Academics / Athletics / Community

New faculty join the Dana Hall “big family”

This year, Dana Hall’s faculty has expanded greatly. Ms. Nia Hays, Upper School Academic Dean, comments that the new teachers “are exactly who you want in a school community—people who are strong classroom teachers, passionate about the subject area, multi-talented, creative, and engaging.”

Ms. Jasmine Xiang joins the World Languages Department as the new Mandarin teacher. Calligraphy posters decorate every corner of Ms. Xiang’s classroom, turning it into a gallery of Chinese culture. She believes that everyone can learn a foreign language well and hopes to see every student in her class participate, because “learning languages helps us gain a better understanding of people around us.” Her new Mandarin Club, meeting on Wednesday from 2:30 to 3:30, offers students dumplings, green tea and games. She is looking forward to seeing the Chinese program grow at Dana Hall. Ms. Xiang really likes the environment in Dana. “The people are so nice, and the school is so beautiful, and I get a lot of help and support from this community,” she smiles. “Dana Hall is a big family.”

The Math Department welcomes Amy Gleason, who is also the tenth-grade Class Dean. Ms. Gleason has taught in several schools in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. She loves the fact that Dana is an all-girls school and thinks it is wonderful that so many people, including students and adults, are engaged and passionate about their interests. Ms. Gleason went to an all-girls’ school from 7th to 12th grades and feels strongly that her experience was crucial to shaping who she is as an adult. “It gives me confidence to do whatever I want to do in the world,” she says. Her diverse interests include knitting, crocheting, biking, swimming, and playing Mah Jongg. She volunteers with hospice by doing companionship visits. She loves anything that has to do with South Africa, having been there for cultural immersion trips 17 times in the last eight years, and the fact that Dana Hall has an active connection there makes her happy. Ms. Gleason also finds that being a Class Dean allows her to get to know more students more quickly, and she enjoys watching students working together.

Ms. Catherine Blakelock, a Dana Hall alumna, has “[come] back home” as a math teacher. Ms. Blakelock taught for the last two year at Achievement First in New York City as a Teach for America Corps member. She believes that everyone is able to do well in math and really likes group work. She is excited to be working with some of the teachers that taught her not so long ago: “It is amazing being able to give back to the community that molded my young adult life.” In the spirit of Senior-Sophomore, Ms. Blakelock thinks it is worth mentioning that she was dressed up as Gilligan from Gilligan’s Island as a sophomore, and she dressed her sophomores as the Travelocity Roaming Gnomes as a senior.

Mr. Joshua Luckens is a new member of the English department. Before he came to Dana, he taught in New York. Mr. Luckens’s teaching is focused on making the materials relevant to his students’ life and, as a theatre teacher, activating the class. He likes the fact that the students at Dana are open-minded and are very willing to collaborate with others and share ideas: “They are excited about learning and enthusiastic about books and subjects.” Mr. Luckens is also directing the fall play, Marie Antoinette and helping with Cabaret and Revels. Mr. Luckens enjoys cooking and jazz.

Another English teacher, Mr. John Portlock, has taught in many schools in New York, Washington D.C., Wyoming, and other places. He believes that students must take intellectual ownership of the course material and must join in the trusting community of the classroom to do so. He likes very much the energy in the hallways and the energy that the students bring to class. Apart from teaching at Dana, Mr. Portlock is also finishing his Ph.D. in American History. Mr. Portlock reveals, “I am about to be a father for the first time in January!”

There are other new faces outside of the traditional Upper School classes. The library has two new assistants, Ms. Samantha Muther and Ms. Allison Smith. Many students have already met Ms. Kathy Warren, the administrative assistant at Student Affairs. Ms. Terri Bello, who recently worked at Wellesley College, is a part-time counselor in the Upper School. Mikaela Bradley, part-time dance instructor, enjoys getting to know the girls “both as dancers and as individuals.”

The boarding students get to know Ms. Grayson Arango, House Director of Johnston D, who is excited to see day students spending some time experiencing the dorm community: “I hope [the dorm community] continues to create opportunities that strengthen the school community overall.” The two new House Assistants are Ms. McKenna Daly in Johnston B and Ms. Charlotte Weiss in Johnston A.

The Middle School also welcomes four new teachers. Ms. Jennifer Ashe, who has a Ph.D. in vocal performance, guides the 7th– and 8th-grade ukulele ensemble. Ms. Lisa Robbins and Ms. Jennifer Salamone both teach English; Ms. Salamone also teaches Social Studies. Ms. Tamara Nikuradse, teacher of the fresh fifth graders, comments, “The girls are curious, hardworking, friendly and optimistic, and they make my job easy.”

Ms. Laura Henry is the new Business Office Associate, and Ms. Stephanie Meyer now works with the Alumnae/Annual Fund Associate.

These new members of the community have engaged themselves in various aspects of school life. “We’re all so happy to have them,” says Ms. Hays.

Photo credit: Ms. Molly Kentala.