They came from Maine, South Carolina, Vermont and other areas of Massachusetts. They brought with them expertise, excitement for the new school year and interesting talents. They are the new faculty members of Brooks School — and they're thrilled to meet students and their families tomorrow!
But before they do, we gave the educators a little quiz to learn about their motivations, passions and surprising talents (a couple of spoilers: one teacher trains horses; another makes his own candles). Read on to learn who isn't ashamed of her fondness for the "Real Housewives of New York" and who fully expects that her classroom will be a (beautiful) mess.
Susannah Donoho, English
The New Jersey and Delaware native, who attended boarding school herself at St. Andrew's School, previously taught English at Brewster Academy, where she was also the director of rowing. Donoho has a B.A. from Colby College and M.Ed. in Secondary Education from Lesley University. She is a dorm parent in Merriman House.
Why did you want to work at Brooks? "I wanted to work at Brooks because of the strong sense of community and purpose I felt from the faculty and students the moment I walked onto campus."
What fictional teacher are you most like? "I am probably most like Lily Aldridge from "How I Met Your Mother" because she loves her job and even when she's overwhelmed she keeps a smile on her face!"
Go-to TV series or movie? "Gilmore Girls" is almost always playing in the background in my apartment."
What is a talent or expertise of yours that might surprise students? "My ability to quote the entire film "The Parent Trap" from start to finish!"
What's your favorite thing about teaching? "My favorite thing is when students are surprised by how much they enjoy a new subject or book, especially when they start off thinking it's not something they will be good at or be able to read well. These are usually the most memorable moments and it's always so great to see a student discover something new about themselves in your class."
What should students expect in your classes this fall? "Students should expect a lot of movie quotes, round table discussions, and to read a diverse array of texts."
Peter Federico, Arts and Science Faculty Intern
A Bates College graduate, he previously worked at Phillips Exeter Academy. At Brooks, Federico will teach in the Arts and Science departments and said he is looking forward to developing interdisciplinary studies between the two. He is a dorm parent in Blake House.
Why did you want to work at Brooks? "I was excited by the opportunity to teach in both the science and arts departments and live and work on this beautiful campus."
What fictional teacher are you most like? "Ms. Frizzle from "The Magic School Bus," because she is enthusiastic about what she teaches and tries to show her students the real-world application of the material they learn from her."
Go-to TV series or movie? "Schitt's Creek."
What is a talent or expertise of yours that might surprise students? "This summer I started making my own candles!"
What's your favorite thing about teaching? "I enjoy building a connection with students and creating a community classroom environment where we are all focused on a unified goal."
What should students expect in your classes this fall? "Students should expect to be challenged to think critically about the material, create connections between the classwork and everyday life, and feel a sense of authentic engagement about what they are asked to do. I hope everything we do in my classes is seen as purposeful work."
Meghan Hill, Director of Theater
The former artistic director of the Watertown Children's Theatre and the Mosesian Center for the Arts youth programs, Hill grew up in Mississippi. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship while studying theater and dance at Wheaton College and has a Certificate in Performance Studies and Movement from the Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia. Hill lives off-campus.
Why did you want to work at Brooks? "I wanted to join a vibrant community of students and teachers who are committed to learning and growing together."
What fictional teacher are you most like? "I love this question! It's so hard to pick just one. I'd like to think that I'm a combination of Mrs. Jewls from "Wayside Stories" and Ms. Frizzle from "The Magic School Bus." I love adventures and the connection between theatre and science. I'm outgoing, fun, a bit unconventional, and always up for a challenge."
Go-to TV series or movie? "This changes a lot. Currently, I'm really into Jim Henson and Frank Oz's "The Dark Crystal."
What is a talent or expertise of yours that might surprise students? "I trained horses with the U.S. Three-Day Eventing Equestrian Team."
What's your favorite thing about teaching? "Helping students succeed and make new discoveries."
What should students expect in your classes this fall? "Students can expect to grow, learn, push their boundaries, have fun in a safe, brave space."
Logan Jester, Mathematics Teacher
Jester is originally from Tallahassee, Florida but comes to Brooks by way of Phillips Academy, where he spent two years in the school's fellow program. The Williams College graduate also completed the Institute for Rowing leadership at Community Rowing, Inc.'s rowing-coaching education program. He lives on campus with his wife in the Farmhouse.
Why did you want to work at Brooks? "The mission was a big draw for me. To provide the most meaningful educational experience our students will have in their lives is an amazing goal! If you land feet from that benchmark, it seems to me like you're still doing pretty darn well."
What fictional teacher are you most like? "I don't know.... Mr. Ratburn from "Arthur?"
Go-to TV series or movie? "Queer Eye," "The Great British Baking Show," "BoJack Horseman"
What is a talent or expertise of yours that might surprise students? "I'm a huge fan of music. I played guitar and sang in a band for a number of years and have experimented with randomly generated music."
What's your favorite thing about teaching? "Forming relationships with so many exciting people with different experiences."
What should students expect in your classes this fall? "A relaxed atmosphere, high standards and a collaborative construction of knowledge."
Jessica Schenkel, Mathematics Teacher
For the past nine years, the College of Charleston graduate taught at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, South Carolina. She is a dorm parent in Hettinger East, where she lives with her husband and two young children.
Why did you want to work at Brooks? "I was first introduced to Brooks and the boarding school world back in 2015, when I went to a conference at Phillips Exeter and met [Brooks' Chair of Mathematics Department] Dave Price. The thing that stood out to me the most is Brooks' mission statement, about seeking 'to provide the most meaningful educational experience that our students will have in their lives.' A couple of years later, my family found itself in a transition period and we decided to check out the school and see if it would be a good fit. After spending just one day on campus I knew this was a place I wanted to be."
What fictional teacher are you most like? "Maybe Ms. Norbury from "Mean Girls?" We both teach math and I had a second job in the first year of teaching. I probably identify with her, though, because she doesn't solely care about the academic side of her job. Throughout the movie she tries to get the students to realize how much harm they inflict when they constantly put each other down, lie, and spread rumors. I could definitely see myself throwing my hands in the air, calling an impromptu meeting in the gym, and making everybody do trust fall exercises!"
Go-to TV series or movie? "Before this summer, I would have said "The Office." I used to put it on just for background noise all the time. However, I started watching "Parks and Recreation" this summer and it is now my go-to show when I just want something on. I also faithfully watch several Bravo shows — including "Below Deck Mediterranean," "Southern Charm," "Real Housewives of New York" and "Top Chef" — throughout the year and I'm not ashamed."
What is a talent or expertise of yours that might surprise students? "I wouldn't call it an expertise, but I'm into all types of music and previous students have been surprised when I know what artist/songs they're talking about when they come up. Music is on pretty much all the time at our house, and we listen to just about everything."
What's your favorite thing about teaching? "I love seeing a student transition from a fixed- to a growth-mindset. Once that happens the rest is easy."
What should students expect in your classes this fall? "Students should know that I want them to do well and succeed in mathematics. I'm pretty structured, but I constantly monitor the students' progress through each lesson and adjust my plans accordingly. I hope students walk away from my class saying, 'I had to work hard, but I learned and grew throughout the year. I'm proud of the work I produced and all I accomplished.'"
Babette (Babs) Wheelden, Chair of Arts Department, Director of the Robert Lehman Art Gallery and Visual Arts Teacher
For the past 22 years, the Wayzata, Minnesota native has taught art history, studio arts and environmental photography at Kents Hill School in Maine. A School of the Art Institute of Chicago graduate, she serves on the Educator Advisory Board for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Wheelden and her husband have two children and live on campus in Whitney House.
Why did you want to work at Brooks? "Brooks is a place where lifelong learning is fostered. The mission of meaningful educational experiences speaks to why I teach art — and in a boarding- and day-community. The facilities and campus are beyond my dreams and speak to my aesthetic. As an artist, this is important to me, as is proximity to culture and diversity. An inclusive, supportive environment is vital for me as an educator and for my family to thrive. Brooks has a bigger focus on the 'why' over the 'what,' and that is how we continue to learn. I'm so excited to work with my new colleagues and the students at Brooks!"
What fictional teacher are you most like? "That is a hard one to narrow down. Some days, I am like Dewey Finn from "School of Rock," enthusiastic, curious, courageous, silly. Other days, I am like Miss Frizzle from "The Magic School Bus," taking students on adventures, making messes, digging deep. And other days, I am like Mr. Hand from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," a little stoic but engaged — and I love to find lessons in the unexpected and have a sense of humor when learning."
Go-to TV series or movie? "Schitt's Creek," "Stranger Things," "MasterChef Junior," "House Hunter's International."
What is a talent or expertise of yours that might surprise students? "I possess lots of unnecessary knowledge for trivia, and interior decorating is a passion/obsession."
What's your favorite thing about teaching? "I love working with students — being fluidly adaptive, cyclical and enjoying collaborative learning — as well as being inspired by them."
What should students expect in your classes this fall? "They should expect a place to try, create, get lost in the process, enjoy good music, make messes and ultimately masterpieces!"
Please also welcome:
Kimberley McDowell, Mathematics
A former college professor (at the University of Vermont, Saint Michael's College and Champlain College), McDowell also taught at Vermont's South Burlington High School for 19 years before stints at The Hotchkiss School and Salisbury School. She lives in Hettinger West with her husband and their daughter Molly '23.
OTHER RECENT STORIES
Campus Works — in the Summer, Too
Students enjoyed reporting for duty as Summer Programs employees and learning to appreciate the school's 271 acres in a whole new way.
Way to Row!
Nate Wirth '21 is the first Brooks School rower to compete as a sculler in the single category at nationals.
Bringing History to Life
This summer, students walked around in World War II sites — and walked away with deeper understanding of the past.