Faculty and Staff

Elementary School Faculty

Heather Tryon- Broadmeadow Elementary
Started teaching in Needham in the fall of 2000. She majored in voice and choral conducting and earned both her Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from Ithaca College in New York. From 2006-2014, Ms. Tryon conducted two youth choirs in the Handel + Haydn Society Education Program: Singers (grades 3-5) and Youth Chorus (grades 6-8). Now she spends her free time with her husband and two children in Ashland.

Annie Yu - Mitchell + Newman

Sarah Casados- Newman + Elementary Strings
Majored in flute performance and earned a Bachelor of Arts at California State University, Hayward in 2000. Ms. Casados studied Dalcroze Eurythmics at Longy School of Music and earned her Masters of Music in 2008. She has taught all levels and areas of music in the San Francisco Bay Area before moving to New England for graduate school. She has taught in Needham since 2011.

Laura Young- Mitchell
Laura is a Needham native and attended the Mitchell School, where she teaches now. She attended DePauw University for her Bachelor’s degree and UMASS Lowell for her master’s degree. Her main instrument is flute, but she also plays the piano and enjoys singing in her church choir. She has taught in Needham since 2002.

Christine McAllister- Eliot

A native of the Chicago area, Christine taught high school art in the Chicago suburbs for several years, before moving to Boston. She has a BFA in Art Education from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and an MA in Digital Imaging. She starting teaching elementary art in Needham in 2013.

Karen DiCenzo- Broadmeadow
Karen resides in Walpole, MA and began teaching in Needham in 2015. She holds a bachelor degree from Emmanuel College, Boston, MA and a master’s degree from Norwich University, VT; both degrees are in the field of Art Therapy. She entered the field of art education in 1993 worked for a while, then took 12 years off to raise her family while running an afterschool art program out of her house then returned back to the field of teaching three years ago here at Broadmeadow School.

Allison Penn- Newman, Broadmeadow + Sunita Williams
Allison grew up in the Missouri suburbs of Kansas City and received her BME from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and her MM in Music Education at Boston University. She taught all levels and areas of music in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota for before moving to New England, but her favorite thing to teach is elementary band! She began working at Newman in 2014 at the same time she started graduate school. When she’s not sharing her love of music, she enjoys exploring the wonderful creativity and culture in the Boston area with her husband and kids.

Jennie Bates- Sunita Williams
Jennie started teaching in Needham in 2000 after receiving her Masters in Art Education at Rochester Institute of Technology and Bachelor’s degree from Hamilton College majoring in studio art. After teaching many years at the middle school level Jennie is teaching elementary art at Hillside school and enjoying working with students in grades one through five. When she is not teaching she is with her three children, husband, and pug and lives on the south shore.

George Vallatini-Eliot
George has been joyously teaching elementary music, band and chorus in Needham since 1997. He has a bachelor’s degree in music education from UMass Lowell and a Master’s degree in music technology from Indiana University. He, his wife and two children have been Needham residents since 2002. https://sites.google.com/a/needham.k12.ma.us/mr-vallatini-s-music/

Lynne Doran-Sunita Williams
Lynne has been teaching general music, band and chorus at Hillside Elementary since 2000. Lynne has a bachelor’s degree in Professional Music from Berklee College of Music and a Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies with an emphasis on Pedagogy from Boston Conservatory. Lynne has done extensive studies post college in classical voice, jazz piano and music education. Lynne performs in concert settings with her family who are also musicians.

Jill Lubie - Newman & Sunita Wiliams

Middle School Faculty

Kate Jones- Pollard
Kate is a passionate theater educator. She has a Master’s degree in Theater Education from Emerson College, and a Bachelor’s degree in Theater from UMass Amherst. A member of the Pollard staff since 2014, she loves coming to work every day to make art!

Marissa Krantz- High Rock
Marissa is from nearby Westwood, MA and a graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design and Boston University with her Masters’ in Art Education. She has been teaching visual art at High Rock since 2011 where she designed and continues to grow the Arts Integration program. She loves creating art with her students collaborating with other faculty members to create opportunities for students to learn and express themselves creatively. https://sites.google.com/a/needham.k12.ma.us/mkrantz/

Sarah Grina- Pollard
Sarah is a December 2012 graduate of Berklee College of Music’s Music Education program. She has training in classical, contemporary, and theatre voice performance, as well as piano and choral conducting. In addition to the Pollard choruses, Sarah has enthusiastically lead the middle school Select Choir and musical production singing ensembles, and volunteered with the MMEA Eastern Jr. District organization managing ensembles for the past several years.

Steve Heldt- Pollard
Before moving to Massachusetts, I taught in Aspen, Colorado for five years. Before Colorado, I taught in the Chicagoland area for three years, which is also where I was born, raised, and went to college. I have two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University (BM Trumpet Performance, BM Music Education, MM Individualized Studies in Music). Outside of music, I enjoy photography, woodworking, and cooking.

Marybeth Wall-Pollard

Marybeth brings her enthusiasm for creating art with her love of teaching to Pollard Middle School. Marybeth has a B.A. in Art History/Studio Art from Elmira College and an M.Ed. from Cambridge College, she has taught at all levels within the private and public sectors of education. Gardening and landscape design is her other creative outlet.

Meredith Hopkins-Pollard
Meredith started teaching in Needham at the elementary level in 1994. She moved to Pollard in 1997 and found her niche teaching middle school students. Meredith graduated with an B.F.A. in Sculpture and an M.F.A. in Studio Teaching from Boston University. She brings a love of building and creating to all she does. After school you’ll find her chasing her crazy dog, Sara, and chauffeuring her three boys here, there, and everywhere!

Eileen Carlotto- Pollard
Eileen has been working at Pollard Middle School since 2000. She studied at SUNY Buffalo where she graduated with Honors in Education and Fine Arts. She began teaching in Hamilton-Wenham and Lawrence Public Schools close to her home on the North Shore. Eileen spends her free time exploring the woods and coast of Cape Ann, hanging with her grandkids and creating illustrations for children’s books.

Mark Smith- Elementary Strings, High Rock + Pollard
Mark brings his love of working with children to string players from grade 3 to grade 9. He currently works at all elementary schools and both middle schools. Mr. Smith grew up in Michigan playing the viola. He started teaching in a Suzuki program in while still in High School. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University and a Master of Music degree from the New England Conservatory. Both degrees are in Viola Performance. He and his husband Andy have two children who both went through the Needham Public Schools. Teaching has been his goal since he was in High School when he was told that the best way to be a great teacher was to become the best player you can be.

High School Faculty

Robyn Briggs
Robyn Briggs gained her love of graphic design from the classes she took as a high school student right here in Needham! Going through the graphic design sequence courses as a teenager lead her to the University of Maryland to study graphic design and get her Bachelors in Studio Art with a concentration in Graphic Design. After school she worked as a designer for the Army at the Natick Soldiers System Center. There she realized that there was a lot of bad design out in the world and felt the need to educate people about it. Robyn went back to school and got her Masters of Art Education at Framingham State. Robyn started working at the high school in 2005 where she has taught ceramics, photography, crafts, drawing and painting and graphic design. Now she is in charge of Studio 605, which does all of the design and printing needs for the school and town while teaching her favorite classes - Commercial Design 1, 2, & 3. Robyn lives in Millis with her husband and two children and their dog Pippin.

Damon Burnard
Damon Burnard was the visual arts teacher at Needham’s Broadmeadow School for 15 years, before joining the High School faculty in 2015. He has a BA in Fine Art, Painting, from Bath Academy of Art, England, and a Master of Science in Art Education from MassArt. He has written and illustrated over twenty children’s books in the UK and USA and, when not engaging with students in the artmaking process, is developing his own works on canvas with acrylic paint.

Linda Burke
Linda Burke has been teaching at the Needham Public Schools over 20 years. Her classroom philosophy revolves around her belief that “art is essential,” and that it brings a sense of humanity to our day to day living. She stumbled across art when she was a history student at Boston University, switched majors, and eventually graduated from there with a BFA in Sculpture. After working at the Boston Children’s Museum and in after school programs for 10 years, she returned to Massachusetts College of Art to get her Master of Science in Art Education. When she is not teaching she enjoys making her own art, cooking with her husband, gardening, kayaking and cross-country skiing. https://sites.google.com/site/lburkeart/

Shireen Agah Yadollahpour
Shireen Agah Yadollahpour graduated from Syracuse University with dual B.F.A. degrees in Art Education and Painting, and earned her Masters of Science in Art Education from Massachusetts College of Art. She taught high school visual art in suburban Chicago before coming to Needham in 2003. She currently teaches full year courses including Art II Honors, Art III Accelerated, and Advanced Placement Studio Art, as well as a few semester electives. As an art educator, her interests include curriculum design based in 21st century skills, parallel concept and craft development, and choice based art education and station work. She is also a passionate advocate for studio practice for art educators, and works primarily in drawing and painting media. Her works are in private collections throughout the United States. She lives in the South Shore with her husband and two children, and also enjoys traveling, running, cooking, and reading.

Sofia Koza-Topp
Sofia Koza-Topp has been teaching the ceramics program in the Needham Public Schools since 2003. She started at Pollard Middle School and then has been at the high school since 2010. She grew up overseas in Asia and Europe which is where her appreciation for the arts began. She moved to the United States to attend university where she received her undergraduate degree in studio art from James Madison University in Virginia and her masters degree in art education from Massachusetts College of Art. Sofia spends her time away from teaching with her husband raising their three young children. They enjoy travelling and spending precious time with their families.

Maria Sartori 
Maria Sartori graduated from Lesley University College of Art and Design with a B.F.A. in Photography, and earned her Masters of Art Education from Lesley University. She taught high school visual art as well as elementary visual art in the Shrewsbury Public schools before coming to Needham High School in 2017. Her passion for teaching developed from her own inspiring High School Photography teacher, who taught that communication of one’s self does not always need to be verbal. Visual communication and creative problem solving are two essentials in her teaching philosophy. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books on theology, running, and making art of her own!

Kate Bergeron
Kate Bergeron grew up in Connecticut, with a connection to music, performance art and fine art from a young age. She graduated from Providence College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and a minor in Dance, before realizing that it was her dream to share her passion through the education of young people. She attended Tufts University and The School of Museum of Fine Arts, where she received her Masters in Education in 2013. Kate has been teaching Photography in Needham ever since! She is inspired to instill a mindset of creative thinking in all students that come through her classroom, not just those who perceive themselves to be ‘creative’! In her personal time, Kate enjoys being outdoors with her husband and young daughter, making her own artwork, and traveling. She always has her camera at the ready!

Jonathan VanderWoude
Jonathan VanderWoude directs the Needham High School String Orchestra, Chorus, Chorale, Bella Voce, and the After School Choir. He holds a Bachelors of Music Education in Voice from Gordon College, and a Masters of Music in Conducting from Boston University where he studied under the baton of Dr. Ann Howard Jones. Jonathan taught middle school choirs for several years at Pollard before joining the high school faculty. He has presented sessions for MMEA, published music technology curriculum, and conducted the MMEA Western Junior District festival. He attends the First Congregational Church in Hamilton, where he has served as choir director for twenty years. Jonathan currently sings with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the Boston Symphony Orchestra/Pops. He is active as a vocalist in the Boston area and has helped record video game soundtracks for Final Fantasy XV and Code Vein. Jonathan lives in a 300 year old house on the North Shore where he and his wife Jill are raising three beautiful children.

Kristen Mazzocchi
Kristen Mazzocchi directs and production manages the theater productions at Needham High School. She is an experienced arts educator, director and production manager. After graduating from Boston College with a BA in Theatre and Economics, she began her career at The Wang Center for the Performing Arts (now the Boch Center) in the Arts Education Department. She went on to work as Production Manager for the Celebrity Series of Boston where she also served as Operations Director of AileyCamp Boston, a summer dance camp for 80 middle school aged students from the Boston Public School system. Kristen’s passion for education inspired her to earn a Master’s degree in Arts Education from Harvard University, and then to take a position as the Director of Educational programs for The Celebrity Series of Boston. Kristen performed as a Mainstage cast member of the Improv Asylum and spent many years as a freelance teaching artist, director and production manager working with many schools and arts organizations including Babson College, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, New England Conservatory of Music, Improv Asylum and Needham Public Schools.

Spencer Parrish
Spencer Parrish directs the Needham High School Symphonic Band, Concert Band, Jazz Band and Marching Band in addition to teaching Piano Lab, AP Music Theory, and Music Technology. Parrish graduated summa cum laude from Berklee College of Music with a bachelor's degree in Music Education, and is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree in Music Education at Boston University. Prior to his teaching appointment in Needham, he taught elementary general and instrumental music in Newton Public Schools. Currently residing in Framingham, Parrish is a highly sought-after pianist, bandleader, and composer/arranger. 

Alexander Lee-Clark
Alex teaches Guitar 1 & 2, Music Technology and Piano at Needham High School, where he also leads the Contemporary Music Ensemble. He maintains an active career as a performer and band leader, most notably as the co-leader of the BT ALC Big Band
In addition, Alex is the co-founder and artistic director of PopUp Music
a project that uses live music as a tool to demonstrate active listening and teamwork skills in the workplace. His favorite composer is Duke Ellington, his favorite baseball team is the New York Yankees, and his favorite pizza place near Boston is Pepe's. For more information about Alex, you can visit his website at www.alexleeclark.com.






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