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A Coeducational, College Preparatory School for Ages 3 Through Grade 12
A Coeducational, College Preparatory School for Ages 3 Through Grade 12

TEACHER TUESDAY BLOG

"The teachers at ESD have transformed my life. In doing that, I have grown and touched the moon!"
- A member of the Class of 2018

Check back each week for a new post! 

Laila Kharrat: Upper School French Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? I had incredible teachers at Greenhill who motivated me to learn and inspired me to be curious about the world around me. After I studied abroad in Lyon, France, between freshman and sophomore years of college at UT Austin, I started private tutoring French and English for the UT Learning Center. This was the most gratifying work I had ever done. Using my natural talents with language and fueled by my passion for French and English, I was able to help others who struggled in these two academic areas. I was a substitute teacher for French and English at Greenhill for one year, followed by my Teaching Fellowship year in first grade. Then, ESD recruited me to grow the French program, and I have been here ever since!

What makes you excited to come to school every day? I am excited to work with young people and present them with "mirrors"and "windows" (mirrors onto themselves and windows onto the world). Teaching young people about the rich language, history, and culture of France as well as the Francophone (French-speaking) world brings me so much joy. I am passionate about education and, just as I am a lifelong learner, I hope to also be a lifelong teacher. In addition, I love working with the ESD community and with kind-hearted, warm, friendly faculty members and colleagues.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? I want my students to be inspired to always follow their hearts and passions, to do what makes them feel whole, like they are contributing in a meaningful way to the world around them. I want them to be global citizens who seek out new opportunities for learning and studying at home and abroad. I also want them to go for every opportunity life has to offer. If they want to learn something new, go for it- it's never too late to develop a skill or talent and to bring joy to your life in a variety of ways.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I enjoy fire-spinning (spinning fire or dancing with fire, which is a traditional Hawaiian ritual). I usually do this on a meaningful special occasion, like a close friend or family member's birthday. I learned how to spin fire by trading arts with a friend in Austin -- I taught her how to slam poetry and she taught me how to spin fire. Slam poetry was also a hobby of mine in college and I used to compete at local venues in Austin and open for other artists and performers. I love to do yoga and love drawing, especially geometric Arabic calligraphy. I have also been learning how to play violin for a few years and have recently started learning how to play the piano -- reading sheet music is like reading a new language! I enjoy the challenge and love to make music.

What is your favorite book and why? My favorite book is Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins because of his unique sense of humor and his ability to weave together seemingly opposite characters. This book made me laugh at loud over and over again and has always been one of my favorite books.

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? I would have dinner with Kurt Cobain because his music (Nirvana) was very formative for me, and I would love to pick his brain about his deep and powerful lyrics and the stories behind his songs. I would have dinner with Hanan Ashrawi because of her role in the Middle East peace process, specifically to talk about how to bring people together for lasting and unified world peace. I would have dinner with Vincent Van Gogh and talk about his Post-Impressionist paintings and artwork, especially about what it was like to live as an artist in the late 1800s.

Posted by in Upper School on Tuesday April 17
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Martha Bowden: Lower School Technology Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? My father always told me I would make an excellent teacher because I am able see all sides of a problem and work tirelessly toward a solution. My teachers supported his assessment and encouraged me along this path. I love the challenge of figuring out how to present a concept that best fits each student's learning style.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? I do not recall a day at Lower School that was not filled with laughter and joy. Who wouldn't be excited to come here every day?

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? As students learn how to use the technologies we have available today, I encourage them to grapple with whether or not today's technologies could be developed in new, more effective ways. As the digital age blossoms from these early stages our students will be at the forefront of leading the next phase of development. Hopefully, our lessons of virtues, honor code, and digital citizenship will shine brightly through these technological advances.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I grew up working on our family farm every weekend, so I love gardening and spending time outdoors.

What is your favorite book and why? I love the Harry Potter series, especially sharing favorite passages with new groups of students as they begin the exploring the magical world of Hogwarts themselves as their reading skills develop. When the play version was released in 2015, my adult sons wanted me to come with them to the midnight release party to re-live the experience. We made six of the seven midnight release parties when the books were originally published.

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? I would cherish the opportunity to dine with my parents and introduce them to their grandsons giving our boys the opportunity to meet their grandparents. So many stories to share, the evening would never end.

Posted by in Lower School on Tuesday April 17
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Rhonda Bier: Fourth-Grade Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? I have wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl.  In high school I had the opportunity to work in an elementary classroom weekly, and it was during this time that I grew to love the moment of watching a child's face light up as a new discovery is made. I am in my fifteenth year of teaching, and that is still the best part of teaching.  My goal as a teacher is to create a love of learning in a way that will spark curiosity in a child and lead to continued moments of wonder.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? I love my community at ESD.  I feel honored to work with such incredibly talented teachers that inspire me daily.  The faculty and staff of our school are devoted to our students in a way that I have never experienced.  I find myself challenged to grow professionally to better serve my students and provide the best possible learning opportunities for each child.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? My hope is that I model a sense of risk taking for children that allows for both success and setbacks because we learn from both.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I have done calligraphy professionally and love hand lettering in all formats. There is something about the design aspect that I love. When I look at a logo or phrase displayed I tend to zoom in on the font used or how the letters are laid out.

What is your favorite book and why? Matilda by Roald Dahl - yes, book for children is my favorite! Dahl took complex subjects and wrote a book that captures the innocence of childhood while creating a spark of compassion for characters within the story. It's a wonderful book even for adults!

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? 1. Julia Child to give us a cooking lesson 2. Kacey Musgraves so we could write a song together 3. Lin Manuel Miranda to perform our song better than any of us could

Posted by in Lower School on Tuesday April 10
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Joumana Arraj: Middle School French Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher. I used to have a sliding door in my room with a dry erase board that I used to teach dolls, stuffed animals, my younger brother, and my cousins (I have about 30 cousins).

What makes you excited to come to school every day? I love ESD, it is a great place to be. I would pick it also if I were a child looking for a school.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? I want them to learn that with "great privilege come great responsibilities" and that character is what makes a person. Education, wealth, prestige, and status, all these follow.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I like to write songs. I like to paint. I like to invent things and go on Shark Tank. I want to do and be so many things. I feel that I am only at the beginning.

What is your favorite book and why? I like self help books because I love to learn about life and how to live it in the best way possible. So that makes me think about The Bible.

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? I need it to be with six people. My husband and two sons. My parents that are deceased, and Jesus.

Posted by in Middle School on Tuesday April 10
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Kimberly Rogers: Upper School Religion Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? I had a brilliant professor in seminary who taught World Religions. Even though the classes were ninety minutes long they seemed to fly by. He challenged us to not judge what was not familiar, inspired us think analytically as well as compassionately, and encouraged us to always keep an open mind. He was a great inspiration to me, and I think of him often now that one of the classes I now teach is World Religions.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? Because not only do I get to teach really interesting classes, I also have multiple opportunities to learn  from other teachers and students.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? To take risks, and not be afraid to fail. To disagree without being disagreeable. To strive not to generalize or stereotype others. To be respectful of others opinions.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I really love to travel. So far I been to England, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Belize, and the Bahamas. If I win the lottery my next adventure would take me down under to Australia and New Zealand.

What is your favorite book and why? It would be impossible to name just one favorite book, so I'll narrow it down a bit and say my favorite book last year was A Gentleman in Moscow.  The main character was so beautifully depicted that by the end of the book I felt like he had become a dear friend. I found his charm, intelligence, and inherent dignity in challenging situations compelling.

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? Picture Jesus, the Buddha, and Muhammad sitting around a table; I have to imagine that it would not be your ordinary dinner party conversation. I also have lots of questions for all three of them!

Posted by in Upper School on Tuesday April 3 at 03:43PM
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Mary Jo Lyons: Upper School Librarian

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? Connecting students to new ideas and inspiring them to become creative, independent thinkers.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? One of the reasons I chose to work at ESD is that the school's Founding Tenets and educational philosophy align closely with my personal values. It's motivating to work at a place where there is this connection.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? Seek understanding, be honest and transparent, demonstrate respect, right wrongs, and continuously improve.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! When I have time, I love to make jewelry and crochet. I used to quilt, but it's been long while. I am from Pittsburgh, so, Go Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates! I bust all the librarian stereotypes -- I don't love to read. I became a librarian because I love connecting people to ideas, and I love to research and follow clues from one resource to another.

What is your favorite book and why? A recent book I love is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. That, and Jodi Picoult's, Small Great Things, challenged my beliefs and assumptions about myself and race.

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? I've never really had idols like this, but if given the chance, I would love to reconnect with friends from my youth.

Posted by in Upper School on Tuesday April 3 at 02:59PM
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Sarah Ward: Kindergarten Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? I always knew I wanted to teach. As a child I played school with my stuffed animals until my younger sister was old enough to handle the demands of my pretend classroom. One summer she went off to camp and I mailed her "homework" to complete.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? There are so many reasons. For my students and the joy they bring into my life daily, for my fellow teachers who have become very close friends, and for the amazing family community at ESD. ESD is truly a special place.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? Kindness. I hope my students leave knowing the importance of treating others with respect and that a little kindness goes a long way. Beyond that I hope they know that they are loved.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I love to run; my husband and I have traveled all over the U.S. to run half marathons. I also adore my two golden retrievers, Nike and Argo, and cheering for all TCU sports teams. Go Frogs!

What is your favorite book and why? Recently I have fallen in love with the children's book Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima. It is a precious story about fitting in, standing out, and the love of a family.

Posted by in Lower School on Tuesday March 27 at 03:07PM
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Jerone Mitchell: Upper School Computer Science Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? I can honestly say that I always wanted to be a teacher. As a senior in high school preparing for college I brainstormed which careers I could see myself enjoying; career, in this context, was "something I could do for five or more years." The four careers I came up with were software engineer, professional wrestler, classroom educator, and hip-hop producer. Classroom teaching stuck.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? I'm excited to work with students every day. Education lasts as a career if you enjoy working with students; you will find another career if you do not. My students constantly challenge my knowledge and thought based on current, real-life issues: net neutrality, gender gaps in technology, cryptocurrencies, "Big Data" security issues. Education is something of a two-way street, and I love that.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? The student with the natural talent is seldom becomes the best; the student that has the best work ethic will typically achieve the most success. As a corollary, you have to make mistakes in order to learn; most people that try to avoid the mistakes also avoid the learning. I consider it a success if a student "completes" a project and then goes back to immediately correct his or her mistakes; the first time you do ANYTHING of note you will make mistakes, so we need to prepare you to deal with them.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I am a life-long professional wrestling fan. Growing up, my favorites included Junkyard Dog, Dusty Rhodes (this concludes the "dating myself" portion of the response), Shawn Michaels, The Rock, and CM Punk; I'm more a fan of the Women's Division currently, with Asuka, Ember Moon, Alexa Bliss, and Sasha Banks among my favorites.

What is your favorite book and why? It is hard to choose between Have a Nice Day - A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks by Mick Foley, or The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Whereas I most enjoy the former - an excellent tale about achieving success as a professional wrestler despite being the polar opposite of what someone expects physically in a professional wrestler - the latter taught life lessons needed to navigate the world while maintaining my own sense of morality. 

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? I got it down to four, but couldn't eliminate someone: Jesus, Malcolm X, Richard Pryor, and Prince. These four were probably the most influential growing up in terms of developing my sense of morality, communication style, leadership style and expectations, my ideas of individual success, etc.. I would LOVE to hear how these four men would examine the world today.

Posted by in Upper School on Tuesday March 27 at 03:01PM
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Bill Cook: Middle School English Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? My fifth-grade and, then, again, seventh-grade teacher, J.J. Connolly, inspired me along with a few thousand others at St. Marks. Caustic witticisms and a warm regard that shoots straight to the students’ souls was his calling card, and I stole as much from him as I could remember.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? I can’t remember a day in my 35 years of teaching that I haven't entered school full of excitement about the new day, and I can’t remember a day that a kid’s excitement didn’t rub off on me.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I’ve been known to be a car guy but maybe not as well known to be a movie guy.  Watching older movies is a favorite passion, and since all of the cast and crew of "Witness for the Prosecution" are long gone, I have anointed myself as its greatest authority.

What is your favorite book and why? When I was the age of the students I now teach, the mystery of Beau Geste captured me, but it’s the novel’s gallant gesture that has endured these many years.

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? Will Rogers, the Dalai Lama, and Bugs Bunny.

Posted by in Middle School on Tuesday March 20 at 04:05PM
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Courtney Phelps: Director of Community Service Learning

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? I was a Volunteer Coordinator for a nonprofit for a few years and during that time I was able to connect people to a specific cause. However, I didn't want to just stop at one cause. I wanted to inspire the next generation to take on the number of issues that plague our communities and beyond.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? The students are always eager to serve. Their passion and selflessness is inspiring. Each student has a unique perspective to bring to any situation and it is fun to see them get creative. The staff are amazing and so supportive especially in these first few months as a new member of the ESD community.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? Although I don't have a conventional classroom, I pray that all of our students learn that regardless of their career choices, they have the potential to be civic leaders.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I don't have a favorite team, but I LOVE college football...especially rivalry games. My mom took stats for a college football team most of my life so I feel I was born and raised on the 50 yard line. My husband and I are super competitive with each other. We have cooking competitions all the time because we love trying new recipes. To this day, I still cannot beat his shrimp and grits.

What is your favorite book and why? A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon. I read this book to a student I tutored a few years ago. I absolutely loved the message. You compromise who you are when you worry about what other's think of you and refuse to be yourself. Don't try to change who you are for the likes of others...be uniquely you!

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? I would love to have dinner with my maternal grandmother. She passed before I was born, but I have her name and my entire family says I have her spirit. I would bring my mother and my baby sister too because my mom always says she wishes we could have met her.

Posted by in Upper School, Middle School, Lower School on Tuesday March 20 at 03:24PM
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Choose groups to clone to:

Lower School

4344 Colgate Avenue
Dallas, Texas, 75225
214-353-5818

Middle & Upper School

4100 Merrell Road
Dallas, Texas, 75229
214-358-4368

Wolf Run Ranch

located near Anna, Texas

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