Goodbyes and gratitude: departing faculty

May 30, 2023

Teachers can have the utmost impact on a student’s life. Sometimes so much so that a teacher leaving or retiring is a sad affair for both the student and the teacher leaving. This year, some valued teachers at SPA are wrapping up their tenure at this school. And as they all round out their time at SPA, it’s time for them to look back on what made their years here so special.

O’Loughlin steps back into semi-retirement

US math teacher Dan O’Loughlin has been teaching at SPA for 11 years and is now preparing to step back into a semi-retirement, where he still plans to teach a few courses part-time, but not at SPA. He also mentioned the possibility of some fall subbing at SPA, but other than that he is moving on. What he’ll miss most? His colleagues.

“I’ve developed some pretty close friendships with some colleagues here […] I’ll miss that,” he said. O’Loughlin appreciates his students’ work ethics and passion for learning as well. “We have students who are interested and motivated. And that’s what keeps me coming back every day.”
Teaching at SPA also gave him some new and surprising experiences, as he hadn’t taught high school in many years. While he was a bit apprehensive about the switch, O’Loughlin said that he ended up really liking it. “I was a college professor for going on 20 years,” O’Loughlin said. “ …I wasn’t sure how going back to high school was gonna be, but I really found I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed working with the students.”

Motta moves to an East Coast boarding school

US art teacher Stefanie Motta is also preparing for a move to the East Coast after seven years of teaching Photography and Video Arts at SPA. SPA gave Motta what she was looking for.

“I had never taught high school before when I came to SPA and knew I really wanted the community that comes along with a school like SPA. I wanted, beyond just my classroom, I wanted the advisory interactions with students, I wanted to sort of mentor students through their four years, and I’ve been able to do that with some of my students from my beginning level classes all the way up through the advanced levels where we’re hanging exhibitions.” she said.

SPA’s system of teaching helped Motta grow as both a professional and as a person.

“I think I have grown so much as a teacher in my seven years here,” Motta said. “… I think I’ve become a better teacher and a better community member just having opportunities to get involved in different ways.”

Motta will miss the spaces she had the chance to have access to. “We have an amazing art wing. It’s just an incredible facility. I have access to equipment and to a darkroom and to other things that I really enjoy being able to use and to be able to share with my students as well.”

She also mentioned the people around her. “That’s always kind of the most important part of any school community is the individuals.”

Dreher relocates closer to family

Another departing teacher is US history teacher Nan Dreher. Dreher came to SPA in 2010 and has been here ever since, except for a two-year period in London. After the end of the school year, she plans to move to the East Coast to be closer to her kids.

Over the years, Dreher has seen SPA from multiple perspectives.

“My daughter started here in seventh grade and my son in first grade so I’ve had a lot of years of parent experience as well as teacher experience,” she said. “I think it’s [SPA] impacted me a lot. […] I found this to be a really welcoming community. […] I’ve just always really appreciated the commitment to doing the best that can be done for the students.”

When thinking about what she would miss most, Dreher had to pause for a moment.

“That’s a really hard one. I’ll certainly miss some of my colleagues, many of whom I’ve worked with for more than 10 years now,” Dreher said. After a moment or two, she landed on a few specific aspects of her classes, including the history research paper. “I really like working one-on-one with students … over a period of time and watching those ideas develop. I’ll miss some of the specific activities and games that I do in some of my senior electives, […] so there’s just a lot.”

As these teachers wrap up their last month at SPA, it is important to remember the marks they have left on this community, no matter the subjects they taught. From the spaces they taught in to the people they taught with, these valued community members have a lot they’ll miss about SPA. However, looking back on their time here will give them happy memories that they’ll cherish forever.

Other departures also impact the community

  • Emily Barbee, US Counselor – leaves at the end of the year to enter private practice.
  • Ken Jaffe, Interim US Principal – returns to retirement after joining the community for a year.
  • Sue Scott, Technology – retired this spring after 27 years.
  • Crystal Vesperman, Math – ends time here after serving in a 1-year role.
  • Warren Weber, Facilities – retires after 40 years.
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