Faculty-staff retirements and departures

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Beginning School

Joanne Dreier is retiring after teaching kindergarten in the Beehive for 26 years. A master teacher, Joanne has touched the lives of many children who have left her presence feeling valued and capable. We will miss Joanne’s easy laugh, brilliant insights about children, and infectious love of learning. She looks forward to open-ended time with her husband, Sam, daughter, Lisbeth ’99, and extended family and friends.

We also say goodbye to preschool teaching assistant Avni Patel and kindergarten teaching assistant Colleen Connolly, with thanks for guiding and encouraging our students. We wish Avni great happiness on the occasion of her summer wedding and wish Colleen the best of luck on her job search as a teacher.

Lower School

Susan Lazareck is retiring after a 34-year teaching career. She has taught 1st and 3rd grades for the past 18 years at Catlin Gabel. She will be remembered for creating innovative curriculum and for holding a high standard of expectation for her students. She plans to pursue volunteer work next year after spending two weeks on Maui.

Jonathan Weedman has served as the Beginning and Lower School counselor for the past four years. We are grateful for his effective work with students, parents, and colleagues. His focus on resilience has influenced how we think about pressure, play, social dynamics, and taking life in stride. Jonathan plans to start a private practice.

We say farewell to our hardworking interns Elizabeth Johnson (grade 1), Kelly Nichols (grade 2), Elisabeth Neely (grade 3), Catherine Schaper (grade 4), and Olivia Rush (grade 5). We wish them well in their job searches! We also thank and bid adieu to teaching assistants Suzie Roane and Meghan Fernald, who are both returning to school. Thank you for your amazing support of teachers and students!

Middle School

Retiring Spanish teacher Wally Wilson wraps up 32 years at Catlin Gabel. Wally’s career has included teaching all Middle and Upper School grades, a Fulbright scholar year in Argentina, and establishing the early years of our global education program. Wally has been a pillar in our community both figuratively and literally: one year he stood in as the maypole at Spring Festival. We are grateful for his contributions to the school and the lasting affect he has had on our students.

Monique Bessette, French teacher extraordinaire, retires this year after 15 years at Catlin Gabel in the Middle and Upper Schools. Her commitment to teaching by doing and experiential education came alive through her initiation of the Middle School global education trip to Martinique. Her students and colleagues will miss Monique’s energy and spirit.

During his two-year interim position at Catlin Gabel, Pete Ritson has contributed much to our school with his impressive science background. He helped improve the schoolwide science curriculum by participating in an alignment process. His participation in a curricular alignment process helped improve the schoolwide science curriculum. He also helped lead the effort to create the new schedule that will be implemented in the fall. We will miss Pete and wish him the best.

Upper School

Michael Heath, head of the Upper School and assistant head for co-curriculars, is off to become head of Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, South Carolina. Among Michael’s accomplishments since arriving in 2007 are realigning the grading structure, examining and adjusting the homework load to better serve students, encouraging cross-disciplinary teaching and collaboration, insisting that the ethical and moral lives of students are central to the school’s mission, and providing leadership in bringing the Knight Family Scholars Program, PLACE, and the Global Online Academy into prominence. We are proud to count Michael among the Catlin Gabel division heads who have gone on to lead entire schools. 

For 27 years, Laurie Carlyon-Ward has dedicated herself to teaching art and to the well-being of students at Catlin Gabel. Students and colleagues have sought her out for wise counsel, knowing they will receive sensible advice and comforting affirmation. Laurie has inspired two generations of students to create, craft, and stretch. As a leader in the arts department she has been an important voice for creativity and a key promoter of the Creative Arts Center campaign. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement, Laurie.

Véronique de la Poterie has taught French for 25 years at Catlin Gabel. Her enthusiasm, energy, and ingenuity are infectious. She has held her students to high standards and proudly celebrated their accomplishments. Veronique has shared with the community her commitment to service learning and devotion to safeguarding the environment. As the leader of several trips abroad, she has shared with students her love of travel and the Francophone world. Bonne chance!

Math teacher Dave Tash claims this retirement – his third – is his last. He’s an extraordinary teacher, with a particular gift for working one-on-one with students. Dave has the uncanny ability to make math fun even for students for whom the concepts are difficult. He generously shares stories about his life as a Navy SEAL, opens students’ minds about ways to think about world politics, and is quick with a laugh. We will especially miss Dave’s self-deprecating sense of humor, which we are sure he will put to good use in retirement.

Karen Talus joined our history faculty four years ago, already an accomplished teacher with many years of experience. Her curiosity and intellect have inspired everyone in her classes to do their best. Her composed manner belies an irreverence and wit that has kept her colleagues and students laughing. Karen is a master of reaching all types of learners, has been a Model UN advisor, and was a key player in the history department. We hate to see her go and will miss her wisecracks, but we wish her well in retirement.

Catherine Canapary Healy has been a gift to the Upper School. Her balance of generous spirit and fierce intelligence will be sorely missed. She has been an important member of the community beyond the many registrar tasks she has performed so well. We wish her the best as she pursues her divinity degree.

For many parents, teachers, and students, Jessica Marlitt has been the face, voice, and spirit of the Upper School. She has efficiently, capably, calmly, and lovingly handled everything from planning Winterim to advising students, training future leaders, communicating beautifully, and demonstrating what it means to be a community member. May your ultimate Frisbee tosses always be true, Jessica.

David Zonana has a heart for teaching and a passion for the outdoors. In just a couple of years, he has greatly influenced our outdoor education program, connecting with students and leading amazing trips. We will miss his zeal and sense of humor and wish him well in graduate school – but not until after he leads this summer’s expedition to Ecuador.


Richard Kassissieh has dedicated his technology, teaching, and communication skills to enriching Catlin Gabel since 2006. His embrace of technology and progressive education has led to a range of improvements in classrooms and departments campus-wide. Among his numerous contributions he built our website with open source software, led teachers in adopting new technologies to teach innovatively, and established the exchange program with Maru-a-Pula school in Botswana. Richard’s interest in teaching colors everything he does and will be an asset for his next role as academic dean at University Prep in Seattle.

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