Coming back for more



When Ari Engelberg ’89 attended Harvard School for Boys, he visited teachers in their offices where Munger Science Center currently sits, performed labs in a building that has been replaced by Feldman-Horn and watched football games take place on a grass field, rather than turf.

Now, 20 years later, he teaches US History and American Pop Culture in the same Seaver classrooms he sat in. He coaches the basketball team in the Taper gymnasium he conditioned in as a student.

In addition to Engelberg, English teacher Adam Howard ’93, history teacher Francine Werner ’68, dance teacher Zoe Robin ’99 and science teacher Yanni Vourgourakis ’90 are other upper school teachers who attended Westlake School, Harvard School or Harvard-Westlake.

On the Middle School Campus, dance teacher Carrie Green ’99, Community and Work Service Coordinator Victoria Goddard ’60, science teacher Hillary Schwab ’00, math teacher Dan Reeves ’94 and Middle School Plant Manager David Mintz ’87 are also alumni faculty members.

Unlike Engelberg, who views the school he attended as being quite similar to the one he teaches at, Goddard sees few similarities between her high school and teaching experiences.

When she attended Westlake, it was a boarding school, which taught girls from kindergarten through 12th grade. The girls were required to wear uniforms. The current cafeteria building was the library then and some of the existing language classrooms were the school’s dining room.

The only part of the campus still functioning as it was when she attended Westlake is the court next to the pool; however, it was only used for tennis when she was a student and now it is used for basketball too.

Green is more familiar with the school where she teaches dance.

“So much is the same” she said. “The teachers are still amazing, the students are awesome, the programs top-notch and there are so many amazing opportunities to get involved in.”

Despite the similarities, Green cites SQUID, the lack of lunch cards and the middle school modernization project, once it is completed, as the biggest differences in school life.

“I know just how much homework [the students] get, what it feels like to take AP tests in Taper, how heavy [a student’s] backpack can be, what retreat was like when I was a ninth grader and I think I have a good understanding of the Harvard-Westlake culture,” Green said. “So in that way, I try to relate to my students and be there to support them, not just as their teacher, but as someone who went through a little of what they are going through.”

After dancing in high school and college, Green wanted to continue dancing, and since Harvard-Westlake was hiring, she joined the staff in 2003.

Green’s classmate and fellow dancer Robin is Green’s counterpart on the upper school campus. Since Robin is currently on medical leave due to frequent migraine headaches, a fellow classmate of theirs, Imani Alexander ’99 is substituting for her.

“It’s been great to work with them again knowing that we’ve come from such a strong dance background here at Harvard-Westlake” Green said.  “We understand each other’s programs very well and what it was like to go through it ourselves, so it’s been a blast getting to know them again and sharing our passion for dance and teaching together.” 
  
Howard worked in the Middle School performing arts department with Green for two years before coming to the Upper School to teach English in 2006. He also feels that due to his relatively recent graduation he is able to understand his students’ stress easily.

He attended Harvard-Westlake during the merger and regularly participated in the drama department and Peer Support.

“We suddenly had girls in class during my junior year,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thrilled about that, and from that point on, school was certainly a better experience.”

After graduating from Kenyon College, Howard returned to his alma mater because of his “desire to teach,” he said. “Once I found myself back at the school, however, I realized that it was a gift for any teacher; it was the right fit and the right community for me.”

Howard, Green and Engelberg all started their teaching careers at Harvard-Westlake and feel connected to their students partially because they are Harvard-Westlake alumni.

“Shared experiences help to develop relationships with students,” Engelberg said. “After all, I know first-hand what it’s like to suffer through an AP Chem lab practical with Mr. Marsden, write an AP US History term paper for Dr. Waterhouse or even listen to one of Mr. Amato’s lectures about the Boston Celtics.”

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