Meet Our New Faculty and Staff

List of 17 items.

  • Bob Allison – Director of Human Resources


    Bob arrived on campus on May 13, coming to Sewickley Academy from Washington & Jefferson College, where he served as the Director of Human Resources since 2013 and as a Human Resources Specialist for seven years prior to that. As a complement to his extensive experience working at the college level, Bob also has corporate experience from his time at Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc., where he served in the local Pittsburgh office as a Human Resources Clerk and Recruiter.

    Bob earned his B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology at West Virginia University and an M.S. in Human Resources Management at La Roche College. He also has his Professional in Human Resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institution. Bob has made a smooth transition to Sewickley Academy and looks forward to welcoming our new faculty and staff to the team this fall.
  • Chelsea Begg – Middle School English


    Chelsea is looking forward to returning to the region after spending the last several years teaching Middle School English at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville (FL). In addition to her school-year teaching, Chelsea also taught for two summers with Rustic Pathways as a Program Leader in Thailand and Cambodia, building on her Rustic Pathways experiences as a volunteer in Costa Rica, Peru, and Cambodia.

    A graduate of Shady Side Academy, Chelsea has a B.A. in Writing & Rhetoric and English, magna cum laude, from William Smith College in Geneva, NY. She also attended the Exeter Humanities Institute at Phillips Exeter where she was introduced to the Harkness method of instruction, which seeks to empower students to lead class discussions and take greater responsibility for their learning. Chelsea is a great believer that it is important for students to understand that their voices matter.
  • Mary Brayer – Senior School Science

    We are very pleased to welcome home Mary (Harbist) Brayer, Sewickley Academy Class of 2006! Mary went on from Sewickley Academy, where she was a star athlete and member of the Cum Laude Society, to the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her B.S. in Biological Sciences and a B.A. in History magna cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

    After serving as a Summer Science Teaching Fellow at Phillips Andover, Mary was awarded a Science Teaching Fellowship at St. Paul’s School (NH), where she taught Biology. Subsequently, Mary was a member of the science faculty for seven years at the Pingree School in Hamilton, MA, where she taught Biology, Chemistry, and AP Environmental Science.

    In addition, Mary coached varsity field hockey and was the head coach of junior varsity lacrosse. She was also regularly recognized by her colleagues, who routinely nominated her to mentor faculty new to Pingree. Mary is delighted to be returning to Pittsburgh and her alma mater!
  • Shannon Burns – Kindergarten


    A passionate Kindergarten teacher, Shannon looks for ways to meet the individual needs of her students in an inquiry- and play-based setting that supports the achievement of academic goals while supporting students’ social-emotional growth. She uses Project-Based Learning to provide students the opportunity to learn a range of skills and academic subjects integrated within a single, multi-faceted project.

    Shannon began her teaching career at Saint Boniface Catholic School in Erie, PA, and most recently served as a Kindergarten teacher in the North Hills School District. She is a graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in Early Childhood Education and Pennsylvania Educator Certification. In addition to her credentials, Shannon brings both a growth mindset and a commitment to lifelong learning to her work. She is excited to be joining Lindsay Petruska with whom she will be co-teaching this fall.
  • Seamus Coons – Senior School Mathematics


    Seamus launched his career as a teacher of mathematics in the Palm Springs Unified School District (CA), serving as a Grade 7 math teacher and spurring his students on to earn the highest scores in the district on California’s Assessment of Student Performance and Progress. Returning east, Seamus spent a year with the Quaker Valley School District as a long-term substitute, teaching senior school geometry, and then a year at Propel Hazelwood teaching mathematics to students in Grades 7 and 8. His goal as a teacher is to inspire students to be curious about math in an environment that is collaborative and in which it is safe to take risks.

    Seamus earned his B.S. in Mathematics Education at the State University of Cortland, Cortland, New York, and did his student teaching in the Queensland School District, Australia. He is certified to teach mathematics in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, New York, and California. In addition to his passion for all things mathematical, Seamus enjoys playing rugby.
  • Marzia Cozzolino – Senior School History and Social Sciences


    Teacher and scholar, Marzia has had a variety of teaching appointments at both the collegiate and the high school level, most recently serving as an Instructor in the Department of Administration and Policy in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. She has taught AP U.S. History, Psychology, International and Global Education, Qualitative Research Methods, and Italian.

    With a B.A., cum laude, in Education, from the University of Bologna (Italy) and an M.A. in Italian Language and Literature from the University of Pittsburgh, Marzia earned her Ph.D. in Social and Comparative Analysis in Education at Pitt. Her dissertation was on “Global Education, Accountability, and 21st Century Skills: A Case of Curriculum Innovation.” She has presented a number of scholarly papers, including “Internationalization or Westernization? The Case of Brazil, China, South Korea, and Turkey” and “Integrating Global Education in Public High Schools: Key Elements, Challenges, and Recommendations for Practice and Policy.” After serving as a substitute in a number of Sewickley Academy classrooms over the past year, Marzia is excited to join the Senior School Department of History and Social Science on a permanent basis.
  • Lindsay Downs – Hansen Library Librarian


    A self-described librarian without a library, Lindsay Downs is excited to be joining the team of the Hansen Library. For the past nine years, Lindsay has served as an Information Literacy Teacher at City Charter High School, a school that does not have a physical library. In her role at City Charter, she collaborated closely with faculty to teach literacy skills, supported students in the development of their capstone projects, and initiated and led an annual Literacy Night. Lindsay has a B.A. in English Literature and Theater Arts, as well as her Master’s in Library and Information Science, both from the University of Pittsburgh. She looks forward to supporting our Middle and Senior School students and their teachers, as well as coordinating the Middle School LINK program after school. 
  • Christy Fairman – Senior School Mathematics


    Christy arrives at Sewickley Academy after nine years of teaching boys at St. Paul’s School for Boys in Brooklandville, MD. Earlier in her career, she taught girls at the St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, VA, teaching science as well as math. She is pleased to have boys and girls together here as she joins the Senior School Math Department.

    A graduate of Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA, with a B.A. in Biology, Christy earned her M.A. in Biology at the College of William and Mary, where she also served as a teaching assistant in the biology, zoology, and botany labs. In addition, Christy engaged in ongoing professional development with the Student Global Leadership Institute and the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education, as well as training in the International Baccalaureate in Math Studies and taking mathematics courses at the University of Richmond.

    A three-sport coach of volleyball, basketball, and tennis, Christy was also (in 2015) the recipient of the Freeman Award for Teaching Excellence at St. Paul’s School for Boys. She is excited to be joining the Mathematics Department here at Sewickley Academy this fall.
  • Lawrence Gunter – Breakthrough Pittsburgh


    Lawrence Gunter began in May as our Coordinator of Student and Family Support in Breakthrough Pittsburgh. This part-time but critically important role ensures that the needs of our Breakthrough students and their families are being met as they navigate the demands of the program over the six years of their participation.

    Lawrence earned his B.S. in Finance and his MBA, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He has been an administrator and an educator, with experience as a Retirement Plan Administrator with American Pension Benefits and as a Business Analyst with Casco Bay Benefits Group. He has also served as a substitute teacher in the Pittsburgh Public Schools and as a Direct Support Professional, providing direct care to clients with physical, developmental, and intellectual disabilities at Verland.

    With his extensive experience and professional qualifications, Lawrence is a most welcome addition to our Breakthrough Team. Lawrence and his wife, Aisha, are the proud parents of current SA student Lawrence Gunter, who is going into Grade 4.
  • Kate Mason – Middle and Senior School Art


    Kate comes to us from St. Edmund’s Academy, where she has served for the last eight years as a Lower and Middle School art teacher. Prior to that, Kate taught Middle and Senior School art in the Connellsville Area School District. She began her teaching career in the Avonworth School District. In addition to her school-based teaching experiences, Kate has also taught at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, Sweetwater Center for the Arts, and the Braddock Creative Arts program, where she taught ceramics.

    A graduate of Washington and Jefferson College, with a B.A. in Art Education, Kate went on to earn her Ed.M. in Art Education from Carlow University. She also holds the Pennsylvania Level II Teaching Certification in Art Education K-12. In her work with students in the art studios, Kate seeks to help students make connections with their learning from their academic courses. For her, learning in all subjects is connected. We are very glad to welcome Kate to the art studios of Sewickley Academy.
  • James Miller – Director of Buildings & Grounds


    Jim Miller is pleased to be joining the leadership team of Sewickley Academy as our Director of Buildings & Grounds. Bringing 30 years of experience in facilities management, Jim comes to us most recently from Washington & Jefferson College, where he served as Associate Vice President for Facilities & Planning. In addition to overseeing a team of 61 people, Jim also supervised all campus planning and construction projects, including the management of a $5 million annual facilities budget.  Jim earned his B.S. in Landscape Architecture from Pennsylvania State University and began his career with a landscape architecture firm before moving into planning, operations, and facilities management. We are glad that the management of our facilities will be in such capable hands.
  • Heidi Murr – Dance Teacher


    Heidi Murr is pleased to be joining the Performing Arts Department as our new dance teacher. Heidi has spent the last several years as a dance instructor at Westinghouse Arts Academy Charter School in Pittsburgh, where she developed their dance program from scratch. Skilled in Modern, Ballet, and Jazz dance, Heidi has also been a guest artist at Shady Side Academy’s Junior School, working with students in their after school program. She is also the founder of her own Modern dance troupe, Murr Dance, and has performed locally with Attack Theater and the Kelly Strayhorn NewMoves Festival. Heidi holds a BFA in Dance, magna cum laude, from The Ohio State University.
  • Sarah Pease-Kerr – Senior School English


    Sarah Pease-Kerr comes to us from California, where she taught humanities at the Wildwood School in Los Angeles. Prior to that, she was a graduate student teacher at the Harvard Art Museums, a position she held while completing her Ed.M. in Arts in Education at Harvard. A graduate of Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, OH, Sarah earned her A.B. in English from Princeton University with additional Certificates in Theater & Drama and Spanish Language & Culture.

    Sarah worked for two years as a counselor with Carney Sandoe & Associates, the national placement firm Sewickley Academy uses to recruit outstanding faculty. Beyond the classroom, Sarah is a runner, having completed the Los Angeles marathon in 2018. She is also devoted to professional development having completed work in Project-Based Learning at the Buck Institute for Education and a “Personal Approach to Chance and Equity” Level I workshop with Visions, Inc. We are excited to welcome Sarah to Sewickley Academy.
  • Lisa Plassio – Accounting Manager (a familiar face returns)


    We are very pleased to welcome Lisa Plassio, who served in the Business Office as our Controller from 2002 to 2009, back to Sewickley Academy. Since her departure in 2009, Lisa has run a family business, taking responsibility for all aspects of operations. Now ready to turn the leadership over to other members of the family, Lisa is eager to rejoin the team, bringing with her not only her knowledge of Sewickley Academy’s Business Office practices, but her experience as an entrepreneur. Lisa is an accountant with a B.S. from the College of Business Administration at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Holly Seifert – Kindergarten Teacher


    We are pleased to welcome Holly home to Sewickley Academy! A lifer member of the Sewickley Academy Class of 2001, Holly went on to earn her B.S. in Early Childhood Education at the University of Vermont and an M.S. in Education at Nova Southeastern University.

    Since 2008, Holly has taught kindergarten at the Gulf Stream School, FL, serving as a lead teacher, and also coaching middle and high school lacrosse. Holly began her career at the University of Vermont Children’s Campus Center and subsequently worked at the Burlington Children’s space as a head preschool teacher.

    Holly is committed to a hands-on, multi-sensory approach to learning that integrates ideas from Reggio Emilia and supports independence and autonomy with the support and guidance of highly skilled teachers. She is looking forward to partnering with Karen DiMaio with whom she will co-teach one of our two Kindergarten sections.
  • Joel Svensson – Senior School Latin and Spanish


    We are pleased to welcome Joel to Sewickley Academy. Joel comes to us from the Ellis School, where he taught both Spanish and Latin having previously taught these languages at Winchester Thurston School. A polyglot who speaks Swedish in addition to Spanish and English, Joel revels in the study of language and the entrée such study provides into culture.

    Joel holds the equivalent of a B.A. in Education in History and Spanish, from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Additional study includes coursework on the issues of Latin American masculinity at the Centro Bartolomé de las Casas in San Salvador, El Salvador; and Spanish Language and Literature, Ethnology, Philology, and History of Latin American Culture at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela (Spain). When not engaged in language study, Joel enjoys playing ice hockey and guitar.
  • Khala Wade – Director of After Ours


    Khala Wade comes to Sewickley Academy with a wealth of experience working with children and managing programs. She has worked at the Sewickley Valley YMCA working with children in support of their academic, social, and emotional needs, as well as at The Children’s Community, where she served as Assistant Director providing organizational oversight as well as serving as a lead teacher. Khala has a B.A in Spanish from Slippery Rock University and is currently working on her M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education at Edinboro University. Khala looks forward to making good use of her skills and experience in her work with our After Ours students and their families. 

Contact Us

List of 2 items.

Visit Us!

Main Campus

Sewickley Academy
315 Academy Avenue
Sewickley, PA 15143
Sewickley Academy is a nationally recognized Pittsburgh private school enrolling students in Pre-K through Grade 12 on a single campus.