Meet the New Teachers!

New students will be joined by some new adults on campus this fall. Brooks School recently welcomed nine faculty members. They're a talented bunch who'll teach history, science and Spanish class, serve as school ministers, lead our equity and inclusion mission, help students in the Learning Center, and support the athletics program. Two former staff members have transitioned into faculty roles as well. Get to know them all before opening days by reading their answers to our short quiz below. See, students, teachers had some homework this summer, too!

Clockwise from top left: Jose Powell, Rebecca Binder, James Kelley, Shrestha Singh, James Chapman, Michael Veit, Brittany Fredette, Elena Mandzhukova, Kerry Baldwin, Tess O'Brien and Mari Powell.

Tess O'Brien, Spanish teacher, 2nd girls field hockey coach


Wolfeboro, New Hampshire native Tess O'Brien comes to Brooks following two summers working as a faculty member at Taft Summer School teaching Conversational English to ESL students.

Why did you want to work at Brooks? "I trusted trusted my gut. After stepping away from interviews and leaving campus, I knew that I wanted to be a part of the community."
What are your goals for the year? "I would like to grow as an educator. I want to try new teaching techniques in the classroom and continue to shape my teaching style. Outside of the classroom, I hope to develop relationships with students like I had with coaches and dorm parents when I attended high school [at the Holderness School]."
What is something about you that might surprise students? "I love snow and water sports. In the winter, I am always itching to spend a day skiing or snowboarding. Over the last three summers, I have been getting really in to wake surfing with my family."
Favorite movie and TV show? "Good Will Hunting, Friends"
What fictional teacher are you most like, and why? "Ms. Honey from Matilda. I am very dedicated to the wellbeing of my students: I want to make sure that all my students needs are met."

Michael Veit, History teacher, boys 2nd soccer assistant coach


For the past five years, Southern Californian Michael Veit has been teaching in and traveling the major cities of China's Pearl River Delta region, including Shenzhen, Hong Kong, and Macao.

Why did you want to work at Brooks? "What attracted me to Brooks was the boarding school environment. It represented an opportunity for me to live out the curiosity and sense of wonder about the world I try teach in class."
What are your goals for the year? "This being my first boarding school post, I have many small, community-building goals for the year. For example, I've never made a late-night run to pick up a pizza or McDonald's for students, so that's something I hope to do! Also, my teeth have a sensitivity to sugar, so I can't often eat my wife's delicious baked goods, so I suppose another goal would be to share her baking talents with students in my dorm and classes."
What is something about you that might surprise students? "I really like video games and I've managed to catch every Pokemon in each new version, not counting the special distributions from Nintendo."
Favorite movie and TV show? "The Office and The Royal Tenenbaums."
What fictional teacher are you most like, and why? "I'd say I'm most similar to Yoda. I can be quiet, reserved, very interested in theories and ideas, constantly thinking and observing quietly, yet also skeptical and constructively critical. What this means for my own teaching is that I am very interested in personalized learning for my students. Just as Yoda recognized the greatness in Luke despite Luke's frustrations and cocky attitude after crashing in Dagobah, I recognize the strengths and weakness of my students and adapt my lessons to their needs and talents."

Brittany Fredette, History teacher


Recently a language arts, reading and speech teacher at the Landmark School, New Hampshire native Brittany Fredette will provide support in the Learning Center and lead an afternoon study hall in addition to teaching history.

Why did you want to work at Brooks? "The community and the core school values particularly empathy and passion."
What are some of your goals for the year? "I hope to teach students the excitement of the research process and expand their curiosity about history."
What is something about you that might surprise students? "I tournament bass fish with my husband."
Favorite movie and TV show? The Pursuit of Happyness (Yes, that spelling is correct)!
What fictional teacher are you most like, and why? "Anne Shirley [from the 1908 Lucy Maud Montgomery novel series Anne of Green Gables] because of her imagination and fiery spirit, just without the red hair."

Jose Powell, Dean of Equity and Inclusion


Bostonian Jose Powell comes to Brooks after six years at Cate School, where he served as the Director of Multiculturalism and Inclusion, as well as Associate Director of Admission.

Why did you want to work at Brooks? "I was drawn to Brooks due the community's desire to leverage differences as assets rather than liabilities."
What are your goals for the year? "To connect with all members of our School, irrespective of one's status. WE are Team Brooks!"
What is something about you that might surprise students? "I once had a part-time job driving a Zamboni — I can't skate!"
Favorite movie and TV show? "A tie: Remember the Titans/Stand and Deliver."
What fictional teacher are you most like, and why? "Coach Boone, from Remember the Titans. He was a teacher on the football field, plus he has daughters and I am a father of three girls. He was honest, tough, and committed."

Mari Powell, Test Coordinator, Learning Center


Previously a College Board test coordinator and AP Supervisor, as well as administrator of school-based ACTs, Mari Powell has worked in the College Counseling office at Cate School and in the Community Service Office at Phillips Academy in Andover.

Why did you want to work at Brooks? "This is corny but true: when my husband Jose and I came to visit, the students we had dinner with were truly inspiring. Later that night, I told Jose that I wanted to be a part of whatever Brooks is doing to mold future global citizens."
What are your goals for the year? "I hope to seamlessly bring all of the standardized test under one umbrella so that faculty and students have one resource for all things testing. I also want to support the Learning Center to the best of my ability with Spanish tutoring. I hope to help the LC team support and serve the Brooks student."
What is something about you that might surprise students? "I am incredibly boring. An exciting evening for me involves yarn and the sofa!"
Favorite movie and TV show? "My favorite movie (the best movie of ALL time) is Remember the Titans. And my favorite TV show might be All in the Family or The Jeffersons."
What fictional teacher are you most like, and why? "Although I'm not teaching faculty, I think I have Joe Clark tendencies. Mr. Clark [as portrayed in the 1989 film Lean on Me] was the epitome of tough love, and he expects everyone, teachers and students, to rise up to his high expectations to work together. He also expects the very same of himself. Although I can't imagine myself yelling at and berating my colleagues the way Mr. Clark did, I can understand his frustration with system failures that get in the way of serving students. Most importantly, I think it was his love for his students and his desire to see them succeed that came through in everything Mr. Clark did."

James Chapman, School minister, English teacher


Amesbury, Mass. resident James "Jim" Chapman is a deacon at All Saints Episcopal Church in Danvers, Mass., and will serve part-time as Brooks' school minister. He previously worked at Houghton Mifflin educational publishers for 23 years in a range of editorial roles including developing reading and language arts curriculum in both English and Spanish.

Why did you want to work at Brooks? "Everybody I met at Brooks talked about community and how important it is -- it made me want to join up."
What are your goals for the year? "My first goal is to figure out how to be useful. The second goal is to actually be useful."
What is something about you that might surprise students? "In my wayward youth, I imitated Mark Twain (or Huck Finn), and built a raft and drifted down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from West Virginia to New Orleans. I met a lot of wonderful people, and came to believe that human beings are basically good."
Favorite movie and TV show? "My favorite movie is Chariots of Fire."
What fictional teacher are you most like, and why? "I don't know who I'm like, but I want to be like Mr. Chips [from the 1969 film Goodbye, Mr. Chips].

Shrestha Singh, School minister


An Arlington, Mass. resident and Fremont, California native, Shrestha Singh will serve part-time as Brooks' minister. She is also a Multi-faith Chaplain at Brandeis University and at Wellesley College.

Why did you want to work at Brooks? "I had mentors in high school who saw me fully and believed in me, and I have always wanted to be that person for other young people. Also, I'm excited about the openness of the school to trying new things, to constantly growing, and that's an approach I wish to take in life as well!"
What are your goals for the year? "I want to build relationships with students and faculty and staff, to create a meaningful and thoughtful chapel experience for everyone, and to make new friends."
What is something about you that might surprise students? "I used to work on a farm!"
Favorite movie and TV show? "Walk the Line and Parks and Rec."
What fictional teacher are you most like, and why? "I'm a mix of Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus series (because my hair is always frizzy and I'm kind of kooky) and Professor Lupin from Harry Potter (like him, I'm thoughtful, quiet, a fan of the underdog).

Kerry Baldwin, Assistant director of athletics, girls 1st soccer coach


The former Harvard University assistant women's soccer coach, born and raised in Western, Mass., has also coached at Brandeis University and her alma mater, St. Bonaventure University.

Why did you want to work at Brooks? "The people and the campus. Everyone here that I met was incredibly passionate about the community."
What are your goals for the year? "I want to integrate my family into the Brooks community [Baldwin and her husband live on campus with their young children: son Teddy and daughter Neely] and establish and build on the traditions of the Brooks girls soccer program."
What is something about you that might surprise students? "I've run three Boston marathons. I also worked on a CSA farm through college!"
Favorite movie and TV show? "Forest Gump, 24"
What fictional teacher are you most like, and why? "Miss Nelson, from the children's book Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard. I value respect and appreciation. My passion for teaching and leading begins with being a positive role model. This story is one that always puts a smile on my face."

James Kelley, Assistant director of athletics, Equipment/Game day operations


In 2017, James "Jimmy" Kelley arrived at Brooks to work as the equipment room manager. His role officially expanded this summer and he joined the faculty. Previously, he worked at The Rivers School for four years in the Communications and Development Office.

Why did you want to work at Brooks? "For me Brooks represented an opportunity to work at a place that approaches all aspects of school life in a very intentional way. Providing students with a meaningful educational experience extends beyond the classroom and that is evident in the relationships students form with their coaches, their teammates, and the school through their experiences in the athletic program."
What are your goals for the year? "As I enter my first full year at Brooks, my goal is to form a stronger connection to the community and deepen my understanding of the school's culture."
What is something about you that might surprise students? "I lettered in five different varsity sports in high school. My dad was the athletic director and a physical education teacher at my school, so I grew up learning how to play almost every game imaginable. Ironically, the one sport I play the most now, golf, was the one sport I didn't play in high school!"
Favorite movie and TV show? "Remember the Titans and The Office."
What fictional teacher are you most like, and why? "I'm more of a non-fiction guy, so the teacher I'm most like — or the one I aim to be most like — is my dad. While he's usually harder on me than on my classmates, my dad's reputation for being tough, yet fair, with his students and athletes is an approach I try to emulate."

Rebecca Binder, English teacher, Director of publications


The Scarsdale, New York native is the director of publications at Brooks and the editor of the Bulletin, the school's magazine. This fall she will also begin teaching English and serving as a dorm parent in Peabody House, where she lives with her family.

Why did you want to work at Brooks? "I've worked at Brooks for a few years already, so I've been lucky to get to know so many students and become involved in this community. I'm excited to expand my role here into more teaching and residential life, and I look forward to contributing what I can to continue the good work the school does."
What are your goals for the year? "This year, I want to teach my students how to love and understand a good book, and how to write well and in ways that feel meaningful to them. Both those skills are critical to their future goals, whatever those may be. I also want to foster community in my dorm and be a good dorm parent. On top of that, I'll be continuing my work on the Brooks Bulletin and other publications. Last but not least, I hope to expand my kids' food selections in the dining hall beyond Lucky Charms and ice cream!"
What is something about you that might surprise students? "I was an all-state oboist in high school. I also completed EMT training in college. And, I'm a native New Yorker and die-hard Yankees fan (bad habits are hard to break!), but I love going to Fenway to watch the Red Sox. Living in New England for 20 years will have that effect on you."
Favorite movie and TV show? "I'm a sucker for any movie that has a target demographic of teenage girls, but I don't watch much TV because my three kids keep me busy. I try to sneak in some HGTV, though, when I have time."
What fictional teacher are you most like and why? "I have no idea. Hopefully a good one!"


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