New teachers bring a range of experiences, perspectives

This year, Wakefield welcomes 11 new teachers to its halls and classrooms. Catch up on what makes them so special here.

Ryan Abrams

RYAN ABRAMS, Social Studies Teacher

Q: What impact do you hope to make here at Wakefield?

A: When it comes to in the classroom, just to build relationships and to show that kids have potential and for them to realize their potential.  And to realize that there’s more to life than just book learning but how important book learning and education is to achieve what they want also.

Q: What was your last job and how was it different?

A: I was at Franklinton High School the last 2 ½ years teaching there. This is a much bigger high school, there’s a lot more going on so just being able to deal with the rush of the influx of students is definitely something I have learned to deal with.

Q: What are your interest or hobbies? Any secret pleasures?

A: One of my hobbies is basketball it’s one of the things I very much love to do. That’s why I coach because I love the game and get more of those personal relationships with the students and the basketball players because I think it affects them more than just inside the classroom and inside the school. I think it translates outside the school. Another hobby I really like to do is travel and golf is a secret pleasure of mine.

Q: How can students maximize their 4 years here at Wakefield?

A: By eliminating their distractions. If they have goals where they want to be outside of high school or beyond high school, just minimizing distractions in high school. I think that gets them on a better path to achieve those goals that they do have set for themselves in high school.



Sasha Depew

SASHA DEPEW, Math Teacher

Q:  What was your passion in high school?

A:  Originally I wanted to be a vet; I really loved science. And then I had a wonderful math teacher and a really bad biology teacher, so I started to like math a lot.

Q:  Do you feel that you took school seriously from freshman year to senior year?

A:  In the beginning, my focus was trying to fit in and find my place. School was important, but luckily I had parents that were on top of me and made sure that I could continue to keep that insight.

Q:  And for college?

A:  I want to say the pattern almost repeated itself. I should’ve taken my freshman year more seriously. When I started to look at my major and what we had to have to get into it, I really buckled down myself and made sure that I kept my grades up so that I could get a good job and get my masters degree.

Q:  Do you have any advice for students on which college they should choose?

A:  You want to make sure you are going to a college that has the class sizes that you’ll be successful in. The big public universities are great if you don’t need as much hand holding, but if you need more hand holding then you might want to look at more private universities.

Q:  What are some major things you wish you knew before you went to college?

A:  Advocating for yourself and making sure you get help when you need it is a big thing.


Lionel Parker

LIONEL PARKER, Special Education Teacher

Q: Why did you decide to work with youth?

A: I’ve been working for the youth for a long time now. It’s something I enjoy and something I learned I’m pretty good at. So that’s why I like working with the students.

Q: What’s your favorite part about teaching?

A: The part where students learn something they didn’t think they could do and I would say that that’s a really good experience because we have a lot of kids who don’t think they can do certain stuff and when they do it’s like “Oh I did it!”

Q: Where did you go to college?

A: Northwood State University. It’s in Northwood Virginia.

Q: What are your personal goals for the year?

A: For the year, to complete the year being here. It’s my first time living in North Carolina so that’s one of my goals.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to people starting high school what would you say?

A: I would say jump on learning what you want to do after high school. Even if it’s not going to college if you can, learn a trade. Just find out what you like; don’t wait until your senior year to research. I would say research and find out what you like and you know.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of school?

A: Football. I enjoy football, [and other] sports but football is my favorite.


Miranda Pikaart

MIRANDA PIKAART, Social Studies Teacher

Q:  Why did you become a teacher?

A:  I think that education is the most important thing to have because it’s social mobility. It’s the key to getting ourselves out of situations that you’re born to. I would not be here today if it wasn’t for the public high school system. So that’s why I became a teacher because I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for teachers. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else other than repaying the system that made me.

Q:  In terms of teaching, what are your morals?

A:  For morals, it comes down to diversity and equality. True diversity and equality doesn’t mean that we force marginalized groups to act like the majority of people. It’s about working with all of the students where they are, not trying to create this one student fits one mold. That’s my vision.

Q:  What college did you go to and why?

A:  I went to Meredith College. I went to a Women’s Leadership Conference they hosted and it’s was unlike anything else I’d ever seen. I fell in love with the campus. It’s crazy to see what can happen. When you get there students admitted that they were shy and when they graduated as seniors, some became CEOs of companies. Anyone that is interested should look into it.

Q:  Any advice for college?

A:   Academically, take advantage of all the things that your teachers give you, especially when you are a senior because this is the time to figure out your learning styles. This is the time to figure that out so that when you go to college or whatever you go into you’re prepared. Then socially, don’t feel like you have to fit in.

Q:  What are your hobbies?

A:  I have three animals and I love them more than anything. I also love food. I love restaurant week. You can find me during restaurant week.


Tracy Reed

TRACY REED, Science Teacher

Q:  What do you teach?

A:  I teach chemistry and biology.

Q:  Where do you come from? What was your last job?

A:  Washburn, Maine. I taught all of the sciences and math from seventh grade through twelfth.

Q:  What’s your garden like at your new home?

A:  Here I don’t have one yet because I’m renting. But at home I have perennial gardens. I have a lily garden, hostas and vegetable gardens. I probably have about a quarter of an acre of gardens.

Q:  How are you adjusting to the new environment, which is Raleigh, as well as a new job, school, and home?

A:  I’m doing really well. I love Raleigh, it’s much warmer than it is at home. Raleigh’s a city, but it’s relaxed. I’m coming from a very rural community where you have to drive ten miles just to go to the store, so it is very different. I like having a larger school compared to the smaller school. Students are able to interact with a lot more people and learn from each other.

Q:  What do you like about chemistry? Why do you think students should pursue it?

A:  Chemistry is the base of all sciences and everything you do. Everything that happens is chemistry. Baking, gardening, and breathing- it’s all chemistry. It’s really exciting to see how it relates to you.

Q:  What are your goals for the school year? What impact do you hope to make?

A:  I’m hoping that I prepare my students for the classes they’re about to take, but also help them understand how science relates to them. Even if they’re going into farming, the medical field, or are a housewife, you’re going to be interacting with science concepts all the time.

Q:  We know that you have been a teacher for a long time, do you have any crazy stories?

A:  I had a couple of chemistry students who lit my lab on fire. They were making rocket fuel, which is basically potassium, nitrate, sugar. They heated it too quickly and didn’t stir as much as they should have. We had a jet engine going off out of the beaker. It was one of those situations where you just evacuated the room and let it burn out.

Q:  What do you like about Wakefield so far? Have you made any faculty companions? Or enjoy any organizations we have here?

A:  What I like the most about it is even though this is a big school, it’s a community. Everybody works well together. The students are very polite and very hard workers. The faculty are always there for each other and I really like that. As far as the activities go, there’s so much for you guys to choose from, any interest you have I think there’s a group for you here.


Oana Risden

OANA RISDEN,  Science Teacher

Q: If you’re aren’t at school, then what are you doing?

A: First of all I take care of my husband, who is disabled, so that is more or less another full-time job. Then I read a lot, I still have about 300 books, that I have not opened and I keep on buying more. And I go to the theatre as much as I can.

Q: What impact do you wish to make on Wakefield?

A: I am still a nerd, so I still believe in the power of knowledge, the power of information, and the power of knowing who you are. What I am trying to do the most is make people aware of their potential. I think that it is important to know yourself.

Q: Do you have any advice you wish you would have know when you were in high school?

A: What I would have liked to have known was that I mattered. Because you live for a long time and I have met many young people who don’t realize that they are important and essential and they think she is pretty, she is smarter and he is a better athlete so who am I? I hate labeling, to be honest, and hate is a big word but you can be both. You can be much more than that. 

Q: How was the college application experience? How has it changed since then?

A: It was very different because I did not write an application, I took an entrance exam. So the entrance exam was the most horrifying experience in my life because we were 25 candidates for just 1 place.


Maia Salinger

MAIA SALINGER, Social Studies Department

Q:  What are your goals this year?

A:  Helping every student succeed, making sure that students are having a good year, in every aspect. Making sure that the classroom stays a community is a huge one.

Q:  Is there anything, in particular, you wish you could spend more time on in class?

A:  Everything! There’s not enough time in the day! I am very passionate about history. If I could, I would love to be able to expand units even more, and I would love for students to get to do more research and more of their own interpreting history–because that’s such a major part of it. If I could have the entire day, I wouldn’t let anything slip through the cracks.

Q:  What impact do you hope to have on students?

A:  One of the reasons I’ve always wanted to be a teacher is because I want to be someone for students to have. I don’t want to just be up there lecturing all the time. I want students to feel comfortable and okay to come up to me and be like, “hey, I have this question, I’m having this problem. How can I navigate this?” I am your teacher but I also want to be there for you with anything that you need. I want you to remember the experience that you have in this classroom. Again, it’s a community; we’re all working together. We’re gonna learn and be successful together.

Q:  Do you have any advice to students on maximizing these four years we have in high school?

A:  Don’t get caught up on the little things. Embrace it all. High school is meant for you to grow as a person, so just embrace that, enjoy it. My high school friends, they’re my friends until the end. That’s what people should be remembering. One bad grade is not going to keep you from having success, one bad test score is not going to stop you. Always be looking optimistically toward the next thing.

Q:  What was your college experience like?

A:  My college experience was watching movies with my friends, drinking milkshakes, doing puzzles and knitting. My friends and I are all education majors, so we were all exhausted at all times. Education is a very difficult major to go into. We just enjoyed each other’s company and relaxed. I know I’m not exciting, but I liked it.


Deborah Sanchez-Macy


Q: What impact do you hope to make here at Wakefield?

A: I hope of course to just teach my class and have kids to learn Spanish but really enjoy the language because the whole purpose is enjoying communicating with others. So it’s not about being perfect but it’s about speaking with others and learning other people’s culture and things of that nature. And that they find a teacher that cares about them as a person and wants them to succeed.

Q: What was your last job, and how was it different?

A: I have taught all different grades, but my very last job was teaching middle school. And it was very different because middle school is a very tough time for kids because they are growing up and they are determining who they are and so there is a bit of a challenge because they are trying to figure themselves out.

Q: How can students maximize their 4 years here at Wakefield?

A: Everything in life is about attitude so come in every day with a good attitude trying fresh to do the best that you can. Enjoy each moment and realize that while there are some things in life that you don’t like, each job, people you’re around sometimes, enjoy each moment. Enjoy being a teen, while you are a teen. Enjoy each stage.

Q: What was your best moment as a teacher?

A: Just in general, making a connection with one person and finding out that they did academically really well in my class. So in one particular case, they were very successful in my class and it sort of spurred the moment to be successful in other areas they realized they could do it. So it was just building confidence in themselves because they always had the ability but somehow that gave them the confidence to realize they do believe in themselves.

Q: What are your interests or hobbies? Any secret pleasure?

A: As far as hobbies, I love crafts, scrapbooking, and painting. I’m not talented in any of those but I enjoy the process. I like doing most things, I love reading. I love going to concerts, all sorts of concerts and events. I’ll try anything once at least.


Melody Simpson


Q: If you’re aren’t at school, then what are you doing?

A: 85% of the time I’m lifting weights or sleeping:  10% sleeping; 5% eating.

Q: What do you want your students to learn after they leave Wakefield?

A: For life lessons, you definitely have to be one way in certain situations and another way in another situation you can’t be one person all the time. 

Q: What crowd were you in your high school career? What school did you go to? A: I went to East Smith in Fayetteville, North Carolina and I was in some of all the crowds. I was an athlete but I was also a cool kid but I could also hang out with people that weren’t cool, I was friends with everybody.

Q: What impact do you wish to make on Wakefield?

A:  I haven’t been here long enough to know exactly what is lacking I guess, but so far it seems like everything that a student would need is here. But I do hope someday I can allow my personality to be seen outside of just my classroom. I’m still getting used to it here.

Q: What is your craziest story with a student/class?

A: So as a younger teacher, I was grading papers in my geometry honors fourth period class and you know the 5% or 10% of me that likes to sleep was grading grading, and I was dozing off so I ended up going to sleep. [When] I woke up, my students had covered up the door, the window of the door, and had gone to sleep too, it was pretty awesome.


Robert Walcott

ROBERT WALCOTT, Special Education

Q: Why did you decide to work with the youth?

A: I’ve been substitute teaching for a couple years, and I enjoyed my time substitute teaching but I was ready to get into one room and this was my favorite class. So I just decided that I had fun with them and you might as well enjoy what you’re doing. 

Q: What’s your favorite part about teaching?

A: The kids. Interacting with the kids; having fun with them.

Q: Where did you go to college?

A: I went to college at Eastern Illinois University. Four miles south of Chicago.

Q: What are your personal goals for the year?

A: Well, outside of class, I’m a writer. So, I’m writing and trying to get some books out there to agents. My goal is to have a good time here and to be around these kids because they inspire stories in me.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to people starting high school, what would it be?

A: It’s important to belong to groups, clubs, or join a sport. Socially, it pays dividends. You will learn, you will meet people. There’s an accomplishment and a goal involved. I would say get involved.

Q: What do you like to do outside of school?

A: I have three dogs! Two older dogs and a new puppy. They’re a handful, but they’re a lot of fun.


Lauren Writtenberry


Q: If you aren’t in school what are you up to?

A: A lot of traveling. I went to East Carolina University and we still have football passes so we go there almost every single weekend. My husband’s family lives in Virginia and my family lives in Winston-Salem, so we’re up there a lot.

Q: What group did you fit into in high school?

A: I was a cheerleader and on the dance team at Davey, over near Winston-Salem.

Q: What is the fastest way for a student to get on your bad side?

A: I hate repeating myself, or people talking when I’m talking.

Q: What’s the best moment you’ve had as a teacher?

A: Probably seeing when a student finally gets something. When they’re like “Oh, okay!” It’s the big reason I teach, it makes me happy as a teacher.

Q: What was your last job and how was it different?

A: I was a wedding planner. I didn’t go to school to be a teacher, I went to ECU and I majored in events and I still do wedding planning on the side. It’s different in the way that I’m not teaching but it’s the same in the way that there is crisis management and learning to deal with stressful situations and planning ahead.

Q: What are your goals for this year?

A: I would like to know my students and not just teach them food. I want to get to know them as a human and as a person.