered for artists as part of the Peaked Hill Trust Arts and Science Residency Program.
For Bass-Riccio, the opportunity was intended to provide her additional insight on Werner. During her initial research of Werner, Bass-Riccio was saddened that she was not more well known. “I just found her so inspiring because while she may have chosen a different life than I personally would choose, she chose the life she exactly wanted … She was a feminist before being a feminist was cool. She was an environmentalist before being an environmentalist was cool.”
As Bass-Riccio continued to look into Werner, she learned that Werner moved to Provincetown in 1920—100 years before Bass-Riccio bought her own cottage in the Cape. She’s located residents in the Provincetown area who knew Werner, and has interviewed them to learn more about the historic writer. Getting to stay in the shack in which she lived, Bass-Riccio said, is another sign that she needs to continue discovering more about Werner.
“I feel like she’s calling me to write her story because every time I pursue something, it just works out,” Bass-Riccio said.
Bass-Riccio plans to continue research of Werner after her stay at Euphoria.
Conference on English Leadership
In November, Bass-Riccio and Jennifer Guarino, English teacher and theater director, will be traveling to Anaheim, California, to present as part of the Conference on English Leadership, hosted by the National Council of Teachers of English.
Bass-Riccio has attended the conference in the past, and Theresa West Mautner, former CA English teacher, presented at the conference in 2019. Bass-Riccio said she was inspired by Mautner and worked with Guarino to submit a proposal.
“The organization likes people to present together because teaching is so collaborative in nature, and you’re really trying to lift up the students together,” Bass-Riccio explained. “You might be approaching it from difference spaces—Jen might be approaching it from the arts, me from English—but we’re trying to accomplish the same thing.”
Their presentation will cover using the arts to respond to current events and emotions, according to Guarino, as well as the importance of social-emotional learning and relationship building in and out of the classroom. They will discuss ways to use creativity in the classroom through writing and creating to create an expression of grief, and how to use assignments to demonstrate to students how they can take care of themselves.
In the 2021-2022 academic year’s Final Demonstrations of Learning, Guarino’s students created “Pandemic Theater Art,” which were pieces that allowed them to respond to the pandemic through theater. “I will likely share some of their work at the conference along with my own works in process,” Guarino said. “Even though it is an English Teacher conference, the work we do is interdisciplinary and will create opportunities for good discussions about how writing and creating art is not just work to be done in an arts class.”
Bass-Riccio was also accepted into the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education’s (CSEE) Visiting Scholar program. Only three applicants are accepted per year; for the 2022-2023 academic year, more than 50 teachers applied to be scholars. Through the program, Bass-Riccio will share her knowledge as an educator with like-minded individuals and, in return, learn from them.
“I’m going to be focusing on the intersection of trust, joy, and creativity,” Bass-Riccio said, focusing on how to build those emotions in the classroom, as well as with other adults and as a leader on campus.
She will also be able to attend CSEE conferences throughout the year, write a chapter for the CSEE’s book on faculty well-being, and lead a virtual workshop in August on setting the tone for the year for department chairs, house heads, and program directors on trust and joy being intentional goals for one’s job.
“I’m really excited about working with other teacher leaders around the country who are so passionate about what we often refer to as the soft skills of well-being, and something that is so important in my life and as my job as a teacher and a department chair,” stated Bass-Riccio.