Fifteen new teachers settle into their positions at Whitman


Rohin Dahiya, Ava Ohana, Heidi Thalman, Katherine Teitelbaum, and Navin Davoodi

First row: Shawn Winans, Zachary Vaz, Nicole Jacobs. Second row: Kevin Oberdorfer, Joanna Pappafotis, Abbie Lamb. Third row: Michael Negrin, Kelsey Stender-Moore, Dakota Slay-Vincent.

By Marissa Rancilio and Manuela Montoya

After a record number of MCPS staff resigned from their positions last year, Whitman welcomed 15 new teachers this fall, many of whom students are meeting for the first time as they settle into their second semester classes. 

Math: Dan August Erfe

Geometry teacher Dan August Erfe has been teaching math for 22 years. He grew up in the Philippines, where his high school math teacher’s captivating lessons inspired him to pursue a career in education, he said.

Erfe taught math at Argyle Middle School for three years before leaving in 2018 to teach at Churchill High School. From 2020-2022, he continued teaching math at Takoma Park Middle School.

At Whitman, Erfe teaches both on-level and Honors Geometry. He’s eager to share his culture and experiences as an educator with the community, he said.

“My personal goal [is] to incorporate a variety of learning experiences,” Erfe said. “I want [students] to have that meaningful mathematical conversation amongst themselves.”

Art: Dakota Slay-Vincent

Guitar teacher Dakota Slay-Vincent grew up in Maryland and studied music education in college. He’s worked in Montgomery County as an elementary school music teacher for nearly four years and teaches private guitar lessons outside of school. 

Now, Slay-Vincent teaches first-period guitar at Whitman before transitioning to Pyle Middle School to teach orchestra for the remainder of the day. He’s also the percussion instructor for South Hagerstown High School’s marching band. 

“When you teach, you have to be a lifelong learner because you’re thinking of things through a different lens constantly,” he said. “It keeps you humble a little bit.”

English: Joanna Pappafotis, Michael Negrin and Lauren Quinn

AP Language and Composition teacher Joanna Pappafotis, ESOL teacher Michael Negrin and Composition Assistant Lauren Quinn are the latest additions to the English Department. Pappafotis grew up in Montgomery County, where she attended Bethesda-Chevy-Chase High School. She then taught English at Albert Einstein High School for 16 years before arriving at Whitman this fall. 

“Being a part of a child’s development and seeing them grow, it’s a really cool thing,” Pappafotis said. “By the end of the year, their skills have grown so much in English and it’s really wonderful to watch that.”

ESOL teacher Michael Negrin was a teacher at Little Folks Preschool in Georgetown for seven years before joining Whitman’s English department in the fall. He grew up in Fairfax County and studied English and Linguistics in college.

After earning a Master’s in secondary education at American University, he taught English to elementary school children in Lima, Peru, in 2011. Negrin said that his eighth-grade Civics teacher’s extensive knowledge inspired him to pursue teaching.

Lauren Quinn is serving as the English Composition Assistant at the Writing Center. Quinn studied Liberal Arts, English and Sociology in college and was an editor for the school’s newspaper.

Before working at Whitman, Quinn worked in a psychologist’s office in Silver Spring, where she helped high school students navigate their academics and develop self-advocacy skills. At Whitman, Quinn said that she hopes she can share her passion for writing while also helping students find their own voice.

“I enjoy working alongside students as they begin to see the big picture,” Quinn said. “[The Writing Center] is a safe, supportive place for whatever stage they’re at with their writing.”

Science: Minju Kim

After spending her childhood in Seoul, South Korea, Biology teacher Minju Kim came to the U.S. to earn her doctoral degree. 

She began her career at a pharmaceutical company in San Diego, but decided to pursue teaching so she could spend more time with her school-aged children. At Whitman, Kim teaches Honors Biology and one period of the academic support class Connections. She said that her favorite part of teaching is interacting with the students and having the opportunity to contribute to their education. 

“I think teachers have a lot of responsibility, but it’s very rewarding,” Kim said. “That’s what keeps me going because at the end, you will see them growing and going to college.”

Social Studies: Abbie Lamb, Kevin Oberdorfer

AP Social Studies teacher Abbie Lamb came to Whitman this year, after teaching in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. History and Government have always been Lamb’s favorite subjects, and she knew early on that she wanted to be a history teacher, she said. 

“I’ve always been super passionate about how history, the functions of government and everything overlaps in social sciences,” Lamb said. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to teach the topics that I’ve taught.”

The social studies department also welcomed Economics teacher Kevin Oberdorfer to its ranks this fall. Oberdorfer studied history and French at the University of Michigan and went on to earn a Law Degree as well as Master’s degrees in Social Work and Education. 

He spent time as a lawyer on Wall Street and taught social studies at Churchill High School for three years before coming to Whitman, where he teaches AP Economics and International Business. 

My goal in teaching is to give students as many options as possible today and in their future by helping them develop their skills and knowledge,” Oberdorfer said. 

Foreign Language: Victoria Barrero

Spanish teacher Victoria Barrero spent her childhood in Bogota, Colombia before coming to the United States to study law. While working at a law firm, Barrero decided to switch to a career in teaching to spend more time with her family and employ her native language skills.

Barrero taught Spanish at Whitman as a long-term substitute teacher from 2019 to 2020 and spent the last two years teaching Spanish at Pyle. She sought a position at Whitman so she could hold discussions with students on more mature topics like immigration, as well as teach more advanced content, she said.

“I really want people to love the Spanish culture [and] to be aware of how lucky they will become if they are really able to communicate in Spanish,” Barrero said. 

Engineering: Zachary Vaz, Michelle Innerarity

Engineering teacher Zachary Vaz joined Whitman’s staff after teaching AP Physics for two years at Clarksburg High School and applied science, physics and Principles of Engineering at Wootton High School for a year.

Now, Vaz teaches Principles of Engineering and Engineering Design and Development Project Lead the Way (PLTW) courses and also sponsors Whitman’s Innovation and Engineering Clubs. He hopes to make engineering labs more accessible to students outside of the school’s engineering pathway, he said.

“[Teaching] gives me an opportunity to share my passion for physics and mathematical modeling each and every day,” Vaz said. “I’ve created some really special bonds with my former students and I find myself being truly invested in their futures.”

Ultimate Games and IED teacher Michelle Innerarity (ʼ15) is a Bethesda native and played on the girls varsity soccer team during her time at Whitman. After earning a degree in Africana Studies from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Innerarity returned to her alma mater to teach.

Before landing her teaching job at Whitman, Innerarity served as a long-term substitute at the school and operated her own technology and design consulting business. 

“I think teaching is incredibly rewarding, and it is also challenging,” she said. “I enjoy teaching the students what I know, as well as learning from them.”

Computer Science: Kelsey Stender-Moore

It wasn’t long before AP Computer Science teacher Kelsey Stender-Moore (’17) returned to Whitman to work alongside her own teachers from high school, where she discovered her passion for teaching while instructing sixth-grade math virtually during her senior year. She enjoyed the routine and structure of a teacher’s schedule, Stender-Moore said.

This school year, Stender-Moore looks forward to working with the Computer Science department to improve the curricula and make AP exam preparation more engaging, she said.

“I think it’s really fun thinking of how we can bring in new ideas for stuff to try out,” Stender-Moore said. “I’m doing some experimenting with that so we’ll see how it goes.”

Health Education: Nicole Jacobs, Shawn Winans

Honors Health teacher Nicole Jacobs has taught in MCPS for 15 years instructing seventh and eighth grade science at North Bethesda Middle School, before returning to her alma mater — Quince Orchard High School — to teach Biology, Anatomy, Astronomy and Physiology.

Jacobs said that she gravitated towards teaching because it allows her to see her own children while pursuing a career. She’s determined to make her classroom an environment where students can feel safe, and believes that Health is a class that can save students’ lives by impacting their decision-making.

“I hope to be successful in implementing the new Health curriculum designed by MCPS,” Jacobs said. “My goal is to make health a class where students are excited to attend each day.”

Jacobs joins Honors Health teacher Shawn Winans as the newest additions to the Department. Winans served in the Marine Corps for four years before studying Health and Physical Education in college.

 Winans said he wanted to teach Health and P.E. to educate others on the importance of fitness and its ability to change lives, he said.

“The goal is [to] make health fun for everybody,” Winans said. 

Physical Education: Robin Hodgson

Physical Education teacher Robin Hodgson knew that she wanted to be a teacher from a young age. She attended Damascus High School and went on to study physical education in college. After three years of assistant teaching, she entered the teaching profession as a long-term substitute at Rocky Hill Middle School at the beginning of last year. 

“I’m a huge advocate for mental health, physical health, and emotional health. All of that is combined in PE — which I love,” Hodgson said. “I wanted to be able to help change lives and relate to my students.”