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Faculty and staff transitions, September 2021

New to the team

Laura Appelbaum
Fourth grade, interim 
Born in Mendham, New Jersey, Ms. Appelbaum has taught students from preschool through eighth grade, spending the past two years teaching elementary students in the Bronx, NY. She earned her BA in Psychology at Boston University and then her MA in Elementary Education at Montclair State University. While completing her master’s degree, Ms. Appelbaum worked as a research assistant studying bilingual literacy and infancy development. She is ecstatic to return to New England and share her love of learning with her students.

Emily Vatter Ardente
Mrs. Ardente is excited to return to her Rhode Island roots this fall. Raised in Barrington, RI, Emily received her BA from Fairfield University and M.Ed from Lesley University. She has worked in the Newton Public Schools in Special Education and for many years as a child caregiver. She also has been deeply invested in the Alzheimer's Association and PAWS New England. Mrs. Ardente is recently married and looking forward to becoming a member of the Gordon community.

Jason Buehler  
First grade 
Mr. Buehler comes to Gordon from West Hartford, CT where he taught kindergarten and was a long-term substitute teacher in kindergarten and first grade. He earned his BS in Early Childhood Education & Human Development and Family Studies from Mitchell College and plans to pursue a master’s degree within the year. Mr. Buehler discovered the magic of first grade when he was a student teacher; since then, he has been anticipating the day he can teach the grade he loves full time. Mr. Buehler is a proud member of the LGBTQ community and is excited to be part of a school that welcomes people from a broad range of identities and experiences.

Alethea Dunham-Carson  
Assistant Head for Teaching and Learning
Ms. Dunham-Carson comes to Gordon from the Meadowbrook School of Weston in Massachusetts where she has held a variety of roles over the past seven years, including Director of Community Partnerships, Interim Head of Lower School, and Director of Multicultural Affairs, serving as a member of their senior leadership team and sitting on the Strategic Council, which is responsible for schoolwide coordination of curriculum, program, operations and strategic planning. Ms. Dunham-Carson holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania, and she earned a master’s degree in Educational Policy, Advocacy and Leadership from New York University.

Mary Hoey, RN
School Nurse
With deep experience in emergency medicine, Nurse Hoey takes a holistic approach to care that takes both the physical and emotional health of her patients into consideration. She comes to Gordon from positions at Butler Hospital and Plainfield Emergency Care, and she has spent the past two summers as Head Nurse at Camp Matoaka in Smithfield, ME. While she enjoyed her time in emergency medicine, Nurse Hoey is excited to take on a new role where the core of her work is building relationships, day-to-day, in a close-knit community. Nurse Hoey’s New England roots run deep; she went to high school in Old Saybrook, CT and earned her BS in Nursing at Salve Regina in Newport, RI.

Keri King
Middle School visual arts
Ms. King comes to Gordon from the Wolf School in East Providence, where she taught art for eight years. Prior, Ms. King spent three years at the Learning Community in Central Falls through a partnership with Providence City Arts for Youth, and has enjoyed teaching as a visiting artist in a variety of learning environments, including Brown University, Downtown Parks Conservancy Providence, and Vartan Gregorian Elementary. Ms. King is a working artist whose community-centered work explores immersive visual storytelling, as applied to site-specific public art, poster art and branding for arts festivals, and theatrical set design. Ms. King holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, where she studied Illustration and Literary Arts, and she is an ongoing artist-in-residence at the Wilbury Theatre Group and AS220. 

Huey Lincoln 
Nursery teaching assistant
If Mr. Lincoln is a familiar face, it's because he spent two years on the Gators after school team from 2017-2019. Parents and students continue to remember him as a warm and playful presence. Since then, he taught at Joan Zone Childcare in Providence, and his previous work with young people includes time at Providence's Bainbridge Preschool and New Urban Arts. Mr. Lincoln is excited to bring his love for the arts into the classroom and join the team welcoming the school's youngest students into the Gordon community.

Mateal Lovaas Ishihara 
Third grade, interim
Ms. Lovaas Ishihara brings to Gordon a decade of experience teaching elementary and middle school students at progressive independent schools around the country, including the racially diverse international baccalaureate school Valley Prep and the Grammy Award-winning Pacific Boychoir Academy. An experienced thespian, Ms. Lovaas Ishihara has directed eight middle school plays, including three original works. She earned her BA from Middlebury College and has an MFA in Creative Writing & Environment from Iowa State University. A published author and member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Mateal is thrilled to come to Gordon and have a classroom that’s just steps away from the library. She lives with her wife and two children in Tiverton, RI. 

Anna Misurelli '02, TRP '13  
Nursery teacher, interim
Mrs. Misurelli is a Gordon graduate and graduate of Gordon's Teacher Residency Program, and she's thrilled to be returning to Gordon's campus. She holds a BA in Women's Studies from the University of Rhode Island and an MA in Teaching from Roger Williams University. She is also a certified STEAM instructor, executive functions coach, and curriculum specialist. Mrs. Misurelli taught third grade for six years at St. Mary Academy - Bay View and then moved to providing virtual tutoring for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Earlier this year, Mrs. Misurelli returned to Maxfield Avenue as the Gordon@Home Kindergarten teacher. She has two young boys and is an avid reader, yogi and blogger.

Caroline Mullaney  
Associate Director of Admission for Research, Marketing and Data Analysis 
Mrs. Mullaney will be joining Gordon’s Admissions team in July in the newly created role of Associate Director of Admission for Research, Marketing and Data Analysis. She brings with her extensive experience in school admissions and marketing, most recently as Lincoln School’s Associate Director of Admission, Strategic Communication and Engagement, where she got to know many Gordon graduates as they began their high school experience. She earned her BA in Art History at Lafayette College in Easton, PA. Mrs. Mullaney is thrilled to be joining the Gordon community alongside her son, Luke, who will enter the Preschool class in the fall.


Alexandra O'Connor
Director of Philanthropic Engagement (beginning January 2022)
Mrs. O'Connor comes to Gordon having rich experience building bridges between philanthropic support and community-based education. Since 2019, she has served as Director of Philanthropic Engagement at Community MusicWorks in Providence, providing strategic planning, oversight, and execution of their individual giving. She also coordinates the organization’s capital campaign, leading a team raising over $10 million to support the construction of a new home for Community MusicWorks, including a performing arts center, in Providence’s West End. Prior to Community MusicWorks, Mrs. O'Connor served as the Director of Corporate and Foundation Partnerships at City Year Boston. Mrs. O'Connor began her professional career at the Hanover Insurance Group in Worcester, MA, where she led the organization’s partnership with community leaders to support education-focused community impact initiatives. Mrs. O'Connor came to know the Gordon community when she attended our first Family Dance Day with her husband and newborn daughter. In 2019, she began consulting with Gordon’s Advancement Office, and she is thrilled to be joining the team permanently this January.

Lily Palmieri
Seventh and eighth grade science
Ms. Palmieri comes to Gordon from Friends Academy, a progressive, preschool to eighth grade school in Dartmouth, MA, where she taught eighth grade science. She previously taught high school chemistry at the Wheeler School, which she also attended as a student. Science education is in her genes as both her parents were longtime science teachers at Wheeler. Ms. Palmieri earned her BS in Biochemistry from Rhode Island College where she won the American Chemical Society Award as the top chemistry student. She lives with her husband and two children in North Providence. 

Dania Polanco-Rojas
Middle School Spanish
Dania Polanco-Rojas is a Providence-raised Dominican immigrant who is committed to community, diversity, inclusivity, and positive social change. "As a native Spanish speaker and Afro-Latina, I am thrilled to teach the Gordon community the beauty of the Spanish language and the diverse cultures that use it. I look forward to joining the community and carrying out the school’s progressive and inclusive mission.” She graduated from Providence College this May with a triple major in sociology, global studies and Spanish.

Dan Rocha
Interim Director of Philanthropic Engagement (through Jan 2022)
Mr. Rocha has thirty years experience as a teacher, coach, senior administrator and fundraiser in independent schools and higher education. Dan began his administrative career as Middle School Head of the Bancroft School in Worcester, MA, and later appointments included Head of School at York Country Day School in York, PA, and Academic Dean at Moses Brown in Providence. In 2012, Dan founded Cardenio Consulting, a small firm that advises a range of schools on development and organizational management. Dan’s relationship with Gordon began in 2020 when Cardenio completed a feasibility study for a comprehensive fundraising campaign, nicely positioning Mr. Rocha to step into the interim director role this fall. Mr. Rocha holds a BA from Temple University and an MA from the University of Pennsylvania.

Hannah Rossheim ‘11
Physical Education teacher, interim
Ms. Rossheim is a graduate of Gordon and is excited to return to and join the Physical Education Department as a teacher and coach. Ms. Rossheim holds a BS from Guilford College. As a scholar athlete, Ms. Rossheim double majored in Exercise/Sports Science and Health Sciences and played lacrosse, leading her team as captain in her senior year. With a background in teaching and coaching preschool to high-school-aged children and working in physical therapy, a relationship-based profession, Ms. Rossheim is poised to make the transition to a school community where she can use her skills in engaging students of all ages and encouraging young people to find joy in movement and competitive sports.   

Viva Sandoval
Eighth grade humanities and Civil Rights Trip coordinator
Originally from Los Angeles, CA, Ms. Sandoval came to Rhode Island five years ago to attend Brown University where she received a BA in history with a thematic focus on race, racialization and anti-racism in the modern world. She stayed at Brown to get her master’s degree in Secondary Social Studies Education, taking on the challenge of completing a teaching residency at Hope High School in Providence at the height of the pandemic. During her time at Hope High, she designed an arts-integrated, anti-racist social studies curriculum. In addition to her high school certification, Ms. Sandoval is endorsed by the state of Rhode Island to instruct multilingual learners and has additional training in transformative justice practices.

Kevin Vélez
Middle School music 
Mr. Vélez has taught music and theater to children of all ages, from Maine to Hawaii, and knew from an early age that music was his passion. Prior to becoming a stay-at-home caregiver for his now four-year old son, Mr. Vélez assisted Tony-award winning composer Stephen Flaherty on the Broadway production of Anastasia and was the Music Supervisor for the FOGG Theater’s production of Bottle Shock -- the Musical in San Francisco. Originally from New Hampshire, he graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont with a B.A. in Music and Education, and went on to get an MFA in Musical Theater Writing from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. In addition to teaching, Mr. Velez enjoys composing and arranging music, and inspiring young musicians and performers.

Familiar faces in new places

Transitions in athletics

After twelve years in Gordon's athletics department, Kristen Fraza will be returning to the Early Childhood classrooms as Gordon's Young Kindergarten teacher. Ms. Fraza began her Gordon career working with Early Childhood, first in Gators, then teaching in Preschool for a decade alongside Elizabeth Bakst. 

She joined the physical education faculty in 2009, and became Athletic Director in 2016. Under her leadership for the past five years, Gordon's athletics program has been a lively and inclusive place where all Middle School students can find both a challenge and a community. She oversaw a series of innovations in the program, including the return of baseball and the creation of a groundbreaking gender inclusivity initiative, culminating in an imaginative and joyful response to the restrictions of the 2020-2021 year. The COVID year also brought Ms. Fraza back into Early Childhood classrooms as part of the grade-level, in-person teaching teams, rekindling a connection that brings Ms. Fraza full circle this fall.

After nine years of teaching PE alongside Ms. Fraza, Damon Ray will succeed her as interim Athletic Director, and continue in his role as sixth grade advisor.

Up one grade in Early Childhood and Lower School

The pandemic caused some dramatic changes to the homeroom structures in each grade, and as class groupings return to normal, a number of classroom teachers will be moving up a grade along with their current students.

In Early Childhood, Kim Trant will move from Nursery to Preschool, and Shanon Connor will move from Preschool to Kindergarten.

In Lower School, Siobhan Welsh will move from first grade to second grade, and Amber Bennett will move from third grade to fourth grade.

And some lateral movement is happening, too: Rebecca Boswell, who was a longtime third grade teacher at Wheeler before serving as Gordon's third grade Gordon@Home teacher and third and fourth grade academic support last year, will join the third grade team for the coming year.

Movement in Middle School

Rebecca Garfield will return to the fifth grade team as an advisor, where she began when she arrived at Gordon in 2018 and will continue to serve as a Middle School Spanish teacher. Sophie Jackson '12, who was a teaching assistant in eighth grade last year, will join Ms. Garfield and Ms. Roterman as a fifth grade homeroom teacher, and she will teach both math and humanities.

Angela Flynn will return to teaching seventh grade math, after five years of teaching science in seventh and eighth grades. Eric Kravitz, the schoolwide math specialist, will share eighth grade math instruction duties with Irene Horton.

Teaching assistants

After a successful year of using teaching assistants to support each grade's teaching team, Gordon will continue to use teaching assistants in Early Childhood and Lower School.

Bithja Meus, last year's third grade teaching assistant, will continue at Gordon as the teaching assistant for all of Lower School.

Jeremy Garcia '08, last year's second grade teaching assistant, and Paxton McLane, last year's Young Kindergarten teaching assistant, will become Kindergarten teaching assistants. They will be joined in Early Childhood by Huey Lincoln and LeAnne Treanor in Nursery, and Taylor Motta in Preschool.

The support team expand

The academic support team in Lower School will expand, with Andrea Del Sesto continuing as Reading Specialist and leading the Pathways literacy program in Kindergarten, first and second grade.

Kate Mercurio, who served as Gordon's second grade teacher for many years, will teach third and fourth grade Pathways this year,  and provide additional math and reading support throughout the Lower School.

Expanded leadership roles

Gordon's Middle School faculty roster has included team coordinators for each grade. This role is being expanded for the fall into a Fifth and Sixth Grade Dean and a Seventh and Eighth Grade Dean. Greg Carson (fifth and sixth) and Irene Horton (seventh and eighth) will continue to teach math, and new teachers will move into their homeroom and advising roles. This will allow the deans to provide additional support to students and teachers, manage the many administrative responsibilities of the grade and coordinate with other grade levels and the Division Director to create the optimal learning and social environment for middle school students.

Fourth grade teacher Rebecca Zakin will take on the newly created role of New Faculty Professional Development and Onboarding Coordinator, working closely with Ms. Dunham-Carson to help support new employees’ transitions to the community, and help them take full advantage of the professional development Gordon provides to all faculty and staff.

After two years as a diabetes alert dog, Denver Carson is ready to offer his services to all students and staff as an on-campus support animal. His career began with eighteen months of training in Colorado and Tennessee before being matched with his owner, a rising Gordon third grader, in 2019. In his free time, Denver loves to play fetch and is always up for a good game of tug-of-war. He is extremely excited to start his new role at Gordon, and he is ready to offer comfort and support to Gordon students who can benefit from his training and his loveable nature.