News Detail

RE welcomes accomplished new faculty

Ransom Everglades expanded its faculty for the 2021-22 school year, bringing in talented educators from around the country to reduce class sizes and ensure students continue to have access to the top teachers in various disciplines. The school also announced a trio of new directors: Director of Arts Shawn N. Costantino, Director of Inclusion and Community Engagement Wendell Graham '74 and Chief Financial Officer Geoff Bennett.
The school's new talent arrived a week before the start of classes on August 23 for orientation, team bonding and training. Keep reading to learn more:

NEW TALENT AT RANSOM EVERGLADES

Erica L. Bartos
Upper School
Dockmaster
The Maritime Curriculum Director, dockmaster and a crew coach at Ransom Everglades, I stumbled into teaching while trying to find a job on a boat after studying mechanical engineering and working in the industry for a while. Since then, I have been working with middle through high school students on boats, construction sites, and baseball fields, sometimes in rivers, and in my math and science classroom. I have taught physics, math, science and engineering since 2007, and most recently at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts. When kids work on messy problems, they learn more than I could ever try to teach them. Now, my goal is to help facilitate opportunities for their classes, whether that is solo journaling or sketching time on an island, paddleboard poetry circles, or collecting and analyzing data for a project that makes our local community or ecosystem better. You can find me by the water, likely helping kids right their boats.

Geoffrey Bennett
Chief Financial Officer
I assumed the role of Chief Financial Officer at Ransom Everglades after arriving from the San Francisco Waldorf School, where I served as Director of Finance and Operations after beginning my tenure at the school as a member of the board of trustees and chair of the finance committee. Before shifting to independent schools, I spent 30 years in investment banking, predominantly in Asia, where I lived for more than five years. A graduate of Deerfield Academy, an independent school in Massachusetts, I earned a BA in English from Kenyon College in Ohio, and an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University. My wife Cindy and I have four children and two Labrador Retrievers.

Jarrett Brown
Upper School
English
At Ransom Everglades, I am teaching English 10: American Literary Movements and English 11: Research into Anglophone Literature. I have been teaching for half of my life; most recently I taught English at Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C., and I also have held positions at Howard University, College of the Holy Cross and Bowdoin College. I earned my BA in English from the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, an MA in English from Clark University in Worcester Mass., and a PhD in American Studies from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.  I was born and raised in Jamaica and hail from a family of teachers. I  love the outdoors and enjoy playing tennis, and I have recently taken up horseback riding and developed an interest in sailing.  
 
Elizabeth  M. Cornick
Upper School
English
I'm thrilled to teach upper school English – Forms of Literature and American Literary Movements – and coach girls’ lacrosse at Ransom Everglades. I arrived from Hanover, N.H., where I served as a teaching assistant in the English and Comparative Literature departments at Dartmouth College and earned my master’s in Comparative Literature. Before teaching, I was a paralegal in the bankruptcy practice at a national law firm in Richmond, Va., and Washington D.C., which I consider home. I attended St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Va., and earned my BA in English with a concentration in Southern American Literature from the University of Virginia. I am a proud Virginia Cavalier and love to cheer on the Cavs in all sports, especially the men’s and women’s basketball and lacrosse teams. Outside of school, I enjoy running, going to the beach, and rooting for the Miami Dolphins.

Shawn N. Costantino
Director of Arts
I am very excited to lead the vibrant visual and performing arts program here at RE. As the director of arts, I oversee all of the visual and performing arts programming at the school and endeavor every day to elevate the stature, breadth and depth of these programs within Miami and around the country. I work alongside the other administrators of the school to focus on the 3 As: Arts, Academics and Athletics. I believe that when all of these things work seamlessly together, a school like Ransom Everglades truly becomes its best self. As a seasoned recording artist and professional saxophonist, I bring my love for jazz and commercial music to the students in the classroom. I work with all of the bands at the school in various ways and have enjoyed getting to know all of the amazing musicians. Outside of school, I love watching football and playing golf as well as spending time with my wife, daughter and two amazing dogs. 

Giacomo Di Pasquale
Upper School
History and Social Sciences
I am teaching economics and comparative government at RE, bringing my interest in determinants of inequality, discrimination and migrations in the United States and in Europe. I recently served as adjunct professor at Loyola Marymount University and California Lutheran University, and also held posts at Johns Hopkins University. I earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from University of Pavia in Italy, and also earned an MA in International Political Economy and a PhD in Economics and Political Science from Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif. I am originally from Italy and have been living in the United States for the past six years. I speak five languages and have a huge passion for movies and books. I am also a huge tennis and soccer fan; my favorite teams are Juventus FC and West Ham United, and I coach boys’ tennis at Ransom Everglades.

John Ermer, Jr.

Upper School
History and Social Sciences
My goal is simple: to teach the whole student. I am a Miami local with a deep connection to our community and its history. At Ransom Everglades, I teach AP World History, AP U.S. History, and U.S. History and coach middle school swimming; I arrived with 16 years of teaching experience at the high school and university level – most recently at Florida International University, where I taught Rhetoric & Composition. I currently serve as a consultant for Ballad of America, Inc., a non-profit that teaches U.S. History through music. I earned my undergraduate degrees from Florida State University (double major in political science and English) and my graduate degrees from Florida International University (MA, Modern U.S. History; PhD, Latin American History). My writing has appeared in various publications including The Washington Post. I enjoy spending time with my family, especially at the beach.

Shaida Escoffery Whitley
Middle School
English
Literature is a window into the human experience. That’s what I love experiencing with my students everyday at Ransom Everglades Middle School. I previously taught at RE's upper school and currently teach freshman writing courses and Introduction to Humanities at Florida International University. Before working at RE, I  taught middle school at a charter school in Miami-Dade County. I am a first generation American of Jamaican descent and originally from Brooklyn, N.Y.. I graduated from the University of Miami (Proud ‘Cane) in 2014 with a BA in Creative Writing and Religious Studies and earned an MA in Africana Studies with a concentration in African-American Literature from New York University. Outside of academia, I love spending time with my husband, writing, singing and traveling. 

Richie Fredericks
Upper School
Physical Education
I could not be more excited to be a member of the Ransom Everglades community. I am the Director of the Crew Program/Head Coach, and am excited to get all of our athletes on the water and rowing faster than they ever have before. I previously served as the boatwright/rigger for the University of Miami women's rowing program, and before that my experience includes an extensive list of program directing and coaching at various clubs across the east coast, mostly in the Philadelphia/Boathouse Row area. I earned my bachelor’s degree at Marietta College in Ohio. In my free time I enjoy anything outdoors, and because we are in South Florida, boating, kayaking, and fishing have been topping that list in recent months.

Wendell Graham ’74
Director of Inclusion and Community Outreach
As Director of Inclusion and Community Outreach, I am responsible for our efforts to maintain a welcoming environment where every member of the school community can live, study, and work at their highest level of creativity and productivity. I practiced law for 38 years serving as a prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, arbitrator, mediator, and County Court Judge. I graduated from Ransom School in 1974, received my B.A. from Columbia University, and J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law. I love music, fishing, and the outdoors. My wife runs a non-profit for children aging out of foster care. We have one child in college and the others are adults working in the Armed Services, Arts & Retail, and Education.

Cathy Kellstrom
Middle School
History and Social Sciences
Teaching English and American history to seventh-grade students and coaching golf for middle school girls among the caring and inspirational educators at RE fulfills a long-desired return to a home with a Latin vibe, having lived in Latin America during my childhood. After graduating from Skidmore College in New York with a BA in Spanish and Government, I pursued a career with Citicorp in their Latin America division. Later, I traded in my corporate life for an even busier family life with my four children and serving my local community in Chatham, N.J. I joined the faculty of the Morristown-Beard School in Morristown, N.J., in 2013, while completing my Masters of Arts in Teaching from Drew University in Madison, N.J. Outside of school, I enjoy pursuing my love of the game of golf with my family, reading and traveling in the United States and overseas.

Edward Lally
Middle School
Math and Computer Science
Before beginning my career as a math teacher and coach at Ransom Everglades, I taught high school mathematics for two years at James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Prior to that, I held a number of teaching and coaching positions in the Oceanside school district in Oceanside, N.Y. At RE, I am excited to be teaching Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1. After graduating from high school, I wanted to pursue a career in education. To accomplish this goal, I attended James Madison University in Virginia and earned my bachelor’s degree in mathematics. In 2019, I obtained my master’s degree in education from Queens College in New York. Sports has always been a passion of mine. As a native New Yorker, I grew up cheering on the Giants and the Yankees. Therefore, I am thrilled to be coaching varsity football and middle school basketball at Ransom Everglades.

Ariel Lewis
Upper School
English
I am thrilled to be an upper school English teacher  and tennis coach at Ransom Everglades, where I landed after a 10-year journey that took me from the California coast to the shores of Lake Erie to the banks of the Missouri River and finally, to the beaches of Miami. Previously, I taught at the all-girls Hathaway Brown School in Cleveland, Ohio, and at Miami Arts Charter School in Wynwood, where I was Assistant Director of the Creative Writing Program. I received my BA in Creative Writing from Oberlin College – where I was also a two-time NCAA All-American in singles – and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction from Washington University in St. Louis. Outside of school, I am a published writer, and have received several awards and grants, including the Elizabeth George Foundation Grant. I enjoy playing tennis, crocheting and spending time with my beloved dogs, Layla and Louie.

Vanessa Lopez
Middle School
English
A proud member of the Ransom Everglades community as an English teacher, I began my career in education serving as an AmeriCorps member in City Year. I was then privileged to work with students and teachers in a variety of middle and high school settings. Through my deeply established commitment in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, my objective is to provide academically engaging learning experiences in an environment that fosters creativity, curiosity and kindness. I am a Miami native, and I lived in Spain for 10 years before starting my career, earning a BA in Foreign Languages (English) from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Now I am pursuing a master's degree in Special Education at University of Miami. My life revolves around my family and friends, cooking and being outside in the sun, riding my bike, rollerblading, camping, or enjoying activities anywhere near water and trees!

Susan Mactye
Upper School
Computer Science and Engineering
As a member of the STEM Department, I teach computer science and assist with the robotics program. After earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Nazareth College of Rochester, I moved to New York City and sat for the CPA exam. While there, I saw that Columbia University was offering a C++ programming course through its continuing education department. I enrolled and spent two years learning all about computers and programming and was hooked. I dropped my idea of becoming an accountant, and instead enrolled in a master’s program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I recently moved to Miami Beach, where I spend my time reading, bike riding and walking my two mini dachshunds, Zoe and Margot. 

Nelson Marques
Upper School
History and Social Sciences
I teach World Civilizations, Latin American Studies, and AP European History, and coach soccer. I earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from York University in Toronto, Canada. I received my doctorate in history from the University of Miami where I was a Tinker Fellow and a Center for the Humanities Dissertation Fellow; I served as a teaching assistant at UM for several years. I graduated from St. Michael’s College School in Ontario, and when I was 18 I released an EP with a rock band back home (it's still on Spotify). I enjoy fantasy and horror novels, role-playing video games, and Manchester United. 

Jessica Merrick
Middle School
Math and Computer Science
I am the Math and Computer Science Coordinator for the middle school. I moved to Coconut Grove with my husband and three children from New York City, where I served as the Math Department Chair at Columbia Preparatory School. I previously worked as a management consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers/IBM, leading numerous teams for Fortune 500 clients. While I found the leadership aspect of the role gratifying, the corporate environment was ultimately unfulfilling, and I transitioned to education to help make a difference in the way students view mathematics. I have an MEd in Education Leadership from Harvard University and a BS in Finance and Marketing from Boston College. I am the board treasurer for Girls Learning Advanced Math (GLAM). In my free time, you will find me exploring beaches, restaurants and book stores with family and friends.

Nelson Milian
Middle School
Math and Computer Science
Building, learning and teaching technology are my passions. As the robotics teacher for all of sixth grade, my goal is to get everyone comfortable with using technology to solve problems. As the yearbook teacher, I and students are responsible for the historical capture of the year. I previously taught at The Cushman School, where I taught robotics for more than five years, and Centner Academy, where I implemented a technology curriculum for grades 1- 8. I am a graduate of Florida International University with a bachelor’s in management information systems. I previously worked in information technology, helping clients optimize their workflows, and am currently one of the owners of an educational technology company called 01. I recently bought a house and remodeled it during the summer.

Laura Montes
Upper School
Performing Arts
From a career as a classical and musical theater singer, actress and performing arts educator, I bring over 20 years of performance and teaching experience to Ransom Everglades’ middle and upper school acting programs and Thespian Honor Society. I previously worked at St. Brendan High, where I served as drama and vocal ensemble instructor, thespian sponsor, Art Department Chair and Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Academy. A native of Miami, I attended the University of Miami and earned a bachelor’s in Vocal Performance. I have studied voice and acting abroad at the University of Miami at Salzburg Program in Austria and at L’Istituto Internazionale di Arti Vocali in Italy.  Locally, I have performed with Miami Lyric Opera, Young Patronesses of the Opera, Miami Mozarteum, the Bach Society, Civic Chorale of Greater Miami, Pro Arte Grateli and Cameo Concert. My husband, Greg, and I have a 10-year-old son, Tristan, who loves to act. 

Marlén Nuñez de Varela
Upper School
Science
With over 15 years in the education field, I am excited to be teaching biology and chemistry at Ransom Everglades School. Teaching has always been something that has inspired me, as it is truly the best way to make a difference in someone’s life. I hold a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from St. Thomas University, where I also earned my master’s degree in education with a specialization in reading. I previously worked as a private educational consultant, helping high school and college students in their pursuit of higher education. When I am not in the classroom, I am busy enjoying the outdoors with my family, trying out new recipes, crafting custom jewelry, or catching up on murder mystery shows.

Brittany “Cece” Spencer
Upper School
HIstory and Social Sciences
I proudly serve as a humanities teacher and volleyball coach,  working on enhancing my students' knowledge in speech and debate, the course Black Voices in Social Movements and upper school junior varsity and varsity volleyball. Volleyball and intercultural communication have always been passions of mine and I have the best of both worlds at Ransom Everglades. Prior to Ransom Everglades, I served as an adjunct instructor at Broward College and Florida International University. I graduated from Miami Dade College with an associate’s degree in communication/journalism; Florida International University with a bachelor’s in Communication Arts and I completed my master’s degree at the University of Essex, U.K. In my free time I enjoy playing volleyball, working out and soaking up the sun! Let's go RE!

Xiaohong Teng
Upper School
World Languages
An upper school Chinese teacher at Ransom Everglades, I was born and raised in Dalian, China, where I lived until I moved to Bournemouth, U.K., to teach Chinese in 2002. My teaching journey continued after I moved to the United States in 2008, and I taught in public and boarding schools in Colorado Springs, Colo., in the 13 years prior to my arrival in Miami. I graduated from Liaoning Normal University in China with a bachelor’s degree in Chinese Language and Literature; I attended the University of Colorado and obtained a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction in 2009. I have worked as a classroom teacher, advisor, AP Chinese exam reader and table leader. I am honored to serve as the College Board Advisor of the College Board AP Chinese Language and Culture Development Committee for the 2021-22 academic year. I love traveling around the world with my husband, and also appreciate the little things in life. 

Nathan West
Upper School
World Languages
At Ransom Everglades, I teach Spanish and French at the upper school. Though a native of mostly rural Lancaster County, Pa., I have had the good fortune to live in many interesting cities throughout the world, including Madrid and Paris. I feel most enriched by my stints teaching the ever-positive school children of Sierra Leone and Benin, West Africa. Sharing the joy of learning new languages, as well as the beauty of the cultures associated with those languages, will be my daily bread at RE. If I can teach half as well as my masterful professors at Millersville University in Pennsylvania (BA Spanish) and Middlebury College in Vermont (MA French) I will be a happy man! If you are ever stumped as to what to talk about with me, maybe start with how your favorite music makes you feel.

Carolina Zaitzeff
Middle School
World Languages
I arrived to Miami from New York City and am excited to be teaching Spanish at the middle school! Before, I taught Spanish at the Marymount School and at Manhattan Country School in New York. Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, I completed my first years of college at the University of Buenos Aires. Then I got my BA at the University of North Carolina, and my MA in Philosophy at Stonybrook University in New York. I love to write and my essays about art, education, activism and feminism have been published in a book and different NYC magazines. I am excited to experience the southern, warmer weather this year and love food and dancing.
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Coconut Grove, FL 33133
Middle School2045 South Bayshore DriveTel: 305-250-6850
Upper School3575 Main HighwayTel: 305-460-8800
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The mission of Ransom Everglades School is to provide an educational environment in which the pursuit of honor, academic excellence and intellectual growth is complemented by concern for the physical, cultural and character development of each student. The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.