New to South

by Ella Hou, Features Editor
photo by Marty Basaria

Laura Fukushima taught at Boston Latin School as well as in her home state of Tennessee for several years before coming to teach Latin 1 at South this year. 

Fukushima said that her passion for the language dates back to high school. 

“I love my subject matter. I really love Latin. When I heard in high school that there was a shortage of Latin teachers, it got me thinking about teaching it,” she said.

Fukushima said she was excited to apply after a neighbor recommended the position. 

“He told me about the job opening, and [Newton’s] a great school system, so it was very appealing,” she said

Fukushima said that she looks forward to returning to teaching after taking a break to focus on her family. 

“I was a stay-at-home mom for a long time. I’ve got twins, but they’re getting older now, so I’m excited to get back into the classroom,” she said.

photo by Mary Pierce

After a year as a student teacher in Amherst, Caelan Dammer will be teaching 9th grade Physics and Engineering and the senior elective Astronomy and Earth Science at South this year. 

Dammer pivoted from his initial interest in scientific research after he fell in love with teaching as a teaching assistant in one of his college classes.

“It’s the moment when you see someone go from not understanding something to having an idea of how it works,” he said. “There’s something about the look in their eyes at that moment when you’re like, ‘I’ve opened the doorway for them to be able to now walk through for themselves.’ It can’t really be compared to anything.” 

Dammer said that he is looking forward to becoming part of the South community. 

“I’m excited to get to know the space, get to know the students, get to construct these new classes and to get everything working,” he said.

photo by Marty Basaria

With 20 years of experience teaching at Walpole Public Schools, Kellie Robinson will begin this fall as a special education teacher at South, assisting in programs like STRIDE, which helps support students with autism and other related disorders.

Robinson said that she was drawn to South’s dedication to helping students with special needs.

 “It’s such a phenomenal school that gives so much support, and it’s so progressive with what they’re doing,” she said. 

Robinson said that she hopes to continue being a mentor for her students. 

“I want to make a difference in students’ lives and be the teacher that I either had or wanted to have,” she said.

Additionally, Robinson said that she hopes to join the Best Buddies program, which fosters connections between people with and without disabilities.

photo by Marty Basaria

After working at South for part of last year, Lexi Michaels will return full-time to teach 11th grade New Media Communities and 12th grade Film Studies. Michaels said that she is excited about the hands-on approach of her classes. 

“[New Media Communities] is really fun because we do a lot of work with documentary studies and filmmaking, looking at news articles or social media and production of different forms of media,” she said.  

Likewise, in Film Studies, students work towards creating their own 10 to 20 minute film, which is screened at a film festival at the end of the year. 

Outside of the classroom, Michaels said she is eager to be a class advisor for the Class of 2025.

 “I’m really excited to get back into [organizing] spirit days and class bonding experiences and end-of-year events with the students,” she said.

photo by Mary Pierce

Prior to South, reading specialist Vanessa Allaway worked at Boston Public Schools for nine years and in Austin, Texas for six years. Allaway said that her experience with a family member motivated her to teach. 

“I had an aunt with intellectual disabilities. She had amazing teachers that changed her life, and that inspired me to go into teaching,” she said. 

Allaway said she is impressed with the student support in the Newton Public Schools. 

“I’ve heard such good things about how there’s a lot of resources and support for students at South,” she said.

Allaway said that she is not only looking forward to the change that comes with a new school; she’ll also be working with a new age range of students. 

 “I’ve always taught middle school, and now I’m working with high school students, so it’s very exciting,” she said.

photo by Marty Basaria

James Vance, an ‘07 South graduate, studied culinary arts and nutrition before pursuing chemistry, which he will teach at South. 

Vance said that this change in focus was inspired by a previous job mentoring students in sports. 

“Some of my chemistry background comes from nutrition, but at one point in my career, I started coaching cross country and track and field, and I loved doing that. That was what really pushed me towards wanting to become a teacher,” he said. 

Vance worked previously as a teaching assistant for chemistry teacher Marianne McChesney, and he said that he is looking forward to continuing to learn from his new colleagues.

“I’m really excited that the chemistry department is 50/50 with teachers who have been here in the past and newer teachers … the teachers who are our mentors are phenomenal,” he said.