WELCOME, Ms. Koza!!


Ava Chase, Writer

At the start of the school year, Bancroft welcomed Ms. Koza, a freshman and sophomore English teacher and Yearbook Advisor. Recently, Unleashed had the pleasure of interviewing her, and here’s how it went (the following transcribed interview has been shortened):

Did you have a job before becoming an English teacher for the freshmen and sophomores at Bancroft?

Yes. I did. I’ve been a teacher for twelve years and I’ve been teaching high school most of that time. I taught middle school my first year.

Do you like teaching middle or high school better?

Oh, high school. Hands down!

What school did you work at before Bancroft?

I worked at a school called the Beekman School in New York City. 

What made you decide to change to Bancroft?

A couple of things. First, my husband and I wanted to relocate. We had been living in Brooklyn for about 15 years and we just kind of got tired of New York City life. My husband’s also from Massachusetts, so he’s been kind of hankering to come home. The other reason was I wanted to go to a school that really valued community and a school that had really progressive ideas about education. [Bancroft has] a culture of gratitude. So it’s just really refreshing.

What’s the funniest experience you’ve had here so far?

I have a problem which is that I think I’m funny. So, before kids even know me, and I even know them, I’m trying to crack a stupid joke, and they’re looking at me like **cue incredulous face**. And I’m just like, “Listen, I have a problem. I’m trying my best.” [Also] I couldn’t get into the building on my first day. I had the little pass on my phone to get into the school and I arrive at the school at like 7:10 and it’s not working. And I’m running around campus to get help. I’m writing to Mr. McKone like, “Help! I can’t get into the building.” I see Mrs. Heinricher in her room. The first time I see her, she disappears down the hallway and I don’t see her again for another 10 minutes. And then finally, the second time that I came around and see her in her classroom, I knock on the window on the glass and she sees me and comes out and helps me. And she is like, “yYu know… one thing you should try is to press the button, and see if it opens.” And then I did and it works. I couldn’t believe it. 

Do you prefer online learning or in-person learning?

Oh, in person. Hands down! Without a doubt.

Was it hard to teach online?

I wouldn’t say it was hard; it just felt like there was something missing. In some ways teaching online is easier than teaching in-person because it’s easier to control the flow of information. My lessons in remote-land were tight. The reason that they’re tight is that there wasn’t a mess of human engagement. I feel like the mess of human engagement is where the action actually is. Being back in person, the first day, on Friday, I could NOT contain myself. I was just so excited. I like to move around, I like to look people in the eye, I’m always pointing and gesturing. [In remote learning] I wasn’t really able to do my thing.

What has been your favorite part of Bancroft thus far?

This is an incredibly supportive community. I’ve felt taken care of from the get-go. Here, I think in mid-July, I was given a mentor whose sole job is to help me navigate the institution. So, Señora Belanger is my mentor. So every time I have a question, I have a person I can go to. In addition to that, Ms. Silverman has been amazing [TOTALLY AGREE, MS. KOZA!]; she’s been very supportive and has given me lots of feedback. Like I said before, there’s a culture of gratitude. Having a culture of gratitude is so important. New York is not a very nurturing place, so I’ve missed that. So, as I get older, I realize how I want wholesome experiences. I don’t want to feel abandoned. I don’t want to feel alone. I don’t want to feel left out to dry. I just think that this is not the place where that’s going to happen. So I think that the cultural piece is so important.

What’s your go-to feel-good movie?

I don’t really watch a lot of movies. My favorite movies are the Lord of the Rings movies although I do enjoy a Harry Potter movie here and there. I’m not a film girl, but [those movies] are fun.

Is there somewhere that you’ve always wanted to travel to?

Yes! I want to go to Iceland. I very much want to go to Iceland. But I also love traveling to Canada. That’s one of my go-to places. My husband and I love road trips. I grew up in Brazil, and my dad’s family is American, so I’ve been on planes my whole life. So, it’s not about being afraid of flying. It’s just that I love driving places. I like road trips because of the control I have. We don’t plan; [we] just go. 

Do you speak any languages?

non je ne parle pas français”. But I do speak Portuguese. 

Do you have an idol?

I don’t really have an idol, but there are figures that kind of parade through my life at different moments that resonate with me for whatever reason. 

Do you have any hidden talents?

Yes. I do. I can sing! I love to sing. I haven’t done it in a long time for a lot of different reasons. I love to sing in my class. 

What is your favorite high school memory?

It was with a teacher, actually. I always liked writing, [but I’ve] struggled with writing in my life. In high school, I hadn’t really figured my writer self out yet. But I started writing something called “Why the Princess Failed” and I actually re-wrote it two years ago and I shared it with my students. And then I talked to them about how this has been sitting on my plate for twenty years and that’s okay. But, when I was writing the original draft of that, I shared it with one of the English teachers, who actually wasn’t my teacher. I shared it with her, she read it, and she said, “Michelle, I love your brain.” And I was like, “Yup. I’m going to carry that for the rest of my life.” To me, that’s the best thing that anyone could have ever said to me, especially at that point in my life. So I still hold onto that, and I sometimes dole that out as a compliment because it’s so special to me. 

Is there anything else you’d like to let us know about yourself?

I’m hoping to be at Bancroft for a long time. I really want to set some roots down. I hope that this becomes a long term relationship. I really would love to keep teaching here for a while. I’ll [also] add this: being bicultural has been a really big part of who I am. But, it’s a part of me that I haven’t been able to engage fully. My biculturalism is something that I struggle with, and for a long time in my life I thought I needed to be this or that; I need to be American or I need to be Brazilian. And very recently, like within the last six months, I realized that it doesn’t have to be that way– that that’s not really who I am. I am both of those things, and I am a synthesis of both of those things and if I don’t acknowledge that, then I’m really rejecting a part of who I am. The combination of having grown up abroad and being able to live in the United States as a citizen, has been really helpful at putting things in perspective. Having that initial foreign look helps me to be more critical of American culture, and it helps me to be more critical of Western civilization. I feel like I see the United States with different eyes than somebody that grew up here. To me, that’s really an important part of who I am and that forms who I am as a teacher.