Due to COVID several of our teachers are teaching remotely; and that left our administrators in a bit of a quandary. While we don’t want to compromise the health of our faculty, we also can’t leave a classroom full of students on their own with no adult supervision. With that in mind, Harley went on the hunt for teaching assistants; and we are so fortunate to have found Ashley Sankowski ’14.
Ashley is a SUNY New Paltz graduate with a BA in Theater Arts (with a focus on performance) and Sociology (concentration in criminology) and a member of the school’s Theater Honor Society. When she left Harley, she felt fully prepared for college, especially (and I am seeing a pattern here with many of our alumni) with writing. She gives credit to Pat Malone P ’20 (Upper School English, 2009 to present). She said Pat is a tough teacher, definitely doesn’t take it easy on her students, but she’s good and fair. Ashley was also able to dive right into the theater program at New Paltz because of her experience with Maria Scipione (Drama, 2005 to present) and Ben Burroughs (Music, 2003 to present). She worked with Ben in both mixed choir and women’s choir all four years she was at Harley and Ben was the music director for all the musicals she participated in, and she participated in all the plays and musicals offered. Her favorites? Little Women, Almost Maine, and The Laramie Project.
In the fall of 2018, after college graduation, Ashley went off to Disney World-not for a fabulous vacation, but to work. Disney offers a Disney College Program, a US National internship program offered by the Walt Disney Company, to current college students and recent college graduates. Down in Florida, Ashley worked in the merchandise department at Disney Springs (previously called Downtown Disney). There she met people from all over the world, but at the end of January 2019, her internship ended and she headed home.
Her next job was at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), a performing arts college, in NYC. Ashley spent the summer as a counselor for high school students from all over the world. At AMDA, she worked with the teachers running the summer program and acted as a mentor for the students, helping them run lines, perform scenes, and keeping track of them as they wandered around the city. She said it was a great experience, one that definitely helped to prepare for what she is doing at Harley right now.
As the teaching assistant for John Dolan (Psychology, 1997 to present), Ashley is coordinating his writing and psychology classes and she says she wears many hats! On a daily basis she is dealing with class attendance, technology issues for both in-person and remote students, and making sure everyone is following the COVID protocol rules. She is also on the school substitute teacher list and is often pulled into class for a teacher that called or needs some assistance. She simply gets the instructions from the teacher in the morning and shows up for class to lead the students. She also has an extremely important job at the school (that she does with Katianna), checking-in the students as they arrive to school by making sure they have taken their COVID health screen and sanitizing their hands.
Ashley is also excited that she has been able to work with Maria Scipione since she’s been back. She was able to help Maria with the drama performance, the Out of the Box Theater, performed outside in the Cruikshank Courtyard and has even been able to do some acting. Ashley’s sister, Julia ’23 and a friend, Vivian Rothberg ’22, needed a third person for their act, and Ashley fit the bill! Ashley said acting with Maria again feels like she has come full circle and it has been a lot of fun.
I asked Ashley how it feels to be working with her former teachers as a colleague and she said it’s a “little weird.” She still feels a bit like a student because most of her teachers are still at Harley, but now she is getting all the faculty emails and participating in faculty meeting. She said it helps that none of the kids she went to Upper School with (in the younger grades) are still here.
In the future, Ashley hopes to work in higher education in student affairs or admissions and is now looking into Master’s degree programs in Higher Education and Student Affairs. At SUNY New Paltz, she was a student ambassador for the admissions office and also a leader in the new student orientation one summer. She has spent every other summer working at Harley’s Day Camp and the kids love her enthusiasm and fun spirit. She loves working with the students, too.