Fostering Connections: Meet Middle School Teacher Mrs. Debbie Gibson

Posted by Pine Crest School on May 6, 2024 at 1:34 PM

Fostering connections is what Middle School English Teacher Mrs. Debbie Gibson enjoys most about working students. 

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Topics: Faculty, Middle School, 2024

A Q&A With Middle School Math Teacher Ms. Stephanie Jean-Philippe

Posted by Pine Crest School on May 6, 2024 at 9:36 AM

By: Madison Rechter ’26

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Topics: Faculty, Middle School, Robotics, 2024

A Lifetime of Smiles: Shawna Wanland Retires from Pine Crest After 24 Years

Posted by Pine Crest School on August 2, 2023 at 4:20 PM

Any Pine Crest student who has matriculated through pre-kindergarten on the Boca Raton campus in the last 20 years would likely recognize the words “pre-k” and “Ms. Wanland” as synonymous, with many recalling her friendly nature, bright smile, and warm hugs. As a member of the spirited, experienced, and enthusiastic pre-kindergarten team on the Boca campus, Ms. Shawna Wanland has retired from Pine Crest School after 24 years of service. 

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Topics: Lower School, Faculty, 2023

Recognizing Pine Crest School Coach Eileen Pliske

Posted by Pine Crest School on July 17, 2023 at 1:40 PM

Since joining the Pine Crest School community in 2006, Coach Eileen Pliske, Middle School Athletic Director on the Fort Lauderdale campus, led the varsity girls lacrosse program to 13 Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) district championships and two regional championship titles. To speak only about the titles she has as a coach would diminish the impact she has had on student-athletes throughout her time here.

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Topics: Athletics, Faculty, 2023

Glen Pierson ’23H Retires from Pine Crest after 29 Years of Service

Posted by Pine Crest School on June 21, 2023 at 12:06 PM

Glen Pierson ’23H, Assistant Head of Upper School and Dean of Students will retire this summer from Pine Crest School after 29 years. GP, as he is affectionately known by the students, began his career at Pine Crest in the Upper School science department as a chemistry teacher, although teaching was not always on Mr. Pierson’s radar. 

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Topics: Upper School, Athletics, Alumni, Faculty, Academics, 2023

A Passionate Pursuit of Education

Posted by Pine Crest School on May 12, 2023 at 11:04 AM

By: Asha Gandreti ’25

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Topics: Upper School, Alumni, Faculty, 2023

Coach Chris Newbold Seizes An Opportunity

Posted by Pine Crest School on May 11, 2023 at 1:51 PM

By: Danielle Keyes ’24

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Topics: Athletics, Faculty, Middle School, 2023

Teaching with a Passion for Knowledge

Posted by Pine Crest School on May 5, 2023 at 9:39 AM

By: Sara Pearl Adler ’24

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Topics: Upper School, Faculty, Academics

Watching Pine Crest Students Grow, From the First Day to the Last: Lisa Weihe

Posted by Pine Crest School on June 1, 2022 at 12:59 PM

For 37 years, Mrs. Lisa Weihe has been driving the same route from home to Pine Crest School. A beloved pre-kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Weihe began her tenure when her eldest daughter started pre-kindergarten in 1985. 

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Topics: Lower School, Faculty, Pre-kindergarten, 2022

Mrs. Janice Reich: A Teaching Career in Service and Gratitude

Posted by Pine Crest School on June 1, 2022 at 10:19 AM

Mrs. Janice Reich may not have taken a traditional path into teaching third grade on Pine Crest’s Boca Raton campus, but it is one that is unique and marked by true dedication and service. Born, raised, and educated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mrs. Reich attended Temple University where she majored in accounting as an undergraduate.

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Topics: Lower School, Faculty, Academics, 2022

Mr. Kenneth Ashjian: Positivity In and Out of the Classroom

Posted by Pine Crest School on May 5, 2022 at 9:49 AM

By: Danielle Snyder ’23

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Topics: Faculty, Middle School, 2022

From the Newsroom to Classroom: Mrs. Jaimee Rashbaum

Posted by Pine Crest School on May 4, 2022 at 3:45 PM

By: Danielle Keyes ’24

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Topics: Upper School, Faculty, Academics, Digital Media Production, Social and Emotional Learning, 2022

A Passion for Learning and Leading: Mrs. Francine Savoca

Posted by Pine Crest School on May 4, 2022 at 9:44 AM

By: Lindsey Keyes ’24

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Topics: Lower School, Faculty, 2022

From Student to Teacher: Mrs. Michelle Santarelli ’89

Posted by Pine Crest School on April 28, 2022 at 10:24 PM

By: Courtney Klar ’22

As she walked across the stage to receive her Pine Crest School diploma, Mrs. Michelle (Smith) Santarelli ’89 never imagined that her career path would one day lead her back to her educational roots. From a fourth grade student in the Lower School to a biology teacher in the Upper School, and a parent of two Pine Crest “lifers,” John ’21 and Jaden ’23, Mrs. Santarelli now cannot envision herself anywhere else.

After Mrs. Santarelli graduated from Pine Crest in 1989, she attended the University of Virginia, where she received a degree in biology. Upon graduating from college, she began her career as a marketing director for an educational tutoring company. While she did well in the position, she quickly realized that her true passions were for biology and teaching. “I never thought I wanted to be a teacher,” said Mrs. Santarelli. “I worked in an educational environment, which is what attracted me to that company. But I missed biology and wanted to find a way to combine biology and my love of public speaking. That was the first time I decided to become a teacher. I knew the only place I wanted to do that was Pine Crest.”

On teaching biology, Mrs. Santarelli says “science is the one field that always captivated me—living organisms are so complex. What I love about biology is that there is so much we don't know. Biology is exciting, and there are discoveries being made every day!”

When speaking about what keeps her at Pine Crest, Mrs. Santarelli says the students and her colleagues. “What is great about Pine Crest students,” she said, “is that if you are excited about something, they are excited about it too. My students love learning just as much as I do.”

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Topics: Upper School, Alumni, Faculty, Science, 2022

A Conversation with Pine Crest Upper School Science Instructor Mr. Andrew Schwartz

Posted by Pine Crest School on April 28, 2022 at 3:53 PM

By: Spencer Davimos ’22
 
Mr. Andrew Schwartz has been a member of the Pine Crest Upper School Science Department since 2007. Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mr. Schwartz had not considered a career in education until serving as a teacher’s aid as a graduate student. Now, after 20 years of teaching, Mr. Schwartz can’t imagine doing anything else! 


I sat down with Mr. Schwartz to learn more about his teaching career and what he loves about being an educator at Pine Crest. 
 
Spencer Davimos ’22 (SD): Did you always want to be an educator? Did you have a career doing something different before you started teaching? 
 
Andrew Schwartz (AS): I never really thought about teaching until I spent time as a teacher’s aid in graduate school teaching a zoology lab. I was struck with how rewarding it was to help students learn the biological concepts I found so interesting. After three years of doing research for my master's degree, I realized I didn't have it in me for another four years of field and lab work to get my doctoral degree. When I moved to South Florida, I needed a job and took a position teaching seventh grade science. This was quite an adjustment and much different than teaching college students. I found this experience very challenging, and immediately I knew that if I was going to continue my teaching career, it needed to be with older, more independent students.
 
SD: What brought you to Pine Crest and how long have you been teaching here? 
 
AS: After my first teaching job, I moved to another local school where I taught high school biology. I stayed there for four years honing my craft and gaining valuable experience in the classroom. During that time, I was working at Pine Crest Summer Camp waiting for an opportunity to join the Pine Crest faculty. That opportunity came in 2007 and I jumped at it. The rest is history.
 
SD: Have you always enjoyed the sciences? What drew you to teaching biology as opposed to the other sciences? 
 
AS: It has always been biology for me. Going back as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated with the natural world. In my elementary school yearbook, I wrote that I wanted to be an underwater shark scientist. I never thought about teaching biology but I knew that biology had to be part of my life. I entered college as a pre-veterinary student but quickly realized that medicine wasn't for me. I enjoyed learning and doing research, but I just wasn't into medicine. I minored in chemistry and after graduating from college, I thought about working in a lab. I ultimately went to graduate school to earn a masters degree in biology.
 
SD: What do you love about science and biology in particular? 
 
AS: Science, especially biology, is amazing! Learning about how the universe works (physics, chemistry, biology) fascinates me. The quest for knowledge is never-ending; answers to questions only beget more questions. There is so much still to discover about the natural world and how organisms function, and I love that I get to be part of this discovery.
 
SD: What do you enjoy most about teaching high school students? 
 
AS: High school students are the perfect blend of child and adult. Pine Crest Upper School students, in particular, are well-read, well-traveled, and quite interesting. You can have an intelligent conversation with them about everything from sports and current affairs to genetic engineering and astronomy.
 
SD: What has been one of the highlights of teaching at Pine Crest? 
 
AS: I can't pinpoint one specific highlight, but working at Pine Crest has given me the freedom to grow as an educator and scientist that I'm sure I wouldn't have had at another school. We have so much autonomy in the classroom, support from administration and parents, and almost unlimited access to resources. Coupling that with smart, dedicated colleagues makes coming to work such a rewarding process. So many people are miserable in their jobs, hate getting up in the morning, and are just going through the motions. Since I started teaching at Pine Crest, I've never felt that way, and I'm so thankful for that.
 
SD: What are your hobbies beyond teaching in the classroom? 
 
AS: I like going to the gym, riding my bike, and running. Fitness and health are very important to me. I love fantasy football and all things Philadelphia. I enjoy cooking and reading “nerdy” science books. 
 
SD: What would students be surprised to learn about you? 
 
AS: I wrestled and did gymnastics as a kid (through high school) and can probably still do a couple tricks if my old body would let me.
 
SD: Do you sponsor any clubs at Pine Crest? What do you like about working with students in this capacity? 
 
AS: I was asked this year to sponsor the Middle Eastern Heritage Club. Not sure how I fit in, but I am happy to help in any way I can. I was also the sophomore class sponsor for years. As I said previously, our students are great, and being able to interact with them in different capacities (club sponsor, coach, etc.) helps to build strong relationships that are important to them and to me.
 
SD: What is the most gratifying part about being a teacher? What has been your proudest moment? 
 
AS: The most gratifying part about being a teacher is knowing that you are contributing something positive to society. Seeing the wonderful things our students accomplish in college and beyond and knowing that you've had a part in it, even if it was a very minor part, is extremely fulfilling.
 Upper School Science Instructors Megan O'Brien, Andrew Schwartz, and Michelle Santarelli ’89

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Topics: Upper School, Faculty, Academics, Science, 2022

Coach Dave Smith Reflects on 55 Years of Educating Students at Pine Crest School

Posted by Pine Crest School on June 10, 2021 at 12:20 PM

Coach Dave Smith may be the only faculty member at Pine Crest School who can say that he has worked under every School president and every Athletic Director in School history — including time spent on the original campus location on Broward Boulevard.

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Topics: Upper School, Athletics, Alumni, Faculty, Middle School, 2021

A Career Well-Lived with Pine Crest Coach Ruth Bresnahan

Posted by Pine Crest School on June 8, 2021 at 1:29 PM

Coach Ruth Bresnahan, more affectionately known as “Coach B” around campus, has been a fixture of Pine Crest School athletics since 1988. However, her start at Pine Crest was actually in 1975 when she began working at Pine Crest Summer, known then as Pine Crest Day Camp.

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Topics: Upper School, Athletics, Alumni, Faculty, Middle School, 2021

Motivating Through Math: Ms. Maria Marcello's Passion for Teaching

Posted by Pine Crest School on May 5, 2021 at 11:34 AM

By: Courtney Klar ’22

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Topics: Faculty, Middle School, 2021

Soundtrack of an Educator: A Q&A with Choral Director Mr. Michael Testa

Posted by Pine Crest School on May 5, 2021 at 10:23 AM

By: Sabrina Kreiss ’21

Originally from Vineland, New Jersey, Pine Crest School Choral Director Mr. Michael Testa moved to Florida in 2001 to work with the Florida Grand Opera.

During that time, a former faculty member introduced him to Pine Crest where he became a member of the Fine Arts faculty in 2005. Now, almost 20 years later, Mr. Testa oversees and teaches chorus for students in the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools on Pine Crest’s Fort Lauderdale campus, in addition to Advanced Placement (AP) Music Theory.


After graduating from Rowan University with his bachelor of arts in music education, Mr. Testa began performing all over the United States as an opera singer.

Mr. Testa began graduate school at West Chester University shortly after earning his bachelor’s degree. There, he studied music performance. Feeling drawn to education, he began teaching extracurricular classes in music throughout his collegiate studies. He landed his first teaching job at a K-8 public school while studying for his master’s degree.

I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Testa to learn more about his career at Pine Crest and his passion for music and singing.

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Topics: Student Life, Faculty, Fine Arts, Music, 2021

Barbara Becker: Teacher, Parent, and Beloved Member of the Pine Crest Community for 25 Years

Posted by Pine Crest School on May 3, 2021 at 11:42 AM

Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Barbara Becker has been a valued member of the Pine Crest community since her eldest child walked on campus more than 25 years ago. 

 

She served as a parents’ association volunteer for many years before joining the Fort Lauderdale campus Lower School faculty in January 2007 as Mrs. Patty Schimpf’s teacher II in pre-kindergarten. 

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Topics: Lower School, Faculty, 2021