’23-’24 New Teacher Roundup

A get-to-know-you with the new teachers and staff.
The AHS faculty and staff pose for a group photo the day before school starts.
The AHS faculty and staff pose for a group photo the day before school starts.
L. Reaser

There are 25 new teachers and staff joining the AHS community this year. Here’s a quick introduction to the newest Patriots.

We asked them five questions:

  1.  What classes do you teach? Coaching any sports?
  2. How long have you been teaching?
  3. Why did you decided to become a teacher, and what do you love most about it?
  4. What’s your favorite movie or TV show?
  5. What’s a fun fact about you?
ESOL Teacher Paola Potts
ESOL Teacher Paola Potts

Paola Potts (she/her) is an ESOL teacher for Algebra 1 and English 11. She used to work at CATEC, and this is her eighth year of teaching.

“I have always wanted to be a teacher, ever since I was in preschool,” Potts said. “It is a lot of fun to form new minds and learn along with the students. I have always been very curious about learning new things and trying new things, inspiring other people. 

Potts’ favorite TV show is Seinfeld. “It’s timeless, classic and funny,” she said.

Potts has traveled to 30 countries in every continent except for Africa and Antarctica, and just came back from Thailand.

“I love trying new things and eating different foods and learning about different cultures,” she said.

Math Teacher Steven Eckstrom
Math Teacher Steven Eckstrom

Steven Eckstrom is an Algebra 1 and AFDA (Algebra Functions & Data Analysis) teacher. He has worked as a school administrator for 15 years.

Eckstrom’s high school math teacher inspired him to be a teacher after seeing him work with peers.

“I majored in math and also worked a summer camp with kids and found that a blast, and I put those two things together,” he said. 

Eckstrom’s favorite thing about teaching is giving students opportunities to be better people.

“Math has a very poor stigma,” he said. “Giving them [students] a language that they can be familiar within the math world helps them.”

One of Eckstrom’s favorite movies is Boyz in the Hood because of its “amazing” message about survival struggle and the importance of parents and fatherhood.

A fun fact about Eckstrom is that he got a hole-in-one in golf the same day his brother got married.

ESOL Teacher Brittany Lichter
ESOL Teacher Brittany Lichter

Brittany Lichter (she/her) is an ESOL Teacher who works with World History, Government, and Algebra 2 students. She worked as a substitute last year, and this is her first year back teaching high school since she had her children.

Lichter has always had a passion for teaching high school-age students.

“It’s when kids are really starting their lives and making big decisions,” she said.

Lichter enjoys psychological and “kind of depressing” films like 12 Monkeys, Boys Don’t Cry and Girl, Interrupted.

She is also an avid artist and gardener.

“I love gardening, but everything I’ve planted has died ever since I started teaching,” she said.

Physics Teacher Asia Haque
Physics Teacher Asia Haque

Asia Haque (she/her) is a Physics 1 teacher entering her 3rd year of teaching. 

Haque’s favorite part of teaching is motivating students and helping them build positive relationships.

“I believe that if you can motivate kids, you can help them accomplish incredible things,” she said.

Haque loves the Fast and Furious franchise, especially for the action and overall message.

She loves cooking and traveling, and is expecting Irish twins (two babies born within one year of each other) this year. 

English Teacher Dr. Amanda Davis
English Teacher Dr. Amanda Davis

Dr. Amanda Davis (she/her) teaches English 11 and previously taught courses at the University of Florida and UVA, making this her 20th year of teaching. 

Her favorite thing about teaching is that it provides “transformative, life-changing opportunities.”

“I hope they never stop asking the question, ‘What is possible?'” Davis said. “I genuinely enjoy working closely with students, and it is very important to me that our classroom is a creative and inspiring space where they feel supported, cared about, and known.”

Her favorite movie is Hidden Figures, which she finds “very powerful.”

Engineering Teacher Chris Gardner
Engineering Teacher Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner teaches Engineering 1 and 2.

He was a system engineer integrator and program manager for government programs for 25 years. After moving back to Charlottesville with his family, he saw that there was an engineering program that needed to be revamped and began teaching at college.

His students are “easily” Gardner’s favorite part of teaching.

“I’m always surprised seeing the things they bring each day and hearing about their experiences,” he said.

One of his favorite movies is Inception.

Counselor Lauren Hudson
Counselor Lauren Hudson

Lauren Hudson (she/her) is a school counselor, working with students with last names Ce-Fo. 

This is her ninth year in education and seventh at the high school level. She used to work as a paralegal.

“It’s important to me that my work is making a positive contribution to my community,” Hudson said via email. “The importance of education is one of my most strongly held values.”

Some TV shows Hudson currently enjoys are The Bear, What We Do in the Shadows, and a re-watch of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Courtesy of Odaly Chavez
English Teacher Odaly Chavez

Odaly Chavez is a first-year English 9 and 10 teacher.

Chavez was inspired by the “power of education to transform lives” when making the decision to teach, she said.

“I wanted to be a lifelong learner alongside my students, continuously growing and adapting to new challenges,” she said. “I love having the opportunity to connect with students and empower them to reach their full potential.”

Her favorite movie is A Quiet Place

Courtesy of Odaly Chavez
Math Teacher Jackie Marinucci
Math Teacher Jackie Marinucci

Jackie Marinucci (she/her) is an Algebra 1, AFDA (Algebra Functions & Data Analysis) and Freshman Seminar teacher.

This is Marinucci’s first year of teaching, but she has been involved in education since 2015. As a military wife, she moved around and supported students in Virginia, Florida, Japan and England.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “We got to see lots of cool places.”

Having been at AHS last year, Marinucci was already familiar with the atmosphere and “super excited” to teach full-time.

“I enjoy the community, the culture, the support that teachers have and the relationship they have with students,” she said. “It’s been great.”

Marinucci’s favorite thing about teaching is the energy that students have. “It keeps me young and able to stay current. It keeps me on my toes,” she said.

Outside of education, she is a “hot-and-cold” runner. Marinucci has run four half-marathons in three countries.

“It’s such a good stress relief,” she said. “I love the endorphins. Thirty minutes in, all of a sudden, you feel so much better.”

English Teacher Jacob Francis
English Teacher Jacob Francis

Jacob Francis (he/him) is an English 11 and 12 teacher.

This is his first year teaching high school, but he worked as an elementary school teaching assistant and taught first-year undergraduate students at UVA. 

Francis knew early on he wanted to teach, having attended a education specialty program in high school.

“I’ve always had a passion for working with young minds and hearing different perspectives,” he said.

Francis loves gangster movies like Goodfellas.

I think Martin Scorecese is one of the greatest directors of all time,” he said.

A fun fact about Francis is that he has a twin brother.

“Unfortunately he doesn’t look like me,” he said, “Or else we would be trading places all the time.”

ESOL Teacher Sulay Garay Rodas
ESOL Teacher Sulay Garay Rodas

Sulay Garay Rodas teaches in the ESOL department. She has been teaching for over 30 years, starting when she was a teenager.

She loves teaching and chatting with students to get to know them better.

“It is more than teaching,” she said. “It’s to establish a relationship with the student and help them help their families.”

Her favorite movie is La Vida es Bella.

A fun fact about her is that her youngest daughter was the leader of a group called “Rebeldes con Causa” or “Rebels with a Cause” at school to protect student’s’ rights.

“This made me laugh a lot,” Garay Rodas said. “She was very young at 11 years old, and it was a beautiful surprise to me.”

Finance & Entrepreneurship Teacher Caroline Chang
Finance & Entrepreneurship Teacher Caroline Chang

Caroline Chang teaches Personal Finance and Entrepreneurship. This is her first year teaching high schoolers, but she taught preschool for six years and middle school for one year.

“I’ve always loved and adored children, so I looked into the teaching program at JMU,” Chang said. “There was a waitlist, so I dropped it, but I wish that I hadn’t.”

Chang went to Mary Baldwin for her degree and started teaching at preschools because her kids were in preschool.

She decided to make the switch to high school after her positive experience teaching eighth graders at Lakeside Middle School.

“That age group won me over,” Chang said. “I find it exciting when they are excited about their own lives and futures.”

Her favorite movie is Grease, and she has various creative hobbies.

ESOL Teacher Angela Stark
ESOL Teacher Angela Stark

Angela Stark (she/her) is an ESOL teacher for Study Skills 1 and 2, and English 9. This is her 14th year of teaching.

“I was lucky to have great teachers growing up,” Stark said. “I’ve always enjoyed developing positive relationships with students, and really connecting with the community.”

Stark loves “all sorts of movies,” ranging from Forrest Gump and The Sound of Music to Parasite.

She enjoys traveling across the world and says she has never eaten a hamburger from McDonalds.

English Teacher Sarah Schmidt
English Teacher Sarah Schmidt

Sarah Schmidt (she/her) is an English 10 teacher in her 9th year of teaching. Prior to Albemarle, she spent 8 years teaching abroad, 6 of which were in Bangalore, India. 

Schmidt chose to become a teacher in high school, inspired by her own teachers.

“I love seeing the student’s unique ways of problem solving,” she said.

Schmidt’s favorite movie is O Brother, Where Art Thou?

PE/Health Teacher Ari Elgort
PE/Health Teacher Ari Elgort

Ari Elgort is a PE/Health teacher of six years who wants to coach wrestling.

He used to work as a county police officer and coach AHS lacrosse, but decided he would rather teach and coach.

“Spending time with the students, and being able to coach and be active is nice,” he said.

Elgort’s favorite movie is Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Counselor Kristen Restifo
Counselor Kristen Restifo

Kristen Restifo (she/her) is a first-year counselor and previously interned at William Monroe High School in Greene County.

Restifo strives to support students because of her high school experiences.

“I had a really hard time with mental health, and didn’t realize that there was support available for me,” she said. “Knowing that there were adults I could talk to would have really been a game-changer. I’ve loved meeting the students and beginning to build relationships with them.”

Her favorite movie recently is the live action The Little Mermaid

Art & Ceramics Teacher Skyler Burden
Art & Ceramics Teacher Skyler Burden

Skyler Burden (she/her) is an Art 1 and Ceramics 1 teacher entering her first year of teaching. She was a long-term substitute last year.

“I love helping people and feeling like I’m making a difference,” she said.

Burden loves roller skating and Wes Anderson films like Fantastic Mr. Fox.

I haven’t seen his new film Asteroid City, but I heard it was pretty good,” she said.

Counselor Larissa Golovanev
Counselor Larissa Golovanev

Larissa Golovanev is a long-term, substitute school counselor.

Golovanev, a UVA student in the second year of her master’s in school counseling, worked in marketing before switching to education.

“I felt like I was not contributing to the world in a meaningful way,” she said. “I started a job working with teenagers and ended up really liking it. I decided to look into counseling.”

“I love talking to all the kids,” she said. “It’s the best part: getting to interact with them, hear what their interests are and help them figure out what they’re interested in if they don’t know.”

Her favorite movie is Barbie because it’s “relatable and funny.”

A fun fact about Golovanev is that she speaks Russian fluently and lived in Russia from 2019 to 2022.

Beck Jacobsen
Earth Science Teacher Beck Jacobsen

Dr. Beck Jacobsen (they/them) is an Earth Science teacher in their first year of teaching. 

Jacobsen used to be a doctor, but felt disconnected from their patients, they said.

“I wanted a job where I could spend quality time with people and help coach them to their goals,” Jacobsen said. “As someone who has always loved and studied science, becoming a science teacher felt like a natural choice.”

Jacobsen’s favorite movie is The Devil Wears Prada. 

“It’s a classic I watched recently that I really love,” they said.

Dr. Jacobsen has a 9 year old stepchild in the 4th grade. Outside of school, they love spending time with her. 

Beck Jacobsen
Not Featured

The following teachers did not respond in press time:

  • Adriana Arroyo, ESOL
  • Marianela Miller, Spanish 2 & 3
  • Abdenabi Senbel, ESOL
  • David Topper, VA/US History
  • Miriam Tyson, English 10
  • Mary Wrenn, Photography & Digital Imaging
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