The Rev. Kristen Tossell Pitts

The Rev. Kristen Tossell Pitts serves WES’s Chaplain. Kristen joins us from the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church located in College Park, MD, where she served as the Associate Rector and from the University of Maryland where she served as the Episcopal Chaplain. Chaplain Kristen holds a Master of Divinity from the Virginia Theological Seminary and a Bachelor of Arts from Furman University. 

Chaplain Kristen has been a contributing writer to several recent publications including The Rev. Ian Markham (Dean of Virginia Theological Seminary)’s second edition of his systematic theology textbook, Understanding Christian Doctrine, the soon-be released the revision of the Rite 13 program, a popular middle school curriculum in Episcopal churches and other denominations, and Episcopal Teacher, a publication of Virginia Theological Seminary.

Dr. Omékongo Dibinga

Dr. Omékongo Dibinga is a professor of cross-cultural communication at American University. He has studied at Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Georgetown, Morehouse, and The Fletcher School, where he earned a Master of Arts degree in Law & Diplomacy. He holds a Ph.D. in International Education Policy from the University of Maryland. Dr. Dibinga’s work at WES this year will include curriculum reviews, ongoing diversity education, leadership work with the students, and parental engagement.

He is a motivational speaker, trilingual poet, TV talk show host, rapper, and professor of cross-cultural communication at American University. His Urban Music Award winning work has best been described by Nikki Giovanni as “outstanding, exciting, and new while being very old.” His book, From the Limbs of My Poetree was described by Essence Magazine as “a remarkable and insightful collection of exquisite poetry that touches sacred places within your spirit.” He was one of 5 international recipients out of 750,000 to win the first ever “CNN iReport Spirit Award.” He has received over 1,000,000 views on CNN.com.

Omékongo’s writings and performances have appeared in O Magazine, as well as on TV and radio from CNN, BET, and the BBC to NPR, Music Choice, and Voice of America in millions of homes in over 150 countries. He has also written songs for major motion pictures as well as organizations such as NASA and the Enough! Project. He has spoken before the United Nations, partners with the State Department to conduct youth leadership trainings overseas, and speaks to leadership and youth student conferences across the country.

Mrs. Caterina Earle

At WES since 1995

What motivated you to become a teacher?
I always loved school and learning. Even as a student, I delighted in helping classmates figure out ways to better understand what we were studying. I started tutoring younger students when I was in high school and then was a teaching assistant in college, and I loved the challenge of developing methods for explaining concepts clearly and efficiently, and that reached different people with different learning styles. Plus, I grew up in a family that is enthusiastic about science and the natural world, so it seemed natural to pass along that enthusiasm to others.

If you could talk to any living person now, who would it be and why?
The British naturalist/biologist Sir David Attenborough -– for me, he embodies the spirit of wonder and appreciation for the natural world. He eloquently communicates the responsibility we humans have to be good stewards of this planet. I would be especially eager to hear his opinions on the best strategies for supporting endangered species and ecosystems.

Mr. Mehdi Elkassem

At WES since 2001

What is your philosophy on teaching?
As a teacher, when you enter the classroom, you get disconnected from the outside world and your full attention is on each child. We are trusted by God and by the parents with the most valuable thing on earth; the children. And our duty as teachers, caregivers, and educators is to teach, share our expertise, serve, protect, care for, and love our students. We should always be aware of what we say to the children because sometimes what you think is a small and simple teaching moment can actually be the very big and important one. We also should always accept kids the way they are. They all come in different shapes, different brains, and different personalities, and it’s that type of diversity that makes our classroom and community beautiful.

How has education changed since you started teaching?
Students now are wanting and seeking more innovative ways of learning. There is a greater expectation to be dynamic and make the material relevant to their experience and world.

Mrs. Dawn Harding

At WES since 1999

What motivated you to become a teacher?
I discovered my passion for teaching when I first began volunteering in my son’s preschool class in 1987. This inspired me to complete the Maryland state required course work to teach in the field of early childhood.

What is your philosophy on teaching?
My philosophy on teaching is similar to my philosophy about life in general: always treat other people the way you would want to be treated. We should remember this as teachers and help our students learn to see the world this way. Our school motto of “Be Kind” fits perfectly with my philosophy.

Ms. Katie Hopper

At WES since 2011

What excites you about teaching Middle School language arts?
Middle School students are struggling to form their identities amidst a complex, fast-moving world. Surrounding them with literature gives them the opportunity to listen to other voices confronting the same struggles within the safety of a well-crafted story. Giving students the tools for examining and questioning text allows them to expand their thinking and to make intelligent decisions. Teaching them how to write gives students the opportunity to develop and share their own voice. To be a part of this process is priceless.

How has teaching language arts changed with the advances in digital media and digital tools like google docs?
Has it really changed? Students still use language to express, to expand, to organize, to craft, and to share their ideas. Technology gives them new formats within which to do this. Perhaps, what has changed is access. Students have greater and speedier access to all manner of text. Likewise, students can share their own products with a far greater audience, giving them more expansive audiences. Finally, students have more options for exploring text and for crafting their own “writing.”