The classroom is dark and quiet as Kenny Doherty, senior, reads out the stage directions as a cue for the actors to begin reading. Katherine Perakis, junior, and Mr. Pellerin begin to recite lines from the play “Proof,” by playwright David Auburn, as the rest of the class follows along in their books. Neither Mr. Pellerin nor Perakis wastes any time immersing themselves into their character roles as they engage in a full-on yelling match complete with colorful language. The room suddenly turns from a damp, dark classroom into a theatre as they finish the final act of the play. Mr. Pellerin, sitting on top of a desk at the front of the room, curiously looks at the students and, instead of immediately analyzing the deeper meaning of the play, asks them what they thought and what they would have liked the ending to be since they weren’t too happy with the conclusion.
It is this sort of engaging and interactive method of teaching, along with his good community service work outside the classroom, that has earned Mr. Pellerin the Rotary Educator of the Year Award.
Mr. Pellerin has been a teacher at AHS for 16 years and all of his students agree that he is one of the best educators they’ve ever encountered. His passion for the subjects he teaches along with his remarkable enthusiasm is evident in every class, especially his Dramatic Literature course (a curriculum that Mr. Pellerin created and brought to the high school about 12 years ago). The class includes a large amount of acting and even an online blog where students comment on the material they read or talked about that day.
“Reading plays is one of the best forms of teaching literature and writing,” Mr. Pellerin said, “just because of the nature of having to understand what the characters are thinking and feeling, along with the level of interpretation that needs to happen.”
His students not only read the play, but they might also watch a film clip and perform certain acts or scenes to get different points of view, visuals and analysis on the subject.
Each day students also get a “poem of the day” to start off the class. Connor McCullough, junior, says that sometimes Mr. Pellerin will even show them some of his own published poetry, which helps the students get to know him better.
Although he may seem enthusiastic, Mr. Pellerin says that he isn’t really aware of his outgoing manner while teaching. “Actually, I’m kind of reserved and rather quiet,” he says. “Maybe it’s the whole nature of acting, since [I’m] playing a part, but it’s not that I become a different person. It’s more like tapping into a different part of [myself]. As a result, I think that what works best when teaching is being genuine and centered. You can’t have low self-esteem as a teacher. You have to try and be [confident in yourself], and be honest about what you know and what you don’t know.”
This sense of genuineness, Kyle Surehan says, “is what makes Mr. Pellerin so easily relatable. He can talk with his students as equals, and you can tell that he truly cares about each individual person in the class.”
One of the additional reasons why Mr. Pellerin was chosen for Educator of the Year is for his work as an outstanding citizen of the community. Mr. Pellerin helps run the community service club at the high school and works closely with Bread and Roses in Lawrence, Lifelong Friendships at Marland Place, after-school tutoring at Academy School of Hope, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club, and Lazarus House.
According to the Rotary Club website, “the Educator of the Year is given to one teacher, principal or support person in the Andover public school system that has made extraordinary contributions to the Andover community, above and beyond their normal job descriptions.” Mr. Pellerin, who certainly fits this description, says that “it’s nice to have an area where [he] gets to be around students that’s not connected to grades. [He] also gets to see different sides of kids who volunteer with [him] that [he’s] never seen before.”
Ms. Whalen, head of the English department, says that your average “great teacher” is somebody who “enjoys students, is committed to see them grow and learn, works hard to connect with them, and knows their content, and Mr. Pellerin has all of those attributes. However, another thing that makes [Mr. Pellerin] a particularly special teacher is his creativity. He really captivates his students, but he also listens and pays attention to their concerns. The whole English Department is very proud of him and knows of his good work in and outside of the classroom.”
Carly Frei did not know what to expect when she walked into her Dramatic Literature class with Mr. Pellerin, but the senior has learned not only to be herself, but also to share her thoughts and opinions during class discussions. “Mr. Pellerin leads by example since he is never afraid to be himself,” she said. “He is a true role model for his students.”
Mr. Pellerin’s enthusiasm for teaching, empathy toward others, and genuine kindness are only some of the many traits that make him such a valued and highly regarded teacher, and the endless good he has done for our school and for the community speaks for itself. He is well deserving of the title Educator of the Year, and makes Andover High School proud every day.
By Jenna Kosinski