Head of Middle School
Know Your Pelicans
What drew you to Packer?
About three or four years ago, I visited Packer — a stranger from Philadelphia that nobody knew from a jar of peanut butter. Everyone was so nice and welcoming, even the kids that I spoke to in passing. I felt the love and the energy in the building. It was just a nice community of people who enjoyed each other’s company.
And I love New York: it’s my hometown.
What are your impressions of our students so far?
The students are great. They’re resilient. They’re funny. They’re stronger than they think they are, especially in a year like this one. They’re getting through it with a smile on their face, with humility, with grace.
What are your impressions of your colleagues?
This is one of the most talented teaching teams I’ve ever seen. I’ve had the privilege of working in public, charter, and independent schools in two different cities, and I’ve interviewed and hired lots of teachers. When you combine our faculty’s talent with how much they care for kids’ wellbeing, then you get the community that I described a moment ago.
When did you decide to become an educator?
I decided in the fourth grade. I went to a Catholic school, so it was really traditional. My perception was that my teachers didn’t like me. I got in a lot of trouble. If you spoke out of turn or didn’t use the process the teacher told you to, you were reprimanded. Because of those negative experiences, I wanted to become a teacher.
How does that experience show up in how you interact with kids today?
I listen. I let kids get out whatever they want to tell me. It could be about a challenge, or something exciting. I don’t interrupt. That, in and of itself, allows children to be more open with me. Then I find my entry point to helping them solve the challenge on their own, rather than trying to solve it for them.
Helping kids address the inevitable challenges of growing up is clearly important to you. What gives you this clarity of purpose?
I had to navigate things independently at an early age — not because I was taught to navigate them. I had no choice. I think it built up the ability to persevere: the grit, the stick-to-it-iveness. I don’t quit.
And life’s inevitable challenges get bigger. I’ve seen so many children make up the math gap, make up the reading gap [despite really difficult circumstances]. The one thing they all had in common was the ability to persevere.
What insight do you offer Packer parents that’s most valuable?
I can provide a perspective on a challenging moment that might be hard for a parent to see because they’re in that mode of parenting and nurturing. Sometimes, too much protective nurturing can hold kids back from learning what is really important.
I also provide partnership with families because I’m a Middle School parent myself. When they ask about a specific situation, I can say, “My kid did that yesterday. Let’s think about this as parents.” That puts us in a position to really be able to hear each other.
What skills for moving through the world do you hope a Packer Eighth Grader has, going into high school?
We teach kids how to think, not what to think. The ability to receive information, make sense of it, and decide what to do with it in different contexts around different groups of people. Using your voice in appropriate ways at appropriate times — that’s what I hope kids leave Middle School with.
What do you attribute that to?
The kids have said it: confidence in themselves. Being secure enough in themselves to not tie their identity to another child’s identity so much that they feel that they cannot separate. And we don’t hide things from kids. These kids are going to see some stuff. We have the attitude of “Let’s talk about it, let’s open it up,” so kids build confidence. They learn to navigate nuanced things that we often think that they can’t.
What is something most Packer people don’t know about you?
I really love to cook. It's like my therapy and my kids love the fact that I love to cook. “Daddy, can you make…” is probably my favorite sentence.
What do you do for fun?
I watch college basketball. My team is University of North Carolina. On a Saturday I could sit on the couch from 11 am when the games start to midnight when the games end. I would watch games all day if my wife would let me!
If you had an inspirational fridge magnet, what would it say?
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We're better when we work together. Better outcomes, more brain power, collaboration. You want to go far, you have to get the right group of people together to accomplish great things.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
I would want the ability to fly. I love traveling, but I don't like long flights. If I could just fly to Spain myself, I would get up and in just half an hour, like Superman, I'm in Barcelona.