Meet OUr Faculty
Elizabeth’s teaching is guided by research showing “that one of the best ways to help girls be successful in the field of mathematics is by using a problem-based curriculum and pedagogy.” She also points out that collaboration is often cited as one of the things necessary for students, and girls in particular, to be successful in STEM majors in college. With all of this in mind, Elizabeth teaches students to complete difficult problem-solving challenges by collaborating and iterating with their peers, encouraging them to embrace creativity and mistakes as part of the process of coming to a solution. She notes that the methods and philosophy she and her colleagues use in the mathematics department are shared across disciplines at Hewitt. “Every faculty member motivates students to think critically about challenges.”
Her favorite teaching moments come when students develop a new or unexpected solution that she has not seen before, and Elizabeth recognizes that these creative moments only happen when students are asked to create their own unique approaches to problem solving. “When we are aware of a solution method, we don't always feel like we can pursue other, potentially more creative paths. I love watching students work through problems before I have given them a solution method. Their results are often clever, creative, and surprising!”
Tim’s favorite moments as an educator come when his students have the opportunity to interact with and learn from the natural world, and his classes are characterized by frequent hands-on experiences. “I love connecting students with nature and helping them build their understanding of how the Earth's systems work through experiential learning. My students and I take regular trips to the woods of Central Park to observe local ecosystems and we maintain ongoing gardening and composting projects in the classroom.” Inspired by his enthusiasm for environmental action, Tim’s students have successfully advocated for triple stream waste bins in Hewitt’s lunch room, researched and implemented a snack wrapper recycling program, and presented about plastic pollution at local sustainability conferences.
As he collaborates with members of the school community to ensure that environmental literacy is a key component of a Hewitt education, Tim stays current on the latest research on sustainability, geosciences, and climate science. “I believe climate change will be a defining characteristic of the world our students are inheriting. To prepare them for their future, this human-driven phenomenon needs to be a central focus of our teaching across all disciplines.” In addition to impacting his own pedagogical philosophy and practices, Tim’s attention to a wide range of relevant research helps him support his colleagues beyond the science department as they incorporate the complexities of sustainability into their own classrooms.
Taking full advantage of Hewitt’s collaborative environment, Benjamin has partnered with colleagues to find writings situated at the intersection of mathematics and gender theory, build puzzles in the Hewitt Innovation Lab to elucidate complex mathematical ideas, discuss how word problems in math textbooks reflect the societies in which they are produced, and apply Writing to Learn activities — originally designed to help students get a foothold on literature — to investigate student thinking about mathematics. He takes an expansive view of what math education can be, noting that math classes need not simply be places to memorize decontextualized algorithms or solve equations, but rather that they can be places where teachers “engage purposefully with students as they develop into the types of people that they want to be, and collectively work towards the type of world that they want to inhabit.”
Benjamin is interested in research on mathematical pedagogy and framing mathematics as a fundamentally human endeavor. He regularly publishes journal articles on mathematics education and participates in conferences and gatherings around new developments in and around STEM education. Along with Dr. Elizabeth Brennan, chair of Hewitt’s mathematics department, Benjamin has also developed several mini-courses for Math for America, an organization that provides math educators in New York City with professional development and opportunities for collaboration.
Anusheh appreciates that Hewitt is a uniquely supportive environment in which faculty members are invited to pursue the same intellectual growth that they encourage in their students. “Hewitt teachers care about their craft. They are creative, hardworking, and are constantly learning and challenging themselves.” Given her personal appreciation for the joys of learning, it comes as no surprise that some of Anusheh’s favorite moments as a teacher are those in which “students are so excited about a new discovery or idea that they jump up, full of energy and enthusiasm for new information.” Anusheh celebrates and extends these thrilling moments of discovery by encouraging her students to document their learning, evaluate their growth, and share their knowledge with peers.
With an appreciation for the ways in which best practices in teaching are constantly evolving, Anusheh looks to professional development workshops and the latest research on educating girls for inspiration. Whenever she comes across research that sparks her curiosity, she thinks critically about how she can apply it in a way that advances her students’ needs and interests. This thoughtful approach to incorporating research into her teaching ensures that Anusheh’s first graders benefit from their teacher’s innovative thinking and deep commitment to knowing and supporting each individual student.
A graduate of a women’s college who saw firsthand the power of single-sex education, she was drawn to Hewitt’s mission of inspiring girls and young women. Tegan joined Hewitt’s science department in 2012 and since then, she has been a leader in adopting innovative techniques and critical approaches to teaching and learning. For example, when her research into grading practices revealed that many traditional science assessments, including tests and quizzes, failed to accurately evaluate students’ effort and learning, she investigated more equitable and effective alternatives. Now, instead of testing their ability to memorize information, Tegan assesses her students’ mastery and understanding of various concepts through assignments that ask them to describe, explain, and critique what they are learning.
Tegan notes that students display an impressive enthusiasm and eagerness when they are encouraged to use skills from multiple disciplines to investigate real-world problems. She developed Wicked Problems, an upper school course, to give students an opportunity to use science, ethics, and research to investigate complex societal problems that have no easy solution. “My favorite thing about teaching is when I get all of the ingredients of great teaching and learning just right and see the students show up in powerful ways. Often, this happens just as much outside of the classroom as it does during a great lesson.”
Whether teaching students how to build and program their own robots or collaborating with colleagues on the best way to incorporate video production and digital mapmaking into a classroom project, Jennifer looks for ways to make sure every lower school technology project is student-directed. She feels excited to work in a school environment that encourages her to develop innovative curriculum in response to her students’ interests. “I love that at Hewitt we don't just sit back and rest on what has always been done. We actively seek out new and research-driven ways to educate our learners.”
Jennifer has a particular interest in bringing design thinking into Hewitt’s lower school classrooms, asking students to begin any project by thinking empathetically to identify a specific problem before coming up with ideas or solutions to that problem. “This approach to teaching allows students to be not only engaged in what they are learning, but also enthusiastic about the fact that they are making something for a specific and real audience. When I watch girls solve problems in my classroom, I see them developing skills they will use to be successful throughout their lives.”
Christopher is inspired by the potential he sees in his students, and he finds it especially rewarding to watch that potential evolve over time. Knowing that research shows girls and young women are often socialized to fear science courses, he understands how important it is for students to feel empowered in his classroom. “At Hewitt, students learn to recognize themselves as scientific thinkers who are equipped with a variety of non-traditional approaches to problem solving. Coaching these students as they take ownership of their learning and acknowledge their own potential is what makes teaching so fulfilling.”
Our middle school science symposium is one of Christopher's favorite examples of student-led learning at Hewitt. Combining experiential learning with design thinking, the Symposium asks middle school students to identify a consumer problem and conduct research to more thoroughly understand its causes and potential solutions. Based on their findings, students develop a new product to address the problem, creating packaging, a brochure, and a sales pitch to market their prototype. “When students are given opportunities to use their scientific knowledge, interpersonal skills, and research abilities to develop and problem solve, they become actively invested in their own learning.”
Some of Olivia’s favorite moments in the classroom come when her students surprise themselves with their own abilities. In Magic and the Supernatural in Shakespeare, an upper school elective course, she collaborates with Performing Arts Department Chair Daniel Denver to encourage her students to engage with texts through performance and public speaking activities, which sometimes lead to nerves and jitters. But, says, Olivia, “It's a delight to see students who were initially nervous come to feel proud of themselves for stepping outside of their comfort zone, and gaining a deeper understanding of our texts through the experience of performing.”
As an educator, Olivia is especially interested in the role of emotions in memory and learning. At Hewitt, she has found a meaningful intersection between research that shows emotional engagement is necessary for memory- and meaning-making and our commitment to RULER, a curriculum that helps students build their emotional intelligence by noticing, naming, and regulating their emotional states. “When I ask my students to engage in critical reflection about how various texts make them feel, they are thinking about literature while also doing work to develop their cognition, retention, and self-awareness.”