The American School in SwitzerlandThe American School in Switzerland
Faculty Feature: Ms. Perri Sartorelli

Jane Wilson ’22 sat down with Middle School EAL Teacher Ms. Perri Sartorelli, who helped launch the TASIS Elementary School in 2005 and has taught EAL in the Middle School since 2011.

When did you start at TASIS, what do you teach, and what else are you involved with at school?
I started in January 2005. I helped Mrs. Aeschilman prepare for the opening of the Elementary School and then served as the coordinator. We had very few students and teachers initially, but by the time we opened it was a larger number. I ended up teaching the third and fourth grade classes for several years, and then I moved into the Middle School in 2011 and began teaching EAL. 

At the moment I teach Intermediate EAL in the Middle School, and I’m also involved in the Global Service Program. A few years ago, Mr. Mulert gave me the chance to begin a program with Hope and Homes for children in Romania. Although this program has not continued in the High School, I have remained in contact with Hope and Homes, and Patrick Alava and I now lead a version of the same program in the Middle School. And then this year I also started working with the High School’s Serving Southern Africa group.

Can you tell me about your educational background?
I love studying. It's been a lifelong process for me. After graduating high school, I got an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts. Then I went to Alfred University in New York, where I got a bachelor’s in Environmental Science. From there, I went to the University of Hawaii and took some classes in education. I left Hawaii but later returned and started at Chaminade University, where I got a certificate in Montessori education, teaching students aged 6–9. Eight years ago, I finished my master’s in International Education and ESL. In January, I am thinking of going for a second master’s in International Education Administration. 

How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
I originally went into Montessori because I really liked the Montessori philosophy of education, which is teaching to the whole person, not just the curriculum. I still believe this is very important. Every year, I try to understand my students as people and help them to grow. When they leave TASIS, they should be able to live as upstanding citizens because they are compassionate and have respect for others. We’re molding humans, not just educating their minds.

Did you always want to become a teacher?
No, actually it took me a long time to figure out that I wanted to become a teacher. After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I went to Hawaii and started working there, just in small jobs because I wanted to live there! I also loved nature, so I went to the Hawaii Nature Center and was a teaching docent for children. I discovered there that I really loved teaching and being with children. That was what set me off to the University of Hawaii the first time to start in an education program. My father was a science and math teacher, my brother and sister are instructors, and so are my cousins! I would say that teaching runs in my family—it just took me a little longer to figure that out. 

What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I really enjoy being with my students. At TASIS, children come from all over the world and they always have a story to tell. Sometimes they’re hysterical! As an EAL teacher, I get to see children make really comical mistakes in English, which really makes things fun. I just love hearing their stories, and they have a lot to teach me as well.


“We’re all striving to help these students become world citizens.” 


What is the most challenging thing about teaching?
The thing that I detest the most is writing comments, mostly because there is so much to tell about a student. I feel like I can never get to the depth of a student in one paragraph. It’s a challenge to put the essence of a learner in one paragraph. 

What do you like most about working at TASIS, and what makes TASIS unique?
What makes TASIS unique is our international environment. Something else that I really do love about TASIS is the core group of teachers who really have their heart here. You can feel the warmth of the community and spirit of reaching out and helping one another. There is a sense of internationalism among the students, but also the adults. We’re all striving to help these students become world citizens. 

Finally, what is one piece of wisdom you try to impart to your students?
Never stop learning. Even when you’re one hundred years old, there's always something to learn. Become lifelong learners. Elementary, middle, and high school is just the tip of the iceberg—you will learn for your entire life.

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