On Tuesday evening, September 18, thirteen new faculty members were welcomed to the St. Mark’s community and formally installed at a service in the Belmont Chapel. New Associate Chaplain Stephen Hebert gave the opening prayer, and Head of School John Warren ’74 then welcomed the newest members of the faculty. Rabbi Donald Splansky of the Religion Department then led the congregation in a responsive portion of the Rosh Hashanah liturgy. The School Choir, under the direction of Mr. Berryman, sang an anthem: “Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal” from the Southern Harmony Tradition, followed by a reading from faculty member Chris Kent and an address by the Rev. Barbara Talcott, School Chaplain.
“It’s time to embrace adventure,” she told the assembled St. Mark’s community, reflecting on the myriad of changes—physical and systemic—created by the Strategic Plan 2020, as the newest teachers and administrators join the St. Mark’s community. “It’s time to lean into and learn to love uncertainty. It’s time to take the energy that you are tempted to put into flat-out resistance and instead put it toward building, guiding, shaping the inevitable new paradigm.”
Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty Michael Wirtz, the Monitors, and Mr. Warren then greeted and installed the new faculty. After Mr. Warren led the School Prayer and Rev. Talcott gave the blessing, everyone rose to sing the School Hymn, “Sun of My Soul”, a St. Mark’s tradition since 1877. A formal sit-down dinner followed.
By way of welcome and introduction, the information below shares something about each of our newest faculty:
Ava Archibald -- Director of Community and Equity Affairs
Ava comes to St. Mark's after recently teaching English and leading diversity work at the Cambridge School of Weston (CSW). Before working at CSW, Ava taught English at Beaver Country Day School (Chestnut Hill), Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School (Atlanta), H. Lavity Stout Community College (British Virgin Islands), and British Virgin Islands High School. In addition, she was a curriculum consultant and writer for the Boston Center for Community and Justice. Ava earned a BA in Mass Communication and English Literature from Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, and an MLA in English and American Literature from Harvard University. She joins us with her husband, Brian Walker, daughter, Olivia, and their new son, Archie, born September 12. Brian, author of Black Boy White School (Harper Collins, 2012), will be Writer in Residence at St. Mark’s.
Rohan Arjun -- Assistant Director of Admission
Rohan joins the St. Mark's as Assistant Director of Admission. A graduate of the George School, Rohan went on to earn his BA in African-American Studies from Temple University. Most recently, Rohan worked at Taft as a teaching fellow, helped with admissions work, and assisted in the Multicultural Affairs Office. In addition to his independent school work, Rohan has been a facilitator for the Student Diversity Leadership Conference for the last six years. He is assisting with football this fall, and will move to campus once work construction in Forbes Center and Sawyer is completed.
Jacob Backon -- Mathematics and Science Department
Jacob Backon will teach physics and math as a dual appointment in the Mathematics and Science Departments. He earned a BA in Physics from Bard College, and just recently completed his MS in Coaching Education from Ohio University. After growing up on the Choate campus and graduating from there, Jacob found his way into independent schools as a teacher. He just completed his fourth year at the Kiski School, where he taught AP level courses in both math and physics. Beyond the classroom, Jacob is an accomplished soccer coach.
Seth Battis -- Director of Academic Technology, Computer Science, History
Seth is returning to St. Mark's in a familiar role as our Director of Academic Technology. He earned his BA in Computer Science and Studio Art from Williams College, and his Ed.M. in School Leadership from the Harvard University. Recently, he was the Head of the Upper School at Lake Forest Country Day School, an independent PS-8 day school outside of Chicago. We are excited to bring Seth back into this community, where he will teach TFS and computer science in addition to helping all of us to continue integrating meaningful academic technology into our work. Seth joins St. Mark’s with his wife Jordi and their son Gershom.
Naomi Choodnovskiy -- Science Department
Naomi earned her BS in Chemical Engineering from Columbia before pursuing a career as a teacher. After completing her degree, she was hired by Andover to work as a Teaching Fellow, and has since gone on to teach at BB & N during a leave. Naomi brings a variety of research experiences to her work in the classroom, including a position at The Broad Institute. She will live on campus.
Sarah Eslick -- Associate Director of the Center, Learning Specialist
Sarah joins St. Mark's as Associate Director of the Center, bringing to bear eleven years of learning specialist work at Dana Hall, where she developed the academic support program. Sarah earned her BA in Art History from Bucknell and her MA in Learning Disabilities from Columbia University. Sarah lives with her husband, English Department Head Jason Eslick, and her sons Jamie and Angus at the north end of campus.
Weezie Gilpin -- School Counselor
Weezie comes to St. Mark's as our school counselor, having worked at a number of independent schools, including Milton Academy and Walnut Hill School. She earned her BA from Sweet Briar College and her MA in Counseling Psychology from Lesley University. Weezie is moving back to the East Coast after having worked at The Bishop's School in La Jolla as Dean of Students. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this work, and we are delighted to have her on the faculty.
Alex Howe -- Assistant Dean of Students/Director of Student Life
Alex, a familiar face at St. Mark's given her most recent role as Assistant Director of Alumni/ae and Parent Programs in our Development Office, will be our new Assistant Dean of Students/Director of Student Life. She will be able to capitalize on her knowledge of the School as she moves into her new role in the Deans' Office. After earning her BA in Global Studies from St. Lawrence University, she went on to earn her MA in Higher Education from the University of Denver. With this change, she will move to campus with her husband CV, and will continue to be the Head Girls' Varsity Squash Coach.
Stephen Hebert -- Associate Chaplain, Religion
Stephen joins St. Mark's as a religion teacher and Assistant Chaplain. He comes to us from Houston Christian High School, where he taught in the Religion and English Departments. Stephen is familiar with the Boston area, having earned his Masters of Theological Studies at Harvard University. His academic interests range from academic technology to classics and archeology, and he will be joined by his wife, Natalie, and son, Gus. The Hebert family will live in Marr-Coolidge.
Stacey Lee -- Associate Dean of Students/Director of Residential Life
Stacey Lee joins St. Mark's as our Associate Dean of Students/Director of Residential Life. For the last five years, Stacey worked at St. Paul’s School as their Associate Dean of Students, where she managed various aspects of the residential life program, including supporting six dormitories on campus, coordinating and building the Prefect program, and managing weekend activities. Prior to St. Paul’s, Stacey worked at her alma mater, Bowdoin College, for three years as the Director of First Year Programs. Because she just can’t get enough of working in the Deans’ Office, she spends her summer months working as a Dean of Students with Explo at their Wellesley College location. Stacey is recently married, and joins the St. Mark’s community with her husband Korey. They will live in Pine/Oak.
Sarah Meyer -- Art (sabbatical replacement)
Sarah Meyer is familiar to many faculty, having graduated from St. Mark's in 2007 and interned with Barbara Putnam last year. Sarah earned her BA in Studio Art from Wheaton College, and has devoted a lot of time to working with students, whether tutoring at Neary School in Southborough or working at Camp Brookwoods in New Hampshire. We are fortunate to have her teaching in the Arts Department this year, covering for Barbara while she is on sabbatical. Sarah will live on campus in Gaccon.
Lauren Riva -- Director of the St. Mark’s Institute of Mathematics, Mathematics Department
Lauren is the incoming Director of the St. Mark’s Institute of Mathematics and a member of the Mathematics Department. Lauren comes to us from the Asheville School in Asheville, NC. Her strong interest in mathematics and educational research will provide continued leadership in mathematics education for the SM Institute of Mathematics. She lives in Thieriot House with her husband, Ben, and their children Artie and Liv.
Jennifer Taylor -- Director of Counseling Services
Jennifer is St. Mark’s new Director of Counseling Services. She has a range of great experience, having worked in public and independent schools, university settings, as well as high schools and middle schools. Most recently, she comes to St. Mark's from a similar role at Fay School. Jennifer will continue to live in Marlborough with her husband Christopher, and children Emily, Ryan, and Katie.