September 2021

Published by William Penn Charter School in the interest of our faculty and staff.


Our deepest expression of gratitude to Vicki Miles, who has worked throughout the summer, managing all book and supplies orders, deliveries, and special requests in preparation for the school year. She is one of the unsung heroes whose job, like many others, has been made difficult by the circumstances we all have dealt with. Thank you, Vicki, for making our program possible and for your dedication to what is all too often a thankless job. 

Kudos to Tom Rickards for his work ensuring the Wissahickon is a resource for generations to come. Rickards' work as a part of the Friends of the Wissahickon to connect Devil's Pool with the Leave No Trace program helped to get the Wissahickon Valley Park designated as a hotspot this summer, due to overuse. Read more about the park's designation and about the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics in this Inquirer article

Congratulations and special thanks to the PC colleagues who offered workshops during our Opening Meetings: Jim Fiorile, Michael Moulton, Lisa Reedich, Tom Rickards, Dan Stahl, and Doug Uhlmann.

Do you have kudos to give, or news and notes? Submit them any time throughout the year for inclusion in the next P.C.P.D.! Have you read a great book or study recently? P.C.P.D. is looking for columnists! Consider offering a one-time or recurring column in P.C.P.D. so your colleagues can learn from your experience.


News & Notes

This summer, Melanie Wills attended "Best of ChemEd 2021," a three-day conference where various presenters shared best practices for teaching chemistry at the college and high school level.

Ed Gillespie OPC '88 has offered to virtually visit classes this year. Ed is a Baltimore policeman and poet. He has published several books of poetry. Folks may remember Ed’s visit several years ago when he participated in classes and led a discussion in Gummere Library during Upper School lunch.  If you would like more details, contact Head Librarian Doug Uhlmann.

On October 23, Lulu Cossich will be leading a webinar on Creating Culturally Sustaining Music Classrooms for the New York Chapter of the Gordon Institute for Music Learning. In addition, Lulu has been invited to guest-teach for a Gender and Sexuality course at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, where her instruction will focus on primary school education.

This past summer, Kevin Medansky wholly redesigned the curricula for both the Middle School French program and the French III class in the Upper School. Highlights include an increased emphasis on contemporary issues in the greater francophone world and work surrounding this year's theme of Joy in Community.

Corey Kilbaine will be presenting at an upcoming PAIS "Technology for Engagement and Learning" workshop in a session titled "Programming Across the Curriculum." This virtual workshop will be hosted on the afternoon of October 13.

Noodletools underwent a major upgrade in July. All of the functionality remains but it has been moved. Many new features have been added as well. Watch for upcoming TLC sessions, drop by Gummere, or, for independent learners, visit this link. If you are "Noo" to Noodletools, we will be glad to get you set up to utilize this great tool. See Judith Hill or Doug Uhlmann for more information.


NEW Faculty and Staff

Penn Charter is delighted to welcome a slew of new faculty and staff for the 2021-2022 school year. Photographs and bios of the newest members of our community can be found below. 

Emma Allen 

Emma, who has the distinction of being our most recent hire, will be teaching US Spanish this year. She inherited her love for learning languages from her mother and father, teachers of Latin and Sanskrit respectively. Trained in language acquisition methodology at The College of New Jersey, Emma has taught both middle and high school Spanish in West Windsor, New Jersey. Her aim is to empower students to communicate effectively in Spanish. After graduating from TCNJ, Emma served as assistant coach of its varsity tennis teams, and competed as a professional player on the International Tennis Federation world tour. Not surprisingly, she is already enjoying her role as assistant tennis coach here at Penn Charter. She now lives in East Falls. 

Serena Amos 

Serena, who most of you met last spring, began her tenure as our very first Director of Human Resources last April. Serena has extensive experience in human resources and education. She began her career as an elementary school teacher and, in 2003, became principal of Canterbury Elementary School in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. From 2007 to 2017 she served in a variety of roles in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, including deputy chief of human resources. In 2017, she left to become interim executive director of human resources for the Allentown School District. Most recently, Serena was regional professional development consultant and founding member of the DEI council of Edgenuity Inc. Serena earned her bachelor's and master’s degrees from Cleveland State University; she has a TurnAround Leadership Institute Certificate from Harvard University and a Diversity and Inclusion for HR Certificate from Cornell University.  Serena has moved into the new Human Resources office suite off the Lower School lobby and Meg Rogers will join her there soon. 

Denarii Beard OPC '17

Denarii will be working in the Development Office as a development assistant. In addition, he will serve as an assistant coach for Upper School boys football. In May, he graduated from Cortland State University, where he studied sports management with a minor in business. There, he also played college football for three seasons. Like many of us, Denarii picked up a new hobby during COVID and started taking piano lessons this summer. He will be traveling to school each day from his home in Willingboro, N.J.

Mallory Benard

Mallory (or Mal for short) will be teaching Upper School Physical Education and will be joining athletics as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach. She earned a master's degree in Exercise Science with a concentration in strength and conditioning from Springfield College and a bachelor's degree in Exercise Science from Bloomsburg University. Before coming to Penn Charter, Mallory spent the past 10 years in both college and semi-private strength and conditioning settings. Previously, she worked at the University of Central Florida, the University of Kansas, Penn State University, and the University of Maine with primarily soccer, basketball, rowing and tennis teams. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, being outdoors, and browsing the aisles of TJ Maxx and HomeGoods, especially during Halloween. She currently resides in Quakertown with her cat, Hazelnut.

Susan Chan-Peter 

Susan will be teaching three sections of seventh grade Science and one section of eighth grade Science. She will also support the work that takes place in our IdeaLab. She graduated from Drexel University, where she majored in Communications and General Science. After graduation, she taught math at local colleges, before transitioning to teaching science in the William Penn School District, where she taught for 13 years. She holds a master's degree in Instructional and Curriculum Design, as well as in Educational Administration, also from Drexel University. During the summers, she enjoys going to the beach with her family, as well as visiting her son in Colorado, where he attends the United States Air Force Academy. Susan will be traveling to school each day from her home in East Lansdowne.

Emma Cohen-Westbrooke

As the new Health, Wellness and Human Sexuality Educator, Emma will be kicking off quarter one by co-teaching sections of seventh and ninth grade health classes and diving into the pre-K to 12 human sexuality curriculum. In collaboration with department members and other people here at school, Emma will also work to address many of the recommendations outlined in the Gender Equity, Sexuality & Consent Task Force report. We are still working to determine her extra activity for this year. Emma graduated from Ithaca College with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a focus in African Diaspora Studies and Art History. Before joining Penn Charter, Emma lived in Ithaca, N.Y. where she worked as the director of education for the local Planned Parenthood. If you ever want to talk about birding, board games, or practice your conversational Italian or American Sign Language, you will eventually be able to find Emma in the new Athletics & Wellness Center. Emma lives in West Philadelphia off of Clark Park with her husband Steve, dog Maizey, and cat Frisco. 

Lourdes Cossich

Lourdes, who prefers to be called Lulu, joined Penn Charter in July as the Assistant Director of Lower School. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Education from the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, and am MS in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to coming to Penn Charter, Lulu served as a lower school music teacher and as co-department chair for the Visual and Performing Arts department at Westtown. She has presented at national and international conferences on topics including Creating Culturally Sustainable Classrooms from Early Childhood, The Preconceived Notions of Students of Color and Instrument Selection, Latin American Movement in the Classroom, and Identifying and Fostering Musical Behaviors in Bilingual Children. She serves on the National Board of the Gordon Institute for Music Learning and is the organization's Race and Social Justice Working Group chair. In 2021, she was selected as one of the recipients of the Eastman Diversity Award for her work on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in arts education. Lulu loves cooking, cycling and spending time with her partner, Isaac, and their kitty, Winston.

Jackie Kazimir

Jackie will be teaching two sections of 9th grade and two sections of 10th grade World History, as well as moderating Mock Trial. She graduated from the University at Buffalo where she received a bachelor's in History and master's in Social Studies Education. She previously taught at Saint Basil Academy, and, before moving to Philadelphia in 2013, she also taught in Le Mans, France and Buffalo, NY. Jackie lives in Jenkintown with her husband Joe, 8-year-old daughter, Sophia, and 3-year-old son, Max. Although she and her family have lived in Philadelphia for the past eight years (and love it!), she is still a proud Buffalonian! With that said - if anyone has recommendations for good Buffalo wings in Philadelphia, please let her know! 

George King

George joined Penn Charter in July as our Interim Director of Upper School for the 2021-22 school year. George is an experienced leader whose career in independent schools spans three decades. Most recently, George served as the interim head at Woodlynde School. Before that, George was head at Moravian Academy in Bethlehem, Pa., from 2007 to 2016. Prior work appointments include serving as head of Wooster School in Danbury, Conn., head of upper school at Greenhill School in Dallas, Texas, and principal for grades 9 and 10 at The Bullis School in Washington, D.C.. George has a BA in Music Education from Murray State University, in Murray, Ky., and a Master of Science in Jazz Studies and Saxophone from the New England Conservatory of Music. A talented jazz musician who has performed throughout the United States and Europe, George began his career in education as an instrumental music instructor in the Boston public schools. Beyond his work in schools and as a professional musician, George is an avid car enthusiast and amateur photographer. He and his wife, Charliese, share a love of art and have quite a collection. George and Charliese are permanent residents of Texas, but he will be residing in Philadelphia this year. 

Kevin Medansky

Kevin began his tenure at Penn Charter last January as a long-term sub replacement for Aude Simon. This year, Kevin will remain in his same role as a full-time Middle and Upper School French teacher. He earned his BA with departmental honors from Haverford College, with a major in French and Francophone Studies, and minors at Swarthmore College in Film and Media Studies and at Bryn Mawr College in Environmental Studies, and a concentration in Peace, Justice, and Human Rights. He also earned his master's at the Sorbonne in Études Théâtrales (Theater Studies), and his newly published French-language thesis explores gendered power dynamics in the dramaturgical space of the home in contemporary theater. This past summer, he redesigned our Introductory French program, while fitting in some travel to the Midwest and across New England with his family. Kevin lives in East Falls, just a few hundred feet from Penn Charter's campus.

Lee Pinkas

Lee will be teaching one section of 10th grade English and one section of Writing Center this year. This is her second year at Penn Charter. Last year she was part of the Teacher Support Staff. Lee graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Policy Analysis and Management. She also has an MA in the Teaching of English, grades 7-12, from Teachers College, Columbia University; an MFA in poetry from the University of Florida; and an additional certification in Special Education from Hunter College. Lee loves, and has always loved, school! She spent about 10 years working in independent and public schools in and around New York City. Outside of school, Lee provides one-on-one academic support in writing to English and History students. Lee lives in West Philadelphia with her spouse and almost-three-year-old. They relocated from Berlin, Germany two years ago and recently spent the summer there. 

Jaysen Rosario

Jaysen will be teaching Lower School Music, primarily in grades pre-K to 3.  In addition, he will be able to pursue his love of a cappella music by assisting with Quakers Dozen. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's in Music Education. After graduating, he taught K-5 Vocal/General Music for five years in Bel Air, Md. He just recently moved to South Philadelphia this past July with his 1-year-old Cockapoo, Milo. He is excited to be joining the Penn Charter community and can't wait to experience all the wonderful things Philadelphia has to offer.

Lauren Stabert

Lauren will work in the Development office as Director of Parent Engagement and will become a strong presence with our parents, engaging them in new ways to increase overall parent giving at Penn Charter. She comes to us from The Agnes Irwin School where she served as Senior Development Officer for three years. Prior to Agnes Irwin, Lauren worked in healthcare fundraising for 11 years. She holds a degree in Communication and Education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and currently lives in Center City with her husband, Clay, and her two children: 4-year-old daughter Margot and 2-year-old son Graham.

Jordan Studevan OPC '09

Jordan is returning to Penn Charter as the fourth member of our college counseling team, and more specifically, as the Assistant Director of College Counseling. For the past three years, Jordan was the assistant director of college counseling at Saint Mark's School, a boarding school in Southborough, Mass., where he also served as a dorm head, and a football and basketball coach. He started his education career as a City Year AmeriCorps member, working in various Philadelphia schools. In his second year at City Year, Jordan ran a mentoring program for seniors at Mastery Charter School that was centered around post-secondary success. Jordan will also serve as an assistant coach for Upper School football and hopes to coach basketball at some point in the future. 

Janique Timmons

Janique will be the Lower School Math Coordinator. She graduated from Temple University, where she studied Elementary Education with a focus on Early Childhood. After graduating, she began her educational path by becoming a nanny to gain a better understanding of child development. From there, Janique continued to work with preschool through third grade students in a variety of settings such as childcare centers, charter schools, and most recently, the Philadelphia School District. She also earned a master’s in STEAM Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University. Janique is a native New Yorker who settled in West Oak Lane, Philadelphia after college and after meeting her husband, John. She is a mother of two energetic kids, her son Adrian and her daughter Lennox. Janique is a book lover and a cook as well as an avid painter. In fact, she recently started a small home décor business.

Robert Vierlinck

Robert, who also prefers to go by Bob, will be teaching two sections of 9th grade history, one section of 10th grade history, and one section of philosophy. He will also assist with our service program this year. Previously, Bob worked at Salesianum School, Ursuline Academy, and, most recently, Holy Ghost Prep, where he worked for the past eight years teaching ancient world history, U.S. history, and AP psychology while being involved in a number of student life and DEI initiatives. He also ran two international service trips, including a yearly trip to the Dominican Republic, and one to Tanzania. He graduated from Villanova University with degrees in History and Philosophy, as well as a concentration in Peace and Justice Education. His master's degree in Secondary Social Studies Education is from Temple. When not teaching, Bob likes to spend his time (pre-Covid) traveling, attending concerts, rooting for Philly sports teams, and exploring all that Philadelphia has to offer. Bob is originally from northeast Philadelphia and currently lives in the Pennsport neighborhood of South Philadelphia with his fiance, Sam, and their two dogs Murphy and Ralph. 

Tony Yoo

Tony will be teaching seventh and eighth grade choir, as well as directing the Charter Singers in the Upper School. He will also direct Quakers Dozen alongside Jaysen Rosario, and will be part of the Performing Arts department’s theatre program. He studied Music Theory and Composition at West Chester University. Before joining Penn Charter, Tony was a member of the music faculty at Sacred Heart Academy in Bryn Mawr. There he directed the middle school choir as well as assisted in directing the upper school choir and had participated in being a faculty leader during their Kairos retreats. His interests beyond music and performance extend into photography and videography, and he also has an interest in fitness and nutrition. He enjoys spending his free time playing ultimate frisbee and disc golf. He recently purchased a home in Springfield (Delco), the town in which he was raised. 


We are also pleased to welcome back the following faculty, who were new to Penn Charter in the 2020-2021 school year.



Science Corner: "Koffee" and Kinetics

by Christy Cook-Schwartz 

Dozens of us do it every day, but have you ever stopped to think about the mechanics behind walking through the crowded halls with a mug of coffee? Turns out the scientists at Arizona State University have spent a great deal of time exploring exactly that. In a new article titled “Synchronous Transition in Complex Object Control,” published by the research team of Brent Wallace, Ling-Wei Kong, Armando Rodriguez and Ying-Cheng Lai, the group explains the physics behind our ability to carry a mug of liquid through a crowd without spilling it. 

A mug of coffee being carried through a crowd is part of a very complex system. You have the person carrying the cup, which consists of the interactions between the hand, arm, body and brain of the person; the cup containing the liquid; and the liquid itself.  This is a lot of information to process, and our brains do it seemingly effortlessly. However, the way the system functions has far-reaching implications for robotics and related fields such as “smart” prosthetics. For more on this “awakening” research, read about it in this article from ASU or this one from Phys.Org.


Eco Corner

by Tom Rickards

Welcome back Friends! As I write this, Covid numbers are on a slight decline in Philadelphia, and I am hoping we are on the road to recovery! I want to always express gratitude for the collective stewardship efforts and also share the hope that we can do even better as we move into a new school year. Here are a few announcements:

  • The mug tree is back! We are excited to have a non-single-use option for beverages. Please remember to return used mugs to the dish room and please know that these are open to the whole community. Any requests to bring back mug bingo??

  • Wissahickon Adventures? Please let me know if you are interested in taking your students into the Wissahickon trails. You need to check with your division director and have the following in place: at least two adults, first aid kit, access to relevant student health information through the Magnus App. Also a reminder that the Penn Charter All Trails Challenge is still looking for team members!?! We are almost to our halfway mark for fundraising and we need to start putting on those miles!!

  • The Stillwagon Climbing Wall is moving along and will be finished soon! I am interested in making climbing accessible to students and faculty/staff alike! Please fill out this survey if you would like to attend any  faculty/staff only climbing times. 


If you would like to receive more weekly announcements, please let me know by contacting Tom Rickards

In partnership,

Tom Rickards


Teaching & Learning Center News and Notes

From the desk of Ruth Aichenbaum

Welcome back to school! Thanks for answering the TLC Quia survey during opening meetings. If you didn’t have a chance to fill out the survey, please take a few minutes to do so now using this TLC Quia Survey link. I look forward to using your feedback and collaborating with you to create the programming that you’d like to support your wellness, joy in community, teaching,  learning, and more.. 

Upcoming TLC sessions include

  • Seminar Tricks

  • MBE Webinar: The Science of Learning

  • PC Book Club

  • One-to-One Computer Help

  • Using Arts to Spark Civic Inquiry and Amplify Social Justice: Exploring Resources from Project Zero Sparks and Learning for Justice

  • Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Refresher

  • What’s “Noo” in Noodle Tools

  • “In Tents” Audio Visual

  • Tuesdays with TED: Listen and discuss a great TED talk

  • Jefferson University, East Falls Campus weekly Talking Teaching and workshops! 

  • Gardening this Week

  • Learn to Climb or Belay

  • And more to be scheduled soon!

Here is the TLC SignUp Genius Link to take a look at descriptions of the offerings and sign up for a workshop. I’m busily planning more sessions and will have our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) up and running by October. I will let you know about sessions in the weekly divisional weekend emails and in the Coming Attraction posters that I hang in the division mailrooms.  If you see a session you’d like to attend, but the timing doesn’t work, please email me (, and I can work to set up a one-to-one session or send you resources. Also please let me know if you’d like me to create a specific session to meet your needs.

As in past years, we're thrilled that we have a partnership with Jefferson University. Jefferson faculty are welcome to attend our virtual workshops, as we are theirs.  Jefferson offers a virtual Talking Teaching led by  Chris Pastore (a former PC parent!). Talking Teaching runs each week, alternating between being held on Thursdays from 12:30-1:20 pm and Fridays from 11:00 AM-11:50 am.  Hopefully the fact that these Talking Teaching sessions are virtual will make it easier for you to attend. Each week, I’ll post that week’s discussion topic on the SignUp Genius so that you’ll know when a session interests you, and in my monthly TLC email, I’ll post the links to the articles used to jumpstart their weekly discussions.  

Again this year, I’ll share resources from the prior month’s workshops so that you can learn about the topics even if you weren’t able to attend a session. Below are some links to presentations/ resources from August sessions.

As always, I am happy to meet with you to discuss specific workshops you’d like to attend or teach. I’m also available to facilitate a Critical Friends Group, arrange a classroom visit, and/ or arrange a one-to-one session with a mentor on a topic of your choice. The TLC is ours to grow together! Please let me know if you have ideas for new ways to provide meaningful PD and add joy to our year!  You can email at to set up a time to chat. Hope to see you at the TLC!

Hope to see you at the TLC!