Ms. Merrell Takes on 11th / 12th Grade Deanship

11th and 12th grade Dean of Students, Amy Merrell

11th and 12th grade Dean of Students, Amy Merrell

The Upper School office at Latin has seen many administrators come and go and this year welcomes a new Dean of Students for the 11th and 12th grade classes: Amy Merrell. After working for 11 years in the Upper School Science Department, Ms. Merrell has taken on a different experiment.

During her first years at Latin, Ms. Merrell served as lab manager while earning her master’s degree, and then became a full-time teacher for biology and senior electives. In addition to teaching, Ms. Merrell served as chair of the department last year and Global Online Academy site director before recently adventuring over the bridge and into a third-floor office.

Interim Upper School Director Nick Baer preceded Ms. Merrell as the upperclassman dean, though his time in the role was short-lived. In his initial email announcing Ms. Merrell’s appointment, Mr. Baer described her as “a dedicated and beloved member of the Science Department.”

Senior Lauren Altman, a former student of Ms. Merrell’s, said, “Ms. Merrell was a fantastic teacher. I had her for a medicinal chemistry class that I really enjoyed, and now I’m considering studying neuroscience and molecular biology in college.” Ms. Merrell covered both topics throughout the course.

Ms. Merrell’s scheduling and responsibilities have changed now that she is a dean. For starters, only one block of her schedule is filled with teaching: bioethics in the fall, and medicinal chemistry in the spring.

Current bioethics student and senior Ava Horwitz said, “I find her bioethics class to be super interesting, and currently it is one of my favorite classes. It’s only been a few weeks of her being dean so I can’t say I know too much, but so far I really like her and am excited for the rest of the year with her.”

Senior Ava Gowder shared similar sentiments. “I really like Ms. Merrell both as a teacher and a dean,” she said. “Our bioethics class is really interesting, and Ms. Merrell is pretty funny, so she brings a good energy to the class.”

While she does teach students like Ava Gowder and Ava Horowitz, most of Ms. Merrell’s time is now spent learning rather than teaching. “[Ninth and 10th grade Dean Bridget Hennessy] is teaching me a lot,” she said. “It’s all still pretty new.”

Lately, Ms. Merrell has been spending a lot of time with the Latin community outside of the classroom. “With teaching a lot of classes, you have a lot of structured interactions with students,” she said. “One of the reasons I’m a teacher is because you get to interact with students a lot.” While she no longer has set 50-minute blocks to encourage adolescents to bask in the joys of photosynthesis, Ms. Merrell still maintains relationships with students. “I get to interact with students in different ways, [like] in the Learning Commons or in the hallways.”

Her time spent with teachers is different, too. “I loved being in the Science Department. Being in my own office in some ways is nice, but I miss having all those teachers around all the time.”

While she does not see her science colleagues as often, Ms. Merrell connects with the rest of the school more. “Being in the Science Department, we’re kind of off in the other building, so sometimes I would have to go out of my way to talk to other teachers in other departments,” she said. “Already, I’ve talked to so many more people and interacted with more students in different grades.”

Ms. Merrell spent the first weeks in her new role sorting out add/drop, a two-week period at the beginning of each semester in which students attempt to adjust their schedules. This task of rearranging class rosters creates a lot of work for the deans. “[Working on add/drop] is kind of new and different,” she said.

Students are certainly appreciative of Ms. Merrell’s work thus far. “I haven’t really talked to her, but she did get me into standardized test prep, so she seems nice,” junior Jackson Darke said.

“I think Ms. Merrell is going to be a great dean,” Lauren said. “During the times I’ve met with her this year, she’s been super helpful and is a great person to talk to. I could not be more excited to have her as my dean.”