Bernieri’s Interests Find Home At Andover

Instructor in English Lou Bernieri has used his time at Andover to persue his interests while supporting the many causes he believes in. Bernieri joined the Andover faculty in 1977 shortly after he graduated from Harvard College. At Harvard, Bernieri played on the football team and immersed himself in the school’s political organizations. “Like a lot of people, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had a lot of friends on the football team who went [to Andover]. I thought this would be a great thing. I could teach, coach, be a house councilor and figure out what I wanted to do,” Bernieri said. Bernieri grew up in a predominantly Italian working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. In 1968, Bernieri received a scholarship to attend Poly Prep Country Day School, where he befriended fellow student Leon Modeste, Andover’s current Varsity Football and Basketball Coach. Leon Modeste was co-captain of the football team at Poly Prep Country Day, and he and Bernieri became good friends. “We were really good friends from the beginning. It was a prep school, and we both were out of working-class families,” said Bernieri. “Interestingly, when we were growing up, I couldn’t go into his neighborhood, and he couldn’t come into mine because of the racial violence.” After ten years of teaching at Andover, Bernieri contacted Modeste about the vacancy of the football coach position. “Being able to coach with your best friend who was your co-captain in high school, that’s pretty deep,” said Bernieri. While working at Andover, Bernieri earned a Masters degree from Middlebury College’s Breadloaf School of English and graduated in 1980. After a few years of only serving as an Instructor in English, Bernieri grew restless.In 1985, Bernieri created the Andover Bread Loaf program alongside a group of English teachers who wanted an intensive summer English program. According to Bernieri, Andover Bread Loaf is both for teachers and students, and it is a collaboration between the Breadloaf School at Middlebury and Phillips Andover. Bernieri also runs a separate, graduate level program over his summers. “[It’s] a satellite course out of Bread Loaf where we work with urban teachers on taking a different look at education in general, but its mostly focused on literacy and writing,” Bernieri continued. In addition to teachers, between 80-100 students from Lawrence attend the workshop. Bernieri was Chair of the English Department during the 1980s when he stepped down in order to focus on the Andover Bread Loaf program. In Lawrence, Bernieri works in the public school system, as well as the local Boys and Girls Club. “My career has been funny at Phillips because since about 1987 I’ve spent half of my time teaching and coaching and the other half working in public school programs in cities like Lawrence, New York, New Orleans, and Boston,” he said. “I have this great job [where I can move] between this incredibly wealthy, highly educated campus to the poorest public school systems in some of the poorest cities in the country. I love both sides of it,” he continued. Bernieri said, “Since I was young I was always interested in reading, and in high school I really got turned on to English by some really good English teachers.” He said that although he loves all kinds of writing, he particularly enjoys working with poetry. “If you are a football coach, you like intense things, because football is really intense, and poetry is a really intense form of language,” said Bernieri. Throughout the year, Bernieri teaches a writing class entitled “Writing Through Discourse.” “[I run my English course with] the same philosophy that we have at Andover Bread Loaf. The premise is that all humans are capable of creative self expression at a very high level,” he said. “This philosophy says that humans are instinctive creators and that it’s part of our nature. The premise of the course is to bring out the writer in every student. It doesn’t mean everybody can be Shakespeare or Dostoyevsky but it does mean everyone can write something that’s extraordinary.” “If you want to be a good writer and create stuff you are proud of, you just have to be invited in the way to do it and have the right method for unlocking the writer,” said Bernieri. “The [student] has an enormous amount of resources to draw from and it’s the teachers responsibility to draw those out as well as guide them,” Bernieri added. Bernieri explained that he considers all sports a form of art. “For people like me and Coach Modeste, sports were our form of self expression,” he said. Bernieri has been an avid member of The Merrimack Valley People for Peace for ten years, a political group involved in protests, political work and conventions. “I’ve been deeply involved with the Peace Movement and I really believe that we are a part of the two longest wars in American history, and the rhetoric for the Republicans and Democrats is perpetual war,” he said. “Stopping this war machine is way more important than teaching English, and it’s way more important than coaching football.”