New teachers join school

Jim O’Leary

Jim O’Leary will be joining the middle school history department this year. O’Leary will be teaching eighth grade World Civilizations, ninth grade World and Europe I, and will coach the freshman football team.

O’Leary graduated from Tufts University with a bachelor’s degree in history. He was a very involved athlete and was awarded the Male Sportsmanship Award by the Tufts faculty for his impact on the baseball and football programs.

Before joining the Harvard-Westlake faculty, O’Leary taught ancient and modern history at Kingswood-Oxford School in Connecticut.

He said he is “thrilled” for Harvard-Westlake’s “mix of a great academics and athletics program.” O’Leary was born in Easton, Mass. and attended high school and University in Boston.

“I am looking forward to meeting new students and teaching my ninth graders about my favorite part of history, Ancient Rome,” he said.

O’Leary’s goals for the new year are to “have a successful year, have the kids enjoy history class, and to help out with sports.”

— Sade Tavangarian

Ken Neisser

History teacher Ken Neisser comes to the Upper School with a resume that includes experience teaching history and Spanish in independent schools.

Neisser will teach two sections of The World and Europe II and three sections of United States History. He is “thrilled” to teach at Harvard-Westlake: “[The school] has always seemed to be at the academic pinnacle of things. And when I met the faculty and administration here, frankly I was dazzled.”

Neisser attended Yale University, where he majored in history. He studied at Harvard Law School and practiced entertainment law for 23 years. He is currently working toward earning his master’s degree in history from California State University, Los Angeles. Neisser looks forward to working with enthusiastic students and being able to have in-depth discussions about history.

“I have always thought that history could be brought alive,” Neisser said. “If I have a good year, I will have convinced some kids that history is a lot better than they thought it was.”

— Alex Leichenger

Eric Olson

Eric Olson will join the upper school English department this year. Olson will be teaching English II and English III American Studies this year.

“Harvard-Westlake was an opportunity I couldn’t pass on and I’m thrilled to work here,” Olson said.

Though he was born in Sydney, Australia Olson moved to the California and attended University High School in Irvine. He attended Cornell University where he majored in English and religious studies. He later got a master’s degree in American studies at California State University Fullerton.

Olson started his teaching career in Japan and taught English to students there for three years. He then chaired the middle school English department at Ojai Valley School. Most recently, he was a humanities teacher and division coordinator at Wildwood School. There, he developed curriculum and programs for English classes and advisory and outdoor education programs.

“I look forward to seeing my new students and developing relationships with them,” Olson said. “I want my students to learn for the sake of learning, not just trying to get an A at the end of the year.”

—Sade Tavangarian

Derek Wilairat

This year middle school Latin teacher Derek Wilairat will move to the Upper School.

A graduate of Pomona College, Wilairat received his bachelor’s degree in classical languages. “I liked it a lot at the Middle School, but I thought it would be challenging and rewarding to teach Latin at the Upper School,” Wilairat said.

Wilairat and Latin teacher Paul Chenier will sponsor the Junior Classical League, a club active on both campuses.

Aside from tackling a new schedule and new buildings, Wilairat is teaching more advanced courses. This year, he will have four different classes: Latin 2, Latin 3, Latin 3 Honors, and Latin 4 and 5. Having only taught Latin 4, the other courses offer a new and advanced Latin curriculum for him.

In addition to the grammatical aspect of the language, Wilairat is “looking forward to learning Latin literature.” Wilairat said, “I’m going to do my best to be prepared here.”

— Emily Wallach

Moss Pike

Moss Pike joins the middle school foreign language department as a Latin teacher to eight and ninth graders.

He attended Cornell University and received his bachelor’s degree in applied and engineering physics.

Originally, Pike wanted to become a doctor, but he cultivated an interest in the classics when he took a classical mythology course the summer of his junior year.

After graduating from Cornell, he decided to enroll in a post-back program at UCLA where he studied Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, French, German, Italian, and, Spanish. He also worked as a UCLA teaching fellow and designed and taught courses.

“So far it seems like [the school] has all of the advantages of a big college in terms of the opportunities, the motivation, great faculty, great student body; but the feel of a small college, which is really appealing to me. Everybody seems to know each other and it is intimate that way,” Pike said.

— Ashley Khakshouri

Kyoko Tomikura

The Foreign Language department will be joined this year by Kyoko Tomikura, who will be teaching Japanese II, III and IV.

Tomikura previously taught Japanese at Brentwood School, and has worked as a teacher in California for the past six years.

A Japan native, Tomikura first came to the United States as an exchange student. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Japanese literature at the Kokugakuin University in Tokyo.

She then earned a second bachelor’s degree in Linguistics from the University of Utah. She is now working on her master’s degree in linguistics at California State University, Northridge.

Tomikura’s favorite subject in high school was history.

“I guess I was interested in people. That’s why I enjoyed studying history,” she said. “So, I would like to teach Japanese history, literature and society for the future. On the other hand, teaching Japanese language and culture involves teaching all elements above.”

— Sarah Enriquez

Tara Kheradyar

Tara Kheradyar has joined the upper school science department after years of teaching as an adjunct professor at San Francisco State University and working as an administrator at the University of San Diego. This year, she is taking on four sections of AP Environmental Science.

Born in Iran, Kheradyar left the country shortly before the end of high school. She received a Ph.D. in earth sciences from Stanford and a master’s in micropaleontology from UC Berkeley.

Before pursuing a career as a teacher, Kheradyar worked as an environmental geologist and monitored groundwater quality for a landfill.

Kheradyar has been working as an educator since 1995 and has found that she prefers teaching in a classroom to administrative work.

Kheradyar’s goals for this year are to “make a real difference in the students’ lives,” and “set a good example for her students,” she said.

­— Daniel Rothberg

Stephanie Quan

Stephanie Quan will be teaching chemistry and honors chemistry on the upper school campus. She attended Columbia University where she studied biochemistry and worked as a research assistant and an organic chemistry teaching assistant.

Quan decided to become a teacher when she realized she wanted to interact and work with more people than she was able to while researching.

“Columbia opened me up to many different minds from people all around the world,” she said.

In addition to her interest in sciences, Quan is also very much involved in her personal hobby of rock climbing. While at Columbia, she was the president of the Columbia Rock Climbing Club. She also served on student council and wrote a weekly column for Blue and White Online.

Quan loves science because of the improvements it can contribute to the world, and she intends to bring that love of science into the classroom with her.

“I want to challenge my students in a fun way and look forward to working with a great science department,” Quan said.

— Alec Caso

Gabriel Ramirez

Gabriel Ramirez will join the middle school English department and teach seventh and eighth grade English this school year.

Even though he majored in English at UCLA, Ramirez was not always interested in teaching English. At first he was a pre-med student and then changed his major to art.

It was not until he enrolled in a class highly populated with English majors that Ramirez discovered his passion for English. He changed his major and began studying British literature and ultimately graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in education.

For the past several years, Ramirez has been working as a teacher and advisor at Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles where he taught English and Drama to high school students.

“I wanted to help kids reach their fullest potential,” Ramirez said.

Since graduating UCLA, Ramirez has dedicated himself to helping students reach their highest goals, he said.

— David Burton

Ariana Kelly

As a new member of the upper school English department, Ariana Kelly will teach English II and AP Language and Composition. Kelly graduated from Yale University in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in literature and then went to the University of Washington to complete a master’s degree of fine arts in poetry.

Kelly began her teaching career in Utah, but later took a job in the Microsoft Recruiting division, conducting interviews and other hiring procedures. While the Microsoft job “enabled me to write because it was a day job that I left at the office,” Kelly found that “it wasn’t very fulfilling.”

“I wanted to narrow the gap between my work life and my creative life,” Kelly said. After looking into positions at numerous schools, Kelly visited Harvard-Westlake and met students and faculty members and “felt at ease on campus.”

Once the school year gets underway, Kelly plans on looking into a school radio program and getting to know the culture of the school.

“I’m really looking forward to working with students again,” Kelly said.

— Alice Phillips

Regan Galvan

Regan Galvan graduated with a bachelor’s degree from University of California, San Diego in 2001 and earned a secondary teaching credential from San Diego State University.

Galvan will joing the middle school math department and teach Algebra 1 and Geometry to eight and ninth graders.

Born and raised along the coastline of San Diego, Galvan attended Oha High School. Galvan tutored kids in math throughout high school and college to earn extra money, she said. Soon after graduating from college, Galvan was hired as a math teacher at a public school in San Diego.

Ready to broaden her horizons and expand her experiences as a teacher, Galvan moved on to work at Pacific Hills in West Hollywood.

“I have goofy personality in the classroom, yet I know how to get the work done,” Galvan said.

Galvan heard Harvard-Westlake was “the best school in Los Angeles. It is not only gorgeous, but academically rigorous,” she said.

­— Olivia Kwitny

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