ELIZABETH TEN GROTENHUIS, PH.D.
HEAD OF SCHOOL
Dr. Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis is Professor (emerita) of Japanese art history at Boston University and Associate in Research at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard and is the author and editor of many publications, including Japanese Mandalas: Representations of Sacred Geography and Along the Silk Road. Elizabeth was a founding member of the Board of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad project and remains active on that Board, currently serving as Vice-Chair. She is also a member of the Visiting Committee to the department of the Art of Asia at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
A mother and grandmother, Elizabeth has been writing for children in recent years. She has published in Calliope and was the consulting editor and an author for two issues, "Music Travels the Silk Road" (2007) and "A Grand Society of Merchants: Sailing with the Dutch East India Company" (2010). In 2016, she was the consulting editor and an author for Dig Into History's "Year One Along the Silk Road," an issue based on Birches School's innovative curriculum of the same name.
You can reach Elizabeth at 781-728-5438.
KATHERINE PARISKY, Ph.D.
Associate Head of School &
4/5/6 teacher and science Specialist
See "Faculty" section below.
KATE WALKER, M.Ed.
Associate Head of School &
See "Faculty" section below.
CECILY WARDELL, A.B.
DIRECTOR OF ADMISSION AND PLACEMENT
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
Cecily Wardell is an honors graduate of Harvard College where she majored in East Asian Languages and Civilizations. She lived in Japan and France and worked in a major multinational financial institution in Tokyo; she speaks both Japanese and French. She also taught science and math at Dexter School. Cecily, with Alexis Jette Borggaard, is co-founder of Birches School. Her son is a 4th Grader at Birches and her daughter is a Kindergartner.
LAURA LECH, M.B.A., RTRP
MANAGER OF FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING
Laura is the proud owner of Colonial Bookkeeping & Tax, Inc. which she launched in 2010. With over ten years of experience in public accounting, Laura has worked with a wide range of clients in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors, including start ups, small business, and high net worth individuals. Laura is passionate about learning and helping others understand the challenges and rewards of the complex business world, tax codes, and fast-moving tech scene. She enjoys offering trouble-shooting support and training people in accounting information and work-flow systems. Laura has a certificate in Forensic Accounting from Northeastern University; she earned her Master's in Business Administration from Nichols College; and she holds an undergraduate degree from University of Massachusetts Amherst. Laura lives with her husband and 3-year-old daughter in Concord, where they enjoy cooking, hiking, skiing, snow shoeing, biking, traveling, and furniture restoration.
RACHEL ALBERT, M.B.A., M.S.W.
Until recently the school's Chief Financial and Administrative Officer, Rachel continues to collaborate closely with the Birches team on fundraising and growth strategy. She earned her MBA and MSW from Columbia University with a focus on social enterprise and nonprofit management. Prior to working at Birches, Rachel served as Vice President of Evaluation and Learning at Jewish Family and Children’s Service, a multi-service agency that helps approximately 17,000 individuals annually across New England. Rachel has also worked as a nonprofit consultant with The Bridgespan Group, where she advised a wide range of educational and human services agencies on core strategic questions. Rachel is a reformed opera singer who now focuses mostly on lullabies. Rachel’s son is a 1st Grader at Birches.
HEATHER HOOVEN, B.S.
ASSISTANT to the head
Heather brings over 15 years of teaching experience in both general and special education to her work at Birches School. A Human Development studies graduate of Wheelock College, Heather holds teaching certificates in three states. Heather lives in Concord with her husband Jim and their children Zach (12) and Alexandra (7). They love to travel, hike and experience new cultures. Heather is excited to be working again in a school environment and is thrilled to be part of the Birches team.
KATE HARNEY, M.Ed.
Kate Harney co-teaches the Kindergarten and 1st Grade classroom at Birches. She received her Master of Elementary Education from Lesley University and graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College with a major in sociology. Through her teaching, Kate hopes to instill in children a self-motivated love of learning and a joy for discovery. An active practitioner of mindfulness, Kate weaves mindful practices into her teaching to help students develop attention, focus and social awareness. She loves to stay active, especially outdoors and keeps busy throughout the seasons with yoga, cycling, and cross country skiing. After rowing competitively for nearly a decade, Kate coaches the Buckingham Browne & Nichols crew team each spring.
FLORENTIEN DE RUITER, M.A.T.
Florentien deRuiter, who works primarily with the youngest students at Birches, has a great deal of experience in early-elementary school education. She received her B.A. from Tufts University majoring in Child Study and her Master of Arts in Teaching, also from Tufts. She taught Kindergarten for nine years in the Acton Public Schools, mostly at McCarthy-Towne Elementary School, where she and her colleagues developed an arts-based curriculum that incorporated nature study both inside and outside the classroom. Florentien is bi-lingual in English and Dutch. She is an avid runner, and enjoys hiking and camping with her husband and two children. Her daughter is a 4th Grader at Birches.
KATE WALKER, M.ED.
ASSOCIATE HEAD OF SCHOOL &
Kate Walker comes from Cold Spring School in New Haven, Connecticut, where she taught for ten years. She received her B.S. from New York University in 2001 and her Master's degree from Bank Street College of Education in 2003. She taught for three years in a combined 4th and 5th Grade classroom at Cold Spring School and then was the Master Teacher for seven years in a combined 2nd and 3rd Grade classroom. From 2003 to 2011, Kate was the 4th, 5th, and 6th Grade Co-Director of the Cold Spring School Technology Summer Session. She served on several visiting committees for the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools Accreditation process. Since 2009, she has been a Board Member of the Friends' Center for Children in New Haven. Her older daughter is a 3rd Grader at Birches and her middle daughter is a Kindergartner.
IAN APPLEGATE, M.Ed.
Ian Applegate, a graduate of Wesleyan University, received his Master of Elementary Education from Lesley University in the summer of 2014. During the school year 2013-14, he worked in a 4th Grade classroom at Buckingham, Browne & Nichols as part of the Collaborative Internship program at Lesley University. His previous teaching experience includes working as a 3rd Grade teaching assistant in the morning and a lead afterschool teacher in the afternoon at Ward Elementary School in Newton, MA. Before relocating to Massachusetts in 2010, Ian worked as the Physical Education and Health teacher at Chavez Prep, a 6th through 9th Grade charter school in Washington, D.C. Ian lives in Carlisle with his wife, their two daughters and two dogs. He is a passionate soccer and lacrosse player, and enjoys reading, biking, and trail walking through Great Meadows.
KATHERINE PARISKY, PH.D.
ASSOCIATE HEAD OF SCHOOL &
4/5/6 TEACHER AND science SPECIALIST
Dr. Katherine Parisky joined the Birches team full-time in the fall of 2015 as Associate Head while continuing as the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Specialist. Previous to this appointment, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow and then a Research Specialist at Brandeis University for nine years. Katherine received her B.A. in Biology and Psychology from Drew University and her Ph.D. in Biomedical Science from the University of Connecticut Health Center. Author and editor of many scientific journal publications, Katherine is currently working on a book about fruit fly behavior for a young children's science book series. She has published inNeuron, Journal of Experimental Biology, Nature Neuroscience, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience. Katherine is focused on seamlessly integrating science into the classroom, using inquiry-based methods that enable young children to tap into the natural scientists that lie within. Katherine's son is a 2nd Grader at Birches.
TASSIA THOMAS, M.A.T.
Tassia Thomas is thrilled to be joining Birches this fall as a teacher to the oldest students. Tassia is a champion of integrated learning across disciplines, team teaching, and the responsive classroom model. She taught Arts and Humanities to seventh and eighth grade students at the Francis W. Parker Essential School for eight years. Prior to that, she taught sixth, seventh and eighth grade students at The Greenfield Center School in western Massachusetts. She has coached and mentored new teachers through The New Teachers Collaborative and at Tufts University. As a Critical Friends Coach and member of the National School Reform Faculty, Tassia has worked to help teachers improve student learning through collaborative learning communities.
Tassia received her B.A. from Hampshire College and M.A.T. from Simmons College.
Her daughters are in Kindergarten and 4th Grade at Birches.
PAULA DEMEO, B.S.
AFTER-SCHOOL DIRECTOR &
K/1 MOVEMENT SPECIALIST
Paula has been an early childhood educator for over 25 years. A graduate of Bridgewater State College, she started her student teaching in a Kindergarten classroom. After graduating with a BS in Early Childhood Education, she began her career at the L.E.A.P. School in Lexington, MA, first serving as teacher and then, for six years, as Curriculum Director. She then spent 12 years as Program Director at the Concord L.E.A.P. School.
Since her days at L.E.A.P., Paula has worked as a traveling science teacher for Wicked Cool For Kids ages 5-8 at the Green Meadow School in Maynard and also as a lead pre-school teacher at the Lemberg Children’s Center at Brandeis University in Waltham. She is a 300 hour trained YogaKids teacher since 2013, and obtained her 200-hour adult yoga teacher training from Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, MA in 2015.
Paula is passionate about teaching children through science and nature, creative arts, yoga, movement, and social and emotional intelligence practices. She shares her positive energy, problem solving tools, and joy in teaching with the students in the Birches After-School Program each day.
LAURA BAK, M.M.
Laura Bak, a graduate of Oberlin College, has a Master of Music in Music Education from the Boston Conservatory, as well as Orff Schulwerk, Kodaly, and Music Together certifications. Most recently, Laura taught pre-Kindergarten through 3rd Grade music at Gardner Pilot Academy, a public school in Allston. Laura is also interested in theater: Her undergraduate degree was in English, with a theater emphasis. She has taught drama as well as music as a middle-school teaching assistant. Laura is the mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, playing with her dog, and singing rounds.
ERIN CARTER, B.A.
Yoga and Mindfulness Specialist
Erin began a dedicated practice of yoga in 1999. Since graduating from Prescott College with a degree in Dance, Movement and Community Studies in 2005, she has been teaching various kinds of mind/body-based classes in New York City and now in the Boston area. Erin has completed The National Yoga Alliance-approved YogaKids 200-hour children’s yoga teacher certification. In 2012, Erin returned to her home town of Boston and created her own organization called Strength In Connection Yoga for Children and Families. Children feel comfortable, safe, and confident in Erin's warm and nurturing classes. She enjoys weaving art, music, and connections with the natural world into her lessons.
Please visit Erin's website at: www.strengthinconnectionyoga.com
NINA KIERULF, J.D.
Born to a Spanish mother and a Danish father, Nina was brought up in Barcelona, Spain. Her mother tongue is Spanish, but she also speaks fluent Catalan, French, and English. Her background is in Law and, after arriving in the United States seven years ago, she became a part-time mediator, offering services to low-income immigrants of Latino origin who do not speak good English. Nina is an experienced teacher of Spanish, both in Spain and Massachusetts. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and family dog in Weston, where they all enjoy outdoor activities.
REBECCA RAPOPORT, M.S.
Rebecca Rapoport holds degrees in mathematics from Harvard and Michigan State. From her first job out of college, as one of the pioneers of Harvard’s Internet education offerings, she has been passionate about encouraging her love of math in others. As an early contributor to both retail giant Amazon.com and Akamai Technologies, the No. 1 firm in cloud computing, Rebecca played a key role in several elements of the Internet revolution.
Rebecca returned to her first love, education, as an innovator of new methods to introduce children and adults to the critically important world of STEM as COO of Einstein's Workshop, an enrichment center dedicated to helping kids explore the creative side of science, technology, engineering, art, and math. After a stint at a mobile application start-up she co-founded, Rebecca recently completed her first book, Math Lab for Kids: Fun Hands-On Activities for Learning with Shapes, Puzzles, and Games (publication date: January 2017). Birches students play-tested much of the book's content and their cheerful faces brighten up its pages.
Rebecca has three energetic children, the middle of whom attends Birches in the 1st Grade.
TOM GUMBART, M.S.
Earth Science Advisor
Tom Gumbart, Conservation Director for the town of Lincoln, received his B.A. from Middlebury College and his M.S. from Utah State University specializing in behavioral ecology. His work as Conservation Director is diverse, including open space preservation, land stewardship, wetlands permitting, and educational outreach. Before assuming the Lincoln position in 1999, Tom served as Executive Director of the non-profit organization Land’s Sake in Weston, running an organic farm, conducting forestry and other land management operations, and developing educational programming. Tom is currently the President of the Massachusetts Society of Conservation Professionals. Married with two teenage children, he enjoys many outdoor pursuits such as birding, skiing, biking, fishing, and photography.
KATHERINE McVETY, M.F.A.
Katherine McVety is an artist and photographer who lives and works in the Boston area. She received her M.F.A. in Visual Arts from Columbia University School of the Arts. Her work has been exhibited widely and she has taught at Columbia University, Ohio University, and Fairfield University. Since 2005, she has been on the Photography Faculty of the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, now renamed the Lesley University College of Art and Design.
Please visit Katherine's website at: KatherineMcVety.com
SANDEEP DAS, TABLA MASTER
Sandeep Das, tabla musician and composer, lived and trained for eleven years in Varanasi (Benares) with his master Pandit Kishan Maharaj. Now his master’s heir, Sandeep performs to acclaim throughout India and around the world. A core member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, Sandeep has received numerous awards and been nominated twice for a Grammy. Sandeep is the founding director of HUM, a not-for-profit Indian organization that presents concerts to raise money to help visually impaired children learn music and to provide financial support for struggling, aged musicians. Sandeep recently moved to Boston with his family.
MIKE BLOCK, CELLIST
Mike Block is a pioneering multi-style cellist, singer, composer, and educator living in Boston who is a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. In addition to his solo performances and duo collaborations with musicians like tabla player Sandeep Das, violinist Rachel Barton Pine, and percussionist Tupac Mantilla, Mike is the director of the Mike Block String Camp in Vero Beach, FL, which offers non-classical education to string players from all backgrounds. In 2012, Mike was appointed Associate Professor at the Berklee College of Music.
Please visit Mike's website at: www.MikeBlockMusic.com