Four enthusiastic teachers have joined the ranks at Mount Madonna School (MMS) this year. Angela Willetts, Harjit Punj, Michelle Fisher and Stevan Manzur will be educating our students in the areas of high school mathematics and science, physical education, athletic coaching, studio art, and as a preschool-kindergarten teacher.
Artist and teacher Angela Willetts will teach studio art to middle and high school students. She holds an M.F.A. from the University of California, Davis, and Bachelor of Education from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Angela’s recent experience includes two years as the art studio manager and visitor experience associate at the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art in Davis. Prior to that she spent 10 years as the lead art teacher for kindergarten through grade eight students at The Brandeis School of San Francisco.
Her recent residencies include the Djerassi Resident Artists Program (2018), La Fabrica, New Roots Foundation in Antigua, Guatemala (2017), and the Headlands Center for the Arts, where she was an affiliate artist (2017-18) and did a graduate fellowship (2016-17).
“I’m looking forward to teaching again within a school that emphasizes values-based education” said Angela. “It is important to me to find a community of people who care about each other and strive to be accountable to shared values. In Mount Madonna’s mission statement I am especially drawn to the acknowledgement of the ‘transformative power of the creative process.’ I hope to make the art studio a hive of collaboration, experimentation and critical thinking – a place where students can discover, navigate and harness this power for themselves. I aim to foster an art studio culture that emphasizes growth mindset thinking. I believe art-making should be joyful and sparked by curiosity, and it should also be a place to practice persistence, adaptability and problem-solving. I’m really looking forward to getting started and seeing what the MMS students bring to the art studio and each other.
“When I’m not teaching art I’m making it!” she continued. “And if I’m not in my studio, then I’m probably getting lost in nature somewhere with my five year old – in the redwoods, combing a beach or up a mountain.”
Harjit Punj is joining the faculty as a high school mathematics and science instructor. He has an M.S. in electrical engineering from University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and a B.S. in electronics and electrical communication engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur. He holds a California single-subject math teaching credential, and has six years of experience teaching middle and high school math.
“I believe every child wants to learn, be happy and be successful. My objective is to create an environment that nurtures a positive self-image and self-confidence in every child, with the belief and message that success can, and will happen with effort and collaboration. This requires individual attention, setting high expectation for standards of student behavior, effort, discipline, academic excellence and developing faith in one’s capabilities. I ensure that all students in my class will be given the encouragement and support necessary for their learning success.
“Having attended the Ramayana! earlier this month, my wife and I felt very welcome and surrounded by alumni and a well-knit family community. I also enjoy time with friends on the golf course and Bollywood/Bhangra music. I have, for quite some time, been a teacher of Bhangra dance, more for fun, and not for any stage performance. It keeps me fit and physically and mentally in shape.”
Michelle Fisher will be teaching preschool and kindergarten students. Her education includes studying early childhood education at San Jose City College; health coach certification from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition; Outdoor Classroom Project Specialist, and Preschool Food & Healthy Habits Initiative certifications from the Child Educational Center in Santa Barbara; Children’s Yoga Teacher Training Certificate through the Mount Madonna Institute; and is currently enrolled in a nutritional consultant program at Bauman College.
“I have been an Early Childhood Education teacher for over 20 years,” shared Michelle. “Children have always fascinated me with their purity and excitement for life. Nature and nutrition are equally as fascinating to me. I am thrilled that my background has led me to Mount Madonna School where I can nurture and inspire the youngest students to a lifelong love of learning and exploration.”
MMS parent and staff member Stevan Manzur will be familiar face to many families; over the past few years he has served in several capacities, including as middle and high school wrestling coach, guiding the 40th Ramayana! marketing committee, contributing to the performing arts set build team, as a middle school camping chaperone, and as a guest teacher of several middle school life skills lessons. This year Stevan joins the faculty to teach elementary and middle school physical education, and as the middle school athletic director. He will also continue as the wrestling coach.
Stevan is a former law enforcement officer, a National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) certified high school coach, and is CPR and first aid certified. He is the parent of two current MMS students.
“It is my belief that humans perform best when logic, intuition and preparedness are in sync,” commented Stevan. “To accomplish this, I take a holistic approach to educating, which includes mentoring, active listening, empathy, patience, utilizing differential learning techniques, and a ton of passion. The most rewarding aspect of education, for me, are those breakthrough moments when the student ‘gets it,’ and their goal is realized. I believe Mount Madonna School values this approach, as it is seen across all programs from math and science to art and music.”
Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications, [email protected]
Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.