Faculty Profiles: Departing Faculty

Mr. Ashton Betancourt

Photo by Jessica Shi/The Choate News

“I’ll miss his charismatic and passionate personality. I’ll also miss his amazing cookies and hot chocolate. Most importantly, though, I’ll miss the best teacher I’ve ever had,” said Arjun Katechia ’19, referring to Mr. Ashton Betancourt, who will retire this year to reunite with his family in Mexico City.

Choate is not the first school at which Mr. Betancourt has taught. Raised in Philadelphia, Mr. Betancourt has attended at the St. Paul’s School and taught at the Kent School. He has also lived in Mexico City for four years, where he taught at the American School.

Referencing his time at the St. Paul’s School, Mr. Betancourt said, “Back in high school, I had a wonderful math teacher who helped me recognize my interest in the philosophy of math.”  He attended Yale University, where he received a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Philosophy. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Southern California. He commented, “I realized how much I enjoyed working with students. I liked working with students more than I liked researching, and that is why I decided to become a teacher.”

This term, Mr. Betancourt has taught Honors Algebra II, Honors Multivariable Calculus, and a directed study in Graph Theory. In addition to being a mathematics teacher at Choate since 2012, Mr. Betancourt coaches the Girls’ Crew and JV Squash teams.

Mr. Betancourt is well known for imparting inspirational advice. Madison Mandell ’18 said, “Mr. Betancourt told me that you actually start each term with a 0, and you need to work your way up to 100, rather than starting at 100 and going down.”

Katechia added, “Mr. Betancourt’s extremely challenging class has helped improve my work ethic immensely. He has taught me that the point of going to school is not just to get good grades. Instead, he has taught me to love and enjoy learning, and to learn to my best ability.”

– Pinn Chirathivat ’19

Mr. Tyren Bynum ’07

Photo courtesy of Bryce Wachtell

Mr. Tyren Bynum reflected, “I’m obviously sad that it’s time to depart, but I’m so proud of the opportunities that Choate has bestowed me. I hope I can bring the skillset that I’ve developed at Choate to my next experience.

During his time at Choate, Mr. Bynum taught English, coached both JV Boys’ Basketball and the track and field team, held a position on the Diversity Education Committee, and advised the Students of Color group. Mr. Bynum said, “Every day is a bright day. Everyday I’m able to wake up and engage with young people in this campus. I look at my life as a blessing — I couldn’t ask for a better situation or a more ideal position.” 

Mr. Bynum believes he had “grown a lot as an educator, as a thinker, as a member of this community” during his experiences at Choate. Explaining his move, he remarked, “I saw this as the apt time for me to move to a new school and to try to evolve in a different community.” Mr. Bynum would like to spend more time with his partner, who is based in Boston.

As a Choate student, Mr. Bynum was a prefect, captain of the track team, and president of Choate Afro-Latino Student Alliance. Mr. Bynum reminisced, “Choate was challenging but rewarding at the same time. I ultimately gained a broader sense of purpose in understanding the world more complexly. I’m always grateful for the opportunity to attend Choate and for the opportunity to meet such fantastic teachers.” After attending Choate, Mr. Bynum studied at Kenyon College and taught at Phillips Exeter Academy for a year before coming back to Choate to teach for four years.

Baji Tumendemberel ’18, an English student of Mr. Bynum, described the class as “an environment for meaningful conversation and personal development,” and Mr. Bynum as “a true educator of unorthodox excellence.”

– Mark Su ’18

Ms. Lisa Conway

Photo by Elle Rinaldi/The Choate News

The Registrar’s Office will never be the same after this year, as record coordinator Ms. Lisa Conway is leaving Choate in order to move to Boston. She has worked at this school for ten years.

During her time at Choate, Ms. Conway has not always been at the Registrar’s Office. In 2007, Ms. Conway began working at Choate. She commented, “When my son Jacob got accepted to Choate, I realized that I was going to be driving him here everyday, and so I started looking for jobs.” She first began working part time in the Arts Department, where she was in charge of scheduling music lessons. From there, Ms. Conway moved to the College Office to work as its data coordinator. According to Ms. Conway, “Both of those jobs worked closely with the Registrar’s Office, so when this position opened up, I applied. I’ve been here at the office for four years.” The Registrar’s Office is in charge of student course schedules, grades, transcripts, and diplomas. Ms. Conway said, “We try to make sure the kids can get most of what they’re requesting.” 

Ms. Conway hails from Missouri, and she graduated from Graceland University, in Iowa. She began her career working as a national bank examiner for the federal government. After that, Ms. Conway moved to California, where she worked as an analyst in the Audit Department for the University of California system and as a business manager in Santa Barbara. Later, she moved to Connecticut with her husband.

In regards to her time after moving to Connecticut but before working at Choate, Ms. Conway said, “I stayed home with my kids for a while, and then I taught as a substitute teacher for many years.”

Next year, Ms. Conway and her husband will be moving to the Boston area. Ms. Conway plans to stay in an academic administration, either in a college or a private high school. She remarked, “I’m going to wait until we’re there before I look for a job.”

On what she’s going to miss next year, Ms. Conway said, “I have very fond feelings for Choate, because both of my kids graduated from here, and I’ll miss the people here. I’ll especially miss the nice, close-knit feeling in this community.”

– Grayce Gibbs ’18

Mr. Austin Davis

Photo by Elle Rinaldi/The Choate News

“The concepts he teaches me always blow my mind, and he never ceases to make me think in a different way,” remarked Kate Moore ’17 about Mr. Austin Davis, who will leave Choate after three years of working as an English teacher, adviser, and coach.

Mr. Davis plans on moving to New York City to teach high school English at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School. He said, “I loved my time at Choate, but I’m feeling the call of the city. At least for a little while, I want to be in the city, get to see a different kind of school, and develop myself as an educator.”

After graduating from Williams College with a degree in English and Math, Mr. Davis taught English at Phillips Academy. According to Mr. Davis, “After I did my year at Andover, and knew that I wanted to stay in the boarding school world; it really made sense to come back to Choate.” Mr. Davis worked as a teaching intern for the Choate Summer Program five years ago as a rising senior in college. In addition to teaching English, Mr. Davis has coached boy’s varsity water polo, boys’ varsity swimming for three years, and girls’ varsity swimming for one year, along with advising The Choate News.

Mr. Davis has made his mark on the school — he proposed and wrote the curriculum for the current senior English elective, “The Horror! The Horror!” Mr. Davis is also the adviser of Lorem Ipsum, Choate’s recently founded satirical newspaper. He says, “being a part of them getting that project off the ground has been really amazing.” Additionally, he is part of the Summer Reading Committee in the English Department.

Mr. Davis said, “I’ve loved my time at Choate. I know I’ll be teaching forever, but I’m really thankful to have had a formative experience this early in my career. Both in terms of the teaching I’ve gotten to do and the people I’ve gotten to know, I feel really lucky to have had this experience.”

– Grayce Gibbs ’18

Ms. Tianlin Ford

Photo courtesy of Choate Rosemary Hall

Describing Ms. Tianlin Ford, Katie Overstrum ’16 said, “She was always able to throw in an element of surprise during practices, whether it be counting out loud in Chinese during core, or teaching us tai chi in order to combat the daily stresses of Choate, her coaching style was quiet, but powerful, and she really pushed me to do my best.” Overstrum is a student who had Ms. Ford as a coach for squash and cross country.

At the end of this school year, Ms. Ford will be leaving Choate after teaching for two years. Next year, Ms. Ford and her family will be living in Indiana, where her husband will be working at Notre Dame University. According to Ms. Ford, “I’m still hashing out what I will be doing next year, but some kind of teaching.”

Ms. Amy Foster, Head of the History, Philosophy, Religion, and Social Sciences (HPRSS) Department, said, “Ms. Ford is a wonderful teacher who has tremendous knowledge of her subject and shares it with her students in an engaging and effective manner.”

Ms. Diana Beste, Head of the Language Department, added, “We’re going to miss her dearly. She’s had a great impact on us — for one, she helped not only the Language Department, but also the entire faculty to better understand how young people learn.”

She is known to interact with her students on a personal level; her Chinese 650 students and squash players fondly remember her making dumplings for them.

Ms. Ford attended Nankai University in China, where she received a B.S. in Psychology and a B.S. in Physics. Then, Ms. Ford went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she got an M.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Chinese Linguistics.

After she arrived in the fall of 2014, Ms. Ford taught AP Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Child Development, Abnormal Psychology, Chinese 650, and Chinese 200. She also coached girls’ squash for two years and cross country for a year. Ms. Ford said, “I loved how often I was impressed by my students. It was eye-opening how thoroughly exciting it could be.”

She concluded, “I hope I will be back one day. I really was hoping that my daughter Elizabeth could grow up here, and run cross country or play squash, but I guess we’ll have to wait for a couple of years and see where that goes. But hopefully, I can come back one day.”

– Grayce Gibbs ’18

Dr. Zeynep Isvan

Photo courtesy of Choate Rosemary Hall

Dr. Zeynep Isvan commented on her experience teaching here for three years, “Choate helped me find who I am, what I believe, what I value in life on a broader scale without pressure and judgment. I spent a lot of time thinking about the role model I want to set for my students and more recently for my son. Choate encouraged me to invest in self-reflection.”

Next year, Dr. Isvan will be teaching mathematics at Milton Academy in Milton, Massachusetts. Dr. Isvan’s husband is finishing his doctoral work at University of Connecticut, and he’s also taken a job in the Boston area. Dr. Isvan said, “It’s an exciting move for my family, but it is certainly bittersweet. We’ve loved the life we had started creating at Choate.”

Dr. Isvan, who currently teaches mathematics, got her undergraduate degree from Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey. From there, she went to the University of Pittsburgh for graduate school. While writing her dissertation, Dr. Isvan spent several weeks at Kent School visiting her boyfriend, now husband, who taught there. According to Dr. Isvan, that was when she “fell in love with boarding school.”

During her doctoral study at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Isvan gained experience through writing analysis software and building detector hardware. Dr. Isvan added, “I was a TA during the earlier part of my doctoral study, so I had some teaching experience there, too.” She was also an experimental particle physicist. After her two-year postdoctoral research position ended, Dr. Isvan applied to become a member of the Choate faculty.

Students have enjoyed their experiences with Dr. Isvan. Mehreen Pasha ’18, who is currently in Dr. Isvan’s BC Calculus class, said, “I think Dr. Isvan is a really great teacher because she makes us focus on internalizing the information we learn, as opposed to just memorizing it.”

– Grayce Gibbs ’18

Mr. Vincent Jones

Photo courtesy of Vincent Jones

Come June, the Choate community will bid farewell to Mr. Vincent Jones, who has worked to improve student activities for two years. Originally from the Bay Area, Mr. Jones attended Middlebury College studying sociology and anthropology and later matriculated at the Teachers College of Columbia University, where he pursued a master’s degree in Education Policy and Student Affairs.

Mr. Jones was working in Computer and Information Technology at Columbia when he received a job offer from Mr. James Yanelli, Director of the Student Activities Center (SAC). Mr. Yanelli commented, “Vincent has an extraordinary background educationally around topics that are useful and appropriate in student activities and student affairs in general. He was an exciting candidate at the time that we hired him, and we were thrilled that he would bring so much to his job and work here at the SAC.”

After his arrival in 2014, Mr. Jones has played a huge role in making activities more accessible to students, planning enjoyable events at the SAC, and working with his colleagues on graphic design and communications. Mr. Jones said, “My favorite events here are definitely karaoke nights and coffeehouses, when students have the ability and platform to share their artistic selves.” This year, among many other activities, Mr. Jones has held a Zumba class, featuring music from places ranging from America to Brazil.

He has also actively facilitated community service. Last year, he chaperoned a service trip to the Oaxaca region of Mexico, where students helped dispense food to over a thousand people and finalized a dormitory to house students of the area. This past spring break, he accompanied the Chamber Chorus on their service trip to the Bronx to teach music at a school without an arts program. In addition, this will be Mr. Jones’s third summer serving as the director of the Choate Volunteer Corps program.

Next year, Mr. Jones plans to return to Columbia as a full-time doctoral student in Health Education and Biostatistics. “He has an incredible energy and ability to connect to all kinds of students. He has such keen and clever wit, and he’s just been enjoyable to work with. I know we will all miss him next year,” reflected Mr. Yanelli.

– Ananya Karanam ’18

One Comment

  1. Last winter, the university did just that, appointing anthropology department chair Richard Bribiescas as its first deputy provost for faculty development and diversity.

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