The years from fifth grade through eighth grade are an important time for self-discovery. They are a time when students develop their interests, learn new talents, and face challenges that are unique to their age group. At Latin, middle school students are introduced to a world of new concepts and ideas.
Our middle school curriculum covers all the traditional core subject areas—math, science, English and language arts, social studies and language—but we use a range of innovative, creative ways to present the material. Middle school students learn best when they are engaged with the subject matter through concrete experiences like role playing, simulations, lab work or exploration outside the classroom. Dynamic discussions and interactive lectures are designed to relate to issues and ideas we know middle school-aged kids are thinking about.
I think Latin has one of the most challenging curricula out there, and one that helps my child reach her full potential as an academic and a person.
Each fall Latin welcomes many new faces to its community. As always, we are pleased to introduce a dedicated group of teachers and staff members who have chosen to make Latin their home. Visit the Directory to read the full bios and discover more faculty and staff members.
Ahmed Ashoor, Assistant Teacher
Ahmed was raised on two different continents as a child–Asia and Africa–before moving to North America. Prior to living in Chicago, he spent time in Toronto, Canada, where he became a huge Toronto Raptors basketball fan. He also loves to coach and play sports, listen to music and try out new restaurants in the city.
Marc Blettry, Director of Technology & Data
Marc joins Latin to lead the IT team after spending more than 10 years as the IT director at the Lycee Francais de Chicago. He also served as senior director of technology at the McGaw YMCA and spent time at the Active Transportation Alliance where he lead the digital transformation of the organization. Marc was born and raised in France.
Dottie Bris-Bois, Chief Development Officer
Dottie is thrilled to be joining the team at Latin and is dedicated to strengthening the school's culture of philanthropy and championing its institutional priorities. Dottie was most recently the director of development at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and brings over a decade of fundraising experience to her role.
Phillip Brownlee, Vocal Music Director
Phil is excited to start making music with the Latin community as the Vocal Music Director for the middle and upper schools. Originally from Iowa, Phil now resides in Chicago and is an honors graduate of DePaul University's School of Music. Music has been an integral part of Phil's life since he first started playing the violin at the age of five. Phil would later go on to study violin, flute and voice as part of his music education journey and finds joy in every opportunity to make music.
Sheila Burke, Lower School Division Assistant
Sheila comes to us from North Shore Country Day School, where she was the administrative assistant to the Head of the Middle School and Lower School. She has nearly 20 years of experience in education and corporate administration. Sheila enjoys spending time near the water, martial arts, cooking and writing.
Courtney Coleman, Assistant Teacher (Art)
Courtney came to Chicago in 2010 to complete her undergraduate degree at the School of the Art Institute. Since then, she has worked as an independent artist, as well as at a non-profit mentoring college students and as a kindergarten teacher assistant. She loves learning and exploring alongside children.
Erin Crowley, Nurse
Erin is very excited to join Latin as one of the school nurses. She grew up in the Chicagoland area, and after moving to Wisconsin for nursing school, she recently moved back to the city. After two years at Lutheran General Hospital working as a pediatric nurse and volunteering as a camp counselor, she is looking forward to continuing her work with kids.
Jen Damaska, Assistant to the Head of School
Jen Damaska comes to us by way of Cincinnati, Ohio where she was most recently an Executive Assistant to the CEO at a Tech firm in the area. Prior to moving into Tech, Jen served as the Executive Assistant to the General Manager/COO of The Cincinnati Country Club choosing to change careers and end her tenure after 20 years.
Jenny Cook Deters, Upper School Learning Specialist
Jenny comes to Latin as an upper school learning specialist and is very excited to be a part of the community. She has taught all over the country, from California to Washington D.C., but grateful to plant roots in Chicago! She recently got married and is still feeling all the joy from that special day. She can't wait to bring all this good energy into Latin!
Alyssa Dudzik, First Grade Teacher
Alyssa is excited to join the Latin community this year as a first grade teacher. Alyssa grew up in Connecticut and earned her B.A. in psychology from Amherst College. After earning an M.S. in childhood general and special education from Bank Street College of Education in 2013, she moved to Chicago and fell in love with the Midwest! Alyssa has always had a passion for working with children, and loves the energy and enthusiasm they bring to each new experience.
Zach Duffy, Upper School English Teacher
Zach grew up in Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor's degree in English. He began his career in 2002, teaching elementary school in Chicago's Englewood community as a Teach For America corps member before teaching middle school English in Boston and Seattle.
Jonty Faulkner, Upper School Science Teacher
Jonty is honored to be joining Latin as an upper school chemistry and physics teacher. He was born and raised in the Southwest of England, where his formative years were spent surfing, sailing and hiking. While earning his BSc in chemistry and law from the University of Exeter, he developed a love for the sport of rowing and has seen some successes over the years competing and coaching.
Jennifer Funchess, Assistant Director of Development, Annual Giving
Jennifer was born and raised in Texas. After graduating from the University of Georgia in 2017 with a ABJ in advertising, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to begin her career with a large media firm. She spent the last five years helping her clients navigate and negotiate the evolving media landscape. With her years of experience planning successful media campaigns and managing client relationships, she is excited to join the Latin community as the assistant director of annual giving.
Lenny Goldman, English Teacher
As a Chicagoland native, Lenny is thrilled to be joining the Latin community. After earning his degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, Lenny pivoted into education when he joined Teach for America in 2011. After teaching in Brooklyn for almost a decade, Lenny and his wife decided to move back home to Chicago.
Laura Grandau, Lower School Math Interventionist
Laura has worked in math education for more than 25 years, teaching math in schools, museums, libraries, and nature centers, and emphasizing curiosity and play as central components of learning. She has a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction/math education from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Laura is always excited to partner with children and adults in exploring the beauty and joy of mathematics!
Thomas Hagerman, Head of School
Thomas served as the Superintendent of the Scarsdale Public Schools in Scarsdale, New York. Prior to his role in Scarsdale, he held superintendent positions in school districts in Winnetka and River Forest, Illinois and Portland, Oregon. A career educator, Thomas' first job was as a middle and upper school teacher in the Portland public schools.
Katie Harrison, Assistant to the Chief Development Officer
Katie is a native Chicagoan who graduated from Latin in 1992. She is thrilled to be returning to her alma mater as a part of the Development team. After living on the East Coast for the past 22 years, she is looking forward to rediscovering everything Chicago has to offer.
Ben Hollister, Lead Teacher - Third Grade
Ben is incredibly excited to be joining the Latin community. He brings sixteen years of teaching experience spanning first, second and third grades. He began his career in a rural education setting. Teaching environmental education in the states of Alaska, Hawaii and Washington has inspired him to bring nature into his urban classroom.
Molly Jenkins, Lower School Lead Teacher - Fourth Grade
Molly enthusiastically joins Latin this year as a fourth grade lead teacher. Molly earned her bachelor's degree at Barnard College of Columbia University studying history, psychology, and Spanish before completing her master's degree in education and social policy at Northwestern University in 2012.
Michael Keenan, Lower School Music Teacher
Michael relocated to Chicago from the land of bbq and the delta blues, Memphis, Tennessee. As a lifelong musician and learner, Michael earned his bachelor’s of music education from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2018 and has been teaching lower school music in Memphis ever since. He is excited to experience Chicago and proud to join the Latin community as the lower school music teacher.
Melissa Klein, Lower School Assistant Teacher
Melissa grew up in La Canada Flintridge, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. In May, she graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington with a B.S. in elementary education. Her passion for teaching stems from many summers as a sleep-away camp counselor. Melissa is excited about exploring her new adopted home of Chicago!
Xiaorong Li, Director of Studies and Educational Technology
Xiaorong was born and grew up in Qingdao, a coastal city on the east coast of China. She came to the United States about 20 years ago to pursue her doctoral studies at Carnegie Mellon University. Over the past decade, she has worked at independent schools on both sides of the country. She has recently moved from Southern California to Chicago with her husband. Xiaorong is thrilled to join Latin as the director of studies and educational technology.
Andrew Miller, Upper School Counselor
Andrew is thrilled to be joining the counseling team in the upper school. He grew up in north central Indiana and is coming to Latin most recently from The Frances Xavier Warde School. Prior to that, Andrew spent five years as the school psychologist at Culver Academies in Culver, Indiana.
Mallory Moore, Assistant Teacher
Originally from Washington D.C., Mallory recently graduated from the University of Chicago and is delighted to begin her postgraduate chapter as a fourth grade assistant teacher at Latin. She is enthusiastic about integrating social emotional learning with academics.
Genna Newquist, Lower School Assistant Teacher
Genna grew up in Highland Park, Illinois and spent four years in Colorado completing her bachelor's degree in history at the University of Denver. She is excited to return to the Chicago area to begin her first year at Latin as a lower school assistant teacher and to pursue a master's degree in secondary education.
Carlos Ocampo, Lower School Assistant Teacher
Carlos is a graduate of University of Wisconsin-Parkside. He was raised in Lake Zurich, Illinois, and graduated from Lake Zurich High School. He began his career at Latin as a substitute teacher and summer camp counselor. He is excited to be part of the senior kindergarten team and is looking forward to getting to know the incoming class.
Carlo Ordoñez, Upper School Mathematics Teacher
Carlo enjoyed studying mathematics for as long as he can remember. He obtained a B.A. in mathematics at Dartmouth College and an M.S. at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He serendipitously found his first job teaching in 2007, and he hasn't looked back. Since 2015, he has taught full-time at the high school level, and he looks forward to continuing that work at Latin.
Kirsten Richter, Director of Athletics
Kirsten is excited to join the Latin community as the Director of Athletics. Prior to joining Latin, she served in multiple leadership and student development roles at Franklin & Marshall College, in both the Department of Athletics and the Division of Student Affairs.
Rick Rivera, Assistant Director of Operations
Ricardo has worked as a Director of Operations in the field of long term care since 2011. He brings 15 years experience of operations management. Ricardo attends national training sessions to stay current with updated IDPH and NFPA regulations. He is passionate about serving the residents in his communities and now he wants to apply his skills and talents in the education field.
Ingrid Surkan, Nurse
Ingrid was born and raised in the Chicago area, leaving in her mid-20s to complete a Master of Education in Massachusetts, where she eventually met and married her husband of 22 years. She taught French, German, and Spanish, primarily to middle and upper school students while raising her two daughters. However, she had always been passionate about health care and began her path to earning a Master of Nursing degree in 2016.
Tiffany Tafe, First Grade Teacher
Tiffany was born and raised on the East Coast in Maryland which influenced her great love of everything outdoors, especially the water. Tiffany knew from an early age she enjoyed learning, and helping others achieve their goals and dreams. Over the last 10 years she has built her teaching practice on the understanding that cultivating rich and lasting relationships are key to learning. Sharing power, providing choice and building inclusive learning environments are the hallmarks of her pedagogy.
Cristina Vásquez, Middle School Counselor
Cristina is primarily from Long Island, New York, but grew up all over the U.S. and abroad in countries such as Japan and Italy. She received her B.A. in psychology and a minor in gender studies from the University of South Florida and an MEd in counseling from DePaul University. Cristina comes to Latin from a south side CPS high school. As a counselor, Cristina loves small group, walk-and-talk therapy and strengths-based counseling. She is very excited to work with the middle school students.
Jonathan Yenkin, Assistant Teacher
Jonathan is excited to join the team at Latin while he completes his master's degree in elementary teaching at National Louis University. He changed careers to go into teaching after working more than 20 years in technology product development, and before that in the field of journalism. He feels passionate about working with children to nurture their love of learning.
Not pictured, but we are also pleased to welcome:
Carlos Bernal, Assistant Teacher
India Clark, Receptionist
Aimee Frank, Math Teacher
Natalie Hogan, Assistant Teacher
Kayla Kausal, Computer Technician
Jonah Koslofsky, Development and Alumni Assistant
Rene Moreno, Lower School Art Teacher
Lisa Patton, Upper School Librarian
Kai Stolze, Assistant Teacher
Derrick Streater, Assistant Director of Human Resources
We would like to say a very heartfelt thank you to the faculty and staff who will be leaving Latin this year for their service to the school. We wish you well in your next adventures!
Shannon Barker-Fivelson, Upper School English
Joe Edwards, Upper School Dean
Bradley Leshem, Upper School Science Lab Manager
Lang Kanai, Upper School English
Tim Kendrick, Upper School Mathematics
Stephen Wright, Upper School Learning Resources
Pamela Buchanan Miller (retiree), Middle School Counselor
Tom Canright (retiree), Middle School Mathematics
Gabriel Di Genarro, Middle and Upper School Vocal Music
Jeff Newmark (retiree), Middle School Mathematics
Terri Eaton, Senior Kindergarten Lead Teacher
Brenda V.H. Friedman (retiree), Lower School Art
Patrick Huett, Lower School Math Interventionist
Cameron Pilcher, First Grade Lead Teacher
Meghan Smith, Third Grade Lead Teacher
Brigitte Viard, First Grade Lead Teacher
LS Assistant Teachers:
Janessa Butler, Assistant Director of Development, Annual Giving
Annika Cole, Development and Alumni Relations Coordinator
Randall Dunn, Head of School
Hamdi Hachim (retiree), Facilities
Anne Hobbs (retiree), Director of Development
Caroline Hufstader, Associate Director of Development, Annual Giving
Jamie McInerney, Athletics Operations Coordinator
Kristin Provencher, Assistant to the Head of School
Liqui Scruggs, Reception
Lower School Computer Science and Tech Integration Specialist Fiona Deeney, Middle School Technology Coordinator Mike Demopoulos and Upper School Innovation Studio Manager Shane Enderle offered an inside look at Latin's maker spaces for parents/guardians.
At the start of the event, the team shared information about each division's maker space and projects created in them. Then they gave a tour of the upper school maker space to show some of the equipment and supplies students can access in all three divisions.
Soldering Irons and accessories
iPad Pro’s with Apple Pencils
3D Printer (x3)
Vinyl Cutter (x2)
MacBook Air (x2)
Digital Embroidery Machine
LittleBits Pro Library and STEAM Kits
Afterward, parents/guardians got the opportunity to laser engrave on a pre-cut wood roman head. They also visited stations to make leather key chains, play with Little Bits electronics from the lower school, see embroidery and sewing machines in action, and a few physical projects that students have created.
The maker spaces at Latin aid students with designing and problem-solving, as well as develop skills, talents, thinking and mental rigor.
Ben Orlin, acclaimed math educator and author, visited the lower, middle and upper school math departments on Thursday, March 3.
He popped into Upper School Math Teacher Zach McArthur's calculus class and fielded questions on Gabriel's horn, a mysterious figure that has infinite surface area yet finite volume, as well as Koch's snowflake and the coastline of California, which both turn out to have infinite length.
He also spent the afternoon playing math games with the math teachers in preparation of the release of his new book, "Math Games with Bad Drawings."
Orlin is the author of "Math with Bad Drawings" and "Change is the Only Constant."
How We Approach Teaching and Learning
Middle School Director Deb Sampey talks about our energizing and demanding curriculum and how it prepares students for the rigor and challenges that lie ahead in high school.
When learning resonates with the students' own values and beliefs, the content is seen as relevant and tied to real-world concerns and projects.
Scratching beneath the surface of the syrian refugee crisis
Seventh grade students in the Global Perspectives course researched the lives of individual Syrian refugees and told their stories using a programming language called Scratch. The project takes users on the journey of a real-life Syrian refugee, the choices they face, as well as the realities of the refugee experience.
Students are well versed in the "power of yet" and the value in continuing to grow, defying expectations or limitations.
Latin should never change how comfortable it makes us feel. Which means that we aren't afraid to make mistakes.
I understood the value of this education first hand when I went off to college. My persistence and strong desire to learn and connect with my professors was a reflection of the close relationships I made with my teachers at Latin.
Students are thrilled to have new kids join the class. When applicants visit the school one of the most frequent responses we hear from parents is, “my child felt the most comfortable on the Latin visit because the students were the friendliest.”
Absolutely, get involved. We encourage all students to join a co-curricular activity. The middle school offers a wide range of extracurricular activities with time commitments varying from once a week to daily. Students have time to make friends, pursue an interest, and exercise their mind and body and still do the homework. The new students who tend to have the easiest time adjusting to Latin are those who participate in after-school activities.
Our goal is to keep students challenged in courses with their peers. The curriculum, pedagogy, and assessments are designed to challenge different kids at different levels with the same topics. Math is the one exception, and math ability groups begin in sixth grade. We are committed to the development of the whole child, and this is best accomplished when students are with their peers.
The after-school activities program was designed to encourage all students, athletes or not, to explore a wide range of interests. Approximately 80 percent of middle school students participate in at least one sport, and most also join a club, academic team, or participate in a play.
Latin's middle school strives to adopt the school-as-community-center concept. The building buzzes with kids from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily. Students are encouraged to utilize the many resources Latin has to offer before and after school, whether it is the cafeteria, library, or the common areas. Teachers often can be found meeting with students, playing a pick-up game of chess, watching a movie, or talking about yesterday’s game. Students are able to meet in classrooms or the library to work on group projects. The goal is to have all students feel like Latin is where they enjoy being before, during, and after school!
Do you have questions? We would love to hear from you.