The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum

The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum

The News of The Blake School Since 1916

The Spectrum


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Longtime Teacher, Debate Coach Departs Community

Sandy Berkowitz leaves memories, advice
Submitted by Sarah Warren
On Oct. 6, many Upper School faculty and staff wore purple to send Berkowitz well wishes. Purple is her favorite color, according to Shane Stafford. “Berkowitz has always been an amazing inspiration and we miss her dearly,” Spanish teacher Gina Housman said.

Longtime Senior Seminar teacher and debate coach Sandy Berkowitz will depart from Blake at the conclusion of this school year. Since 2016, Berkowitz has been the Senior Seminar instructor, but she spent several years prior coaching debate at the Upper School while teaching at universities across the Midwest. 

Earning her PhD in Communication, Berkowitz taught at Wayne State University, the University of Maine, Minneapolis College, and other institutions before joining Blake. 

Berkowitz’s main reason for not returning to a teaching role next year is due to her health. “It really boils down to my health,” Berkowitz said. “I was unable to be there all of this year. I was in the hospital a lot… I’m taking time now to get better and really work on things that deal with my health.” 

The Senior Seminar course is unique for many reasons, but Berkowitz emphasized the special interactions she has with every senior in a graduating class. “I don’t know of anyone who gets to know every senior at the end of their career,” Berkowitz said. “I get to see you all at the point where you are looking back at your experience at Blake but you’re also looking forward to what you’re going to be doing in the future, and that’s exciting.” 

Incredible experiences of debate championships and senior speeches will be what stay with Berkowitz after this year. “One thing that’s really memorable for me are the people who tell me at the beginning of the semester that there’s no way they can give a senior speech,” said Berkowitz. 

“They’re too nervous, they are unsure, and yet they get up and give, for them, a powerful speech where they have a moment where they show themselves that they can do it.” 

She added that a proud moment as debate coach was after a victory at the Tournament of Champions national championship at the University of Kansas. “I was actually driving people to the airport during that time, but at the end of it, one of the debaters got on the phone and thanked me for what I had done for them,” explained Berkowitz. 

The Senior Seminar class has been a staple for twelfth grade students and Berkowitz is synonymous with the course and all of the carefully crafted speeches throughout the term. “Senior Seminar was a course in communication. We talked about everything from how you present yourself and thinking about your personal communication strategies, strengths, and things you want to work on,” Berkowitz said. 

In addition, the final portfolio provided students with an opportunity to create their own project with their own critical thinking and communication. Berkowitz described, “[the portfolio] was something that you could walk away with, that you could take with you so that if you were to apply for an undergraduate research opportunity, you would have something to be able to demonstrate not only who you are but your skills.” 

Even as Berkowitz takes her final bow she does not want her relationship with the school to end. “I would like to stay connected to the [Debate] Team and help out with next year… possibly looking into doing some teaching or coaching online.” 

She remains grateful to the debate team, all her students, and the teachers. “The senior speeches and the senior programs can’t happen without the whole Blake community of teachers who provide support for individual students giving their speeches. So I will miss a lot of teachers in that capacity.” 

In typical fashion, Berkowitz had a final piece of advice for the community: “Keep developing and keeping using your voices… Go out there and use your voice in the way that you need to help build communities of the future.”

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About the Contributor
Evan Vezmar
Evan Vezmar, Editor Emeritus
Hi, my name is Evan Vezmar, and I'm a senior. I began writing for Spectrum in my freshman year as a staff writer and became an editor in 10th grade. Last semester, I was a Managing Editor and the Opinions Editor. My favorite part of Spectrum is being able to give a voice to people who may not be able to through the news. In my free time, I like to read, play the piano, and fence.

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