With the 2020-21 academic year quickly approaching, Morristown-Beard School welcomed new faculty and staff with special orientation sessions during the week of August 24.
The newest members of the Morristown-Beard School community were paired with faculty mentors, toured the campus, and learned more about the philosophy of the School and daily life at MBS.
This year’s new faculty and staff members include:
Rita Arias — World Language
Rita Arias will be joining our World Language Department. She has been serving as an adjunct professor at the County College of Morris and Fairleigh Dickinson University. Before that, she held several international positions at Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University, Mannheim, Germany University of Cambridge, England, and Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico. Rita holds a Ph.D. in Latin American Studies from the University of Cambridge, an M.Phil. in Latin American Studies from the University of Cambridge, and a Bachelor of Art in International Relations (Major: Political Science) from the Universidad Iberoamericana. She is fluent in English, Spanish, and German and is the author of 12 publications. Rita states, "…teaching is about interacting with other people, learning from them, and understanding their stories. I try to always be open-minded, bring a positive attitude to the classroom, and be helpful. Ultimately, I aim to encourage young minds to be the best version of themselves, and teaching gives me this opportunity."
Talia Chaves — Library
Joining our library staff as Assistant Librarian is Talia Chaves, who holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Montclair State University. Talia has her sights set on finishing her master's degree in Library and Information Science next year. She has worked in the children's book publishing industry for the last four years after receiving a "We Need Diverse Books" internship grant in 2016. During that time, Talia committed herself to following best practices in equity, diversity, and inclusion while building a love of reading and learning in children. Her passion for middle-grade literature is best seen through her "Book Talk with Talia" video series, where she has shared hundreds of book recommendations with librarians, educators, and readers. Talia states that her life "...has been colored by the importance of lesson planning and strong classroom management strategies, and as the assistant librarian, I would set my sights on building a bridge from the library to the classroom."
Alexis Chestnut-Andrews — Mathematics
We welcome Alexis Chestnut-Andrews to the Math Department in our Middle School. Alexis is no stranger to MBS, as she is the parent of Ethan (2022). Alexis holds a BA in History/Education from the University of the State of New York Regents College, a MA in Elementary Education (Math Specialization) from Queens College, and a Ph.D. in Learning, Development, and Instruction from the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She brings a wealth of experience that includes teaching at the elementary level, administrative and supervisory roles at the middle school level, and college teaching. She made a transition from the business world to education after seeing so many students struggle with mathematics, and made a conscious choice to be a positive change in students’ lives. When she thinks of what drives her professional life, she says a quote from Maya Angelou comes to mind: “When we know better, we do better.”
Raphael Dagold — English
Joining our Upper School English Department is Raphael Dagold. Raphael holds a BA in English Literature from Swarthmore, an MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry from the University of Oregon, and a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Utah. His experience in education includes teaching at the high school level in Portland, OR, and extensive college teaching, including at the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan. Raphael writes, "Early in my writing career, the poet Li-Young Lee told our class, 'You must write only emergency poems.' He also said, 'You must find how you will inhabit the American tongue.' I have mulled over these injunctions ever since. I'm sure I always will. Not all poems can be the literary equivalent of a 9-1-1 call; not all styles can be a necessary room in the house of poetry. But all students can strive for real purpose in their writing and in their reading: as another of my early teachers, the poet Corrinne Hales, once said, 'Why not try to be Yeats?' "
Dillan DiGiovanni — Wellness
We welcome Dillan DiGiovanni as he returns to the field of education as a member of our Wellness Department. Dillan holds a BA in Education from the College of New Jersey, and an M.Ed. in Integrated Wellness, Leadership, and Change in Individuals and Cultures. After leaving his successful early career as a middle school teacher, Dillan became a certified integrative health coach and began exploring other aspects of education. He used his teaching experience, expertise in integrative health, and passion for shaping the next generation to affect positive change in his new roles of youth advisor, campus ministry director, educational consultant, certified health coach, and as a Global Labs Mentor at WeWork. Dillan writes, "As an educator, I combine all the theory and praxis of many different learning environments and share what feels like my natural, effortless gifts: to lead by example and to reassure adolescents when they need comfort and confidence as they develop a healthy sense of identity from within. From unshakeable self-acceptance comes a sense of unlimited compassion and love for others. These take time and the right tools to develop. I feel grateful to possess these tools and hope to share them in abundance."
Brandon Jefferson ’09 — Center for Teaching & Learning
We welcome MBS alumnus Brandon Jefferson ’09 back to campus as a member of the Center for Teaching & Learning. Brandon earned a master’s degree in Special Education from Grand Canyon University after receiving a B.A. in Communications from High Point University. He has taught locally at Randolph High School, where he also served as a one-to-one aid for a Special Education student. Brandon began his teaching career at Belvidere High School, where he served as a permanent substitute. As a Morristown-Beard student, Brandon received the Hauserman Award for his sincerity, compassion and character. He also won several basketball awards including the Coaches Award and the Sportsmanship Award, and later continued his passion for the game as a freelance sports writer for SB Nation, Nbadraft.net, The Basketball Writers, and more.
Stephanie Kealy — Science
Stephanie Kealy will be joining our Upper School Science Department. Stephanie holds an MS in Ecology & Evolution from Rutgers University and a BA in Geology from Mount Holyoke College. She has been an Adjunct Professor for the past two years and a Lab Instructor at Brookdale Community College for the past seven. Stephanie states, "I seek to foster a student-centered classroom that engages students in dialogue with their peers and myself, and provides multiple opportunities to revisit concepts, continually integrate new knowledge, and safely practice communicating concepts to best equip them to apply their knowledge in a constantly changing world. My classroom is strongly influenced by my experiences providing environmental education interpretation across diverse contexts."
Ryan Liese — Head of Upper School
Joining MBS as Head of Upper School is Ryan Liese. Ryan comes to MBS from Randolph School in Huntsville, Alabama, where he also served as Head of Upper School. Having joined the Randolph faculty as an Upper School History teacher and coach in 2008, Ryan quickly earned the respect of his colleagues for his student-centered approach, relational strengths, strong organizational skills, and high integrity. His trajectory within Randolph was rapid. He was appointed as a senior faculty advisor to the Honor Council only a year after arriving at Randolph, working with students and faculty to deepen the community of trust within the school. In 2012, Ryan was appointed Dean of 9th and 10th Grades, serving as an advocate for students as they began their Upper School experience. Two years later, he was named Head of Upper School following a rigorous and competitive search. Ryan completed his Master of Education in Independent School Leadership from Vanderbilt University and shared his learning and innovative leadership with his Randolph colleagues at every turn. His leadership in the development of signature programming, both curricular and co-curricular, has been strategic and focused on improving the student experience and fostering relationships within the school community. Ryan comes to NJ with his wife, Nichole, and their seven-year-old daughter, Hannah.
Matthew Loy — Admission
Matthew Loy joins our Admission Department as an Admission Officer. Matt was born in California and lived on the campus of Dunn School, a boarding school in Los Olivos until he was five years old. Matt's family then moved to New Jersey, and he attended Rutgers Prep and The Hun School of Princeton. Matt went to Penn State after receiving a scholarship to play lacrosse and was a four-year letterman winner. Matt's post-college work experience has been diverse, for the past nine years he has worked in the financial and technology industries where he has worked as an Account Manager and Salesperson. Matt lives in Jersey City with his wife Linsey, daughter Lennox, and puppy Gouda. In his free time, he practices and teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and received his black belt in the winter of 2019. He is very excited to be an active member of the MBS community, and looks forward to helping it continue to grow.
Andrea Silvestri — Science
We welcome Andrea Sylvestri, who will be joining MBS as a Middle School science instructor. Andrea holds a BA in Biology and Licensure in Secondary Education from Green Mountain College. She comes to us from Purnell School, where she served as a STEM instructor. During the last six years, Andrea not only worked in education but also participated in several research experiences. She has followed Lyme Disease trends in the woods of Vermont, used gene editing technologies at the New York STEM Cell Research Foundation, and worked as a research assistant with a focus on place-based learning. Andrea states, "As an educator, I strive to provide my students with lessons and tools that will last beyond the classroom. This includes the ability to think critically, thoughtfully, and patiently. I believe that when students are provided with thoughtful and genuine educational experiences, they gain the ability to ask questions and investigate the world around them."