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New Faculty Members Join the Upper School

by Kirthi Sankar, Hannah Clattenburg, and Kate Dobson

This article first appeared in the November 2023 issue of Woodley Leaves.

This year, Maret has welcomed to the Upper School a new group of faculty members who bring wide-ranging experiences to their work with students. What are some tidbits to know about these newest Faculty Frogs?

Mr. Murphy joined the Humanities Department this year to teach eighth and ninth-grade history. Previously, he served as the ninth-grade dean at the Wardlaw-Hartridge School in New Jersey, where he designed a curriculum focused on advocacy. It included “studying an ancient history snapshot, a middle history snapshot, and a modern history snapshot, asking the same kind of question about how to help people,” he explains. He moved to DC this year and says he enjoys how welcoming the Maret community is and the students’ independence. “It takes a lot of maturity to go outside and treat each other as humans,” and “you all do a really good job at that,” he says. Outside of teaching, Mr. Murphy loves to write, play guitar, and run with his partner. 

Ms. Flores is also a new Humanities Department member who teaches in both the Upper and Middle Schools, with classes in eighth and tenth-grade English. Previously, she taught LatinX Literature at American University but enjoys having the chance at Maret to teach younger students. “When it comes to teaching college students, there's a certain level of ‘Let’s just get it done,’ and there’s passion when it comes to certain subjects, and there’s lots of energy, but I love catching them at this age. Kids, they’re a lot of fun,” she says. One of the reasons Ms. Flores chose to come to Maret is because of how the school combines history and English in Humanities, which invites her to add historical context to her teaching. She is looking forward to teaching James Baldwin to the tenth grade and going to the Haunted Forest with her eighth-grade advisees. Outside of teaching she loves to play with her cat, Phineas, crochet, and read sci-fi and fantasy novels. 

Ms. Portocarrero came to Maret this year to become the Middle and Upper School Library Associate, a position that also has her teaching a fifth-grade library class. Prior to Maret, Ms. Portocarreo taught first-year college students how to conduct research and produce scholarly writing at the collegiate level as a composition instructor in the Writing Studies Program at American University. She made the shift from a college setting because she values “the joy that exists in a K-12 space” and “the collaboration of the whole school.” As the new librarian, Ms. Portocarrero looks forward to creating more book displays to spotlight different authors, adding more to the non-fiction collection, and “making the library classes my own.” She’s excited for Day of Dialogue and hoping to work with some affinity groups and clubs. Outside of teaching Ms. Portocarrero likes to paint with watercolors, take walks, and watch television.

Ms. Woods is currently teaching Wellness classes for seventh and eleventh graders. She is also temporarily taking the reins as an eighth-grade Spanish teacher for a three-month stint. Ms. Woods is not truly a  newcomer this year as she substituted as a Wellness teacher for most of last year. Prior to coming to Maret, Ms. Woods worked as an immigration attorney and was an American Studies faculty member at American University. Some of Ms. Woods’ favorite hobbies include being with her ten-year-old daughter, Roya, watching American University sporting games, reading, and writing. As a new member of the community, she says that “the kindness, respect, and caring we show at Maret has really stood out” and is a big part of why she has enjoyed Maret so far. She is excited to attend games at Maret and aims to create a fun and engaging community in her classroom.

Ms. Arthur is the newest addition to Maret’s health team and is excited to be a part-time nurse at Maret. Before coming to Maret, Ms. Arthur worked as a travel nurse, taking care of people around the country. As a newcomer to Maret, she has found people in the community to be “very friendly and fun to be around, and supportive of one another.” Ms. Arthur enjoys cooking, camping, and running, and is currently training for a marathon. She is also excited for the upcoming upper school play.

Mr. Pulupa has joined Maret’s Math Department, teaching two classes in Advanced Precalculus and one in Advanced Statistics. Mr. Pulupa has been teaching for fifteen years, spending most of that time at Poolesville High School. Before teaching, he worked as an engineer, a career that gave him insight into math beyond the classroom. Mr. Pulupa says that one of his favorite things about Maret (aside from the chocolate milk at lunch) is that the students “tend to be really, really nice.” Mr. Pulupa is looking forward to attending Maret’s performing arts and sports events and always enjoys finding out about his students' activities. His goal for the year is simple: he hopes to have “all the kids really excited about coming to class” and formulating new ideas in the classroom. 

Ms. Sotelo, a new member of the Visual Arts Department, teaches classes in photography, as well as a course entitled “Photojournalism and Documentary.” Born in Lima, Peru, Ms. Sotelo has also lived in Bolivia, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina. Before coming to Maret, she worked as a freelance photographer, a video producer, and a documentary producer. Ms. Sotelo has also devoted time to personal projects, such as Wild Swimmers, in which she melded her interests in swimming and photography to document outdoor swimming groups throughout Peru and Chile. She also enjoys traveling, cooking, and interior design. As a newcomer, Maret’s culture has stood out to her. "Maret students are very curious, which is something I really value in artists," she says. Ms. Sotelo adds,  “It's always a challenge to join a community, even though I've moved like ten times, but what's made it easy is that people are very welcoming and understanding to outsiders.”

Mr. Petrucci, the second new member of the Visual Arts Department, teaches ceramics and sculpture in the Upper School and seventh and eighth-grade art in the Middle School. In college Mr. Petrucci studied ceramics, and he is looking forward to teaching his pottery students to work on the wheel later this year. Outside of the classroom, some of his hobbies include soccer and reading. Mr. Petrucci grew up in the DC area and often heard good things about Maret. He chose to join the faculty because he believes Maret works from a set of progressive values and ideas that align with his own. “I have found the students, faculty, and staff to be thoughtful and welcoming throughout the Maret community, from the Upper School to the Lower School,” he says. 

The Performing Arts Department has also welcomed a new addition, Upper School Choir Director Mr. Gardner. Before coming to Maret, Mr. Gardner taught choir, band, piano, strings, and guitar at his high school alma mater. In his new position, the openness of Maret students has stood out for him. "In the choir room you're sharing something personal,” so seeing “the willingness to jump in and try things, even with a new choir teacher, has been really cool." He also appreciates that Maret is a K-12 school, noting that the progression through Upper School makes the community feel even closer. He looks forward to preparing songs with the choir around the school’s theme for the year, Charting New Paths, and the winter musical, The School of Rock. Outside of school, Mr. Gardner likes to hike, play piano, basketball, and surf.