New Year, New Friends

“The sincerity and inviting energy of this community is energizing,” says Tray White, the new Middle School assistant principal and academic dean. “I'm just so happy to be here. My introduction was great! I’ve really appreciated the warm welcomes that I’ve received from everyone.” For new faculty and staff, getting to know Sidwell Friends, Quakerism, and a new campus can be overwhelming. Enter the human resources team. “Orientation is a huge undertaking that involves so many employees providing their time and effort to ensure a smooth onboarding experience,” says Gabi Silva, the acting director of human resources. “Given the pandemic and the large class of 2021/22 employees, I would say it’s going great!” Head of School Bryan Garman kicked things off with a virtual tour of the new Upton building and spoke about Quaker artist James Turrell and his perspective on light and seeing.

Not everyone is new to Sidwell Friends, however. Some are just new to their jobs. Courtney Reynolds, for instance, is moving from teaching 4th grade into the role of assistant principal and academic dean at the Lower School. “I’ve been using this time to investigate and explore the role and everything that comes with it,” Reynolds says. “Yet, in many ways, I’m still waiting for my real work to begin. At Sidwell Friends, we believe growth occurs most fully when you are in community. Students and teachers are the heart and soul of our community, so once they arrive back on campus, my real work—and my real growth—can truly begin.”

It’s a common sentiment after a pandemic year that substantially reduced face-to-face time. Even a fresh face at Sidwell Friends like White knows that the year doesn’t truly begin until the students arrive. “Step one was welcoming various faculty and staff back on campus,” he says. “Now, we prepare to welcome our students back. It will be challenging as we continue to move forward with teaching and learning in a pandemic, but I think we are up for the challenge. As long as we stick together, support, and care for one another, students included, I know that we will be successful.” Sounds like he’s going to fit right in.


Please join us in welcoming our newest faculty members!

LOWER SCHOOL

Ian Sylvester: A native of Delaware, Ian has lived all over the world and has been a teacher and an administrator in a wide range of international schools. Most recently, he helped lead the Shanghai Community International School through their pandemic response. After welcoming a little girl, Mae, to their family, he and his wife, Justine, decided to move back to the U.S. to be closer to friends and family. A graduate of the University of Delaware, Ian has a background in psychology and a Master’s in special education. 

Gemayel Hazard, 4th Grade: A native of Virginia, Gemayel has been a 4th grade and middle school teacher in Fairfax County, as well as a district-wide leader in areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. He brings a strong background in social studies program design and has helped other teachers build their culturally responsive teaching and anti-racist practices. A graduate of UVA, Gemayel studied history; he also holds a master’s degree in educational leadership. Gemayel and his lovely wife are the proud parents of two little ones (ages 3 and 1).

ReAnna Gailes, Library: ReAnna is returning to the DC area after her most recent experiences on the west coast at the Mark Day School in California. There, she was the Director of the Learning Commons, where she spearheaded work in equity, justice, and inclusion; digital literacy; research and love of reading. She has also worked as a librarian at Moses Brown (Rhode Island) and St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School (DC). ReAanna has a Master’s in information and library science and a K-12 teacher’s license from Pratt Institute. In addition, she is the proud mother of a 9-month-old. She and her family are excited for this next chapter back in DC. 

Shaquanda Gainey, PE: We are excited to welcome Shaquanda, or Coach Gainey as the children will call her, to our PE department. Shaquanda has taught PE for DCPS since 2013, most recently right down the road from the DC Campus at Murch. A track and field athlete, Shaquanda is also a member of the DC Divas football team and a skilled quidditch coach. 

Monique Levy, Learning Specialist and Lower School Learning Support Coordinator: Coming to us from Boston, MA is our new learning specialist and Lower School student support coordinator, Monique Levy! We are extra lucky that she is bringing with her her 3rd grade son, Tennyson, who will join Ms. Alfaro Moisa’s 3Z classroom this fall. Monique was most recently the learning specialist for the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School. Monique holds a BA in psychology and a master’s of education with a certificate in Special Education. She has a strong literacy background, including Wilson, Orton Gillingham, and LLI. Recently Monique also had the opportunity to tutor and mentor students at Harvard University’s Philips Brooks House Association. 

Courtney Reynolds, Lower School Assistant Principal and Academic Dean: Our beloved 4th grade teacher, Ms. Reynolds, is stepping into a new and exciting role for our Lower School this year—Lower School Assistant Principal. Courtney’s main focus will be her role as academic dean, where she will work with our LS faculty and across divisions to ensure a vibrant, coherent, joyful and unified PK-12 experience. In her time at Sidwell Friends, Courtney has already made a huge impact, from her work with the 4th grade team bringing our Ethical Leadership Experiences from idea to concept, to her important work clerking our Learning Design team that worked on teaching and learning during the pandemic. Courtney has a deep respect for teachers, children, and the learning process and shows her commitment to our Quaker values in all that she does. Courtney has a master’s of education from Northwestern and is currently pursuing her doctoral degree from UVA in curriculum and instruction. 

Neal Fagan, 4th Grade: Neil joined us in 2019 as a long-term substitute in 2nd grade, and last year, he expanded his teaching horizons by covering leaves in 3rd and then 4th grades! Neil now has a permanent home in 4th grade, as a member of the 4X team, and we are so lucky to have him. Prior to joining Sidwell Friends, Neil was at Bridges Public Charter School in DC, where he was a beloved 3rd and 4th grade teacher and colleague, and he previously taught 2nd grade at Spence School in NY. Neil and his wife, Pinki, are the proud parents of their daughter, Layla, and their pup, Kai. He is also a skilled and enthusiastic soccer player.

Jesse Cresswell, LS Aide: Jesse joined us last fall as a Lower School teaching aide, and she is back for another season! Jesse is a graduate of The University of Delaware and is completing her master’s degree in museum studies. She will work to support the teachers and kids in the PK-2nd grade this year and is excited to see how much the kids have grown!

Maria Garnica, LS Aide: Maria joined us last fall as a Lower School teaching aide on the 4th grade campus, and we’re excited to have her gifts on the Bethesda campus this season. Originally from Bogatá, Columbia, Maria has a master’s degree in ceramics from the University of Los Andes and has taught art most recently at the Goddard School. Maria is in the process of getting her master’s in education this fall, and we are so excited to have her back.

Jaye Ebanks, Recess Coordinator: Jaye has been a longtime member of our auxiliary team, and last term, they took on additional responsibilities for our Lower School—running our recess program! This year, they will continue in that role and look forward to collaborating with our teachers to provide a safe, fun-filled and meaningful recess experience.

MIDDLE SCHOOL

Rebeckah (Becky) Iseman Barr: After three years in the role of Assistant Principal and Academic Dean in the Middle School, Becky will be returning to the classroom. She left Team Sky to join us in the administration, and she is excited to return to her former role as Team Sky history teacher. We are grateful for her service in all of her roles at Sidwell Friends (including as a field hockey coach!) and know that students will enjoy getting to have more of her time.

Jessica (Jess) Bishop: Jess is also joining the 7-8 history teaching team and will be on Team Sea. Jess joins us from Savannah Country Day School, where she was a 7th grade history teacher and advisor, as well as the Cultural Competency Coordinator. Before that, she was at Montclair Kimberley Academy, where she taught 6th and 8th grade history and advised. Jess has a BA from Franklin and Marshall College, where she majored in American Studies and minored in History. Her MA in history is from Seton Hall University.

Lee Daugherty: Lee joins Team Sky as the new English teacher, having taught most recently at Glasgow Middle School in Fairfax, VA. During her time at Glasgow Middle School, Lee taught 8th grade English and was also Department Chair. Her BA is in theatre and history from Oklahoma Baptist University, her current MEd is from George Mason University in English, and she is completing another Master’s, this one in educational leadership. She also holds a teaching certificate in Secondary English Instruction (grades 6-12).

Nate Green: Nate is our new 5-8 Academic Technology Coordinator and was most recently at Flint Hill School. There, he taught broadcast communication to 7th and 8th grades and two Innovation Department electives: Passion-Based Learning through Social Media and Internet & Inequality. Additionally, Nate served as a Technology and Instruction Coach and Information Specialist. Before moving into academic technology, Nate was previously a history teacher. His BA from Wesleyan is in American studies, and his MA, also from Wesleyan, is in liberal studies with a focus on humanities.

Alison (Ali) Hecimovich: Ali is our new 5-8 Learning Support Coordinator and just arrived in DC from Chicago in the last few weeks! She has served as a District Learning Coordinator, a Director of Student Services, and was the Learning Specialist and a Middle School Advisory at the Catherine Cook School for 10 years. Ali’s BA is in English Education from Dominican University, and her MS in Special Education is also from Dominican. 

Joseph (Joe) Korth: Joe is also new to DC and arrived earlier this summer from Arizona, where he worked as a 6th-8th grade English and history teacher at Chandler Preparatory Academy. As a 6th grade teacher at Sidwell Friends, Joe will be teaching two sections of language arts and one of social studies. Joe has a BA in history from Rhodes College and an MEd from Christian Brothers University.

Jialou (Jenny) Shen: Jenny is new to the 7-8 math teaching team, having come from New York, where she was a founding lead math and science teacher at Teachers College Community School. There, she taught middle school students and also mentored middle school math teachers. Jenny also led racial equity workshops as culturally responsive teaching consultant and workshop leader. Jenny’s BS from McGill University is in anatomy and cell biology, and she has her MAT in science education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Travares (Tray) White: We introduced Tray earlier this summer in a separate email, and it has been wonderful to get to know him better in his role of Middle School Assistant Principal and Academic Dean. A reminder that he also moved from Chicago, where he was the Dean of Student Life for grades 4-8 at Francis Parker School. Before that, he was at Augusta Preparatory Day School, where taught history, worked in the PE department, and also served for a year as the MS counselor and academic support coordinator. His BA in history is from Georgia State University, and his MEd in counselor education is from Augusta University.

UPPER SCHOOL

Caroline Battle is returning as our full-time ceramics teacher. Ms. Battle first joined us last spring as a long-term substitute and we are fortunate that she will be staying on with us for this upcoming year. Caroline has previously taught 2-D and 3-D design courses at the college level, as well as wheel throwing workshops. She holds an MFA in printmaking from Arizona State University.

Patrice Copeland will join Dr. Kasaan Holmes as an additional psychologist in our Upper School. Dr. Copeland, who has a Psy.D. in clinical psychology, was previously the school psychologist for The Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy in Washington, DC. 

Jewel Debnam will be teaching History of the United States and African American History this upcoming year. Dr. Debnam was previously an Assistant Professor of History at Morgan State University, where she taught courses in African American and African Studies, Women and Gender Studies, and surveys of United States history. She has a Ph.D. in history from Michigan State University. 

Ramata Eller will be teaching French in our Language Department. Ms. Eller has taught all levels of French at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School and Catholic University. She holds a masters in second language acquisition and applications from the University of Maryland, College Park.

We welcome back Dolores Hamilton to Sidwell Friends School as our new math teacher. Ms. Hamilton is not only an alumna of Sidwell Friends School, but she also taught math in our Summer Studies program for many years. Ms. Hamilton joins us as a veteran math teacher, including teaching and serving as the Department Chair for many years at National Cathedral School. She holds a BA in math from Syracuse University.

Sentell Harper, our new theater arts teacher, is joining us amid a decade-plus career as a performing arts instructor. In his most recent positions as theater teacher for KIPP DC and Success Academies Charter School in New York, Mr. Harper developed and taught kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum, in addition to directing and writing school plays and musicals. Mr. Harper has an MFA in Acting from Arizona State University. 

Manuel Jacquez joins our English Department from a Ph.D. program in English Literature from The Ohio State University. Mr. Jacquez has taught courses in composition, language and identity, and U.S. literature, among others. His love of literature extends to theater as well, where Mr. Jacquez has directed theatrical productions and incorporated theater into his teaching. 

Ben Kiema will be teaching African and World History after having worked for close to a decade in international schools in Kenya, Tanzania, and in Kinshasa, DRC. Mr. Kiema holds a masters degree in international education from the University of Leicester, and has served as a leader of his previous school’s Model United Nations program as well. We were fortunate to have had Mr. Kiema get to know our students, faculty, and campus last spring when he served us brilliantly as a classroom facilitator. 

Cecilia Laguarda, another alumna of Sidwell Friends School, will be teaching biology this year. Ms. Laguarda is joining us from STRIVE Prep in Denver, CO, where she taught science and served as science department chair. As a member of the Harvard Teacher Fellows, Ms. Laguarda was a science methods teaching assistant, working with first year science teachers and preservice science teachers weekly to improve their practice. She received her AB and EdM degrees from Harvard University. 

Sean Larabee, a familiar face to students from our Middle School, will be moving buildings and joining us in our Upper School math department. Mr. Larabee has taught precalculus for our Summer Studies program and has provided math support to a number of Upper School students over the years. Previous to joining Sidwell Friends he worked at the Oakwood School in North Hollywood, CA, where he taught courses ranging from honors geometry to statistics. Mr. Larabee has an MA in Economics from the University of California Irvine.

Brian Loo will be teaching in our English Department. Mr. Loo has previously taught English and composition to refugees in Palestine as well as at the college level, and has worked in international development as well. He holds a masters degree from the University of California-Berkeley and Rutgers University. 

Meghan Mulhern is joining our History Department from St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, DE. There, Ms. Mulhern taught history, economics, as well as advanced statistics, and also served as the 9th Grade Dean. This year she will be teaching history of the United States and economics. Ms. Mulhern has an MPhil in economic and social history from the University of Cambridge.

Carmen Moreno Sanz will be teaching in our Language Department as a Spanish teacher. Ms. Moreno Sanz has taught Spanish in a variety of settings, from higher education to private and public schools in the United States and Spain. She has masters degrees in education and applied linguistics. 

Monica Schroeder, a Ph.D. student at Catholic University of America, will also be joining our English Department. Ms. Schroeder has worked with students in all stages of the writing process and at all levels, having taught first-year composition at Catholic University for many years, as well as having been a leader in the university’s writing center. She has a masters in English from Catholic University.

With two of our math teachers on parental leave this fall we are pleased that Danielle Gordon, a veteran math teacher who has taught in Montgomery County Public Schools, will be stepping in as a long-term sub in those classes. And Savant Shrestha, who is joining us after teaching in Pennsylvania, will be a long-term substitute for the first semester for Spanish. Joanna Premand, a long-tenured history teacher, will be our new Assistant Dean of Students. And Laura Barross-Antle, current science teacher and Assistant Academic Dean, will be serving as interim 9th Grade Dean for this year. 

More School News

Signs of Life

Eight new signs at the Lower School celebrate not only Quaker testimonies, but collaboration, cooperation—and a lot of fun.

A Special Kind of Normal

New norms and old traditions merged as students returned to campus for the 2021/22 academic year. 

Grief By the Book

Merissa Nathan Gerson ’00 discussed how her new book "Forget Prayers, Bring Cake: A Single Woman's Guide to Grieving," helped her—and how she hopes it will help others