Q&A with Tracey Wilkerson
A graduate of Middlebury College, Tracey Wilkerson came to Gould in 2002. She teaches Spanish, coaches field hockey, and runs the highly popular Veterinary Science Camp on campus each summer. For many years, she ran the Farm & Forest program. She likes to say, “Everything associated with horses keeps me happy.”
What is unique about Gould?
TW: One of the things I think is special about Gould is that there are so many different ways for students to be good at something. We have really strong academics, and students can be celebrated for that. Or a student can be an athlete, or a leader, or a musician, or a ski patroller, or any number of things. And they can be celebrated for that. There are lots of different ways for kids to be good at something here.
“Gould students are here to learn. They want to get the most out of their time here, and they encourage each other to be good students too.”
Is there a quality you see across your students that leads to success?
TW: Gould kids are nice to each other. There seems to be a culture of treating each other well. That’s the norm here, and that’s what students learn when they come to campus. It becomes something that shapes our community. I don’t know, honestly, how exactly it’s cultivated, but there’s a culture of kindness. Another thing, I’ve taught at other schools, and it was clear to me when I started that Gould students are here to learn. They want to get the most out of their time here, and they encourage each other to be good students too. They support each other and hold themselves and each other to a pretty high standard. That’s probably it. We have kind students who want to learn.
Do you think that comes from something you do here?
TW: I hope that comes from what I’m doing, but I know that it also comes from being part of a larger community of learners. The other adults who work here are always asking students to be the best they can be, and students expect that of each other as well. I hope in my teaching that I can spark a little bit of curiosity and launch the students onto their own learning path. I don’t expect that every single one of my students is going to become fluent in Spanish, but I do hope that they gain a better global perspective and a little bit more understanding of our whole world.
Is International Travel part of your High School Experience?
How does travel fit into the picture?
TW: One of the things that I love about working at Gould is the opportunity to travel with our students. I love the ways that Gould supports student travel. The Ninth Grade Four Point program gives students the opportunity to travel in small groups. They might be traveling with their biology teacher or their English teacher or their Chinese teacher or their Spanish teacher. We go to China, Ecuador, Peru, and Tanzania. The ways the trips tie into the curriculum make it so the kids have a unique and powerful experience traveling.
It’s always great as a Spanish teacher to see my students trying the language that they learned in the classroom. My hope is that when they find themselves in a Spanish-speaking country, the language starts to stick. When I’m with them, I can see their language skills develop. Something that’s even more exciting, though, is supporting our kids through some pretty significant growth in a relatively short period of time. There are a lot of challenging things when they travel in another country. Sometimes it’s things that they wouldn’t expect would be challenging. They overcome it, though. Making meaningful connections with people around the world and overcoming obstacles and perceived limitations, builds character and confidence like nothing else.
That kind of growth is really exciting. You can spend months with a student, and then in the 10 days or 14 days when we’re traveling, that’s when you really see the most growth. When students come back together after traveling for Four Point, there’s a bond within the class that is unmatched and lasts through the end of their senior year and beyond. We have a lot of graduates come back for Alumni Weekend, and it’s fun to see. Gould is a special place.
“Making meaningful connections with people around the world and overcoming obstacles and perceived limitations, builds character and confidence like nothing else.”
How else do you take advantage of being here?
TW: I always love to find reasons to get outside with my students. There are some times when we’ll, for example, take a culture walk. I ask them to look at something familiar as if they’re seeing it for the first time. Sometimes when we’re traveling, we see the world a little bit differently because so many things are new and we’re wide open to new experiences. When we’re in our own home and our own place, sometimes those windows and doors are shut and we don’t even realize it. So I’ll ask students to imagine that they’re travelers, that they’re in another country, and that’s a great springboard for when we do travel. In addition to being able to really get to know their classmates, it’s a great way for them to be part of something larger than themselves, to be out in the world.