Bill has taught courses in English, Latin, religion, ethics, philosophy, and humanities at West Nottingham Academy and TASIS, The American School in England. Bill was awarded an NEH fellowship to study Greek and Latin lyric poetry at Harvard University in 1994. He was also the recipient of the Elisha Benjamin Andrews Award in 2005, as well as the Richter Award for excellence in teaching in 2015. Bill arrived at Suffield Academy in 2000 and has taught all levels of English, sophomore Leadership, and Latin. Throughout the years, Bill has long been involved with several CAIS groups regarding professional development. In 2007 he joined the CAIS Professional Development Commission and served as the vice chair during 2009-2010, 2015-2016, and chair from 2011-2013.
Bill recently completed a new advanced Project-Based Learning Certificate Program at Penn’s Graduate School of Education. He was appointed to the Town Forest Commission in 2015 and shares his enthusiasm for the outdoors with students in the SOLO program. Bill lives on campus with his wife, Kristen Federowicz Sullivan ’87, and three sons, Cormac ’22, Ronan ’26, and Seamus ’26.
Where were you born?
New York City
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in New Jersey, which constantly confirms and defies its stereotypes. I am from Madison, New Jersey, Exit 14, off the “Joisy” Turnpike in the land where people drive on congested parkways and park in crowded driveways.
What do you love about where you are from?
Given the direction traveled—hills, beach, or city—one can enjoy a variety of activities and special places.
If someone was traveling to where you are from for 24 hours, what would you recommend for dining options?
While I could share much local intelligence about pizza, bagels, and diners, I use this space to recommend the Sloppy Joe sandwich, and my favorite one is made at C. & J.’s Deli, 10 Park Ave. Now in the rest of the country, a Sloppy Joe sandwich involves mystery meat smothered with a tomato-based sauce on a bun. In Northern New Jersey, this unique sandwich hosts two types of cold cuts, Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and a secret Russian dressing styled mayo served between thin double-decker rye bread. People who work in the area delis swear an oath to keep the recipe of the signature dressing a secret to their grave. You have a greater chance of learning the location of Jimmy Hoffa’s body than uncovering these shrouded ingredients. The sandwich is so big that you will not need another meal for twenty-four hours.
What would you tell them to do? Where would you tell them to go?
Fly fish on the Big Black Brook, hike in High Point State Park, canoe or kayak along the Delaware River, try ice fishing (and pond hockey) or waterskiing at Lake Hopatcong, or take in a play at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, located on Drew University’s campus in Madison. You could also step on a train at Madison’s historic train station, which has been the backdrop in many Hollywood movies, and visit an amazing site in NYC. History buffs will enjoy learning how Washington’s two winter encampments in this part of New Jersey rival the importance of events that occurred in Boston and Philadelphia.
What do you love about where you live now?
Suffield Academy’s community and the town of Suffield combine to create a great place to live, work, and raise a family.
What is your favorite thing about day-to-day life at Suffield Academy?
The variety of interactions I have among students as a teacher, coach, and advisor.
What is the first thing you do every morning when you get to work?
I love walking to school and thinking and reviewing deliberately about the day ahead. It’s a beautiful walk, and climbing the new stairwells in Memorial Building is my favorite part. Then I write nuanced and finalized learning targets or driving questions for the day.
What teaching method that you introduced during the Pandemic do you still use today?
I continue to employ social and emotional learning skills and tools in class every day.
Who is your favorite public historian?
Michael Wood, University of Manchester Professor of Public History and published historian and documentary series creator whose work has won awards over the last fifty years.
What aspects of your curriculum made students proud?
The American Studies students were proud this year to restore the history of Lewis and Barbara Butler who were enslaved in the Phelps-Hatheway House in the 1790s. Their community program in May honored the Butlers’ contributions to Suffield’s colonial past.
What podcasts have you enjoyed recently?
Folger’s Shakespeare Unlimited, #SuchStuff by the Globe Theatre, BBC’s In Our Time, Cult of Pedagogy, Ben Franklin’s World, Teaching Hard History, and all topics hosted by Roman Mars, Brené Brown, and Malcolm Gladwell.
What YouTube channels do you subscribe to?
Primitive Technology, Brave Wilderness, Dude Perfect, PBS NewsHour, Frontline PBS, Mark Rober, Crash Course, Crash Course Black American History, Playing For Change, and Shakespeare’s Globe.
Who do you follow on Instagram?
Booker Prize Foundation, Witness Stones Project, Edutopia, and NCTE, The National Council of Teachers of English.
Who is your favorite artist?
I find it challenging to select one because I love so many, yet it was fun to learn alongside my senior seminar a few years back about Suffield Academy’s alumnus, Willis Seaver Adams, whose Connecticut River Valley landscape complements the great collection of paintings in Cone Lounge.
What is something your Suffield Academy family might not know about you?
During the winter and early spring of 1986, I was a bike messenger in San Francisco.
What is your favorite book?
The one in my hands right now! While I have too many titles for a favorite list, per se, I do like to read my current book with the prospect that it will become a treasured text. Currently, I am enjoying my Summer Reading nominated text, Borderland Blacks: Two Cities in the Niagara Region During the Final Decades of Slavery. Professor Broyld’s new insights appreciate this dynamic geographic zone, where the cultures and interests of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and the African Diaspora overlapped. This year’s American Studies students discovered that two enslaved people left Suffield in 1798 and became key players Rochester’s Underground Railroad community. I am also looking forward to “The Booker Dozen,” the twelve or thirteen books that will be announced on August 1, 2023, as the traditional prelude to the Booker Prize winner, which will be announced on November 26, 2023.
What is the one phrase that you live by?
Appreciate the process.
What is something you believe one can never over-invest in?
Empathy. Time is one of the richest commodities in our learning community, and I think it is important to take the time to empathize with another’s point of view.
What are your favorite hobbies?
Hiking, reading, gardening, cooking, and playing tennis and golf.
What interests you on Substack?
Ethan Mollick, a professor at the Wharton School who researches entrepreneurship & innovation, as well as how we can better learn and teach. He is currently trying to understand what our new AI-haunted era means for work and education.
What advice would you give to a new teacher at Suffield Academy?
Have a plan for class, yet be ready to adjust things if you sense a better way to improve the learning, and connect with the needs of your students.
What is the most important life lesson for someone to learn?
I try to remember the wisdom of a Taoist poet, William Martin, who emphasizes the importance of discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Who is your role model?
My parents: every day their love, compassion, and patience for raising six kids animate my work in our community.
What has been the most interesting thing you have learned from a student?
I learn from my students every day. Because I design #VoiceandChoice ingredients throughout project-based learning units and create curriculum where students develop their own passion topics, I am fortunate to discover from my students new insights all the time. What informs my passion for the classroom the most are the things I will learn next from students in the future.
If you could have dinner with one person, alive or dead, who would you dine with?
My paternal grandfather who passed away before I was born.
What is your favorite food?
I love family meals.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I would like to visit England again and teach a class in Shakespeare’s classroom in Stratford-upon-Avon. It’s still a working classroom.