Faculty

A school powered by academic excellence. And the community who achieves it.

At Western Reserve Academy, our teachers are committed to igniting students’ passions as they envision futures with no boundaries and embrace challenges with all the hope, strength and resolve of true Pioneers. Our talented faculty hail from all corners of the world and 91 percent hold advanced degrees. Our teachers also live on campus, providing 24/7 support that can only be found in a boarding school environment.

As our new curriculum comes to life, our faculty bring a spirit of curiosity, creativity, collaboration and in-depth exploration to the classroom. They also bring an enduring respect for our students, which you can read more about in this article, An everlasting love of teaching: WRA's longest standing tradition.

For over 30 years I have had all kinds of students in class but the common denominator that makes me honored to teach WRA students is that they are humble and kind.

– Sarah Horgan, History Department Faculty

I love when the classroom is filled with laughter. Over the years, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, ‘I can’t believe I get paid to do something I have so much fun doing!

– Julianne Lopez, Modern & Classical Languages Chair starting in the 2017-18 academic year


No two members of Western Reserve Academy’s faculty are the same. Some have taught at Reserve for decades and some still consider themselves brand new. But for all the things that make them unique, there’s one thread that ties them all — a genuine love of teaching.



Featured Faculty

Katie Bonomo | Mathematics Faculty

M.A., John Carroll University - Mathematics 
B.A., Depauw University - Sociology with a minor in Business & Entrepreneurial Honors Program 

Katie Bonomo has found her home at Western Reserve Academy and every day she works to make sure our students feel the same. A member of the Reserve family since she graduated from Depauw, Bonomo won the esteemed J. Ward and Marian Keener Prize for faculty in her first year at the school. 

Her drive and passion to work with students is evident not only in the mathematics classroom — where she teaches geometry, precalculus, algebra and statistics — but also on the athletic field and in the dorm. She takes pride in seeing students grow, learn from their mistakes and challenge themselves.

She says her aspirations as an educator at Reserve are to create mathematical thinkers, inspire creativity and make students always feel at home. From lending a compassionate ear to developing creative and hands-on learning, her approach adds up to excellence.

Recent Book Read: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. A great story about a man with autism in pursuit of love!  Gets really into human relationships and how and why we fall in love!

Dream Trip: A hiking, biking and cooking tour of Italy! Then.... a week of relaxation by the beach on the Amalfi coast!

Favorite Characteristic in a Student: Enthusiasm! I love working with students who love to learn. 

 

Dr. Robert Aguilar | Science Faculty

Ph.D., Cleveland State University - Regulatory Biology specializing in Cellular and Molecular Medicine 
M.A.T., University of Texas at Dallas - Science Education 
B.S., New Mexico State University - Animal Science 

When students walk into Dr. Robert Aguilar’s science lab, they are instantly welcomed with a surprising complement to science…the arts. With classical music playing in the background, students partner up and get down to the thrilling but daunting challenge of cancer research in Dr. Aguilar’s Cancer Immunology class. Dr. Aguilar also teaches Biotechnology and Biology and oversees Reserve’s student biomedical research program.

Dr. Aguilar completed his doctoral degree in regulatory biology with a specialization in cellular and molecular medicine through Cleveland State University and Cleveland Clinic. His research at the clinic involved the development of a vaccine for testicular cancer. Now he’s working on a vaccine for breast cancer, and inviting Reserve students to contribute to the research.

Dr. Aguilar says left and right brains are welcome in his science courses. “Research involves learning the scientific process and the artful techniques that it requires. I encourage my students to embrace both.” From the lab, he also teaches an important life lesson: “It’s OK to fail and try again on the path to great discoveries.”

Recent Book Read: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.
 
Dream Trip: To visit Hawaii and hit the beach every single day.
 
Quality You Most Admire in a Student: Students that are self-motivated and take the initiative are the ones I most admire.
 

Douglas Ray | English Faculty

M.F.A., Creative Writing – Poetry, University of Mississippi 
B.A., summa cum laude, Classics and English, University of Mississippi

A published author and poet, Douglas Ray is broadening the classroom experience for WRA students and bringing thoughtful research and discussion to our changing curriculum and schedule.

Ray also brings empathy to the classroom, understanding a student’s reading and writing journey with a goal of helping them give voice to their personal experiences. He expects students to challenge themselves, rethink their approaches to assignments and try new things. In the end, he hopes to inspire humane, expressive and articulate global citizens.

Recently, he asked students to create a 3D personal narrative in The Wang Innovation Center, using the design software and laser engravers to make wooden blocks to tell their story. This hands-on approach to teaching storytelling allowed the students to learn from each other and think creatively, an alternative to simply putting pen to paper.

Ray has received many accolades as a teacher and writer. He was chosen as a Teacher of the Future by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and is a regular blogger for the Kenyon Review.

Recent Book Read: I just read a book called Let's Get Real: Exploring Race, Class and Gender in the Classroom by Martha Caldwell and Oman Frame. They gave a great presentation during NAIS's People of Color Conference this past December. I also just finished a wonderful debut (and, sadly, final) collection of poems by Max Ritvo, Four Reincarnations

Dream Trip: I'd love to go to Art Basel in Switzerland or Hong Kong or the Venice Biennale to see firsthand what's going on the contemporary art world. 

Quality You Most Admire in a Student: I admire students who take risks and know the importance of a good sense of humor. On the shallower end of things, I respect a student with a good sense of style!

 

Diccon Ong '81 | Chair, History

M.A.T., University of Illinois at Chicago - History 
A.B., Bowdoin College - History with a minor in Economics

 
Diccon Ong ‘81 reflects fondly on his time as a student at Reserve and attributes his accomplishments and passion for his work to the dedicated faculty who still inspire him today. Like many high school students, when Ong attended WRA he was determined to find his place in this world. For Ong, the stage was where he found a home. In addition to his performance experiences at Reserve, he was chosen to take the podium as the student speaker at the school's 1981 Commencement.
 
After college, Ong followed his passion and became a trained actor, working and living in Chicago. Eventually finding himself back in the classroom, Ong brings a distinct energy and enthusiasm to all he does. His classes are in high demand and his dramatic teaching style encourages discussion, socially conscious thinking and a highly engaged learning experience. His classroom is as colorful as his teaching style; his collection of more than 500 memorabilia includes war replica flags, stuffed animal beavers, models of famous structures, large city maps and commemorative pewter plates, that cover his walls with eye candy from all over the country and the world.
 
Ong epitomizes the idea that talented and effective classroom teachers are a good combination of coach, cheerleader and taskmaster. He’s humbly proud of the two faculty chairs  — John W. Hallowell Chair in Philosophy and Ethics and H. Arthur Bellows, Jr. ’56 Chair — and many other accolades that have been awarded to him by his students and peers.  
 
Recent Book Read: The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman
 
Dream Trip: As part of a duo: A trip to France and Northern Italy with my wife. Flying solo: A trip to the major cities of Eastern Asia: Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taipei.
 
Quality You Most Admire in a Student: It's a pretty close call between curiosity and humor.
 
 

Dr. Beth Pethel | Science Faculty

Ph.D., Emory University - Microbiology and Molecular Genetics 
B.A., Miami University - Microbiology 

 
With almost two decades of boarding school experience, Dr. Beth Pethel has seen firsthand the value of the deeper relationships, diverse experiences and the development of lifelong learning skills.
 
Originally a microbiologist at Procter & Gamble, she fell in love with teaching during grad school and is thrilled to bring more of her expertise to the classroom this year with a brand new microbiology course offering. She says microbiology is having a renaissance and sees it is very relevant and valuable for our students. Dr. Pethel explains that we are living in an interesting time where technology is shedding more light on the critical role of microbes in all facets of life on the planet. She shares that almost every day she is seeing fascinating research headlines and she is excited that there is so much to discover.
 
Dr. Pethel has held two esteemed chairs at Reserve, has published two scientific papers and received multiple teaching awards. Continuing to grow and foster her own, and students', curiosity, she encourages students to understand how science affects lives and how to evaluate science critically. Dr. Pethel hopes to inspire future scientists and advocates.
 
Recent Book Read: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin and The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee.
 
Dream Trip: I have many dream trips but the one that first comes to mind is probably the farthest away — a trip to Australia and New Zealand.
 
Quality You Most Admire in a Student: Curiosity and kindness are the qualities I really admire in many of our students.



Meet Our Faculty

Tom Armbruster

Tom Armbruster

Fine and Performing Arts
Emily Barth

Emily Barth

Associate Dean of Student Life, Junior and Senior Class Dean
Fine and Performing Arts, Student Life Office
Wanda Boesch

Wanda Boesch

Chair, Science, Director of Community Outreach and Global Engagement
Science
Christine Borrmann

Christine Borrmann

Modern & Classical Languages
Ralf Borrmann

Ralf Borrmann

Compass Coordinator
Modern & Classical Languages
Aida Campos-Nava

Aida Campos-Nava

Modern & Classical Languages
Judy Chen

Judy Chen

Modern & Classical Languages
Sherry Chlysta

Sherry Chlysta

Director of Studies
Mathematics
Alan Doe

Alan Doe

Chair, Fine & Performing Arts
Fine and Performing Arts
Matthew Gerber

Matthew Gerber

Chief Innovation Officer
Technology Office, Fine and Performing Arts
Hardy Gieske

Hardy Gieske

Chair
Mathematics
Todd Gilbert

Todd Gilbert

Chair, English
English
Richard Hoffman

Richard Hoffman

History, English
Margaret Karam

Margaret Karam

Fine and Performing Arts
Julianne Lopez

Julianne Lopez

Chair
Modern & Classical Languages
Russell Morrison

Russell Morrison

International Student Coordinator
History
Jimmy Moynahan

Jimmy Moynahan

Modern & Classical Languages
Jeffrey Namiotka

Jeffrey Namiotka

Modern & Classical Languages
Donalee Ong

Donalee Ong

Fine and Performing Arts
Lisabeth Robinson

Lisabeth Robinson

History Chair
History

Maria Schultz

Modern & Classical Languages
Emily Thews-Baldridge

Emily Thews-Baldridge

Modern & Classical Languages
Katie Velbeck

Katie Velbeck

Fine and Performing Arts

Michael Weinzierl

Science, Student Life Office
Tom West

Tom West

Technical Theater Director
Fine and Performing Arts