The New and the Gone

With the passing of the last school year and the departure of the class of 2013, IMSA also saw the departure of many faculty members. For most, we were given proper warning, but some departed unexpectedly and prompted a stream of shocked Facebook messages and sad emoticons.  Never fear! There is light at the end of the tunnel: IMSA has restructured and hired new faculty members for the next school year. For your convenience, we have compiled blurbs for incoming members of the IMSA faculty as well as those that are gone (but never forgotten).

New Staff

Ms. Zhang

你好老师。Meet Ms. Zhang, she’s the new Mandarin Chinese teacher. Born in Shandong province in China, Ms. Zhang has been speaking Mandarin all her life. She’s lived in Shanghai, Indiana, and Chicago, teaching in all these places. She’s taught Economics, Mathematics, English and Mandarin. At IMSA, she teaches both Mandarin 1 and 3 students. When asked about her favorite aspect of teaching at IMSA, she replies, “I like how the IMSA students are independent and interested. They initiate participating in the class by asking intellectual questions.” IMSA has many talented students and the world language curriculum of complete immersion is more focused on the students. “I think that everyone is lucky to be attending IMSA” says Ms. Zhang. Let’s thank her kind words by making her feel more welcome here.

The picture displays Ms. Zhang’s family. Her daughter’s name is Angelina.

Ms. Alisa Smith-Riel:

Ms. Alisa Smith-Riel hails from the west part of New York, but she has resided in DeKalb for the past seven years. She obtained a Master’s Degree from St. Bonaventure University in English, and she is currently working on a dissertation for a Ph.D. in English at Northern Illinois University. Right now, Ms. Smith-Riel works at IMSA, where she teaches two Literary Explorations I classes, and Elgin Community College, where she has taught for two years. Before teaching at IMSA, she taught at Northern Illinois University. Her favorite part of teaching is, and always has been, the students. “I love interacting with students and hearing what they have to say about literature,” Ms. Smith-Riel says. “I really appreciate when I see the light bulb moments happen when they understand something, or they have a new idea. Moments like that inspire me.

Dr. John Thurmond:

“I’m as much a student in education as an educator. I enjoy sharing my knowledge with students and participating in their mastery of the subject” says Dr. Thurmond, the new Chemistry teacher. His words hold true since he left the industrial side of chemistry to have a full time teaching career. He previously worked in drug discovery with a pharmaceutical company located in Woodridge, IL. Although great, it wasn’t the job for him. He spent the last six years teaching at Plainfield North High School and a couple of area Colleges before he came to IMSA. Dr. Thurmond was quickly welcomed since his interests in learning matched many IMSA students. He likes how IMSA students are self disciplined and eager to learn. With IMSA’s focus on student inquiry and research, Dr. Thurmond is excited about the present opportunity to resume research while helping student research.

Dr. Thurmond lives in Aurora with his wife and three children. His hobbies include driving his three children to their chosen sport, learning new math and science concepts, reading and watching soccer.

Amy Woods:

Give a big, warm welcome to Amy, IMSA’s new Coordinator of Campus Activities (CCA). The CCA is a new position in Student Life and has the responsibilities to oversee the Campus Activities Board including campus events, Junior Class Club (JCC), and other student organizations. Although the school year has just started, Amy has already been busy organizing events for the beginning of the school year. Before coming to IMSA, Amy was the Director of Student Activities and Orientation at Waldorf College in Iowa where she held a position similar to her new one. She was enthusiastic to have a new challenge by coming to IMSA, and also to be closer to her hometown and family in Crystal Lake. As a new member of the IMSA community, Amy is excited for the coming school year and to learn more about IMSA, its students, clubs, and other organizations. Even though it’s her first year at IMSA, she has a lot of experience in school activities and encourages students to “get involved! It’s a great way to meet friends and learn life lessons.”

Katie McGinn:

Meet Katie, the new Assistant Director of Student Life for Leadership Education and Service Learning (LEAD), a student-run organization that inspires sophomores students leadership. Katie’s position was previously occupied by Linsey Crowninshield. The LEAD team was devasted after Linsey’s departure, many even bracing themselves for the worst the following year. “But Katie has taken over that job, and exceeded all of our expectations,” says, Lakhena Leang, LEAD Social Entrepreneurship Co-Chair. Linsey had set the bar high for her position, yet Katie glided into the responsibilities with ease. As an anonymous LEAD facilitator stated, “we thought that it would take some time for Katie to adapt to our craziness, but she fit right in. She was already messed up!” She’s a teenager at heart and is just waiting to get to know everyone. So don’t forget to say hello and welcome her into the IMSA family.

Lauren Abrahamson:

Most people know Lauren as an 02 RC, but this year, she has the new position of Area Coordinator along with Reuel Abraham and Michelle Hoehn. With the departure of Janet Ramos, Student Life needed to delegate her old responsibilities to new staff members, and Area Coordinators essentially took her place and more; they are in charge of the housing process, hiring/working with new RCs, handling major crises on campus, facilitating IMSA departmental relationships, among other things yet to be decided. It’s definitely a position of  responsibility, but Lauren was eager to get a job that she said would “challenge me professionally and allow me to utilize some of the skills and theories I developed and learned about during grad school.” Of course, she’ll miss her students in 02, but hopefully she hopes to maintain relationships with them still. Outside of her duties as a faculty member, Lauren teaches yoga, boot camp, and spin classes at a studio in Naperville and would love the chance to combine her hobbies with work and teach these classes at IMSA.

Staff and Faculty who’ve Moved On

Linsey Crowninshield:

The announcement that Linsey was leaving sounded like a rumor. No one wanted to believe that the woman who stood at the heart of school organizations such as LEAD, Habitat for Humanity, SPARK Shine On!, and BELLAS, would not be joining us the 2013-2014 school year. Linsey has been a part of the IMSA family for the past 13 years. She’s been involved in half of IMSA’s history, shaping and defining the culture on campus and working alongside the students. “It’s funny,” says Linsey. “Although IMSA is called a learning laboratory, it’s just really a family who build on each other.” Linsey trusts and expects that the students will carry on with the activities that they’ve started together. “If the passion remains ignited I want them to continue following what they love. If that passion seems to be lost, it’s okay to let it go. Everything goes through the life cycle,” she says. Like a life cycle, we should cherish the lasting imprint Linsey has had on our lives individually and on IMSA as a whole. “Everyone is family to me,” she said. And like family, she has promised to visit IMSA this year.

Dr. Christian Nøkkentved:

The always-smiling, bow-tie-wearing teacher fondly known as “Doc Nok” retired last year.  Doc Nok worked in the History and Social Science Department. Word in the hallways is that he’s a unique history teacher, always doing things his way. Some of the courses he taught were American Studies, Ancient World Religion and Philosophy, The World in the Twentieth Century, and Power and Authority. He has educated sophomores, juniors, and seniors connecting well with every student, inspirational in the classroom and out.  One of his Power and Authority students, Arjun Sarode recounts a time: “We were joking around and I accidentally insulted him. He told me it was a good thing he doesn’t look to other people’s opinions of him in order to value himself.” Doc Nok has always been someone to look up to and his wise words, tea times, lessons and advice will greatly be missed.

Watch Doc Nok’s inspirational words spoken at the 2013 Senior Banquet.


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