2021-22 New Faculty and Staff

 

Please join the St. John’s community in welcoming the following faculty and staff members for the 2021-22 academic year.

 

Brittany Adams
Grace Cook Teaching Fellow, Fifth/Sixth Grade P.E. Teacher, Fifth Grade Advisor

Brittany Adams joins St. John’s as a Fellow and will teach Fifth/Sixth Grade P.E., serve as a Fifth Grade Advisor, and coach volleyball. Most recently, Brittany was an Assistant Volleyball Coach and the Diversity and Inclusion Facilitator for Southern Methodist University’s Volleyball Program where she assisted the head coach with practices; developed scouting reports; and led diversity and inclusion sessions for the coaches and team. A graduate of SMU, Brittany earned a Master of Liberal Studies, a BS in Sports Performance Leadership, and a BS in Sociology. Brittany was named to the All-American Athletic Conference team twice in her four-year volleyball career at SMU. She was a member of two conference championship teams and helped deliver the program's first NCAA Tournament victory.

 

Izzy Alvarado
Director of Learning Support

Director of Learning Support Izzy Alvarado comes to St. John’s from Chicago where she was a School Psychology Coordinator and oversaw a department of 30 school psychologists and support staff for the Waukegan Public Schools District. In this role, she incorporated social and emotional learning, equity and progressive assessments, and conducted academic and cognitive evaluations of students. She holds a BA in Sociology and Psychology from DePaul University, an EdS in School Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, an MA in Educational Leadership from Aurora University, and is currently completing her doctorate in education policy, organization, and leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

 

Suzanne Dahlberg
Fourth Grade Science and Social Studies Teacher
After teaching sixth grade language arts and social studies at Moss Haven Elementary School in Dallas, Suzanne Dahlberg joins St. John’s as our newest Fourth Grade Teacher. In her previous roles at both public and private schools, she initiated a variety of multimedia units based on reading workshops and enhanced her students’ experiences by incorporating differentiated instruction into her lesson plans to suit their needs. Among her certifications and honors, she was named Regular Educator Special Education Teacher of the Year in Highland Park ISD. Suzanne earned a BA in Mathematics from The University of Oklahoma and an MS in Reading from Texas A&M University-Commerce.

 

Karen Hernandez
Grace Cook Teaching Fellow, Lower School Physical Education Teacher
Karen Hernandez comes to St. John’s as a Lower School Physical Education Teacher after recently serving as a home school and early childhood learning teacher. Karen holds a BS in Kinesiology from Texas Woman’s University and in her new role, she will combine her love of teaching with her experience in physical therapy, gymnastics, group exercise, personal training, and recreation.

Amanda Huffman
First Grade Teacher
Joining St. John’s as a First Grade Teacher, Amanda Huffman most recently taught first grade at Ben Milam Elementary School in Dallas, where she was named Teacher of the Year. In addition to her experience as an elementary teacher, Amanda is a Teach for America faculty alumna having served at Chapman, a preschool through eighth grade school in Huntsville, Alabama. Amanda is married to St. John’s alumnus, Mark Huffman, Class of 2005. She earned a BA magna cum laude in Elementary Education from the University of South Carolina.

 

Payton Lauerman '11
Grace Cook Teaching Fellow, Middle School Theater and Adjunct Teacher

St. John’s alumna Payton Reeves Lauerman will be a Grace Cook Teaching Fellow, Middle School Theater and Adjunct Teacher. Payton loves the stage and was most recently an actress with the Carson-Adler Agency in New York where she performed in commercials and television shows. She earned a BFA magna cum laude from Abilene Christian University where she focused on musical theatre performance.

 

Kellyn Laurinski
Early Childhood Teaching Aide, After School Program Coordinator
Kellyn Laurinski joins St. John’s as an Early Childhood Teaching Aide and our After School Program Coordinator after recently serving as the program director for Chamberlain Studios of Self Defense, and lead instructor for their after-school karate program for children. In this role, she designed more than 50 summer camps and coordinated 15 after-school programs each year. Additionally, she organized a biennial Karate Seminar for the Dallas/Fort Worth area where instructors were invited to teach various disciplines to hundreds of students. Kellyn holds a BA in History from San Diego State University.

Tiffany Lewis
Seventh Grade Social Studies Teacher, Seventh Grade Advisor
Tiffany Lewis joins St. John’s as Seventh Grade Social Studies Teacher and a Seventh Grade Advisor from Sidney Lanier, a DISD expressive arts vanguard school, where she taught seventh grade social studies, reading, and writing. Prior to that, Tiffany taught English literature for multiple grade levels throughout middle and upper at the International School of Trieste in Trieste, Italy, where she innovated teaching practices for an online environment during the pandemic. Additionally, she has taught humanities at the International School of Aruba and Parish Episcopal School in Dallas. Tiffany earned a BA in Art History from the University of New Mexico.

 

Nathan Manna
Sixth Grade Math Teacher, Middle School Advisor
New Sixth Grade Math Teacher and Advisor Nathan Manna comes to St. John’s from Winthrop Middle School in New Hampshire where he was a science teacher. Since 2015, Nathan has taught math to middle and upper school students through traditional and project-based learning activities. He enjoys working with students and understanding their challenges to create learning paths for their success. His degree is in Education from New England College.

 

Christi Morrow
Service Learning Coordinator
Christi Morrow joins St. John’s on a part-time basis and will lead the School’s Service Learning initiatives. Christi also serves as the Mission and Outreach Coordinator for St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church where she has coordinated outreach projects for the church and connected parishioners with specialized outreach projects based on their needs and interests. Prior to that, she served as the Director of Community Service for the Episcopal School Dallas for 19 years. Christi earned an MA of Theological Studies from Southern Methodist University and a BA in Art History and History from Trinity University.

 

David Ray
Counselor

Dave Ray comes to St. John’s as our Counselor after serving as the Counselor for Armstrong Elementary in Highland Park for five years where he was part of the campus leadership team. In addition to Dave’s experience as a school counselor, he has taught both lower and upper school students in both public and independent schools. He earned a BA in Sociology from The University of Texas (Austin) and an MEd in School Counseling from the University of North Texas.

Alison Rians ’05  
Sixth Grade English Teacher, Sixth Grade Advisor
Alison Rians joins St. John’s as a Sixth Grade English Teacher and Advisor after teaching English at Kimbrough Middle School in Mesquite where she received Mesquite Independent School District’s First Class Teacher award for her exemplary performance during her first year. Additionally, Alison has been a private tutor and taught preschool-aged children at Good Shepherd Episcopal School in Dallas. She is an alumna (née Whitten), and she is currently completing her MEd from Texas A&M University (Commerce). Alison holds a BS in Business Administration and International Studies from Trinity University.

 

Kathy St. Clair
Controller

Joining St. John’s as our Controller, Kathy St. Clair has extensive experience with independent school business operations. Most recently, she served Cristo Rey College Prep as Director of Finance and Human Resources where she oversaw the business operations of the school, and she was the Controller for Lamplighter School in Dallas. She is a Certified Public Accountant and earned her MBA from the University of North Texas and a BBA from Texas Woman’s University.

Lauren Sassenus
Prekindergarten Teacher

After teaching early childhood students at Ridgewood Park Preschool in Dallas, Lauren Sassenus joins St. John’s as our newest Prekindergarten Teacher. She is committed to addressing the development of the whole child and helping build students’ self-confidence and strong communication skills so they are prepared for Lower School. Lauren earned a BA in Art History from Texas Woman’s University.

 

Marthe Turlington ’02   
Lower School Learning Specialist

St. John’s alumna Marthe Turlington returns to St. John’s as our Lower School Learning Specialist. Recently, she has been a lower school and early childhood teacher at Oak Hill Academy in Dallas. Also, she has taught prekindergarten at St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School in Kansas City and at Greenhill School in Dallas. She holds both an MS and a BS in Education from the University of Kansas. 

 

Jennifer Vaughn, PhD ’97
Eighth Grade Science, Eighth Grade Advisor

Alumna Jennifer Vaughn (née Cary) returns to St. John’s to teach Eighth Grade Science and serve as an Advisor. Most recently she taught at Collin College and served as an Environmental Science laboratory instructor and assistant. Jennifer earned a PhD in Wildlife and Fisheries from Texas A&M University, an MA in Teaching, Science Education from The University of Texas at Dallas, an MA in Biology from Humboldt State University, and a BA in Biology from Austin College.

 

Meghan Verbitsky-Fallin
Transitional Kindergarten Teacher

After teaching first and second grades at neighboring Hexter Elementary School, Meghan Verbitsky-Fallin comes to St. John’s as our Transitional Kindergarten Teacher this fall. At Hexter, she was one of five teachers selected for the Instructional Leadership Team and helped to lead the school’s virtual learning platform during the 2020-21 academic year. Meghan earned an MEd in Curriculum and Instruction from Louisiana State University and a BA in Liberal Arts from Colorado Christian University.

 

Andrew Wermelskirchen
Middle School Chaplain, Religious Studies Teacher

Andrew Wermelskirchen joins St. John’s as our Middle School Chaplain and Religious Studies Teacher. Most recently, he was the Marketing and Communications Director for Akiba Yavneh Academy in Dallas managing the school’s print, digital, and social mediums. Additionally, he has served as the Communications Director for Arvada United Methodist Church in Colorado and the Director to Children and their Families at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas. Andrew is an experienced leader and teacher committed to supporting students in conversations of faith. He holds a Master of Theological Studies from Southern Methodist University and a BA in Communications from the University of Missouri.

 

Audrey Whipple ’00
Seventh Grade English Teacher, Seventh Grade Advisor

Audrey Whipple joins St. John’s as Seventh Grade English Teacher and Advisor after teaching AP English Literature in the early college program at W.W. Samuell High School. In Dallas She has mentored high-school students in writing and standardized testing preparation so that they are successfully prepared to enter college. Audrey is a St. John’s alumna, and she earned an MEd in Secondary Education from the University of North Texas and a BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College.


The following faculty and staff members will have new roles starting with the 2021-22 academic year.

 

Tony Adler
Director of Outdoor Education

Tony Adler transitions to the role of Director of Outdoor Education after having served as Sixth Grade English Teacher and Advisor for six years. During that time, he also created service opportunities for sixth graders, their families, and employees; organized weekend nature hikes; and has been instrumental in building and maintaining the flourishing St. John’s Community Garden, which provides fresh produce to Aunt Bette’s Community Pantry.  

 

Andrea Andrews
Part-Time Admissions Outreach Coordinator

After teaching Kindergarten at St. John’s for six years, Andrea Andrews leaves the classroom to return to the Admission and Enrollment Management Office as our Part-Time Outreach Coordinator. Andrea’s previous career in college admissions at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and her extensive experience in the classroom and interaction with families will provide keen insights for our prospective families who are interested in discovering more about St. John’s for their children.

 

Jan Breed
Kindergarten Teacher

Jan Breed moves from prekindergarten to kindergarten this fall. She will teach multiple subject areas including reading, writing, handwriting, math, science, and social studies as well as focus on project-based learning, collaboration, and differentiated instruction. Jan will guide her students’ development across all curricular areas and foster a respectful and conscientious learning environment for our kindergarteners.

 

Monica Breeding
Preschool Director

After teaching prekindergarten for several years and successfully launching St. John’s transitional kindergarten program, Monica Breeding is stepping into the role of Preschool Director and lead preschool teacher for children ages two and three. As Preschool Director, she will be creating and documenting curriculum, serve as a point-person for our state licensing, and oversee day-to-day operations of our preschool program. Additionally, Monica’s long tenure with the School both as an alumna and as an educator will serve to lead our efforts to petition the Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools for inclusion of our preschool program in our accredited PK-8 program.

 

Claire Coker
Interim Middle School Academic Technology Specialist 

Claire Coker will be the Interim Middle School Academic Technology Specialist after serving as the Fifth Grade Learning Coach and Fifth/Sixth Grade Design-Thinking Teacher last year. She will be responsible for extending students’ understanding and use of technology through computer science-specific classes. In this role, she will expand upon and deliver the Middle School’s computer science curriculum and support Middle School faculty’s academic technology needs and professional development. Claire will collaborate with the Lower School Academic Technology Specialist to develop technology and pedagogical best practices within the School curriculum.

 

Rebecca Crouse
Lower School Academic Technology Specialist

Rebecca Crouse will move from the fourth grade classroom to become the Lower School Academic Technology Specialist. She will be responsible for teaching foundational technology classes to all Lower School students, as well as supporting teachers and students in the use of technology in the broad areas of design thinking, coding, robotics, keyboarding, productivity, digital citizenship, and media literacy. She will partner with the Middle School Academic Technology Specialist to manage a lab space that activates students’ imagination, design, and engineering skills.

 

Cindy Isbell
Third Grade Reading and Social Studies Teacher, Assistant Athletic Director for Girls Sports

Cindy Isbell is continuing as the Third Grade Reading and Social Studies Teacher while also assuming the new role of Assistant Athletic Director for Girls Sports. In this role, Cindy will continue serving as a Middle School coach, be the onsite supervisor for all athletic events, and assist the Athletic Director in championing girls’ sports at St. John’s.

 

Jayme Johnson, EdD
Associate Head for Academic and Student Affairs

Jayme Johnson will lead the School’s academic day for Primary, Lower, and Middle School, including all aspects of teaching and learning. She will be responsible for students’ academic experiences, parent engagement, and faculty instructional coaching. She will collaborate with the Director of Student Formation on supporting students’ learning and social-emotional needs and with the Associate Head for Academic and Faculty Affairs on faculty professional growth.
 

Pam Jordan
Associate Head for Academic and Faculty Affairs
Pam Jordan will lead the development of new academic programs, inspire faculty innovation, and oversee the School’s academic strategic plan. Responsible for faculty recruitment, professional growth, evaluation, and retention, she will lead the faculty fellowship and mentoring programs as well as vertical alignment of curriculum and grading. Additionally, Pam will oversee the School’s re-accreditation process, and will collaborate with the Associate Head for Academic and Student Affairs and the Director of Student Formation on programming and professional growth.

 

Phil Kasper
Information Systems and Database Manager

Phil Kasper will move from the IT Help Desk to become our Information Systems and Database Manager. He will manage the School’s data systems serving as a digital security officer to maintain and monitor security of data, including managing database application access and privileges as well as implementing and enforcing data security policies. In this role, Phil will collaborate with departments to research and develop information systems and applications; manage and facilitate data integration for system migrations; and conduct audit processes and control content integrity across all databases to ensure their integrity.

 

Jake Minton
Primary and Lower School Expressive Arts Teacher, 
Assistant Dean of Students for Primary and Lower School

After teaching first grade last year and kindergarten and Middle School Theatre in previous years, Jake Minton will be the Primary and Lower School Expressive Arts Teacher and Assistant Dean of Students for Lower School. As Expressive Arts teacher, he will be responsible for engaging students in learning activities that spark creativity and the use of imagination. As Assistant Dean, he will be responsible for creating, promoting, and maintaining an atmosphere that is conducive to learning and supporting the whole-child by managing Lower School student behavior. Jake is a member of the Student Formation Team and will work collaborate with the Student Formation Team, Associate Heads, and Dean of Students to create and maintain a positive learning environment. 

 

Shannon Newsom
Primary and Lower School Chaplain

After serving as our Early Childhood Chaplain and Seventh Grade Religious Studies Teacher last year, Shannon Newsom will be our Primary and Lower School Chaplain, working with our youngest Lions as they learn more about our Episcopal identity.

 

Mary Odom
Director of Student Formation and the Dean of Students

Mary Odom will be the Director of Student Formation and the Dean of Students after teaching seventh grade English and, previously, fourth grade Language Arts. Following an internal search, Ms. Odom was chosen by a hiring committee to lead the Student Formation Team responsible for creating, promoting, and maintaining an atmosphere in the School that is conducive to learning and for supporting the whole child. As Dean of Students, she will oversee the Middle School advisory program, Middle School student organizations and experiences, and manage the student behavior and discipline process. As a member of the Leadership Team, Ms. Odom will collaborate with the Associate Heads and Middle School grade-level teams and lead the Student Formation Team (including the Assistant Dean of Students for Primary and Lower School, Chaplains, Counselor, Lower School Learning Specialist, and Director of Learning Support).

 

Max Patterson ’12
Grace Cook Teaching Fellow, Fifth Grade Math Teacher and Middle School Advisor

Max Patterson returns to St. John’s after serving as Associate Teacher in 2020-21. He will join the fifth-grade team as Math Teacher and Co-advisor. Max is a St. John’s alumnus and a veteran Summer at St. John’s camp instructor. He received his BS in Applied Learning and Development from The University of Texas at Austin and holds an EC-6 teaching certificate.

 

David Porcheddu
Chapel Music

After having served as Interim Chaplain since 2020, David Porcheddu will reprise his role providing music during weekly chapel services and at other special chapel events. 

 

 

Eve Stephens
Office Administrator

Eve Stephens has served as the School’s Purchasing Agent since 2015. In her new role as Office Administrator, she will continue fulfilling purchasing responsibilities while assisting the Finance and Business offices.