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Phoebe Krumich embraces passion for literature, writing through education

Photo courtesy of Phoebe Krumich
English Teacher Phoebe Krumich graduates from the Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English at Lincoln College of the University of Oxford Aug. 5, 2023. Krumich earned her Master of Arts degree in English over the course of seven summers, studying at campuses in Middlebury, Monterey, Oxford and Santa Fe.

English Teacher Phoebe Krumich spent the majority of her youth steering clear of becoming an educator. Nonetheless, the path to teaching had an inescapable pull.

鈥淏oth of my parents are teachers and basically everyone in my family is a teacher, so I kind of was trying to avoid being a teacher, actually,鈥 she said. 鈥淓ven when I went to college, I thought I wasn’t going to be a teacher.鈥

It wasn鈥檛 until Krumich served as a consultant for the Writing Center at the University of Richmond, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature, that she explored the possibility of a career in education. Krumich said working with an English as a foreign language student was a particularly powerful connection as she was able to bring the ideas the student 鈥渟o clearly had鈥 but had 鈥渢otally developed in another language鈥 into English, uncovering her love for teaching.

鈥淸She] was so brilliant and capable but was really struggling with her professors鈥 pretty narrow expectations for her,鈥 she said. 鈥淣ow I look back and see that they weren’t really sort of meeting her where she was, and she was incredible.鈥

Specifically, Krumich said helping develop this student鈥檚 writing underscored the value of teacher-student relationships.

鈥淚 felt like I was sort of like a participant, but this sort of facilitator of her own brilliance rather than sort of somebody who was collaborating,鈥 she said. 鈥淚t felt like a partnership, but one in which I could really allow another person to show their gifts and hone them.鈥

Krumich said her experiences with the Writing Center are what ultimately shifted her view on her future profession.

鈥淚 told my mom, I was like, 鈥業 just, I can’t think of any job I really, really am invested in or really want to be, but I just want to be a writing consultant forever,鈥 and she was like, 鈥榊ou know that sounds a lot like teaching, right?鈥欌 Krumich said. 鈥淚 kind of realized it backwards by loving the act of it, not sort of planning to do it and then trying it out.鈥

Although Krumich knew she was 鈥渁lways going to do something with English and writing,鈥 she originally began her undergraduate degree as an International Relations major before eventually studying English. She said majoring in English allowed her to view the world in a way she could greatly appreciate.

鈥淪o many of the things that felt really abstract and like we were sort of treating people as numbers in different ways felt so much more explained and clear and meaningful to me in my literature class,鈥 she said. 鈥淚t just felt like a different way of approaching similar questions about how the world is shaped and organized, and so I really valued that.鈥

Krumich鈥檚 favorite class from college was a Women in Modern Literature course she took in her first year, primarily due to her influential professor, Julietta Singh.

鈥淪he made us call her by her first name鈥he told me to become an English major,鈥 Krumich said. 鈥淪he actually taught me Post-colonial literature, which I now teach here.鈥

Professor Julietta Singh speaks to English Teacher Phoebe Krumich鈥檚 Post-colonial Literature class through Zoom. Singh was Krumich鈥檚 professor for the Women in Modern Literature class she took in her freshman year at the University of Richmond. (Photo courtesy of Phoebe Krumich)

She said it was this Women in Modern Literature class that truly ignited her passion for English, ultimately leading her to switch her major.

鈥淭hat was when I think I learned not just how much I loved literature, but that there could be an urgency and a purpose to literature,鈥 she said. 鈥淭here were stories that we needed, rather than just stories that we could enjoy, and that maybe the best literature serves a purpose, even though that’s not what it’s for exactly.鈥

Now that Krumich teaches Post-colonial Literature at ASL, she said Singh is able to speak to her classes through Zoom, which she said feels 鈥渟o full circle.鈥

鈥淚’m getting to share my greatest teacher with my own students,鈥 Krumich said. 鈥淲e read one of her books actually in that class, so she had a really profound effect on me and still does.鈥

Moreover, Krumich took two Indigenous Film and Literature classes while completing her undergraduate degree, which she said she was 鈥渇loored by.鈥

鈥淭hey were taught by this amazing Polish woman professor who would always make fun of us Americans for not knowing anything about our own history,鈥 Krumich said. 鈥淚t has led to a lot of personal study and growth around what it means to be a settler of the United States and ongoing settler.鈥

During the first semester of her junior year of college in 2012, Krumich studied abroad in Dakar, Senegal to supplement her French minor.

鈥淚 wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been before,鈥 she said. 鈥淢y parents have never been anywhere other than Europe, and I think that鈥檚 the kind of limiting view that I don’t really wish for myself, and so I think sort of inadvertently, I didn’t realize I was going to do this, but it just really so broadened my thinking on race and colonization.鈥

After graduating, Krumich returned to teach at her old high school in Virginia where, in addition to teaching, she acted as the assistant theater director. She said there were months where she 鈥渏ust never saw the sun鈥 because of how much she was working. Krumich said she then recognized the importance of teaching while prioritizing her individual learning, too.

鈥淚 just started to feel like I was only investing in the interests and gifts of other people and my students,鈥 she said. 鈥淚 think that didn’t feel fair to them either because they didn’t want to suck me dry, but I was feeling really depleted. At that point, I actually took up the cello, and it wasn’t this like, 鈥極h, I’m gonna take on this nice hobby.鈥 It was like, I was full of rage. I was like, 鈥業’m gonna learn something for myself.鈥欌

Krumich said this teaching experience led her to focus on prioritizing her well-being in future jobs.

鈥淭hat’s the hardest part of teaching is just a balance, always, and it’s not so much like work-life balance, it’s like self-others balance,鈥 she said. 鈥淪tudents need adults who are engaged in their own lives and excited about living in the world, and so I’m trying to bring that to my teaching.鈥

In order to further her studies, Krumich enrolled in the Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English master鈥檚 program in 2017, known for its distinctive format that convenes exclusively during the summer at various campuses across the U.S. and U.K, accommodating full-time teachers. Krumich said she had long envisioned pursuing a master鈥檚 degree as her 鈥渘ext step,鈥 but thought she would struggle to balance her job and the rigor of a traditional master鈥檚 program.

鈥淚t sounded like something that would be enriching rather than just a sort of tick mark on my resume,鈥 she said. 鈥淚 wanted to keep learning and I wanted to learn from other English teachers,鈥 and it just seemed fun because you got to go to these different campuses in different places and that did end up being a real highlight.鈥

During her second year of the program, Krumich studied in Vermont, which she described as a slightly 鈥渃ult-like鈥 campus with a frat guy culture characterized by 鈥測oung, male English teachers and their lacrosse sticks.鈥

鈥淚t’s like the biggest [campus] and there鈥檚 like hundreds of English teachers and it鈥檚 just like, it鈥檚 just really intense,鈥 she said. 鈥淚 enjoyed it, but because I’d started at the Santa Fe one with a smaller group I kind of preferred that, but the Vermont one was special too.鈥

Furthermore, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Krumich was still able to complete her Bread Loaf class through an independent project. Throughout the summer, she wrote a play and would Zoom with her professor to read the characters鈥 parts and receive feedback.

鈥淎t the end, she brought in some actor friends and they did a reading of it,鈥 she said. 鈥淚t was really special.鈥

Throughout her time at Bread Loaf, Krumich took classes on teaching and enjoying poetry, decolonization in literature, using theater in the classroom and disability literature and Shakespeare, among others.

After studying in Middlebury, Vermont, Monterey and Oxford and taking two summers off, Krumich graduated in 2023, completing a seven-year journey.

鈥淚t was a long haul, but one of the things I really loved about that is that we so often think about things that are done slowly as, you know, being problematic or being needing to speed up,鈥 she said. 鈥淚 found that having education slowly in this way allowed me to really absorb what I was learning and to feel so much more purpose with it.鈥

In addition to gaining technical writing skills, Krumich said her experience at Bread Loaf sparked personal development, shaping her understanding of what it truly means to be a writer.

鈥淚’ve been a little bit afraid to be a writer for a long time,鈥 Krumich said. 鈥淚n one of my classes at Bread Loaf, I remember not quite owning the word 鈥榳riter鈥 and a professor saying, 鈥榊ou’re a writer, and there’s so many English teachers and people who love writing who are afraid to say that they’re writers, and you got to get past that, you know, you got to claim it.鈥欌

At ASL, Krumich teaches both the Post-colonial Literature elective, which she designed, and the Dramatic Literature and Performance elective, as well as English 10. She said she loves the one-semester elective system for Grade 11 and 12 students as it enables classes to explore a specific subject matter in-depth.

With the Dramatic Literature and Performance elective, Krumich said its flexibility and uniqueness is what makes it so exciting to teach since she bases the curriculum around what plays are currently performing in London. Each semester, the class attends around five productions.

鈥淔or the most part, it is all entirely bespoke for that particular semester, and so there鈥檚 something really motivating and exciting and individualized about that,鈥 she said. 鈥淎nd, of course, it’s just really fun to get out onto London theaters with students.鈥

Ultimately, Krumich said she cherishes the relationships she cultivates in the classroom, as she finds fulfillment in her role as an encourager of self-expression and individuality.

鈥淚 think all students really thrive when they know that their voice and what they care about is shared by their teacher,鈥 she said. 鈥淚t’s so special to have a role where I get to bring so much of myself, but yet allow other people to really shine and bring so much of themselves.鈥

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About the Contributor
Sophia Bateman, Lead Features Editor
Sophia Bateman (鈥25) is the Lead Features Editor for The 黄色电影. She joined the newspaper as a staff writer in Grade 9 because she admired collaboration among the staff and wanted a platform to express her voice. Outside of journalism, Bateman leads the Student Ambassador program and enjoys computer science.

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    MMFeb 22, 2024 at 9:27 pm

    Wow, this is beautifully written. Really captures Ms. Krumich鈥檚 essence through skillful storytelling. Great choice to write about this special teacher.