Taking on New Roles at Poly This Fall

One of the events we look forward to every fall is welcoming new faculty and staff into our community. This year, we saw fresh faces step into established positions such as Dr. Omari Keeles, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, Kenneth Hamilton, Assistant Head of Lower School, and Dr. Ramesh Laungani, Chair of the Science Department. We are also excited to welcome community members who have joined us to expand programming, alongside established Poly faculty who have taken on new roles. Things to look forward to this year include the elevation of our music program with a director-level position, new offerings for journalism and robotics, a full-time psychology team in student services, and more.

Journalism and Media Studies
Rachael Allen

Since at least the 1930s, Poly has published The Polygon, our student newspaper, and, for more than 100 years, The Polyglot, our yearbook, with faculty advisors. But, for the first time that anyone can recall, Poly has a faculty member dedicated to teaching journalism. Rachael Allen joined us as a Journalism and Media Studies teacher for Middle and Upper School.  “As the school has grown and the demands of the newspaper have expanded,” said John Rankin, a past advisor, “a course that might better prepare some and serve as an idea workshop for the more experienced gained appeal.”

Allen has written profiles for The Atlantic, reported on breaking news for The Washington Post’s website The Lily, and, most recently, published a cover story for Slate Magazine. “I’ve loved my work as a journalist—and I continue to write—but I found that as I profiled story subjects, especially young women and students, I wanted to be the one helping them tell their own stories and find their own voices.” Allen was inspired by her high school creative writing teacher. “She took us seriously, and she made me feel that, someday, I could actually be a writer outside of the classroom. For me, a shy student, just finding her voice, this was huge. I want to inspire the same feeling in my students.”

In her short tenure, Allen is already making strides to elevate understanding of what it means to be a journalist. Students, she said, are “skeptical of journalism today” and wary of what is a reliable news source. Allen said this skepticism and critical thinking “will really help the students as they become more savvy readers, consumers, and creators of media through this course and beyond.” For the Middle School, she said, a final class project will be to create a newspaper. The Upper School students will write news stories about Poly events that they will submit to The Polygon for publication. “Over the course of the year,” Allen said, “they will also write profile and other feature stories, produce podcasts, and experiment with various forms of multimedia.”

Psychology Department 
Dalia Gold

The mental health of our students is critical, especially as we continue to navigate the pandemic. Starting this fall, Poly is excited to share that we have expanded our school Psychology Department to better support students in each division. Dr. Dalia Gold takes on the role of Interim Clinical Director of School Psychology while continuing in her role as Lower School Psychologist. Additionally, we welcome  Kaila Warner-Haakmat, MSW, as full-time Middle School Counselor, and Anais Kingsberry, MS as full-time Upper School Psychologist.

Anais Kingsberry, MS

“Expanding the capacity of our school psychology department enables us to focus more on mental and emotional health promotion and to provide a broader range of support services to students,” said Sarah Zuercher, NP, Director of Health and Well-being. “While our school psychologists will always work with students who need individual support, they will also spend time in the classroom teaching about social, emotional and mental health and developing support group programs aimed at helping students thrive.”

Student Life

Jared Winston came to Poly as a French teacher in 2019, but this year he has taken on the role of Director of Student Life for Middle and Upper School. His previous experience as a Director at the Washington International School, along with other administrative roles in independent schools, will serve him, and us, well as he assumes leadership of our student life programming.

In the first full week back to school, Winston told Upper School students about goals and expectations for the year, including community standards, service learning teams, technology policies and culture, learning support and enrichment, and Honor Council. He invited students to come out to the Upper School Clubs Fair on September 24, an opportunity to get involved and make new friends.

New Robotics Coach

Kristin Guynn joined Poly as an Upper School and Middle School Computer Science teacher and Robotics coach in 2021. At Poly, Guynn said she plans to “create a robotics team that will use problem-solving skills, collaboration, programming, and creativity to compete on a high level and qualify for the national competition. Students will design, build and program robots and apply what they learn to improve real world situations.”

“Poly is thrilled to be forming a competitive robotics team. Successful teams require dedicated time, resources, and above all amazing coaching. Leading this exciting program will be our new faculty member, Kristin Guynn, who brings with her over a decade of experience teaching both science and computer science.”

Jean Belford ’24, Interim Department Chair, Computer Science

Guynn is well-prepared for this role. She earned a master’s in education and teaching at Achievement First Charter School. In addition to launching a technology program at her previous school, Guynn has worked with the Google Educators Group and CSEd research team, as well as Girls Who Code to advocate for racially minoritized and female students in technology education. She also co-founded Mind.Code.Create, a non-profit mindfulness and tech incubator for Black and Latinx youth.

Middle School Sports

Lisa Beltramello, Girls’ Varsity Lacrosse coach, is the new Head of the Middle and Upper School Physical Education Department. Bill McNally, Poly’s Sports Information Director, is taking on the role of Middle School Athletic Director. 

In Grades 5 & 6 physical education, students participate in a rotation of sports for two weeks, “like a tasting menu of what we have to offer at the varsity level,” said Beltramello. In Grades 7 & 8 they will choose one sport per season “and play one or two games against the opposing school so they get that experience of what it would be like to be in season.” She added, “We’re trying to mimic what the high school seasons look like to get our kids used to that cadence in their athletic schedule and prepare them for, hopefully, wanting to play sports when they come to the high school.”

Additionally, Poly’s after school opportunities in athletics for Middle School students is expanding. Grades 7 and 8 students will have a more robust game schedule while the Poly PM program includes sports offerings for Grades 5 and 6. The three season format will consist of  Monday and Wednesday “Drill and Play” clinics. Each session will have a warm up and fundamental drill, followed by an intersquad scrimmage game. The fall season will feature multisports on Mondays and soccer on Wednesdays. Basketball will replace soccer on Mondays in the winter while the spring sport will be announced in early 2022. Students will use the Poly Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton Army Base athletic facilities.  

“I think it’s really important that we provide an [athletic] opportunity for every person that walks onto this campus,” Beltramello said. “We want to promote health and happiness within everyone.”

Poly PM—the New Middle School After School

“We are very excited to announce a new after-school program at the Middle School,” shared Head of Middle School Andre Del Valle P’29, ’33 in his recent weekly bulletin. This new initiative was created to provide robust co-curricular activities for Grades 5-8 and will be overseen by a director. In the fall, students can look forward to creative writing, an array of performing arts options, multisports, as well as soccer, football, girls’ tennis, volleyball, and cross country.

Lower School Academic Enrichment and Support 

Bette Soto P’35 has taught at the Lower School since 2006, first in third grade and then, since 2011, in first grade, while also overseeing and organizing the after-school enrichment classes. “This year I have transitioned into the learning department,” Soto said. “I will be providing academic enrichment and support to first and second grade students.” As in her previous role, Soto is excited about working with the children. “I love guiding students to their ‘a-ha’ moments,” Soto said. “My favorite experiences as a classroom teacher were during times I was supporting students in small group settings, as well as pushing them out of their comfort zone to tackle challenges. I’m excited that this will be the focus of my new role.”

Dan Doughty, Director of Music

The newly created role of Director of Music, held by Dan Doughty, was created to continue to lead excellence in Poly Arts through the expansion of programming and opportunities across divisions. In his new position, Doughty supervises the entire N-12 music curriculum and faculty. “Having a more focused purview will allow me to better support the music instructors and develop opportunities that continue to challenge and inspire our students and grow our program,” Doughty explained. “I am especially excited to work more closely with and provide additional support to our Lower School Music teachers.” Part of his focus will be on supporting musicians in Grades 3-7, nurturing their talent as they transition to Middle School orchestra and ensembles. “I have many ideas for the expansion of the Music program,” Doughty said, “beginning in the 2020-21 school year with a new Music Production class and further development of the Poly Conservatory programs on both campuses.”

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Meet Poly’s New Faculty & Staff and New Roles – & more to come!
(*bio coming soon)

Rachael Allen
Journalism/Media Studies Teacher

Monique Boston*
Middle School Math Teacher

Susie Brandmeyer
Lower School Head Teacher

Alia Carponter Walker
Middle School Dean

Daniel Costello
Tech Support Specialist

David Edwards
Security Officer

Katharine Frank
Lower School Associate Teacher

Kristin Guynn
Middle School Computer Science Teacher/Robotics Coach

Kenneth R. Hamilton
Assistant Head of Lower School

Malory Hom
Lower School Learning Specialist

Paolo Javier
Upper School English Teacher

Omari Keeles
Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Ramesh Laungani
Science Department Chair

Paola Ligonde
Middle/Upper School Visual Arts Teacher

Caitlin Loi
Middle School Math Teacher

James Megahan
Middle/Upper School Learning Support Specialist

Francois Monroc
Middle School French Teacher

Christian Morehouse
Middle School Science Teacher

Alejandra Parra
Middle School Spanish Teacher

Josie Paul
Lower School Head Teacher

Marissa Pennington
Lower School Math Specialist

Iman Powe-Maynard
Middle/Upper School Librarian

Annie Pulsipher
Interim Middle School History Teacher

Amanda Rose
Middle School Dean

Matthew Sagotsky
Upper School Chemistry Teacher

Fannie Santana
Middle/Upper School Learning Support Specialist

Max Shmookler
Upper School History Teacher

Maria Szabo
Lower School Associate Teacher

Sam Turner
Upper School Dance Teacher

Chris Tutolo
Interim Middle School French Teacher

Marie Vizzotti
Lower School Associate Teacher

Kaila Warner-Haakmat
Middle School Counselor/Psychologist

Arnelle Williams
Middle School English Teacher

Meghan Whitenack
Lower School Associate Teacher

Daniel Wu
Upper School Computer Science Teacher

Mariko Wyatt
Upper School Drama Teacher