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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! 

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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Monica Awbrey: Lower School Music Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? I am passionate about sharing what I love with others. Music is sometimes more powerful than words, touching people deeply. Teaching others to express themselves with music is my motivation and my inspiration.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? There is joy for learning all around me. Bright eyes shining with curiosity greet me at the door. Colleagues who continuously challenge themselves and others to grow energize our school and I love being a part of that.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? I have some simple values that guide our classroom culture. Be kind. Listen. Be helpful to others. These basic tenets of respect can pave the way to building relationships with others. Looking out for everyone will help our students make a difference in the world.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I love to travel. Growing up, I lived in seven different countries. When I get free time, I can't wait to explore new adventures with my family.

What is your favorite book and why? It is really hard to choose a favorite book because I love to read and I am always looking for something new to dive into.  Right now, I am reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. The novel explores the women's side of the war, showing the heartbreak and resilience of the human spirit during this difficult time.  The strength of building relationships is present and powerful in this book.

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? I would love to have dinner with Lin Manuel Miranda, who wrote the musical, "Hamilton." I would invite Alexander and Eliza Hamilton and I would love to hear what they think of the musical and how their story is told. I wonder if they could even imagine that we would be telling their story in our modern style and time.

Posted by in Lower School on Tuesday March 6
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Angela Fritsen: Upper School Latin Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? I loved Latin, and I loved my years of high school (I was an academic nerd). When I lived for a semester in Rome as a college sophomore and saw all the layers of civilization-- ancient ruins, medieval churches, and Renaissance buildings all jostled together-- I became hooked on Roman culture and its influence.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? The vibrancy of youth restores my faith in everything that is good about life. I count my blessings. And I admire my faculty and staff colleagues, and I feel supported by them.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? Patience and kindness.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! My father belongs to generations of bell founders; he emigrated to the Unites States to advance sales in this country. The bell in the tower between the school building and Wellness Center is a Fritsen bell (and that is just a small one).

What is your favorite book and why? Lost in A Good Book by Jasper Fforde. It is an "alternative history fantasy novel." The title says it all.

Posted by in Upper School on Tuesday March 6
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Lauren Redmond '01: Tech Theater Director

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? I’ve worked professionally in the arts all of my adult life, in opera, ballet, and regional theaters across the country. While I was good at it and enjoyed it, it was when I was working with my apprentices and interns that I really knew I enjoyed teaching and wanted to make the switch in careers. I wanted to be able to teach students everything I had learned and get them as interested in the arts as I was.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? As an alum, I enjoy coming to the place where I went to school and have such fond memories. Granted, there are a lot more buildings than when I was a student, but the campus still feels the same to me. It’s my home away from home.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? Not everything has to be perfect and I’m not looking for perfection when I work with students. I expect you to be putting forth your best effort every time. I’m looking for you to succeed to the best of your abilities. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to push you further than you think you can go. That’s how you grow as a person and an artist.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I run road races and play softball. I’ve completed over 50 races (3 marathons, over 25 half marathons and numerous 5K and 10K). I’ve also been a part of a few coed-softball teams where we have won 5 league championships and 2 tournament championships.

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? I would love to have dinner with Lauren Bacall and Katharine Hepburn. My parents named me after them so it’s fitting I went into the arts. I think they were amazing actresses and I would love to hear their stories directly from them. I would also love to have dinner with Julia Child. That woman loved to eat and cook, and so do I!

Posted by in Upper School on Tuesday February 27
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Glen Dawson: Dance Instructor

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? I'm inspired by the joy I feel when watching students learn skills, use creative thoughts, and develop identity and self-esteem.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? The students, faculty, and environment. I love having the ability to teach what I know and have the freedom to be creative.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? I want my dancers to learn independence, integrity, and the importance of community and self-motivation.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I work in the wine industry. I have picked grapes and worked in the tank room, helped make wine, teach wine classes, and worked with Robert Mondavi and Kendall Jackson.

What is your favorite book and why? Anything by Jane Austen. I love the spirit of her novels and the time period.

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? Lady Godiva, Audrey Hepburn, and Jesus.

Posted by in Upper School, Middle School on Tuesday February 27
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Allison Darnell: Middle School Math Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? I joined Teach for America after college and taught for two years at an inner city charter school in Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York. I grew up in Dallas and attended Ursuline, so teaching in the projects was definitely an eye-opening experience. It was through those experiences that I realized that I love teaching. Helping students learn new ways to solve math problems and teaching them different ways to think is what motivates me.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? The joy on the students' faces and the interactions with my co-workers makes me excited to come to ESD. There is a special community here. I am excited to make learning fun, make math exciting, and help the students' minds grow by teaching them new ways to think. One thing that I really appreciate is ESD's focus on whole-child development.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? You are going to have set backs throughout your life, but it is important to stay true to yourself and to not give up!

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I have still have my horse that I competed with throughout high school and college. Shadow is his name and I got him at the start of my eighth-grade year in August 2000.

What is your favorite book and why? I love the book, Wonder. It is an easy read, yet full of life lessons - kindness, perseverance, stay true to yourself, and getting to know people for who they really are.

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? My Grandma who passed away in December 2015 - I have so many fond memories of her and would love to have one last laugh with her. Grandma made everything fun! Princess Kate Middleton - I love following the Royal Family.  I follow them through their multiple accounts on social media. I would love to be able to talk to Kate and how her life changed from being a "normal" person to marrying into the Royal Family. Ben Franklin - He had so many great inventions. What would he think of our world today?

Posted by in Middle School on Monday February 19
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Wendy Kenneybrew: Lower School Art Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? Making a difference in each child's life motivates and inspires me to teach.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? To work with each student and to watch the children learn and grow is why I like to come to ESD every day.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? To treat others the way you would want to be treated.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I like music and will be taking guitar lessons. I enjoy singing karaoke, taking pictures, and spending time with my two grandchildren.

What is your favorite book and why? I like reading spiritual books and one of my favorite authors is Joel Olsteen.

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? I would have dinner with my Grandfather because he was my hero. I would also include my Great Great Grandmother because she told me a lot about my family history. Finally, I would invite Joel Olsteen because he inspires me.

Posted by in Lower School on Monday February 19
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Matt Varvir: Upper School Science Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? Growing up, I never knew what I wanted to be when I became an adult. Unfortunately, this extended to my college education, too, and I ended up just majoring in physics and theater because 1) I was good at those disciplines and 2) I enjoyed them. However, when I visited the Galapagos Islands when I was 20, I was informed that many of the efforts that were being put into place to protect the fragile environment of the archipelago were aimed at children because the adults were, in many ways, too old to adapt.  When I heard this, something just clicked--if you want to see meaningful change in this world, focus on children. Students have the capacity to learn, to grow, and to make a better future--teaching them is the most impactful choice I could ever make.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? The community at ESD, the teachers, the staff, even the students, is so supportive that my job does not actually feel like "work." I already enjoyed teaching science to students; this environment pushed that even further.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? I do not think I do an overly good job of getting this across simply because it is so antithetical to the stressful environment that many of my students find themselves in, but I want my students to learn that their value is in no way determined by their performance. Yes, good grades are nice, but a willingness to work and a desire to learn are, in my opinion, way more valuable. I can teach students physics (slowly, but surely). I cannot necessarily teach them perseverance or intellectual curiosity--that is something that they often need to bring to the table themselves.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I practiced martial arts for most of my life (starting back in the first grade). Over the years that includes karate, tae kwon do, Brazilian jujitsu, kuk sool won, and kickboxing. I actually practiced mixed martial arts (MMA) for a few years when I was a bit younger as well.

Outside of the classroom, I watch a lot of movies and very much enjoy learning about the finer aspects of film, such as editing, cinematography, etc. My goal this year is to see at least one movie in the theater every week.

I watch baseball religiously and have been a lifelong Texas Rangers fan. Needless to say, I am used to having my hopes and dreams obliterated.

During my theatrical career, I acted in many different roles. While playing Hamlet in college was definitely the most prestigious role I ever had, my favorite part was playing Estragon in Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot."

What is your favorite book and why? This is an extremely hard question. So I am going to cheat and list a few: The Call of the Wild by Jack London; the idea of the "western frontier" has always held intrigue for me. That combined with Buck's perseverance and ability to adapt to desperate circumstances makes this an exciting, powerful read. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut; Vonnegut may be my favorite author due to his odd humor, quirky style, and unrelenting devotion to irony. This was the first book of his I ever read and exemplifies everything I like about his writing. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell; this book was extremely emotionally affecting for me. An interesting premise and a heart-rending tragedy. (This book is definitely not appropriate for younger students.)

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? 1) My grandfather, who in many ways was the only extended family member that I was particularly close to. He passed away when I was a freshman in high school and I would have liked to have talked to him as an adult. 2) Stephen Colbert. I am a big fan and I just see him being very entertaining but also polite in a setting like that. 3) Albert Einstein. A bit cliche coming from a physics teacher, but he was such a unique and entertaining figure. A model of genius, but also a flawed man with many different passions and aspirations.

Posted by in Upper School on Tuesday February 13
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Hannah Brown: Second Grade Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? I've wanted to be teacher since I was in Kindergarten. I thought about different roles as a teacher, but when I was in undergrad, a quote by Frederick Buechner really spoke to me. It says, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." I knew that I wanted to teach young children how to navigate through our world- which continues to be trickier each day.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? ESD is a community and a family. The faculty and staff support each other, and the families support teachers and the needs of the school. The students are creative and hungry to learn. It is the best place to be a teacher.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? I tell my students all the time that I want them to learn the basics, such as reading, writing, and math. However, the most important thing I want them to learn is how to be a good person in this world. I tell them to fall forward, develop a teachable spirit, and to always be thankful.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I love making photo books from each year of my life to remember everything I do. I also enjoy running and dancing. I teach dance at a dance studio in Richardson. I adore all performing arts. I also spend a lot of time with my brother and sister.

What is your favorite book and why? My favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird. I love the time period that this book was written in, and the hard questions that the reader must grapple with - similar to things that we still face today.

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? Abraham Lincoln, Rodgers & Hammerstein

Posted by in Lower School on Monday February 12
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Jill Sayre: Middle School English Teacher

 

What motivated and inspired you to teach? I have always loved to learn, so I wanted to pay that forward. I especially love teaching at the middle school level. My background is in art and creative writing, so I try to design lessons that are as much fun as they are challenging.

What makes you excited to come to school every day? I am all about my students -- they are my favorite part of ESD. They are clever, silly, kind, and ready to learn. I look forward to seeing their faces every day, especially when they light up after making a connection in class.

What life lesson do you want your students to learn in your classroom? I want students to learn that an important part of life is creativity. It is all around them, like a song on the radio or the computer they use. Everything was created by someone, and creativity is an important part in all disciplines, not just music or entertainment. It's those who create that innovate.

Tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself! I love watching high school and college football. This started way back when I went to high school. In my junior year, I was actually a mascot-- I ran around the field dressed as a tiger!

What is your favorite book and why? My favorite book is Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. This story helped me realized how books can put the reader in each scene alongside the characters, transport to another place, and cause strong emotions. I was further inspired when I read the book on writing that was co-authored by E.B. White, The Elements of Style. It inspired me to write my first book!

If you could have dinner with three people, alive or not, who would they be? If I could have dinner with three people, it would be both of my grandmothers and my mother-in-law. All of them are in heaven, so it would be wonderful to catch them up on all that has happen over the years. Although I know they are watching over us, I miss them.

Posted by in Middle School on Tuesday February 6
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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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