By Emma Drzala (V)
After working at Pingry for thirteen years, Mrs. Homa Watts has announced that she will be stepping down from her position as a second grade teacher. Throughout her time at Pingry, Mrs. Watts has taught kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.
Mrs. Watts earned her BS from Tehran University in Iran, and her Masters Degree from Western Illinois University. After completing her education, Mrs. Watts taught at both the Sundance School in North Plainfield and the Kent Place School in Summit before teaching at Pingry starting in 2006. In 2013, Mrs. Watts opted to take two years off to live in the United Arab Emirates. She continued her teaching career in the UAE at a local school for the first year and privately tutored for the second year. She returned to Pingry in 2015.
Mrs. Watts has greatly enjoyed her time teaching at Pingry. She says that she has “never regretted making the choice of being a teacher. [She] considers teaching an honorable profession” and “would like to help new teachers to become even better teachers than they already are. Mentoring young teachers is not only [her] passion, it is [her] responsibility.” Mrs. Watts looks forward to spending time with her grandchildren and traveling throughout Europe and Canada with her husband and Pingry music teacher, Dr. Kenneth Watts. Looking back at her time at Pingry, Mrs. Watts cherishes the memories she has made with her students and colleagues. One of her most notable memories was when a family of foxes declared the area under a slide as their own, and consequently, students were not allowed in the playground for nearly two months. She believes that instances like these show how seemingly insignificant moments make the biggest impact.
Mrs. Watts’ retirement is a bittersweet occasion for many of us at Pingry. She is a great teacher who leaves behind a monumental legacy, and she has touched the lives of a generation of students for over fifteen years. As a former student of hers, I look forward to seeing her again and hearing about all of her future endeavors. We thank you for your dedication to the students at Pingry and we will miss you greatly, Mrs. Watts!
By Kelly Cao (III)
After two years, the Pingry Faculty must sadly say goodbye to Ms. Haley Kost, who has made the decision to depart Pingry to be closer with family. During her tenure, Ms. Kost has taught Form I history.
Before arriving at Pingry, Ms. Kost worked at King’s Academy in Jordan, teaching tenth, eleventh, and twelfth-grade History, as well as Economics and English. She decided to join Pingry because of its “innovative middle school” and “great community.” Upon her arrival, she immersed herself in Pingry life, becoming the Rainbow Club advisor and helping with the Debate Club. She additionally coached the soccer and basketball teams.
Originally from Chicago, Ms. Kost discovered her love for teaching in high school after participating in a program that taught younger students a variety of instruments. She majored in Education at Northwestern University, solidifying her interest in history despite her initial choice to pursue music. Ms. Kost found history to be her most difficult subject; however, she also found it to be the most interesting, and as a result, she now understands learning history enables people to “reflect and see how they can impact our future.” After discovering such passion for history, Ms. Kost graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on history.
Her favorite memories from her time at the Middle School are the events that she attended, such as the Middle School faculty and student basketball game. She will miss the students’ energy and questions the most, which contributed to her growth as a teacher. Ms. Kost is very grateful for the faculty and students, who have welcomed and supported her throughout her tenure. We will miss you, Ms. Kost, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavors!
By Emma Drzala (V)
As the 2020-2021 school year comes to a close, Ms. Patty Finn has announced her retirement from the Lower School. After teaching at Pingry for thirty-seven years, Ms. Finn describes the Short Hills music room as her “happy place.” She has worked with students ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 3, as well as with Grade 4 students learning the flute and Grade 5 handbell players. During her years at Pingry, Ms. Finn has worked with numerous colleagues in the Arts Department, including fellow lower school music teachers Mr. Thomas Berdos and Ms. Emma Liu, and high school teachers Dr. Andrew Moore and Mr. Jay Winston.
Prior to working at Pingry, Ms. Finn studied at both Douglass College and Rutgers Graduate School for a degree in musical education. Her studies were augmented by multiple Orff workshops, a session at the College of Piping on Prince Edward Island, and additional classes at the Gaelic College in Nova Scotia. These additional courses serve as proof to her students that a person’s education is not limited to just college and graduate school: there is always more to learn. This past year, Ms. Finn has played the flute in her church, as well as continuing to teach music in her local library. She has found herself giving private lessons to those looking to explore and expand their musical capabilities.
Looking back, Ms. Finn found it hard to choose a single moment that defined her time at Pingry, but she said she will always think back fondly to the annual performance of “This Day of Peace” during the holiday concert. Ms. Finn explained her love for this performance, expressing that “there is nothing better than the voices of 300 children raised in song.” She will forever cherish the relationships she forged with the students and faculty at Pingry and considers herself fortunate to “have spent [her] life making music.” As a former student of Ms. Finn’s, I will say that she will be greatly missed as a valued member of the Pingry community, and we all wish her well in her future endeavors!
By Julia Eng (III)
After working for almost ten years at the Basking Ridge campus, Mrs. Schifano is leaving Pingry. Before joining the school, she received her B.A. at Villanova University and shortly thereafter began working at a talent agency with newscasters, producers, and even the “Real Housewives” media franchise.
She originally heard about an opening at Pingry through her sister-in-law, an alumnus, and began working with the community in 2011. During the 2020-2021 school year, Mrs. Schifano served as the Director of Middle and Upper School Admission and Director of Financial Aid, working alongside Ms. Sheila Ramirez at the Lower School. Her goal was to make the admissions process as exciting and seamless as possible, often asking herself, “How do we make it interesting for both the students and the families?” In addition, Mrs. Schifano is the Form III Dean, planning events for freshmen students and helping them navigate their first year of high school.
When asked about what she’ll miss most about Pingry, Mrs. Schifano said, “I’m going to miss… working with people who are happy to be here. It’s exciting being able to enjoy what you do.” To her, the experience is incredibly rewarding. Additionally, she enjoys watching kids grow and learn at school. “It’s amazing to watch the students transform.”
Mrs. Schifano is looking forward to the next chapter in her life, which includes working for her family business and stepping back into the business world. When asked about what message she wanted to leave the Pingry community with, she said, “Be open to change… The more open you are, the more opportunities unveil themselves to you. Just know they’re out there, you just have to set [doubt] aside and trust what you think.”
We thank Mrs. Schifano for her work at Pingry and wish her the best of luck!