Second-Year-at-Barrack Teachers Speak Out

Updated: Sep 18

By Raphael Englander

School News Editor


The 2019-2020 school year was an unusual one. Sometimes, due to the not-so-great things that happened last year, we can forget the good things that did happen -- for example, the many wonderful new teachers who joined the Barrack community. It is interesting to get to know them better and find out how their first year went as we welcome the start of the 2020-2021 school year


Mr. Alexander Diehm, STEAM assistant:

  • How was your first year at Barrack? What is your favorite thing about teaching at the school? My first year was great! My favorite thing about teaching this year was getting to meet all of the students. 

  • Why did you become a teacher? What inspired you? I became a teacher because I was looking for something different when I graduated from college. I was inspired by past educators, who played a big role in my life, to teach before entering the engineering field.

  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time? I enjoy working on projects, playing my instrument, and spending time with my family.

  • Why did you choose to come to Barrack? What drew you to the community? What drew me to Barrack was the opportunities in the STEAM lab. I was excited to help build up the program and engage with students. 

  • What have you accomplished in your first year at Barrack? What do you hope to accomplish at Barrack in the future? It has been a great year of learning the ropes and how Barrack operates. I hope to continue to help students learn and grow during their time in school. 


Mr. Matthew Gormley, Math teacher:

  • How was your first year at Barrack? What is your favorite thing about teaching at the school? My first year at Barrack was absolutely incredible. My favorite thing about teaching at Barrack were my students and all of the student interactions that I had. 

  • Why did you become a teacher? What inspired you? I love to work with students and I love Math. My biggest inspiration was my 11th grade Calc teacher, Mr. Tinney!

  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time? I love to golf. I’m not very good but it’s a hobby that I picked up this summer. I also enjoy spending time with my dog Zues (yes I know it’s spelled weird, his dad was also Zues and it was also spelled that way. I couldn’t change it)

  • Why did you choose to come to Barrack? What drew you to the community? I met my wonderful department head, Sarah Strick. She supported me in a way that I’d never felt before. I visited Barrack one day and met with Mrs. Strick, Dr. [Darin] Katz [former Director of the Upper School], and Mrs. [Sharon] Levin [Head of School]; we took tours through the halls, met students, and I felt a warm sense in my heart that told me that this was the best place for me to be. 

  • What have you accomplished in your first year at Barrack? What do you hope to accomplish at Barrack in the future? I built a strong community in my classrooms. In the future I hope to teach all Barrack students at least once. I learned so much from every one of my students and I am eager to see what each of you will show me.


Mrs. Mari Kalman, Middle School Counselor:

  • How was your first year at Barrack? What is your favorite thing about teaching at the school? Due to COVID-19, it was a strange first year!  In the fall, I was getting acclimated -- to the schedule, the building, the online systems, and most importantly getting to know the middle schoolers.  As I was starting to get my feet under me, the school closed, and as a community, we made the transition to online learning.  My favorite thing about being at Barrack was watching how we came together to create an amazing distance learning program and kept improving it to make sure it fits the needs of our students.

  • Why did you become a teacher? What inspired you? After I graduated from college, I took a job working with 7th and 8th graders at a tiny K through 8 school outside Boston.  In that position, I had an opportunity to be an advisor to a small group of 8th graders, and I really enjoyed my one-on-one meetings with students.  That experience inspired me to pursue a career in school counseling.

  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time? I spend most of my time with my kids (Ezra is three and Molly is one) -- we like to walk to Narberth and watch the trains come in and out of the station, go to the pool, “vroom” toy cars, and read books. When I get “me” time, I like to lay on the couch and watch TV!

  • Why did you choose to come to Barrack? What drew you to the community? Prior to coming to Barrack, I spent four years as a counselor at a Catholic school.  I have nothing negative to say about that experience, but I am so happy to be part of a community that openly supports LGBTQ+ students.  Like all schools, we have room to grow when it comes to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, but the students and staff at Barrack are so thoughtful, passionate, and dedicated to always being better, I know we will make great strides to become an even more inclusive community for both our LGBTQ+ students and our students of color.

  • What have you accomplished in your first year at Barrack? What do you hope to accomplish at Barrack in the future? I’m really proud of the work that Mrs. [Amy] Grolnick [Upper School Guidance Counselor] and I did during distance learning to reach out to students, provide resources to parents, and make recommendations to the administrative team about the online schedule and trimester three grading policies that would support the mental health of our students and our teachers.  It’s hard to look too far into the future under the current circumstances, but I am excited to welcome 48 (could be more by the time this goes to press!) sixth-graders to Barrack and help support them as they not only transition to middle school, but to a hybrid learning model.  My mantra for the 2020-21 school year is to be “gentle with myself and gentle with others,” as we will inevitably have to be flexible with the changing conditions due to COVID-19.


Mrs. Samantha Miller, Science teacher:

  • How was your first year at Barrack? What is your favorite thing about teaching at the school? My first year at Barrack was a great experience.  My favorite thing about Barrack is the family-friendly community of teachers and students.

  • Why did you become a teacher? What inspired you? I decided to become a science teacher when I was in graduate school and working on a Gender Equity Grant from the National Science Foundation to increase girls’ interest in science during elementary school.  This was a fun and impactful experience! 

  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time? I love to walk/run and I love to antique/bargain hunt! I am a HUGE college football [fan] and can’t wait for the season to come! (Miami Hurricanes) 

  • Why did you choose to come to Barrack? What drew you to the community? My choice to come to Barrack was solidified after having met the Science Department.  It’s the best department on campus! 

  • What have you accomplished in your first year at Barrack? What do you hope to accomplish at Barrack in the future? I have been working on redesigning the middle school science curriculum to begin to align with the Next Generation Science Standards.  This is a large task that takes several years to complete. I plan to continue the work for the next few years!


Mrs. Dana Zachar, Science teacher:

  • How was your first year at Barrack? What is your favorite thing about teaching at the school? My first year at Barrack was probably up there as one of the most interesting years of my life. I immediately felt welcomed by everyone, and just as I really felt comfortable and into the swing of the year, was thrown a bit of a curveball… My favorite thing about teaching at the school is the amiability and enthusiasm of the students and the fact that I am able to think of creative things that I want to teach in science and then, I actually get to teach them!

  • Why did you become a teacher? What inspired you? I actually had many different jobs before becoming a teacher, and I would always find something wrong with every job. Oddly, I had a few opportunities to go back to school to be a teacher, but for some reason, I kept choosing a different path. Eventually, destiny caught up with me and I decided to become a teacher. My favorite part of working with kids is that they are honest and resilient. It continuously makes me reflect on what type of teacher and person I want to be. There is nothing more rewarding and inspiring when an honest and resilient student tells you they loved being in your class and learned so much.

  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time? This summer I bought an inflatable paddleboard, and I have been obsessed with finding lakes during my free time to paddle. I also love to read realistic fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy genres. The majority of my free time is usually devoted to my family. 

  • Why did you choose to come to Barrack? What drew you to the community? I chose the Barrack community because the community mirrors the same beliefs and values that I want to instill upon my own children. The best part about Barrack is that I am not just the science teacher, but I can proudly say to my students that I am Jewish and from Israel. 

  • What have you accomplished in your first year at Barrack? What do you hope to accomplish at Barrack in the future? I think together with Mrs. Miller, we were successfully able to have a brand new, fun, hands-on middle school science curriculum. I was super excited to take my 8th graders to iFLY for a physics and flying unit, but it was brought to a halt with COVID-19. I hope in the future we can continue that and many other out-of-the-classroom learning opportunities.


Mr. Michael Zimmerman, Core teacher:

  • How was your first year at Barrack? What is your favorite thing about teaching at the school? Joyous! I was an administrator for the last 15 of my 37 years as an educator. Returning to the classroom at a school where authentic student/teacher relationships grow in a prized content context (History and English, a.k.a. Core in my case) was the best.

  • Why did you become a teacher? What inspired you? My parents and a number of my teachers cared about, and responded to, the substance of my thinking, which formed me into a person who finds the shared life of the mind a most rewarding experience.

  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Listening to an eclectic mix of music.

  • Why did you choose to come to Barrack? What drew you to the community? I was drawn to a school that leads to the values of honor, courage, kindness, and community. People first, information second.

What have you accomplished in your first year at Barrack? What do you hope to accomplish at Barrack in the future? I learned so many things -- the location of the Beit Midrash, rabbis are young too, the American experiment is ongoing, students are marvelously true to themselves, and great stories well told change the people who read them. I look forward to learning more and teaching better with each successive year.

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