New in the classroom: Upper School faculty

Jamie Chan left her job of eight years in Atlanta as an Emory University assistant dean of undergraduate admission to become an upper school dean, replacing the recently retired Mike Bird.  At Emory, Chan admitted students from the Southern California area and worked with the upper school deans during the admission process.

“Coming from the admissions side to the high school side is helpful because I have sat on the other side of the desk at a highly selective institution. I have seen how they read through applications and what they look for when they are shaping a class,” Chan said.

Chan attended Emory University as a sociology major and subsequently became the Residence Hall Director Fellowship. After one year of interning with the admissionsoffice, Chan became the assistant dean of admissions.

Returning to school after a summer spent performing in various dance shows, Erica Jansson ’08 has joined the upper school dance department as a part-time teacher.

The recent newlywed took her first ballet class at 4 years old and has loved the art form ever since. She transitioned into modern dance; however, in seventh grade she pursued her passion throughout high school, taking advantage of school classes and any opportunities to dance in concerts or shows with her classmates.

“My love for dance has always stemmed from the creation of dance,” Jansson said. “I love creating stories with movement.”

Having worked as an attorney, an editor of the Los Angeles Times Magazine and a full-time mom, new 11th grade English teacher Mahshid Feiz ’92, said she is ready to take her place among the upper school faculty. Feiz believes her background in these careers has prepared her for teaching.

Her time at Westlake and Harvard-Westlake and her own memories of junior year also influenced her decision to become a teacher at her alma mater.

“I recognize how difficult and challenging junior year can be but also how much you learn, how much you grow,” Feiz said.

Feiz said she wants to create a nurturing environment in her classroom and hopes students will take to heart what they learn in her discussions, as she did when she was a student.

“I’m so happy to be part of the energy that makes this place run,” Feiz said. “It’s the symbiosis of give and take between the students and faculty [that] I’m really looking forward to being part of.”

Maura Roosevelt, who will teach English II this year, is writing a literary fiction novel during her spare time. Having worked on it for two years, she is about halfway done.

“Over the summer I was writing every morning – bright and early,” Roosevelt said. “During the school year that will be shifted to afternoon or evening hours, but hopefully I’ll still write a little bit every day.”

Roosevelt attended Harvard University before moving to Connecticut. For the last three years, she taught creative and essay writing at New York University, but she always wanted to go back to teaching at a high school, Roosevelt said.

“The thing I’m looking forward to the most is meeting and working with the students,” Roosevelt said. “I got to teach a demo class when I was interviewing, and everyone was so eager and sharp.”

Brad Holmes, self-proclaimed music enthusiast, has joined the World Language department this year to teach Latin III, Latin III Honors, Latin IV and the Ancient Greek directed study. He previously taught students at Saint Margaret’s Episcopal School in Orange County. Holmes said that he looks forward to teaching high school, and feels prepared for the upcoming year.

“Having six years of teaching experience in secondary school classrooms should definitely help with the transition to teaching at Harvard-Westlake,” Holmes said.

Holmes received his degree in classics from Harvard in 2004 and later earned his masters degree in USC’s classics program.

Freelance journalist Jenny Hontz has reported on safaris in Botswana, pedophile priests and jiu-jitsu, and now she will be teaching journalism and co-advising the Chronicle this year.

Hontz attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. After college she worked as a political reporter on Capitol Hill, a television editor at Variety and a vice president at Touchstone TV before launching a freelance career.

“The most rewarding stories have been the investigative pieces that were uncovering some sort of wrongdoing,” Hontz said.

The step from uncovering scandal to working at Harvard-Westlake came from her interest in teaching. Hontz had served as head instructor at Northwestern’s Cherubs summer journalism program.

Incoming French teacher Amandine Nelaton has wanted to live in the United States since she was a child.

“Everything I was doing in school and in life, was all [in preparation] to move here,” Nelaton said.

She came to Los Angeles after teaching at West Virginia University and heading a high school French department in Washington, D.C., where she met her husband.

Nelaton knew about Harvard-Westlake before she was hired to teach.

“It is a successful school that strives to provide an excellent education, and I’ve always been interested in teaching in this kind of environment, surrounded by students that are motivated and want to learn,” Nelaton said.

Nelaton enjoys both cooking and eating all types of food, especially dishes from France and Asia.

Contemporary thinkers, courteous people and an excellent community attracted dean Kyle Graham to Harvard-Westlake from all-girls high school Marymount this fall. Graham wasn’t searching for a new job. In fact, he enjoyed his former position as co-director of college admissions so much that he would “skip to the office,” he said.

However, friend and upper school dean Tamar Adegbile convinced him to replace Dean Pete Silberman, who moved to Tennessee.

Graham’s expertise is in the college admissions process. He believes that it has become a game of “moneyball” and numbers. At Marymount, Graham sought to teach his students how to understand the data that would one day determine their future in higher education. He is looking forward to doing the same with his students this year, and wants to demonstrate that he is a trustworthy support for students in all aspects of their education.

“I’m one of those people who doesn’t want to say, ‘trust me,’” Graham said. “I want to show students exactly what is happening behind the scenes, and the more they understand it, the more they buy in.”

Graham sees a lot of similarities between the schools. They both have friendly environment and warm families and teachers. Nonetheless, Graham is excited to experience the diversity of a coed school.

 

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