It's not just new freshmen and transfer students gracing the halls of Commonwealth School this fall. Three new faculty members are joining the Commonwealth community this year: Meena Boppana, a math teacher with a fierce commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion issues and gender equality in STEM; Jeremie Korta, a french teacher with a penchant for the theater of the absurd and a cat named after classical music; and Darren Benedick, a self-described exercise addict from across the pond—who also moonlights as a professional wrestler.
Get to know these faculty members through our mini bios and a Q&A below...
Ms. Boppana has unique connections to Commonwealth School: As a teenager, she played ping pong against a then seven-year-old graduate of the Class of 2020 while attending a math camp. She then became friends with Commonwealth alumni/ae at Harvard, where she earned an A.B. in computer science. She later completed an Ed.M. from the school as well.
Ms. Boppana comes to Commonwealth from Boston Collegiate Charter School, where she taught quantitative reasoning and computer programming. Prior to that, she worked as a software engineer for an education tech startup and directed a program that sought to increase diversity in the tech industry. Ms. Boppana has been passionate about increasing representation in STEM ever since she qualified for such competitions as MATHCOUNTS Nationals and the USA Mathematical Olympiad.
When she is not teaching, Ms. Boppana enjoys traveling. In light of the global pandemic and travel restrictions, she now enjoys swimming in bodies of water around Massachusetts.
Mr. Korta, who moved from Paris to the U.S. at age five, joins Commonwealth's languages department after teaching French language and culture at Miami University of Ohio for five years. He started a winding academic journey with a B.S. in Physics and Math from the University of Arizona; proceeded to Harvard for a master's in Physics, where he took a sharp turn towards the humanities; and capped off his studies with a Ph.D. in French and Italian language and literature from Harvard in 2015.
A life-long student and a student of life, Mr Korta's primary passions are languages—he's currently working on Egyptian Arabic—and acting/directing for the theater—he was recently cast as Jaques in As You Like It and Buckingham in Richard III for a summer-stock Shakespeare festival now scheduled for 2021.
Mr. Benedick is Commonwealth's new Athletics Director, overseeing our sports teams, leading our wellness activities, and teaching our Health and Community class for ninth graders. For the last eight years, he served as the Athletic Director at Excel Academy Charter School in East Boston, where he also coached boys and girls soccer, track and field, and softball. Six times—at least once in each sport he has coached—Mr. Benedick has earned Coach of the Year honors from the Massachusetts Charter School Athletic Organization.
Originally from England, Mr. Benedick has a B.S. in Sport Psychology from Buckinghamshire New University and an M.S. in Sport and Exercise Psychology from Loughborough University. He has completed three marathons, adopted two dogs (Trevor and Reggie), and lives a plant-based vegan lifestyle.
Questions and Answers
We asked, they answered:
What are you most excited about for the upcoming school year?
MB: I am looking forward to spontaneous conversations with students, getting to know them outside of the context of academics.
DB: I am excited to build relationships with students and faculty alike, as well as to provide as much of an athletic experience as possible within the current pandemic.
JK: Getting started!
What drew you to Commonwealth?
MB: I went to an exam school in New York City called Hunter College High School. Its educational philosophy was similar to Commonwealth—our teachers valued learning over compliance, and we also had an open campus. When I came to interview at Commonwealth, I felt at home.
DB: I was drawn to Commonwealth primarily by the way the students spoke about their experiences, as well as by the culture that was described by the faculty.
JK: A number of factors made the decision an easy one! I knew Boston already and was eager to either come back here or go to the Bay Area in California where my family is. My campus visit was lovely; I was drawn to the small classes and the community vibe I got from all of the faculty I spoke with. Also, Mr. Wharton's office felt like something out of Harry Potter.
How are you staying grounded and healthy during the pandemic?
MB: Discovering new places to swim and hike around Boston while the weather is so nice. My favorite spot to swim is Crystal Lake in Newton.
DB: Exercise is my anchor, so during the pandemic, I have been consistent with my exercise routine. I am fortunate to have, over many years, built a pretty comprehensive home gym, so even when the pandemic had most gyms closed, I was still able to get my fix, so to speak.
JK: While I was still in Oxford, Ohio, I rode my bike to the same spot in Hueston Woods every day to sit beside a lake. I haven't found such a regular, peaceful way of staying grounded since arriving in Boston, but I'm still biking around the busy city streets (stimulating, not peaceful!) and spending quality time with my cat, Rubato. I also plan to get back to baking sourdough bread on a weekly basis when I get settled, and hope to return to sailing on the Charles as I did as a grad student.
What's the most random piece of knowledge that you possess?
MB: I know pi to 50 places.
DB: The most random piece of trivia that I know is what DVD stands for. I don't want to give it away, so if you would like to take a guess, feel free to track me down (in the building or in Virtual Commonwealth). Correct answers may receive a cool prize, but, please, don't just Google it!
JK: Hmm, I called my cat Rubato to the confusion of many, so...classical music terminology? Also I spent a good amount of time explaining in my doctoral thesis how and why the dolphin was rediscovered by the broader French public in 1551. If that's not random, I don't know what is!