Emily Eustace drove all the way from New Jersey, where she has lived her whole life, to teach sixth-grade English at SCDS.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up on the Jersey shore, in a small town called Brielle near Point Pleasant. I went to a K-8 school and then a charter high school for the arts, communications and journalism.
Q: How did you like it there?
A: I really liked it. It was a great place to grow up, near New York City, close to (Washington) D.C. It’s very metropolitan, but growing up by the beach and the water is very ingrained in the fibers of my being. I can’t be away from the water, so I would not do well living out in the desert.
Q: Did you go to college in New Jersey?
A: I went to community college first because my parents couldn’t afford to send me to a four-year school right away. I did three semesters of community college but two years’ worth of work. Then I did four semesters at New York University. I graduated early.
I have a bachelor’s of arts in English and journalism with a minor in American Sign Language from NYU. (I also have) a master’s in leadership in education from Notre Dame of Maryland University.
Q: How long have you been a teacher?
A: This is my third year teaching. I taught at another independent school outside of Annapolis, Maryland, for the past two years. I taught sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade English and literature.
Q: What made you want to be an English teacher?
A: It was the books and the writing. I myself had a fantastic sixth[, seventh- and eighth-grade ELA (English Language Arts) teacher. She sparked such an interest in me. She made me want to be a reader and a writer.
I came to Maryland and I worked at a school for children with autism and then I started teaching, but I always knew I was going to teach.
Q: Is English the only subject you’ve taught?
A: Yes, English and literature. At the other school it was two separate subjects, English being the writing, the grammar and the speaking (and) literature more vocabulary- and novel-based learning. Here I get to blend them together, so I have my sixth graders doing some of my seventh-grade work. I’ve taught a little bit about journalism on the side, (and) I have a background in photography.
Q: Have you changed the curriculum at all?
A: I’ve kept most of (the books) the same. We are definitely going to do “Wonder” (by Raquel J. Palacio). I’ve (also) taught “The Giver” (by Lois Lowry) before; I think that’s such a great book. We’re going to do “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
I also take one day a week for them to free read. Every Monday they can read whatever they want – preferably something that they’ve brought in from home or something off of my shelves or something that they’re interested in.
Q: How do you like Country Day so far?
A: I love it. I would not have moved my family across the country if I didn’t believe in this school and want to be with smart, talented students and exceptional, brilliant faculty.
Q: How is SCDS different from the other schools you’ve taught at?
A: I love that it’s open and that it’s outside. That doesn’t happen in Maryland; it snows and it gets cold. I came from a school where there was a uniform, and I believe in a uniform. I think it’s a great equalizer. So (that’s) different.
It’s a great school, a great community. I love that the head of school and I have met face-to-face multiple times. He’s come into my classroom – that’s huge! He’s got 10 million other things to do, but he made an effort to come in and meet me and see what I was doing.
That is really valuable, to know that you are supported by the administrators, faculty and staff.
Q: You teach the journalism elective, don’t you?
A: Yes, I do. It’s tough in middle school because (of) trying to get everybody on the same page and starting basic things like interviewing. It’s nerve-wracking, (and) it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. The week of the hurricanes we tossed around what other stories you could write about the hurricane. We (also) had a really big chat about 9/11, (which is) important; it’s still relevant.
I think it’s increasingly important to talk about the news and what’s real and what’s fake, how to get good sources and how to question. It’s OK to question; it’s OK to seek out answers. That’s where the story comes from, and that’s where growth and change come from.
Q: Do you do anything besides teaching?
A: My husband and I travel a little bit. We drove across the country to get here with the dog and the chameleon. I enjoy being outside, and I’m excited to explore the West Coast.
Q: Why did you get a chameleon?
We knew we were moving to California, and she was the only veiled chameleon left (at Petco). (We) didn’t want to leave her behind, so we adopted her and she traveled across the country with us. She sat in a box in the (moving) truck with (my husband) Andy and our lab, Beau, and I drove behind them. Every night we set up her habitat in the hotel bathroom. Her sleep schedule was reversed, so she slept in the truck and was awake at night.
Q: Where did you get your chameleon?
My husband, Andy, works for Petco and hand-raised her since last winter/spring. She had a growth on her eye, so she had it removed and has tiny blue stitches there. If chameleons can’t see, they cannot hunt and cannot eat.
Q: What’s her name?
Pascal, named after the chameleon in “Tangled.”
Q: What is your favorite part about teaching?
A: Forming relationships with students and seeing them grow. I respect kids who work hard. You don’t need to be the smartest in the bunch, but if you are working as hard as you possibly can and you’re failing, that’s OK. You’re not going to learn anything if everything comes easily to you.
Q: How are you adjusting to the different weather?
A: It’s been hot. There’s no humidity though. Growing up somewhere where it’s really, really warm and humid, it’s been nice to take a break from it.
—By Elise Sommerhaug