Friends welcomes 21 new employees to campus this fall. Learn more about them below!
1. Afemi Banx transitions out of her role at Friends as a Teacher's Aide and substitute teacher to join the Middle School Office as the Administrative Assistant. She holds a BA in Communication from Brooklyn College.
2. Varnessa Comeau joins us as our new Assistant to the Head of the Lower School. She obtained her BS in Psychology from the City College of New York. She comes to Friends from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai where she was an Administrative Assistant to the Interim System Chair of Medicine and several Vice Chairs.
3. Jessica Contreras is thrilled to be joining the Third Grade team. She worked as an Associate Teacher at Friends Seminary about a decade ago. After graduating from CUNY Hunter College with an MA in Childhood Education, she began teaching at Williamsburg Northside Schools, launching the first third grade classroom as the school expanded. Most recently, she taught third grade at Manhattan Country School where she worked with her team to design and implement an anti-bias curriculum.
4. Will Curry joins us as our new Middle School Strings Teacher. He studied viola and conducting at Northwestern University. Will is an active performer, having recently music directed and conducted the national tour of Miss Saigon and having played and conducted for the Broadway productions of Les Miserables, Fiddler on the Roof, Miss Saigon, and My Fair Lady. He also teaches violin and viola at the Elisabeth Morrow School and Silver Music.
5. Elena Hartoonian is looking forward to joining the Upper School Mathematics Department. She earned a BS in Applied Physics from California Institute of Technology and an MA in Mathematics from the University of Colorado in Boulder. Prior to joining Friends, she worked as a Mathematics Instructor at Bard High School Early College, and served as the director of STEM and Arts education at STEM from Dance, a nonprofit organization.
6. Annah Heckman '15 is looking forward to joining the Center for Peace Equity and Justice as the Associate for Service Learning and Civic Engagement. An alumna of Friends Seminary, she went on to earn a BA in Human Rights from Bard College. She worked last year at Friends Seminary as the maternity cover for the Director of Alumni Relations.
7. Khairah Klein (not pictured) joins us as our new Assistant Head of Lower School. She holds a BS in Political Science from Bates College and an MA in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education. Khairah brings more than 25 years of experience in early and elementary education in both public and independent schools. Most recently, she taught Kindergarten and Grade 3 at the Spence School. She and her spouse are lifelong New Yorkers who have raised three adult children.
8. Brian Levels will be joining us full time as a Middle and Upper School Music Teacher. He holds a BM, MM, and DMA in Multiple Woodwind Performance from the University of North Texas. He has previously taought at Friends as the part-time strings music teacher for the Middle School. Prior to teaching at Friends, Dr. Levels taught at the college level and toured nationally and internationally with Broadway tours.
9. Yuxi Lin is looking forward to teaching English to Grades 6 and 7. She received her BA in English and Economics from Davidson College and her MFA in Creative Writing from New York University. She comes to Friends from Convent of the Sacred Heart, where she taught Middle School English.
10. Sahana Mehta '16 returns to Friends as our new Associate for Diversity and Inclusion at the Center for Peace, Equity and Justice. She holds a BA in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies and International and Intercultural Studies from Scripps College. Prior to joining Friends, Sahana worked for a variety of social justice oriented nonprofits including MADRE, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, and Equality Labs.
11. Michael Mudho joins us as our new Associate Director of Advancement for Alumni Relations. He earned a BA in Political Science and an MA in International Relations and Diplomacy from Seton Hall University. Prior to joining Friends, he worked as a Program Manager for nonprofits in NYC focused on college access, alumni relations and corporate social engagement.
12. Blair Parker joined us this summer as our new Head of Upper School. She comes to Friends from Riverdale Country School where she served as Assistant Head of Upper School, Dean of Students and Interim Director of Financial Aid over an eight-year tenure there. She also has taught history at Riverdale, the National Cathedral School, and Emma Willard, and is excited to teach a spring semester history elective at Friends this year. Blair holds degrees from the Klingenstein Center at Teachers College and the University of Virginia.
13. Kirsti Peters joins Friends as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion. She received her MA in Women & Gender Studies and her BA is in Journalism/Creative Writing. Prior to moving to New York, she served as an Elementary School Teacher turned Middle School Principal in Bay Area public and charter schools. Most recently, she has worked as a Race and Equity Strategist for tech companies and grassroots organizations. Kirsti is also a writer, and her middle grade book about Juneteenth will be released from Penguin Random House in Spring 2022.
14. Amelia Polton is excited to join us as our new Dean's Office Assistant. She earned a BA in Media Studies at Hunter College. Last year Amelia worked as the College Counseling Office Assistant (maternity cover) here at Friends, and prior to that she spent time working as a barista and an Administrative Assistant at Hunter.
15. Rosemary Puckett joins us this year teaching Middle School Science. She is a neuroscientist who earned her MSc in Neuroscience from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and her BA in English Literature at the University of the South in Sewanee. She comes to Friends from the American Museum of Natural History where she was the Brain Educator in the Hall of Human Origins Educational Laboratory.
16. Martha Reckers joins us as a Receptionist at the front desk. She has a BA in English from Xavier University and an MFA from The New School. She comes to Friends from previous work experiences in customer service and marketing.
17. Colleen Rober will be teaching Middle and Upper School Spanish. She holds a BA in Spanish from Providence College and an MA in Latin American and Latino Studies from Fordham University. She previously taught Spanish at Xavier High School.
18. Crystal Scott joins us as our new Admissions Operations Manager. She holds a BS in Management Information Systems from SUNY Old Westbury. Prior to joining Friends, she worked at New York University and The New School and held positions in Human Resources, Operations, Development and Alumni Relations.
19. Daniel Stagnitta is excited to join the Performing Arts Department to teach Grades 5 and 6 clarinet and saxophone while assisting with the Middle School Jazz Band. He received his BM in Jazz Studies from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville and his MM/Artist Diploma in Jazz Instrumental Performance from New York University. Daniel comes to us from NYU where he also worked as a graduate Adjunct Instructor of Music teaching music lessons to non-music majors at the school.
20. Samantha Stephens joins us as our new Upper School Assistant. Prior to joining Friends, she assisted the co-managing partners of a boutique real estate law firm in midtown Manhattan and was the education coordinator for their affiliated real estate school. She holds a BA in Communications and a BA in Political Science from American International College.
21. Tyler Troppmann joins us as our new School Nurse. He recently completed his MS in Nursing at Columbia University and holds a BS in biology from SUNY New Paltz. Prior to joining Friends, he worked as a School Nurse at the Professional Children's School.