By Sejal Sangani
If you’ve talked to me at all in the past month, I’ve definitely mentioned at least seven times that I really miss HB, and one of the things I miss most is seeing my teachers. So, I emailed the Upper School Faculty with the questions you all had for them… here are their answers.
What were your first thoughts when you visited/came to HB for the first time?
MS. RITZMAN: I interviewed at HB on Senior Prank Day in March of 2007 and walked into the front hall with bras hanging from the ceiling and a huge banner that read “Thanks for supporting us!” Mr. Christ apologized and I laughed. I loved HB from that moment on.
MR. PARSONS: This place is AMAZING. I loved the energy — it was palpable and fun. Nine years later, that’s still the case. I’m amazed every day by the energy the students and faculty have.
MS. MCBEATH: When I first came to HB almost 11 years ago I fell in love with the Classic Building and the Bio lab. The architecture of the Classic Building reminded me of my college and what is there not to love about the Bio lab! The first person I met was Mrs. Homany – one of the nicest people you could ever meet!
MR. CIUNI: Amazed. My previous school was not nearly as wonderful as HB is and I was just floored by the level of engagement and care students put into their studies and how they contributed to the school community.
MR. DIMITROV: During my interview process, I was sitting in what is now my office being interviewed by two people when in walked this tall woman wearing goggles and carrying a hammer. She said, “Excuse me,” and then began to whale away at a block of ice in the freezer. She finished, walked out of the office and the interview continued. Five minutes later she returned hammer in hand, again said, “Excuse me,” and hammered away some more. It was Ms. Burtch and she was doing the coffee creamer into ice cream lab.
MS. KRIST: The first time I came to HB was for my interview in April of 2010. Once I stepped foot in the school I knew it was exactly where I wanted to be, and that feeling has not changed!
DR. BISSELLE: When I first visited HB, I thought shabby chic, a second home, historically modern. It was like returning to where I went to K-12— an all- girls school outside Philadelphia. The building seems to have an energy about it— perhaps you can feel the generations of ambitious women.
What was your first year teaching at HB like?
MS. RITZMAN: My first year at HB was great because I got to experience both the Middle and Upper Schools at the same time–I was the Director of Upper School Admission, taught 8th grade English with Ms. Levitan the first year she did the Facing History and Ourselves curriculum and coached MS field hockey.
MR. PARSONS: Like finally finding the place of work and learning I could call home and be most fully myself.
MR. BUESCHER: One of the most memorable experiences of my first year was a fiesty and outspoken student in my Algebra 2 class named Camille Lipford … you know her as Ms. Seals. She was one of my favorite students that year – she always wanted to know how things worked and why we were learning what we did.
MS. MCBEATH: I had already been teaching for 23 years so the subject matter was not the issue! I was a little bit worried about teaching all girls, but I had some experience teaching girls from Beaumont, so was confident. I could not get over how amazing it was to teach students who are so engaged – I kept pinching myself all year long, I thought I was in teacher heaven!
MR. CIUNI: Tough. A lot to adjust to. I look back and appreciate the standards students expect in their education at HB. Those kids made me work harder because they wanted more. What a wonderful thing for a teacher to encounter.
MR. DIMITROV: This video represents about how well year 1 at HB went for me.
MS. KRIST: My first year was a blur. Although I had been teaching for over 10 years prior to coming to HB, it was a whole new environment, culture, and way of life. I had a great mentor (thanks Ali Day!) who helped me with all this. I felt very lucky to be in such a fantastic educational environment.
What is something you want HB students to know about HB teachers?
MR. PARSONS: That they care more than any group of people I’ve worked with. And they’re a lot of fun in addition to being so talented and sharp.
MS. MCBEATH: HB teachers really care about our students – we want you to be the most successful and happy person you can be!
MR. CIUNI: We work very hard. We are motivated to do so because our students are so fantastic and eager and engaged.
MR. DIMITROV: Professional courtesy—I will not rat out my coworkers.
MS. KRIST: I guess I want the girls to know that we care about their education, of course, but we also care so much about “our girls” and their well being as they navigate their way through high school.
What brand(s) of writing utensil do you prefer?
MR. PARSONS: I try to mix it up, but 99.7325% of the time write with the Uni-Ball Vision Elite. That pen on a page of a Moleskine journal is magic.
MR. BUESCHER: I do all of my grading with a green Pentel Energel 0.7 mm. I bought a box of them several years ago. I have since bought two boxes of refills.
MS. MCBEATH: I always write with a slick, zebra, fine point black pen.
MR. CIUNI: I have several boxes of special #2 pencils that I hoard. I’m like a big league baseball player, I need just the right bat to swing for a home run. These pencils are just that. And they fit behind my ear quite snugly!
MR. DIMITROV: I use whatever pencil and pen I find on the ground or left in my classroom. Haven’t bought a pen in years. Thanks.
MS. KRIST: Bic Blue medium tip pens, Papermate Mechanical Pencils, Papermate Flair Felt tip marker – in Pink!
DR. BISSELLE: I love fine felt tip markers, and I love to journal- I always have it on my desk.
If you teach/have taught multiple classes, which has been your favorite to teach (in terms of content)?
MS. RITZMAN: I have worked in admissions, coached field hockey, taught 8th and 12th grade English, taught 12th grade wellness, been a mentor, the ninth grade dean, and the dean of students and I loved it all. I actually miss teaching 12th grade wellness so much. I loved it. I felt like it was my last chance to spend quality time with the graduating classes before they left HB and it was so special for me to have those conversations with seniors as they were preparing for college and beyond.
MR. PARSONS: AP Language and Composition.
MR. BUESCHER: My favorite content is actually the courses I’m teaching now – Statistics & Precalculus and Computer Science – because both of them are extremely useful for many disciplines outside of mathematics. People who care about pretty much anything can use statistics and programming as a tool to achieve their goals.
MS. MCBEATH: I have taught many biology classes over the years including AP Bio, freshman (baby) biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Human Bio, Ecology, Microbiology, and even Health. MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE CLASS TO TEACH IS BABY BIOLOGY! I love the freshman!
MR. CIUNI: Apples and oranges. I loved English and talking about great literature and the writing process and ideas and philosophies but I also love talking about the world and how it works in Global Scholars. I’m lucky to have gotten to do both at HB.
MR. DIMITROV: I subbed for a 10th grade English class and I was supposed to give them a study hall. Instead I led a discussion of The Metamorphosis by Kafka. They hated me afterwards but I really enjoyed it.
MS. KRIST: Uggg….not a fair question. I really love teaching Business and Finance to my girls, but this year teaching American Government has been so impactful! I didn’t realize how much I missed teaching it! Both are so important to understand and be able to navigate out in the world.
DR. BISSELLE: I never taught at HB but I LOVE to teach, and am a teacher at heart. I taught teachers to teach at the University of Vermont, and taught history in high school and middle school for over 20 years. I love being in the classroom, and love when I get to guest teach here. My favorite class I taught was Women’s History at Taft. There was a book written in the 1980s by a famous Taft teacher called “Those Who Served”— a play on thee Taft motto and a historical accounting of the great teachers of Taft. All those highlighted were men, so my women’s history class wrote the sequel highlighting 10 women trailblazers at Taft— it was fabulous!
What is your morning or nighttime routine?
MS. RITZMAN: My morning routine involves my small children and lots of coffee.
MR. PARSONS: What is a routine? Are those still a thing? Actually, my nighttime routine is to make sure I finish work by 7:00 and then make dinner. After cleaning that up, I watch Schitt’s Creek with my family — the ultimate comfort food. My younger daughter is babysitting for a family of doctors, so I make coffee for her and me at 7:00 am, do the crossword puzzle, and then get rolling with school at 7:45.
MS. MCBEATH: In the morning it is coffee, at night I always read and do puzzles before I fall asleep.
MR. CIUNI: Gotta have the school clothes laid out the night before. Gotta set an alarm. I am too sleepy in the morning to think through basic problems. You ever see in the old cartoons where like Bugs Bunny or George Jetson has a machine that puts his clothes on for him? I need one of those.
MR. DIMITROV: Floss. I always floss before going to bed. In the morning, after getting dressed, I always sit with one of my cats looking out the window as I brush her.
MS. KRIST: Morning: Get up, take the dogs out, grab a coffee, get ready and head to school! Evening: Run any errands, go home, make dinner, check email and do some work, Read/watch TV, and in bed by 10 pm.
DR. BISSELLE: I get up at 5am, and I go to bed by 8:30pm- that has been my routine my whole life. I used to want to be a night owl, or at least “cool” enough to stay up to 11 to watch a movie— I just am not wired that way. I am a morning person.
What are you doing in your free time?
MR. PARSONS: Reading way too much news and Twitter. Also I’m playing Animal Crossing. If you asked me why I find it enjoyable to run around a virtual cartoon island pulling weeds and growing fruit trees, I would tell you that I do not know. But I enjoy it. Here is a photo of the main room of my house:
MR. CIUNI: Unfortunately not much. Having my kids home and helping them get through their schoolwork while working on HB stuff has me moving pretty constantly. I know this will all end eventually…
MS. SIMON-MIETUS: It’s amazing what being quarantined in the house does to you. I’ve now fixed just about everything in the house, painted ceilings, painted the basement floor and am now working on the garage! I’ve been practicing every instrument a lot and grading assignments. For fun, besides making music, I’ve been taking long walks and catching up with my family and friends both here in the US and abroad.
MS. MCBEATH: I have watched more TV since this started then the entire past year! I am also reading as much as I can!
MS. ARMSTRONG has been spinning her own yarn. Here’s a brilliant video she made about it:
MR. DIMITROV: Not enough. I have 4 cars currently sitting in my driveway. Only one currently runs. I probably should get working on that
DR. MILLER has also been keeping busy during quarantine. Here’s her video on what she’s been doing and her favorite snack (now and always):
MS. KRIST: Right now, we are re-doing our basement, so that’s been taking up some time. Otherwise, spending time with my daughters, taking walks in the park behind our house and making dog treats for my two Shih Tzus, Max and Ozzie.
DR. BISSELLE: In my free time, I run and talk on the phone with my two daughters (ages 22 and 23). The 22 year old is a senior in college, and her spring semester was canceled- as is her graduation.
What is your go-to quarantine food?
MS. RITZMAN: My go-to quarantine food is whatever my kids don’t eat. I wish I had thought to buy more Kraft Macaroni and Cheese as that is just my favorite food of all time and seems appropriate for this moment with its freeze dried cheese pouch.
MR. PARSONS: I’ve been baking bread, though I didn’t know about the mad rush for sourdough starters and tried too late to order one. My starter died from neglect a few years ago, and now it looks like I’ll have to wait a while to replace it. I also finally nailed the art of making cheesecake and wish I could share a piece with everyone.
MS. MCBEATH: Hershey Kisses.
MR. CIUNI: Hmmm. I’ve found myself enjoying a snack of anything on which you can spread Nutella.
MR. DIMITROV: Pretzels. My kingdom for a pretzel.
MS. KRIST: Any nut/dried fruit combo, or red peppers with a cheese stick. If I am being honest, I will also sneak in some Reese cups!
DR. BISSELLE: My quarantine food is whatever my daughter Agnes is cooking- she is becoming an amazing cook- with all this time. She made sushi a few times (all vegetables). I try to eat plant based, so I am usually eating healthy veggies, except when I sneak a few potato chips!
Ms. McBeath also attached this cute picture of an owl that I thought you all should see:
Some you sent me questions for a specific teacher, so here those are…
Mr. Elliott, on whether trigonometry can be used to solve this global pandemic:
The applications of trigonometry are many and varied, but in this moment its use in engineering and design is probably the most vital. Teams of people all over the world are working to design effective, low-cost, open-source ventilator designs. Iran and Israel both came out with new ones in the last few days. Somebody had to use trigonometry to design the components of these life-saving devices. In case the term “open-source” is new to you, that means that anyone has permission to use the design without compensating the creator. It’s the opposite of protecting intellectual property with copyrights or patents, which is typically what makes medical equipment and medications so expensive (and profitable). We’re only going to get through this if we all do our part and approach the problem open to cooperation and communication. It’s a good thing, then, that we had trigonometry to help design the communication infrastructure which allows us to work together all across the world.
Mr. Mezoff, on how much he misses his classes (on a scale from 9-10):
11! It’s been wonderful to connect with everyone remotely, but I definitely miss talking with all of my students in person.
Mrs. Osredkar, on 1) her favorite possession, and 2) what she would be doing if she wasn’t a physics teacher:
1) My Favorite Thing: The gold and diamond necklace my father gave my mother for their 20th anniversary. I inherited it when my mother passed away.
2) Chemistry (but that doesn’t seem far enough away) so Kindergarten. Alternative career: archaeologist.
Thank you to all the Upper School Faculty Members that contributed to this article!