Our team

Experts, Allies, and Partners.

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Our Team

It’s no stretch to say that, as a Mastery School student, you will work with extraordinary teachers and mentors who bring expertise, passion, and a desire to engage with you.

They also bring a commitment to redesigning school so that it’s more human and more humane; so that it’s built with your future in mind; so that it helps you identify, nurture, and own your talents and capacity for growth.

Seventeen years ago, I came to Hawken to help start the Humanities program. At Hawken, I’ve had the chance to build and develop programs including Humanities and intensives, to grow as a teacher and school leader, and to become wildly excited about a way to do school differently. Inspired by my work with Doris Korda, I believe with every fiber of my being that school should be about discovering your strengths, channeling your intrinsic motivation, and finding joy. My family’s roots run deep in the sleepaway camp world of New England, where I learned to love kayaking, swimming, campfires, putting on plays, and building meaningful community. I love yoga, any kind of tea, theatre, spending time with friends and family, cooking, and podcasts. I live in Cleveland Heights with my husband (a Hawken alum), two children, and a cat who likes to play fetch.

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Julia holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University in Government with a focus on political theory and masters in Literature from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English.

As an educator (and parent), I’m passionate about empowering learners with not only the critical thinking, reasoning, research, and communication skills needed to seize 21st Century opportunities, but also the confidence to take risks in search of their potential. I value authentic educational experiences and the journey of discovering multiple solutions to problems, even less-than-perfect ones. When I’m not lying awake at night contemplating a new way to challenge my students, I’m corralling my own circus of three, elementary-aged children. Occasionally, I find time to enjoy a good book, go for a hike, take a Peloton ride with my “boo,” or dial into a Zoom call with my circle of power-women all over the country. 

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April earned a BS in Commerce from The University of Virginia and a  MAT in Secondary Education from The University of Southern California.

Making connections with others and building relationships are what bring me the greatest joy in life and what has brought me back to teaching again and again. I truly believe that we become our best selves only by taking the time to understand the world from another’s point of view and this is exactly what I try to do together with students in our language and culture classroom. I joined the Mastery School Design Team after working in K-16 language education in Colombia, France, and the United States, excited by the opportunity to rethink the goals and methods of high school world language education and explore a transdisciplinary model of learning and teaching. I am a lover of good food and good company and try to bring the two together in international locales as much as possible. I live in Shaker Heights with my partner and our adorably lazy greyhound and am proud to be the fourth generation in my family to call Northeast Ohio home. 

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Nick earned a BA in History from Northwestern University and Masters degrees in both Spanish and French from Middlebury College. He completed two years of PhD coursework in Second Language Acquisition at Carnegie Mellon University before deciding to opt out of academia and join the Mastery School Design Team.

“We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.”  This is a direct quote from Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s Last Will and Testament to the university she founded, which started out as a small school with five little girls and funded with $1.50 and a seed of faith.  I had the opportunity to attend and graduate from that institution, Bethune-Cookman University, exactly 100 years after its founding, and it’s a big part of why I am so excited to lead the admission process as the Director of Admission for the Mastery School of Hawken.  It is my belief that the work we are doing at the Mastery School will create amazing opportunities for students 100 years from now!

My journey at Hawken began one year ago after 15 years of diverse experience in secondary education, sales, marketing, college admissions, and diversity and inclusion work.  My commitment as an education advocate is to create admission processes that are equitable, inclusive, and engaging.  I am excited to return to my Cleveland roots and experience my city as a wife, mother, and professional. 

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Rasa earned a B.S. in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry.  She is currently in the M.Ed. program in Higher Education at Penn State University.


I agree with Kurt Vonnegut who once said that the act of teaching allowed him to “infect people with humanity.” I think the same goes for storytelling, which is the focus of my work at the Mastery School of Hawken. As I help tell the school’s story, my goal is to capture the humanity of its students, its community, and its highest ambitions. I teach English at Hawken’s Upper School and have served in a variety of roles at other schools across the country. I’m glad to be part of a team that’s reimagining how we might structure school to help students grow in enduring and humane ways. When I’m not working, I’m writing fiction and spending time with my wife of 25 years, my two fiercely independent and entertaining daughters, and the best dog in the world, Sophie T.

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Terry earned a BA in English from Skidmore College and a Masters in Journalism from The Ohio State University.

My approach to the classroom and student life engages young people as citizens who reflect upon the worlds they occupy, even as they consider how to build the world they desire. In our work together, we discover that this self-reflective work requires courage, imagination, and safety. I love walking alongside young people as they explore their truths, distill their own ideas about the legacy they want to create, take risks, make mistakes, and grow to be the truest versions of themselves within a caring community. I joined Hawken after nine years in government, politics and nonprofit advocacy, and enjoy the ability to draw upon this experience as we think about what it means to create a healthy culture as Dean of Students for the Mastery School. I am the adoring partner of a courageous historian, bonus dad of a STEM-loving second-grader, brother of two great siblings, son of caring parents, and Boston (MA)’s own.

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Ambrose earned a BA and MA in English Literature and Language from the University of Virginia, and an MA in Theological Studies from Boston College. 

My background in engineering taught me that there is rarely a “right answer” and that good decision making is all about the questions we ask and the assumptions we make.  I love exploring how the world works and the ways in which we can combine math, science, and humanities to deepen our understanding of it.  As a teacher, I’m passionate about pushing students out of their comfort zones and into spaces where they learn to embrace failure and iteration, learn from one another, and deepen their critical thinking skills.  I joined the Hawken community in 2015 after working in the aerospace engineering industry and then as a teacher in Chicago and Northwest Indiana, and I am incredibly excited to be a founding faculty member at the Mastery School.  Outside of school, you’re most likely to find me and my husband hiking the Metroparks with our daughter and dog in tow, enjoying the local food and music scene, or planning our next big adventure.

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Julia holds a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Notre Dame and a MA in Teaching with a focus on Math and Science Education from Dominican University.

I love learning about how and why things work. Playing video games growing up, I always thought it was cool that people would program entire worlds to explore using nothing but code. When Minecraft’s Alpha first released, the world generation was amazing. It made me wonder about “the code” that makes our own universe tick. From my years doing outreach in Cleveland and working with students, I found that many people learn to hate math and physics as formula-memorizing, tedious, time-sinks. But this is so far from what mathematicians and physicists actually do: Experiment, solve puzzles, and, most importantly, play with real problems! We talk about school as “preparing you for the real-world” but why wait? What if school was about doing real physics or real mathematics with real problems and challenges? I joined Hawken Upper School in 2017 in the hopes of making this idea of school a reality and, now, here we are at the Mastery School! I’m stoked to return to the city of Cleveland where I originally started my work in education. I missed it. Outside of school, you’ll likely find me with my family and friends (online and in-person), playing video games (PC and Switch), playing tabletop games (D&D), making music (piano and more), or building stuff (like a gaming table!). If you’ve got a project in mind, I’d love to hear about it, whatever it is.

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Zack earned a B.S. in Physics and B.S. in Mathematics with a minor in Education from Cleveland State University.

I’ve always looked up to and I walk the same values Sam Walton established with his company. Respect for the individual, customer service and strive for excellence. These values are universal. Exceptional customer service extends to anyone I come in contact with; students, faculty, supervisors, parents, family, community members, just to name a few.

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I believe that teaching well is all about having actual relationships with students, where we, as teachers, figure out what the students’ starting points are and then we take them somewhere new.  In particular, I love teaching about storytelling, whether it’s reading literature together, interviewing strangers, writing original stories, or analyzing a period of history.  I’ve been at Hawken for six years now, and before that I taught in New York City and Boston schools – this Fall will be the beginning of my sixteenth year of teaching.  I’ve learned a bit about how to build classroom communities where students feel safe to share their thoughts, and I put a lot of time into that, because it’s important that students feel they can be open and honest at school.  When I was in high school, I developed so much of my sense of humor, my sense of self, and my friendships (I still talk to two of my best friends from high school every week!) so I know that it’s important for us to make this into a place where students can really grow.

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Dan earned a BA in English from the College of Wooster, and an MA in the Teaching of English from Columbia University, Teachers College.

Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” convinced me at a very young age that agency, passion, relationship, curiosity, authenticity, and self-knowledge are essential to deep and effective learning. Ten years working with students as a teacher, advisor, house director, coach, and in leadership roles has only added depth to that belief. I value creating equitable and inclusive spaces in schools, whatever that means at whatever moment. I admire writers like Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston, whose authenticity revolutionized how people see our world by illuminating difficult truths and changing the writing landscape. I want to do that in education. As a type 1 Enneagram, Myers-Briggs INTJ, and Architect brain type, my favorite things are working to improve education for us all, golfing with my partner, trying to understand my cat’s motivations, spending time with my family, board games, drinking tea, and learning…anything? I think of my brain as a sort of jukebox and am constantly adding to my collection. My most recent learning adventure has been teaching myself to play funky bass guitar. I love bass’ subtle, steady significance in some songs and game-changing movement in others. I think that is also what I love about people—our range of subtle significance and capacity to change the game.

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Janae earned a BA in English Literature from Kenyon College and a Masters in Clinical Social Work (MSW) from the Smith College School for Social Work.

“Education is an act of love, and thus an act of courage.”

“Whoever teaches learns in the act of teaching, and whoever learns teaches in the act of learning.”   

After many years working with students, these quotes from Paulo Freire resonate most with my beliefs about education and speak to the reason I chose to become a teacher.  Helping students as they overcome obstacles, build grit and self-confidence, and ultimately achieve mastery through hard work is my vocation.  After sixteen years of teaching high school in the NYC Department of Education and six years serving as an adjunct lecturer at the City University of New York, I am excited to join the Mastery School of Hawken and to be a member of the design team and founding faculty.  As a parent myself, I know the profound impact a positive learning experience can have on a child, and I believe that each student brings a unique and special contribution to class.  I am a lucky husband of an amazing physics teacher, father of three little blessings, son of courageous and loving parents, brother to an artistic sibling, proud Latino, and musician at heart.

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Pedro earned a BS from NYU-Tandon School of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering, a MS in Education and Mathematics from PACE University.  Pedro holds multiple licenses and certificates in STEM education and TESOL.

“The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action”  –John Dewey

As an educator, psychologist, and parent, John Dewey’s words are often apparent in my daily interactions with youth.  It is my belief that too few teens are given the space to adequately explore who they are, who they want to be, and how they can best navigate their world in both meaningful and authentic ways.  The values of giving students a voice and empowering them to direct their own growth and find their own resilience are lived fully when I work with students through active listening, validation, and co-creation of narratives and solutions.  As I encourage student growth, I myself am able to grow alongside them and to learn from their experiences and my own missteps along the way.  I joined Hawken in 2019 and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work within the Mastery School, providing supportive encouragement as students find themselves through purposefully created choice activities.  Outside of school, I can be found trying to help my own children find their sense of self as we explore nature with our two dogs or trying to sneak in a cup of good coffee and maybe a quick read before the day begins!

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Dr. Poklar earned a B.S. in Special Education from College of Charleston in Charleston, SC and a M.Ed. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a PhD in Urban Education, with a specialization in Counseling Psychology from Cleveland State University.

I am an earnest and passionate extrovert who treasures building and maintaining meaningful relationships with students, parents, and friends alike. In my various professional and personal roles, I’ve come to cherish being surrounded by children and those who care for them, supporting families in the intricate orchestration of their daily lives. I spent four and a half years running the administration of the Aurora School of Music, enveloped by my loves of music and management. With a fondness for logic puzzles and problem-solving, I look forward to relying on my gumption and prowess to round out the founding team of the Mastery School of Hawken. At home, I am known for my cooking and caretaking, and I have a hard time turning down the opportunity to host. On Sundays, you’ll find me with my partner, Phelan, completing NYTimes word puzzles while enjoying dim sum.

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Mindy graduated with a BA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, studying Psychology, Sociology, Music, and Entrepreneurship.

I believe that our character is a culmination of our experiences and how we’ve made sense of them, and I see my role as an educator to bring critical and creative thinking to this meaning-making, best-self-finding process. I’m passionate about cultivating meaningful experiences and living wholeheartedly, which might look like pausing to appreciate the sunset in the midst of an evening run or persevering alongside my students as we examine preconceived notions of what we–and our community–are capable of, what’s holding us back, and how we chart a course forward. I joined MSH twelve years into my journey as an educator, a journey that has taken me to expeditionary learning, the humanities classroom, and school leadership. As a member of the founding faculty, I continue my path of learning alongside students and embrace the challenging, silly, and beautiful moments all the same. I am a devoted family member, proud midwesterner, partner to a fellow educator, and an adventurer at heart.    

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Ashley earned BAs in Professional Writing and Anthropology from Michigan State University, an MA  in Education from Alliant International University, and is currently enrolled in a doctoral program in Education Leadership and Policy at Vanderbilt University.

Because architecture is the intersection of art and science, I believe it offers students a unique multidisciplinary lens to view, process, and understand the world around them. By understanding the design process as a problem-solving tool, I hope students are able to notice that they have agency in the world, are curious enough to question it, and feel empowered to redesign it. I am interested in understanding, experiencing, and creating spaces that reflect people’s diverse experiences and innovatively look to the future. I am a licensed architect and worked in an architecture firm for 8 years designing cultural and performing arts spaces. My career took a slight pivot to education as I became interested in how architecture and design could shape not only future architects and designers but future citizens and occupiers of space. A life long Clevelander, my husband and I live in the home we renovated in Ohio City and we enjoy walking to our great lake with our two young sons. 

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Katie earned a BA in Mathematics from the University of Virginia, a BS in Architecture from Kent State University, and a Masters of Architecture from the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative at Kent State University.

Take a deeper dive

We asked a few questions to get to know these folks a bit better…

Have you ever written a thesis or dissertation?
  • Yes: 58.4%
  • No: 41.7%
Do you play a musical instrument:
  • Yes: 75%
  • No: 25%
Favorite Season:
  • Summer: 41.7%
  • Fall: 33.3%
  • Winter: 16.7%
  • Spring: 8.3%
How many cats do you have?
  • 0 cats: 50%
  • 1 cats: 41.7%
  • 2 cats: 8.3%
How many dogs do you have?
  • 0 dogs: 58.3%
  • 1 dog: 41.7%
How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?
  • 0 cups: 16:7%
  • 1 cup: 41.7%
  • 2 cups: 8.3%
  • 3 cups: 16.7%
  • 4 cups: 8.3%
  • 5 cups: 8.3%
How many cups of tea do you drink a day?
  • 0 cups: 66.7%
  • 1 cup: 16.7%
  • 3 cups: 8.3%
  • 4 cups: 8.3%
iPhone or Android?
  • iPhone: 75%
  • Android: 25%
Have you ever had a job as a waiter or waitress?
  • Yes: 50%
  • No: 50%
Which Harry Potter House are you?
  • Ravenclaw: 33.3%
  • No idea: 33.3%
  • Slytherin: 16.7%
  • Hufflepuff: 8.3%
  • Gryffindor: 8.3%

To learn more about Hawken’s Healthy Restart Plan, click here!