Brian Li (IV)
Mrs. Kelly Ross is welcomed by the Pingry community this fall as she joins the Upper School English Department. She is teaching English 9, Creative Writing, and Shakespeare.
Mrs. Ross received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Bucknell University. During her time at Bucknell, she also completed the degree requirements for a Bachelor of Science in Education and minored in Italian. After graduation, Mrs. Ross earned her Master of Arts degree in English from Middlebury College.
Before arriving at Pingry, Mrs. Ross taught at a couple of other schools, including Oak Knoll. She held a variety of roles in her previous positions: she served as a lacrosse, cross-country, and track coach. She was the moderator for the school newspaper, the director for a program similar to the seniors’ ISP, and contributed to the diversity team. She also worked as a tutor for students taking standardized tests and assisted in general academic assignments. When asked what else she had done before coming to Pingry, Mrs. Ross said that she has been teaching for most of her career. “I’ve pretty much been a teacher since I graduated from college, but I love teaching and I’m happy to be here,” she said.
Inspired by her high school English teacher to pursue a career in education, Mrs. Ross said that her combination of being an “engaging teacher,” yet also “having very high standards” motivated and allowed her to become a better reader and writer. In her senior year of college, she became a student-teacher and quickly realized that she loved teaching. She said, “If I could teach for free, I would. For me, it’s more than just a job; it’s a vocation.”
Mrs. Ross was drawn to Pingry by the school’s commitment to intellectual engagement. She remarked, after working with students from other schools, she was impressed by the students’ passion for learning. “I really see that in the students. They’re spending their free time doing research and I see them going above and beyond what’s expected to engage intellectually and that is a teacher’s dream come true.” As for her time here so far, Mrs. Ross noted that she has already noticed the school’s mission of honor and integrity in the students and staff. “I feel that those are principles that the school takes to heart … as a whole, the community is really engaged and that makes me feel like it’s a great place to be.”
When asked about her goals for the school year, Mrs. Ross said that she wants to encourage her students to see how the skills they learn in English apply outside of the classroom. She also hopes to become more involved in the school community in the near future.
Mrs. Ross is excited to join the community and meet everybody on campus. “I feel the school is committed to the right values; I really enjoy my students so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the year goes.”
Eva Schiller (V), Vicky Gu (VI), Meghan Durkin (V)
Though the Pingry community has known his name for almost a year now, Mr. Matt Levinson has just begun his first academic year as our new Head of School. Following a five-month search and a unanimous vote from the Board of Trustees, Pingry officially welcomed its sixteenth Head of School on July 1, 2019, succeeding Mr. Nathaniel Conard’s 14-year tenure as Headmaster.
The role of the Head of School has long been ambiguous to many Pingry students. Mr. Levinson explains his job as keeping “everybody focused on the student experience… from myself, to all administration, staff, and teachers,” and that “every day is different. There are a lot of interesting challenges that cross my desk, problems to solve.” He remarked, “But also, being out in the community, being out in classes, being out at games, is really important.”
When asked what drew him to Pingry, Mr. Levinson immediately responded, “the Honor Code was a first appeal… The trust that’s inherent in having an Honor Code is really meaningful to me.” Pingry’s inclusive atmosphere was also attractive. “Commitment to diversity and inclusion is really important to me, personally and professionally,” he says, adding, “I’ve been really struck and impressed by Pingry’s diversity and how it strengthens and enriches the community.”
Beginning his career teaching both middle and high school students, Mr. Levinson has stepped into many roles within school communities, whether that be coaching sports or serving as a dean of students. He believes that his experience allows him to “understand everything that goes into running a big organization like Pingry.”
Despite his extensive experience with education, he confessed that in high school, he was not always “as engaged as [he] should’ve or could have been, but something just kind of kicked in senior year and a couple teachers really inspired [him].” During his time at Pingry so far, he has noticed “how much [the teachers] are inspiring to you all.”
When asked about his vision for Pingry, Mr. Levinson left his response open-ended. Rather than only him deciding where Pingry should go in the upcoming years, he thinks that everyone should have input and “that the vision question is something we all need to invest in and work on together.” However, he does have a “strategic plan focusing on global education, student wellbeing, interdisciplinary learning… and also to promote teacher growth and development.”
His first step is to address student wellbeing with the hopes of helping the community “improve and be attentive.” So far, he has met with peer leaders and teachers, and plans to do some staff training in November.
Speaking on the Pingry community, Mr. Levinson noted that “everyone’s been incredibly welcoming, which has been wonderful.” He has visited classes on both campuses and gone to games in order “to get the chance to see the student experience.” What amazed him since his arrival was the “long history of people who invest their lives here. I think everyone here is trying to always get better, no one’s standing still, which I love about the community”.
Mr. Levinson also revealed that the process for getting “Shorts Days” begins with students. A student emailed him one evening asking to allow shorts the next day, and by the end of the night, Mr. Levinson had confirmed one. “I know,” he says, “on a hot day, when there’s no air conditioning, it’s nice to be able to wear shorts.”
Speaking of air conditioning, will Pingry ever get it? “That’s a big question I’m hearing; lots of people want to talk about that, but I don’t have an answer to that yet. It could happen. I don’t know when, but I know it’s something that people, especially in the 90-degree weather, are very interested in.” Perhaps someday.
Mr. Levison concluded, “I would just like to say I’ve been so impressed with the students in this school. The engagement in the classes that I’ve seen, from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade, makes it clear that the kids here really like learning and want to learn, and the teachers are really invested in making that happen.”
Josie Alston (V)
This fall, Pingry welcomed Mr. Kevin Schroedter to the Middle and Upper School Language Departments. Mr. Schroedter teaches French 2 in the Middle and Upper School, along with Spanish 2 and French 5 in the Upper School. He is the assistant coach for the high school water polo and swim teams.
Born in Bogota, Colombia, Mr. Schroedter grew up immersed in the Spanish language and continued to speak it throughout his childhood after he relocated to Miami. However, Mr. Schroedter fell in love with French, a language held in high esteem by his family, especially his grandfather, who served as a French professor for the Colombian military and as a military attaché in Paris.
Mr. Schroedter continued to pursue his passion at Duke University where he earned his B.A. in Political Science and French, and Middlebury College where he earned his M.A. in French.
Mr. Schroedter is no stranger to teaching, as this year marks his 28th year teaching French and Spanish at a day or boarding school. He has taught at a “long list” of schools all over the world, including London, Paris, Zermatt, California, Delaware, Texas, and North Carolina. He describes teaching as a way to “stay immersed in the French world and earn a living” while using professional development opportunities to “become a better teacher” and “connect with young people to make a difference.”
Although it has only been a few months, Mr. Schroedter really enjoys Pingry, describing it as a “convivial environment” where he can enjoy the support of his colleagues and get to know his students better. He acknowledges that Pingry can be a “high-pressure environment” at times; however, the school exudes an air of “humanity,” with enough “down moments in the day to form human connections, which makes it motivating and both physically and emotionally possible to invest so much in the academic part of things.”
Mr. Schroedter has experience working at similar schools and has set “finding [his] way, getting used to how things are done, adapting to expectations, and transitioning to the department” as his goals for his first year.
In his free time, Mr. Schroedter likes to stay active and exercise with his wife and Carolina dog/Australian cattle dog mix, Tasha. He spends a lot of time on a bike as a way to “decompress”, and he enjoys going on walks in the park and on the beach with his family. A self-proclaimed foodie, Mr. Schroedter loves finding new places to eat, citing “sitting down with a book and cappuccino and watching the world go by” as one of his favorite things to do.
Mr. Schroedter is looking forward to his first year at Pingry and he is ready to weather the challenges that come with being a new teacher.
Rhea Kapur (V)
Ms. Alexandra Lasevich joins Pingry this fall as the new Math Department Chair. She also teaches Advanced Algebra and Trigonometry, both regular and honors, as well as Precalculus.
After earning a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Rochester, Ms. Lasevich went on to receive an M.S. in Educational Leadership at Delaware Valley University. She is currently working on her dissertation for an EdD from Delaware Valley University and aims to defend it this summer. Her research focuses on international faculty teaching in independent schools and examines how they are adjusting to teaching in schools they never attended. Ms. Lasevich herself was born and raised in Russia, and she notes how interesting it has been for her to come to America and experience a different style of education.
Prior to coming to Pingry, Ms. Lasevich taught math at Princeton Day School and was a part of the Community and Multicultural Development Team. She also led a number of student organizations: two affinity groups (the LGBTQ affinity group and the Jewish affinity group), GLOW (similar to Pingry’s GSA), SAFE (a diversity group), and a Russian Club.
When asked to detail her path to teaching, Ms. Lasevich said “When I came to this country, I was studying to be a computer engineer. And when I arrived at my first school, I didn’t speak English. They realized very quickly that my math was more advanced than that of the average American student, so they asked me to tutor.”
“At first, I looked at it more as a source of income, but people were coming in, and all of a sudden there were lines and lines of people,” she said. “They kept saying, “You should teach, you should teach, you’re good at it!” So I switched to pure mathematics––I hadn’t yet decided to teach, though––and pursued theoretical mathematics for some time, until the end of my senior year, when I decided to get my certification.”
In addition to teaching mathematics, Ms. Lasevich also advises Middle School Homework Club and plans to help out the Russian Literature Humanities Independent Research Team with understanding the meanings and cultural context behind the various Russian names.
“I want to not get lost this year. It’s confusing, but I think I’m OK now with the corridors,” Ms. Lasevich joked. But, in all seriousness, she hopes to get to know the school, the school culture, and the Math Department better, and just observe and learn.
“I love it here,” she said. “I think it is an amazing place to work. And from what I see, it seems to be an amazing place to be a student.”
Ms. Lasevich spends quite a bit of her free time working on her dissertation. But she also loves to garden; it’s one of her favorite things to do. Currently, she’s experimenting with new plants, growing from seeds and learning how to care for her newly fruiting fruit trees.
By Vicky Chen ’19
This fall, Mr. Richard Fulco joined the Upper School English department where he will be teaching a wide variety of students. He is teaching two sections of ninth grade English, three sections of twelfth grade World Literature, and Creative Writing in the spring. He is the advisor of the creative writing club, plans on coaching baseball in the spring, and hopes to get involved in Pingry theater at some point.
Mr. Fulco received a Bachelor of the Arts at Pace University, a Masters Degree from CUNY College of Staten Island, and a Master of Fine Arts in playwriting from Brooklyn College. He has been teaching for 20 years, and he began his teaching career in the New York City public school system, teaching at Brooklyn Tech High School and Hunter College. He also worked as an adjunct professor at Pace University, Columbia University, and Montclair State University while he was finishing up his book and raising his children before moving to the Wardlaw-Hartridge High School in New Jersey.
When asked why he decided to teach, he said, “I knew when I was a senior in high school that I wanted to teach. I didn’t teach right when I got out of college, but I always knew I was going to end up teaching. I like the performance element of it, I like the literature element, and I enjoy working with young people.”
Mr. Fulco spends the bulk of his free time writing. He is currently editing a second book, and he hopes to publish it in the upcoming year. He writes every day, sometimes at 5 AM before the start of school. He loves hanging out with his 7-year-old twins and playing games, reading, writing, and playing piano with them. Mr. Fulco plays guitar, as well, and tries to work music into his life. He was playing in a band last year. On the topic of music, he reflected that, “I love music and it is a big part of me. I wish I could do more of it.”
This upcoming school year, Mr. Fulco hopes to “keep up with the students’ motivation, intellect, capacity, and enthusiasm for learning.” He has been focusing on acclimating to the culture of Pingry among both the student body and his teaching colleagues. When reflecting on his transition into the community, Mr. Fulco said, “I love it. I feel like I fell right into this place. I haven’t had much of an adjustment period — I felt ready to be here and work with Pingry students. My classes have really trusted me from day one, and they accepted my idiosyncrasies and teaching style.”
By Vicky Gu ’20
This fall, Dr. Ryan Johnson joins the Upper School’s Spanish Department, teaching Spanish 6 Honors and Spanish 3.
Most recently, Dr. Johnson lived in South Carolina, teaching at Hilton Head Preparatory School for two years. Before that, he taught undergraduates for five years at the University of Virginia while working on his doctorate.
Dr. Johnson first heard about Pingry from his wife, Dr. Johnson. While talking to friends who lived in New Jersey, he learned about Pingry and its “amazing reputation.” Originally from Pennsylvania, Dr. Johnson also decided that it would be nice to live near his family.
Regarding the origins of his passion for teaching Spanish, Dr. Johnson says that he first started taking Spanish in middle school and continued studying it through high school. At the time, he realized he loved learning the language and culture, and knew he wanted to keep studying Spanish in college, even if it wasn’t his major. The more Spanish classes he took, though, the more he wanted to continue learning not only the Spanish language, but the history and culture of Spanish-speaking countries.
After graduating, Dr. Johnson worked in Santiago, Chile teaching English and living with a host family for a year. He then further fulfilled his love for learning Spanish by studying Spanish Literature in graduate school. While in college, Dr. Johnson was inspired by his professors and recognized that he wanted to teach as well. He had tutored in high school and college and found that his naturally patient character suited his role as a teacher.
Though this will be his first year teaching high school students, Dr. Johnson is encouraged by the atmosphere of the Upper School at Pingry. “Students are becoming more independent and, at least at Pingry, are very self motivated and intellectually curious. I really respond to that,” he says. He finds it rewarding to “help kids on this path to developing critical thinking and an appreciation for Spanish literature and language.”
In terms of his goals for this year, Dr. Johnson hopes to make the material he teaches as engaging as possible to create enthusiasm among his students. Because Spanish 3 and 6 Honors are also new classes for him, he will strive to get a sense of the curriculum by finding what the previous level has learned and the next level’s expectations. Essentially, Dr. Johnson hopes to effectively transition students to their next level of Spanish learning.
In his free time, Dr. Johnson loves to read, run, and hike. He generally likes to be outside, and really appreciates the vast number of hiking trails that can be found throughout New Jersey, especially near Basking Ridge.
By Vicky Gu ’20
This year, Ms. Sara Hall joins the Middle School as a new teacher in the Spanish Department. She will teach Spanish levels 1A and 2.
Before coming to Pingry, Ms. Hall taught Spanish for 9 years in Illinois and Connecticut, mostly in urban public schools. She has also taught at various charter and magnet schools. Most recently, she taught Spanish at Southern Connecticut State University for two years. Ms. Hall has taught to a wide range of age groups, from kindergarten to college students. Except for one year in which she taught English Language Arts, Ms. Hall has always taught Spanish throughout her career.
Conversations with Assistant Headmaster Delvin Dinkins and World Languages Department Chair Steve Benoit first sparked Ms. Hall’s interest in working at Pingry. She found through speaking with them that Pingry matched her educational philosophy in important aspects that her last school didn’t share, such as Pingry’s goal to develop the “whole child” instead of just their academic side. She appreciates that Pingry recognizes this and teaches both character and social development to its students in addition to its curriculum.
The emphasis on diversity at Pingry further resonated with Ms. Hall. “I absolutely love the focus on diversity and inclusion,” she said. As someone in an interracial relationship with multiracial children, “it means everything to me.” Her favorite part of the rigorous interview process was talking to Dr. Artis and the Diversity and Inclusion Department, because they know “there are unconscious biases that we need to overcome. Lots of adults don’t know that they have those biases or are uncomfortable with addressing them.” She agrees that the school needs to make sure that everyone has these important conversations.
As a teaching assistant for sophomores in an English class in her senior year of high school, Ms. Hall first found her love for teaching and sparking interest in students. “It felt so natural – I knew at that moment it was for me. . . . There’s this lightbulb. Sometimes the light’s already been lit, and sometimes the light ignites later on. But being part of igniting that light is the reason,” Ms. Hall said.
Though she only started learning Spanish during her sophomore year of high school, Ms. Hall hopes to convey to her students that anyone can become good at Spanish. “My father’s from Indonesia but never taught me his language,” she said. Ms. Hall has one Mexican cousin, but she does not speak Spanish natively. She hopes to show that she is “living proof that you can come from a different language background” and still be able to love and become fluent at a language.
One of Ms. Hall’s goals this year is to focus on utilizing the Spanish language as much as possible. She realizes that some are hesitant to use the language because they’re afraid that they won’t use it correctly. Ms. Hall hopes to eliminate this barrier between different levels of proficiencies among her students. “Conference Period is a huge factor in this challenge,” she says, as it allows students to see her for extra help. Ms. Hall hopes that she will be able to teach students to be proactive about coming to see her for extra help to identify their weaknesses.
By Felicia Ho ’19
Madame Anne Changeux joins the Middle and Upper School foreign language department to teach French 1, 2, and 4 Honors in the Upper School and French 2 in the Middle School. She is also the French coordinator for the French-American global programs.
Madame Changeux has twenty-two years of experience in teaching French. She started by teaching the “language of love” to adult foreigners in France. Most recently, she taught nine years at The Peck School and nine years at Millburn High School. Her love for French has expanded beyond teaching her students basic grammar and vocabulary in a classroom. At The Peck School, she established the Lower School’s French curriculum, and at Millburn High School, Madame Changeux was the advisor for the French magazine and a chaperone for the French exchange program.
Born and raised in France, Madame Changeux naturally fell in love with her native language. Not only has she always been interested in French, but she has also wanted to become a teacher for as long as she can remember. Pursuing these two passions, Madame Changeux graduated from the University of Nanterre near Paris, France, with a Master’s in French Literature with distinction and a Master’s in Teaching of French as a Foreign Language. The University of Nanterre, or simply known as Nanterre, has a distinguished list of alumni, boasting Emmanuel Macron, the current President of France, and Nicolas Sarkozy, a former president of France.
After moving to the United States twenty years ago, Madame Changeux has enjoyed teaching French to high school students of all levels, from beginner to advanced. After teaching at The Peck School, she began to truly value the close relationships she has the opportunity to build with students in a small class size environment. This aspect is a uniquely private school experience, offering a lower teacher-to-student ratio compared to most public schools. Now at Pingry, another private institution, she is excited to embrace these connections again as she is able to spend more time with individual students helping them with everything from their French homework to how to prepare for a study abroad program in France.
In addition to teaching French, Madame Changeux loves to read French and English books every night. An avid dancer, she takes both jazz and flamenco classes every week. Looking to the year ahead, she is “very excited to join the Pingry team!”
By Felicia Ho ’19
This fall, Mr. David Rushforth joins the Pingry community to teach the Financial Literacy curriculum. Outside of the classroom, he coaches the Upper School Boys’ third Soccer team and the Middle School Girls’ Tennis teams. He also advises the Credit Union Team, the Entrepreneurship Club, and the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). Previously, Mr. Rushforth worked as a financial analyst in Fixed Income Asset Management for fifteen years, mostly at Prudential. During his time there, he was also able to spend time on the Money Market, Global/FX, Municipal Bond, and Mortgage trading desks. Most recently, he spent two years teaching as a substitute in the Bernards Township School District.
Mr. Rushforth first became interested in finance after watching how his parents reacted to and handled their family economics during the “Black Friday” stock market crash of 1989. In college, even though he was a declared History major, he found that he was enjoying many of the economics and business classes that he had originally chosen to take just for fun. He graduated from Franklin and Marshall College with a B.A. in History, but later pursued business by graduating with a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Rutgers Business School. After his then to-be wife moved to New Jersey, “everything fell into place with a job in finance.”
After spending several years in Prudential, Mr. Rushforth began to realize his love for teaching—a love that he had since his high school years. In fact, when he was asked to help in developing and implementing a training program for new associates at Prudential, he became one of the main mentors. It was in this experience that the “teaching ‘fire’ was re-started in earnest.” Soon after, he began to seriously consider and reflect on his dreams of becoming a teacher.
In his transition to teaching, Mr. Rushforth attended Bergen Community College and completed the New Pathways to Teaching program. Afterwards, he began to substitute for teachers in the Bernards Township School District.
At Pingry, he loves to see students take initiative in making their own learning experiences as innovating and interesting as possible. He appreciates how Pingry encourages its students to go beyond the classroom to grow into exceptional leaders and citizens of the world. In reflecting upon his first few weeks at Pingry, he described it as a “whirlwind, but from the first time I walked through the front doors for an interview back in late August, I felt right at home.”
Outside of Pingry, he is a member of the Oak Street School Parents Leadership Committee, helping to develop and implement programs for students and parents that emphasize the value of leadership, and a chair of the school’s Roald Dahl Day. He loves cooking and being outdoors, whether through fishing, hiking, or biking. He is also a USA Swimming official at the Berkeley Aquatic Club, where his daughter swims. Having been raised in Plymouth, Massachusetts where he worked as a pilgrim at the Plantation as a kid, he is an avid New England sports fan.
Mr. Rushforth is excited to be joining the Pingry community, and would like to share his favorite question with students: What would you do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?.
By Aneesh Karuppur ’21
This fall, Sra. Alexa López joins Pingry as a Spanish teacher and the Assistant to the Chair of the Department of Diversity and Inclusion. As a member of the World Languages Department, she teaches two sections of Spanish 2 in the Upper School. In her role within the Department of Diversity and Inclusion, she teaches one section of the sixth grade Cultural Competency class. In addition, as the Assistant Chair to this department, Sra. López works with affinity groups to provide the “resources [students] need to have great conversations” as well as with the Multicultural Teams to make sure that they “have the tools they need to work with all children.”
Sra. López holds a B.S. in Business and Marketing from New Jersey’s Kean University and a Master of Arts in Bilingual/Bicultural Education from the Teacher’s College at Columbia University in New York.
When a friend asked her to teach a Spanish course, Sra. López obliged and, realizing her love for teaching, left her work in business. For the next seven years, Sra. López taught at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, New York and at the Millbrook School in Millbrook, New York.
A native Puerto Rican, Sra. López is a native speaker of Spanish and understands that many nuances of the language can sometimes be overlooked in school curriculum. When asked about how that immersive experience of growing up in a Spanish-speaking territory shaped her teaching, Sra.López said that she grew up “immersed in English first and then immersed in only Spanish and back and forth, and so I believe that you have to be in the language as much as possible to be able to absorb it and use it. I try to put myself in a place of just absorbing language and try to give that to my students.”
When asked about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the Pingry community, Sra. López said, “I think it’s one of the most important things… it’s one of our four pillars of the school. And rightfully so, because there are people here with all kinds of backgrounds, and we welcome more.” She understands that everyone wants to “feel needed and known for who they are.” One of her main goals for working in the Department of Diversity and Inclusion is to “offer more exposure to affinity groups… I want students to know how helpful [affinity groups] are. I really want to get to know the community, first of all, and then adapt from there.”
Sra. López’s outside interests include reading books that discuss topics that combine her work and her personal lives, such as the subject of identity development. Just like the rest of us, she also enjoys vacationing. Sra. López also loves to spend time with her family and friends.
So far, Sra. López has truly been enjoying Pingry, explaining that “this campus offers so many resources that I haven’t had in other campuses.” She appreciates that everybody’s health and wellness “are really promoted here… and everybody’s so kind.” Of course, another important part of the Pingry experience is the food. When asked about the lunch, Sra. López said, “The lunch is going to get me in trouble because I’m having way too much of it.”