• New Faculty Share Thoughts

    Everyone at GSA helps us to achieve our mission to “provide a comprehensive and challenging education” for our students, but our dedicated faculty play the greatest role in shaping student success. In late August, six new teachers and academic support staff, three of whom are GSA alumni, joined the GSA faculty. They shared their thoughts in recent interviews.

     

     Melissa Rioux

    Melissa Rioux ‘01Art Teacher, Department Chair

    What do you remember from your days here as a student?

         Arts Fest was life-altering as a young person. And Independent Study. I don’t think I realized till I went to New York how lucky people who grow up in this area and go to George Stevens are.

     

    How has GSA changed since then?

         The international population wasn’t here, although there were a lot of exchange students at the time. I am so impressed with the staff and faculty here. They’re smart and engaged. They really care a lot, and everyone is willing to create opportunities [for students] to succeed.

     

    What’s it like to be back as a faculty member?

         I liked being here [as a student], and I want to cultivate that in my classroom. I want to accommodate students who aren’t necessarily ‘easier’ students, too. I want to make it a place where people want to be.

     

    How is it starting a teaching job in these challenging times? 

         The challenge I faced was dropping my kids off at day care. They had never been to day care. Those are my hardships. The teaching part of it, I just like people, and I like kids. It’s challenging, but it’s cool. I take [our safety measures] seriously, but if I have the opportunity to give human connections to young people, I don’t want to instill fear. I want to help them. Art can be a way they cope with some of the stuff that’s going on. 

     

    What do you want people to know about life at GSA now?

         How intensely caring and invested teachers are here. It’s really heartening, and I’m so glad to be part of the team. The staff here are really wonderful. Props to George Stevens Academy for pulling together such a wonderful team. 

     

    Who would you like to thank?

         David Stearns is amazing. Jaime [Torre] has been so willing to reach out and help. Emma Baker, I think she’s such a generous, smart person. Morgan Lowe really welcomed me to the building. Everybody has been kind.

     

    Kayla Riley

    Kayla Riley ‘07, Special Education Ed Tech

    Why did you choose to work in education?

         I love young people, and I’m passionate about education. I love seeing my students succeed. I hope I can help my students become more successful and achieve their individual goals.

     

    What do you remember from your days here as a student?

         I remember making good friends and my favorite classes. I loved English the most. I was also a member of the track team, where I made some great memories.

     

    How has GSA changed since then?

         I think it’s more diverse. It seems to be more inclusive than before.

     

    What’s it like to be back as a faculty member?

         It’s a bit surreal, to be honest. It’s interesting to see things from a faculty perspective vs. a student perspective. I feel more in control of my environment.

     

    Who would you like to thank?

         Juli [Perry] has been my guide throughout my acclimation process. I definitely have her to thank for helping me feel welcome and learn the lay of the land.

     

    Martin Conte  

    Martin Conte ‘11, English Teacher

    What do you want people to know about life at GSA now? 

         In a faculty meeting, a teacher was asking if there were COVID-related guidelines to having some extra sweatshirts and sweaters in her classroom for her students. Teachers are being tasked with Herculean expectations right now, to become tech professionals, to teach students here and at home, to acclimate to a brand new schedule, to find ways to break down the barriers of the mask and distance. But they’re not wallowing, or grieving, or clamoring, or rebelling. They’re asking how to care for the students who are cold. Similarly, students are working hard, studying furiously, adjusting and remaining flexible to the circumstances, and still found time to throw the faculty a thank-you breakfast. I am constantly humbled by and in awe of the level of commitment and care this community demonstrates for each other.

     

    What do you remember from your days here as a student?

         I was heavily involved in the steel band program. The program shaped who I am, and I’m so grateful to my fellow alum-turned-teacher Fiona Schubeck [‘08] for taking the reins so successfully and passionately.

     

    What’s it like to be back as a faculty member?

         My former teachers and now colleagues have welcomed me into the program. I’m treated seriously, I’m afforded a seat at the table, I’m invited and usefully challenged to show what I can offer as a teacher.

     

    What do you hope to accomplish?

         I hope my students leave my classroom feeling confident that they can meet the writing demands they should expect from future classes, jobs, and being an engaged citizen.

     

    Who would you like to thank?

         I co-teach with Lexi Wessel [‘09], and I couldn’t be happier. I also want to thank David Stearns for his prompt and thorough replies to any questions I have, no matter how small. And Marie Epply, who retired a number of years ago but remains a reliable source of guidance and enthusiasm.

     

    Jayson Peltier

    Jayson Peltier, Special Education Ed Tech

    What do you want people to know about life at GSA now?

         I don’t think that there is a profession that has had to adapt so much in order to do what we do. We are asking so much more of students, but we are also asking even more of ourselves. This year is going to be really hard, and it takes a village to get through it. I’m not from here, but I can see that this community is exactly that. Be patient, kind, and supportive to your teachers!

     

    How is it working in a school at such a challenging time?

         The biggest challenge is finding ways to connect with students while we are masked up and respecting the distancing guidelines. So for me, just trying to level with them is helping overcome the challenges surrounding connection. Once students really understand that you are here for them and what they are going through, and also here to help their studies, you start to form a bridge, and they feel that, I feel that, and the bridge only gets stronger from there. Trust is what follows, and from there you can really make a difference.

     

    Why did you choose to work in education?

         One summer, I took a job at Camp Beech Cliff teaching wilderness skills, and I fell in love with working with kids, the staff, and the environment that surrounds education. [After graduation, I worked at] Surry Elementary last year, but wanted to work with older students and ended up at GSA! My hopes for this year are just simply to be the best support system I can be. 

     

    Who would you like to thank?

         I’d like to thank GSA for making this campus very welcoming and safe, the custodial staff and the administration, everyone in the Resource Room, Lori [Wessel ‘81], Cory [Schildroth], Hanna [Austin], Sharlene [Grant], Juli [Perry], Sarah [Carter], and Kay [Riley ‘07], and the teachers, especially Dan Kane, Megan Flenniken, Nina Milliken, Martin Conte, and Andy Stephenson. You have all made my experience here so much fun so far!

     

    Nina Milliken

    Nina Milliken, Spanish Teacher

    Why should students take Spanish? 

         Learning a second language is beneficial to your first language, and it’s beneficial to other parts of your life. It’s a practical life skill to have. I also think we’re living in a world where teenagers now can work anywhere in the globe from their computers, and if you speak a second, third, or fourth language, it kind of opens a lot of new frontiers for you in terms of where you can live.

     

    How is it teaching at such a challenging time in education?

         I only teach one class, so it’s not that challenging. Plus, I have two small children at home, and this is way easier than that. 

     

    What do you hope to accomplish?

         I hope my students get enthusiastic about learning Spanish. I hope they get motivated to learn not only the language but maybe travel to Spanish-speaking countries. I spent a good amount of my time in college in Nicaragua, which was probably one of the best experiences of my life. 

     

    What do you want people to know about life at GSA?

         I think it’s a really good school. My high school had 2,300 students, and  it didn’t offer many of the things that GSA offers,” such as the ISIP program, Ocean Studies, and Erin McCormick’s English visits to local cemeteries. 

     

    Who would you like to thank?

         Patricia [Ugaz], for offering me a place to go and speak Spanish as often as I want to. It does my heart good to be able to speak Spanish again and have access to someone who’s fluent in Spanish as well. And she also is a really good educator, helping me with plans, and giving me ideas and stuff like that.

     

    Isaac Vaccaro

    Isaac Vaccaro, Math Teacher 

    How is it starting a teaching job in these challenging times? 

         It seems like every other teacher here feels like they’re starting their job here for the first time also because it’s just totally different. Their jobs have completely changed, so at least I’m not the only one who’s new, kind of.

     

    Why did you choose to work in education?

         I love seeing people learn math. It’s gratifying to have them be like “whoa.” Anytime I can make a class excited about math is so nice for me. If we have downtime, I try to show them some cool YouTube videos because the “wow” time doesn’t always happen in the normal curriculum. It happens with other cool stuff, and I love that.

     

    What do you want people to know about life at GSA now? 

         I feel embraced by the community, and I want to embrace the community. 

     

    Who would you like to thank?

         The [cross-country] coaches, for sure. Todd [Eckenfelder] and Tony [Rolfe] have been awesome. I feel like they totally accepted me, and they wanted me to embrace the position of being running mentor. [I’d also like to thank] almost everybody, all the faculty say “hello” to me and make me feel welcome.