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BHS Register

The Student News Site of Burlington High School

BHS Register

The Student News Site of Burlington High School

BHS Register

Teacher Feature: Meet Ms. Sagalchik

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Ms. Sagalchik

Where did you grow up?

“I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in a neighborhood called Bensonhurst, and when I was ten we moved like five blocks over, so the same neighborhood but a slightly different place, and then we moved again when I was like.. twenty, my parents moved again one more block over so *I* grew up in the same area of Brooklyn.”

Do you miss it?

“Do I miss New York City? Yeah I guess I do, I’m really happy here in Burlington but there are certain things that I like about New York City especially public transportation, like being able to get around; I don’t drive and I take the bus here which is good but I miss public transportation and I miss family of course. I do visit, pretty often, once every other month or so but I do miss some things about it.”

What do you miss most about your family?

“I miss just being able to do regular check-ins just in person where there’s nothing planned like not just going for big events but just sort of more casual check-ins.”

So you and your family were close growing up?

“Mhm yes, very close.”

What was the best part about your childhood?

“The best part about my childhood.. My parents traveled a lot for their strange careers, they were both chess players and chess coaches and so we had a lot of people coming to stay with us when they came for chess tournaments and also we traveled around to go to their chess tournaments and it was kind of fun being mobile; even within the city we would kind of have to go to chess related events and I liked that.”

Did you always have a passion for chess or was it just something that you got into because your parents were chess players?

“Yeah, I think it was for me mostly because of my parents and then friends and so *it* was this community thing and I was able to be apart of, but it was never my direct passion. I like it, and I like interacting with people through it but the game itself, it was never my direct pull.”

So to clarify you didn’t want to be a chess player when you grew up?

“No, it wasn’t my like career choice.

What did you want to be?

“I wanted to be a teacher, ever since I can remember. I really liked school, not like school work exactly or not even classes but just the place of community I felt school was where y’know being home my parents were somewhat strict so there was kind of- I felt like more rules at home than in school and in school you can hang out with friends and talk about things, and even the content I liked. And so I felt like school was this real communal place and I wanted to be a teacher because of that.”

I know personally your teaching style isn’t really strict, do you think that it’s because of that community that you felt you had?

“Yeah I think so, I think that was my favorite part of school and I’m very sympathetic to the fact that school doesn’t work for everyone and so what I want is for people to be in a space, talking to each other about ideas and that’s the most important thing for me, like finding community but also just like thinking about ideas together and so that’s what I’m always trying to create and it makes it hard for me sometimes to be very rules oriented.”

So when did you know you wanted to be a teacher?

“I think I remember third grade thinking, “I’m gonna teach third grade.” Like I remember that as an idea I had and then of course it changed a few times as I grew up, of what grades and what kinds of things I wanted to teach but third grade is when I really was like, “this- this seems correct.” I think it was like our third grade teacher took us on a field trip to see the first Harry Potter movie, and I was like this seems good this is like, y’know what I want to be doing.”

Did you always want to be a civics teacher?

“No, history I guess was kind of, eventually the thing I settled on but I wasn’t sure. At first I wanted to be an elementary school teacher, then I thought about teaching english, then I thought about teaching y’know, teaching middle school or highschool and it kind of changed over time.”

So where did you go to school?

“I went to college at Colgate University in Upstate New York, in a tiny, tiny town called Hamilton, New York.”

Why didn’t you just stay in New York?

“So it’s about five hours from New York City, so it wasn’t home, and I did actually think about it, there was an opening when I graduated in Hamilton, the high school in Hamilton, but I returned back to New York City to teach because that’s where my family was and where my homeschooling experience had been; it was a very kind of more remote location, Hamilton, so I wanted to go back to the city- and I taught in New York City for four years before moving to Burlington.”

Do you like teaching in New York more or do you like teaching here?

“I love teaching here. The school that I taught at in New York City- it was great! It was a specialized high school so it was a public school but kids had to take a test to get in and it was way more rules oriented like you had to take a multiple choice test every two to three weeks; it was like very fast paced and impersonal and kids had eight classes a day and it all felt quick. And here there is a lot more focus on student growth and development and relationships with each other and we’re kind of able to dig deeper into ideas and have deeper conversations; and I like that we focus more on the skills of reading and writing and discussion rather than just like exams, multiple choice exams. I like teaching here a lot.”

So correct me if I’m wrong but an issue that you had with the school that you worked with before was that you couldn’t really like form a bond with your students?

“Mhm, yeah. Yeah that was one issue. And then it was stressful students were stressed out all the time like way more, I mean students are always stressed out there’s a lot you have to juggle but it was overwhelming for them, it was unsustainable the work that they had to do there and so you could feel that stress and it was hard to get kids to relax into the content because they were so anxious about grades and finishing assignments and all the other classes they had to juggle.”

Because your personal teaching style is less rules oriented did you struggle with being that safe space where kids could relax the way that you were for me and other students?

“Yeah I think I tried to create a similar version and it was maybe relative to their other classes a little bit like that but I still had to give a test every three weeks, there was still so much content that we had to get through and the kids themselves were more reserved and so it was harder to create that.”

So the kids at BHS are less reserved?

“Oh yeah.”

In what way?

“You talk to each other, a lot of you have known each other for a while, you come to your teachers with questions and you- I feel like are more engaged with your own lives; like there’s a little less formality and stress in your relationships with each other and teachers.”

And what brought you to Vermont, I mean thank god but like what?

“I moved here for my partner, who was planning to move to Vermont for a while and then when the pandemic hit my school went remote and so we actually moved to central Vermont first where I was teaching remotely, and I don’t drive, so we were like, “okay where can we live in Vermont where I could continue not driving?” And so Burlington was where we had settled.”

And as a history/civics teacher, that requires a knowledge of like what’s going on in the world, current events, activism, and social justice, have you always been interested in that?

“Yeah, I think in part because I wanted to create this community environment I guess, my big thing is my favorite classes were places where you could think about big ideas and talk to each other big ideas, and I felt that history was the way you could do that- like there’s so many relevant topics that come up and you could apply them to your own lives and to the present day and I wanted to create and atmosphere where people could think seriously about the world and talk to each other about it.”

And what inspires you as a teacher?

“I guess students inspire me. I like seeing the connections students make with new ideas and it’s very satisfying to get to share that with people wanting to learn and learning new things and when I’m preparing for lessons I’m trying to think of things from a learners perspective rather than a teachers perspective that makes you kind of learn new things as you go.”

Onto probably the most important question of this entire interview; it’s on the tip of everybodies tongue, everybody needs to know who is your favorite student?

“Oh yeah this is a good one; it will be my most well kept and guarded secret. I’ll take it to my grave.”

For the record, could you give the people a hint?

“Mm, maybe they’re in this room… I have a lot of favorites! Teachers don’t play favorites, they’re like parents; we love our kids, there are a lot of things I love about a lot of you.”

Is there something that you hope you’ve ingrained in all of us?

“Yeah, I think I hope that you can talk to each other about serious topics and like really feel connected, and feel that you have an idea about something, that it’s your idea about something, that you feel strongly about it and you can communicate instead of just being passive.”

Speaking of favorites, what is your favorite part of being a teacher at BHS specifically?

“BHS specifically? I like our block system where you have an hour fifteen minutes, and then only four classes a day so you can kind of focus on your classes. I guess that’s not my favorite part of being a teacher but I do like being able to have those extended discussions with students inside and outside the classroom.”

Lastly, what gives you the passion to keep teaching with all the issues teachers have to face?

“Yeah, students are nice. That’s the thing, you were all nice and it’s very satisfying to work here- it’s very dynamic like every day is different and you don’t get bored and it’s real, like every day you show up and something real is happening and I like that.”

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