LaRochelle launches into school


New ELL and English teacher Dawn LaRochelle brings a bounty of experience and enthusiasm to her position.

Nicolette Peterson, Senior Staff Writer

New ELL and English 10 teacher Dawn LaRochelle says her MacDuffie experience so far has been “A++.”

LaRochelle attended college at Duke University as an East-Asian Studies major, where she learned to speak Japanese and Mandarin Chinese fluently before spending two years in Japan. She later attended and loved Harvard Law School before receiving her law degree in 1996; however, she hated being an attorney from day one.

“For me, if I’m not passionate about what I do, it doesn’t work for me,” she says. “I can’t just go through my day, and punch the clock, and end it.”

She soon followed her passion for cooking and opened two catering businesses in 2006, followed by a restaurant named Perigee in South Lee, Massachusetts, that opened in 2009. Her favorite dishes to prepare consisted of spicy Asian styles with Thai ingredients, but her triple chocolate fudge brownies were responsible for the foundation of her cooking career.  

Aside from cooking, LaRochelle’s passion has always been teaching. Over time, she moved on from her cooking businesses and ended Perigee in 2014 in order to further pursue her teaching career. She was the president of her children’s Jewish day school in Berkshire County, taught English as a second language in Japan, China, and Taiwan, and taught a class on contract law at Berkeley College in New York. Later, LaRochelle received her Master’s degree in teaching at UMASS, and in 2014 she started working at Chestnut Accelerated Middle School in Springfield. However, LaRochelle felt constricted by the state’s public education laws, saying, “In my opinion, there were a lot of things about laws pertaining to public school that are very detrimental to children in urban communities.”

LaRochelle had never heard of The MacDuffie School before taking a job here. She had been searching for work as an ELL teacher this summer when the school offered her a full-time position with four ELL classes and one English 10 class, and she accepted the job opening.

LaRochelle likes that she is granted greater creativity and flexibility to “design a curriculum based on what my students need instead of what the state mandates.” Additionally, she likes the rarefied environment of a diverse international community located in a rural town. “It’s a gift to you, and a gift to everybody who studies here to be able to interact with people from all over the world,” she says.

LaRochelle has been an avid reader her entire life; she says that her friends would joke that she “preferred to read than eat — which is probably true.” She is drawn to English because it lacks definitive answers and teaches people to be deep thinkers by considering many perspectives on one issue.