By Wendy Lawrence, Inspire Contributor

10 Years


In ten years at Eastside Prep, Katie Dodd has made an impact. “Katie is caring, dedicated, and not afraid to speak her mind,” says Adrienne Behrmann. “Katie is supportive and empathetic for her colleagues, organized, funny, and engaging for her students,” says Burton Barrager.

Dodd has taught a wide spectrum of EPS science classes, including sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade Scientific Thinking and Upper School Ecology and Marine Biology, courses which she developed. She has loved the opportunity to watch her students’ progress. “Teaching Upper School students who I also taught in Middle School has been such a great experience. I’m so proud of how far they’ve come.”

Dodd first came to EPS after working as a research scientist because she wanted to get back into the classroom. But while she had one reason to arrive, she had lots to stay. “The school culture and the community are the biggest reasons I stay,” says Dodd. “I genuinely like my colleagues and my students—they are smart, kind, and funny. I feel supported by the administration, and I love the freedom I have to design my own curriculum. I also appreciate that there’s a real spirit of collaboration here—when I’m feeling stuck on something, there are so many people I can turn to who are not only willing to help—they’re enthusiastic about it.”

“Katie is supportive and empathetic to her colleagues, organized, funny, and engaging for her students”


Before taking on the role of Director of Student Well-Being, Hagen was Dean of Students, but he’s gone by other, less official titles, too. “Students used to call me the “Dean of Fun” and I’ve also been called “Mr. Discipline.” It takes a special kind of talented teacher to get both of those nicknames! “Paul is one of those people who succeeds at whatever he puts his mind to,” says Brittany Williams, “and does it with such ease and calmness—he’s seriously a force to be reckoned with.”

Hagen has gained perspective in his time at EPS. “I think I have become more thoughtful and reflective. I’ve learned a lot about taking the long view on students and not jumping to conclusions.” And he’s loved his time EPS. “Every day brings new challenges, interesting conversations, exciting opportunities, and lots of fun with colleagues and students. There is never a dull moment here and I can’t remember the last time I was bored at work.”
Hagen has worked to create a consistent approach to student discipline. “Too often traditional school discipline is punitive, but we work hard to ensure that it is educational. It’s about providing opportunities for students to reflect and redirect. It’s about developing empathy and understanding.”

Hagen is known as a story-teller, but he’s also a great listener. “Paul listens to colleagues, peers, families, and students,” says Lisa Frystak. “He elevates everyone.”

From left: Kelly Violette, Paul Hagen, Sam Uzwack, Katie Dodd


Sam Uzwack’s official title might be Head of Middle School, but he thinks Chief Whimsy Officer describes his daily routine more accurately. His colleagues sense the whimsy, too. “When Sam walks into the Middle School, everyone can either feel it or at least hear it! Heads will raise and everyone wants to talk to him. He always makes you feel like you are valued and what you are talking about is important.” says Barrager.

In Uzwack’s time at EPS, he’s overseen the roll-out of the Middle School Laptop Program, the development of a Social Emotional Curriculum, the creation of Grade Level Teams and Coordinators that have helped strengthen the Advisory program, along with many other innovations. The school has grown and improved with his leadership, and Uzwack himself has grown too. “EPS taught me to slow down and take the long view, both in terms of our own development, and the development of the students we serve.”

Uzwack’s favorite moments are always Continuation and Graduation, times that remind him of how much the students grow. He had a particularly memorable moment one year when a student interrupted his speech to sing an end-of-year song to the tune of Summer Nights. “It was pretty inspiring,” he says.


Kelly Violette is a Spanish teacher and College Counselor whose unofficial title might be the ‘Sender of Overly Detailed Emails.’ “In my ten years at EPS, I’ve become a homeowner, ultrarunner, mother, a reluctant ex-ultrarunner, and a stranger to my own kitchen. (Thanks EPS Dining Services!)” She’s not sure that EPS has changed her, but rather “it’s allowed me to show up every day being authentically who I am.”

And who is she? “Violette is funny, low key, and hilarious,” says Sarah Rainwater. Berhmann describes Violette as “the queen of diplomacy,” a supportive and balanced colleague.

“EPS may not have changed Kelly Violette, but she has definitely changed the school.”

EPS may not have changed her, but she has definitely changed the school. Violette worked with the Spanish discipline group to overhaul the curriculum. “We also brought about major cultural change in how we were delivering—and how students were experiencing every course in our discipline.” Last year, she was excited to open her Advanced Spanish Language class with a new unit exploring the evolution of language to be more inclusive of women and non-binary people.

Violette has also been instrumental in the evolution of the College Counseling program as it transitioned to a new model. “Getting to be part of such a close-knit and collaborative team has been deeply rewarding and it’s been exciting to be part of piloting something that so many other schools are watching with interest.”

5 Years


“Vandana brings peace and calm to a sometimes chaotic environment. She’s the real deal.”—Malcolm Yates

Favorite EPS moment: Graduation. I love seeing students rising from the rigors of teenage years and academics and stepping up to meet new possibilities.

Best lesson you ever taught: A lesson where students write a letter to someone to express their gratitude. It’s heart-warming to experience the positive energy and the emotion in the room.

Best thing EPS taught you: The EPS community (faculty, staff, and students) is brilliant at respectfully vocalizing their ideas. I continually feel encouraged to process these differing opinions with objectivity rather than judgement.


“Ian has a huge heart and is passionate about his work.  His students love him because he knows them well and engages them in meaningful conversation.”—Adrienne Behrmann

Best lesson you ever taught: I am proud of introducing the end-of-year Independent Research Project Monologues.

Best thing EPS taught you: That teaching really is my calling.

Something at EPS you have changed: I am most proud of how well the Coffee House has taken off.


“Her musical talent is of the highest quality, offering our students a wonderful example of someone who has identified their passion and made it into a career.”—Whitney Stange

Favorite EPS moment: The most recent one is watching the finale of the spring concert. It was a piece that came to be out of a student’s idea, collaboration between faculty and the zero period classes, and a performance space to use creatively. It represented growth and inspiration on many levels.

Something at EPS you have changed: More students making more music!

From left: Javier Fernandez, Ginger Ellingson, Jeff Sternitzky, Brian Hutcheson (Not pictured: Gunnar Mein)


“Steve embodies the true spirit of collaboration. He has truly inspired me to be a better teacher and, to be honest, a better person.”—Anne Duffy

Best lesson you ever taught: It was a lesson about solving systems of linear equations but I turned it into a mystery activity. The setting was everyone goes to breakfast in groups and then someone never made it back. We analyzed all of the receipts from breakfast to see who ate together and therefore has an alibi. It was a flurry of conversations and calculations but at the end of the class, the mystery was solved!

Why you chose EPS: It’s because of the people. Everyone here is a great person who strengthens the community.


“The man is a fantastic cook and I enjoy watching him work. He also knows everyone’s custom breakfast order, while giving Spanish lessons and entertaining everyone.”—Burton Barrager

Favorite EPS moment: When I was out for four days, everyone missed me. It made me feel good to hear that from faculty and students alike.

Funniest interaction with a student: When a student critiqued my poached egg. He let me know he thought it was overcooked. I told him I would do better next time and he held me to that!

Best lesson you ever taught: You can’t rush the food; it takes patience to get it right.


“Hutch’s greatest gift to EPS is his equanimity. He has a wealth of creative, humorous, and fun ideas collected within his collectedness. Still waters run deep!”—Cheryl Miller

What you would get voted for in the EPS yearbook: Best bow ties. I think my ceramic and origami bow ties get the most comments and tend to mark me as that crazy arts guy.

Why you chose EPS: The community of students and teachers as well as the opportunity to grow and shape the Fine and Performing Arts program in our school.

Favorite EPS moment: This comes each spring with the culmination of our musical, music concerts, and art shows.


“He has brought so many skills to EPS. I can always count on him to help…and I’ve had quite a few obscure requests.”—Brittany Williams

Favorite EPS moment: My favorite experiences have been driving the students. There is something special about driving a bus load of kids onto a ferry for even the shortest trips across the water.

How has EPS changed since you got here: Back then, the buildings were old. The things we did to improve those spaces were big projects to those of us on the Facilities Team, but it took only a couple of years to understand there were some huge visions about to be realized.

Jim Owen, Josefa Ruiz, Vandana Chalana, Ian Duncan, Steve Fassino. (Not pictured: Ryan Winkelmann)


“Gunnar has single-handedly created a community of super-geeks who get to work on serious science and engineering projects. He has an infinite capacity to scale and replicate himself to meet the students’ needs and desires to level-up their geekdom.”—Ted Scott

Favorite EPS moment: Really any moment with students on EBC Week.

Best thing EPS taught you: No lesson plan survives first contact with the student body.

Thing about you that EPS has changed the most: I used to have opinions about teaching. Now I have mostly questions.


“Josefa brings an incredible sense of vision to EPS and never loses sight of meaningful, big-picture goals. Students love Josefa for her energy and her passion for the material.” —Malcolm Yates

Favorite EPS moment: Taking students to Argentina and Spain during EBC Week was quite a unique experience. To see them immersing themselves in the local culture and using the Spanish language was very rewarding.

Best thing EPS taught you: When you have a new idea for improvement, don’t be scared. Just try it. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t, but if you do not try, you won’t be able to learn from it.


“Jeff’s greatest gift to EPS is his love for helping others. Jeff’s always ready with an ice pack, or a phone to call your parents, or an encouragement before your test. His care and concern are something that students can rely upon.”—Cheryl Miller

Funniest interaction with a student: I watched a new driving student back out of a parking spot and somehow end up stuck on a fire hydrant. I helped him off and we duck taped up the bumper and worked on a communication plan to his parents.

Best thing EPS taught you: Patience. Everything changes if you give it time.

First thing you noticed about EPS: Each student is known and cannot get lost in the crowd.


“No matter how much work he has, he will make time to talk to and coach up students and teachers alike.”—Burton Barrager

Favorite EPS moment: Too many to list. Getting hired here was just a small step below getting married and the birth of my two children.

Best thing EPS taught you: The Equity, Inclusion, and Compassionate Leadership (EICL) group at EPS has pushed me further personally than any group. I always wanted to live out the To Kill a Mockingbird quote about being able to “live in another [person’s] skin” and see things from their perspective, and the EICL group has done so much for me in that capacity.

Wendy Lawrence was one of the four founding faculty at Eastside Prep. She started as a science teacher and three years later became the Head of the Middle School. Wendy has
moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan but remains connected to Eastside Prep through her work on this magazine.