A Conversation with Mr. Essery


Bridget Neiles-Auger

Matthew Essery is a Biology teacher who has been at Academy since 2017 and is currently the Department Chair of Science and Technology and Interim Dean of Students.


Bridget Neiles-Auger: Thank you for letting me interview you today, you have a beautiful classroom.

Matthew Essery: You bet. I do and it’s even more beautiful because there is a turtle in it now.

Bridget Neiles-Auger: What drew you to Academy in the first place?

Matthew Essery: There were a number of things about Academy that I was excited about. First of all, I enjoy working for independent schools because they’re more flexible in their educational approaches and they can hold higher standards than other places. I’m an independent school person, but also the focus on the science program here (with the new Borisenok Science Center) was a real draw as well as the students. 

Bridget Neiles-Auger: What is your favorite thing in your classroom?

Matthew Essery: There are a couple. First of all, I like the lizards, turtles, and cockroaches because they’re living things. Oh, I mean students, of course, are my favorite, but I also really like the technology that we have here from the chemistry hoods, to be able to project things on a large screen, to our excellent microscopes.

Bridget Neiles-Auger: Is there a specific anecdote that you would like to share from your time at Academy thus far?

Matthew Essery: Yeah, two years ago I had the opportunity to take some of my AP Bio students on a field trip to release trout that we’d raised in the classroom. We released them down near Oneonta. It was an awesome experience, we went on a hike. It was great because it just let me know that students here at Academy seem to be the same outside of Academy as well as here at school. They’re very unique and true people.

Bridget Neiles-Auger: How has it been helping to transition the Upper School into our new normal?

Matthew Essery: It’s been weird. I actually like being in school with masks better than being out of school on video without masks, but I think it’s been tiring for most people to adjust. I believe that people are focused on adjusting and what I really like about this community is that people take it seriously but they also want to be together and they want to carry on together and then putting those two things together makes us a safe and enjoyable space to be. 

Bridget Neiles-Auger: You are now the Head of the Science Department and Interim Dean, what comes with both of these positions?

Matthew Essery: Well, let’s see, as the Head of the Science Department I am responsible for managing how we approach curriculum, and for ordering supplies because science has a lot of supplies and equipment that we use. I also get to help teachers generate new ideas for teaching pedagogy. In terms of Dean, I am just covering a very small portion of what usually is done. Mostly discipline, attendance, announcements, and helping to plan a little bit.

Bridget Neiles-Auger: On top of all of this, you are an advisor for the Senior class.

Matthew Essery: Woohoo! Go Seniors!

Bridget Neiles-Auger: Now that you have had a group of girls for almost a whole rotation, what has been the best thing about being an advisor?

Matthew Essery: When I started in 2017 I started with this group and so I feel like I share their journey and they have shared my journey here in the Upper School, which has been priceless. I know that I’ll have a lot of awesome advisees in the future, but I don’t know that any of them will kind of match that same experience of my newness and their newness. So I have really really enjoyed getting to know them as I’ve been able to support them. It’s kind of crazy to watch kids go from being 14 year old to 18 years old–from being really just middle school students, to being almost full adults, it’s such a cool thing to watch.

Bridget Neiles-Auger: What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the school year?

Matthew Essery: I just want to be here in person this school year. I am really looking forward to doing labs in a lab setting.I really like seeing my advisees and my students every day in-person— video just does not cut it in terms of forming relationships. It is fine for maintaining relationships, but if we’re going to move forward we do have to be together.

Bridget Neiles-Auger: What are you looking forward to for the rest of your time at Academy? 

Matthew Essery: Well, I really like working with individual students to watch them develop, but I also look forward to my own development and being able to teach with the freedom that we have here I’ve been able to kind of phone my teaching skills— whether it’s AP Biology or working with 9th grade students who are adjusting to high school. Every year I feel like I learn how to be a better teacher and so that’s something that keeps me going year after year after year, even if I’m teaching the same concepts and topics. •