From the very first day BASIS Independent Brooklyn opened to students, Michael Mandeville stood apart as a leader among our faculty. He shaped our French program from the middle school years through high school, including a very popular Senior Capstone class exploring French literature. For the past several years he also served as the French Subject Expert Advisor across all BASIS Independent Schools. Now he is excited to lead our Middle School program in collaboration with Dean Holly Goodin.
Mr. Mandeville received his Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude with a double major in letters and French from the University of Oklahoma in 2010. In 2014, he received his master’s degree in French literature from the University of Oklahoma, and he was formally recognized for excellence in teaching by the University Provost. During his master’s program, he received a scholarship to participate in Middlebury College’s summer Russian program.
To help families get to know more about Mr. Mandeville, we asked him about his experiences in the classroom and his new role serving as Director of our Middle School Program. Below is an interview that has been edited slightly for clarity.
You started at BASIS Independent Brooklyn nearly eight years ago as a Founding Faculty member. What drew you to our school and kept you here through the years?
Initially, it was the opportunity. I applied to BASIS Independent Brooklyn on my last evening visiting New York after graduating from my master's program. I remember the hurdles of the interview process—but I came out swinging. I just kept saying "I know that I am the person to build this French program." Luckily they offered me the opportunity and I found myself a few weeks later surrounded by some of the most passionate educators I had ever met. Each year I meet new teachers, but the consistency is remarkable—some of them are really funny, others are extremely creative, while others have incredible hobbies outside of work. Beyond these specifics, I find myself, again and again, awed at the quality of their passion for teaching.
Do you mind talking a bit about your experience as both a teacher at our school and a subject advisor for French across the network?
I had the luxury of building the French program from the ground up—growing with it and with the students as we went. I knew the material but each year I would rework my technique—I tried new games, created new songs and activities. The autonomy that we are given is a huge blessing but also such a huge responsibility. When I knew something wasn't working, I tried to develop it so that the students would be more engaged. I'm lucky to have honest and respectful critics in my students—they helped me deliver quality lessons.
And the work of a subject advisor is unique and important. I love working across our network with the amazing French and World Language teachers. It gives us a chance to really explore our curriculum from different perspectives. We discuss what works and what doesn't work—we share resources and activities. The position of subject advisor always demonstrated to me the level of respect that BASIS Independent Schools has for its teachers. They don't just call us "subject experts," they invest in our exploration and organization of the material—they know that our network is what makes us strong and as a subject advisor we have regular opportunities to use the talent in our network to benefit the students across the different schools.
Dune du Pilat: Visiting the sand dune of Bordeaux was a highlight of the student trip Mr. Mandeville led to Europe.
You are one of the teachers students consistently say changed their educational trajectory at our school. Can you talk about what excited you about the transition from teaching to administration? Also, are you going to help train other teachers in your new role?
Frankly, I was always reluctant to leave the classroom. Even now it is bittersweet as so much of my passion remains in the classroom. But I think you'd be hard-pressed to find an administrator who feels differently, and my hope is that this is the right attitude to have as an administrator. As I reflected on my time at BASIS Independent Brooklyn and my students, I spent a lot of time last year wondering if I could give more to the community that has helped me build my career. The French language will always remain a great passion of mine and I look forward to speaking with all of those students in the hallways. But the opportunity to help support the teachers and the community on a larger level really spoke to me—especially after a year that has had such a substantial impact on our global education systems. I hope I can contribute and help the students, teachers, and parents have a good, meaningful, and quality experience this year.
I will help teachers where I can. Frankly, so many teachers have helped me along the way. I hope to organize opportunities for our amazing teachers to share their techniques, their activities, and their perspectives. I would be lucky to be a part of that kind of training.
Any insights for the year ahead to share with families as the Director of the Middle School Program?
First, I want to say that from my own experience, I know that middle school can be a wild ride even without the lingering effects of a pandemic. What I feel to my core is the unwavering optimism of a new school year. Whatever storms we have ahead of us, here we are at the beginning again. That fills me with hope. One of my many great college professors once told me "you'll get out of it what you put into it." You can count on me to put it all in this year. I look forward to the challenges and the opportunities. And as I look at my amazing team of coworkers and the students who have made my classroom a really wonderful place to call home, I know that even in the face of uncertainties there's no school where I'd rather be right now.
One thing new families might not know is that you have competed in triathlons. Any on the horizon?
Running is my passion although I rediscovered swimming this summer. I hope to compete in the Tulsa Marathon in the fall and will hopefully have a triathlon on the calendar for the spring. I would love to get some BASIS Independent Brooklyn Bears community fun runs on that calendar also.
Is there anything else you would like families to know?
St. Exupéry wrote "Le Petit Prince," which I try to share with my students, and which is my second favorite work by St. Exupéry. My first is this quote: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea." This is the kind of teacher I have tried to be—and now it is the kind of middle school director I will try to be.
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