Teachers join the upper school

Introducing the teachers joining the Friends Seminary upper school in the 2020-2021 academic year.


Teachers with unique backgrounds joined the upper school this year.

Mason Earle, Junior Editor

Clayton Raithel

Clayton Raithel is from Natick, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. He is a precalculus teacher, an 8th-grade advisor, and runs the Academic Center. Clayton came to Friends last year as a one-semester leave replacement teacher, but he decided to stay at Friends Seminary after he fell in love with the community. Clayton said that he likes Friends because he gets to work with different ages in both middle school and upper school. He thinks that the middle schoolers are fun to teach because they’re still really enthusiastic about school, but that the upper schoolers are more responsible and thoughtful. He’s a registered nurse, an avid birdwatcher, and he has a French bulldog named Natick (named after the town he grew up in). 

Mr. Eisenhardt

Mark Eisenhardt is from the west coast of California, but he is a New Yorker at heart – he thinks it just took him a little while to get here. Mr. Eisenhardt teaches computer science in middle and high school. He loves teaching coding because it helps you solve problems in a creative way, and he enjoys passing that discovery onto his students. Mr. Eisenhardt came to Friends after his daughters graduated high school and he was able to come to New York City. He appreciates the Quaker values at Friends Seminary and the kindness he has observed thus far. 

Ellen Mittelholzer

Ellen Mittelholzer is from Western Massachusetts. She teaches French in middle school and high school. She loves teaching middle schoolers because they’re goofy and refreshing, and working with upper schoolers because they are thoughtful and dedicated. Ellen came to Friends because she wanted to be part of a real Language Department after working outside an official department at Columbia. She’s excited to be able to write on a whiteboard and to play lots of games with her students in a classroom once we can all return to in-person classes. She also has a two-year-old son named Beau. 

Peter Kalajian

Peter Kalajian is from Connecticut, though he has also lived in Greenville, North Carolina. He teaches history in the upper school and is the faculty advisor for the chess club. He loves history because he can study stories throughout history and identify connections throughout the ages. Peter loves the strong sense of community at Friends Seminary—he taught at the New Garden Friends School in North Carolina before, and he wanted to continue working at schools with Quaker values. A fun fact about Peter is that he has been to more than 25 countries.

Matthew Dilley

Matthew Dilley is from New Jersey, but he grew up so close to New York that he could see the city from where he lived, so he still considers himself a New Yorker. Matthew joined Friends Seminary to teach ninth grade and AP Physics. He used to work in the publishing and entertainment industries, but he decided he was tired of spending his day sitting at a desk, and he decided to become a teacher. Matt thinks the students he has worked with have been incredibly thoughtful thus far (he even thinks Friends is the best school he’s worked at yet). Over the past few months, Matt has also worked on several quarantine projects, including building a geodesic dome in his backyard.

Susannah Walker

Susannah Walker is from Toronto, Canada. She’s joining Friends Seminary to teach US history and electives like “the Black Atlantic” and “Feminism and Gender Ethics.” She will also become the faculty advisor for Model UN. Susannah is a trained historian with a Ph.D., and she has taught at both the college and high school levels. Susannah loves both the location of Friends and the “openness” she has noticed among students. Susannah is excited to have more face-to-face interactions with Friends students and teachers, as that is one of her favorite parts of teaching. Susannah also loves rowing, and in regular years, she volunteers at a rowing camp.

Katherine Prudente

Katherine Prudente, or “Kat,” was born in New York City, but she grew up in New Jersey. She first came to Friends Seminary a few years ago with Hallways, a program designed to help students with their physical and mental health. She continued her work with Friends last year as a consultant, and will now work full-time as a health teacher and curriculum director. Helping people with their mental wellbeing is very important to Kat, as she is a trained psychologist. One reason she picked Friends was the school’s desire for students and teachers to form genuine relationships “as humans” without being trapped in formalities. Before she was a therapist and a health teacher, Kat also used to be an actor.

Joanna Demakis

Joanna Demakis is from an area close to Boston, though she lived in LA for seven years as well. She came from a Brooklyn school to teach chemistry at Friends Seminary. She loves chemistry because it fits together “like a puzzle,” and ever since she was in high school she liked using chemistry to understand the world. She went into a different field after college, but after a while, she began to miss chemistry. She also loves working with young people, and teaching comes naturally. Joanna said she was worried about starting at a virtual school, but everyone at Friends has been welcoming (although she can’t wait to meet everyone in person). A fun fact about Joanna is that she just adopted a dog named Rosa a few weeks ago. 

Yu Tan

Yu Tan is from mainland China, though she has traveled all over the world. She teaches Chinese from Level 1 all the way to AP and came to Friends Seminary after teaching from places like New York City’s Department of Education to Bangkok, Thailand. Ms. Tan thinks that learning a foreign language offers a different way to see the world and to understand other cultures. She picked Friends because she missed teaching the Chinese language to non-native speakers, and it had always been her dream to teach at a private school to work with a diverse curriculum with more room for creative work. Ms. Tan loves that Friends has such a strong sense of community and that students and faculty have time to grow together. 

Dr. Meyer

Max Meyer, who goes by Dr. Meyer but also lets students call him “Doc” or “Meyer,” is from Vermont. He came to Friends to teach biology after leaving a position in Florida to be closer to his home state and family. He teaches AP Biology as well as both levels of regular biology. He loves teaching biology because he is a scientist first and foremost, but also because teaching is a social profession. He enjoys both the content and helping students think and learn effectively. Dr. Meyer is very impressed with Friends students’ willingness to engage with big ideas, and by the way they regularly have discussions about a diversity of subject matter. Dr. Meyer’s advisory group has remarked on the way it seems Dr. Meyer has done everything (and for good reason). He’s worked for Fish and Wildlife, he has helped deliver a baby on a ferry, he discovered a species of algae in North America, and he has studied game-based school curriculums.