Due to COVID several of our teachers are teaching remotely; and that left our administrators in a bit of a quandary. While we don’t want to compromise the health of our faculty, we also can’t leave a classroom full of students on their own with no adult supervision. With that in mind, Harley went on the hunt for teaching assistants; and we are so fortunate to have found Katianna Conde ’16.
Katianna joined Harley in Grade 10 from School of the Arts. While they enjoyed the theater focus at SOTA, they wanted tougher academics and found this and much more at The Harley School.
In their three years at Harley, Katianna made an impact as a student by taking on important leadership roles. Working with James D’Amanda ’05, advisor of the Harley Hospice program (2013-16), they founded the Center for Mindfulness and Empathy Education (CMEE) Advisory Board. The advisory board discussed mental health and general wellness in the school, usage of the CMEE space, and advocated for, and subsequently ordered, the meditation cushions still used in the classroom today (well, pre-COVID). Their weekly meetings involved a guided meditation, led by Katianna. The meditation varied-sometimes traditional sitting, sometimes eating, sometimes walking, and sometimes lying down. They also worked with Chris Hartman ’93, P ’22, ’24 (Co-director of Commons, 2007-2016) and started a school club with the goal of making Harley a “greener” campus by creating a composting system. Katianna also participated in the drama department with Maria Scipione (Drama, 2005 to present). They worked with Maria as an actor and a stage manager. Their most memorable productions were the Triangle Factory Fire Project and A New Brain.
They were a very active student at Harley as well: AP Art History with Lyn Parsons (Art, 2008 to present), AP Photography taught by Michael Frank (Digital Media Arts, 2015 to present), film with Digital Media teacher Michael Gaffney (2012-2015), and AP Computer Science with Len Wilcox P ’98, ’01 (Computer Science and Math, 1969-2020). The work with Mr. Wilcox was especially important for their schooling at Wellesley College where they earned degrees in Media Arts & Sciences and Spanish.
At Wellesley, along with their studies, Katianna also participated in theater. The most interesting acting role was as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In other plays and musicals, they worked on the production side: set design and running lights/sound, as well as production management, technical direction, publicity, and stage management. Their hope was to get a job after graduation working in this capacity. They graduated in the midst of the COVID pandemic and, as we know, there isn’t much going on in theater at the moment. Frustrated, but determined, they started looking for jobs outside of theater on websites like Handshake, LinkedIn, and Indeed, and utilizing Wellesley College’s alumni networking site, “The Hive.” They sent out applications, had a couple of interviews, but nothing panned out. They heard about the position at Harley through Kristen Liotti P ’16, ’18 (Assistant to the Head of the Upper School, 2012 to present). Interested, Katianna contacted Head of the Upper School Kim McDowell (Upper School, 2005 to present) and was soon hired.
Katianna is now the teaching assistant to English teacher Pat Malone P ’20 (Upper School English, 2009 to present) and they are keeping busy! They are in the classroom four periods a day and also run a Grade 9 study hall. In the classroom, they handle all the tech issues from computers to headphones to Schoology (a learning management system used by the students/teachers to keep organized), sometimes even working with Harley technology teacher Jeanne Weber (2014 to present) to troubleshoot. They are also in charge of taking attendance, handing out assignments or books, and occasionally dealing with in-person student conflicts. Sometimes they work with an SSP (Student Support Program) teacher for guidance with particular students. They say they are the physical presence in the classroom while Pat Malone is the brains. Their day is pretty organized and that’s good because they love a schedule.
Their time in theater at Harley has also come full circle as they have also assisted with Maria Scipione’s latest drama project, the Out of the Box Theater Festival, as the Assistant Director and Director for two specific scenes. Over the past two months they have been working with Maria and the student performers rehearsing during the week and some full days on the weekends during the performances in the month of October. Now that the performance is over, their work with Maria and the drama department has transitioned into virtual play readings.
I asked Katianna how it feels to work with their former teachers and they said it’s good, but that due to COVID, they are not able to truly bond the way they would like. There is no faculty lounge to hang out in, no advisory periods, and basically no way to socialize in person. Nearly all of their meetings are remote. They say that they know the teachers that they had, but it is definitely difficult to get to know them any better and almost impossible to get to know the teachers that are new to the school since they graduated. With the students, it is definitely helpful that they don’t know any of them as peers from when they were here.
Although Katianna is not sure how long their tenure at Harley will be, they are excited to be back!