Salamandra to retire after 41 years of teaching at the school

Joie Zhang

Senior alumni officer Harry Salamandra will retire after 41 years at the school, 15 of which he spent as Head of Upper School.

President Rick Commons wrote a tribute to Salamandra in the third digital edition of the HW Life Magazine, reflecting on how his leadership gave rise to many student-led programs that persist to this day.

“When [English teacher Jocelyn Medawar] and I were part of a group of young assistant deans back in the 1990s, we all looked to Harry for direction and inspiration,” Commons said. “It’s no coincidence that under Harry’s guidance, Harvard-Westlake created its honor code and its Peer Support program, both of which rely on student agency to support the school’s fundamental values.”

Salamandra also took over the Molecular Gastronomy Directed Study in 2015, when science teacher Krista McClain stopped teaching the class to focus on administrative duties.

Molecular Gastronomy student speaks about his delightful class experience

Tyler Ganus ’20, who took Salamandra’s Molecular Gastronomy class in the first semester of this year, said that while many of the dishes he made in class turned out successfully, his most memorable experience from the class was a kitchen mishap.

“We all somehow managed to screw up the egg whites on this one dish,” Ganus said. “We were beating them until they reached stiff peaks, but we exploded the egg whites everywhere, all over the room. Throughout the year, we actually made some really yummy dishes [like] the chocolate soufflé that has become my family’s favorite dessert, but this day was definitely the funniest and most memorable for me.”

Salamandra reflects on his class experience

Salamandra said that his experience at the school has taught him the importance of actively listening to people, both in the classroom and in life.

“Typically on a daily basis, we are moving very fast from one thing onto the next, and sometimes it can be difficult to be an active listener,” Salamandra said. “However, the main thing I have learned from my students is to stop talking sometimes and just wait and listen to what they have to say before giving a quick answer.”