Fresh Faces on Campus

Jesus Salas: Science

By James Hess

Printed with permission of Jesus Salas

Jesus Salas joined the Science department this school year to teach Physics 1 and Honors Physics 1.

Before coming to the Upper School, Salas worked as an instructor and researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he received his master’s degree and doctorate in astrophysics. He also volunteered for science outreach programs and served as a coordinator of the UCLA planetarium.

Salas was born in Texas but spent most of his childhood in Mexico, where he first became interested in science. He said asking basic questions about the Universe developed into a passion for physics and mathematics as he grew up.

“Since I was a kid, I’ve always been curious and I liked reading and learning new things,” Salas said. “When I was seven years old, I picked up a book about the Solar System, and I was blown away by what I learned about our place in the Universe.”

Salas said he is excited to explore different ideas in physics with his students and join a new academic community at the school.

“I find math and physics fascinating, and I enjoy sharing my passion about these subjects with my students,” Salas said. “I’m looking forward to being part of the school community.”


Brannon Rockwell-Charland: Visual Arts

By Lily Lee

Printed with permission of Brannon Rockwell-Charland

Multimedia artist Brannon Rockwell-Charland joined the Visual Arts Department as a Photography and Video Art II teacher.

Rockwell-Charland previously taught at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Venice Arts: Los Angeles Center for Photography and Film Education and the Barbara Seniors Harkins Foundation. She earned her bachelor’s degree in visual arts and Africana studies from Oberlin College and her master’s degree from UCLA.

Rockwell-Charland said she looks forward to meeting her new students in person now that classes will be held on campus.

“I’m so excited to share space physically with students, to be in the darkroom with them and to see what kind of work and interests the students have,” Rockwell-Charland said. “I’m really excited to get to know my fellow faculty, to have really wonderful, critical conversations and just make some art.”

She expressed excitement about joining the school, especially since it will be her first long-term teaching position.

“I’m really excited to put some roots down, dig in a little bit in terms of getting to know the culture of the school, [bring] my best and [have] the possibility of really getting to engage with students over a longer period of time,” Rockwell-Charland said. “[I want to] continue to cultivate a really critical but also expressive and non-stressful artistic environment at a school that is very demanding academically.”

Rockwell-Charland said she hopes students will feel encouraged to pursue their creative sides.

“The best piece of advice is to start calling yourself an artist because even if you don’t think you are, you are,” Rockwell-Charland said.


Kyle Traynham: English

By Chloe Park

Printed with permission of Kyle Traynham

Kyle Traynham joined the Upper School English department this school year to teach English II and English III: The Living American Odyssey.

Previously, Traynham taught English at various independent schools such as Germantown Friends, LaSalle College Prep, The Haverford School and Chadwick School. Additionally, he taught as an Adjunct Professor at Santa Monica College.

Traynham earned his bachelor’s degree from Temple University and his master’s degree from Villanova University.

Traynham said he did not originally plan to become a teacher, initially wanting to pursue a law degree. However, he said he was inspired to become an English teacher by witnessing his college professor’s zeal for teaching.

“My late professor was so influential,” Traynham said. “I had high school teachers and middle school teachers who helped me love literature as well, but this specific professor stands out the most. As I watched and observed him, I said one day, ‘I want to be him.’ In that moment, I realized that I loved what he was doing, I loved how he helped us see beyond what was written and that inspired me to teach English.”

Traynham said he is eager to join the English department and work with highly motivated and creative students.

“I could say that I’m excited to teach here because of the amazing campus and all, but I think that runs the risk of downplaying how brilliant the students are,” Traynham said. “In general, working with students is my heart, sort of my ‘bread and butter,’ and working with students honestly will always rank number one.”

Aside from teaching, Traynham said he enjoys hiking, reading and exploring Los Angeles. As an East Coast native, Traynham said he is excited to enjoy all that the Los Angeles area has to offer by going to museums and finding new places to hike.


Anne Wellington: Interdisciplinary Studies

By Abigail Hailu

Printed with permission of Anne Wellington

Anne Wellington joins the HW Venture team this year to teach Social Entrepreneurship and Impact-Focused Enterprises, two courses in which she will explore the pursuit of social value and impact.

Wellington earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Randolph College in Lynchburg, Va.

She worked as a Chief Product Officer at the start-up company Stanson Health in 2013, assisting in both the company launch and the expansion of their evidence-based clinical decision support library and analytics platform products. Wellington has worked at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center since 2017, where she has helped incubate other healthcare technology businesses such as Tasso Inc. and WELL Health Technologies.

Wellington said she felt inspired to teach impact-focused entrepreneurship when she witnessed healthcare technology business founders turn their medical solutions for blood collections into reality while working at Tasso Inc.

“I love the idea that we can use technology to improve the world around us,” Wellington said. “Especially not being a doctor [nor] a nurse, [I appreciate] using other tools to accomplish helping other people to be able to enjoy their lives more.”

Wellington said she is eager to share what she learned from helping founders start their businesses with her students.

“When there is an opportunity to share what I have learned from working with founders and also get a chance to engage with students and teaching I thought it was a perfect fit,” Wellington said. “Skills that entrepreneurs use to grow companies can be used in a lot of different ways. When I think about the school’s students in particular, many have other paths in life that are not pure entrepreneurship, but having the tools of the entrepreneur and the mindset of the entrepreneur will help them be successful in whatever they do.”

Aside from teaching, Wellington said she enjoys reading fantasy books, running and playing video games.


Hijoo Son: History

By Will Sherwood

Printed with permission of Hijoo Son

Hijoo Son joined the Upper School History Department after teaching at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts.

After teaching students history at Phillips Academy and serving as the Geographer at Large, Son will transition to teach The Rise of the Modern World to sophomore students. She previously taught U.S. history, world history, art history, East Asian history and other courses at the collegiate and high school levels.

Son has over 25 years of experience in the field of Asian studies. She received her bachelor’s degree in modern East Asian history from the University of Chicago and her master’s degree in pre-modern East Asian history from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Son also received her doctorate in modern East Asian history from UCLA.

When students come to class this fall, Son said she plans to emphasize the importance of strong historical writing.

“I like mottos, and one motto I always remind students of in history classes is that good writing is rewriting, and rewriting is good writing,” Son said.

She said she hopes to make an impact on the lives of her students by teaching history that will inspire them.

“Teaching history can actually make a difference, and I am living proof of this fact,” Son said. “My history teachers from high school, Randy Quaid and Paula McLaughlin, have had a lasting impact on my life and are part of the reason why I teach history today.”


Chris Sullivan: Performing Arts

By Alex Hahn

Printed with permission of Chris Sullivan

Chris Sullivan joined the faculty as the new Upper School Director of Instrumental Music this school year.

Sullivan previously taught jazz saxophone at the collegiate level, working with students from the Los Angeles College of Music, Glendale Community College and the California Jazz Conservatory, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in jazz studies. Sullivan received a master’s degree in jazz studies and a doctorate in jazz performance from William Patterson University and the University of Southern California, respectively.

Sullivan said he became captivated with the art form his first year of high school after enrolling in the introductory class Freshman Jazz Theory.

“[The class] was my introduction to key signatures, chord progressions and improvisation, and I was fascinated with the way that math and art were able to intersect,” Sullivan said.

After moving to Los Angeles in 2016, Sullivan said he immediately became involved with the school, privately teaching saxophone and improvisation to students and supporting them by attending their concerts.

Sullivan said he is honored to take a leadership role in the school’s music program and officially become a member of the school community.

“After teaching at the college level for years, I am ecstatic to once again work with high school students because of how impactful those years were for me in my musical development,” Sullivan said. “I was in high school when I caught the music bug, and I’m excited to share my enthusiasm with the students here.”


Queala Clancy: Performing Arts

By Lucas Cohen-d’Arbeloff

Printed with permission of Queala Clancy

Queala Clancy joined the Upper School Performing Arts Department as a dance teacher this school year. Clancy will teach The Art of Dance, Advanced Dance I: Choreography and Advanced Dance II: Performance and Production, and she will direct the annual end-of-year dance showcase in the spring.

With over 20 years of experience teaching and performing, Clancy worked at Crenshaw High School, Dorsey High School and Laurence School before spending three years performing in Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity in Las Vegas. Most recently, she taught dance at California State University, Long Beach and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.

Clancy said her favorite styles of dance are modern and jazz due to their versatility and ties to African American culture.

“These styles are close to my heart because they are dance forms that during my early years of training brought happiness and excitement,” Clancy said. “They connect to soul and spirit and particularly to African American dance culture and aesthetics, and they are dance forms that allow complete freedom of expression.”

As the school year begins, Clancy said her goal is to promote dance as a form of artistic expression on campus.

“I want to continue the cause of offering visibility of the dance department for campus and community events, to initiate relationships in dance through collaboration with varied departments, [to] provide creative outlets for diverse students and [to] utilize dance as an educational tool,” Clancy said.


Juan Lopez: Math

By Kriste An

Printed with permission of Juan Lopez

Juan Lopez joined the Upper School Mathematics Department to teach Algebra II and Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science A this school year.

Lopez earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in computer science and studio art from Occidental College. He then earned his master’s degree in teaching at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education.

Prior to joining the school, Lopez taught math and computer science at Providence High School, where he led the school’s Technology Focus program, a four-year curriculum dedicated to teaching various modes of technology, and served on the Equity and Social Justice Task Force.

Lopez attributes his love for math and computer science to his upbringing, as his family members possess an aptitude for math.

“My family is very math-oriented, although for different reasons,” Lopez said. “I am a firm believer that the more you understand mathematics, the more artistic you are. My entire family is artistic. They know how to make sculptures, bake and cook. While they are not into finances and the more nitty-gritty aspects of math, I believe that I received my knack for math through their artistic side.”

Lopez said he looks forward to collaborating with colleagues who share his passion for teaching.

“The people that I have worked with at Harvard-Westlake, even in the few conversations I had, treat teaching as a passion,” Lopez said. “Everyone here is dedicated to their subjects and, even more, dedicated to helping students grow. I am excited to work alongside a team of educators [who] share my passion and mindset.”

Aside from teaching, Lopez said he enjoys cooking, watching shows on Netflix and playing video games. He is excited about exploring the Los Angeles area, even with the constraints of the pandemic.

“The pandemic has affected a lot of my activities, but I still want to live my life to the fullest,” Lopez said. “I recently learned to drive, and I look forward to visiting museums, movie theaters and everything else Los Angeles has to offer.”


Erik Wade: History

By Grant Park

Printed with permission of Erik Wade

Erik Wade joined the Upper School History Department this school year to teach Advanced Placement (AP) Human Geography and Urban Studies and AP U.S. History.

Since starting his teaching career at Phillips Exeter Academy in 2011, Wade has taught courses including world history, government, Latin American and Caribbean history, Black history and history of hip-hop at various independent schools in New Hampshire, Georgia and California.

Wade earned his master’s degree and doctorate in American studies and history from Purdue University. He credits his elementary school teacher with sparking his passion for history.

“[What inspired me to pursue history was] probably Mr. Herman, my elementary teacher from fourth or fifth grade,” Wade said. “I thought it was a really interesting subject at the time. Although I had tried pursuing other areas like veterinary medicine during my [time as an] undergraduate, I didn’t like it, so I went back to my original passion: history.”

Wade said that his teaching style is demanding but supportive and that he is committed to supporting his students. Throughout his teaching career, he said he has incorporated the Harkness method, a technique developed at Phillips Exeter Academy in which students engage in an open discussion and develop ideas as a group while learning to speak with courage and listen with empathy.

“Since I was training as a teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy, I incorporated the Harkness method,” Wade said. “I want students to find their voices, find their passions and work on honing that. I’m a pretty rigorous, tough and demanding teacher but I also put as much energy as students are willing to put in. Tough but fair: I just really like working with students and seeing what makes them excited.”

Outside of class, Wade said he enjoys cooking and exercising as well as pursuing his interest in writing television pilots (he has completed a certification course on TV pilots at the University of California, Los Angeles). Wade said he is also looking forward to being involved with student groups on campus.

“There’s a particular group called [Black Leadership and Culture Club (BLACC)] that I’m really interested in, and I want to see what it’s like on campus, but I also know that there are other groups like [the Latin American/Hispanic Student Organization (LAHSO)], [Asian Students in Action (ASiA)] and [Gender and Sexuality Awareness (GSA)] as well,” Wade said. “Ultimately, I just want to try to be an ally where I can and I want to try to attend as many sports activities [as] students are willing to invite me to.”


Kacie Cox: Library

By Natasha Speiss

Printed with permission of Kacie Cox

Kacie Cox joined the Library and Information Literacy Department this school year as a part-time librarian. Her new responsibilities include staffing the circulation desk, proctoring make-up exams for students and working with teachers on acquiring resources.

Cox earned her bachelor’s degree in human development and family services from California State University, Monterey Bay and her master’s degree in library and information sciences from San Jose State University.

Last year, Cox procured resources for the incarcerated as a Jail and Reentry Services Intern for the San Francisco Public Library. Before that, she was a Program Intern for Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast.

Cox said working as a librarian during the pandemic required additional empathy and responsibilities to support her community through the uncertainty.

“It’s been hard to see how hard this pandemic has been on everyone else,” Cox said. “A lot of librarianship changed to [require knowledge of] the pandemic because so many people were asking about it. I learned that as a librarian you can still give so much support from your own home, and that’s a good feeling.”

Cox said she was drawn to her line of work after observing the lack of books she had access to in her youth.

“I grew up in a town that was very small, and we didn’t have the biggest or most expansive county library,” Cox said. “My high school and middle school didn’t even have a library. I fell into the path of librarianship because I want everyone to have access to information to support them throughout their life. I think that’s really important for identity development, which is one of my biggest passions.”

Cox said she was once told by her library that she was too young to check out a book on gender and sexuality. As a result, they turned her away from the resource.

“That’s something I never want a student or anyone to have to go [through],” Cox said. “Reading is definitely a way to connect to people, and I think that’s really important. As we’ve seen in the last year and a half being so far away from other people, information and reading is a way to bridge that gap, always.”


Harold Pleitez: World Languages

By Paul Kurgan

Printed with permission of Harold Pleitez

Harold Pleitez joined the Upper School Foreign Language Department to teach Spanish III and Honors Spanish II this school year.

Pleitez brings over 25 years of teaching experience to the school community. Most recently, he worked at Brentwood School.

Pleitez grew up in El Salvador during the Salvadoran Civil War. He said his exposure to the violence and upheaval in his neighborhood motivated him to get involved in his community. Pleitez said he discovered his passion for teaching while helping out his local school at an early age.

“When I was in high school, I was able to start teaching elementary school,” Pleitez said. “I had such a great experience with all the teachers and priests at my school that I got involved in teaching.”

Pleitez said he is excited to meet his students and give them a unique classroom experience.

“Students are always trying to learn something new from somebody different,” Pleitez said. “I think students will love to learn about my culture, about who I am as an individual and as a teacher. It’s important for me to help them express and share their experiences with me.”