By Wendy Lawrence, Inspire Contributor
The new folks coming to Eastside Prep have lived all around the world, authored scholarly articles and books of poetry, worked with cancer patients, taught everywhere from large universities to tiny K-12 schools, and read the Odyssey to donkeys. They bring a wide variety of personalities and experiences, but share the same excitement to join a creative, cohesive, and collaborative group of new colleagues, students, and parents. They weren’t with EPS for the first twenty years, but with everything they were doing in that time, they will be critical in the innovations of the next 20 years.
Interdisciplinary work is not new for JENNIFER BOYDEN, English faculty. She is a co-founder of The Multiverse, a space for interdisciplinary collaborations. In her classes, students often turn poetry into visual art and stories into board games. “Teaching English is the best way to share joy about ideas and to be part of an evolving, daily conversation about what feels important. I’m interested in how literature and writing shape multiple kinds of frameworks that inform the relationships we have to ourselves and the world around us.” Boyden has an MFA in Creative Writing from Eastern Washington University and has authored three books of poetry and a novel. She has taught literature and writing at a variety of colleges in Washington, Oregon, and China, worked as an editor for a consulting firm and a literary journal, read the Odyssey to a group of donkeys, and for the past five years worked as an English teacher and college counselor at a small school on San Juan Island. In addition to all of her own ideas, she loves to support student projects and has helped students start their own literary journal, basketball clinic, art installations, and a food donation site.
JEFF COVINGTON joins the Upper School English faculty and credits both the EPS students and faculty for drawing him to the school. “With the students, I could easily tell they felt comfortable being themselves in order to pursue their interests and excel academically. I haven’t encountered this enthusiasm within students for quite some time. As for the faculty, I was struck by their enthusiasm toward working together on new classes and projects, particularly those that would most benefit students. And that’s the type of teaching community I want to be part of.” Covington was a college English professor for over ten years, and has taught at Brown University and Bryant University, among others. Most recently he was Associate Professor of English at Baldwin Wallace University, where he taught courses in modern and contemporary literature, LGBTQ+ studies, and literary theory. Covington considers himself “an unabashed nerd” with anything that involves a creative process: music, books, film, tattoos, video games. He’s also a dog dad and looks forward to bringing her to campus when he can.
KRISTA HENNINGSEN joins EPS as Academic Design Coordinator and Chemistry teacher. Henningsen has moved from Los Angeles, bringing a supportive husband, four “lively and loud” kids, and fifteen years of experience at the Harvard-Westlake School. Henningsen holds an M.Ed. from University of San Diego and a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago. At her past school, she helped overhaul the schedule which had been stuck in forty-five-minute blocks for the past thirty-one years. She is excited to be part of the growth and change that is EPS.
ALEXANDER LANGER joins EPS as US History faculty. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, he’s returning from the mountains of Colorado where he was a lecturer and earned his PhD in American Foreign Relations at University of Colorado Boulder. Langer loves boating, hiking, running, the Mariners, and guitar, and is writing a novel! During the pandemic, he wrote an academic article on the history of the Hilton Hotel in Rome and was excited to see it published in the journal Diplomatic History. “The Hotel on the Hill: Hilton Hotels’ Unofficial Embassy in Rome was a fun and interesting story to get to tell,” Langer says, “involving secret deals with the Vatican, communist party protests, and movie stars galore.” Langer has tried many jobs including teaching at the college level, tutoring, grad school, and a VERY impromptu stint as a one-day unofficial tour guide at Pompeii—each has just convinced him how much he loves teaching. He’s excited to work in the small, inclusive community of EPS.
ANGELA MCKERINAN COLLINS joins EPS as a School Nurse, responsible for the daily well-being of students, as well as the maintenance of medical records and the development of new long-term policies that benefit students’ health. A former adjunct faculty at the University of Washington, Collins has thirty years of experience as an oncology clinical nurse specialist. Born in Cork, Ireland, Collins has been in the states since she was two years old but loves traveling abroad. One of her many interesting life experiences was getting locked in a cemetery during a year volunteering at a hospital in Hong Kong. Collins and her husband of almost thirty years have two children now embarking on their own young adult journeys. The pandemic gave her some time to reflect on her personal and professional goals. She immediately resonated with the school nurse position when an EPS parent sent her the job posting and she is excited to join an innovative community.
SARAH PEEDEN, Middle School Head, was drawn to the school because of the mission statement. “EPS stands apart from other schools because it really lives its mission statement. When you walk on campus, you can feel how students and faculty take those words to heart.” Peeden earned her M.Ed. from Columbia Teachers College and her BA and MA at UVA. She brings a lot of experience in teaching, administration, and recent success creating a more inclusive middle school at Pacific Ridge School. Peeden centers students in her work, honoring middle school for the transitional and rich time that it is. In her free time, she practices yoga, swims, hikes, cooks, and reads. Her family includes her partner Jagannathan, kids Mohan and Govind, and a toy fox terrier named Callie.
BRANDON SMITH is coming home after twelve years abroad in China, Egypt, and South Korea. Smith has taught middle and high school-level courses in the IB program and will teach Advanced Calculus at EPS. “My hope is to continue to encourage creativity and agency in a subject that I love. Mathematics can be a very polarizing topic but is also an extremely useful way of thinking and tool for life.” He studied math and theater at Lewis & Clark College. He started a community theater in Cairo and ran it for five years, putting on large-scale plays with cases of fifty or more people. He spends his free time playing board games, running, reading, improving his cooking, and playing with his young daughter. Smith is excited to bring a diverse set of teaching experiences to the creative space that is EPS, and is equally excited to not have to wear a tie.