Our Faculty & Board

Our Faculty & Board

Meet our Faculty & Staff!

Our teaching staff is the cornerstone of our school and they are fully supported by an involved administration, a friendly support staff, and a technology guru.

Our faculty are talented, experienced and have a deep commitment to independent education. They cultivate a learning environment that’s challenging, supportive, and joyful. Many of our teachers hold advanced degrees in their subject areas and participate in ongoing professional development. They encourage students to be curious, think deeply, and pursue ideas and knowledge.

At Poughkeepsie Day School, our teachers design curriculum with their students in mind, providing many different pathways into a rich, integrated learning experience. They encourage their students, getting to know each child individually and offer additional help as needed. With active learning environments, an interdisciplinary focus and a strong advisory program, our teachers have the tools they need to give their students an exceptional education.

Christian Enrique Sauer (he, him) – Spanish Teacher and Director of After School & Enrichment Program.
Christian comes to Poughkeepsie Day School from Andres Bello School in the city of Girardot, Colombia, where he worked for 6 years as a Spanish language teacher. In that time, Christian taught grades three, four, and five as a head teacher. At Andres Bello, he was also the coordinator of extracurricular activities. Christian gained additional experience working in other schools such as Rafael Pombo and Alejandrito Corazón, both located in Colombia. As a university student completed two cultural exchanges abroad, where he gained experience working with children from all over the world. Christian holds a degree in Humanities with emphasis in Spanish language from the University of Cundinamarca as well as a specialization in children’s pedagogy from the Escuela Normal Superior de Girardot.

Spiro Gouras (he, him) – Head of School. Spiro comes to Poughkeepsie Day School from Trevor Day School in New York City where he was a Third Grade Head Teacher as well as Curriculum Coordinator of English Language Arts. He was also a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and facilitated his Division’s White Employees for Racial Equity (WERE) group. As part of the group that recreated our school’s Mission and DEIJ statements, Spiro is committed to making sure that students and families at PDS have an earnest sense of feeling like they belong. Spiro has also taught at a number of other schools including La Scuola D’Italia in New York City and St. Mary Magdalen Primary School in Brighton, England. He has a BA in Communications from SUNY New Paltz and an MSEd in Literacy Education from Hunter College. Spiro is currently working towards a Master of Education (EdM) in Progressive School Leadership at Bank Street College.

Stephen Haff (he, him) – Upper School Humanities and World Language Teacher. Stephen comes to PDS from Still Waters in a Storm, a free one-room school for immigrant children of all ages in Bushwick, Brooklyn, which he founded in 2007. He has also taught English, Latin, Mathematics, and Theater for more than 25 years at elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges in New York City, Vermont, and Canada. He earned his Masters in Theater at Yale University. He has extensive experience as a theater educator and he used to make his living directing plays Off-Broadway, writing for several publications including The Village Voice. While at Still Waters he directed the Kid Quixote project, an original, collective translation, and adaptation of the novel “Don Quixote” as musical theater. At Bushwick High School in Brooklyn, he co-founded Real People Theater (RPT) with his students. His most passionate academic love is for language, and he also takes pleasure in playing baseball and the violin. Stephen has three children with his wife, picture book author Tina Schneider.

Andrea Istel (she, her) – PreK/Kindergarten Teacher. Andrea has worked as a teacher for many years in a variety of school settings. She has taught PreK, Kindergarten, and Grade 4, has worked in both private and public schools in New York City, Westchester, and currently in the Hudson Valley. In addition, as a program coordinator for garden education programs for students in Kindergarten – Grade 6, Andrea, most recently, used her love of nature, her teaching knowledge and curriculum experience to grow the program. She has a passion for teaching, garden education, writing curriculum, cooking, baking, and tutoring students in reading and writing. Andrea holds an MA in Curriculum and Teaching from Teacher’s College Columbia University and is a New York State certified teacher in Grades N – 6.

Lara Koopmans-Hiller (she, her) – 3rd and 4th Grade Teacher. Lara has more than seven years of experience in the classroom, as both a lead teacher and an assistant teacher. Her undergraduate degree is in Art History, and she loves challenging children to be creative in the classroom. Prior to coming to PDS, she taught Grade 4 at the French American School in New York and Grade 6 ELA and Social Studies for the Torah School of Greater Washington. She was also a Kindergarten Assistant at the United National International School. She recently pursued professional development in the Writing Revolution (Hochman Method) and has taught word study based on Preventing Academic Failure (PAF).

She graduated summa cum laude in 2019 with a Master’s Degree in Childhood Special Education and a concentration in General Education from Concordia College, and holds a certificate in Students with Disabilities 1-6. She also was a recipient of a l’ambassade de France award to teach English in Ajaccio, Corsica.

Ken McGloin (he, him) – PreK – 12 Music Teacher, Adjunct Music Coordinator. Ken is returning to PDS and looks forward to working with music students to help them reach their goals and to achieve their full potential as young musicians. Ken has a Bachelor of Science from SUNY New Paltz. He is currently a working musician who performs and does workshops throughout the United States. His experience includes adjunct teaching at SUNY New Paltz and Suffolk Community College. He also started a ukulele program at High Meadow School. Ken is currently teaching private lessons in guitar, bass, and ukulele and leads ensembles at both HMS and PDS.

Lisa McVey (she, her) – Health & Wellness, Movement, After-School Sports/Athletics, and Librarian. Lisa returns to PDS where she taught physical education and movement and coached modified soccer, modified basketball, varsity volleyball, and varsity softball. She joined the school in 1992 as a Physical Education teacher and coach. In 2014, she became the Athletic and Wellness Director. In the upcoming school year, she is looking forward to serving in many different capacities including teaching movement, serving as the Lower School Librarian, supervising after-school intramural sports, and of course running the annual ski trips! Lisa graduated from Spackenkill High School and did her undergraduate work at SUNY Cortland and has a graduate degree in History. She is dual certified to teach K-12 Physical Education as well as 7-9 Social Studies. Lisa enjoys reading, biking, and hiking with her dogs. She is also an avid Yankees fan and sings and competes with the Capitaland Chorus of Albany.

Tammy Reilly (she, her)  – Director of Admissions and Special Projects, and Director of College Counseling. Tammy has worked full-time at PDS since 2002. She is the parent of Alum Ashlee Reilly ’07. Prior to that, she worked at Vassar College in the office of Development for Leadership Gifts. Tammy has also devoted much of her time to volunteer work at PDS as well as at NYSAIS, the New Paltz Ballet Theater where she served as President of the Board, and the Milton Elementary School PTA where she was Co-President. Tammy and her husband, Leo, spend a lot of time with their family and cherish any time they can get to a beach.  She also loves to read, swim, tend to her plants and laugh with friends. 

Shira Teich (she, her) – Upper School Math and Science Teacher & Faculty Belonging, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (BEDI) Representative. Shira has more than a decade of experience teaching chemistry, biology, forensics, and earth science to high school students in both private and public school settings. She holds a Masters of Education in Science Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University and is a member of the National Science Teachers Association, National Education Association, and American Chemical Society. Her goal is to facilitate learning, exploration, enthusiasm, and mastery of science at PDS! Shira has also coached field hockey and has extensive experience in facilitating the creation of Jewish studies curriculum and programs.

Amanda Thorndike (she, her) – 1st and 2nd Grade Teacher. Amanda comes to Poughkeepsie Day School from Berkeley Hall School, a progressive independent school located in Los Angeles, where she was the Grade 1 Lead Teacher. Amanda is a native New Yorker who is thrilled to return home to continue her journey as an educator in the Mid-Hudson Valley. She holds her BA in Elementary Education and Sociology & Anthropology from Principia College. Over her eleven years in education, she has worked in many different capacities, supporting students and teachers in a variety of settings, including literacy coaching. For the majority of her career, she was a classroom teacher in the primary grades. Her number one goal and priority in teaching is to develop motivated, well-rounded individuals who embrace a growth mindset through a balanced learning environment. In her spare time, she enjoys playing strategy-based board games, reading, hiking, and spending quality time with her family and friends.

Michelle Tommasi (she, her) – Art Teacher. Michelle has taught art in the New York City, New Paltz, and the Kingston School Districts, and most recently comes to PDS from the French American School of New York, an international bilingual school where she was the Lower School Visual Art teacher for Grades 1-5. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Sculpture from The School of Visual Arts in New York City, has extensive experience in digital and live art production, holistic wellness, and is most proud of the fact that she comes from a long line of Italian Marble sculptors and artisans stemming back generations. Michelle is an exhibiting visual artist and, since moving to the Hudson Valley over 20 years ago, has initiated many community based art projects, including curating art exhibits, co-founding Hudson Valley Movement, a performative dance collective, and is a founding member of Hudson Valley BRAWL, a tongue and cheek all female theatrical fundraising initiative benefiting at risk women and children. Michelle is also an advanced Swing Dancer and has studied West African Dance for 10 years. Prior to moving to the Hudson Valley from NYC in 2003, she was a creative project manager in the media communications and advertising world. Michelle now lives in New Paltz and when not teaching she can be found studying nature and native indigenous philosophy, at the dog park with her Mexican Hairless Chi-Weenie mix rescue Frankie, or driving around her teenage son.

Barbara Wood (she, her) – Director of Operations. Barbara is a valued and respected member of the PDS community who has been a part of the school for 45 years. She first attended PDS as a student, graduating in 1978. After studying math, psychology, and education at Cornell University, she joined the PDS faculty where she made a lasting impact in many areas. Barbara taught math and later became the math department chair for all grades, overseeing curriculum development and educational practices. She also made significant contributions to other classes as well, working collaboratively to design interdisciplinary courses in grades 5 through 12 and developing and running a swimming program at PDS for students in Pre-K through 12th grade. In addition, Barbara took on administrative responsibilities outside of the classroom as the school scheduler, combining her deep knowledge of PDS along with a creative and innovative approach to design, develop, and implement original and effective uses of time, space, resources, and interdisciplinary curricula. Most significantly, throughout her tenure, she shared her wisdom as both an advisor to students and a mentor to other teachers. Barbara and her sons Julian, age 15, and Josiah, age 11, live in the town of Poughkeepsie.

Board of Trustees

The PDS Board of Trustees are a group of highly dedicated individuals with a plethora of expertise. They are committed to the success of the school and its future.

Victoria Alexander (she, her) – PhD candidate, University of Maryland College of Higher Education. Victoria is a public speaker, PhD student, and third-generation educator focused on racial and social justice. Victoria’s work centers anti-racist pedagogy, critical consciousness building, and the liberation of Black people and other people of color. Victoria’s goal is to empower and equip others to challenge myths regarding the historical and present-day distributions of power, investigate the role of racism and anti-racism in social, professional, and educational spaces, and empower people to analyze their own social identities and positions within systems of power.
Victoria was born in the city of Poughkeepsie, New York, and later moved to and grew up in Beacon, New York. Victoria graduated from Beacon High School, earned her BA from Northeastern University, earned her Masters in Education from the University of Southern California, and is currently earning her PhD in Higher Education & Student Affairs at the University of Maryland.

Jason Berry (he, him) – Alumnus, 1993. Jason is a financial futures trader by profession and runs a 50 person trading firm with offices in Ireland, Croatia, and individuals trading in NY and Spain. His experience is in managing the firm and its traders, trading the financial markets and most relevant to PDS, working with banks. For community work, Jason was a board member of Make a Wish Ireland for 6 years on the finance committee. He also served as a board member of Educo: which funds and builds schools in India since 2007. Currently he is a volunteer. He also volunteers at Dom Maestral, a local children’s home, raising money for the home, playing with 3-7 year olds and big brother to two teenagers from the home. Jason has an MBA from Clark University, specializing in finance, BA in Russian Studies and Political science and was in the PDS Class of ’93. He has frequently supported the school through fundraising and donations over the years. Jason speaks French, Croatian, Spanish, Russian. He has lived and worked in Ireland, UK, Russia, and Croatia and has been married for 5 years with two boys, ages 4 and 2.

Matthew Buccelli (he, him) – Alumnus, 2006. A PDS “lifer”, Matt attended the school from PreK through grade 12, graduating in 2006. Matt earned a BA in History from Georgetown University in 2011 and a Master in Management in 2016 from the Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands. In his professional life, Matt works as a project manager for PayU, a European financial technology company focused on e-commerce payments and financial inclusion in emerging markets. He has a longstanding involvement in the educational and nonprofit sphere, having served as one of 20 student coordinators of a large after-school tutoring program in Washington, DC during his time at Georgetown and volunteered for 2 years in the DC nonprofit Brainfood, which teaches cooking skills to teenagers. More recently, from 2017-2019 Matt served as a part of the leadership team for the social learning platform TeachSurfing and from 2017-2020 ran a successful history bike tour in partnership with a local youth program in Berlin, Germany. Matt resides with his wife and young children in Berlin.

Andrew Hoover (he, him) – Regional Education Officer in the Office of Overseas Schools, U.S. Department of State. Andrew taught upper school social studies at PDS from 1988-1992. In 2022, he joined the U.S. Department of State as the Regional Education Officer for the East Asia & Pacific region in the Office of Overseas Schools. Between PDS and the State Department, Andrew served as the Head of School at the American International School Chennai (India), as the founding Middle School Principal at the American School of Bombay, and as a teacher at the American School in Japan. Andrew’s first overseas work experience was with the Peace Corps in the Republic of Niger from 1985-1987. With over 33 years of working in schools, Andrew has pursued his passions for creating supportive and challenging learning cultures for all students, and for systems thinking, strategic planning, and service/experiential learning. He credits PDS with instilling in him the progressive educational values that have guided his work over nearly three decades. Andrew lives in Washington, DC and Oregon with his wife Kay Clarke, who also taught at PDS from 1989-1992. His children both attended overseas international schools, universities in the U.S., and are now thriving as third culture adults in the United States.

Erik Huestis, Board Chair (he, him) – Alumnus, 1999. Erik attended PDS from grades 6 through 12, graduating in 1999. Erik has a BA in computer science from Cornell University and a JD from Fordham Law School. In his professional life, Erik represents technology companies and research universities in intellectual property matters with a focus on patent prosecution. Erik’s recent focus includes artificial intelligence in the genomics and medical imaging space, cryptography, quantum computing, and neuromorphic computing. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Erik worked at several startup companies in the peer-to-peer and mobile software spaces.

Kai Lord-Farmer, Board Secretary (he, him) – Alumnus, 2006. Kai currently works as a Climate Change Specialist for a city planning consulting firm in Sacramento, CA. In this position, he works with cities and counties across California to develop climate action plans, which serve as the jurisdiction’s comprehensive strategy to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the short- and long-term impacts of climate change. Relevant for the PDS Board position, this work includes developing strategic planning documents for cities that include well-researched and practical strategies, concise and achievable timelines, sustainable funding mechanisms, and a clear vision to achieve long term success. In 2017, Kai worked closely with Elizabeth Vinogradov as well as other PDS parents, students, alumni, and staff to develop and host the Hudson Valley Climate Summit, a mini-conference to discuss and support solutions to climate change in the Hudson Valley. Kai is a current Board member for Sacramento Splash, a science education non-profit focused on developing and teaching an outdoor science curriculum for middle and elementary schoolers in the Sacramento region. As a board member, Kai helps with ensuring the financial sustainability of the organization, helps develop and guide the organizations’ strategic vision, supports fundraising, and is helping to develop middle school climate change curriculum. Kai also serves on several steering committees for the Sacramento Valley Chapter of the American Planning Association. This work involves fundraising, hosting events, awarding scholarships, and developing educational programming for the Sacramento community. Anecdotally, Kai also attended, worked for, and has a mother who currently works for the Woodstock Day School and is very familiar with the benefits as well as issues often faced by K-12 private schools. Kai holds a BA in Anthropology from Purchase College and a Masters in City and Regional Planning and a MS in Transportation Engineering from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.

Dr. Adrian Manuel (he, him) – Ed.D and Education Consultant. Dr. Adrian C. Manuel is a PDS parent and accomplished educational leader. With over 23 years of experience, he has served school communities as an educator, middle school and high school principal, Head of School of a boarding school in Washington DC, and a Superintendent in California. Dr. Manuel recently returned to the Hudson Valley to lead a charter school in Queens, New York, and founded a non-profit organization focused on redesigning and launching new high schools that emphasize critical thinking, creativity, global citizenship skills, and emergent technologies such as AI, media design, and biotechnology. As a consultant, Dr. Manuel works with school leaders and organizations to enhance systems, leadership, and program outcomes.

Born and raised in Kingston, New York, Dr. Manuel currently resides in Wappingers Falls and is a proud parent of a Poughkeepsie Day School student. He holds an Ed.D in Educational and Organizational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Science in Public Administration from Baruch College, a Master of Arts in Secondary Education from Lehman College, and a Bachelor’s degree in History from New York University.

Samantha Melo (she, her) – Alumnus, 2002. Born in New York, Samantha began her dance training at the age of five with Roya Curie, former prima ballerina of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. After Curie’s passing, Samantha continued her studies with Peter and Lisa Newman of New York City Ballet and Valerie Feit of Alvin Ailey. Throughout her childhood Samantha was accepted to and attended many summer intensives such as the Joffrey Ballet School, Alvin Ailey, and the American Academy of Ballet. In 2002, Samantha was accepted into and attended the University of Hartford’s Hartt Conservatory division on scholarship, under the direction of Peggy Lyman. In 2004, she was awarded a scholarship to attend Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts where she received her BA in Dance Performance and Dance Pedagogy in 2006. Upon Graduation, Samantha became a faculty member for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Pittsburgh Youth Ballet and began her professional dancing career with Bodiography Contemporary Ballet. Her dancing quickly took her out to Los Angeles, where she danced principal roles with companies such as California Contemporary Ballet, Creations Dance Theatre, Media City Ballet, and Louise Reichlan’s Los Angeles Choreographers and Dancers. Samantha was also chosen to represent both Trio and Bloch talent agencies where she booked many jobs in the entertainment business. As for teaching, Samantha taught for many different prestigious studios throughout Los Angeles as well as for the LA Unified School District and many private schools. In 2011, Samantha returned to Pittsburgh where she opened The Pennsylvania Academy of Dance and accumulated over 200 students just within the first year. In 2016, she opened up a second location in Pittsburgh to expand her business which continues to grow and expand. Today, Samantha resides back in Los Angeles where she has opened another studio, The Dance Conservatory of Los Angeles. She also teaches at the prestigious Debbie Allen Dance Academy and is a private instructor to many celebrities in the industry.

Max Owen-Dunow (he, him) – Alumnus, 2011. Max, along with his twin sister Maddy, attended PDS from grades 4-12, graduating in 2011. Max is a speechwriter and executive communications professional, having led communications and operations for impact-oriented executives from a Fortune 20 CEO, to a prominent civil rights lawyer, to a citywide elected official in New York City. He also previously worked at Turnaround for Children, a non-profit organization focused on whole-child education. Max holds a BA in Government and French from Wesleyan University, where he also volunteers conducting alumni interviews. He and his wife Emily currently split their time between Brooklyn and Hyde Park, New York.

Dr. Kimberly Williams Brown, PhD (she, her) –  Assistant Professor Of Education, Vassar College. Kimberly is the co-founder and director of the Intergroup Dialogue Collective, a non-profit that uses intergroup dialogue praxis to engage in critical conversations about race and racism in schools and communities. She is an assistant professor at Vassar College in Education, Africana Studies and Women’s Studies. She holds a Ph.D. and a certificate of Advanced Study from Syracuse University in Cultural Foundations of Education and Women and Gender Studies. Her scholarship sits at the intersection of race, gender, and migration. She has co-written two books, “Rise for Racial Justice: How to Talk About Race with Schools and Communities” with Colette Cann and Meredith Madden (October, 2022, TC press) and “Say, Listen: Writing as CareBy the Black | Indigenous 100s Collective (October, 2023, new press).
Her forthcoming solo manuscript, Maroon Pedagogies: What Afro-Caribbean Women Teachers Tell us About Race, Representation and Resistance, examines the work and life of Caribbean Black teachers in contemporary U.S. educational spaces. The book addresses the neoliberal recruitment practices of school districts and independent recruitment agencies to import teachers into “hard to staff” school districts from developing countries as well as the gendered racializations of women from “the third world.” The book makes an intervention into what we know about transnational Black feminist epistemologies, the push to recruit and retain more BIPOC teachers in schools and addresses the racist rhetoric and practices invoked by the “anti-woke” agenda.
In addition to her research, Dr. Williams Brown is invested in cultivating collaborative black and indigenous feminist praxis to expand what is possible for black and indigenous liberation. She is a member of the Black | Indigenous 100s Collective. She is an active member of her church community – Faith Apostolic Ministries.