Upper School Community Bids Farewell To Departing Faculty


As old teachers leave the Upper School and new teachers enter our community, one door opens and another door closes. Graphic: Quinn Patwardhan ’24.

Each year, the Sidwell community must say goodbye to several of its beloved faculty. Each of these teachers has greatly influenced our community. As these teachers spend their final days on campus, many current and former students have shared memories, stories and parting thoughts.

While Upper School History Teacher John Flower will be back for the 2023-2024 school year following his sabbatical, students still expressed sadness that he will not be teaching next year, remembering him as a charismatic and passionate history teacher.

Junior Nate Weinstock reminisced about his time in Flower’s sophomore history class, called “East Asia: Tradition and Modernity.”

“Dr. Flower sparked a passion and made learning history really interesting. I will always remember his Mao quotes and the joy he brought to class,” Weinstock said.

Sophomore Clara Yu also remarked, “He is the best! He cares about his students and always is passionate about what he’s teaching, which makes it more fun to learn!”

Sidwell students are excited to welcome Flower and his love for learning back to campus following his sabbatical.

Upper School Mathematics Teacher Yolanda Rolle has also left an indelible mark on the Sidwell community. Her classes were filled with laughs, inside jokes, fist bumps and “knuckleheads,” a term of endearment she regularly calls her students. Rolle brought joy and smiles to her own students as well as to other community members who she never taught.

Rolle’s kindness, wit, cheer and sense of humor leave no doubt that she spent her time at Sidwell as a quintessential member of its Quaker community. The junior class will always remember her graceful officiating of junior Mikey Wood’s funeral ceremony in September.

As a math teacher, Rolle inspired a love of learning in each of her students.

Junior Nico Rodriguez recalled that Rolle “took a subject and transformed it into an experience.”

Rodriguez shared that prior to his summer precalculus course, he was “very skeptical about the amount of work I would have to do at home, but she managed to teach the whole curriculum without even giving us homework.”

Junior Andrew Ludwin shared a similar sentiment.

“Dr. Rolle was the most charismatic teacher I’ve ever had. I’ve never had a teacher who is more excited to teach than we were to learn,” Ludwin said.

Rolle will be remembered by her students as not only a teacher, a mentor, a preacher or a leader, but also as a true friend.

Upper School English Teacher Lubna Najar will also be departing after the 2021-2022 school year closes. As a kind presence in the Sidwell community, Najar is remembered for her positivity.

“Ms. Najar’s energy in class was always very encouraging, and [she] listened to everyone’s ideas,” junior Asher Edelman said.

Junior Milan Chander agreed: “She had an infectious enthusiasm that made English very fun.”

Najar will also be missed by her colleagues, including fellow Upper School English Teacher Samantha Goodwin.

“Ms. Najar is a genuine lover of books, a passionate educator, and a total joy to spend time with,” she said. “Anyone who has taken her class is lucky to have encountered her talent and passion for literature, especially Pride & Prejudice. The English office will definitely feel emptier without her warm and lively presence!”

As the former Ninth Grade Dean, Najar also played a crucial role in the transition period for new ninth graders, many of whom arrived at Sidwell anxious about finding their niche in the Sidwell community.

Junior Marley Sowah remembered that “during ninth grade transition, Ms. Najar was always the first person to say good morning, and the most eager to wait behind with anyone whose parents ran late picking them up.”

Although Sowah was not taught by Najar or Rolle, she knew them through their warm presences. “They’re the kind of teachers who wave and smile at you in the hallway, who make small talk when you’re going the same direction on the stairs and who ask you how you’re doing and genuinely care about the answer,” she said.

Similarly, Upper School History Teacher Jamal Middlebrooks will be remembered as a tirelessly caring and intelligent faculty member. Outside of the classroom, he demonstrated a consistent dedication to uplifting the voices of Black students.

“Mr. Middlebrooks was fundamental in developing both the BSU club and the BSU show. Especially during the show, his dedication to connecting parents, students and faculty was incredible,” junior Sophie Valbrune, BSU Co-Head said.

Junior Becki M’mari, another BSU Co-Head agreed: “Without his leadership and mentorship, the BSU production wouldn’t have been successful as it was.”

Beyond an educator and leader, Middlebrooks was a true friend for many students.

“Thank you, Mr. Middlebrooks, for your dedication to your students and the BSU. I’ll miss walking to school with you from the bus and discussing the details of my day,” M’mari said.

Lastly, Upper School History Teacher Joanna Premand’s sharp wit and hard work have solidified her as a beloved member of the history department. She will be missed by many following her move to Switzerland next school year.

Students appreciated her unique and engaging teaching style.

As explained by sophomore Anya Capoor, in Premand’s classes, “History [was] no longer just a series of facts, but rather developing an understanding of the time period.”

Premand is known among her students for developing a relaxed learning environment with her uniquely hilarious sense of humor.

Junior Delia Waugh said that her favorite part of Premand’s ninth grade history class was “her sense of humor — one time, she sent Sean out of the room for timeout for making fun of her handwriting, and that was really funny” (the author rejects the notion that this was funny and maintains their innocence).

Premand was also known as an excellent and effective administrator, connecting students and administration with a constant drive to serve students’ needs. While she will be greatly missed, students understand that the call of the ski hills of Switzerland is irresistible.

The community expresses its deepest gratitude to departing faculty and wishes them the best of luck in their future endeavors.