Ellis Recognizes Departing Employees in 2023–2024 School Year

As the 2023-2024 school year draws to a close, The Ellis School recognizes teachers and staff who will leave their Ellis positions for new adventures.
Visual Arts Department Chair and Middle School Visual Arts Teacher Linda Tonetti Dugan and Third Grade Teacher Jen Lakin will both depart Ellis in June.

The past 27 years have felt like the blink of an eye to Ms. Tonetti Dugan, which she attributes to the strength of the Ellis community and how much she has enjoyed working at the school. She plans to travel with her husband, create her own art—she is a painter—and spend time with family.

Throughout her time at Ellis, she developed many community partnerships including working with the PA Council on the Arts, Carnegie Museum of Art, the Pittsburgh Glass Center, regional and international artists and curators, and more. She and her colleagues regularly take students to the Carnegie International, meet with artists on campus and in their studios, and go on many art-related field trips including visits to Fallingwater and other sites—all activities that bring the arts to life for students, and which she will miss, she said.

“I will definitely miss the community. I’ll miss my colleagues, and I’ll miss teaching art,” she said. “The best part of teaching art is seeing that ‘ah ha’ moment on a student’s face. Sometimes I feel like I’m pulling rabbits out of a hat because they’re so excited to see what they are capable of doing. And over the years, I’ve especially loved watching how our students grow and go out into the world. We have an exceptional community of strong young women that I know I will remain connected to in one way or another, and I will greatly miss working with Ellis students  in the studio.”

Ms. Lakin shares the sentiment. When a former Ellis employee suggested that Ms. Lakin consider teaching at Ellis, she decided to see what this girls' school in the East End was all about. When she began working at Ellis, she knew she was there to stay. Ms. Lakin has taught third grade at Ellis for 11 years, and now plans to retire to spend time in Minneapolis with family, including a new grandchild. She said that without a doubt, the thing she’ll miss most about Ellis is the students.

Some of her favorite moments at Ellis have been the ones that celebrate the community, which she described as “a place where people think about others and think about how we can work best together.” Heritage Day has been special for that reason, but she also enjoyed field trips to Meadowcroft Village and to the Fort Pitt Museum that help students understand the history of this area and relate it to how we live, learn, and work today. She said it’s a joy to watch her students discover something that excites them, whether it’s a piece of history or a new concept in math.

“I love third grade because the kids really love learning things,” she said. “They get so excited about it, and it’s exciting for the teachers, too—we get caught up in it every year! They are just thrilled about knowing things.”


Additionally, six members of the Ellis community will move on to new opportunities at the end of the 2023–2024 school year. The School is grateful for the many contributions they made to our students, colleagues, and community during their time at Ellis, and wishes them the best in their future endeavors.

Searches to find outstanding individuals to fill these positions are complete, and information about those individuals will be shared at the start of the school year.

Lauren Fajobi, Upper School Division Head: Lauren and her husband will be relocating overseas this summer. Lauren has accepted the Secondary School Deputy Principal position at MEF International School in Istanbul.

Katie Johnson, Director of Athletics: Katie has accepted a new position as the Athletic Director at the Latin School of Chicago.

Ben Zucker, Upper School Mathematics: Ben is pursuing a master’s degree in Library Science at the University of Pittsburgh this fall.

Rachael Hart, First Grade teacher: Rachael has decided to spend more time with her family following the recent birth of her second child.

Jazmine Lucas, First Grade teacher: Jazmine will be relocating to Indiana with her family. She will teach first grade in Bloomington, Indiana and her husband will be a professor at Indiana University.

Holly Mawn, Third Grade teacher: Holly will leave her teaching role to spend more time with her family, but will continue to work with Ellis’ Extended Day Program (EDP).

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