- This is Poly
Each week we’ve been featuring a new faculty member on Facebook. In case you missed “New Faculty Fridays,” enjoy our recap of new teachers we highlighted in September. Welcome Melinda Lvovsky, Eliza Jimenez, Bre’Lynn Lombard, and Eman Abbas!
Middle School teacher Melinda Lvovsky will be teaching Grades 5 and 6 English classes. She comes to Poly from a smaller school where she taught both language arts and social studies to Grades 6-8 from 2008 to this past June.
“I was always a voracious reader who was encouraged by my late mother, an Honors English teacher, to tackle texts that were advanced for my age,” Melinda recalled. When Melinda was 11, her mother began an extensive collection of first editions for her. “Each year for my birthday I received a new text,” Melinda said. “I plan to continue the tradition for my own daughters.”
Although Melinda’s favorite teacher in high school was very strict about proper grammar, his classes were the highlight of her day. That vigilance about “its” versus “it’s” earned her an award for excellence in English at graduation. Melinda is ready to be part of this challenging year at Poly.
“The pandemic has divided our world in that it has uniquely impacted everyone’s life, but it has also unified us all; it has unearthed the deep-seated systemic problems within our society, such as the prevalence of racism and inequality and the operation of an extremely flawed justice system. I am hopeful that people will become empowered to push for and secure the reforms necessary to rectify these social and economic ills and empower future generations to be forces for equity, positivity, and goodness.”
Melinda understands what parents have been dealing with this year. “Like most teachers with a family, I was presented with the challenge of helping my students cope with learning in the ‘strange new world’ of the remote classroom while simultaneously assuaging my own daughters’ fears and anxieties about online instruction. I will continue to create a classroom environment, in which all students can flourish knowing that I will serve as their advocate for learning.”
For new Grades 8 and 9 history teacher, Eliza Jimenez, a love of adventure and travel was sparked when she was in third grade and her mom took her and her brother on a camping trip around Europe for several months, with extended periods of time in eight different countries. Eliza is truly a global citizen. Before coming to Poly, Eliza taught World History and Comparative Government and Politics at King’s Academy, a boarding school outside of Amman, Jordan. “Coming from a setting with a student body and faculty from 40 different countries,” Eliza said, “it was very important for me to work at a school that welcomed and celebrated a diversity of identities and experiences.” She found that at Poly Prep. “I knew this was a place where I wanted to learn and grow as a person and an educator.”
Her interest in studying history began with her high school American History class. “It was the first time that I was conducting field research about a topic of my choice,” she said. She chose to research and write about “the successes and failures of my local public school’s efforts to create magnet schools as a means to eliminate de facto school segregation in the 1970s.” Eliza recalls, “I looked through archives for newspaper clippings and I interviewed former school board officials and education activists about the district’s plans.” She added, “Studying and engaging with history completely changed for me when I started to conduct research and truly dig deeply into topics that felt both interesting and relevant to me.”
“Based on my experience as a student, I strive to give students choice and agency alongside teaching skills and content that do not rely on lectures.”
As we begin the new school year, Eliza said, “I am looking forward to learning from my Poly Prep 8th and 9th grade students about their hopes for the outdoors socially distanced and remote learning models.”
In her new role as Middle School history teacher, Bre’Lynn Lombard will be teaching 7th Grade U.S. History and 8th Grade U.S. & Global Social Justice.
“I am excited to look at the connections between the past and present and art’s power in revealing the unconscious to us,” Bre’Lynn said. “We will explore themes of identity, consciousness, and action and their role in our understanding of history and our role in current movements of action. As a diverse community, we have the opportunity to trailblaze, and that’s exactly what we will do. Connecting these experiences to art and exploring the intersection of art, history, and identity came through my graduate studies at The Harvard Graduate School of Education. However, my favorite educators are women like Dr. Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper and Dr. Tarshia Stanley, both of whom I studied under at Spelman College.”
Bre’Lynn met Middle School Head Andre Del Valle and other members of the Poly team through an independent school fair. “I had been looking to further my pedagogy in a more autonomous space, one that was ready to tackle issues of identity, art, and history. Poly was a great match,” she said.
“This year is one that is unprecedented for all. It has changed the way we know and exist together… this year is about action, creating change and creating what should exist, in order to do that we must hold one another accountable.”
In this challenging year, Bre’Lynn is “committed to ensuring that all lessons are engaging, relevant and just as structured as they would be in class. When we take learning outdoors we will be sure to foster a space of intellectual exchange, exploration, but also one that is brave.” Bre’Lynn loves animated films, with “A Goofy Movie,” “Moana,” and “Coco” among her favorites. But in a more serious vein, in her free time Bre’Lynn runs a curatorial organization called UnJaded Curations, in which she works with artists to curate anti-racists and anti-colonial exhibitions.
As a child, Eman Abbas, Grades 5 & 6 science teacher, was always interested in science and loved how each class she took made her think deeper about the world around her. “I was blessed with teachers who loved their work and made their students as deeply immersed as possible through experiments, field trips, and in-class demonstrations. Their dedication was very inspiring to me, because even the more difficult topics became seen as a fun challenge to overcome.”
In college, Eman tutored high school students in biology and chemistry. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology and beginning to teach full time, she started work on her master’s in Adolescence Education in Biology. Eman believes, “We must all have a positive outlook to be able to find solutions to any challenges this year may bring. In science, we must encourage students to ask questions about the world around them and to think critically about what is presented in a lesson. Doing so also allows educators to understand more about how their students think individually, and how we can assist them in understanding the lesson much deeper.”
“We must all have a positive outlook to be able to find solutions to any challenges this year may bring.”
Virtual teaching “became a challenge that allowed me to find new and creative ways to make lessons that are just as engaging as they are in the traditional classroom,” Eman said. “Through exit tickets after class lessons, at-home experiments that students can film and edit, and written responses after each topic, students were able to express their own interest in the topics covered.” When not teaching, Eman is very interested in landscape photography.