Take a moment and think of the role models who have inspired you. We all remember those who impacted our life, whether as a young student or as an adult. That person who may continue as a mentor for many years or who at a certain point in time may have unknowingly made an indelible mark on who we are or who we will become. Karen Rogers, a member of Grayson’s Research Advisory Board has written extensively on the importance of gifted students having mentors who challenge and accelerate their thinking.

We asked a few of our faculty members to tell us about the role models and mentors in their lives. We hope that these stories inspire you to serve as an everyday role model for others in your life.

One of my mentors is James Ijames (the last name pronounces eye-mnz), who was a director and professor of mine in graduate school. He runs his rehearsals as a fully collaborative process. All ideas are heard and respected. Even in moments when no one knows the answer, James makes it okay to live in the unusual and uncomfortable. He gives all of himself to each aspect of his life. James is an actor, director, professor, and award-winning playwright. His work is brilliant and poignant, reflecting how society is, was, and where it should be. James impacted the way I teach and comport myself in a classroom; every discovery is worth noting. Every collaboration is a new step towards discovery, and a team is most successful when everyone accepts each other for who they are and where they are in their journey.


I would not be the teacher, artist, or collaborator I am today without his influence.

Mary Lyon, Theatre Arts and Projects

While I was at Radnor High School, I had a teacher named Mrs. Reardon. She was always so bubbly and inviting. She made Social Studies an interactive and fun experience. I fell further in love with Social Studies and the possibility of teaching. Mrs. Reardon was always helpful to all her students and involved in many of the school’s big celebrations. She was exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. I have seen her since I graduated from time to time. To this day, she inspires me as a teacher to make Social Studies a more fun and interactive subject.

Elizabeth Kenepp, Mathematics and Social Studies

I am thankful to have gained so much insight from Michael Piechowski when I was learning and working as a counselor at Yunasa. He wonderfully modeled how clear, diligent thinking can be applied both to the workings of nature (his Ph.D. is in Microbiology) and to our own self-reflection and connections. His careful approach to understanding the world and understanding other people has stuck with me for many years. One of the particular lessons that I remember is that he led us into a nuanced, complex discussion of human will and what it means to apply willpower, not just as an innate quality but as something that we can practice and improve upon. Often, when I am faced with situations that require deep commitment and determination, I am reminded of his careful approach and dedication. He has also written a book called Mellow Out, They Say. If I Only Could: Intensities and Sensitivities of the Young and Bright, which influenced the way many of the teachers around me and I understood the hypersensitivities of giftedness and the ways they shape the experience of learning and growing.

Nico Farrell, Electives

My 7th-grade teacher, Ms. Jeanne Makdisi, was very influential in my upbringing and inspired me to become a teacher. Her examples of pouring herself into her craft and caring for her students showed me the possibility of sharing my skills and gifts with others. Even when work was stressful, and some of my fellow students would be difficult, she made teaching look fun and worthwhile! Her passion and enthusiasm helped me enjoy learning from her and pushed me to think outside myself whenever I would do her assignments. She was responsible for my enrollment into The Shipley School, which put me on the right path to mold my goals and more profound aspirations.


Her influence on me will never fade. The way that she was always able to connect with her students stays with me. Her high-energy approach to teaching and kind words of affirmation will always fuel me in my mission to ensure that my students have a significant, positive, and memorable learning experience for my classes.

Leon Williams, Electives and Enrichment Programs

When I was an undergrad, I got the crazy idea that I wanted to go to Budapest for a math study abroad program. I got the idea from a flyer on a bulletin board in the basement of the library, to my best recollection. To this day, I have no idea who put the flyer there, as the university did not endorse the program and, in fact, no one from Loyola Chicago had ever done it before. My math advisor told me not to get my hopes up about getting in, as it is a very competitive program. Well, I got in anyway and realized quickly that math was nothing like what I thought. I took a class called Mathematical Problem Solving with a teacher named Sándor Dobos. When he told us he was a high school teacher, I thought, “this class is going to be a joke!” But if you saw Dr. Dobos’s curriculum vitae, you would laugh at me now for looking down on this incredible mathematician. I had subscribed to the idea that mathematics was linear. Each topic is built on the other, and if a high schooler could understand a mathematical concept, it must not be very complex. Oh, how I was wrong. Dr. Dobos built his career on teaching mathematics based on interesting, accessible problems. This opened my eyes to an entirely new way of thinking about mathematics as communal and curiosity-based. Sándor Dobos embodied the teaching and learning philosophies of the great Hungarian mathematicians Paul Erdös and George Pólya. My favorite subject became a playground with the experience of looking at math with Dr. Dobos’s lens.


A few years later, I found myself at Illinois State University with yet another amazing mentor, Saad El Zanati. I will never forget his introduction to Graph Theory, in which he addressed the oh-so-common question, “What real-world applications does this topic have?” He said, “I am a real person in the real world, and I am working on solving this problem.” Saad continued to say that sometimes, a question is just interesting—and that’s all that matters! I had never been given this creative license in math before, and it was so essential in my growth.


Now, at Grayson, I use these skills every day. My whole outlook on life has come to be about these two principles: community and curiosity. I am so grateful to everyone who has been a part of shaping who I am, especially my math mentors, Sándor Dobos and Saad El Zanati.

Meghan Vetter, Mathematics and Social Studies

Role models can be an influential teacher
The Grayson School's Authentic Scholar Model

is the foundation of our Upper School program, preparing students to be bold, audacious, creative, authentic scholars by challenging them to engage with real problems, use the fundamental tools and language of professional disciplines, and persevere in the face of real failures. Our students are currently working with mentors in academic research, publishing, finance and accounting, graphic design, architecture, and more.  We would love to take you on a safe and socially distanced tour to meet our incredible faculty and students so you can learn more about our school.

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