Rachel Wright, Art Teacher
Rachel Wright is originally from Buffalo. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture, and a BA in philosophy, all from SUNY College at Buffalo. She went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts degree in art practices from the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she also taught in the Department of Art and Art History for 3 years.
Rachel has traveled and exhibited as an artist nationally, in Boulder, CO, Albuquerque, NM, Buffalo, NY, Ashford Hollow, NY, Lewiston, NY, Chicago, IL, and internationally, in Sabile, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and most recently in Meta, Colombia. Rachel is excited to have found her place as an Art Teacher at The Park School of Buffalo and is eager to continue to work with a vibrant and diverse community.
Ana Grujic, English Teacher, Upper School
Ana Grujić has taught English and literature both in her hometown of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and at SUNY University at Buffalo. In 2017, she got her PhD in English Literature from UB. She is also a founding member of the Buffalo-Niagara LGBTQ History Project and is working on a documentary about Buffalo’s ballroom and drag scene. She enjoys long, rambling walks with her pit bull Mabel, writing, and British murder mysteries.
Greg Soden, English Teacher, Upper School
Greg Soden graduated from the University of Missouri in 2007, and worked as a camp counselor on the North Shore of Oahu before pursuing social studies and language arts teaching positions in northern Mexico and greater London, England. Following these teaching appointments, he pursued a master's degree in education at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada. There, he studied critical pedagogy, curriculum and instructional theory, and focused my research efforts on the transition experiences of immigrant students in the United Kingdom. These professional and academic experiences helped form his identity as an advocate of social justice and equity. For two years, Greg taught part-time in the College of Education at the University of Missouri. From 2013-2018, he was a language arts and religious studies teacher in the Columbia Public School District in Columbia, Missouri. Greg is the creator and host of The Classical Ideas Podcast, a show about religion, philosophy, and culture. He and his family moved to Buffalo in the summer of 2018.
Amber Anderson, History Teacher, Upper School
Amber Anderson will be teaching History courses in the Upper School. Amber holds a BA in Anthropology from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and an MA and Ph.D. in archaeology from the University at Buffalo. Amber’s dissertation research focused on fortresses and other military enclosures built by the Inca in Northern Ecuador that were part of the Pambamarca Fortress Complex. Amber has participated in, and/or led archaeological excavations in New York State, Denmark, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Ecuador.
Prior to coming to Park, Amber taught anthropology and archaeology courses at the Rochester Institute of Technology for 9 years, taught in the Interdisciplinary Studies department at Medaille College for 7 years, and was an Anthropology Teaching Assistant at the University at Buffalo for 4 years. Amber also led senior thesis courses at Medaille and RIT, and was nominated for and/or won an Outstanding Teaching Award at all three higher education institutions. Amber’s teaching styles focuses on experiential education, hands on activities, and incorporating global perspectives. Amber is Buffalo born and raised. Although she has traveled to many places around the world, she has discovered a new love for Buffalo and the cultures and experiences that Western New York offers.
Michal Shmuel-Lewis, Hebrew Teacher, Lower, Middle & Upper School
Michal Shmuel-Lewis, a native of Israel, was the Hebrew Language teacher at Kadimah Academy from 2001-2019 and a school counselor since 2016. At Park, she will teach Hebrew Language to grades K through 9 and assist with the coordination of the Park-Kadimah Scholars program. Michal studied English and education at Seminar Hakibbutzim College in Tel Aviv, Israel, receiving a BA in 1997. She was certified through the Israeli Ministry of Education, and worked with various grade levels in Israel teaching English as a New Language. She also served as a Community Service coordinator at Kugel High School in Holon. After moving to Buffalo in 2001, she studied in the School Counseling program at the University at Buffalo, receiving her MA and a school counselor certification in 2006. She is in the process of being certified as a NYS English as a New Language teacher.
Besides teaching Hebrew language, Michal has run health, wellness, leadership and other character-education programs under her counselor role. She also has served as a senior adviser in BOCES leadership camps, and volunteered as a counselor in a family support center. In 2010, she received the national Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. She and her husband, Shai Lewis, live in Amherst and have two daughters.
Suzanne Thepaut-Hasselback, French Teacher, Lower School
Suzanne Thepaut-Hasselback is very excited to be joining the Park School's faculty this year! She will be teaching all Lower School French classes, and some in the Middle and Upper schools as well. Suzanne received her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College in French and Biology, her M.Ed. from the University at Buffalo, and a B.A.-equivalent degree from the Universite du Havre in Normandy, France. Her students have ranged from toddlers to grandparents, in France and in the U.S., and she is grateful to have experience in both private and public education.
She loves having discussions about multicultural adventures, when she isn't traveling herself. Otherwise, she can be found spending time with her bilingual family, cooking, reading, or getting new ideas about how to integrate language into other parts of life.
Nirit Weiner, Jewish Studies Teacher, Lower, Middle & Upper School
Nirit Weiner was born in Israel and moved to Michigan in 1986. She attended the University of Detroit Mercy and graduated with a Bachelor Degree in world history with a minor in women’s studies. She has been working in Jewish education for the past twenty years teaching nursery through eighth grade and developed and implemented Hebrew programs as well as special needs programs. In addition, she created and taught education workshops, exploring Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish culture, art, and cuisine. She taught for the past two years at Kadimah.
Nirit and her husband have five children ranging from 21 to 32 years old. They spend their free time traveling and visiting their children in five different states. Nirit frequently practices yoga and received her yoga teaching certification three years ago.
Maria Hardcastle, Strings Teacher
Maria Hardcastle, a Buffalo native, graduated from Orchard Park High School and went on to receive her Bachelors and Masters degrees in music performance from The Cleveland Institute of Music. While living in Ohio she was Principal Viola of the Canton Symphony Orchestra as well as a member of the Akron Symphony. She has performed with the Naples Philharmonic, the New World Symphony, and the Sarasota Opera in Florida and the Crested Butte and Breckenridge Music Festivals in Colorado. Upon returning to Buffalo she taught in the Orchard Park Suzuki Program for 8 years and continues to teach in the Orchard Park Music School Summer Music Program.
She is a member of the Camerata di Sant' Antonio and the Ars Nova Chamber Orchestras. She is a regular substitute with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and just completed a 4 year tenure with the orchestra. She resides in Kenmore with her husband, Geoff and their 6 year old son, Michael.
Emily Pici, Drama Teacher and Production Director
Emily Pici is thrilled to join the faculty of The Park School of Buffalo this year. Theatre has been a huge part in her life starting at age 6 when she joined a children’s puppet group. She took her passion for theatre throughout all of her schooling and continued it at Niagara University where she graduated with a BFA in Theatre Performance She also studied abroad at Schiller University in London. Emily has been involved in countless companies throughout NY and VT spanning large musical productions, puppetry, readers theatres, plays, working with students in classes and being involved on stage as a performer. She also has a huge passion for Directing. Emily considers herself a jack of all trades when it comes to theatre, she has been involved in all aspects, props, costumes, makeup, sets, lighting, stage combat, puppetry, acting, directing, stage managing and backstage crew. She has always loved being apart of everything Theatre is about. She took on this position to share her passion with the students, giving them a safe place to play and explore characters and different parts of theatre.
Emily is married to Marten and they have three daughters, Olivia, a student in Grade 1 at Park, and Rowan and Charlie.
John Zamojski, Science Teacher, Middle & Upper School
John Zamojski is very happy to be returning to The Park School of Buffalo. He previously taught chemistry at Park from 2014-2016 and served at the STEAM coordinator during the 2015-2016 school year. He has New York State professional teaching certifications in chemistry, physics, and general science. After starting as a chemical engineering undergraduate at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, John discovered that teaching science was his passion, and he transferred to Canisius College in Buffalo where he earned his bachelor’s degree in adolescence education with a concentration in chemistry. John then enrolled at SUNY Buffalo State to complete his master’s degree in physics education. During his time as a student John spent four summers as the hands-on science activity director at the Double H Ranch, a summer camp in the SeriousFun network for children with terminal and life-threatening illnesses in the Adirondacks in Lake Luzerne. The camp has left such a mark on John that he loves going back to volunteer as a cabin counselor every summer and as a family pal for adaptive ski weekends whenever possible.
Outside of teaching John’s favorite role in life is being an uncle to his 3-year-old niece and 1-year-old nephew. He also enjoys being physically active, singing, cooking, and traveling.
Apryle Schneeberger, Science Teacher, Middle & Upper School
Apryle Schneeberger graduated from Waynesburg University with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and minors in Biology and Mathematics, and went on to receive a Masters of Science with thesis from the University of Notre Dame. Apryle then taught at Nichols School for six years where she incorporated innovative programming into the chemistry curriculum, earned her Certificate in Educational Technology from Michigan State University, as well as started the math and science symposium and organic chemistry program there. She then spent two years raising her three young boys while she grew her own business, Apryle's House. When the opportunity to teach at The Park School of Buffalo arose, she was more than excited to have to opportunity to join such a diverse, progressive community, and looks forward to further expanding the scientific reach of the Park School. Apryle lives in Lancaster with her husband, 3 boys, and golden retriever. She teaches a BodyCombat fitness class at the YMCA and loves to read, travel, cook and sew.
Katherine Haq, Grade 5 Core Teacher
Dr. Kate Shands Haq has been a professional educator since 1985. She has taught in urban and rural schools in Western NY, primarily as an elementary classroom teacher and literacy coach. Kate earned her PhD in Curriculum, Instruction and the Learning Sciences with a focus on Literacy at SUNY Buffalo in 2018. Mother of three sons, community activist, and Buffalo Public School parent leader, Kate’s research interests include the intersection of homeless adolescents, literacy, and civic engagement as well as teachers’ work, policy, and identity. Kate and her husband Kushnood live in the Parkside neighborhood of Buffalo with their cat, Dexter.
Ben Szablewski, Grade 6 Core Teacher
Ben Szablewski is an educator and lifelong learner, with a passion for empowering the world through the capabilities of science, technology, and education. He has lived and worked in Buffalo and the surrounding suburbs his entire life and had the privilege of experiencing and learning from many different school and classroom environments. As a graduate of SUNY College at Buffalo's childhood education program and a multi-district substitute teacher, he has experience with students of all grade levels across suburban, urban, and rural districts.
At Buffalo State College, Ben first focused his studies on Science Education and is now pursuing additional certification in Technology Education. He believes that a STEM literacy curriculum based around real world experiences will best prepare students for the world in which they will grow up and live.
Nate Gray, Enrollment Management Associate
Nate holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Indiana Wesleyan University. He joins The Park School after serving as the Business Development Officer at Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI) and having founded a non-profit organization and successfully running it with his brother in Long Island, NY. Additionally, he spent two years in the NYC Department of Education before transitioning to several years spent at an investment firm.
Drawn to Park's commitment to diversity and inclusion in providing an unparalleled progressive academic experience, he is excited to return to an educational setting in the role of Enrollment Management Associate.
Liam Hilbert, Technology Fellow
Liam Hilbert is the Technology Fellow for The Park School. Liam is currently a senior mechanical engineering student at the University at Buffalo. He is also a member of their Division 1 Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field team. He will be assisting Park School in the Technology Department with robotics-based projects as well as 3D printing and more. Liam is planning on pursuing his Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering with a focus in robotics, and wants to become a Robotics Control Engineer. Liam hopes to inspire students of all ages at Park to pursue their interests in the STEM field!
Elliott Michki, Choral Music Teacher (maternity leave substitute)
Elliott Michki received his Bachelors in Music Education from SUNY Buffalo State. Elliott’s studies have focused primarily on the voice however he is also a long time Tuba player. He is a performer in the area working with companies such as Buffalo Opera Unlimited and Theatre in the Mist. Elliott is currently singing with Buffalo Opera Unlimited for their fall production of La Cenerentola (Cinderella). Elliott also sings with the Festival Chorus of WNY where he will also be taking part in a conducting internship for the 2019-2020 season. Elliott has an avid love for tea, coffee, and all things music.