Meet Mr. Cooper Leary


Cate Goldschmid and Brianna Sylvain

This year Andrew Cooper-Leary will be taking on the role as the new Middle School theater teacher. In this position, Cooper-Leary will be teaching drama to grades 5-8 and direct the Middle School’s winter play and spring musical. In this Q&A, Cooper-Leary shares his experience at Poly so far and what he hopes for the future.

What makes Poly special to you?

“It’s a big, beautiful campus…I find whenever I’m feeling a little confused or something, it’s a good place. There’s a lot of space to go out for a nice walk and kind of reset yourself.”


Have you worked at other schools? And if so, what makes Poly different from other schools?

Well, every school is different in its own way. I think that there’s a real sense of pride that is not fake. It’s very, very real. I think the big open space is a tremendous part of it. It’s total commitment to the things, to athletics, to the arts. And I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen in terms of its commitment to educating the whole student.”

What did you do before you came to Poly?

For the most part, in my life I’ve been a drama teacher. [The] most recent independent school is the Hackley School…but previous to Poly, I was teaching elementary theater at a school called Leadership Prep in Brownsville. So that was doing with K through four. But prior to that…I was a baseball researcher for ten years. I worked in the research department of MLB Network, researching baseball, putting together wrap up shows, highlight shows in game shows”

What do you enjoy doing in your free time outside of school?

I like to read. It seems I don’t get enough time to do that. I like to go running. I like to ride my bike…I also spend a lot of time watching my sons play sports and their activities football, baseball, etc.”

What do you like about being a middle school drama teacher? What are some upsides?

“There’s nothing but upside to being a middle school drama teacher. I think what’s great about middle school is you’re kind of meeting kids as they’re starting to figure out who they are…But I think middle school is that time where you’re transitioning from truly being a child to becoming a young adult, and you start to figure out what you like, what you’re into, the things you care about.”

Are there any struggles with being a middle school drama teacher?

“The ages, different levels of maturity. But that’s what happens at any level of school. I also think in middle school, especially…you’re producing a play, you have to battle the fact that, you know, these are not fully-formed adults who have control over their own schedule. They have commitments outside of school.”

And then what are your goals for the Poly Middle School drama program as you continue to work on?

“My best hope with every group is that every student who comes through my class comes away understanding and appreciating dramatic art, whether it be the craft of the actor, how stories are told, be it the TV, theater, movies, even books. That they can watch things with a critical eye, that they develop a critical eye not just towards matters artistic, but kind of see the world and try to understand…what people’s motivations are, what makes them, but makes people do different things. So you can kind of apply the lessons we learned in a drama class to what you see people do in politics, sports or anything. I want them to learn what the craft of the actor is so they can appreciate it. And I want us to produce the best middle school plays in New York City.”