Who Got You Through 2020? Interviews With Teachers and Students

by Giselle Wu


January 27, 2021

2020 has not been a year that any of us would have asked for. It has been unexpectedly challenging, exhausting, and sorrowful. Worldwide, a devastating pandemic took the lives of more than two million people; in America, the issue of police brutality took center stage, and our democracy itself faced unusual challenges — in short, it has been difficult to find a bright side to 2020. But it’s important to remember that 2020 was filled with many loving and caring moments. And at BUA, we are grateful for all the support and positivity in our caring community during these times. In this spirit, please find below responses from BUA students and teachers to the following question:

Can you name someone from the BUA community who got you through 2020?

Mr. Kolovos:

It’s impossible for me to pick just one person! I’ll start with my colleagues on the faculty and staff, who have been working since the summer to envision what this unusual year would look like and have been so creative and flexible as we’ve made it happen. I think about all of the students who have accepted the new rules and changes joyfully; because they are taking this so seriously, we haven’t missed a single day due to COVID-19. And I’m so grateful to all the parents for how warmly they’ve welcomed me and how they’ve partnered with us. It’s been the most incredible team effort this year. What a beautiful example of what we can accomplish together.

Dr. Larash:

The short answer, of course, is everyone! Dr. White, Ms. Brewster, and Mr. Kolovos did so much to make things possible, as well as Mr. Curran and his IT team, who got us set up in August in preparation for the new school year. But as for “getting me through” — to me, that’s asking who are my companions on this strange, uncertain journey, and I have to say my students. I continue to be impressed by and grateful for their good humor, willingness to try out new things, and perseverance! In the classroom I found a community banding together in an otherwise scattered and fragmented year. I would particularly like to thank the staff and writers of The Scarlet Letter for their work all year, especially with the December 2020 issue, in giving us a record of and reflections on this strange year that has so tested us.

Ms. Hakimi:

The BUA tour guides definitely played a large part in getting me through the fall of 2020. Our tour guides have always played a huge part in welcoming prospective families to campus, and it was important for us to continue to spotlight this group even if we had to run a virtual admission process. Starting in the summer, a group of two dozen eleventh and twelfth-grade BUAers started working with our admission office to design a virtual information session that would teach applicants about our academic and extracurricular programs — all via Zoom. On average, they’ve run twenty-plus sessions a week and have hosted over 350 prospective families, all with a smile on their faces. We couldn’t do our work without them, and we’re grateful for their support of our admission efforts!

Dr. Jewell:

I relied on the moral (and sometimes technical!) support of all my faculty friends. In particular, Ms. Brewster has been a problem-solving powerhouse. She’s been on the lookout for ways to make things run smoothly, fill gaps in technology or equipment, brainstorm new ways to get things done — and she drops words of encouragement at just the right time. Dr. Taylor has been unfailingly kind: she stops in just to say hello, and she’s always happy to see other colleagues — which lifts my spirits in turn. She’s been generous with her time, Zooming separately with me to help me learn new technology and walk me through some things I’d never tried before. And Dr. Larash has been (as always) a voice of gentle support and enthusiastic encouragement. She always shares teaching ideas; she volunteers to demo and “guinea-pig” new technology and exercises with us; she celebrates little victories among students who are learning new things; and she listens and shares on those days when things are hard, which is important too.

And here’s who else got me through: my students in my classes. I was in awe of their flexibility and grace last year. At the end of our first remote week, I said to them, “Look what you just did!” And (not gonna lie) I teared up a little bit… and I think I saw that some of them did too. The knowledge that we were all doing our best, and giving each other room to do our best, was deeply comforting. And then, at the end of the semester, something else gave me a boost to last me for a while: the little notes students wrote, or left on their last pieces of work — just a little note here and there, but oh, so deeply appreciated.

Mrs. Brown:

I have been in awe at the work done behind the scenes by Director of Operations Paige Brewster. From working with BUA families on digital access to arranging new furniture in every classroom to attending hours upon hours of meetings with BU officials about COVID-19 regulations, Ms. Brewster has done amazing work getting BUA through 2020. When it’s all over, we should have a parade for her!

Dr. Formichelli:

I’ll shift the wording just slightly, if I may, so I can focus on friendship of equals, rather than a Virgil carries Dante type of mentorship. Within the BUA community, the person with whom I went through 2020 — shoulder to shoulder — is Jim Davis. Not only do I like him personally, by which I mean I enjoy talking about books, philosophy, and life in general with him, but there’s a deeper resonance, since we’ve shared some similar experiences (this year and last year), and our backgrounds are kind of a bond between us that often bring us not only shoulder to shoulder, but often eye to eye. I admire him as a teacher and thinker, but most of all as someone who has moral convictions, and the courage of his convictions. That’s not so easy to find these days, and it makes him that rare colleague and friend, prized even more for his rarity. He’d probably be surprised to hear this, but he also sometimes has a kind of Beckettian sanity and humor, which not infrequently makes me “Irish laugh.”

Sally Jamrog ‘23:

A lot of people got me through 2020, but my immediate family and my friends in the BUA community especially did. Like for most people (I’d imagine), 2020 was a hard year for me socially, so I’m extremely grateful that I was able to see my friends on Zoom during the summer and in person during the fall semester. This saved my year!

Madison Ho ‘24:

A group of people at BUA who have gotten me through 2020 is my freshman English class. The camaraderie I have found from surprising Dr. Formichelli with random costumes on Wednesday to having heated discussions about fish sticks is something I will cherish forever. Through the many challenges 2020 presented, I found that such relationships and friendships were what provided me with the most support. And looking back, I’m able to see just how much I gained in 2020.

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