Farrell and Neissa Named New Dept Heads

Patrick Farrell, Instructor in Math, and Peter Neissa, Instructor in Spanish, are the new chairs of the Math and World Languages Departments, respectively. Farrell said, “I like to help teachers feel supported in what they are doing and the ability to stop students from making poor short term decisions that will ultimately not help them in the long run.” In addition to teaching, Farrell’s two main administrative duties include determining which classes teachers in the math department will teach and placing students into the appropriate math classes. Farrell has taught at Phillips Academy for seven years, and talking about mathematics is still “the funnest part of my day.” As Chair of the Math Department, Farrell hopes to continue to help students. “A wise senior administrator once told me that at some point you can do more good and affect more people in an administrative role than in a teaching role,” he said. “It’s nice to be at a school like Phillips Academy where you do not have to give up teaching to be an administrator, so a teacher need not give up their first love [of teaching],” he continued. In order to apply for the position, Farrell first had to send a letter to the Dean of Faculty explaining his intent to apply. Following that, Farrell was interviewed for the position. “If you look around at our department you will see that the faculty fulfill a lot of different important roles on campus, and they do it with the least complaining of any department I have ever known,” said Farrell. Farrell appreciated that despite the diversity of opinions in the Math Department, the teachers are always eager to come together in the best interests of the students. At the end of the day, Farrell’s goal is simple. “I’d like to make sure that every graduate of Andover will never have a door closed to them because of their lack of facility with mathematics,” he said. Neissa has been working with the Spanish department for four years. Prior to Andover, he taught at Harvard University for ten years. As an instructor, Neissa was responsible for teaching classes, coaching sports and serving on one or two committees. Now as Chair of the World Languages Department, he teaches, organizes the Department agenda, places new students into classes and plans the direction he hopes the Department will go. “The free time I used to have between periods I now spend thinking about the future and helping more students,” he said. Neissa initially wanted to become Chair of the Spanish Department four years ago because he saw a need for students to be able to communicate better with others in Spanish. “That was my initial vision and that vision now expands to my position as the Chair of the World Languages Department. What is it that we want from the World Languages division? We want to integrate [language] into the modern world,” said Neissa. “[The World Languages Department] wants to allow students to be able to communicate in a globalized world. In my opinion, you cannot be a global citizen and speak only one language,” he continued. As chair, Neissa hopes to collect more student input. He hopes to specify student evaluations so they ask more subject specific questions which provide constructive feedback. Another objective for Neissa is to understand the teaching styles of the members of the World Languages Department. “Because I’m relatively new I’m trying to know who is in my division, [and] personally know them in class. It’s a big division, there are a lot of teachers,” said Neissa. “I would love to try to do a hundred different things but will probably need to focus on two or three initiatives, and I trust that another [Chair in the future] who has taught here will continue [the initiatives],” he continued.