By Wendy Lawrence, Inspire Contributor
A record-setting number of faculty and staff members celebrated their EPS anniversaries at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year.
When you look at the group celebrating five years with Eastside Prep, one of the first things you see is how authentically they connect with their students and colleagues—whether that’s with projects or meetings or waffles.
Colleagues say Molly Lori’s superpower is “kindness.” Kelly Violette specifically loves the sincere way Lori greets her students and colleagues. “It makes you feel like she is genuinely happy to see your face, which is just a wonderful way to be received.” Everyone loves his laugh and is impressed with the speed at which Jose Mendez Martinez can get through a pile of dishes, but the best part is how he can organize a whole kitchen while checking on everyone else. Janine Martorano also builds authentic relationships—with love and sprinkles. Lisa Coulter loves Martorano’s ability to always make her laugh, and students love that she takes the time to make lunch fun for them. This is especially obvious on waffle day when she gets to top their lunches with whipped cream and sprinkles.
One of the traits all of our five-year people have in common is how much they love to innovate and improve. Learning Support Coordinator Jamie Andrus is always searching for new ways to collaborate with teachers, other staff, and her students. “Regardless of how we’ve done things in the past, Andrus always strives to make them better,” says colleague Ian Corey-Boulet. Director of Strategy, Technology, and Innovation Jonathan Briggs says Jannell Denhart (Database and Network Administrator) can solve any problem in twenty-four hours with her tenacious curiosity, and everyone is impressed with the way she beautified the network closets.
Music teacher Ed Castro, who started Rock Opera, can make any class feel like a jam session, with his great arranging skills and powerful connections to his students. Wen Yu Ho says Caitlin McLane, his fellow Social Science faculty member, brings a passion for history to EPS, which shows in both “her unwavering desire to grow as an educator and as a historian, and her kindness in sharing ideas/strategies/resources.” Math and Science teacher Ted Scott was a mentor for returning teacher Jeff Sanderson, and Kip Wassink points out that Scott brings such an incredible amount of energy to EPS that he has to run ultra-marathons to get rid of the excess.
Our five-year crowd is universally passionate about what they do—but it’s more than that—they bring love and leadership to their roles. Casey Otley, Director of Finance and Operations, brings financial wisdom and good listening skills to EPS and in doing so “leads with enthusiasm, respect, empathy, and humor” says Rhiannon Chelini, Accounting and Human Resources Manager. Math faculty member Randy Reina brings calm, consistency, and a collaborative attitude,” says colleague Karen Mills. “Parents, teachers, and students all trust his wisdom.” Reina’s steadiness has been great in “wrangling the feisty math department” says fellow Math Faculty member Jeff Sanderson, and while he’s clearly loved, most people agree his best gifts to EPS are his daughters (both EPS graduates).
Stephen Keedy, English Faculty, is much loved for his dry wit and ability to stay calm when everyone else is stressed out. “I would say Stephen’s greatest gift to EPS—among many—has been his willingness to roll with whatever new opportunity or plot twist arises,” says colleague Elena Olsen. “Whether teaching a slate of brand-new courses or jumping into leading kids on a backpacking trip in a place he’s never been or dressing up as a Macbeth witch, Keedy is up for anything.” Keedy’s classroom is hands-on and interesting. Fellow English faculty member Verity Sayles says “Keedy is a master at creating fun projects. He always considers how students can come to engage with the course material in a creative way that suits their skills.”
EPS Chef Gilbert Ragudos and Sous Chef Rikki Reddy celebrate ten years together and colleagues love the love they pour into their days and their cooking. You can’t have innovation without flexibility and that extends from the classroom to the kitchen that feeds our community. “Their greatest strength is their ability to pivot on the fly” says Janine Martorano.
Ragudos is loved by the students, who thank him while he quietly makes sure they have what they need. One colleague describes him as “everyone’s brother.” Reddy is right there with him, cooking for the community and enjoying the music. “Rakesh always looks out for the team and their families,” says Martorano. “If someone is sick, he always makes soup.” Students love his butter chicken and also appreciate the time he takes to chat with them and answer questions about cooking.
Matt Delaney, Director of Academic Design and Integration, has molded Eastside Prep with hard work and thoughtful reflection. Sam Uzwack says Delaney’s “unceasing belief in the power of education to transform students is inspiring.” His colleagues appreciate the critical way he can deconstruct an issue into core ideas. One of Delaney’s major gifts to EPS was the Professional Development Project. “With that singular accomplishment,” says John Stegeman, “Matt gave EPS faculty a mechanism for professional growth and collaboration that is unparalleled.” Multiple colleagues describe Delaney’s unparalleled work ethic and desire to see meaningful change. At the bottom of all of it, though, as Jonathan Briggs describes, is Delaney’s “deep love” for the school and its people.
For fifteen years, College Counselor Allison Luhrs has gifted students with her loving support and blessed the school with her quiet leadership. “She has such a strength about her,” says faculty member and fellow College Counselor Elizabeth Andersen. “When she invests time in you, you know that she cares deeply about you.” Luhrs makes everyone feel welcome, whether a new teacher or an anxious student. Bart Gummere, Associate Head of School for College Counseling and Alumni Relations, appreciates the way she remains calm while demanding the best from her students. “Allison is always a cool voice of reason, while still being willing to push against the status quo.” Kelly Violette, Spanish faculty and College Counselor, says Luhrs’ superpower is being the best listener in the world. “Allison listens actively, synthesizes and reflects what she hears, and then retains everything. I am always floored when she asks me days later about some small detail I mentioned going on in my life. It makes her an amazing friend and I know her college counselees benefit tremendously from the attention she pays to the details of their lives.” Adam Waltzer, Science Faculty and fellow College Counselor, sums it up: “She makes everyone better.”
Is there anything Elin Kuffner hasn’t taught in her fifteen years? Currently teaching science, running the library, and coaching Ultimate and soccer, Kuffner is multitalented. “What can’t she do?” asks Kadie Thompson. The only consistent thing about the way colleagues describe Kuffner is the inconsistency—she’s so multifaceted everyone found something else to love. When asked about Kuffner’s “superpower,” colleagues listed her advocacy for students, her ability to juggle many roles, her sense of humor, her enthusiasm, and her actual strength (and that’s not even the whole list). Director of Athletics Kim Eng loves how Kuffner doesn’t just teach the fundamentals when she coaches, she teaches a love of the game. Kuffner’s love of life shows up in her laugh, and the way she makes others laugh right alongside her.