Welcoming new professional community members

The Rivers School is pleased to welcome the following new staff, faculty, and administrators to our professional community. A few of our new colleagues joined us starting this past fall and winter, so you may already recognize their names, while others are just beginning their Rivers tenures at the start of the 2023–24 academic year. Please join us in welcoming each of them to our community!

Esther Bertain - Musical Theater Voice Teacher
Essie (Esther) Bertain is a graduate of The Boston Conservatory (M.F.A. Musical Theatre Vocal Pedagogy, 2023) and The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (B.F.A. Musical Theatre, 2010). Before moving to Boston, Essie taught voice and piano lessons for almost a decade in Portland, Oregon. She is an accomplished and award-winning performer, having performed regionally in Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, and New England. Essie Bertain is a proud member of New England NATS and AOTOS. In her spare time, Essie enjoys long-distance running and spending time with her husband, Allen, and their pets.

Elizabeth Creamer - Registrar and Co-advisor
Elizabeth Creamer is the registrar for the Upper School and serves as a co-advisor. She earned a B.A. in Secondary Education and Hispanic Studies and an MEd in Curriculum and Instruction from Boston College. Liz taught high school Spanish at Saint Joseph Prep Boston, and, most recently, held the title of Senior Academic Advisor in the College of Engineering at Northeastern University for four years. Liz grew up on Long Island, NY and spends her free time visiting her friends and family across the country. She also enjoys reading, pop culture, and going for long walks with friends.
Ryan S. Dahlem - Head of School
Ryan Dahlem became Rivers’ ninth head of school in July 2023. Prior to joining Rivers, he held a number of administrative and leadership roles at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, CA. He spent 17 years at St. Margaret’s, serving as assistant head of school for the last seven of those years. Earlier in his career, he was an associate director of admission at Stanford University and a tenured math teacher at University High School in Irvine, CA. Ryan has published and presented extensively on innovation, purpose, and strategy in independent schools. He holds a B.A. in psychology from Stanford and a master’s degree in teaching and curriculum from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. An avid mountaineer and trained musician, he lives on campus with his wife, Anne. The Dahlems have three children.

Ianka De La Rosa - Creative Director
Ianka De la Rosa joined the marketing and communications office at Rivers in June 2023. She previously worked as the director of creative in the marketing and communications department at the New England Conservatory of Music, where she produced designs that furthered the conservatory's goals and mission. Prior to that, she worked as a designer in the publishing and advertising industries, as well as in higher education marketing departments at Suffolk University, Northeastern University, and Emerson College. She holds a B.F.A. with a concentration in graphic design and a minor in art history from Boston University. In her spare time, Ianka enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, reading, and creating art. 

Alexandra Ghiz - Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications
Alexandra Ghiz joined the marketing and communications office at Rivers in April 2023. Previously, she worked on the marketing and communications team at the Winsor School in Boston. Prior to that, she led communications and media efforts for the School of Engineering at Wentworth Institute of Technology and also worked as an English teaching assistant in Austria. She holds a B.A. in music and Italian from Smith College and an M.S. in strategic marketing communications from Fordham University. Alexandra also enjoys an active career as a professional classical singer and can be found as a soloist and choir member at several Boston-area churches and is both a singing member and a board member of Nightingale Vocal Ensemble.  

Kendall Grace - Development Information Systems Coordinator 
Kendall Grace is a seasoned development professional with over eight years of fundraising and stewardship experience. Prior to joining Rivers, she worked at the Boston Latin School Association in stewardship and development operations. Kendall has also held roles at The Chestnut Hill School and Emerson College. She has a B.A. in history and anthropology from the College of Wooster.  In her free time, Kendall is a member of the Just Zero Advisory Board, a nonprofit working to implement zero waste initiatives nationally.  

Stephanie Kay - Upper School History
Stephanie Kay, a Rivers graduate, taught History for three years at Beaver Country Day School before joining Rivers. Previously, she taught English at the Meadowbrook School of Weston. She earned a B.A. in History and Classical Studies from Brandeis University and an M.A. in History from North Carolina State University. In addition to teaching Upper School History at Rivers, Stephanie advises The Edge student newspaper and serves as head JV girls’ lacrosse coach.

Jenny Jun-lei Kravitz - Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
Jenny Jun-lei Kravitz comes to Rivers from The Pike School, where she serves as director of equity and justice, leading comprehensive DEIJ initiatives and programming across the institution. She earned a BA in biology from Tufts University and an M.A. degree in biological sciences from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. She completed a master’s degree in diversity and inclusion leadership at Tufts University, where her graduate research focused on Indigenous support and institutional decolonization in higher education. She has partnered with both the Anti-Defamation League and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Safe Schools Initiative and has also been appointed to DEI advisory roles for Tufts University, the Town of Westford, and the Town of Andover, where she currently serves on the DEI Commission. Jenny lives in Westford with her partner, Paul, and their two children. As a multiracial family, they embrace and celebrate a mixed heritage of Cantonese, Jewish, and German cultures. 

Jennifer Litman - Director of Learning Services
Jennifer comes to Rivers with extensive experience working as part of a multi-disciplinary team to support student learning across educational and social-emotional domains. She has spent the last 20+ years at The Manville School in Boston in a variety of roles, including special education teacher, clinical intern/part-time clinician, and in educational leadership. In her leadership role, Jen coordinated educational programming for middle school students, developed curriculum, collaborated with teachers, families, and students, and supported teacher development. Jen received a B.A. in Sociology from Franklin and Marshall College, an M.A.T. in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and an M.S.W. from Boston College. Outside of work,  Jen enjoys hiking, spending time with her dogs, and traveling with her husband and two teenage children.

Lucas Malo - Director of Community Engagement
Lucas Malo has a love for communities and is passionate about addressing inequities and helping others contribute to good in ways that are important to them. He has spent the bulk of his professional career supporting community engagement at Brandeis University, fostering reciprocal partnerships between the community and students, securing faculty resources, and ultimately building an award-winning program. He volunteers with the Trevor Project and serves on local school councils, nonprofit boards, and district-wide DEI committees. Lucas wholeheartedly believes that when we elevate voices from our community, we reach our greatest potential. He is inspired by activating youth and ensuring they are reflecting on and embodying the values of community engagement. He holds a B.A. in psychology from Saint Michael's College and an M.S.W. from the University of Maine. Lucas, along with his husband and two children, lives in Framingham. 

Leah O’Brien - Senior Development and External Relations Administrator
Leah O’Brien joined Rivers in November 2022, working in the office of Development and External Relations. She currently serves as senior administrator for the department. Her association with Rivers stretches back to 2019, when she took on the role of Middle School field hockey and basketball coach. She is now a member of the JV field hockey and varsity softball coaching staff. She has also run her own photography business since 2014, specializing in lifestyle, architecture, and events. Leah lives in Sherborn with her husband, three children, and two dogs.

Kira Ousey - RSC Administrative Assistant and Coordinator 
Kira Ousey works at The Rivers School Conservatory as the program coordinator and administrative assistant. She is also the manager of the Rivers Youth Wind Ensemble. Kira holds a B.A. in music performance and English from Dickinson College. Before coming to Rivers, Kira worked as a student services coordinator for a summer music academy and festival in North Carolina. She has a passion for all things art-related and enjoys writing, crafting, and visiting the many Boston museums in her free time. 

Kayley Pettoruto - Middle School Science Teacher
Kayley Pettoruto graduated from Tufts University with a B.A. in community health and Spanish and a minor in child development. She earned an M.P.H. from Boston University, focusing on maternal and child health and social and behavioral sciences. She began her career at Mathematica as a survey associate, where she managed data collection efforts for several education and health research and evaluation projects. She began her teaching career at Excel Academy in 2016, then taught science and served in a number of leadership roles at West Middle School in Andover, MA, for five years. Most recently, Kayley spent a year in France teaching English to elementary school students. An avid runner, Kayley looks to bring her expertise and experience to the cross-country and track teams at Rivers.  

Colette Porter - Director of Marketing and Communications
Over the past 20 years, Colette Porter has worked as a marketing communications professional for universities and independent schools in the region, and she has dedicated herself to institutions that focus on the transformative power of women’s education. She serves as director of campaign communications for Wellesley College’s $500M comprehensive campaign, and, most recently, led marketing and communications efforts for The Winsor School in Boston and Nashoba Brooks School in Concord. Colette started her career in publishing and advertising, including several years as an advertising account supervisor at Arnold Worldwide. A Weston resident, Colette earned a B.A. in English literature from Fairfield University in Connecticut. 

Ed Rome - Executive Chef
Executive Chef Ed Rome joined Rivers in 2023 after lengthy experience as chef at several institutions of higher learning. Most recently, he served as senior executive chef at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. Ed has also worked at Brandeis University and Fordham University. A graduate of Johnson and Wales University in Providence, RI, he holds a B.A. in food service management and an associate’s degree in culinary arts. Ed also has extensive restaurant experience, including owning his own New York-style deli. He has earned numerous professional awards, including medals from American Culinary Federation Competitions, Best of Worcester recognition, and multiple Scovie awards.

Phil Seidl - Middle School Math Teacher 
​​Phil Seidl returns to Rivers as a Middle School math teacher after graduating in 2009. He earned a B.A. in mathematics and human development and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Boston College. Phil taught math for six years at The Francis W. Parker Charter School in a student-centered and project-based classroom, pushing students to discover new concepts on their own and apply them in new ways beyond the classroom. He was inspired to teach when former Rivers math teacher, Dan McCartney, asked him to design a lesson and teach a class for a day. In his free time, Phil lives with his cat, Daisy, in Roxbury and enjoys cooking, and playing video, board, card, and tabletop games.

Madison Smith - Upper School English Teacher
Madison Smith will teach Upper School English and serve as the assistant coach for the varsity volleyball team. She earned a B.A. in English and theater from Grinnell College, where she competed in DIII volleyball. A native Midwesterner, Maddy comes to New England after spending two years as a UPenn Woods English Teaching Fellow at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, during which time she earned her M.S.Ed. She enjoys being outside, making music, and writing. 

Joani Whalen - Executive Assistant to Head of School and Assistant Clerk to the Trustees
Joani Whalen holds an Ed.D. in higher education administration from Regis College and an M.A. in intercultural relations from Lesley University. Prior to joining Rivers, Joani worked as EA to the head of school at The Chestnut Hill School. She also spent several years at Babson College as national program manager for the Goldman Sachs Foundation (10,000 Small Businesses Initiative). Outside of school, Joani is passionate about travel and, before joining academia, traveled as a safari specialist to most continents, including multiple trips to her native South Africa.