A coeducational day school serving students JK-12

Talk about life long learning, at the age of 93, Claes Oldenburg '46 just unveiled his exciting new installation, “Plantoir, Blue,” in place this spring at the entrance to the Channel Gardens at Rockefeller Center. Learn more about this groundbreaking installation and Oldenburg's work.



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Join Latin’s Director of Athletics, Kirsten Richter, to learn about the mental approach to sports and how students can take these skills from basketball court to Wall Street.


I think athletics is such a powerful learning environment. It has the feeling of high stakes. Individuals can learn so much about themselves while also learning how to interact with their teammates.It feels high stakes. We want to win. We really want to achieve competitive excellence. But when we fall a little bit short of that, we can redouble our efforts and learn from that and get even better. A lot of times in sports will say we got to be resilient or be gritty. 100% agree. But how do we actually do that? We want the students who have learned these skills in this setting where we can take time and get better and learn and grow. And now we want that student to be able to take this forward with them when it is high stakes, high risk. Brain surgery, Wall Street trader, you name it. But they've developed this and they can use this to the benefit of their career and the benefit of those around them.

My name is Kirsten Richter, and I am the director of athletics here at Latin. The bulk of my professional background is in higher ed. I was fortunate to coach college basketball for 17-18 years. For seven years, I was an assistant at two different institutions. I spent ten years as a head coach and I got to do a lot of different administrative things and take on different administrative responsibilities, both in athletics and broader across campus, including some leadership development work.

I think athletics is such a powerful learning environment. It has the feeling of high stakes. Individuals can learn so much about themselves while also learning how to interact with their teammates. I could rattle off a whole list of things I think you can learn through competitive sports, but resiliency communication skills, giving and receiving feedback, the way in which you interact with someone, verbally, body language. There are so many nuances to it. And I think really what makes it special and unique is that it has the feeling of high stakes but with relatively low risk. So you get to practice all these skills and make mistakes and learn and do better and fail, really without too much on the line. So it feels high stakes. We want to win, we really want to achieve competitive excellence. But when we fall a little short of that, we can redouble our efforts and learn from that and get even better.

So I just think there's so much learning that can come from athletics participation. I think a big building block to the mental approach to sports, and that really fuels all that. Learning through sport is the approach outcome response cycle. So we all control how we approach a task. We don't always control the outcome, but then we always control how we respond to that outcome.

We want to win, we really want to achieve competitive excellence. But when we fall a little short of that, we can redouble our efforts and learn from that and get even better.So when you think about it through the lens of athletics, we want to think about it sort of in the smallest pieces. So not how I approach the game. Win, lose, how do I respond to winning or losing much smaller? So within a game, that cycle is happening dozens and dozens of times. So they start feeding each other. So how I approach something, the outcome doesn't go my way. Okay, now how am I going to respond? Because that's going to feed into the next approach to the next thing.

So in more tangible terms, a simple example is like a foul shot. So there's a thing called a foul shot routine. So everybody is the same thing before foul shot. That's controlling the approach outcome doesn't always go in, right? So in a big moment that's going to sting. But then what's the response? And then that feeds the next approach. So you can sort of play this out and see how this happens over and over and over. And then how a student can control that really then starts to affect their performance in a positive or negative way. And then think beyond that. I'm doing this for myself and my individual tasks. But now think about those around me. So how my approach and my response? If I'm doing that well, that's going to affect the approach and the response of the people around me.

So you start to see the team dynamics and how that's at play. And it's just a powerful concept because it can affect so much change. And I think that's important because a lot of times in sports will say how we got to be resilient or be gritty. 100% agree. But how do we actually do that, being resilient? How? So I think this is a great building block to that because this is how we can be resilient and how we can be gritty and how we can persevere. This mental approach I think has so many applications outside athletics.

So I think some of my proudest moments as a coach when I saw students really grow and learn in that mental approach, whether it was I can think of a student who sort of grew tremendously over four years and found her voice and gained confidence.Think about a student in an academic setting, the approach, how I'm studying for an exam or how I'm preparing to write a paper. The outcome. Maybe I fall a little short of my goal in that test or I didn't sort of nail that paper. How do I respond? Same concept, even smaller. Like within a class setting. I go to the board. I think I have this math problem figured out. I didn't quite get it. This happened to me all the time in high school, right? Okay, so now how do I respond? Am I embarrassed? How am I going to feel about doing the next problem? Right? There are so many applications of that. And then as students enter college and then the workforce, this certainly has applications professionally, professional, day to day setting, meetings, interactions with colleagues can go on and on. But you can see how this sort of building block of the approach outcome, response cycle can easily be put into effect in those settings as well.

And I think, again, going back to the learning environment, that's why this is such a special learning environment because as students can practice this in that setting and then 20 years from now be so well versed at it that they can take it into their professional setting. And really too, you can perform at a high level because of their ability to do this. When you're learning this in athletic setting, again, it feels high stakes, relatively low risk. So you really have the opportunity to build this and grow this skill and it translates into the workplace. So picture of student 20 years down the line now in brain surgery, super high stakes, super high risk, right? So we want the students who have learned these skills in this setting where we can take time and get better and learn and grow. And now we want that student to be able to take this forward with them when it is high stakes, high risk, brain surgery, wall street trader, you name it, but they've developed this and they can use this to the benefit of their career and the benefit of those around them.

A coach can have a profound role in teaching the mental approach to sports to students. Certainly coaches are adapted teaching sports specific skills to their students, but to really maximize students' ability to perform those skills, we want to have that parallel track of that mental approach.

So I think some of my proudest moments as a coach when I saw students really grow and learn in that mental approach, whether it was I can think of a student who sort of grew tremendously over four years and found her voice and gained confidence. And a lot of that was because of the mental approach that she developed. I can think of another student who is always confidence was not her, she was not lacking confidence, right? But it was her ability to sort of navigate team dynamics and communicate with teammates that had to grow in nuance. And she was able to do that tremendously by her senior year in the way that she knew how to sort of respond to some things one way, how to respond to something else a little bit differently, how she approach something with one teammate would be different from how she approached something with another teammate. And so much of that is just the mental approach to team dynamics in sport. And now they're young adults and they can take that with them into their professional careers. 

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Upper school students on the first

Upper school Romans are together again! The first day of school was filled with lots of energy and excitement, including the ninth/twelfth grade tunnel, Roman-2-Roman student mentoring meet ups, and lots of hugs from old friends and new ones.


Around School


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New faculty/staff

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.



photo of Ahmed Ashoor
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.



photo of Marc Blettry
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.



photo of Dottie Bris-Bois
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.



photo of Philip Brownlee
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.



photo of Sheila Burke
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.



photo of Courtney Coleman
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.



photo of Erin Crowley
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.



photo of Jen Damaska
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. 



photo of Jenny Cook Deters
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

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.



photo of Zach Duffy
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.



photo of Jonty Faulkner
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. 



photo of Jennifer Funchess
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. 



photo of Lenny Goldman
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. 



photo of Laura Grandau
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!



photo of Thomas Hagerman
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.



photo of Katie Harrison
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. 



photo of Ben Hollister
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.



photo of Molly Jenkins
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

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.



photo of Melissa Klein
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!



photo of Xiaorong Li
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. 



photo of Andrew Miller
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. 



photo of Mallory Moore
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. 



photo of Genna Newquist
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. 



photo of arlos Ocampo
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. 



photo of Carlo Ordoñez
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.



photo of Kirsten Richter
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. 



photo of Rick Rivera
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. 



photo of Ingrid Surkan
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. 



photo of Tiffany Tafe
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. 



photo of Cristina Vásquez
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.



photo of Jonathan Yenkin
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


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