Interview with PFS Alum & Faculty Adriana Saggiomo

You became a student at PFS in fifth grade.  Years later we are lucky to have you on the faculty. What stands out to you about that time in your life at PFS?
 
What honestly stands out the most about that time, the turbulent middle school years, was being a pretty unhappy kid, and a bit of a trouble maker.  I remember the unwavering love, support, and care I consistently got from the faculty without ever feeling like my behavior warranted it. That’s the thing that I am realizing now as a teacher - the reason why I deserved the amount of care and consideration that was unending for me at PFS.  It is just who we are; whoever steps foot onto this campus is automatically granted the gift of kindness and respect. That’s what comes first, and after all these years, that’s what I remember first. 
 
What has remained the same about PFS over that time that’s important to you?
 
For the sake of time, I will share my top 3. Meeting partners were the first thing to pop into my head. Building relationships between older and younger grades is something I think PFS does particularly well. I never got the chance to be a younger meeting partner, but I see how something difficult, like sitting still silently, becomes something to look forward to because it also means time with your cool older friend. I personally remember eagerly looking forward to becoming a meeting partner for three years, and those experiences working with younger students both in and out of PFS greatly informed and influenced my career choice.
 
The second thing that came up are the mixed-aged group classes. Not only is it wonderful to have a wider array of experience, knowledge bases, and strengths in the classroom, but on a selfish note, two of my strongest and most meaningful friendships in this world began at PFS, and I’m not sure if one of them would exist today if we didn’t spent so much time in mixed-age classes. He was a grade ahead of me in school, but shared an advisory space and several classes together, which is where we really became close.
 
The third thing that greatly impacted me was Blairstown. Our yearly camping trip is not only a fun opportunity to be challenged, play, and take safe risks, but it is also the first place many of our students ever ‘camp.’  It was the first place I had ever slept in a tent and gone on actual hikes. We don’t have the time for me to tell you how much this relationship with the outdoors has brought to my life, but I will sum it but by saying that I spent one of the happiest years of my life living in a tent, one actually very similar to the one my dad bought for us to go to Blairstown in 3rd grade.
 
Are there things that you didn’t appreciate about PFS until you were much older?
 
Meeting. Although I did love having the responsibility of a younger meeting partner, Settling In was never something I was excited about. There was a great amount of creativity and thought put into the ways in which I could pass the seemingly endless 20 minutes in the Meetinghouse, but I remember starting college in Manhattan and being so overwhelmed by the incredible lack of silence. That was the first time in my life that I actually sought out a place of worship of any kind, and found a meetinghouse in the city to attend. Now as an adult, Friday Settling In is something I genuinely look forward to.
 
The other thing is all-school singing. As a middle schooler, it was definitely something I would grumble about walking into the Great Room, and to actually open my binder and sing was a whole other battle. But as I’ve gotten older, it’s something very particular and unique that links together PFS alums even ones that did not go to school together at the same time. I think I can speak for many when I say that singing together on the Thanksgiving potluck/alumni day is definitely something to be grateful for.
 
What are the values that you were taught at PFS that stuck with you?
 
Kindness is a really big one. And as I spoke to earlier, it’s something I realized is best learned by experiencing it. Respectful questioning is another big one for me.At PFS we are encouraged to use our voices, part of that involves curiosity and questioning the material, our peers and our teachers.  It’s taken some trial and error work, but I was definitely coached on how to do that respectfully and effectively during my time as a student here. The last big learning that I carry with me is reflection. The ability to find productive value in silent reflection has helped me immensely through my discovery of self, as well as provided insights into crafting my own happiness. Even just the habit to take a moment to reflect back on an experience, trip, moment, conversation, movie, meal, TV show, or anything of impact had to have started with filling out the written reflections we still ask students to write at the end of the year.
 
What are the rituals, classes, or experiences that were the most formative while you were here as a student?
 
A big one that comes to mind is storytelling week. Storytelling is something that really challenged me. I remember feeling a whole banquet of emotions over the years around telling stories: anxious, scared, excited, proud, dread, stress, animated, avoidant, determined. Ultimately though, it challenged me. I was pushed out of my comfort zone by something that can easily be disregarded as simple or childish. It forced me to strengthen my confidence and ability to speak publicly. And it is something I always hope PFS values and dedicates time to as an institution.
 
What do you think is at the heart of PFS?
 
Community, kindness, questioning, and playful joy.
 
Being our first alum faculty member is not only an honor, but it is also a special kind of responsibility. You are able to see our school in a way that is unique. What do you see for the future of this school?
 
When I first heard that question, I immediately went into thinking about the amazing young human beings that I get to see almost every day. I think about the way we are so privileged to be able to help shape their experiences of learning. And my biggest hope for the future is to see the ways in which they leave here and continue to seek out their own experiences of learning, understanding, and action towards the goal of a more equitable and healthy larger community. But that’s not really answering your question. So what do I see for the future of PFS specifically? I see a lot of the same traditions, like all-school singing, meeting partners, Blairstown, storytelling, poetry, the list could go on, carrying through in a strong and sustainable way. I see the way we empower student voice and curiosity to never cease. I hope to see our dedication to service learning and diversity blossom even more. And the lens through which I see all these things through is one of kindness, care, and respect.
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A progressive, Quaker day school welcoming students in Pre-K through 8th grade to our historic Princeton campus nestled in the woods.