Agents of Change
PEL school heads and teacher mentors come from a variety of educational backgrounds and a wide range of teaching experience. Some of them have gone to traditional schools of education and many of us have earned degrees in particular disciplines. However, in true progressive fashion,
Most importantly, what all of these school leaders and mentors have in common is a commitment to sharing their experience with young people who wish to become powerful teachers and agents of change in the profession.
Jennifer de Forest
Head of School
Jen de Forest lives at the intersection of theory and practice. A historian of education, Jen enjoys taking the long view, and she strives to work in the tradition of such educator-scholars as Caroline Pratt, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, Eleanor Duckworth, and Ted Sizer.
Director of Upper School
Lorenzo is an historian and practitioner of progressive education. He is especially interested in the ways that schools engage with local and global communities, and is a strong believer in democratic and participatory teaching and learning.
Head of School
Emily has created her own graduate school of education by living and working all over the world. She is fascinated by the ways in which brain science is confirming what early progressive educators knew by observation.
Head of School
Sharon sees her most important role as a progressive independent school leader as that of creating an environment where knowledgeable, curious educators can guide the understanding and curiosity of young people.
Head of School
Jane Moulding is a hands-on head of school who loves the "change and innovation" parts of progressive education. She also loves the nineteenth century in literature and the arts.
Elementary Mathematics Teacher
Anthony has been teaching at The Calhoun School in New York City for the past twelve years. He believes firmly that students should be active participants in their learning and has found a niche teaching elementary mathematics from a Constructivist approach.
Visual Arts Teacher
Tom Evans is a visual artist and playwright who has been a progressive educator for the last 25 years. When he first heard about PEL, he said: "Wow, I want to work at a school that teaches teachers."
Kevin Feal-Staub is a mentor teacher by both instinct and training. He has done curriculum development in a variety of school settings - public, independent, and virtual - and is a quietly radical force in education.
Francesco Filiaci is a long-time artisan of place-based education. Francesco is particularly skilled at creating situations where his students become each other's teachers.
Marilyn Del Donno
Marilyn Del Donno is a science teacher and sustainability coordinator, with a background in oceanography; Marilyn is a jill of all trades and confesses a fascination with compost toilets.
Visual Arts Teacher
Alice Desgranges worked for the United Nations in Switzerland while earning her Masters in International Relations. Later, while working for an international finance company in Paris, she decided to pursue her passion for art and attended the Ecole du Louvre.
Rachel Hirsch is known for her love of Alexander the Great (and she has the tattoo to prove it), Rachel is a historian who inspires...
College Counselor & Teacher
Danny Isquith is an inveterate puzzler. He constructs and deconstructs puzzles of all kinds with his students as a way of investigating their metacognitive processes.
Science Department Chair
Tad Lawrence is the head of the science department at CSW and a member of the visual arts department as well. He is an active proponent of diversity in independent schools. Tad began his career following individually tagged beetles - insects - around New England and the mid-west.
Glenn Littledale's life exemplifies learning by doing - farmer, astronomer, physics teacher, jack of all trades. He specializes in creating the conditions in which students have to figure things out for themselves.
Existentialism, Creative Writing and Meditation Teacher
Nathan is a master of the discussion class. He won't tell his students what he thinks, but he questions and prods and smiles in a patient way, and his students learn they will have to think for themselves.
Language Arts Teacher
Ellen enjoys the challenges and rewards of finding ways to bring the curriculum to life outside the classroom. She and her students might be found acting out tragic Shakespearean scenes on Broadway, building rafts at Black Rock Forest, or brainstorming ideas for the spring production up on the green roof.
Amanda B. Smith
Lower School Teacher
Amanda considers herself a weaver of experiences. As a reflective practitioner, she strives to facilitate a learning environment founded upon the explorations and inquiries of the students. She believes individuals must be given the space and time to share the fibers that make them who they are and also to develop an appreciation of others.
Photography/Visual Arts Teacher
Lynne is nationally known photographer and is interested in photography as a tool for cultivating mindfulness. She teaches photography and also oversees Putney's evening arts program, which includes 40 courses ranging from blacksmithing and stained glass to Latin dance, meditation and madrigals.
Environmental Science Teacher
Mary oversees Unquowa's school garden program, coordinates "farm to fork" field experiences and is the liaison to the CT Audubon Society in Fairfield. Mary loves bird watching and introducing students to Project FeederWatch—a winter long survey of local birds.
Michelle brings her passion for literature and creative writing into her classroom every day. Her goal is to help her students become confident readers and writers by combining classic and contemporary literature with unique project and writing opportunities. With her colleagues, she has collaborated for three years with the Fairfield Museum and History Center's "Our Nation's Generations" exhibit.
PreK-4 and Mandarin Teacher
Teresa is thankful to have the creative license to draw upon her background as a learner, mother and marketer to cultivate unfolding learning buds as a teacher. Teresa loves her new career as a curator of learning experiences for preschool students in English and Mandarin Chinese. She is often found singing in Elmo's voice (in Chinese) or skip counting with jumping jacks.
Learning Specialist and Counselor
JoAn is the upper school Learning Specialist and School Counselor. She is a strong student advocate and has a passion for how the brain functions in learning and teaching, as well as helping students discover their passion.
Evelina is teaching mathematics and integrated studies at The Cambridge School of Weston. She thinks that mathematics is the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to human kind and is very confident that her students will believe the same.
Sam was one of the first applicants to learn about the PEL program. He is a 2007 graduate of The Cambridge School of Weston (CSW), one of the four participating PEL schools.
Sam attended Skidmore College, in Saratoga Springs, New York, and graduated in the spring of 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Business and Management and a growing interest in the field of education. In addition to assisting in the classrooms of CSW, he has taken on teacher assistant roles at Skidmore Early Childhood Center and The Thacher Montessori School in Milton, MA. His work and leadership experience extends beyond the classroom as well. Sam has provided in-depth research for consulting firms and has also served as a mentor for college students looking to enter the business field.
The Cambridge School of Weston became a second home for Sam when he arrived as a boarding student in his early high school days. The tight-knit sense of community he experienced as a student was one of the major factors in his decision to return to the school as a Teacher Assistant.
Currently, Sam's work in the classrooms of CSW is fueled by his determination to help students find their own voice and express their own opinions. His teaching mentors point to his friendly and warm approach and his innate ability to connect with students and garner true enthusiasm about the subject matter. In his limited experience as a teacher, Sam has quickly learned how to successfully guide students on the path of critical thinking and active learning.
Aspen graduated from The Cambridge School of Weston (CSW) in 2005. Having excelled in the Visual Arts Department while at CSW, Aspen challenged herself upon graduation by enrolling in two separate art programs at Mass Art and RISD before attending college. She also joined the Visual Arts Department at CSW as a student teacher, leading critiques and assisting students with enthusiasm and respect.
After a stint at Reed College, where she studied Russian Language and Literature, Aspen attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where she studied Studio Art and graduated in 2010. Her artistic focus was in sculpture and conceptual art. Among her many accolades at Kenyon, Aspen received distinction for her senior thesis project in studio art.
While completing her undergraduate degree, Aspen was fully engaged in teaching and leadership opportunities in both art and writing. She worked as a writing tutor in Kenyon's English Department and as a Digital Lab Technician in the Visual Arts Department. She was president of The Kenyon College Art Club, increasing the presence of student art on campus and generating discussion and interest among her peers and professors.
Her determination to teach and follow her passion continued after college. Most recently, she worked as an assistant teacher at a Montessori School in North Carolina. She also gained valuable work experience as a graphic designer at a fine arts gallery and as an in-house artist at a design firm.
Aspen loves teaching because of the relationships and community that learning fosters. She fondly recalls her experience as a student at CSW, transformed by the individual attention teachers paid to their students and the close-knit community of the school. Her experience teaching in so many different learning environments has exposed her to a multitude of educational philosophies. She believes that students learn best when they have a teacher willing to pay attention, improvise, resist assumptions and reserve judgment.
Hallie has always valued progressive education. Having graduated in 2007 from The Putney School in Putney, VT, one of the four participating PEL schools, Hallie is returning to her roots and hoping to learn how to teach and engage students in a progressive classroom setting. Hallie began her college career at Barnard College in New York, NY before transferring to Bates College in Lewiston, ME during her sophomore year.
While at Bates, Hallie concentrated on English and Theatre and received her Bachelor of Arts in American Cultural Studies with a focus in literature. She graduated in 2011 and completed a senior thesis project examining Jewish-American identity through the lenses of family history, personal interviews, and poetry.
In addition to her extensive undergraduate work in English and poetry, Hallie cultivated a deep interest in outdoor leadership and education while in school. She was an avid member of the Bates Outing Club, leading advanced level canoeing trips as well as organizing and facilitating meetings and events. Since 2007, she has led wilderness white water canoe trips at a camp in Northern Ontario, instructing campers in navigation, river rescue, and teamwork skills. After college, Hallie became a resident overseer and intern teacher at Kieve Leadership School in Nobleboro, ME, teaching the school's curriculum of character education through experiential learning and participating in outreach programs.
Hallie's vast experience in various progressive learning environments has taught her the importance of patience when learning and teaching. She is constantly working towards the goal of empowering students to take command of their own learning, not taking a back seat to lectures and monotonous training. She notes, "As a leader, and as a teacher, there's nothing that excites me more than seeing my campers lead themselves."
Dana comes to PEL having received her Bachelor of Arts from Bennington College in Bennington, VT in 2011. At Bennington, Dana majored in Environmental Studies and Visual Arts. She developed a deep admiration for food cultivation, education, and sustainable gardening and farming. She was the founder of the Bennington Sustainable Food Project, a campus-wide group that led weekly discussions and outreach events, established a student garden and internship program, and worked closely with the dining services to integrate healthy and sustainable foods into their menu options. She also volunteered as a student aide at a local childhood center and coordinated a vegetable garden for elementary aged students from The Dream Program, a non-profit youth mentoring organization.
Dana's exposure to progressive teaching and child-centered learning environments at such an early stage of her own education has greatly influenced her desire to join PEL and continue pursuing a progressive educational experience. She points to the mutual respect, cooperation, and active participation among her teachers and student peers as distinct features of every learning community she has been a part of. Prior to college, she experienced progressive education in action at The Mountain School of Milton Academy in Vershire, VT and The Hartsbrook School, a Waldorf School in Hadley, MA.
Dana has immersed herself in classrooms indoors and outdoors, working in elementary school gardens and teaching classes on food distribution and nutrition as well as local environmental issues. She recently ran a Children's Garden program on an organic farm, developing her own lesson plans and leading classes while striving to get her students excited about learning. Throughout her teaching experience, Dana has learned that it is vital to let students find strength and confidence in their ideas, questions, and interests.