Category: Around The Circle

Neighbors Helping Neighbors and Community Service Updates

Originally published on The Magnet by Derrick Cruz

MacDuffie’s student-led community service organization, The Key Club, recently experienced a change in leadership with ELL teacher Dana Katz accepting the role as its advisor. Katz has expanded Key Club’s curriculum to include frequent food bank and rehabilitation center visits as well as some visits to soup kitchens. Among these was Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

In November, Neighbors Helping Neighbors took place. It was presented to the entire student body as an opportunity to serve at a local food bank in South Hadley. Students prepared and served meals to the homeless population in South Hadley. Katz was pleased to see many students participate.

“There’s always way more students than I can accommodate, and that is always a good problem to have,” said Katz.

Katz also shared some of the more recent opportunities for community service. Katz mentioned VERO, a rehabilitation center that has allowed students to help out seniors during craft hours. Some work that Key Club members are doing or have already done includes Senior Madeline LaChance’s Toy Drive, The Winter Coat Drive and Socktober. As the year goes on, Katz urges students and parents to reach out to the Key Club if they have any ideas.

As a club, Key Club has increased its membership and the amount of community service opportunities they have been offering. Katz reflects on how 11 students participated in the River Clean Up and in Neighbors Helping Neighbors there were even more.

Katz hopes that the entire MacDuffie community is affected by these opportunities. She hopes that all of them go out and open community service opportunities of their own, whether it be in our school community or whatever is closest to home.

This year, Katz has taken her particular role seriously. She also shared that her intentions and future plans for the Key Club would be to establish two monthly activities which she hopes will have longevity within the MacDuffie community. When she reflects on what she called “a growth edge,” or a particular area where she sees Key Club going or improving upon, she claims Key Club could provide “a connection for Boarders to do work in their own home as they experience community service in America.”

Key Club is an organization where students can individually pursue leadership. At MacDuffie, students are encouraged to participate in the activities that the club provides access to.  Students and the beneficiaries of these services both stand to benefit.

Announcing First Semester Honor Roll

Congratulations to The MacDuffie School students whose academic effort has earned them distinct placement on first semester honor roll. The honor roll serves to recognize students who have achieved noteworthy grades and effort in their course work. The honor roll is determined each semester based on the grades earned in that semester. Truly an achievement to be proud of!


This list is organized by grade and then alphabetically.


First Name Last Name Grade Recognition
Andrew Gojgini 6 Maximum Honors
Nikhil Injeti 6 Maximum Honors
Kylie Li 6 High Honors
Arwen Silva 6 Maximum Honors
Josiah Sperry 6 Honors
Carter Styspeck 6 Maximum Honors
Oliver Barcome-Laflamme 7 Maximum Honors
Mateo Lopez 7 Maximum Honors
Brooklynn Moore 7 Maximum Honors
Andrew Tishchenko 7 Maximum Honors
Seth Tramazzo 7 Maximum Honors
Gabrielle Benoit 8 High Honors
Matthew Brown 8 High Honors
Moroni Hua 8 Maximum Honors
Samantha Keser 8 Maximum Honors
Ayden Legowski 8 Maximum Honors
Emily Parnicky 8 High Honors
Mason Pereira 8 Honors
Benyada Phuritchonlathit 8 High Honors
Benyapa Phuritchonlathit 8 High Honors
Lydia Sperry 8 High Honors
Adam Stetson 8 Maximum Honors
Mary Styspeck 8 Honors
Janelle Aponte 9 Maximum Honors
Sara Avery 9 Maximum Honors
Paul Biernat 9 Maximum Honors
Yiyi Cai 9 High Honors
Sungju Cho 9 Honors
Hiroshi Hirosue 9 Effort
Arya Kouzehkanani 9 Maximum Honors
Yu Kuang 9 Maximum Honors
Chenhao Li 9 Honors
Clara LaChance 9 Maximum Honors
Julianna Mason 9 Honors
Artem Nazarov 9 Maximum Honors
Emma Parente 9 High Honors
Ryan Priestly 9 High Honors
Gabriel Shumway 9 Maximum Honors
Alexa Wiesel 9 High Honors
Brianna Zhang 9 High Honors
Edinam Ablordeppey 10 Maximum Honors
Elikem Ablordeppey 10 Honors
Teagan Anz 10 High Honors
Mariel Baez 10 High Honors
Jiayun Chen 10 High Honors
Yuxin Duan 10 High Honors
Nevaeh Grimes 10 Honors
Ngoc Hoang 10 Maximum Honors
Viet Hwang 10 Honors
Samantha Jacques 10 Maximum Honors
Zi Jian Jiang 10 High Honors
Brianna Jones 10 High Honors
Ang Li 10 High Honors
Zeli Liu 10 Honors
Sasha Middleton 10 Honors
Akana Nakamura 10 Maximum Honors
Son Nguyen 10 Maximum Honors
Tram Nguyen 10 Maximum Honors
Madeline Niedbala 10 Honors
Olivia Niedbala 10 High Honors
Angelika Osowiecki 10 Maximum Honors
Ashlie Peña 10 Honors
Veronica Pileggi 10 Honors
Piper Polga 10 Honors
Kiara Rogers 10 High Honors
Jihyun Shin 10 Maximum Honors
Polina Spirina 10 High Honors
Brian Squire 10 Honors
Michael Toth 10 Honors
Raymond Toth 10 Maximum Honors
Minhao Xie 10 Maximum Honors
Chengling Xu 10 Maximum Honors
Lal Yuksel 10 Honors
Syeda Zahoor 10 High Honors
Weichen Zhou 10 Maximum Honors
Jiaqi Zhu 10 High Honors
Mohammed Abbasi 11 Maximum Honors
Khizre Ahmad 11 Honors
Amelia Belbin 11 High Honors
Demitra Benard 11 Effort
Anna Byllemos 11 High Honors
Jinxin Cai 11 Maximum Honors
Junqi Cui 11 High Honors
Vy Dinh 11 High Honors
Alberto Duque Gonzalez 11 High Honors
Lily Griffin 11 Maximum Honors
Ly Hoang 11 Maximum Honors
Qi Hu 11 High Honors
Marie Hua 11 Maximum Honors
Declan Kearney 11 High Honors
Chan-Ho Kim 11 High Honors
Ksenia Kondratyeva 11 Maximum Honors
Anh Khanh Le 11 Maximum Honors
Anh Minh Le 11 Maximum Honors
Haisu Li 11 Maximum Honors
Jinqi Liu 11 High Honors
Jiahao Lu 11 Maximum Honors
Katarzyna Ludkiewicz 11 Maximum Honors
Evan Manioudakis 11 High Honors
Anh Nguyen 11 Honors
Nam Nguyen 11 High Honors
Phu Nguyen 11 Maximum Honors
Quang Nguyen 11 Maximum Honors
Jillian Ouimet 11 Honors
Tuscan Onuoha 11 Effort
Leslie Peña 11 Honors
Lan Pham 11 High Honors
Joao Pontes 11 Honors
Zachary Roulier 11 High Honors
Emilie Schmidt-Lund 11 Maximum Honors
Adam Sypniak 11 High Honors
Chenling Tang 11 Maximum Honors
Maxim Tishchenko 11 Honors
Laurel Tramazzo 11 Maximum Honors
Zhirui Xia 11 High Honors
Yutong Yang 11 Effort
Zhuxian Zhang 11 Maximum Honors
Junmin Zhu 11 Maximum Honors
Zhexi Zhu 11 Honors
Wenxin Zou 11 Maximum Honors
Sofiia Akhmechet 12 Maximum Honors
Hayk Arzumanyan 12 Honors
Hoang Bui 12 Maximum Honors
An Cao 12 Maximum Honors
Hanghe Cao 12 Honors
Sasapat Chamnongnit 12 High Honors
Marcus Cole 12 Maximum Honors
Cameron Corliss 12 Maximum Honors
Derrick Cruz 12 High Honors
Duc Dao 12 Maximum Honors
Chloe DeAngelis 12 Maximum Honors
Dung Doan 12 Maximum Honors
Seidina Doukoure 12 Honors
Grace Drost 12 Maximum Honors
Hongde Han 12 High Honors
Haoran Hu 12 High Honors
Ian Hua 12 Maximum Honors
Efim Ivanov 12 Maximum Honors
Alison Jackson 12 Maximum Honors
Megan Jacques 12 Maximum Honors
Arina Kharakhashian 12 Maximum Honors
Madeleine LaChance 12 Maximum Honors
Ha Le 12 Maximum Honors
Son Le 12 Maximum Honors
Hannah Lee 12 Maximum Honors
Maya Levine 12 Maximum Honors
Peiyuan Lin 12 Maximum Honors
Yujia Liu 12 Honors
Martina Lopez 12 High Honors
Joao Pedro Lorenzini Tavares De Lima 12 High Honors
Ningxuan Lu 12 Maximum Honors
Pengcheng Lu 12 Honors
Huiqin Mao 12 Maximum Honors
Dale Messer 12 Maximum Honors
Ha Nguyen 12 High Honors
Hiep Nguyen 12 Maximum Honors
Khanh Nguyen 12 Maximum Honors
Minh Nguyen 12 Honors
Nhung Nguyen 12 Maximum Honors
Quan Nguyen 12 Maximum Honors
Quyen Nguyen 12 Honors
Trung Nguyen 12 Maximum Honors
Athis Osathapan 12 Maximum Honors
John Parrish 12 Maximum Honors
Kiet Pham 12 Honors
Pitt Pongpittayapa 12 High Honors
Kwan Poon 12 Honors
Apicha Punsaior 12 High Honors
Savannah Richard 12 Honors
Arda Sengun 12 Maximum Honors
Phoebe Shelburne 12 Maximum Honors
Jordyn Shepard 12 Maximum Honors
Luz María
Suárez – Cantón Trueba 12 Maximum Honors
Chenhao Sun 12 Maximum Honors
Daniela Tishchenko 12 Maximum Honors
Ayse Beyza Tumturk 12 Maximum Honors
Mehmet Tuncer 12 Maximum Honors
Si Jun Wang 12 Maximum Honors
Ruochen Yang 12 High Honors
Xuan Yi 12 Honors
Chuanyang Zhang 12 High Honors


Mamma Mia! The Winter Musical Is On Its Way

Originally published by Hannah Lee ’20 on The MacDuffie MagnetMacDuffie’s Winter Musical, “Mamma Mia!”, is scheduled to run from Friday, Feb. 28 through Sunday, Mar. 1, 2020.

The theater department held “Mamma Mia!” auditions on Dec. 9 to Dec. 11 in the Little Theater.

“Mamma Mia!” includes pop music from the group ABBA that was not written to be a musical. Art Department Chair and Theater Teacher Becky Beth Benedict, who is both the director and the producer said, “the songs are really catchy, and it would be a really good opportunity for us to make the audience feel easier that way.”

She also highlights that it is the first musical including the bagpipes. Compared to past productions, the musicians are also going to be playing more rock and roll instruments such as electric guitars. She is planning to have interactive activities such as photo zones and games for the audience as well.

“I am obsessed with this show. Just talking about it makes me smile… I am excited to make plans, plan all the props, and to have people in the room with me who are also in love with the productions,” said Benedict. She expects the performers to be excited because the show is all about joy.

The show “Mamma Mia!” is about a mother and daughter that live on an island in Greece. The daughter, Sophie, is going to be married soon, but the mother, Donna, is uncertain about the marriage. At the same time, Sophie wants to find out who her father is. After she coincidentally reads her mom’s old journal, she finds out that she has three possible fathers (Bill, Sam, and Harry) and invites all of them to her wedding. Donna invites her enthusiastic best friends who were in the same band as her when they were younger. The mother soon finds out that the fathers are on the island, worries more about her daughter’s marriage and realizes that she is still in love with one of them.

Benedict wants to point out two things: “One, to the people who are thinking, kind of, sort of, possibly, the show is going to be so fun to get involved whatever roles you get. So be brave.” Since thirty people signed up already, she believes there is going to be some competition for leading roles. She is excited to see who is going to show up and eventually come together.

“Last, to anyone who wants to see the show, get the tickets quickly because it is going to be sold out fast.”

New Teachers Join MacDuffie Faculty

Originally published on The MacDuffie Magnet by Hannah Lee, Beyza Tumturk, and Derrick Cruz

English: Jessica Sperry

Jessica Sperry recently joined the MacDuffie community as a member of the English Department this fall. With her, she brought fifteen years of classroom experience and a general passion for books. You would expect nothing more from an English teacher, yet, Sperry constantly draws from this union between herself and her job, as she reflects on what it has led her to.

Remembering herself during high school, she says, “School was always a haven for me and I really liked being in school, but I was not really good at school. As I got older it was not until my twenties that I realized I wanted to be a teacher. I think it was because I was not good at school that I can be here teaching.”

As she grows older, this is a feeling that keeps coming back to her, where she likes to involve herself with other people or concepts on a day to day basis.

“I feel inspired by everything I read,” said Sperry. “I am reading Jane Eyre. That is one book I have felt inspired by every day. The Joy Luck Club somewhat inspired me as well…”

According to Sperry, she particularly enjoys her job because of her students. What she has enjoyed the most throughout her fifteen years of teaching is her students’ ability to provide her with new knowledge every day.

“I enjoy learning about language, dance, music, and culture…I learn how to grow and how to adapt every single day from my students,” she said.

According to Sperry, this is one of the best things about her job and she wishes to continue this practice every day.

One of her favorite quotes that she appreciates is “Live at peace with one another as much as you are able.”

Science: Joseph Varney

Mr. Varney
Mr. Varney busy at his computer in his classroom. Photo by Josiah Sperry.

Joseph Varney, former alumni of The MacDuffie School and a newly established member of the MacDuffie Science Department is proud to be back on campus. Although he came back many times after he graduated, whether it be in spending his summers as a member of MacDuffie’s annual Summer Camp, or even in reaching out to influential faculty such as Mrs. Tomkiel, he still sees much of what left an impression on him when he was a student.

Upon recalling his experience on campus as a student, he says,  “Coming from [a] public school, it was a big change. It was not as rigid and as structured, and I liked that. This was because it allowed me to develop independently rather than develop myself in that structured setting. Also, the diversity of the campus is something I enjoyed. I look for diverse everywhere I go and that was sparked here.”

Varney emphasized what is even more apparent to him now: why did he decide to teach and why at MacDuffie. In college, he realized that he had a passion for teaching almost immediately, as he tutored students on concepts in Chemistry and Biology.

As he strives to teach MacDuffie students what he has learned in college, he says one of the general lessons he tries to teach is “a passion for learning, whether it be in learning the fundamentals of soccer with me on and off the field, or the fundamentals of Biology in the classroom.”

In his free time, he “enjoys playing soccer and kickball competitively.” He is also a self-proclaimed “big movie guy.” He enjoys all types of movies, but if he had to pick a favorite it would be horror movies.

Joseph Varney is here to stay at The MacDuffie School, a place that has allowed him to develop into the person that he currently is.

Athletics: Neil Domer-Shank

Mr. Domer-Shank
Mr. Domer-Shank posing by the window. Photo by Josiah Sperry.

Neil Domer-Shank was introduced to MacDuffie when he joined the community last Spring as a coach for the new Baseball team. Domer-Shank did not commit to being a full-time coach until this summer.

According to Domer-Shank, Macduffie has “a strong staff community that works together and communicates well, [as well as a] a diverse group of students who are open to new ideas and willing to challenge themselves. An athletic department that builds leaders that are well-rounded on and off the field”.

When asked about his reasons for coming to MacDuffie, he said,  “Originally, I came here because it was a great landing point for a group of high school baseball players who were looking to be educated at a high level and play baseball at the collegiate level. This was as a coach. To come here as a full-time staff, I was impressed by the community and wanted to have a bigger part to play in that community. “

You will find he loves talking about the things he loves most, including baseball, coffee, and most importantly, his wife, kids, and his PE classes.

“PE, which combines elements of leadership, social engagement, teamwork, nutrition, athletics, recreation, and a healthy lifestyle, have always been elements that I try to incorporate into my daily life,  including as a husband and father,” he said. “Our goals in class don’t just exist for a quarter or semester during a year, but [they are] applicable to the rest of the student’s life.”

Other things he enjoys about the community are the positive energy from dozens of students on an hourly basis, and a staff team that is doing everything in their power to put them in positions where they can be successful; and also great food!

Domer-Shank begins his time at MacDuffie trying out new things and constantly allowing himself to fall freely into the arms of the MacDuffie community, making his PE classes memorable across campus each day.

Science: Roger Moncusi

Mr. Moncusi
Mr. Roger Moncusi

Roger Moncusi joined the MacDuffie School as a Physics and Chemistry teacher starting for the 2019-2020 school year. He has taught Chemistry, Physics, and Math for over twenty years. Moncusi was born and raised in Barcelona, and he moved to Amherst, MA 6 years ago. His wife is getting her Ph.D., which is why Moncusi and his family came to the states. He misses all the childhood memories in Barcelona, but he is also excited to make new memories in the United States and at MacDuffie.

Moncusi was attracted to MacDuffie because of the relatively small student to teacher ratio. According to Moncusi, “it is easier to get to know students and to remember their names. Therefore, it is easier for me to know [the students at MacDuffie] than [a] big ratio of students.”

At MacDuffie, Moncusi is expecting to help his students learn. He believes there are two ways to learn at MacDuffie. He says, “first is to help students and to self learn since there [is] always something to learn about other people. And I am also ready to learn myself about how school works and how teachers teach in the United States.”

Moncusi loves to watch soccer games, go snowboarding, and especially play human tower. According to Moncusi, “It is a team activity that is traditional in Barcelona. Human Tower involves a lot of different people. 700 people can build one human tower. Once you are in the team, everyone is welcomed. No gender, social, physical condition difference exists. Everyone has places and roles…It helps bonds the whole community and put everyone in the same position and level. Everyone is welcomed when they have something to help build the human tower.”

The most interesting human tower that he ever participated in is 3/10 tower. The 3/10 human tower consists of 3 people in each of the 10 floors. The achievement of the human tower is completing it in one second. He points out that achievement comes from the moment that shows the reward for the hard work.

As Moncusi’s life goal is “to be happy,” and he hopes to find the things and people that make him happy at MacDuffie. He loved his first three weeks of teaching at MacDuffie, and he is excited to make more memories.


History: Sklyar Mead 

Sklyar Mead joins our MacDuffie Community as a history teacher who teaches two Modern European History classes and one Global Studies class. She majored in Modern European History which led to her teaching history classes at MacDuffie. Mead was born and raised in the suburbs of Albany, New York. “It is kind of like Springfield, but a little bit nicer with the Hudson River next to my house,” she said.

Mead was looking for a job in a small school that would allow her to work on her Master’s degree online. Previously, she taught two years of middle school Social Studies, along with teaching elementary school when she was in college. She is excited to teach and meet students who are engaged a lot in her classes.

According to Mead, she is already driven by the MacDuffie community. She says she met other faculty members who are really nice and positive students who have helped her a lot to adjust to her new community.

“Although I am still confused [about]  getting [the] hang of the buildings, I always got help from others who were willing to help.”

Mead is looking forward to special activities or traditions that only MacDuffie has. She is interested particularly in Mountain Day since she climbed the same mountain with some difficulty. She is curious about how all the other faculty and students will do.

Outside of school, she is interested in baking food, including cakes, spreads, and pastry. She also enjoys hiking and reading, although she is most interested in running. Mead started running since she was 11 because her mom wanted her to. She started to find running enjoyable during high school, and she participated in a couple of 5k runs. She is now preparing for a 10k run. Mead also loves traveling and learning about different parts of the world, including their languages. She is fluent in French, German, and Danish. Her favorite city she visited was Munique, Germany, as she was impressed by the beautiful old buildings and gardens. She is looking forward to going to Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, and France one day.

Visual Arts: Jena McNerney

Ms. McNerney
Ms. McNerney by the colorful wall she painted in her classroom. Photo by Josiah Sperry

MacDuffie welcomes Jena McNerney back after two years. Many students remember McNerney as the middle school Arts and Perspective Visual Arts teacher. However, this year she is also teaching Visual Art classes for high schoolers. She said that she especially missed the “friendliness and kindness” in the community and the “vigorous” students who have a “drive to success.”

During her time away, McNerney opened her own art studio where she learned about struggle and budget. She thinks that opening her art studio was a special experience in that she learned a lot from it. In fact, one of her mottos in life is “learn from everything.”

Her goals are “bigger than solely being a teacher,” even though teaching is a big part of her life. She wants to start up a cafe near her art studio where she would create every product used there by hand, even the mugs. She aspires to teach her students that “me time is important,” something we forget during the busy academic year.

Her hobbies are creating art, hiking, and playing basketball. She was the girl’s basketball coach before she left MacDuffie. She also attended girls’ basketball games while she was not working at MacDuffie. Although she says that she is not going to take the coaching position, she will cheer and watch the games as the “unofficial coach.”

Spanish: Kevin Saez

Mr. Saez
Mr. Kevin Saez. Photo by Beyza Tumturk

MacDuffie welcomes Kevin Saez. Saez has been teaching Spanish classes at MacDuffie since the departure of Gloria Caballero. Aside from teaching Spanish, he wants to teach his students about Latino culture and create opportunities to get his students involved in the community.

He is especially passionate about the Puerto Rican culture that he grew up in. He was born in Naranjito, Puerto Rico. In Naranjito, he likes the happy people, the weather, and the Puerto Rican food. His hobbies include dancing, listening to music, and eating. He dances to a variety of styles anywhere from ballet to salsa.

He says MacDuffie “feels like home” where the students are “accepting.” Being a teacher at MacDuffie is a big step for him because it is his first job experience in the United States. He believes that “if you want something in life you have to go for it.”

Saez, who wanted to be a teacher since his childhood, believes that teaching is a rewarding job. When he was stationed in Spain, some of his students came to him and said that they had a lot of fun and also learned a lot from him. He believes when the students are thankful for his efforts, it is the most special part of teaching. As a community, we are looking forward to seeing Saez practicing his passion for teaching at MacDuffie.

Middle School Head: Tara Robinson

Mrs. Robinson
Mrs. Tara Robinson. Photo by Beyza Tumturk

MacDuffie welcomes the new Middle School Coordinator, Tara Robinson. Robinson’s passion for teaching developed from a very young age when her little sister, who is two years younger than her, was born.

“I knew I wanted to be a teacher the minute my little sister was born,” Robinson said. Although she had other interests, she realized that with teaching she can do “[a lot of] things all at once and help the most people.”

Her real teaching experience started relatively early when she was studying at Easthampton High School. She enrolled for a program called Tiny Tots, where high schoolers would run a preschool or daycare. She was also the head of a program in which she created lesson plans and evaluated students. Looking back at her experiences in the program she said, “I learned a lot about child development” and got a chance to become a teacher.

Robinson especially likes teaching middle schoolers because she believes middle school years are the “sweet spot” in which students are old enough to start developing their characters, have opinions, and talk about different things that matter, yet still young enough to be influenced.

“Middle schoolers are impressionable and they need people at this age to give them a voice and to help them to find the right path,” she said.

Robinson wants her students to feel confident and comfortable with both the material they are learning and themselves. She looks forward to seeing that her students are able to advocate for themselves and feel like they have a voice.

Robinson believes influencing her students’ characters is the most rewarding part of teaching. Her goal is not making students “[remember] the facts of a lesson,” but it is hearing them say that she cared about them, helped them, and that they feel better about themselves and what they are doing because of her.