Each January, we gather to honor our colleagues for their long-term service to the School. This year, we celebrated the milestone anniversaries of 14 Brimmer faculty and staff. Over the next month, we will share highlights from the event’s inspirational speeches. We hope you enjoy learning more about some of the talented, dedicated, and dynamic individuals who help make Brimmer such a special place.
TWENTY-FIVE YEAR MILESTONES
Tom Bray, Manager of Operations and Facilities
25 years ago, Tom Bray arrived at Brimmer, joining a small crew who took care of a rather small campus. There were no Chase classrooms, Corkin Theatre, Almy Center, no Corkin Art Barn, no Hastings Center, and no Orr Field. Over time, Tom become an essential part of the School’s physical plant’s operations crew, the Director of Transportation, and the stable plant safety manager. He has developed life-long friendships throughout his time with us, and most importantly, met and married his wife Patty.
Tom now directs a larger team, a larger school campus, and a much more demanding transportation schedule. The logistics of coordinating the transportation for Brimmer is daunting. Through it all, Tom remains calm, collected, and reliable. He also coordinates bus evacuation drills, updates the OSHA materials, trains new drivers, and works closely with the Business Office to ensure that all School vehicles are properly maintained and insured.
Tom is both knowledgeable and conscientious. His extensive training in HVAC makes him the “go to” person in that area. It was particularly important this year as we had to mitigate air flow challenges, and the School had full confidence in Tom to do this well and effectively.
Tom is “all in” for Brimmer. He is concerned about the safety of our community as if it is his family. His long hours, hard work, and professionalism are greatly appreciated by all of us.
Cecelia Pan, Science Department Chair & Co-Director of Faculty Recruitment & Mentoring
In 1996, Cecelia Pan joined our School as the Middle and Upper School Science Teacher. She taught two sections of “Global Lab” in the 8th grade, and that was the beginning of a long and wonderful journey at Brimmer.
A committed teacher who is always willing to teach a variety of courses, grades, and sections, Cecelia is a favorite among students. Her capable work as a Department Chair for over two decades is one marked with continuous improvements and innovative ideas; she has proved herself to be a colleague with a growth mindset and a love for her subject.
When the need occurs, she takes on more than her full-time work and pitches in for colleagues on a leave. Cecelia loves challenges, and she is good at organizing tasks and seeing them through. Since we last spoke about Cecelia five years ago, she has assumed the role of Co-Director of Recruitment and Hiring, where she oversees the mentoring of new faculty; she also helps with sub coverage for a third of the year to support our Division Heads.
A relatively short ten years ago, Cecelia agreed to chair the School’s NEASC self-study. We received glowing remarks from the Visiting Committee, and her work as the chair of the study broadened her understanding of our school and its needs. We are delighted that she has agreed to chair the Program Standards and Indicators once again.
TWENTY YEAR MILESTONES
Lauren Abrams, Website Coordinator
Lauren Abrams has been bringing her warmth, talent, and expertise to Brimmer for twenty years. Currently Brimmer’s website and school app guru, Lauren is fearless in her work. She approaches her responsibilities with a natural curiosity for how to make things better. She also cares deeply about her colleagues and seeks out how best to support us all. She has impacted so many areas of our school community in her two decades at Brimmer--from the Communications Office to the Business Office to Health & Wellness programs. Because she brings that extensive personal knowledge of Brimmer to everything she works on, she elevates us as a school, and we are all the better for it.
Lauren’s former supervisor, who fondly remembers hiring her in 2001, shared the following memories: “Lauren was practically a teenager when we first began working together! She is smart, kind, thoughtful, caring, and diligent. She’s also a problem-solver and a perfectionist who doesn’t give up until she’s accomplished the job. She has worked on countless website initiatives, written hundreds of press releases, and completed thousands of communications projects, while also making time to support College Counseling, help the Business Office, teach classes, and coach sports. And she’s done it all with a smile! She is the ultimate professional.”
FIFTEEN YEAR MILESTONES
Amanda Frank, Director of Alumni & Special Events
Amanda Frank came to Brimmer as an 8th grader in 1983 and has basically never left. In total, she has been a part of this community for 38 years. Her first role was as an intern in the Admission Department, after which she was hired as an Admissions Associate and Development Office Assistant. She was later hired as the Assistant Alumni Events Coordinator before working her way up to Director of Alumni Affairs and Special Events.
Amanda skillfully manages the work of three jobs in one. She presides over more than 25 events each year, ranging from New Parent Dinner to the Alumni Holiday Reception to the Ring Ceremony and end-of-year events. She does this all while also overseeing the auction, where she manages our volunteers and ensures our fundraising goals are met, and all alumni programing. Finally, she takes on the additional role of curling coach, where she empowers our students who may have never pictured themselves as athletes, and they thrive under her guidance.
Rupa Houndegla, Upper School Math Teacher
If you happen to find yourself in Upper School Math Teacher Rupa Houndegla’s classroom, you will be engulfed by the warmth she emits. She cares deeply about her students and their success. Whether she is sitting down with a student struggling with a theorem in geometry or helping an AP Calculus student understand derivatives and integrals, when it comes to her patience and willingness to help them learn, the “limit does not exist.”
For fifteen years, Rupa has brought her incredible work ethic to Brimmer. She has been the bookends for many students’ math experience, teaching them Geometry in 9th grade and AP Calculus AB or BC in 12th grade. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Rupa regularly volunteers to chaperone Upper School events, cover an extra duty, or proctor an after-school study hall. She works tirelessly for her advisees and has taken on the role of Robotics Coach. Our appreciation for Rupa and everything she does is not the square root of -1. It is real!
Jen Kunkel, Assistant Director of Technology
The goal of a technology department is, to borrow a tagline from a famous tech company, promote the feeling that “it just works.” It is one of Assistant Director of Technology Jen Kunkel’s great gifts that she can engender this feeling. When it comes to new technology and on-boarding new employees, she never leaves anyone hanging and makes it her mission to ensure her colleagues feel as comfortable and competent as possible. This work extends far beyond the school day, and Jen does not stint in sharing her time, expertise, and passion.
She excels at problem solving and is continually growing her skills to meet new challenges. Considering 2020, this is a very good thing. Her work was essential to the successful transition to remote learning, as well as the implementation of our new learning management system. As a teacher and advisor, she is innovative, considerate, and relentless in her desire to educate. She works with students from pre-K age to high school with equal facility.
Ina Patel, Lower School Director of Teaching & Learning
One thing you never want to say around Lower School Director of Teaching & Learning Ina Patel is “I wonder if we should…” unless you are ready to take action, because before you know it, she will have solved whatever challenge or musing you are engaged in. She is a doer, a thinker, a CFG leader, an eco-adventurer, an exceptional educator, a lifelong learner, and always an advocate for students.
When a complex job with a lot of heavy lifting needs to be done, Ina is someone you can always count on. As a classroom teacher, her pedagogical practices were marked by her innovative spirit and steadfast commitment. She is an advocate for environmental education, championing projects like Dirt Day and raising funds for the nonprofit organization Charity Water.
TEN YEAR MILESTONESYuhong Jia, Middle & Upper School Mandarin Teacher
A longtime teaching partner described Ina’s connection with students as her most amazing gift. She has touched not just the minds of the children she has taught, but she has touched their hearts as well.
Yuhong Jia joined us ten years ago as a Middle & Upper School Mandarin teacher, and Brimmer has benefited immensely from her knowledge and instruction ever since. She is the consummate colleague, and always one of the first to volunteer to cover a class or a duty. She creates a safe learning environment in her classes where her students feel comfortable taking risks as they learn a new language that can be extremely challenging. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, her dedication to our international students is remarkable. She is their advocate, and goes above and beyond to make sure they, and their families, feel comfortable and supported at Brimmer.
Pete Slaski, Upper School Math Teacher
Over the past ten years, Pete has been teaching students concepts of synthetic division, quadratic equations, and statistical models. He works tirelessly to support the full spectrum of learners in his classroom by making his lessons relatable, differentiating for the range of abilities, and going the extra mile to help every student be successful. On top of teaching math, Pete was a beloved lacrosse coach and is a great advisor. He can be found on the sidelines at games cheering on students and is always up for offering a fun student club. He is also a caring colleague, bringing people together (often for road races) and spreading joy.
Elizabeth Smith, Director of Development
Elizabeth Smith is bright, efficient, forward thinking; She understands the importance of an independent school education. As Director of Development, she has been a fantastic partner in furthering the strategic work of the School. She helped establish and lead both the Strategic Priorities for 2013 and 2020. She has directed all fundraising initiatives, totaling about $14M to date, not including the Annual Fund. A wonderful colleague on the advancement team and a strong liaison to the Board and the Parents Association, she does all of this and more with a sense of humor and gracious spirit and is helping us all benefit from a promising and thriving future. FIVE YEAR MILESTONES
Frances Fremont-Smith, Middle & Upper School Mandarin Teacher
Frances Fremont-Smith is committed to excellence in all she does. She cares deeply about her students, and she instills a love for Mandarin--and for languages in general--with her engaging and fun lessons. Her students adore her. As a dedicated alumnus of the School, she takes our mission to heart and asks students to think about their impact on the world around them. In addition to her role a teacher and an advisor, she serves as Co-Director of International Students, ensuring our international students and families feel welcome.
Christian Kiley, Media Arts Teacher
Christian Kiley teaches his students how to be thoughtful, inventive, and meticulous in the creation of art through the medium of moving pictures. He teaches them how to think like filmmakers while developing their skills as videographers, editors, and screenwriters. He does this through a demonstrated expertise in his craft, skilled teaching, and a sincere dedication to his students. He is a passionate and knowledgeable teacher and a supportive colleague, and he inspires our students with his expertise, creativity, and warmth.
Mallorie Nai, Associate Director of Admissions & Financial Aid and 6th Grade History Teacher
A quick study, smart, resourceful, and a talented problem-solver, Mallorie Nai has been an invaluable asset to our team these past five years and is an incredible colleague and admissions professional. Associate Director of Admissions & Financial Aid, history teacher, math teacher, dedicated advisor, and coach are just some of the other roles she has filled at our school, and her dedication to every part of her job is remarkable. She navigates her roles with ease and grace and has become an invaluable member of our community.
Joshua Neudel, Head of Upper School
Over the past five years, Joshua Neudel has dedicated his heart and soul to our Upper School. He is a trusted confidant, a reliable collaborator, a systems thinker, a person who gives voice to the underrepresented student, and someone who elevates others. His passion to move professional goals and standards forward so our students receive the best education possible is evident every day. He has the ability to match vision with purpose--one that lifts up our teenagers so they can grow and stretch to realize their personal best.