Meet the faces behind the masks: Interviews with Harmony’s newest teachers!

March 2022

Rafi Friedman, Early Childhood Program, has experience working with children of all ages from his time working at a childcare center, elementary school, and a summer camp. Rafi studied at Indiana University and enjoys playing board games and having fun. (Pictured with his pup, Houdini)

Where did you grow up and what was school like for you growing up?
I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. For elementary and middle school, I attended an arts magnet school. Music was a large focus of mine and I took as many band classes as I could. But I also got to experience other arts like theater and physical art. My love of music continued into high school where I was in the school band, orchestra, marching band, jazz band, and played in the pit for musicals.

What brought you to Harmony? What’s it like to work with Linda?
I had heard amazing things about Harmony from people I met in Bloomington that had attended Harmony. The atmosphere, the shared decision making, the friendliness of everyone, are all reasons why I came to Harmony and I have really enjoyed being there. Working with Linda has been a really incredible experience. Not only am I learning from her daily, but she is such a nice and caring person and makes coming to the classroom a really enjoyable experience.

Highlights of this school year so far?
Recording the ECP song for the Holiday Follies is one highlight. Getting that time one on one with kids while recording and seeing some be really nervous and others shine in front of the camera made it really special. I also enjoyed making latkes with the kids. It was cute seeing some kids struggle to grate potatoes (I also struggle), but it was well worth it when they all got to try the finished product.

Do you have any nicknames? Childhood nicknames?…
I have had a few nicknames throughout my life. Rafi is the nickname of Rafael. I have also been called Raf, which is my initials. Some call me Rafiki, Rafiking, KingRafiking, or Rafster. But my favorite nickname is Chocolate Rafi. I got this one from my time in Israel when someone poured an entire bottle of chocolate sauce on me. This happened multiple times. I have also been called Rocolate Chafi.

If you could have any super power, what would it be??
If I could have any super power it would definitely be teleportation. I don’t really like driving places, and also don’t really plan for transportation when I make plans with people. So if I could just teleport wherever I needed to go, that would be very convenient.

Other things about me:
– Probably the most important thing about me is that I love games. I love all games, but specifically board games. I own more board games than I own of anything else.
– I have spent many years living communally with anywhere from 10-20 people in one house. I have done this in Bloomington as well as in Israel.
– I can play many different instruments including piano, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, and baritone.

Elaine Bonadies, K-2nd grade, was born in Chicago, IL but has lived all over southern Indiana, landing in Bloomington in 1999 for college at IU. Elaine met an amazing guy, Matt, in Bloomington in 2009, and Monroe County became their permanent home. Elaine and Matt have two amazing kids. They love traveling as a family and have enjoyed vacations to places like Washington DC, Disneyland, and North Carolina! Elaine also enjoys snuggling on the couch under blankets with her kids and two kitties or listening to audiobooks while driving in her car. She also enjoys working at Toy Chest in Nashville when she’s not teaching. She has taught at Wonderlab, with English Language Learners, and with many students, before and after school, in MCCSC.

Where did you grow up and what was school like for you growing up? How was your school experience as a kid different or similar to Harmony?
I grew up all over Indiana, however I was born in Chicago. I moved a lot as a kid so I went from Chicago to Indianapolis to Fredericksburg, IN to Richmond, IN, to Connersville, to Princeton, IN, to Indianapolis, and then Bloomington for college where I’ve pretty much stayed… moving back and forth from Indy a few times for jobs until I landed permanently!  Now my address is actually Ellettsville. I loved school as a kid and was a pretty great student, I taught myself to read with Books-on-Record!  I still love audiobooks!  I was in public school throughout my education, so desks in rows and such.

Highlights of this school year so far? Challenges?
Highlights: Getting to know this amazing class that we have, planning exciting days with the students, our weekly family meetings, getting to know all of the other fantastic people around Harmony, being on the Follies committee, having Claudio come by to teach our class some great songs, watching the kids play in the snow last week, helping to plan future events with others that I don’t get to work with much in day to day life around here!  And, most recently our super fun Val-oween Campout party in our classroom, a combo of Valentines and Halloween mixed with an in-class campout!  It was a super fun day focused on having a great time with friends and not just on the cards and candy associated with Valentine’s Day!

Challenges are mainly around moving from a full time stay at home mom for 6 years, to finding a new work/life/family balance with the kids and I all in new school and work routines.  Finding times at home to get a little bit of planning done are extra hard when your own kiddo is in your class and wants to know what you’re working on the whole time! Mostly though, this has been an amazingly smooth transition with the biggest daily hiccup being getting the kids dressed and out of the house!

What’s it like to teach with Adam?
Adam is the most easy going yet super on top of it teacher I could ever choose to work with!  I very much appreciate his willingness to try whatever wild ideas I come up with in the classroom and also his commitment to create awesome teaching moments!  His ability to whip up an amazing model of an arm with a working bicep and tricep or to find a sled for the kids when we get a ground cover of snow is a great balance for my creative thinking and I love to give the kids big exciting moments.

Fun projects you’ve done this year and/or projects you are looking forward to doing with students?
Every day our students impress me with their writing in their journals.  They have all come a long way since day one, and amazingly enough… we have an entire class that loves to write!  I’m so glad we have these notebooks that we can flip back just a few pages and show them how much they’ve grown as a writer and as a storyteller.  Last month my reading groups put together a newspaper and that we both fun and just the right amount of challenging for the students I have.  I hope we put together another few issues this school year!  I already have it in mind for an ongoing project in future years too!  Since the new year Adam and I have also been trading on and off co-teaching a science unit on the human body which has led to fantastic discussions and a lot of learning!  The facts that our students are remembering day-to-day and week-to-week always surprises us!  My math groups have been learning a lot of great math games alongside doing our daily math work and they all now have nearly a dozen board and card games that they can play to review and add to their math skills.  This month, my reading groups are focused on Black History and we are having some incredible discussions around the many leaders on the long roads that have led to where we are today, and the leaders of today that will lead us to an even better place in the future.

If you were an animal, other than human that is, what would you be??
Ooooh…. I think a Koala Bear … hanging out with friends, eating Eucalyptus, and snoozing all day sounds pretty fantastic… only barely beating out living the lazy life of a housecat!  I just think Eucalyptus sounds tastier than cat food…

If you could have any super power, what would it be??
I’d use Superman’s ability to fly so fast around the earth that time backs up…. I could use an 8 or 9 day week at least to get things done most weeks!

Stacy Blair, 5th and 6th grade, found her way to teaching through working at French summer camps in Minnesota and teaching English in France. After these years of working with kids, she finally gave in to becoming a teacher just like her mother. She spent a decade teaching French at a small, project-based public school in lower Manhattan upon completing her Masters in language education at NYU. Stacy returned to her home state of Indiana in 2020 and feels lucky to have landed at Harmony School. She spends much of her time cooking, piddling in the garden, and reading when she’s not teaching. She also loves new sewing projects, playing volleyball, dancing, kayaking, and recently fell hard for pottery.

Where did you grow up and what was school like for you growing up? How was your school experience as a kid different or similar to Harmony?
I grew up in Elwood, Indiana, a few hours north of Bloomington. School, particularly once I got into Middle School, was like a second home to me. My mom taught math from grades 6 to 12, so I was always at school waiting for her to finish work. It was so much fun, because I would draw on her board, have chair races in the hallway, and play with my friends. Since my mom was a teacher, I got to go on trips when she chaperoned and use the pool after hours – she was also the swim coach for a while. I always loved school growing up.

Highlights of this school year so far? Challenges?
I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the Harmony community this year. Although we’re separated into class pods due to Covid, everyone has found ways to be very warm and welcoming (thanks Lana for bringing those delicious molasses cookies after Oliver was born!) Just moving to Bloomington from New York in the midst of this pandemic has been extremely challenging emotionally, socially, and professionally, but I landed in the right place. Teaching with Oliver was fun but difficult, and I’m still adjusting to the school. Harmony fits me well, and I’m already getting excited about planning out next year’s curriculum!

What’s it like to teach with Zevon?
Never in my life have I heard so many fart jokes! I’ve also never felt as supported and encouraged by a colleague in the same ways Zevon has this year. He’s made me feel significantly less crazy while adjusting to a new town, a new school, a new age group, and this new experience of motherhood, all the while picking up the class reins – and holding my baby – when I needed a little extra help. He’s a great balance of silly and serious!

Fun projects you’ve done this year and/or projects you are looking forward to doing with students?
I’m really enjoying the maps mini-unit I’m doing with the 5th graders that will end in a neighborhood treasure hunt. I’m also excited about doing a “design your own farm” project next year for which students choose which plants best fit a particular climate and make all decisions from start to finish about creating a farm, including mapping out their crops and creating a budget.

Mercedes Lechlitner, Middle School Language Arts and Social Studies, is from Northern Indiana and moved to Bloomington for college, where they have stayed since. They got their start at Harmony as a student teacher and fell in love with the ability to work side by side with students in a cooperative way. Mercedes received their bachelor’s degree in English Education and came back to Harmony to fill a variety of different roles; teaching for a year, helping in the office, and doing social work while pursuing a Masters in Social Work from IU. Ultimately Mercedes landed here at Harmony in a full time position teaching social studies and language arts, the perfect combination of their passions for social justice, history, and language arts. Mercedes lives here in Bloomington with their partner and a bunch of pets.

What were you up to before you came to Harmony?
After I graduated with my undergrad degree, I spent a year teaching at Harmony in Kelli Debikey’s position. After that year, I really enjoyed working with kids, specifically around issues of mental health, so that prompted me to go back to get my master’s in social work. While I was getting my master’s, I was also doing my internship here at Harmony, so I sort of maintained my Harmony roots the whole time. After I got my master’s degree, I worked as a social worker with IU Health for a year to figure out what I wanted to do next. Harmony is a good fit because of the mental health component, the teaching, all of those things combined.

What brought you to Harmony?
When I was doing my practicum experience they asked if I had any preferences, and I knew at that time I wanted to be in a non-traditional school setting, but I didn’t want to be in a religious school. Because I got my degree in secondary education, the only option was Harmony. I had some early college experience here with Jamie in the high school and I was like ‘Whoa, this school is super cool.’ Now as an adult, I sort of, actually in a weird way, kept finding my way into a friend group of Harmony alumni. My partner graduated from Harmony, and in many ways my life has gravitated me towards Harmony.

What are the highs and lows of your year so far?
Lows have been COVID and how consuming COVID is. …it adds a whole other layer to parent communication. Like if a student is sick, we have to follow up and see if they have any COVID symptoms and give them a COVID test. So that’s my low point. My high point has definitely been getting to develop my own curriculum and working with the students. That’s why I’m here. I love working with the students. I’m teaching my curriculum from multiple perspectives. So, highlighting often unheard voices. We’re focusing on early US history, and in doing that, we’re focusing on Black voices and Indigenous voices, and talking about our own experiences rather than looking in a history book and seeing what it tells us. That’s been a really cool thing, getting to highlight marginalized and often unheard voices. I heavily utilize film and written text because I don’t know the perspective of early people in this country and it’s easiest to share it from other people. And it’s not really my story to tell. I’m kind of the facilitator of it. One of my favorite things about Harmony too is that I cannot imagine another job where I have the amount of freedom and trust. One of the great things about Harmony is the amount of autonomy and freedom we have in our curriculum development.

What has navigating the pandemic in your classroom been like?
I think it’s hard to look at the impacts that it’s had on the students. I think the hardest part is trying, well not to figure out what academically they’ve missed because that’s been a universal experience, but more socially/emotionally what they’ve missed. Some social skills were missed because they’ve spent so much of the last couple of years in their houses. We’re all coming out of this pandemic together, but everyone has such a different and unique experience within that and so being able to adapt quickly is huge. I think that’s a lot of it, making sure everyone’s needs are met when the pandemic has affected everyone so differently.

What makes a ‘good day’ at school?
A good day at school is when I am excited to teach what I have planned to teach for that day and students are engaged. Anytime a student tells me that they talked to their parents about what they’re learning at home is a good day. Also, being able to engage with my coworkers, because it’s not just the students who make Harmony’s community what it is. I’m lucky to work with the coworkers I work with as well.

What accomplishment fills you with pride so far this year?
Whenever students reflect back on anything we’ve learned previously and are insightful and use it to progress their current knowledge. Like when they compare two things, such as what we’re learning about then and now.

In which other teacher’s class would you like to enroll, even for a day? Why?
Ursina’s science class, because she’s always doing super cool projects and activities that I wished I had done in middle school.

What inspires you?
Not to sound cheesy, but youth and adolescents inspire me. When I see the Greta Thunbergs of the world or the young women leading the Me Too Movement, that inspires me to not only be the best version of myself that I can be but to hopefully foster and facilitate other youth and adolescents. It inspires me when youth realize how important their voice is.

List 3 adjectives to describe yourself.
Tenacious, Excited, and Inspired

Do you have any exciting plans/activities with your students coming up? (Projects, activities, etc.)
The most recent project I just had them do was documenting their lives in extraordinary times. It was inspired by a New York Times project where students in middle school and high school were able to submit any form of artwork and I kind of did a revised version of that. Students are submitting artwork about something significant that has happened since the beginning of 2020. For some of them they chose a really personal event, or some of them chose how the school has been impacted by COVID. And they all created different pieces of art and some of them are super, super, super cool. We’re going to do a gallery walk where we put all of their art and artist statements up where we can look at all of them.

Arlo Welty, Middle School Mathematics, attended Harmony from first grade until his graduation from the high school in 1999. After graduation he attended Indiana University where he received two degrees before teaching for the Kinesiology Department in the School of Public Health since 2004. He is very excited to be back to his roots and teaching in the same middle school where he learned much of his core knowledge that has served him so well over the years. He has a very physical approach to all subjects, including math. He has an awesome son named Ronin and an amazing partner Sarah. He also owns a martial arts school in Bloomington, is the President of the United States Hapkido Federation, is a published author, and has too many other interests to name.

What were you up to before you came to Harmony?
I taught at IU for the last 17 years. I taught in the kinesiology department in the School of Public Health.

What brought you to Harmony?
Mainly I wanted to get back into lower education because I still saw that being the biggest lack in college. Grading college papers was sad when I started doing it because they were bad and then they got worse with the level of plagiarism. I was having 98% plagiarism come back on papers. I was spending so much time taking disciplinary actions and catching people cheating on tests. Most of the problems I saw I was like, “I learned all of that stuff in middle school and high school,” so I see that as a big deficiency in the education system, and as I taught through IU I saw almost two decades of students and it changed.

What are the highs and lows of your year so far?
COVID is definitely a low. Mainly it’s the inconsistency that we have in some of the students because of COVID. It makes it difficult to get a clear path for them. We’ll see some students one day a week because every time they’re sick they have to get a PCR test. The highs are that I have students that have gone from very low-level math retention because a lot of things they learned during COVID online, they did not retain it. So, working through that and seeing the improvement [has been a high]. And then teaching art class right now has been a lot of fun. Kids are a lot more into that than like physical activity and everything that they’ve been out of for so long. They might not have had time to do art at home or they didn’t have access, and now we have access. That’s been a lot of fun and we’ve created a lot of art so far.

What has navigating the pandemic in your classroom been like?
It’s been hard. I’m already used to teaching with a mask on, and honestly, everything has been easier teaching in a small classroom compared to the Bill Garret Fieldhouse and some of the gymnasiums at IU. I was having to yell through a mask for most of the first year of the pandemic. Unfortunately, [teaching in a pandemic] is too familiar.

What makes a ‘good day’ at school?
Seeing any student learn, doing math on the board, anyone that’s happy and learning, essentially.

What accomplishment fills you with pride so far this year?
Getting the zen room and the project room cleaned out and getting the space useable again. And then getting some students from barely knowing addition to doing Pythagorean Theorem. Teaching the relation of addition to multiplication and multiplication to just about everything else. They got annoyed with me, but they learned it. It’s been really nice seeing students who hated math  now in math competitions with their friends.

In which other teacher’s class would you like to enroll, even for a day? Why?
Ursina’s pottery class, because I took pottery with her and I want to get back into pottery and I probably will one day. I took her class a couple of times and made nice pots.

What inspires you?
Really just seeing people learn and grow. I’ve taught lots of different subjects, so math is new to me as a subject to teach. Not only teaching, but learning because students are doing math differently than I did. But really just watching students learn. I’ve taught from teaching martial arts to kinesiology to lots of other physical activity and now math. I’ve taught ever since I was a student at Harmony, and I’m glad to be back here.

What sort of morning routine do you have to get jazzed for class?
I set up my tables, which is annoying to my students because I change them all the time. It stresses some of them out because they never know what my room is going to look like.

List some adjectives to describe yourself.
Energetic, multi-talented, motivated, and adaptable

Do you have any exciting plans/activities with your students coming up? (Projects, activities, etc.)
I have a second math project to reward them for their first math project. They’re doing one right now on historical figures or just figures in math. They’re doing a research paper on a person or a type of math – anyone that has been a big figure in math. A lot of them are really getting into it. I have one student creating a new counting method and he’s getting really into that, but he had to do a history of counting systems from the start. Some students are looking at Medieval times and the suppression of math essentially and looking at what math was acceptable and what wasn’t. They’re having fun with that. I’m learning from them, which is nice.

Wes Sturdevant, High School Digital Arts and Media

What were you up to before you came to Harmony?
I was working in video production, both as a freelancer and also as a fulltime employee of a media company that produced corporate training material. I was also active in the regional independent film and music video scene where I worked as a cinematographer and editor on projects of all shapes and sizes.

What brought you to Harmony?
I saw that the HS was looking for a teacher to teach the sort of film and media production I love. I was one of the original non-Harmony students who helped set up Rhino’s all ages music club back in the 90s and had always been curious about Harmony so I sent in my resume. Roc remembered me from my days at Rhino’s and reached out to me which started a conversation that led to me teaching last fall.

What are the highs and lows of your year so far?
I‘ve really loved working and getting to know the HS students. Sharing my love for media production and story telling has been wonderful. But the best part has been how their enthusiasm has radiated into me and revitalized my own enthusiasm.

What has navigating the pandemic in your classroom been like?
I’m a first time teacher, so I’ve never taught in a non-pandemic classroom. It’s presented challenges, but the students have a resilience that has impressed me, and seem to have made the best of the situation.

What makes a ‘good day’ at school?
It’s always great when the students really engage with the topic or activity of the day, even when that engagement comes in the form of difficult questions.

What accomplishment fills you with pride so far this year?
We pulled off the multi-camera streamed Holiday Follies.

In which other teacher’s class would you like to enroll, even for a day? Why?
This semester I wish I was in both Jamie’s Sci-Fi class and Erica’s Science of Star Trek.

What inspires you?
Enthusiasm.

What sort of morning routine do you have to get jazzed for class?
Mornings are for coffee and contemplation. Coffee and contemplation.

List 3 adjectives to describe yourself.
Optimistic, easy-going, stress adverse.

Do you have any exciting plans/activities with your students coming up? (Projects, activities, etc.)
The students have so many great projects they are working on! I’m excited to read the stories the script writing students write. The muti-camera production class is preparing to produce some really fun live streamed and recorded esports programs to share with the rest of the school. And each of the students in the advanced media project class is working on really ambitious projects. There is also the banned book fest to get ready for. So much good stuff!

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Harmony School Calendar

December 2022

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1
  • Visitors Day
2
3
4
5
  • Morgenstern Books Harmony Fundraiser
6
  • Morgenstern Books Harmony Fundraiser
7
  • Morgenstern Books Harmony Fundraiser
8
  • Morgenstern Books Harmony Fundraiser
9
  • Morgenstern Books Harmony Fundraiser
10
  • Morgenstern Books Harmony Fundraiser
  • Morgenstern Gift Wrapping
11
  • Morgenstern Books Harmony Fundraiser
  • Morgenstern Gift Wrapping
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
  • Holiday Follies, Time TBD
  • Roller Skating
22
  • NO SCHOOL
23
  • NO SCHOOL
24
  • NO SCHOOL
25
  • NO SCHOOL
26
  • NO SCHOOL
27
  • NO SCHOOL
28
  • NO SCHOOL
29
  • NO SCHOOL
30
  • NO SCHOOL
31
  • NO SCHOOL
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