With one Fisher Fellow’s tenure coming to an end, and the second in full swing, we thought we would look at the impact the program and its participants are having on the School. In an interview about the two fellows, Alice Meyer said, “Both have made a big impact on the community. They have contributed in tangible and intangible ways.” What are the intangible contributions? “They have set an example for what it’s like to be all in,” Ms. Meyer shared, “by eagerly embracing all aspects of Thacher life: camping, student life, dorm life, diversity work…”
Recently, we took a few minutes with each fellow to get his perspective on his time at Thacher.
In an article profiling Edgar last spring, he said that this teaching opportunity is a sacred endeavor and not one he takes lightly. He reiterated that belief recently, and added, “It’s been a big challenge to live up to expectations.” Still, everyone we spoke with felt that Edgar will be leaving his mark on Thacher when he moves on. His advisee, Teddy ’21 wrote, “Mr. Arceo helped me through countless obstacles posed by the inevitable stresses of high school. I feel as though I can tell him anything. He is wise, incredibly intelligent, and is eager to help. Mr. Arceo is so special to me, and my great first two years at Thacher would certainly be different if he wasn't here to be a true friend, teacher, and mentor”.
Edgar can also feel the mark of Thacher in his life. From his time here, he knows what he wants in the future. “I’m clear that I want to teach in a small setting. I feel spoiled to have kids of this intellectual, social, and emotional caliber. And, Thacher walks the walk. When they say, ‘we trust our kids,’ they mean it. It’s not that students have free rein; the program is scaffolded to give them more trust over time. They have the liberty to explore.” What has been his favorite part of his time at Thacher? “Interacting one-on-one and in small groups in this environment, where I teach, coach, and advise.”'
Ali has just begun his third trimester here, though he began working with the English Department to redesign the Global Studies course over the summer. This redesign is one of his lasting contributions to the School. The goal was to provide a curriculum that supports Thacher’s mission to prepare students to live for their own greatest good and for the greatest good of their fellow citizens in a diverse and changing world. The faculty acknowledged that awareness of the world is the first step, and wanted to focus on perspectives that students don’t normally get. Ali’s studies of Muslim cultures for his PhD dissertation, Digital Gatekeepers of Knowledge: Islamic Authority in America, were a invaluable asset. The new curriculum includes works of writers from several often ignored cultures: Indian, Pakistani, South African, and Nigerian, along with more canonical works including Shelley’s Frankenstein and Shakespeare’s writings.
He is also teaching a Middle East Studies course, a course he taught at the college level. When asked about being a Muslim American teaching this class, he said, “I don’t shy away from my identity in the classroom. I share my experiences as part of the Muslim community with my students. But, I am not an ambassador for the region, and I tell my students to question what I say.” His philosophy about the study of history emphasizes investigation: “History is not a set of clear-cut facts and figures. We don’t discover history, we create it. As in ‘History is written by the victors.’ So, it’s important to include non-European scholars in post-colonial studies, and to question everything we hear to get a more complete picture.”
His advisee, James ’19 shared his perspective on Ali’s contributions to the Thacher community: “He is incredibly dedicated to bettering the Thacher community; in his short time here he has already immersed himself in kickstarting difficult discussions…. I admire him for this and so much more, and I am grateful that the Fisher Fellow program has brought such an inspirational individual to our campus.”
What’s in store for next year? Ali says he’ll probably be teaching the same classes. He would also like to support Matt Balano, Thacher’s director of diversity and inclusion. “I’d like to facilitate some faculty professional development,” says Ali, “and I would love to help find ways to implement the inclusion work in the classroom.”
The program is clearly meeting its objective to identify the next generation of teachers to inspire, mentor, and guide students in independent schools in the coming years. According to Ms. Meyer, its success “makes us feel we want to invest in the program.”