By: Danielle Keyes ’24
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.
Joining the Pine Crest community in sixth grade, Ben Weber ’23 took advantage of what Middle and Upper School had to offer. He served as a positive force in and out of the classroom through his intellectual curiosity, enthusiasm, and hardworking nature.
Madison Huang ’23 joined Pine Crest School as a freshman after attending science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) camp one summer.
“I was able to work in the Zimmerman Family iLab, with different teachers,” she said. “The opportunities and resources that were available made me want to be a student here.”
STEM continued capturing Madison’s attention as an Upper School student. As a freshman, she applied to join the three-year social entrepreneurship program.
Christian Geter ’23 joined Pine Crest School as a sixth grade student. Christian has been a student leader throughout his time in the Upper School, relying upon his quiet confidence and collaborative nature to represent his peers while working with School administrators.
Since joining Pine Crest School as a third grade student, Greer Udelson ’23 has been a standout student-musician. A singer in the chorus and musical performances, Greer also plays the flute in the band, which she joined in fourth grade.
By: Elani Kodner ’24
Fifteen (15) members from Pine Crest Upper School’s second-year social entrepreneurship program were invited to participate in the Global Problem-Solving Institute (GPSI) pilot program. The GPSI is a virtual innovation laboratory where high school students from across the globe collaborate to solve some of the world’s most challenging and complex problems.
The pilot program was offered to three schools from the United States and one each from South Korea, Japan, Turkey, India, and Kazakhstan. Students had the opportunity to work on solutions for one of two societal issues: Disabling Non-Communicable Diseases or Food Fixes and the Climate Crisis. During the 12-week program, students gained knowledge in existing subject areas by exploring methodologies of environmental science, economics, and the psychology of persuasion to analyze the problems and formulate solutions. Students worked individually and collaboratively with peer schools and university professors worldwide using the design thinking methodology.
“Working with an international cohort of the GPSI has exposed us all to perspectives from diverse cultures,” said Troy Noesser ’24. “Having the opportunity to study disease prevalence and mitigation with international students allowed us to explore ideas and solutions that fit within a global context.”
Students in the Disabling Disease track worked with Dr. David Gatchel, Clinical Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Gatchel also serves as Director of the Manufacturing and Design Engineering (MaDE) program at Segal Design Institute, inside the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University. Under his guidance, students mapped the biological, cultural, and behavioral factors contributing to the prevalence of noncommunicable and chronic diseases like cardiovascular illness, cancer, chronic respiratory pathophysiology, and diabetes. Students spent 12 weeks utilizing design thinking principles to develop a deeper understanding of core concepts in medical anthropology, psychology, neuroscience, and biomedical engineering to generate proposals to reduce the incidence of preventable diseases.
“Working within an international cohort pushed me to view global issues through a cross-cultural lens,” said Gabrielle Frei ’24. “Through the sessions, we researched medical recommendations from around the world to create a curriculum that educates young students about the dangers of antibiotic resistance. We encompassed various biases from different cultural and psychological frameworks in order to address global perspectives regarding the use of antibiotics.”
Students on the Food and Climate track worked alongside Dr. Leshui He, Associate Professor of Economics at Bates College. Together, they worked to map the food supply system and identify critical factors contributing to the problem. Their goal was to look at ways to alter consumption habits, reduce waste, and improve equitable access to food in an environmentally sustainable way.
They presented their research to industry leaders within the fields of economics, political science, and environmental science.
“I was able to deepen my understanding of climate change by analyzing the intersection between long-term shifts in temperature and weather patterns and food waste,” said Gimani Rose ’24. “Using an entrepreneurial mindset allowed me to better understand all stakeholder needs to propose innovative solutions to the problem of food waste.”
Although the pilot has ended, students can continue their research with professors and the global cohort. Several of them have visited Dr. Gatchell at Northwestern to learn more about biomechanical engineering and his innovation lab. The incoming juniors will begin a new program cohort in January 2024, including students from Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and El Salvador.
We are honored to shine a spotlight on the Chen family, who generously donated $1.5 million toward the construction of the Center for Teaching and Learning on the Pine Crest School Fort Lauderdale campus.
As a two-time Tony Award-nominated Broadway co-producer and practicing entertainment attorney, Class of 2010 graduate David Manella’s professional and personal lives revolve around theater. More than a decade after his high school graduation, David credits Pine Crest with sparking and nurturing his interest in this field.
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.”
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
After being forced to end the spring 2020 athletic season abruptly, Pine Crest Athletics began planning and focusing on student health and wellness for what became an unprecedented 2020-21 school year.
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.
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.