Innovation Lab welcomes another year as a program that offers rigor, choice, and real world connections to our students.
As many of you already know, Christina Shaw, former Humanities teacher and program associate of Innovation Lab, will now serve GHS as the interim Cantor House administrator. She will still be involved in our program as the administrator representing InLab at the high school.
Assuming the role of program associate is Courtney Hawes. She will continue teaching English as part of our Humanities faculty.
Courtney Hawes: English, Humanities 9; Humanities 11; Design Studio 11
Courtney Hawes is a twenty-three year veteran of teaching, both in the United States and Europe. After twelve years teaching in Connecticut, she embarked on the adventure of teaching and administration abroad, first in Switzerland and then in England. Six years later, she returned and became a founding teacher for Innovation Lab at Greenwich High School.
Courtney earned her B.S. in Secondary English Education and her M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Connecticut. She was the Greenwich Teacher of the Year in 2003, a former board member of the CCTE, a State of Connecticut Mentor, Coach, and Assessor for the BEST program, a National Writing Project Fellow and CFG Trainer and Coach. While she has taught every grade level from 6-12, she cites her work with Innovation Lab as the most exciting endeavor of her professional career. With Innovation Lab, she has presented at High Tech High Deeper Learning conferences and for NEASC.
We are thrilled to introduce Kathy Mendez as our newest faculty member. She is a distinguished veteran teacher of the Social Studies department and will now work with Courtney Hawes as part of the Humanities team.
Kathy Mendez: Social Studies, Humanities 9
I am honored to be joining the Innovation Lab team this fall as the social studies cohort for the inaugural 9th grade Humanities class with the amazing Ms. Hawes as my English partner. Intellectually curious from an early age, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. As a Michigan native and lifelong Cubs fan, I could often be found playing “school” with my little brother; we would do science experiments after watching Mr. Wizard’s World and act out scenes from my favorites films, musicals, and books like Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, and The Princess Bride. I also loved to listen to stories from my grandfather, who was a D-Day veteran at Omaha Beach. This is what shaped my love of the arts, history, philosophy, and fascination with human behavior, storytelling, and ingenuity. A few years after meeting my soulmate in the University of Michigan Marching Band (Go Blue!) and graduating with a B.A. in History and minor in Psychology, my husband and I moved to Connecticut, where I was fortunate enough to find this dream job working at Greenwich High School. Over the past eleven years, I have had the privilege to teach Global Studies, Civics, and Advanced Placement Psychology. Honest to goodness, I feel like I’ve won the lottery by getting to work and learn alongside such talented, intelligent, and creative women and men each day. I’m excited to see our students flourish in InLab as they investigate, innovate, collaborate, and change the world!
Below you will find short statements about the rest of our current Innovation Lab faculty.
Brian Walach: Math, STEM 11 and Design Studio 12
Brian Walach is mathematics and STEM teacher at Greenwich High School. He has taught a variety of math classes for the past seven years and is a founding member of GHS’ Innovation Lab, launched in 2014. Since then, Brian has co-taught and co-planned interdisciplinary STEM courses with science teachers, including Environmental Chemistry/Algebra 2 and Precalculus/Physics. His favorite project was building t-shirt cannons with students to study vectors, parametric equations, quadratics, and the physics of projectile motion.
Brian earned undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and History and a Master of Arts and Teaching at Quinnipiac University (‘10, ‘11). He holds a dual-certification in math and history and is pursuing his Sixth-Year certificate with a cohort of Greenwich teachers through Mercy College. Brian’s most valuable professional development includes conferences at High Tech High School in San Diego, CA and two visits to NCTM yearly meetings. An avid international traveler, he has long-term goals of visiting at least one new country per year and earning a private pilot license.
Michael Belanger: Social Studies, Humanities 10; Design Studio 9 and 12
Michael Belanger has taught social studies at Greenwich High School for eight years. He was one of five teachers chosen to plan the pilot year of Innovation Lab and continues to teach Humanities in the program. He has visited innovative schools all around the country, including High Tech High in San Diego and the iSchool in New York City. As part of Innovation Lab, he has participated in the design of multiple projects that focus on building choice and purpose into a traditional American history curriculum, including muckraker documentaries to teach the changes of Progressive Era, modernist art to illustrate the conflicts of 1920s, and children’s books as a vehicle to explore the seismic shifts of the 1960s.
Michael has a BA in History from Fordham University, an MS in Secondary Education from University of Bridgeport, and an MA in American Studies from Fairfield University. Because he loves school so much, he is currently finishing up his MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University. His debut novel, The History of Jane Doe, is being published in June 2018 by Dial Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Jessica von Brachel: English 10 Humanities; Design Studio 9 and 10
Before I found my way into the best job I’ve ever held, I worked in a variety of fields in which the power of language and storytelling drove my work. What I lacked was a sense of community. Recognizing what I enjoyed doing and what I wanted to add to it led me, finally, to teaching high school English. Here at GHS I’ve had the opportunity to teach ninth grade English, Short Fiction, Film as Literature, and AP Language and Composition. It has been the most challenging and fulfilling work of my life. I am thrilled to be a member of Innovation Lab as a partner of Mr. Belanger in Humanities, and a Design Studio instructor for both the ninth and tenth grades. I enjoy sharing my love of language, storytelling, and community with our learners and hearing what it is that drives and excites them. I look forward to finding meaning in our learning and to sharing our discoveries with the world outside of the classroom.
Lauren Moskovitz: Math, 10 STEM and Design Studio 10
I am super excited to be a part of the Innovation Lab this year. I have been teaching mathematics at GHS for 15 years. Over these years I have been a part of several houses, working with a diverse and talented team of teachers. I have always strongly believed, from the very beginning days of my teaching career, that math and science shouldn’t be taught in isolation. Without math how would we communicate the wonders of science? Without science how would we continue to push the limits of mathematics? STEM education connects our students worlds to their learning, which ultimately fosters deeper understandings. This strong connection breeds ingenuity. I am inspired to have this tremendous opportunity to collaborate with the Innovation Lab Team to bring science and math alive to my students.
Ben Gawle: Physics STEM 11; STEM 10; Design Studio 11
When I graduated from Greenwich High School in 2005 I would not have believed I’d be returning to teach physics within the next decade (and neither would my physics teachers). I graduated from UConn with a degree in civil engineering, and after earning my certification, I went on to work at a small structural and forensic engineering firm in the city. Though climbing skyscrapers was fun, my real passion has always been for teaching and learning about science! I come from a family of mostly Connecticut teachers, so I guess you could say it’s in my blood.
While working at schools in New Canaan, I earned a masters in physics education, and eventually returned home to Greenwich High School in 2016. It has been (and will continue to be) a great pleasure working with the team of professionals in the GHS Science Department, but I am also tremendously glad for this opportunity to branch out to the Innovation Lab! I look forward to exploring new ideas and inventing new ways to communicate my passion for science to InLab students this year and hopefully for many years to come.
Joseph Baske: Social Studies, Social Science Research 12; Humanities 11
I’m so excited to have the opportunity to help guide the InLab seniors in their social science research class this coming year. In my 20+ years at GHS, I’ve taught everything from AP Euro and US history to Economics to ESL freshmen, but always with an emphasis on project-based learning. I believe if my students leave with more questions than answers, I’ve done the my job.
Outside the classroom, I passionately play and follow basketball, read history, and love to learn with my wonderful family who are all in the Greenwich schools.
– movies: Usual Suspects, Lego Movie
– songs: Dance Off, and Stop the World & Melt with You
– books: Infinite Jest, Cultural Amnesia, Thinking Fast Thinking Slow, and From Dawn to Decadence
– basketball moves: The Dirk and the Up & Under
– food: steak and anything free or eaten with good friends tends to be delicious
I look forward to teaching and learning with InLab for many years to come.
Ric Felten: Physics/Chemistry, Science Research 12
I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from SUNY at Buffalo and a master’s degree in chemistry from Saint Joseph College. I worked as a senior methods development chemist for ten years. After a career as industrial chemist, I founded a laboratory specializing in scanning electron microscopy as well as x-ray and infrared spectroscopy. I have taught chemistry and physics for the past ten years, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to apply my past experiences to the senior research being performed in the Innovation Lab.