Faculty Bios

Lori DeFields, Principal
Mrs. DeFields has been an educator in the city of Philadelphia since 1995.  She has served as an elementary school principal for one year, an assistant principal for four years, an English teacher/coach/instructional specialist for over 14 years, and holds several degrees, including a Master’s Degree in Education.   Mrs. DeFields brings passion and dedication to ensuring that all children receive an excellent education; an education that is aligned to national and state standards.    She works with all staff and community to ensure that students learn in an academically rich, safe and sound environment.

-COURSES-

Mathematics

Tasmara Davis – Geometry
Tasmara attended Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and studied Mathematics with a concentration in Secondary Education. While attending Shippensburg, she received honors and mentored freshmen students assisting with the transition from high school to college. Tasmara grew up in South Philadelphia and attended Meredith Elementary and Central High Schools. In school she played the violin and oboe, sang in choirs, and held acting roles in school plays. Outside of school she studied piano and guitar at Settlement Music School and took lessons in ballet, tap, and jazz. In 2011, Tasmara received a Master of Education degree from Cabrini College.

Jon Goulet – Algebra II , Pre-Calculus, AP Calculus
Mr. Goulet grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where he lived through High School. During his early years in school, he had a passion for Math and Science and loved working with computers. He came to Philadelphia in 2001 to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in Computer Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. He graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2005 with a BS in Computer Science and Engineering. After graduation, he began his first job working as a software developer and providing technology support at a large financial services company. After three years of working in that field, he decided that a career change was in order and joined the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows in 2008. He worked for two years teaching Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, and AP Calculus at South Philadelphia High School and joined the staff at Rush in the fall of 2010. Mr. Goulet has a Masters of Education from Drexel University. In his spare time, Mr. Goulet enjoys running, watching sports, reading, and traveling.

Jeff Bevilacqua – Algebra 2
Jeff Bevilacqua has been teaching math (and sometimes science) at The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush since 2010. He enjoys working with such talented, enthusiastic students, and hopes to share his love of mathematics with each student, regardless of his or her prior experiences with math. After being born and raised in Akron, Ohio, Jeff attended Ohio Wesleyan University, earning a BA in Mathematics while also attaining minors in both Physics and the Humanities. He then spent a year living and teaching at Perkiomen School, a boarding school in Pennsburg, PA, before returning to college, earning an MA in Mathematics from Villanova University and pursuing a PhD in Mathematics at Temple University for three years. Although he has lived in the Philadelphia area since 2004 and considers it his home, he is still hopelessly loyal to Cleveland’s sports teams. He also enjoys running through the woods, bowling, playing video games, and watching tv and movies.

Daniel Ritzheimer – Algebra 1
Born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia, Daniel Ritzheimer is a proud product of the Philadelphia public school system. As a graduate, Daniel is committed to serving the school district which helped him become the lifelong learner that he is today. While studying Mechanical Engineering at Temple University, Daniel volunteered as a Calculus tutor. It was during this time that he discovered his passion for teaching. He quickly changed his major and received his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics Education from Temple University. Since then, Daniel has taught at Olney West High School, George Washington High School, Philadelphia High School for Business and Technology, and Harding Middle School. Mr. Ritzheimer ensures the future success of his students by providing them with challenging curriculum that is relevant to their needs and interests.

Science

Suzanne Bachman – Biology I and II
Suzanne Bachman was born in Illinois and grew up in a military family, living in Germany, the Philippine Islands, Bolivia, and Iran. Her high school years were spent in the beautiful farm country of the Lehigh Valley. She obtained a B.S. in Biology and a M.S. in Physiology from Penn State University. Teaching is a career change for Suzanne, who previously worked at Thomas Jefferson University Medical School as a Research Assistant doing AIDS research and later with a physician who conducted AIDS clinical trials with pharmaceutical companies. In 2002, she obtained her M.S. in Secondary Education from Arcadia University.

Suzanne has taught for the past 11 years at a Philadelphia charter school. She hopes to make science applicable to students and inspire a love for science and learning. South Philadelphia has become home and her hobbies include photography and antiques.

Glenn Dyson- Physics, AP Physics

Mr. Dyson is a local boy, born and bred in Northeast Philadelphia.  He actually attended Rush back in the days when it was a Middle School.  Graduating from Washington High School, Mr. Dyson obtained his B.S in Education from Temple University and his M.A in Education from Cheyney University.

Mr. Dyson began his teaching career in the Philadelphia School District in 1991. He has taught Music, Mathematics, and Physics at various schools including Creighton Elementary, Shoemaker Middle, Olney High, and Northeast High.  He has served in numerous other school-level capacities, such as SLC Coordinator, Dean, and Roster Chair.

In his spare time, Mr. Dyson enjoys playing the piano, composing, conducting his church choir, taking walks, biking, making bad puns, listening to classical music, eating deep, dark chocolate , and compiling endless lists.

 

Michael Piechoski – Chemistry & Forensic Science

Mr. Piechoski was born and raised in Philadelphia, and can say he was alive when the Flyers won their two Stanley Cups. He is a partial product of the School District of Philadelphia, having graduated from W.B Saul High School. He has bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Philadelphia University (now Jefferson University) and his Maters in Education from Chestnut Hill College.

 

Michael has been teaching in the school district since 2007 (at South Philadelphia High School) and at The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush since

SOCIAL STUDIES

Kevin Katz – World History, African American History
Mr. Katz grew up in Warminster in Lower-Bucks County. He attended King’s College, where he played baseball, while majoring in Communications with minors in Marketing and History. Mr. Katz was originally in the corporate world for 7 years as a web designer. He has his Masters in Secondary Education with a concentration in Social Studies. He is certified to teach Social Studies, English, and Business Education. He is committed to the new 3 Rs – Relationships, Rigor, and Relevance, and the use of technology as a conduit to learning. Mr. Katz is the girls basketball coach and baseball coach. He lives in the Graduate Hospital section of Philadelphia with his wife and 2 children.  He currently teachers World History and American History.

Julie Merkins – African American & American History
Mrs. Merkins originally hails from South Dakota, where she lived until she left to attend college at the University of Minnesota.  While at the U of M, she studied History and Global Studies and spent her junior year studying abroad in Rome and Budapest.  After college, she joined the Peace Corps and moved to the West African country of Guinea for two years to work as a Health Education Volunteer in a rural village.  Following her time in Africa, she decided to follow her passion for teaching by moving to Philadelphia and joining the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows.  She started her teaching career at Germantown High School, where she has taught history for the past four years.  During this time, she received her Masters of Education from Arcadia University.  She also became involved in working with students in extracurricular activities through BuildOn and Students Run Philly Style.  Mrs. Merkins is looking forward to starting the next chapter in her teaching career by working at the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush.

 

Matt Byrne – World History/Spanish
Señor Byrne grew up outside of Reading, Pennsylvania and attended Albright College where he graduated with a degree in Spanish and Environmental Studies. He has traveled extensively throughout Latin America and has lived, volunteered, and studied in 11 countries including Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Bolivia.  He met his wife while volunteering at a school in Santa Cruz, Bolivia and now lives with her and their adorable dog in Philadelphia. He moved to Philadelphia and joined the Philadelphia
Teaching Fellows in 2010. He taught Spanish previously at University City High School and the High School of the Future. Señor Byrne enjoys traveling, running, cheering on the Philadelphia Union, and training his dog.

Rhonda Feder – Social Science / English 1
Prior to coming to Rush Arts, Ms. Feder was a 7th and 8th grade learning support teacher at Northwood Academy Charter School. She studied Psychology at Louisiana State University and upon graduating, moved to New York to study law. She practiced law for a number of years, including serving as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney. She eventually found her way to teaching and special education, joining the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows in 2011 and completing her Masters in Education with a concentration in secondary education in 2013. Without a doubt, Ms Feder finds teaching infinitely more rewarding than practicing law.

David Thomer – World History / Social Science

Dave Thomer grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and went to grade school down the street from Rush Arts at Our Lady of Calvary. He attended Fordham University in New York, where he studied philosophy and found that despite Vizzini’s claims in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates were not morons. He moved back to Philadelphia with his then-fiancé, who agreed to marry him while he pursued a Ph.D. in philosophy at Temple University. He was slightly more successful than Wile E. Coyote in this pursuit, and while researching and writing his dissertation on the democratic philosophy of John Dewey he decided that he wanted to teach high school students. While serving as an adjunct professor at St. Joseph’s University, La Salle University, and Holy Family University, Dr. Thomer completed his M.Ed. and certification at Temple in 2009. He then joined the School District of Philadelphia and decided he had collected enough degrees for the foreseeable future. He spent eight great years teaching students at Parkway Center City High School. Now he looks forward to working with the students, staff, and families at Rush Arts. He enjoys hanging out and playing board games with his wife and daughter, both of whom would like to apologize on his behalf for his jokes.

Foreign Language/Spanish

Matt Byrne – Spanish/World History
Señor Byrne grew up outside of Reading, Pennsylvania and attended Albright College where he graduated with a degree in Spanish and Environmental Studies. He has traveled extensively throughout Latin America and has lived, volunteered, and studied in 11 countries including Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Bolivia.  He met his wife while volunteering at a school in Santa Cruz, Bolivia and now lives with her and their adorable dog in Philadelphia. He moved to Philadelphia and joined the Philadelphia
Teaching Fellows in 2010. He taught Spanish previously at University City High School and the High School of the Future. Señor Byrne enjoys traveling, running, cheering on the Philadelphia Union, and training his dog.

Jaquelyn Fritz-Spanish

Señorita Fritz joined the Rush Arts staff in 2017 as a Spanish teacher and volleyball coach. She began her journey as an educator in 2010, when she began her M.Ed. and certification program at St. Joseph’s University. She was certified to teach in 2011 and completed her Master’s in 2015. As an undergrad, she studied Anthropology and Spanish Language and Literatures at Dartmouth College, earning her degree in 2008. Her studies took her to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where her passion for cultures and languages first began to develop.

Before joining the Rush Arts staff, Ms. Fritz taught Spanish for four years at Strawberry Mansion HS, where she was also a volleyball coach and a class sponsor. She has also worked in various capacities at Philadelphia’s Overbrook HS and West Philadelphia HS, and at Delaware County’s Ridley HS, from which she graduated in 2004.

English

Antoinette Davis – English 1
Antoinette Davis grew up in the Feasterville-Trevose area and attended Bensalem High School. She attended Millersville University and graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.  In 2009, she decided that teaching and working with children was her passion and went to Cabrini College for her Masters in Education with Certification in English, graduating in 2011.  She has taught at a Philadelphia charter school for three and a half years before moving to the School District of Philadelphia in December 2014. She is excited about teaching and starting a new year at The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush.

Anna Kates – English 2, SAT English Prep
Anna Kates received her BA in English from Earlham College, where she helped run a community radio station and served as a tutor and mentor for first-generation prospective college students in the Eli Lilly Odyssey Program. She earned her MS Ed at the University of Pennsylvania this past spring, focusing on secondary English and Social Studies. Both academic experiences invested her with a passion for teaching, writing, and exploring literature authentically, creatively, critically, and with an eye towards social justice.

During her master’s program, she completed her eight-month pre-service teaching in 10th and 12th grade English classrooms at the School of the Future. While at Penn, Kates was awarded a Lenore Annenberg Fellowship, part of the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship program. She also accomplished a teacher research project in her 12th grade classroom for her Master’s thesis, an inquiry into scaffolding writing.

Prior to her work at Penn, Kates was a faculty member in the Liberal Arts Department at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she taught for six years in the First Year College Writing Program. At UArts, she taught college level modes of writing, responsible research, critical thinking, study habits, and the integration of the arts and humanities. This work informs her approach to instruction in the English 2 and SAT Prep programs, where she endeavors to create a rigorous, engaged, and engaging college preparatory classroom.

Sonny Bavaro – English 4, English 4 Honors, SAT prep
Sonny Bavaro has been teaching for eleven years: six years as an instructor at Lehigh University, Community College of Philadelphia, Bucks County Community College and the University of the Arts, as well as five years for the School District of Philadelphia. Growing up, Mr. Bavaro attended public school in the city of Yonkers and the hamlet of Hopewell Jct., both in NY. After high school, he moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to attend Lehigh University, and he did so with the intention of becoming a Civil Engineer. However, his sophomore year at Lehigh taught him that he prefers the art that words make, wishing to understand how the world works through applied poetry rather than applied mathematics.

He went on to receive both his BA in English from Lehigh, graduating magna cum laude, as well as an MA in English with a concentration in Medieval Literature and Gender Studies. After realizing that his love for the art of reading and writing was sparked when he was in 9th grade, he decided to become a high school English teacher and received an M.Ed in Secondary Education from Arcadia University.

Most recently, he was the Comprehensive High School Region Finalist for the 2010 Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre Teacher of the Year award for his work as a 9th grade English teacher at West Philadelphia High School. Before teaching at Rush, he also taught at Furness High School in South Philly.

Mr. Bavaro’s pedagogy centers on the liberatory possibilities for teenagers when we encourage modern student-writers to engage with their peers and to re-mix and re-create narratives of the past to create original, 21 century visions of their own future.

Max Feldman – English 3, English 3 Honors and Film Studies
Born and raised in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia, Mr. Feldman graduated from J.R. Masterman High School. It was during high school that he was inspired to become a teacher after having a series of amazing, mind-expanding English teachers. He attended Penn State University where he majored in Secondary Education and spent his extracurricular time rowing for the Penn State Crew Team. Mr. Feldman has been at The Arts Academy since 2010, and taught at Olney West High School previously. Outside of school, Mr. Feldman enjoys traveling, camping, and biking. He biked across the United States during the summer after his college graduation as an adventure before becoming a teacher. His favorite books include The Catcher in the Rye and 1984, and his favorite films are too numerous to name.

Health & Physical Education

Todd Corabi, C.A.A. – Health & Physical Education, Athletic Director
Mr. Corabi has been teaching for over twenty years in the School District of Philadelphia.   In 2017, Mr. Corabi was award the prestigious Lindback Award for Distinguished Educators.   That same year, he was awarded NE Times girls soccer coach of the year and had a book published based on some of his Health lessons.  His primary roles at Rush Arts are as 11th grade teacher of Health & Physical Education and school Athletic Director.  In addition, Mr. Corabi coaches girls Soccer, girls Softball, oversees several student run clubs, and assists with various administrative tasks.

Mr. Corabi began his teaching career following graduation from Temple University   Ranked #1 in the employment selection process.  He selected Central East Middle School (later to be renamed Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences) and taught there 13 years before coming to the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush in the fall of 2010.

Educationally, Mr. Corabi holds both a PA Master’s Equivalency and a Masters Degree from American Intercontinental University in Instructional design.  He has 99 credits of Graduate level schooling past his Bachelors of Science.  In addition to his degrees and teaching certifications, Mr. Corabi is also a Red Cross CPR instructor, Nationally certified Soccer and Softball coach and Nationally Certified Athletic Administrator.

The Arts

Cathy Bateman – Fine Arts and Graphic Arts
Cathy Bateman is proud to become a member of the faculty of Rush Arts starting in 2013.  Previously, Cathy taught Visual Arts, Digital Arts and Ceramics at Frankford High School.  During her teaching at Frankford she was also the school technology leader and Chairperson for the Arts and Technology including Visual Arts, Music, Drama, Dance and Educational Technology.  She has several certifications including Fine Arts, Business and Computer Technology and holds Administrative Certification.  Her educational background includes Penn State University, Cabrini College, Arcadia University, University of the Arts, and Brandman University.  Currently she is studying Curriculum and Instruction through Gwynedd Mercy College.  Mrs. Bateman is a strong proponent of STEAM education, interweaving the Arts across the curriculum.

Louis Mazza – Media Arts 1, Media Arts 2&3, Graphic Design 2, Library Media Specialist
Louis Mazza holds a B.F.A. in Media Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art + Design and an M.A.T. in Visual Art from the University of the Arts, Philadelphia. Mr. Mazza’s professional work as a designer, photographer, and educator include jobs as Education Technology Specialist (Walker Art Center, Minneapolis), Web Producer, (Urban Outfitters, Philadelphia), independent designer & consultant (Tides Foundation, Princeton University Art Museum, Minnesota Public Radio, Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership) and adjunct faculty (Minneapolis College of Art + Design, Philadelphia University). Mr. Mazza contributed curriculum to “Making Media Matter” (Vols. 1 & 2), a collection of media literacy projects for classrooms published by the National Council of Teachers of English. His photography and design work have been published in New Media Design: ReloadedWired, and the Philadelphia City Paper. Louis has been a high school educator since 2006, when he was selected as part of the founding faculty at the “School of the Future”, a partnership between Microsoft and the School District of Philadelphia. He believes in providing rich and authentic learning experiences for his students through partnerships with multiple arts and education organizations. His students have enjoyed the benefits of affiliations with The PBS Student Reporting Labs, The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, The Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, Project Basho, and Temple University’s Media Education Lab. He was the recipient of the Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2010.

Suzanne Spencer – Vocal Music
Suzanne Spencer has been a performing musician and teacher in the Philadelphia area for over seven years. Ms. Spencer moved to Philadelphia to finish her Bachelor of Music in Jazz Vocal Performance at the University of the Arts. After completing her degree, she continued on to earn her Masters of Arts in Teaching in Music Education from the University of the Arts. In addition to teaching, Ms. Spencer is an avid performer and studio musician. While living in Philadelphia she has performed at the Merriam Theater, the Academy of Music, the Kimmel Center, The World Live Café, the Tritone, the Tin Angel, and overseas at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. Ms. Spencer is also presently the lead singer of the Sunday James Band- a Philadelphia based wedding/dance band. Ms. Spencer believes firmly in training her vocal students to not only be the best singers they can be, but the best musicians as well.

Denise Masters – Dance
Mrs. Denise Drumel Masters has been performing, educating and studying all forms of dance for over 30 years throughout the Philadelphia Region.  She holds a masters degree and state certification in Dance Education from Temple University.  Her background includes teaching ballet, point, tap, jazz, various modern techniques and other world dance traditions to all ages through private, studio and public school settings.  She has staged and created original choreography for numerous Broadway musicals for middle and high school level students as well as create her own curriculum in dance. This curriculum includes historical, cultural, composing, choreography, analyzing and critiquing dance studies to focus on interdisciplinary connections through the arts.  She has performed at the Adrienne, Arden, Drake, Arts Bank and Conwell theatres in Philadelphia.  In 2004 she was awarded the national Isadora Duncan Choreography Award followed by the Sarah Hilsendager Professional Educators Award in 2006.  She presented on integrating dance movement therapy into a public school in 2011 at the National Dance Education Conference in Minneapolis.  She is devoted to creating a college preparatory dance program and enhancing knowledge about careers in dance for her students. She is extremely proud to be a part of the Rush Arts Team.  It is her dream job.

Sally Wojcik – Theatre Arts
Sally Wojcik is originally from Springfield, MA. She studied Theatre, English, and Secondary Education at Albright College where she graduated Summa Cum Laude and with Departmental Distinction. Sally spent a semester at the prestigious National Theatre Institute in Waterford, CT. Directly after graduation, Ms. Wojcik accepted a position at Arden Theatre Company in the Arden Professional Apprentice Program, one of the country’s most competitive and rigorous theatre training programs. Sally remained on staff at the Arden in the Education and Marketing Departments for five years. She has also worked a teaching artists for Philadelphia Young Playwrights. Ms. Wojcik is currently pursuing her Masters Degree at Temple University.

Sean Marks – Instrumental
Special Education

Jennifer Clements – Learning Support 
Mrs. Clements has been a Special Education Teacher in the School District of Philadelphia for 11 years.  Prior to entering the education field, she was pursuing her Psy.D. in Counseling at Temple University . Working her way through school, she was a Case Manager at a Behavioral Health Facility where she taught adolescents about their illness, and the best strategies in which to cope.  It was then she decided to change paths and pursue what she enjoys most; educating our young minds of today.  Mrs. Clements obtained her Masters in Education at Holy Family University and graduated summa cum laude. She is certified in Special Education and is highly qualified in Mathematics and Social Studies.  Mrs. Clements is absolutely thrilled to be part of the Rush team and is looking forward to new learning opportunities and enjoying the budding talents of our diverse and creative students.

Mr. Konieczny – English Learning Support 

Mr. Konieczny or Mr. K as his students call him, earned his Bachelors from Arcadia University and his Masters of Education from Holy University. He is certified to teach English and Social Studies 7-12 and Special Education k-12. He previously worked as a Special Education Teacher for the School District of Philadelphia at Austin Meehan Middle School. In his free time, Mr. K enjoys spending time with his family and friends, coaching swimming, taking his dog, Tank, to the park, and the occasional 5k race or open water swim.

Janet Swanner

Ms. Swanner graduated from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in 2013 with a B.S. in Education. While in college she volunteered as a respite care provider for families with children with physical and cognitive disabilities. Ms. Swanner is currently back at West Chester earning her M.S. in Transformative Education and Social Change.
In her spare time, Ms. Swanner enjoys being with her friends and family. She resides in Bucks County with her two cats, Sammy and Panda.

Susan Senner – Counselor

Rose Dimarino – Secretary