Teacher departures will change science course offerings next year

No more AP Chem or Anatomy and Physiology


Gaby Benelyahu

LEAVING: Ms. Amy Sirkis taught AP Chemistry, Chemistry, Physics, and the after-school CIJE engineering course.

By Eric Bazak, Editor-in-Chief

With the departure of its two remaining teachers, the Science Department will have a new, smaller look for next year. Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry will not be offered, nor will Anatomy and Physiology.

These classes were formerly taught by Ms. Amy Sirkis and Dr. Melissa Noel, who both decided not to return to Shalhevet next fall. Cancelling them for 2016-17 was announced June 6 by General Studies principal Daniel Weslow in an email to all returning students.

“There is no denying the number of changes this year with faculty and the movement in the science department, as well as the challenges with the timing,” Mr. Weslow told the Boiling Point in an email response to questions.  

But he said one new teacher would be announced this week, and that the school was “looking to fill our final vacancy as soon as possible.”

“Although we will miss Dr. Noel and Ms. Sirkis and everything they did to strengthen our science program, we are excited about all of our new hires,” he wrote.

Dr. Noel, dubbed “Dono” (rhymes with Froyo) by some students, taught SAS Biology, 9th grade Biology, and Anatomy and Physiology, and had been an educator at Shalhevet for three years. Dr. Noel is known by students for her approachability and patience. Last year, she took nine students to the University of San Diego to perform endoscopies on pigs.

She was born and raised in Puerto Rico and has a Ph.D in neurobiology from the David Rockefeller Graduate Program in New York City.  She also experimented on mice as part of her research on fetal alcohol syndrome.   

“I’m incredibly sad, because she was one of the best science teachers I’ve ever had,” said sophomore Jonah Sanders.

Ms. Sirkis was hired this year to teach AP Chemistry, Chemistry, Physics, and the after-school CIJE engineering course. On May 12, she informed her Period H sophomore Chem students  she would be returning to Pilgrim School in Koreatown, where she taught for several years before switching to Shalhevet.

After her resignation, the school decided not to offer AP Chem, which would have been one of only three remaining AP courses available next year. Calculus AB and BC will be the only APs offered.  AP Chem will eventually be replaced by SAS Chemistry, officials said earlier this year.

Despite the loss of those two teachers, Mr. Weslow said next year’s Science Department will be mostly the same.

“Obviously, any new teacher will bring their own approaches to the subject matter, so our science classes may look different next year than they had in previous years,” Mr. Weslow wrote.  “But no substantive changes are in the works for next year.”

Dr. Noel and Ms. Sirkis are the fifth and sixth science teachers to leave since June 2013, and follow the departures of Dr. Sean Kangataran, Dr. Jay Smallwood, Mr. Christopher Buckley, and Dr. Melanie Fine. They are also two of five current general studies teachers who will not be returning to Shalhevet next fall.