New Teachers at LHS

Editor’s Note: Some responses were edited for clarity

Jill Murphy: Mathematics

What subject do you teach? Have you taught any other subjects in the past?

When I went to college and decided to be an education major I started as an elementary education major. I taught second grade for two years and realized very quickly that they were way too little and I didn’t like teaching kids to read. So, I did fourth grade for three years and that’s where I discovered my love of math. I got certified in math and worked a little in middle school. This is my second high school that I’ve worked in. Mostly I’ve taught Geometry, Algebra, and Algebra II.

Tell us about your background.

I changed my major in college five times––it took me a long time to decide what I wanted to do with myself. Since graduating high school I have been a bank teller, I’ve worked in daycare, and I worked as an environmental scientist for about three years. I went out and sampled groundwater for contamination which was very cool. I have my bachelor in geography with a minor in earth science. My bachelor’s degree brought me to environmental science and then eventually to teaching elementary, and then my master’s degree brought me to high school math.

What are you excited for this year/what goals do you have for your time here at LHS?

I’m just excited to be back at the high school level. I was at Minnechaug a few years ago, but I really missed the high school age and the conversations I was able to have with them and I missed the math. Middle school math bores me to death, so I’m super happy to be back with high school math. I’m excited to get through my first year intact and survive it and then hopefully in future years be more involved in things like clubs and maybe be a class advisor.

What are some of your hobbies/interests?

We own a running store, 4RUN3. I coach adults, and actually have a marathon group graduating in two weeks who are all going to do a marathon. Many of them started with me just doing a mile and they could barely do it, and now they’re doing a marathon––so that’s my favorite hobby. I also just started a youth coaching group in East Longmeadow. I’m trying to get young people into running. Other than teaching and running I also have two granddaughters.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

It took me a while. I was a physical therapy major for a while. I loved AMP and anatomy and physiology until I got to the part where I realized that I didn’t actually like working with elderly. It sounds terrible but that’s a lot of the people that need physical therapy. I realized that I was much better with younger people than with older people. It’s just where my strength is, and that’s kind of where teaching came from.

Like I said, it took me a while to realize that even though I love young kids and they’re super fun to be around, with teaching I like the older kids.

What do you think is important to a good learning environment, both for the teacher and for the student?

Organization. I think everyone has to be organized. If the teacher isn’t organized and isn’t talking in a way that kids can follow, the kids don’t have a chance of doing well. Number one, the teacher has to be organized and then the teacher has to make sure the kids are organized. And when there is organization and structure then you can do all sorts of things. I also think that using visual aids is important as well, because most of us are visual learners. Also, teaching kids to take notes.

What are some of your favorite experiences from high school when you were a student?

One year I talked my mom into letting me take mechanical drawing, and I just remember loving that class. Mechanical drawing is very mathematical so that’s probably when I should have realized I really liked geometry and that I was more of a visual person. I liked taking classes that were kind of outside of the expected norm, and exploring different things. 

What have you learned from past experiences that have shaped you into the teacher/person you are today?

Learning to accept myself for who I am and not having to be perfect all the time. Many of you guys are perfectionists and you make yourselves crazy trying to be perfect and get everything right all the time. That’s how I spent most of my life. And although that brings you great success, it also brings you great stress. At some point in my thirties I realized that I can’t be perfect at everything and trying to be perfect as a teacher all the time is really hard. I think that when I learned to relax a little and accept the mistakes I made it made me a better teacher because it made me appear more human to the students, like “Oh, she makes mistakes too”.

Meera Nadeem: Mathematics

What subject do you teach? Have you taught any other subjects in the past?

I am teaching Geometry, PreCalculus and Functions and Trigonometry. Previously, I have taught Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Calculus.

Tell us about your background.

I was born and raised in Pakistan. I moved to the US, to Chicopee, MA to be particular, in my sophomore year of high school. I attended Syracuse University for Computer Engineering directly after high school and realized (albeit late) that it was not a good fit for me. I returned home and attended Holyoke Community College while I reevaluated my options. After getting my associates from there, I transferred to Westfield State University to pursue Mathematics. After graduating with my Bachelors, I worked at Southwick Regional School as a maternity leave sub for a semester. While I loved teaching there, I missed the thrill of learning a higher level of mathematics and so I attended Smith College for a Post-baccalaureate in Mathematics and from there I went to Lehigh University to pursue a graduate degree in Mathematics. I was a teaching assistant at both institutions. 

What are you excited for this year/what goals do you have for your time here at LHS?

I believe my goals are very similar to any other teacher. I want to create learning opportunities for all of my students, motivate and encourage them to do better. I also want to take this opportunity to learn not only from the experience of my colleagues, but also my students, and use their feedback to reflect upon my teachings and grow as an educator.

What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of teaching?

I like spending time with my family––especially my overly enthusiastic son. 

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

I had some wonderful teachers who equipped me with skills that helped me tackle the challenges of life. I, too, want to serve as an anchor for my students so that they also have the proper skills they need to take on the challenges thrown at them in the practical world.

What do you think is important to a good learning environment, both for the teacher and for the student?

Interactive. Hands-on. Collaborative. It not only is engaging, but the lessons you learn through your own discovery tend to stick with you for life.

What are some of your favorite experiences from high school when you were a student?

High school is a blur! I was trying to acclimate to a new country and a new culture. I do remember the kindness of my teachers and peers who helped me adjust though.

What have you learned from past experiences that have shaped you into the teacher/person you are today?

Mistakes are a learning opportunity, and not failures. 

Molly Bass: Foreign Language

What subject do you teach? Have you taught any other subjects in the past?

I teach Latin! This is the only subject I have taught in.

Tell us about your background.

I grew up in Wilbraham, MA, went to Minnechaug and graduated in 2014! I then went to Saint Anselm College to study Natural Sciences and Philosophy (with a concentration in Ancient Greek/Roman philosophy). I was also the first ever Astronomy & Planetary Sciences minor at the college! I jumped into the environmental science field and had jobs ranging from soil/water/air testing in a lab to running a wildlife refuge on Martha’s Vineyard. 

What are you excited for this year/what goals do you have for your time here at LHS?

I am excited to join a wonderful community and share what I love with the students here at LHS! One of my goals this year is to become more involved in sports and extracurricular activities!

What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of school?

My hobbies outside of school include knitting, ultimate frisbee and disc golf, and playing music!

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

Latin was always a subject I loved and it was something that always “clicked” with me. I had an amazing high school Latin teacher who always encouraged me to ask questions and dive deeper into the language. My excitement for the language and culture is what I hope to share with my students, and it’s the main reason I wanted to become a Latin teacher. I want to take something from thousands of years ago and show its influence in our everyday lives. 

What do you think is important to a good learning environment, both for the teacher and for the student?

Respect in the classroom. Having that mutual respect between teacher and student provides an efficient work space and it allows for all parties to learn. When the balance of respect dips, the balance of the class follows.

What are some of your favorite experiences from high school when you were a student?

I was in the Honors Wind Ensemble for three years playing the clarinet. I asked my band teacher one day if I could play the cymbals in the marching band (I have a background in percussion) and she said yes! During our Senior Night football game halftime show, I had a cymbal solo where I danced in front of the band while they played Party Rock Anthem behind me (dressed up in our marching band uniforms of course!). I also was on the Indoor Track & Field team where I did shot put, high jump, and the 4×2. Every Friday we could go up to Smith College for indoor track meets, and since all of my friends were on the team, we had a blast!

What have you learned from past experiences that have shaped you into the teacher/person you are today?

I spent my early 20’s living in different places for work, which has shaped me into the person I am today. Respecting your own boundaries, staying true to yourself, and being your own advocate for things are core values for me. Without taking that time to figure out what I need out of life, I wouldn’t be teaching!

Shane Harrington: Wellness

What subject do you teach? Have you taught any other subjects in the past?

I teach Wellness which is a combination of physical education and health here at Longmeadow High School. This will be my twelfth year teaching a combination of both health and physical education.

Tell us about your background.

I’m originally from Warwick Rhode Island. I graduated high school in 2006, and then I came out here to Western Mass. I attended Springfield College, graduated in 2010, and then got right into teaching. First year I started teaching at Hampshire Regional for one year teaching health. Then I went to South Hadley for 10 years teaching a combination of health and physical education, and now I’m here at Longmeadow. 

What are you excited for this year/what goals do you have for your time here at LHS?

I’m excited to get to know the community, the teachers and the students. I actually just moved to Longmeadow in December so I’m excited to be part of the community and not just living here but also as a person who works in the community.

What are some of your hobbies/interests outside of teaching?

I enjoy athletics, and I still coach football in South Hadley for the time being. I like watching sports––big Patriots fan––and most of my time is actually spent with my children. I have a 4-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son. They keep me on my toes––taking them from place to place and playing with them.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

One major reason was that I wanted to get into coaching, and I noticed that all of my coaches when I was growing up happened to be teachers and most were health and PE teachers. I’ve also always liked working with others. I wanted to be in a field where I wasn’t sitting just behind a desk at a computer. I want to be able to engage with other people and be interacting throughout the day.

What do you think is important to a good learning environment, both for the teacher and for the student?

I think that relationships are important. You need to have good relationships so everybody’s on the same page. It’s also important to make sure that the students know that I have their best interests at heart if there’s ever any misunderstanding. I’m somebody who’s approachable and you can talk to me––I’m not here to try to be adversarial. I want people to see me as somebody who’s here to help them.

What are some of your favorite experiences from high school when you were a student?

I would say just being able to hang out with my friends everyday. I love the social aspect of it. I was actually one of those people who didn’t miss a day of high school––I had perfect attendance for 4 years. I always really liked being around people, and seeing my friends and teachers.

What have you learned from past experiences that have shaped you into the teacher/person you are today?

I’ve learned that you need to take a day-to-day approach, you can’t ever let someone’s bad interaction ruin your day. Realize things happen, especially that everybody’s going through different things in their lives. So, if somebody’s having a bad day and they snap at you, don’t take it personally. Realize that there may be other factors involved. Then, through conversations you can probably get to the bottom of it and realize that it wasn’t you who caused the issue. Then we can move forward and try to take those experiences and grow from them. 

Klajd Kovaci: Special Education

What subject do you teach? Have you taught any other subjects in the past?

Currently I co-teach ELA with Ms. Moore. I also do a support room. I have taught ELA for many years, but I’ve also taught history, science, math, and life skills.

Tell us about your background.

I was born in Albania, I moved to the States when I was incredibly young. I grew up mostly in Connecticut. I went to the University of Connecticut where I got my bachelor’s in political science and anthropology. I eventually started working in Hartford juvenile detention center when I first started teaching, and I also worked at a therapeutic school in East Hartford, Connecticut. I eventually moved to New York, got my master’s degree in education at Hunter College, and then started teaching in South Bronx at the same time. I moved to Massachusetts last year, worked in Holyoke, and now I’m here. 

What are you excited for this year/what goals do you have for your time here at LHS?

I’m excited to be part of the community. Everyone is super sweet and friendly. The students are really great, and are actually super respectful which is brand new for me. Some of the goals that I have: support students in any way that I can, get them really confident in their abilities, be able to help them further themselves past high school, and provide that foundation for the next step in their life whether that be college or a career.

What are some of your hobbies/interests?

I am an avid hiker and I practice martial arts. I am very handy so I do a lot of stuff around the house, I like to build things. My wife and I just redid our whole kitchen. I’ve been practicing martial arts for well over ten years now, so that’s kind of my big pride and joy. The kind of martial arts I practice is called Capoeira, it’s a Brazilian type of martial arts. It’s cool because it incorporates music, so it is very fascinating. I’m going to see if I can bring it around here too.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

Originally I worked in politics, and I began to get frustrated with how things were going and how I couldn’t make that change I wanted to make. And I thought the best approach to making that change for the positive, and for the future, is essentially teaching and educating the youth to then have them become free thinkers and be able to actually have them make that change.

What do you think is important to a good learning environment, both for the teacher and for the student?

Making sure that everyone is comfortable, and that it’s a positive atmosphere. I think openness and communication is essential, both for the instructor and for the students because that’s what helps us be able to get to know the students and be able to provide them with what they need. And then vice versa, like if I need something from the students I also need to be able to convey and communicate with them in a clear manner.

What are some of your favorite experiences from high school when you were a student?

One of my favorite times in high school was the swim team, and being part of the team. I was with people that I didn’t really share classes with, and we got a chance to hang out and build a community.

What have you learned from past experiences that have shaped you into the teacher/person you are today?

Patience. We have to have patience and have respect for one another, for everything. We don’t know one another’s pasts, and we don’t know one another’s past traumas so being patient is super important. We don’t know what’s going on in one another’s lives so something that may not have to do with whatever interaction we’re having, we have to learn to navigate it in a way where we can stay positive and still have a positive relationship. And that I think is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in teaching in the years that I’ve taught.

Elizabeth Mitchell: Art 

What subject do you teach? Have you taught any other subjects in the past?

I teach Art and I have only ever taught Art! This year I am teaching 2D Foundations, Intermediate drawing/painting/printmaking, Honors drawing/painting/printmaking, and AP 2-D Design. 

Tell us about your background.

I grew up in Monson, MA and currently live in Somers, CT. Before teaching here at LHS, I taught Art at South End Middle School in Springfield. I’ve held all sorts of jobs, though––I’ve worked as a retail sales associate, a server/bartender, a bank teller, and a tattoo artist. All of these jobs offered unique and worthwhile experiences that I’m carrying with me into being a teacher. 

What are you excited for this year/what goals do you have for your time here at LHS?

I am excited to be a part of such a wonderful community that clearly values the education of its youth. My main goal here at LHS is to always foster strong relationships with my students and help them realize their artistic visions and talents through making and viewing art. I hope to enrich my curriculum throughout the years so that I can offer a one-of-a-kind learning experience to the students of this community. 

What are some of your hobbies/interests?

I am a makeup artist on the side, and primarily work during the wedding season (on weekends from early spring to mid-fall) and I just bought a house with my boyfriend and his daughter and I’ve been enjoying the small home improvement projects and interior decorating. 

Why did you decide to become a teacher? 

I have always loved making and looking at all kinds of art. My mother is a painter and my father is a woodworker so creating is in my blood. I was fortunate to have a great art teacher in high school and at some point, after trying a few different jobs/careers, it clicked that I should be teaching so I could educate and inspire future generations. I am very passionate about the arts and feel that art is a crucial component in a well-rounded education because it fosters ingenuity and inventiveness while offering an opportunity to self-reflect and be expressive. 

What do you think is important to a good learning environment, both for the teacher and for the student? 

A good learning environment starts with a feeling of safety especially in an art class. Making art and showing it to others is a very vulnerable act and it is important to feel as safe and comfortable as possible while doing so. This requires mutual respect and honesty at all times between me, the teacher, and the students. 

What are some of your favorite experiences from high school when you were a student?

I maximized my time in high school by taking every art class offered. I think back fondly on the community environment that was cultivated in those classes, the trips we took to local art museums, participating in art contests and winning a couple awards, and attending Art All-State. These memories fuel my drive to be a great teacher for my students. 

What have you learned from past experiences that have shaped you into the teacher/person you are today?

My path to becoming an art teacher was not exactly a quick or straight-forward one. Along the way I learned that not everyone operates at the same pace in life and in art and that it was crucial to not compare myself to others in this sense. Additionally, I try to always remember this quote by Slyvia Plath, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” In other words, a little belief in yourself goes a long way.

Beth Jablonski: Counseling Office Secretary

What is your role at LHS? Have you had past jobs in education before?

I am the new Counseling Office Secretary, replacing Mrs. McDonald, who is now Mr. Lander’s secretary. I have worked in public schools for the past 15 years.

Tell us about your background. (Where are you from, education, past teaching jobs, etc.)

I am from Westfield. I attended Western New England College (University). I started working in public schools as a substitute teacher when my younger twins entered pre-school.

What are you excited for this year/what goals do you have for your time here at LHS?

I am very excited to be working with new colleagues and working with the Longmeadow students and staff. My goal is to support and help students and staff with anything to make the transition from high school to college/careers go as smoothly as possible.

What are some of your hobbies/interests?

I enjoy traveling, gardening, hiking and spending as much time as I can with my children.

How/why did you choose your career?

My current career path I chose was to best suit my family. I enjoy working with children and young adults, so working in the school system was an easy choice.

What do you think is important to a good learning environment, both for the teacher and for the student?

I believe that kindness, empathy, and challenging each other to grow is what makes a great learning environment. 

What are some of your favorite experiences from high school when you were a student?

I was super involved in school government and sports. I am still friends today with some of those friends I made while participating in these experiences.

What have you learned from past experiences that have shaped you into the person you are today?

Mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow from, they need to be embraced. Always look for the positive and the positive will find you. Make a goal list and refer to it often. It is okay to change those goals as you grow and discover new paths through life experiences.

Sophia Lam '24

Campus News Editor

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