An independent K-12 school on a beautiful wooded campus, 3 miles from Washington, DC

Middle School Faculty

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Glenn Adamec

Glenn Adamec

Titles: Lower and Middle School Physical Education Teacher and Coach
Biography:

"The connection between healthy body and healthy mind has never been as important as it is today. The world is an ever-changing and stressful place, and what better way to counter that than through exercise, sport and play."

I have a true calling for kids and sports. The combination of teaching K-6 physical education and coaching grades 7-12 allows me to begin at the most fundamental stage of instruction and continue through a student’s US athletic career.

My undergraduate degree is from James Madison University, and I have completed graduate-level coursework at both George Mason University and the University of Virginia. Professional memberships include the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) and the Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (VAHPERD).

The connection between healthy body and healthy mind has never been as important as it is today. The world is an ever-changing and stressful place, and what better way to counter that than through exercise, sport and play. The importance of teaching “life lessons” such as focus, perseverance, sportsmanship and teamwork through physical activity cannot be underestimated, as those skills can be applied in all aspects of life.

Jenni Ashley

Jenni Ashley

Titles: Grades 6-12 Technology and Innovation Coach
Biography:

“All of our students are designers and creators.”

When given engaging problems to solve, our students generate ideas, expressions, and noise that energize us all. In my role as a technology and innovation coach, I am lucky to work with both teachers and students to develop and carry out exciting projects and activities. Just stop by one of our makerspaces to see what I mean!

I started at Potomac in 2002 after teaching middle school English and algebra in Baltimore City Public Schools and then trying the corporate environment as a software trainer. From very early in my career at Potomac, it became clear that I was amongst lifelong learners and innovative thinkers, especially in pursuits of curriculum development and technology integration. I have been a part of the technology development of Potomac both as a specialist and a teacher and appreciate the courage and creativity of Potomac’s administrators, teachers, and students. While the devices and applications have changed over the years, our commitment to students and their families remains steadfast. In addition to teaching, I enjoy YA fiction, DIY projects, and road trips with my family as we explore parks and landmarks in the surrounding area, and especially enjoy finding Virginia’s LOVE signs and Civil War trails.

Meredith Brooks

Meredith Brooks

Titles: Grade 6 Teacher
Biography:

"I believe we are all enhanced by deepening our understanding of ourselves and each other, and I enjoy exploring topics of cultural competence and Social and Emotional Learning with my students."

Our world is a fascinating place, and I find joy in exploring our global classroom. I have traveled extensively, and I have spent time as both a tourist and a resident in countries throughout four continents. My experiences abroad have shaped me personally and influenced my teaching. I believe we are all enhanced by deepening our understanding of ourselves and each other, and I enjoy exploring topics of cultural competence and Social and Emotional Learning with my students.

After receiving my Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, I piloted a health education project as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zanzibar, Tanzania. From there, my curiosity about the world brought me to teaching positions at international schools in Bucharest, Romania and Bali, Indonesia. After returning to the United States, I received a Master of Education from The George Washington University. I joined Potomac’s sixth grade team in 2011. When I am not in the classroom, you might find me engaged in a creative pursuit such as painting or woodworking, experimenting in my kitchen, or making music.

Ben Buursma

Ben Buursma

Titles: Middle School Science Teacher
Biography:

"I remain passionate about creating opportunities for students to engage their interests in and through the world around them."

My parents were educators, and the rhythms, joys and challenges of a teacher’s life formed the landscape of my childhood. Best of all, my family’s school-oriented schedule meant we could spend summers on a small inland lake in Michigan. I spent countless hours swimming, fishing and getting as dirty as possible. Those experiences exploring the nature around me proved just as much an education as my lessons in a classroom. Years later, when I was a college freshman picking my major, a career spent questioning, exploring and learning with children seemed the most natural and familiar way to capture the spirit of those long summer days.

I remain passionate about creating opportunities for students to engage their interests in and through the world around them. I seek to create a safe place for students to indulge their curiosity and test their assumptions. The Potomac School has proved to be the ideal environment for such a philosophy. Whenever someone asks, I'm quick to share that I have the best job on campus!

Mary Cahill

Mary Cahill

Titles: Intermediate School Academic Dean & Middle and Intermediate School Science Teacher
Biography:

"Field work dominates my sixth and seventh grade science classes, whether right here in McLean or traveling with my students to Galapagos, Costa Rica, and throughout the United States and Europe."

I have a passion for science, and the field of education has enabled me to pass that passion along to tomorrow’s leaders. Since 1980 when I began teaching science at Potomac, I have guided students as they learn the process of scientific inquiry. Field work dominates my sixth and seventh grade science classes, whether right here in McLean or traveling with my students to Galapagos, Costa Rica, and throughout the United States and Europe. In addition to teaching and serving as Potomac's Middle School Science Coordinator, I work as a consultant for the National Geographic Society. Since 1994 I have trained teachers in Canada, Japan and throughout the United States to effectively use a number of National Geographic’s curriculae including the JASON Project, Crittercam, Giant Traveling maps, and Geography Action.

National Geographic has filmed my inquiry science lessons at Potomac as examples of best practices for teacher professional development programs, and I taught a master class “Exploring your world with National Geographic” at the Chautauqua Institute in 2009.. Since 2006 I have worked with the National Science Resource Center’s Biodiversity Academy.

In addition to being a National Board Certified teacher, I have received a Woodrow Wilson teaching fellowship (1994), a Grosvenor fellowship for travel to the Arctic Ocean (2009), and a Fulbright fellowship to Japan (1997). I have a master's degree in science education and biology from Boston University and an undergraduate biology degree from Regis College.

Nonie Cameron

Nonie Cameron

Titles: K-6 English/Language Arts Department Chair and Grade 4 & 5 Language Arts Specialist and Support Coordinator
Biography:

"I always appreciate the opportunity to discuss literature and how to become a stronger writer with my students."

Reading, writing, and language have always been of great interest to me, and I feel fortunate to be able to specialize in this area of the elementary school curriculum. I graduated from Duke University with a degree in art history and Spanish and then turned my focus to education a few years after graduating from college. After receiving a master's degree in education from Harvard, I was an upper elementary classroom teacher both at Potomac and at two independent schools in New York City. I then took time off to be at home with my two sons, and during this period, I embarked upon a graduate degree in reading education at the University of Virginia. I worked as a specialist in the Lower School for a year and am currently working in the Middle School. A few of my favorite titles that we read include Bud, not Buddy, Blood Red Horse, Number the Stars, and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. Teaching all aspects of writing is another highlight of my role at Potomac.

Terry Cummings

Titles: Lower and Middle School Physical Education Teacher and Athletic Trainer
Mike DiCuirci

Mike DiCuirci

Titles: Middle, Intermediate and Upper School Band Teacher and Advisor
Biography:

"Potomac enables me to continue exploring my own interests in innovative programming and pedagogy with the concert band and jazz band and to awaken in students a life-long commitment to music appreciation."

My passion for music began when I was young, and my career as a tuba player began somewhat by accident. My junior high band program needed a tuba player and I volunteered on a whim, not knowing that it would begin a lifelong journey in music. With a band director and musician as a father, I grew up always going to concerts and appreciating music with my family. In high school, my father even allowed me to sit in with his collegiate band at Cedarville University, where I later decided to pursue my Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance.

As an undergraduate, I was active in a series of diverse ensembles from the Brass Choir to the Jazz Ensemble to an alternative rock cover band; I was completely immersed in all things music, both as a bassist and a tuba player. From there I went on to The Ohio State University for my master’s degree in tuba and low brass pedagogy, under the mentorship of James Akins, principal tubist of the Columbus Symphony. As a lifelong Michigan football fan, the transition to OSU was certainly a challenge, but I used my time as a master's student to hone my performance and conducting skills, paving the way for a series of collegiate teaching positions.

For more than five years, I was fortunate to work as a college professor of low brass and music education at Otterbein College, Kenyon College, and Heidelberg University, all in Ohio. In addition to teaching I maintained a busy performance schedule with groups like the award-winning Brass Band of Columbus and several jazz combos.

When my wife's job brought us to the DC area in 2011, I was fortunate to find a position tailor-made to my interests and training at The Potomac School. As the beneficiary of an excellent music education myself, I know how important it is to foster a love of music in students at a young age, and I am thrilled to be a part of this process at Potomac. The environment at Potomac enables me to continue exploring my own interests in innovative programming and pedagogy with the concert band and jazz band and to awaken in students a lifelong commitment to music appreciation.

Beth Dunkelberger

Beth Dunkelberger

Titles: Middle School Art Teacher
Biography:

"A graduate school research project afforded me the opportunity to observe and analyze art classes in Japan for grades K through 5. I completed a research project on the developmental stages of Japanese children’s art according to media."

Ever since my childhood, I have been drawn to making art and exploring the outdoors. With little time in the school day devoted to my favorite pursuits, the day in the classroom felt long. Third grade, however, was different. That was the year I attended an experimental school.The school believed that children are innately aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and that they are best equipped to self-select a curriculum that meets their learning style. Rotating between art, science and physical education, third grade was a dream. Upon reflection I now see how the experimental system would have failed me in the long run, and my parents were finally forgiven for pulling me out.

Yet it was not until undergraduate and graduate school that my education was once again geared toward my life passions: art-making and outdoor recreation. I had enthusiastic support for: sharing ideas about art and artists, discussing one’s own and other’s art-making experiences, talking about the nature of art and artists, and examining the work of artists both past and present. A Semester at Sea program my sophomore year gave me insight into arts and cultures from many countries around the world as well as the itch for more travel. Junior year I attended art school in Rome, Italy, where my art history books came to life with so many of the painters, sculptors and architects I had studied. A graduate school research project afforded me the opportunity to observe and analyze art classes in Japan for grades K through 5. I completed a research project on the developmental stages of Japanese children’s art according to media. I still use some of the fresh and inventive techniques learned from this research in my classroom today.

Although I continue to use many strategies taught in my own college art education courses, I have also changed my ways of thinking over the years. In my fourth year of teaching, I became a parent. Observing my children make art gave me new insight and heavily influenced my teaching. Whether arranging stones, sticks and sand in unusual ways or bringing invented worlds to life with Play-Doh, I realized there was no shortage of imaginative ideas. The ongoing narrative dialog that took place during creative play showed that they naturally discussed the creative process. It was the most honest art I had witnessed. I no longer wanted to impose my adult ideas for art-making on the purest form of art: children’s art. Instead my place in the process was to provide enthusiastic support for their exploration while setting up artistic situations that inspire them.

As my students search, discover and invent, they never cease to provide fresh observations and inspire me with their creative ideas and art. A circular relationship exists where we are learning from each other. Sharing ideas, discussing works in progress, providing feedback and working on methods to refine works with a supportive and interested audience are vital to the growth of all artists. As an artist/teacher, the more immersed I am with my own art, the greater understanding my students gain from the art processes of others. Being an artist/teacher at The Potomac School, I am where I have always wanted to be: working with a community of artists and often enjoying the beautiful outdoor campus.

Catherine Fields

Catherine Fields

Titles: Grade 6 Teacher
Biography:

"It is refreshing every day to come to work with a group of students who want to learn."

Learning about the past has always intrigued me, and I think sharing that curiosity with my students is the most rewarding part of my job. With the help of Potomac, I have had many opportunities to travel and hone my craft. Most recently, last summer I spent a week in England exploring the mystery surrounding the death of King Richard III. He was one of the most hated kings in English history, and he had a dramatic death, but the discovery of his body 450 years gave his story new life. This trip, like many others, gave me a newfound focus and passion that I was able to share with my students.

Over the past 13 years, Potomac has certainly helped foster my love of teaching and learning. I have loved every moment. From the children, to the parents, to my fellow teachers, I have found a real home. It is refreshing every day to come to work with a group of students who want to learn.

My education background has always been English language arts/history. After receiving my bachelor's degree in English/creative writing from San Diego State University, I decided to pursue my graduate degree in British literature/history. Upon graduating from SDSU, I immediately found a love for teaching 6th graders, and this is the age group I have been working with ever since. Sixth graders are fun, energetic, and always keep me on my toes. There is never a dull moment in my classroom, and not one day has ever felt like the one before. I consider myself lucky to have such a profession and love of learning.

Deirdre Furr

Deirdre Furr

Titles: Grade 4 Teacher
Biography:

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” –William Butler Yeats

I am local to the area, having grown up in Fairfax County and graduated from Stone Ridge in Bethesda. I attended Boston College, where I received my Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and my Master of Education in curriculum and instruction. After graduating, I worked at a parochial school in Rockville, MD, where I taught fifth grade. Later, I moved to Oxford, Mississippi, to achieve my M.B.A. from the University of Mississippi. Upon returning to the area, I worked at a school in Tenleytown, where I taught science labs to kindergartners through fifth graders and science to sixth through eighth graders. When that school’s door closed, it opened one for me at Potomac.

Potomac is family. I am beginning my fifth year here teaching the fourth grade. Potomac has encouraged my growth as a teacher and as a member of the greater school community. Not only am I a faculty member, but I am a Potomac parent as well. I look forward to watching my sons grow and learn in such a wonderful and caring learning environment.

When I am not at school, I enjoy spending time with my husband, our two sons, and our dogs, Sherlock and Merlin. We love old cars and spending time outdoors.

Sarah Gardner

Sarah Gardner

Titles: Grades K-5 Technology and Innovation Coach
Biography:

“Do or do not – there is no try.” –Yoda

After moving around as an army brat for most of my life, I attended George Mason University for my undergrad, in part because of my love for the DC area. After a little bit of travel and photography work, I decided to go back to school and get my master’s degree in education and technology at Full Sail University. I wasn’t sure who I was going to teach with my degree until I began working as a substitute at Potomac. I truly enjoy the community’s genuine hard work and drive to educate the whole child.

When I am not teaching or coaching JV volleyball at Potomac, I like to travel, experience music festivals, and learn more about the connections between music, technology and entertainment.

Katherine Hanckel

Katherine Hanckel

Titles: Middle, Intermediate and Upper School Band Teacher
Biography:

“There is music wherever there is rhythm, as there is life wherever there beats a pulse."– Igor Stravinsky

When I am asked why I chose this profession I almost always answer that teaching is the best way for me to give back to the world that has given me so much. Why music? Because it is something I could never live without. Music has made me a stronger, better, more joyful person, and I am forever its apostle. I am glad to return to my Northern Virginia roots after having worked in North Carolina and the District of Columbia teaching various aspects of music in public and charter schools. Outside of the school day, I have been privately teaching students ages eight through 80 and performing in local community ensembles. I am a graduate of the University of North Carolina, where I received a Bachelor of Music and minored in classical Greek. I am forever a Tar Heel and enjoy yoga, espresso, and frolicking both at home and abroad.

Nick Hanson

Nick Hanson

Titles: Handbells Teacher and Intermediate School Advisor
Biography:

"Handbells have been a part of Potomac for over 40 years, and I am truly privileged to be a part of this history, sharing and teaching this unique musical experience to others."

After picking up my first handbell at the age of 9, I knew it was the beginning of something truly unique. The next 20 years did not prove me wrong as I performed and taught this amazing instrument in over half the United States as well as ten other countries across Europe and Asia. Strong friendships have been created throughout the world from these travels, just from the shared appreciation and commitment to the growth of this art. Handbells have been a part of Potomac for over 40 years, and I am truly privileged to be a part of this history, sharing and teaching this unique musical experience to others.

Hannah Hastings

Hannah Hastings

Titles: Middle and Intermediate School Science Teacher and Intermediate School Coach
Biography:

"I find much joy in leading students on a quest to question and understand the natural world around them."

I am a Connecticut native who is lucky to have lived and worked all over the country since finishing my bachelor's degree at Wesleyan University. I recently moved to Washington, DC, from Los Angeles, CA, where I had been teaching middle school science, coaching high school cross-country, and leading outdoor service learning trips.

Growing up in Connecticut, I spent summers exploring the woods and oceans of New England. I chose the earth and environmental science major at Wesleyan because studying the forests, streams, and wetlands in which I played brought a heightened sense of wonder and awe to my wilderness adventures. I find much joy in leading students on a quest to question and understand the natural world around them. Outside of teaching and adventuring, I love spending time with my fiancé and our pets. I am excited to be beginning a new chapter at The Potomac School this fall!

Sarah Heist

Sarah Heist

Titles: Middle School Mathematics Coordinator
Biography:

"Teaching was always something I felt called to do from the time I was a child."

Teaching was always something I felt called to do from the time I was a child. It began with games of school, turned into tutoring friends and peers, and resulted in attending UConn, where I received my bachelor's in elementary education and my master's in curriculum and instruction. I began my career in Connecticut and quickly realized it was time to move away from home and chose Washington, DC, as the place to begin my next chapter. I have taught in DC Public Schools for the past three years, with two of those years spent teaching fourth grade math.

My love of elementary mathematics has led me to Johns Hopkins University, where I am completing a degree in math leadership and technology integration for grades K through 8. My hope is to help teachers and students alike see how exciting math can be when presented in a way that makes it feel like a discovery instead of a chore. I feel very grateful to be joining the Potomac community to fulfill these dreams!

Carol Hilderbrand

Carol Hilderbrand

Titles: K- 12 Chair of the Physical Education Dept. and LS/MS/IS PE Teacher & Coach
Biography:

"The physical, social and emotional aspects of play keep us alive and connected to ourselves and our community."

Benjamin Franklin once said, "We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing." The physical, social and emotional aspects of play keep us alive and connected to ourselves and our community. I knew early in my life that I wanted to be a teacher, but combining that desire with my love of play was a brainstorm. Growing up in New York City, I learned to think on my feet and create opportunities for play on the concrete playgrounds. After completing my master’s degree in teaching and curriculum design in physical education from Teachers College, Columbia University, I knew I was following my passion. And later in my career, earning National Board Certification in Early and Middle Childhood Physical Education reinforced it. After years of teaching, I still get excited when I see a child's eyes light up when he or she has learned a new skill. Creating lessons that instill in youngsters this love of movement and play for a lifetime of fun and good health continues to be my passion.

Jenna Hoogstra

Jenna Hoogstra

Titles: Grade 4 Teacher
Biography:

"I have been on my journey in education since high school, when I realized I loved working with children."

I am so excited to be a part of the Potomac community. I attended Calvin College, where I received my bachelor’s degree in education, and then I went on to Michigan State University for my master's degree. I have taught in the DC metro area for the past six years, working with students from 2nd through 5th grades.

I grew up as the middle child of three sisters in Wyoming, Michigan. Lake Michigan and the Provincial Parks of Ontario were places for exploring, camping, and hiking for me and my family. All of these experiences with the outdoors became my inspiration to teach children how to explore the world around them. In my spare time I enjoy traveling, hiking, camping, running, and learning everything I can with my husband and dog.

Mike Hutton

Mike Hutton

Titles: Lower and Middle School Physical Education Teacher and Coach
Biography:

"A good day is helping a kindergartner have success jumping rope for the first time or watching the girls varsity basketball team execute the offense with precision against Episcopal.

My favorite title is being called “Dad” by my daughters, Emily and Molly. Running a close second is teacher/coach to the students at Potomac. A good day is helping a kindergartner have success jumping rope for the first time or watching the girls varsity basketball team execute the offense with precision against Episcopal. In my spare time I torment myself by being a loyal Philadelphia Phillies, Eagles and 76ers fan.

Greg Lefever

Greg Lefever

Titles: Grade 6 Teacher
Biography:

“I enjoy teaching this age group because students are starting to think critically and get excited about problem-solving challenges at the same time that they are developing their sense of self.”

A native of the Midwest, I graduated from St. John’s University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Afterward, I earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Notre Dame. 

I have had the pleasure of teaching in independent schools for for over a decade. When I am not in the classroom, I like to run, bike, hike, and spend time with my wife. I enjoy teaching this age group because students are starting to think critically and get excited about problem-solving challenges at the same time that they are developing their sense of self.
 

Kim Mackay

Kim Mackay

Titles: Executive Assistant to the Middle School
Biography:

"I have the unique experience of working closely with a dedicated team of teachers, an enthusiastic parent body, many staff members who also quietly support our mission, and most importantly - our young, eager students."

My days are never dull. As there is always something requiring my attention, I have ample opportunity to hone the skill of multi-tasking in order to best support our Middle School. I strive to do this each day with a smile, energy, dedicated effort, humility, and a sense of humor.

I love the traditions at Potomac, particularly those in the Middle School: May Day, Class Plays, Greek Olympics, Medieval Bazaar, Field Day, Tuesday morning gatherings and more. Through these events, our students have the opportunity to showcase and share their learning by practicing the critical skill of speaking comfortably to groups of both peers and adults.

My husband and I have two grown daughters who fortunately both live nearby. We spent many years living overseas for my husband’s job with the US government. We thoroughly enjoyed the years we spent in Korea, Germany, Finland, and Poland; however, we are happy now to keep our roots planted firmly in the Northern Virginia area.

Barb Mays

Barb Mays

Titles: Lower and Middle School Physical Education Teacher and Coach
Biography:

"I love teaching and coaching and Potomac allows me to do both. I can be teaching first graders how to throw overhand in the morning, coaching an eighth grader on the finer points of how to shoot a layup in the afternoon and spending the evening explaining how our JV basketball team is going to execute a full court press. I love all of it!"

I am still an avid athlete and enjoy running, weight lifting and golf. I graduated from George Mason University for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. My greatest accomplishments are rising triplets and pitching in three college world series while playing softball at George Mason.

Adam McNeil

Adam McNeil

Titles: Grade 5 Teacher
Biography:

“I was drawn to Potomac because of the strong sense of community and the focus on helping students lead purpose-driven lives.”

In my life's work, I have always focused on doing good work that makes a great difference. While attending JMU, I spent my summers working for an international camp in support of coexistence called Seeds of Peace. Upon graduating, I was inspired by my work with youth, and I began working in Washington, DC, for a non-profit focused on dropout prevention called Communities in Schools. While the mission behind this work was meaningful, my desk job was not as fulfilling. However, it did point me in the direction of teaching. 

While in my second year at Communities in Schools, I enrolled in a M.Ed. program at Marymount University and, a year later, found myself a fourth grade teacher for Arlington Public Schools. After four years in Arlington, I was eager to go deeper into my practice and looked into work on the independent school front. For the past five years, I served as a Grade 4 co-teacher at Sidwell Friends School. I was drawn to Potomac because of its strong sense of community and its focus on helping students lead purpose-driven lives. I see myself as a Middle School teacher and am happy to be a part of the Grade 5 team!

When I’m not teaching, you can find me living an active lifestyle – I run, swim, and bike with my wife and our two children. We spend a good bit of time outside hiking, gardening, and playing in the yard. We like to travel to national parks, and we enjoy visiting our parents in Virginia Beach and the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY and our siblings in Richmond.

Douglas Mogle

Douglas Mogle

Titles: Grade 4 Teacher
Biography:

“I am passionate about educating the whole child!”

A native of the Chicago suburbs, I have a bachelor's degree in special education from Ball State University and a Master of Education in elementary education from the University of Notre Dame.

As I enter my 15th year of teaching, I’ve had the great fortune to teach at schools across the United States, big and small. I am passionate about educating the whole child and I am honored to be a part of the Potomac School faculty and coaching staff.

Sean Moran

Titles: Director of Technology and Innovation
Kate Morgan

Kate Morgan

Titles: Grade 6 Teacher
Biography:

"I am an avid drummer and an enthusiastic member of an all-woman Brazilian percussion band based in Washington DC."

I have enjoyed teaching sixth grade at Potomac since 2006, and I have been a classroom teacher for the past 13 years. I grew up in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York and now raise my two children in Great Falls, VA. I am an avid drummer and an enthusiastic member of an all-woman Brazilian percussion band based in Washington, DC.

I have a master’s degree from Virginia Tech in curriculum and instruction, and a bachelor’s degree in English literature from St. John Fisher College.

Erin Mulligan

Titles: Assistant Athletic Trainer and Physical Education Teacher
Russell Nadel

Russell Nadel

Titles: Middle School Music Teacher
Biography:

"I feel enormously privileged to teach here, in a school where music has a long and distinguished history, is highly valued, and is an integral part of the Middle School calendar year."

I started playing piano in third grade, but it wasn’t until eighth grade, when my piano teacher challenged me to compose an original piece for a local Philadelphia-area arts competition, that I discovered how exciting creating my own music could be. After more intensive study during my final two years at Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, PA, I earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music composition and a bachelor's degree in music education at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, MD.

I have completed my certification and post-certification coursework in Orff-Schulwerk, an way of approaching and thinking about music education that emphasizes students learning music through making it and creating it themselves rather than passively "consuming" it. I remain constantly amazed and inspired by our students' overall creativity and musicianship, as shown through games, speech, singing, instrument playing, movement, improvisation, and composition activities and projects! (For more about Orff-Schulwerk, I encourage you to visit http://aosa.org/about/more-on-orff-schulwerk.)

I taught K through 6 general music and chorus for five years in Fairfax County Public Schools before coming to The Potomac School. I feel enormously privileged to teach here, in a school where music has a long and distinguished history, is highly valued, and is an integral part of the Middle School calendar year. Potomac students are artistic, creative, expressive, and willing to take risks in their performing--to commit--in a way that continues to inspire me every day. It has also been a joy to immerse myself in the Potomac Middle School traditions of May Day, Halloween, and so much more.

I enjoy teaching private lessons in piano, music theory, composition, and more, and I love to read fiction and play video and board games when I’m not playing musical instruments or singing. For more information about my compositions, including a listing of works available on commercial CDs, I invite you to visit www.russellnadel.com.

Michelle Oplinger

Michelle Oplinger

Titles: Grade 5 Teacher
Biography:

"After a few years in New York, working on stage and television (including walk-ons for Saturday Night Live!), I returned to school and received my master's in Childhood Education from Teachers College, Columbia University."

I received my undergraduate degree in theater and psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. After a few years in New York, working on stage and television (including walk-ons for Saturday Night Live!), I returned to school and received my master's in childhood education from Teachers College, Columbia University. I have taught in New York City for the past six years at PS/IS 49 Dorothy B. Kole School. In my spare time, I enjoy theater, traveling, and sports of any kind.

Diana Page

Diana Page

Titles: K-12 Chair World Languages Dept. and MS/IS/US School Spanish Teacher
Biography:

"Although I was raised in Wisconsin, I am a native Spanish speaker from Colombian and Spanish parents."

I have extensive teaching experience, most recently in an Arlington County immersion program, but also at independent schools such as St. Stephens/St. Agnes and Washington International School. Although I was raised in Wisconsin, I am a native Spanish speaker from Colombian and Spanish parents. I received my bachelor's degree in bilingual and elementary education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and later my master’s degree in Spanish language and literature from Middlebury College. I enjoy cooking and yoga and being a mother of two wonderful children.

Camille Paredes

Camille Paredes

Titles: Grade 5 Teacher
Biography:

"Outside of teaching, I enjoy traveling, reading, sports and speaking conversational Tagalog with friends and colleagues."

A native of Northern Virginia, my affinity for teaching began in high school as a tutor for young elementary students. I received my bachelor’s degree in psychology and education from Bryn Mawr College, and, after graduating, supervised Fairfax County’s K-6 before-and-after-school programs. After obtaining a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and certification from The College of William and Mary, I taught fifth grade at Greenwood Elementary in Newport News, Virginia. Most recently, I taught third grade and kindergarten at The School at Columbia University in New York City, where I also coached middle school track and field and basketball. Outside of teaching, I enjoy traveling, reading, sports and speaking conversational Tagalog with friends and colleagues.

Brian Parry

Brian Parry

Titles: Arundel Librarian
Biography:

"Coming from a literary family—my father wrote espionage novels and my mother wrote poetry—I cherish the opportunity to encourage students to read and to investigate the world through research."

When I came to Potomac in 1989 as an intern in the Middle School, I was guided by teachers of an extraordinary caliber—Barbara Barksdale, Angela Bullock, Liz Whisnant, John Hebeler, Madeline Hancock, and Sarah Corson. These remarkable teachers showed me the many paths to superior teaching and allowed me to borrow their ideas and incorporate them into my own teaching style.

Born approximately six blocks from the White House at GWU Hospital, I have not strayed far from my roots. I have lived most of my life in the DC area but for a brief seven-year anomaly when I attended high school and college in Connecticut.

My wife and I met as fifth grade teachers here at Potomac and continue to work together in the Middle School, though now in different roles. She is presently a counselor for the fourth and fifth grades. Coming from a literary family—my father wrote espionage novels and my mother wrote poetry—I cherish the opportunity to encourage students to read and to investigate the world through research.

Weezie Parry

Weezie Parry

Titles: Grades 5-8 Counselor
Biography:

"A lifelong learner, I attend workshops in child development and the emerging field of interpersonal neurobiology, as well as seek opportunities for collaboration, supervision and self-reflection to hone my craft and deepen my own sense of self."

As a child, I looked up to my teachers not just as educators but as coaches and mentors who nurtured the "whole child.” Coming from a family of special educators, I had a hunch that the field of education would also be the right professional fit for me. With a deep interest in the social-emotional development of children and the power of the family as a support system, I wanted to be where I could have a positive impact on the social-emotional development of children.

After graduating from Brown University with a degree in psychology, I immersed myself in a teacher training program at The Shady Hill School and Lesley University. With my master's in education and state certification, I arrived at The Potomac School as a fifth grade homeroom teacher. I was struck by the warmth and creativity in the hallways and celebrated the traditions of Friday assemblies, The Greek Olympics and May Day. Now as a Middle School counselor, my goal is to empower kids to deepen their understanding of themselves, teach them tools to manage hurdles that come their way, support teachers as they connect with a range of thinkers, and serve as a resource to parents as they navigate these Middle School years. Seventeen years later, Potomac remains an important part of my extended family as my husband, Brian, and I raise our three children in Washington, DC.

In addition to teaching and serving as Potomac's fourth and fifth Grade counselor, I work as a child and family psychotherapist and serve as an adjunct faculty member in Catholic University’s School of Social Service. A lifelong learner, I attend workshops in child development and the emerging field of interpersonal neurobiology, as well as seek opportunities for collaboration, supervision, and self-reflection to hone my craft and deepen my own sense of self.

Diane Pelak

Diane Pelak

Titles: Lower, Middle, and Intermediate School Accompanist
Biography:

“I have been a church musician, accompanist, and piano teacher in the Washington area for more than 25 years.”

A member of the Potomac community since 2007, I enjoy accompanying the third grade, sixth grade and Intermediate School choruses, as well as teaching piano in the after-school lessons program. Graduating with a Master of Music degree in piano performance from Western Michigan University, I have an undergraduate degree from Kalamazoo College with a major in music and K-12 teaching certification. I have been a church musician, accompanist, and piano teacher in the Washington area for more than 25 years.

Matthew Phelan

Titles: Middle School Teaching Fellow
Biography:

"My goal is to become a role model for the students of Potomac and promote safety, sportsmanship, and great character."

I graduated from Saranac Lake High School in upstate New York, where I was a three-sport athlete, receiving All-League honors in baseball and hockey and first team All-State honors in football. I then attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. While at St. Lawrence, I played both football and baseball. I graduated in May of 2017 as a history major with an education minor.

During my time as a college student, I became very passionate about teaching and coaching. I had the privilege of being a substitute teacher over my Thanksgiving and winter breaks where I worked with grades 2 through 8 and taught a wide range of subjects for weeks at a time.

I am excited to be a part of The Potomac School community during my fellowship, where I look to build off my past experiences. My goal is to become a role model for the students of Potomac and promote safety, sportsmanship, and great character.

Jon Pirnia

Titles: Middle School Science Teacher, Intermediate School Math Teacher and Advisor
Jessica Reynolds

Jessica Reynolds

Titles: Intermediate and Upper School Mathematics Teacher
Biography:

Outside of school and coaching, you will find that I am traveling the world, trying out new recipes in the kitchen, heading out for a long run, or finding time to play around with ceramics, knitting, or weaving.

I grew up outside of Philadelphia with my two sisters (one of whom is my twin!). I graduated from Skidmore College, where I majored in mathematics and minored in studio art. Immediately after college, I traveled around Europe with two friends for two months before ending up in California as a nanny. The following year, I was accepted into a five-year fellowship in Washington, DC, with Math for America. Through the program, I earned my master's in teaching from American University and met my husband, who also teaches mathematics. For the next four years, I taught middle school math, algebra, and geometry in DC public schools and enjoyed attending the monthly professional development programs through Math for America.

After completing the fellowship, my husband and I decided it was time for a change in location so we spent the last two years teaching in the Cayman Islands. In the Caymans, I had fun finding ways to adapt the curriculum to my students' interests, building on their prior knowledge. While the beaches are breathtaking and I found scuba diving, snorkeling, and paddle boarding enthralling, being away from the DC area made us realize what a wonderful place it is to live and work. I am excited to join the amazing faculty and staff at Potomac and look forward to working with the students.

Outside of school and coaching, you will find that I am traveling the world, trying out new recipes in the kitchen, heading out for a long run, or finding time to play around with ceramics, knitting, or weaving.

Jordan Rucker

Jordan Rucker

Titles: K-6 Chair of the Mathematics Department and Middle School Mathematics Coordinator
Biography:

"I love teaching in the Middle School, working with both the students and the families."

I am native to the DC area and an avid sports fan. I love cheering on both the Caps and the Nats. I moved back to the area in 2004, and besides a few years at home when my kids were young, I have been working at Potomac in a number of roles since then. I love teaching in the Middle School, working with both the students and the families. The challenge and excitement brought forth from Thinking Through Mathematics makes my job the best.

Shefali Sardar

Shefali Sardar

Titles: Middle School Academic Dean & Grade 6 Language Arts/Humanities Coordinator & Support Coordinator
Biography:

"My relationship with Potomac began 20 years ago, when I decided to make a career shift from the management consulting world to teaching." 

I knew I would be a teacher since I was five years old. I remember vividly "playing school" with my friends and sisters in my home in New York City. After graduating from Middlebury College, however, I did not immediately pursue teaching. My relationship with Potomac began 20 years ago, when I decided to make a career shift from the management consulting world to teaching. Since beginning at Potomac, I have worn many different hats, having served as a middle school teaching intern, sixth grade classroom teacher, and currently as language arts resource teacher, support coordinator, and middle school academic dean. In addition to teaching at Potomac, I have worked with eighth grade students at the National Cathedral School, undergraduate students at the University of Maryland, College Park, and with seventh and eighth grade students as a private tutor. Beyond my role as a faculty member, I am also a Potomac parent of two children in the Middle and Upper Schools. I have enjoyed watching students develop intellectually and socially/emotionally over the years and look forward to my future years at Potomac.

Leigh Anne Scanzera

Leigh Anne Scanzera

Titles: Grade 4 Teacher
Biography:

"Working with children is so incredibly rewarding."

This will be my fourth year at Potomac but my 13th year of teaching, and I couldn’t be more excited! Working with children is so incredibly rewarding. There is nothing better than watching an ah-ha moment, helping a student discovering her own gifts, or empowering young people to take control of their own learning.

I graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in elementary education. My first teaching position was as a fourth grade teacher at a public elementary school outside of Harrisburg, PA. After that, I taught fifth grade at Hancock Day School in Savannah, GA, and most recently I taught fourth grade at Washington Episcopal School in Bethesda, MD. My husband and I moved to Northern Virginia prior to the arrival of our first son in March of 2015. I am thrilled to be a part of the talented Middle School team at Potomac!