Director of Equity and Inclusion Ciera Young is a leader, mentor, and ally to students at Ellis as she promotes a message of inclusion, tolerance, and acceptance across all three divisions. Her efforts to build awareness and create positive change, on campus and in the community, empower and equip Ellis girls with the tools they need to have respectful dialogue and compassionate conversations in today’s diverse, global world.
Lower School Art Teacher, Sarah Ceurvorst, teaches Ellis’ youngest students the power of art, creativity, and compassion in her studio. In her third year at Ellis, Ms. Ceurvorst’s presence has not gone unnoticed—she was recently recognized with the 2017 Pennsylvania Art Education Association Early Career Art Educator Award, an honor given annually to an exemplary art educator with up to five years experience. An alumna of Carnegie Mellon University, Ms. Ceurvorst is committed to exploring ways art can foster confidence, communication, conversation, and collaboration in her classroom. Her innovative and fresh approach enthuses and excites her students, who in turn are consistently encouraged to take risks, explore, and grow through their art experiences. A vibrant member of the Visual Arts Department, Ms. Ceurvorst shares her path to becoming an art teacher and how she believes the all-girls environment at Ellis benefits her students.
Grade 5 Dean and English and History Teacher, Amy Sidari, has been welcoming Ellis girls to the Middle School for the last 17 years. In her classroom, you’ll find her teaching students about the wonders of Greek mythology and ancient civilizations, and holding dynamic discussions on dystopian tales like The Giver and classic coming of age stories like Bridge to Terabithia. An avid reader and bibliophile, Mrs. Sidari brings her lifelong love of literature (her mom owned a bookstore) to not only her students, but the entire Middle School as she leads Ellis’ Battle of the Books challenge. An enthusiastic teacher, Dean, and CrossFitter, Mrs. Sidari shares her favorite book to teach to her students and what she loves most about her job.
Science Teacher Kassie Wadsworth has brought inquiry and discovery-based learning to Ellis students in the Upper School for the last four years. A University of Pittsburgh alumna who originally planned to become a research scientist, Mrs. Wadsworth integrates her extensive experience from Pitt’s state-of-the-art labs into her biology and anatomy courses so students can garner a meaningful understanding of textbook lessons via active, experiential engagement. This fall, Mrs. Wadsworth’s students will take on their most high-profile and real-world experiment yet as they join the Small World Initiative, an innovative program that crowdsources budding scientists from across the nation to address the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics.
Macon Finley officially began her tenure as the fifteenth Head of The Ellis School on July 1, 2017. Prior to Ellis, she served as the Assistant Head of School at John Burroughs School in St. Louis, Missouri where she was also the Director of Academics and a Mathematics Teacher. Her recent arrival in Arbuthnot House means not only a new position, community, and culture to assimilate and adapt to—but also a new city. A proud St. Louisan and committed Cardinals fan, Mrs. Finley may not be raising the Jolly Roger just yet, but she is excitedly and enthusiastically exploring all that Ellis, the East End, and Pittsburgh has to offer. From the Gateway City to the Steel City, Mrs. Finley’s Midwest move marks a new chapter for the School as we look towards the second century of all-girls education at Ellis, and we couldn’t be more excited to have her at the helm.
After spending his third year in the photo studio with Ellis girls, Visual Arts Teacher Tim Israel headed across the country this summer to be an Artist-in-Residence at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area in eastern Washington state. A road warrior in endless pursuit of exploring and finessing his craft, Tim’s Pacific Northwest adventure marks the second time he’s made art at the invitation of the National Park Service. His interest in film, old cameras, and alternative techniques brings a dose of nostalgia to his digital age student photographers and filmmakers, and challenges them to remix and reimagine their own unique perspectives behind the lens.
After 36 years at Ellis, Head of School Robin Newham will retire on July 1 and officially pass the torch to fifteenth Head of School Macon Finley. With over three decades of field trips, art projects, and assemblies to look back on, Mrs. Newham has a treasure trove of memories and stories to share and unpack as she packs up her office. A beloved member of the Ellis community, Mrs. Newham has touched the lives of thousands of Ellis girls in her roles as Art Teacher, Director of the Upper School, and Head of School. Her dedication to Ellis through transition periods, a Centennial year, and quiet summers have left a mark that will be fortified and built upon as the School launches into its next 100 years of all-girls education. As her Ellis chapter comes to a close, Mrs. Newham reflects on her time at Ellis, looks forward to the future, and reveals what she’s most looking forward to in retirement.
As Dean of Students at Ellis, Ashley Dotson has her finger on the pulse of student happenings in the Upper School. A former English teacher who moved into the Dean of Students role full-time this year, Ashley has a passion for literature, writing, and discussing books with anyone and everyone who will listen. Ashley taught the Class of 2017 their sophomore year and junior year and acts as an adviser for a handful of graduating seniors as well. Particularly close with the 2017 graduating class, Ashley reflects on her time at Ellis and watching the seniors grow into courageous, resilient young women.
Tara Catone teaches Ellis Middle School girls the ins and outs of sports by day, and practices what she preaches at night, as running back for the Pittsburgh Passion Women’s Football Team. A lifelong athlete who grew up idolizing Jerome Bettis, Tara’s passion for sports has taken her from the Slippery Rock University Track Team, to her full-time job as a physical education teacher at Ellis, to her current spot on the roster of the Pittsburgh Passion. Her commitment to empowering girls at Ellis through athletics goes hand-in-hand with the Passion’s motto of “Teaching positive life lessons through sport”—and this year Tara had the chance to bring her day and night jobs together, as the Passion practices on the Ellis Athletic Field. Every day at Ellis, Tara spreads the message of sports(wo)manship and proves to students that it’s not just men who are changing the game in sports, it’s women too.