Doug Anderson

PHA Middle & High School Art Teacher
Doug AndersonWhen did you begin working at PHA and why?
I began in August 2000, the same year as our upper school principal, Chris Douglas! I liked the small size and family feel of the school from the start, and I had an instant rapport with Betty Levinson, the other art teacher, who sat in on the interview and was very welcoming and enthusiastic about the prospect of me working there. I had interviewed at several other schools and turned down offers because art class at those schools seemed to be basically just the core teachers' coffee break and not something inherently valuable. PHA (or Somerville Charter School, as it was called then), was only 4 years old when I joined and so I felt I could have an opportunity to develop the art program instead of just being a caretaker for an existing program.
What has changed and what has stayed the same since you began working at PHA?
The biggest change has been the size of the school. When I started, there were only 400 students in the entire district and we hadn't even graduated our first class yet! The school started as K-8 and we added a grade each year as the oldest kids moved up. Now we have about 1200 students K-12.
Another big change is the quality of the facilities. When I started, Webster Ave was grades 2-7, K-1 was a bunch of trailer homes on Highland Avenue, and 8-11 classes were being held at a function hall or in the basement of a nearby church. Getting Essex Street and then Franklin Street were huge improvements.
What hasn't changed is the strength of the community. We are still a tight-knit, caring place despite our enormous growth. I have students now who are the younger siblings, nieces, or nephews of students I taught many years ago. One of my aspirations is to stay long enough to teach the children of my first students!
Why do you continue to work at PHA?
At this point I have so much work invested in this place and the program that I have helped build that I can't imagine leaving. And there's still so much to do. Every year I add to or revamp my lessons, host visiting artists and student teachers, help students create portfolios for art college, and collaborate with colleagues outside my department. I cherish the freedom to innovate that I might not have at other schools.
What is your favorite PHA memory?
I had been teaching here for a few months with very little feedback from anyone when one of my 7th graders took me aside and said, conspiratorially, "I knew you'd work out here, Mr. Anderson. Wanna know why? Because you know your stuff, and you don't take any nonsense from us." I've always remembered that, and I'm still in touch with that student. That kind of feedback is priceless!
As PHA celebrates our 25th Anniversary, we are highlighting individuals who are part of our amazing history.