By Ainsley Carpenter
This year, six teachers, both returning and brand-new, have been welcomed into Pinewood’s faculty roster. Math teacher Scott Green and English teacher Kim Wetzel returned after previously working at Pinewood; art teacher Cole Godvin, history teacher Sam Jezak, Mandarin teacher Charlene Chiang, and Spanish teacher Carolyn Siegel are new to the school.
History teacher Sam Jezak grew up in Kansas City and attended Notre Dame University in Notre Dame, Ind. After switching his undergraduate focus from international economics to history, Jezak began volunteering in education, eventually applying for a dual teach/study masters program at Notre Dame. Jezek’s favorite part of teaching is being able to see the positive changes in high schoolers every day.
“I get to see people over the course of, at the very minimum, nine months, or I can see them over the course of four years, and really seeing that growth is pretty cool,” said Jezek.
Jezak said that a combination of stellar academic reputation, close-knit community feel, festive atmosphere, and emphasis on balance drew him to Pinewood.
“It seemed like a really fun place to be…where staff had fun and kids had fun. [Students] are very balanced…although there is a huge focus on grades, kids are in a million other things and have other interests. I have yet to talk to a student whose only interest is class and grades, or who is completely uninterested in what is going on in class. I think that that is something really unique about Pinewood,” Jezak said.
Mandarin teacher Charlene Chiang was born in Taiwan, where she spent her childhood. Her family immigrated to the United States while she was attending college in China, so Chiang frequently travelled back and forth between these three countries. She received her first masters degree in elementary education from Boston University, then completed her second masters degree in TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) and teaching Chinese as a foreign language at New York University. This year, Chiang is most excited to introduce foreign cultures to Pinewood students.
“I can bring Chinese culture to Pinewood and broaden students’ horizons! I can’t wait to see my students use Mandarin to communicate with each other, write Chinese characters, and share Chinese holidays or traditions with their friends and families!” Chiang said.
Chiang loves her job, saying that one of her favorite parts about teaching is learning from her students.
“I always can learn so much from students’ creativity, imagination and intelligence, especially in this era of new technology,” Chiang said.
Like Jezak, Chiang was drawn to Pinewood by the cheerful atmosphere of upper campus.
“When they showed me the school, I saw lots of smiles and excitement in the classrooms. At that moment, I knew it was the school I wanted to teach,” Chiang said.
Spanish teacher Carolyn Siegel grew up in Long Island, NY and Boca Raton, FL, and received her undergraduate degree from Columbia University. She furthered her higher education with masters degrees from Brown University and Middlebury College in Spain.
“I always knew I wanted to teach. In high school I tutored kids and taught Hebrew school, and in college I taught adaptive skiing,” Siegel said.
After college, Siegel spent some time teaching English in Spain before deciding that teaching Spanish was her true passion. Before coming to Pinewood, Siegel taught at Riverdale Country School in New York City, Brown University in Providence, RI, and Gann Academy in Boston. She has taught all levels of Spanish as well as Spanish literature and film classes.
“The best part [of teaching] is watching each student’s growth. I love that by expanding students’ knowledge about the Spanish-speaking world, they have greater empathy and understanding of other people’s experiences,” Siegel said.
Siegel was drawn to Pinewood because of the happiness displayed by everyone she interacted with.
“Teachers and students alike are happy to be here; they have so much school spirit,” Siegel said.