Margaret Santana P ’22, ’24 and Kevin Schmidt ’98 join the Board as they assume leadership of the PSPA and PAA, respectively.
At the end of June, four teachers who have worked at Pingry for 25 years will join the Magistri (pictured from left): Director of Community and Civic Engagement Shelley Hartz, Biology Teacher Deirdre O’Mara P ’17, ’19, ’21, Middle School Science Teacher Ramsay W. Vehslage, Jr., and Lower School Spanish Teacher Matty Yorkshire.
Shelley Hartz began her Pingry career as a part-time library assistant on the Basking Ridge Campus. In 2002, she became a full-time faculty member as Middle School Technology Facilitator. After a few years, Ms. Hartz also took on the role of Community Service Coordinator and, as of 2012, focused on that role alone as Director of Community Service; the program recently changed to Community and Civic Engagement. Since taking over the program, Ms. Hartz has developed partnerships with more organizations and transitioned Community Service Day from a two-hour trip to the Food Bank into a full-day endeavor. In conjunction with the PSPA, Ms. Hartz has also helped develop Pingry’s annual MLK Day of Service. She says her passion for service emanates from the Jewish concept of “repairing the world through acts of loving–kindness.”
Ms. Hartz has taught the Middle School’s Service Learning and Civic Engagement courses; is House Manager for drama and coordinates the community performance for each main-stage production, inviting senior citizens and audiences from the special-needs community; oversees the annual Holocaust and Genocide Remembrance Assembly, creating opportunities for students to reflect on their roles in society and present to their peers; and helped launch the Basking Ridge Campus garden. Twenty-five years at Pingry have allowed her to live her passions every day, and she is grateful to the School for supporting the many efforts, from the garden to community engagement.
Deirdre O’Mara was the only biology teacher at her former school and was eager to join a group of educators who work together and learn from each other. Since joining Pingry, she has taught all levels of Biology, as well as Marine Biology. In 2003, she and then-colleague Tommie Hata co-launched Pingry’s SMART (Students Modeling a Research Topic) Team to offer students more extracurricular opportunities in science; she has since let the program be run by younger teachers. Mrs. O’Mara has also served as head of Community Service, among other roles.
The same year that Mrs. O’Mara joined Pingry, Bill Reichle P ’00 and Judy Lee—the head varsity swimming coaches at the time—learned of her experiences as a swimmer, wanted her to be involved with the program, and created the role of assistant coach for her. She coached for three years until Claire ’17 was born, then took over the Middle School swim program and helped with varsity as needed. After Mrs. Lee retired from teaching and coaching girls’ swimming in 2016, Mrs. O’Mara became Head Coach of the Girls’ Varsity Swim Team. Reflecting on 25 years, Mrs. O’Mara is proud of the Science Department’s growth, especially biology.
Ramsay W. Vehslage, Jr., seeking to teach science in an independent school after graduating from college, began his Pingry career by teaching science to Grades 4 and 5 on the Short Hills Campus (coincidentally, Mr. Vehslage’s passion for science was inspired by his fourth-grade science teacher!). In 2002, a group of his former students, who were now at the Upper School and knew of his and his family’s experiences playing squash, invited him to coach their new squash club. He accepted, excited to bring the sport to Pingry and reconnect with the students (the team gained varsity status the following year, with separate competition for boys and girls starting in 2005-06). With squash blossoming, with a teaching vacancy in Grade 6 science, and knowing that Grade 6 would be moving to Basking Ridge, Mr. Vehslage moved up a grade in 2004 and, three years later, began working with the squash players on the same campus.
Mr. Vehslage coached the Boys’ and Girls’ Varsity Squash Teams until 2017, when he became head coach of the boys’ team. For the Middle School, he has coached Intro to Squash (fall), squash (winter), and baseball (spring). Outside the classroom, he also teaches the eighth-grade Outdoor Research course. Cumulatively, Mr. Vehslage has taught and/or coached Grades 4-12 during his Pingry career, saying that Pingry is part of his family.
Matty Yorkshire came to Pingry with a passion for molding young minds into speakers of her native Spanish. She delights in the fact that young students are so open to speaking a new language while being curious about the culture, and found that many students were intrigued with learning Spanish from a native speaker. Over the course of her 25 years, Mrs. Yorkshire has taught Grades 1-5 at various times and, since 2015, Grades 4-5. She also oversaw Foreign Language Week for roughly a decade, excited to see the students’ active participation in learning about other cultures. She treasures her meaningful relationships among faculty and students, and one of her fondest rewards has been to witness her students’ continued successes in Spanish on the Basking Ridge Campus.
Contact: Greg Waxberg ’96, Communications Writer, Editor of The Pingry Review