Faculty

Jane Zhao

Kindergarten 

Joanna Maxwell

College Credentials:
University of Adam Mickiewicz, Poznań, Poland
Master’s in English Language and Literature/English as a Second Language

Hello, my name is Joanna Maxwell, and it is my privilege to be the Second-Grade teacher at Veritas Collegiate Academy. I hold a Master’s degree in English Language and Literature from University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań, Poland. I began teaching in the 1990s, and sometimes, when I wasn’t working as a teacher, I was volunteering in my children’s classrooms.

My mom, who was a high school Physics teacher for forty years, influenced my career choice. She showed me that teaching was not just a job, but a life-long vocation of taking care of whatever educational, emotional, and developmental needs students have. I learned that teachers’ hard work and thoroughness are the necessary foundation to student success, but must be accompanied by creating a loving and caring environment in which students can reach their full potential. I also had a chance to live in Italy, Belgium, and Israel for many years and believe that this experience has made me more sensitive to different cultures, beliefs and perspectives, which has been helpful while working in a global school like Veritas, where we have students from all around the world. In my free time, I like to travel, hike, and listen to music.

I am looking forward to a new school year full of learning and adventure. Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

Joanna Maxwell

1st and 2nd Grade

Dr. Steven Gertz

Education:
Bachelor's in history from Wheaton College
Master's degrees in Islamic studies from the universities of Oxford
and Edinburgh.
PhD in Theological Studies from Georgetown University

Omnibus 1
Omnibus 4
Omnibus 2a
Omnibus 2b
AP European History
AP World History

Steven Gertz is a third-year faculty member at Veritas teaching ancient and medieval Omnibus classes as well as AP history courses. He holds a PhD in Theological and Religious Studies from Georgetown University as well as master's degrees in Islamic studies from the universities of Oxford and Edinburgh. He also has a bachelor's in history from Wheaton College (IL), with a particular focus on church history. In addition to teaching at Veritas, Dr. Gertz serves as a professor of Theology at his alma mater of Georgetown University.

Dr. Gertz loves the opportunity to dig into and explore with Veritas students some of the greatest literature ever written in the West and the ancient and medieval Middle East. Having lived in Europe and the Middle East himself, he brings personal stories to discussions of literature studied in class, as well as cultural insights gleaned from living abroad. He is a student of languages, including Arabic (which he has studied intensively), Greek, and Syriac. He is also a parent who has five kids of his own, experience which enriches his teaching. Dr. Gertz counts it a privilege to teach at Veritas, and welcomes your son or daughter to his classroom.

Steven Gertz

Omnibus 1
Omnibus 2A
Omnibus 2B
Omnibus 4
AP European History
AP World History

William Higgins

Education:
Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and Classics from Samford University Master's in Political Science from Boston College.

Jr. / Sr. Thesis
Composition 7
Composition 8
Writing 10
Rhetoric
AP US Government & Politics
Speech & Debate

Hello, my name is William Higgins, and I have come to know the surpassing value of a deep literary education. I hold Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and Classics from Samford University and a Master's in Political Science from Boston College. In my classes at Veritas I teach students to read, write, and speak well in order that they may become persuasive communicators and life-long learners.

Each of my classes is designed to impart both practical skills and theoretical knowledge. I want my students to be prepared for their future vocations and to be aware of the Great Books and ideas that are worth  contemplating for their own sake. Outside of the classroom, you'll find me reading widely in the Western intellectual tradition, playing chess, or enjoying the amenities of the D.C. area with my wife, Natalie.

I look forward to an exciting year of learning with the bright minds at Veritas Collegiate Academy, Arlington Campus. Feel free to reach out via email or drop by my classroom if you ever want to discuss literature, writing, or anything else!

Will Higgins

Writing 7
Writing 8
Composition 10
Jr. / Sr. Thesis
AP Comparative Government
Speech and Debate

Rebekah Elgut

Education:
Rebekah Elgut

Thesis l
Logic
Theater Director

.

Matthew Hunt

Education:
Georgia State University
Bachelor’s in American Government
Minor in Spanish Literature

Spanish 1
Spanish 2
Latin 1
Latin 2
AP U.S. History
ESL Ominbus

My name is Matthew Hunt. I am passionate about two things: languages, both ancient and modern, and the Bible. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and Spanish with a concentration in Literature and a certification in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from Georgia State University. I have also completed the Discipleship Intern Training Program. I have been teaching for nine years, both in the Spanish Public School system as an English language teaching assistant, and in Northern Virginia private schools.

My purpose is to inspire students to want to learn other languages and to improve their lives in the process. I first learned Latin, which instilled in me a passion for Roman history and for the way that the Romans combined grammar, syntax, and semantics to express themselves. I next learned Spanish, doing an college exchange program in Spain, and then moving to Spain after graduation to teach English. Mastering the Spanish language became my primary intellectual pursuit. The grammatical similarity between Latin and Spanish, and the way that Spanish has evolved over time fascinates me. Studying scripture has improved my life and has in the past couple years inspired me to learn Greek. My aim is to pass on the love of language learning. I look forward to taking on this challenge with my students at Veritas Collegiate Academy!

Matthew Hunt

Latin

Fred Lee

Education:
Pratt Institute: BS in Industrial Design
Columbia University: Masters in Art & Art Education

Upper School Art Director:
     Art 7/8
     AP 2D Studio Art
     AP 3D Studio Art
     AP Art History
Grammar School Art Director

Greetings, my name is Fred Lee and I’m the current art teacher at Veritas Collegiate Academy in Arlington, VA. During my undergraduate years in Pratt Institute, my choice of studies resided in the field of industrial design. However, after receiving my bachelor’s degree in industrial design, I decided to continue my journey of becoming a more professional and inspiring art instructor to the new generations of students and have successfully acquired my master’s degree in art education in Teachers college Columbia university.

A lot of the reasons why I decided to become an art instructor and how and why I’m conducting my art classes in and out in certain ways stem directly from my personal experiences as a student in classroom spaces and an individual identity out in the world. Up to this day, I still remember the moments that have had a huge impact on my life in many ways. But whether those impacts were beneficial and encouraging or not, I decided to utilize all my life experience to my classroom space so that I can
guide, inspire, and nurture the students under my wings in a proper manner.

Whenever I engage my students both inside and outside of my classroom, my objective is not just limited to simply teaching a few artmaking skills that they can use to make artworks. Instead, I always aim towards utilizing my art classes as a vehicle that my students and I can use to also learn other realistic and practical skills that’ll always prove invaluable, such as being able to improvise and overcome unexpected circumstances, adapt to unusual situations, and endure through hardships.

Though my role in my classroom space may be the art teacher and leading figure, I also firmly believe that we teachers are also students who must keep studying and learning what it means to be a truly inspiring and efficient teacher to the students. Every new year whenever students came and went, I also found myself learning new ideas and strategies while also further developing my original traits to a higher level.

Fred Lee

AP 2D Studio Art
AP 3D Studio Art
AP Art History
Studio Art

Noel Melgar

Athletic Director

Terry Johnson

1st Grade

Amy Andrews

3rd and 4th Grade

Petros Hovhannisyan

 

College Credentials:
Yerevan State University in the former Soviet Union, MS nuclear physics.
 
Algebra I and II
Pre-Calculus
AP Statistics
Linear Algebra
Multivariable Calculus

 

After graduating from Yerevan State University in the former Soviet Union, as a physicist (MS, nuclear physics), I worked for The National Academy of Sciences in Moscow as a researcher and at the same time as a lecturer for the Engineering University, colleges, and as a private tutor in the field of math and physics. I have many publications and a scientific discovery diploma in the field of applied nuclear physics.

Later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, I worked for ANPP as leading specialist of radiation protection and safety and the same time taught physics and math for college students and as a private tutor.


Since 2012, after immigration to the USA to have a reunion with my sons’ families, I worked as a professor for NOVA and Montgomery colleges, in the field of physics, including conducting lab practice.

After 2019 I have been working as tutor for some companies and as a private tutor in field of HS and college physics and math. This is my second year with Veritas, and I foresee many more years to come, as I enjoy working with these top students, especially the internationals.

Petros Hovhannisyan

Pre-Calculus
Algebra 1 & 2
AP Statistics
Linear Algebra

Scott Schwertfeger

Education:
B.S. Interdisciplinary Studies, Music/ History West Liberty
University
M.M. Music Performance/ History University of Akron

Upper School Director:
     Music 7/8 (Orchestra)
     Classical Guitar Orchestra
     AP Music Theory
Grammar School Music Director

Scott Schwertfeger completed his studies under distinguished teachers Dr. Nels Leonard (West Liberty University), a friend and student of renowned International artist Andrés Segovia (and one ofthe worlds  foremost, classical guitarists), and Stephen Aron (Oberlin Conservatory/ University of Akron). Upon graduation Scott served as lecturer on the faculty of Bethany College, and teacher of classical guitar at Cleveland  Institute of Music.

Described by the Washington Post as "Visceral...Bracing", Scott crossed musical boundaries through his work with Grammy Award winning producer David Kershenbaum, whose credits include soundtracks from the films Last of the Mohicans, and Robinhood: Prince of Thieves. He has appeared on numerous radio and television broadcasts including Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

Scott is an avid performer in the Metro Washington D.C. area, currently performing solo classical guitar programs featuring original works and works that span Medieval and Modern Eras.

Scott Schwertfeger

Classical Guitar
Orchestra
AP Music Theory

Laureta Çako

Education:
“Eqrem Çabej’’ University of Gjirokastër (Albania)
Bachelor and master in Biology & Chemistry

Chemistry
AP Chemistry
Biology
AP Biology
AP Environmental Science
Anatomy & Physiology

Hello, I`m Laureta Shkoza Cako and I am passionate about the living world around us and every treasure that it holds. I hold a Bachelor of Chemistry and Biology from “Eqrem Çabej’’ “University of Gjirokastër. Currently, I am pursuing an online master's at “Liberty University,’’ Lynchburg, Virginia, in Education and Leadership. I have been a dedicated educator for 30 years. I have devoted my career to education in Albania. I have taught Chemistry and Biology to students. I have worked as a biology testing reader (examiner) for students' graduation exams at the “National Agency of Exams.”

I have worked in collaboration with the “Agency for Quality Assurance of Pre-University Education,’’ ASCAP- for the design of the Biology Curriculum in Higher Secondary Education. I have worked as a proofreader, translating several different science books at various academic levels, from the elementary to 12th-grade high school level. I have also authored biology teachers' books for the Publishing House “Mediaprint,” based in Tirane, Albania.

My science class is not just a place for learning but also a space for student engagement in laboratory activities, including dissection, observing cellular structures, and performing chemistry experiments. Engaging students in laboratory activities grows a deeper understanding of students’ knowledge of science. Outside the classroom, you will find me exploring and admiring the beauties of nature. I believe that education is a learning journey, and I am excited to embark on it with each and every one of my students. I look forward to a fantastic year of growth and discovery with the bright minds at Veritas Collegiate Academy, Arlington Campus.

 Laureta Cako

Biology
AP Environmental Science
AP Biology
Anatomy & Physiology
Chemistry
AP Chemistry

Kyle Draim

 

College Credentials:
Georgetown University,
B.A. Psychology
 
AP Pre-Calculus
AP Calculus AB
AP Calculus BC
AP Physics
AP Psychology

 

Hello! My name is Kyle Draim, and I'm very excited to embark on a journey with you into the captivating worlds of AP Calculus, AP Physics, and AP Psychology. I have spent my entire life in the Washington, D.C.  rea, first attending St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, VA, and then receiving a B.A. in Psychology from Georgetown University. After college, I tutored high school students in the Fairfax County Public  chool System in AP STEM subjects. My psychology background and tutoring experience have provided me with a profound appreciation for the power of hands-on learning experiences that cater to diverse learning  styles.


I'm driven by the conviction that Math and Science instill invaluable skills that extend far beyond the textbooks. The structured reasoning of scientific inquiry and the problem-solving nature of mathematics empower my students to conquer academic challenges and to strategically allocate their time and resources. My mission is to teach them skills that will free them to embrace their personal growth, forge more  meaningful connections, and ignite their Godgiven potential to create and transform their surroundings. 

 Kyle Draim

Physics
AP Physics
Pre-Calculus
AP Calculus AB
AP Psychology

Michael Thrash

Education
BA Teaching Liberty University

Pre-Algebra
Life Science
Physical Science
Bible Structure & Narrative

Hello, I'm Michael Thrash, and I am passionate about inspiring the next generation to establish a solid worldview, think critically, embrace learning, and develop a passion and excitement for both learning and life itself. I have been an educator for two years now and have a background in training and leadership. My goal is to motivate and inspire students to pursue lives of honor and character and I especially love working with middle school students as they step into new seasons of responsibility and challenges.

My classroom is not just a place of education, but a place where education comes to life in a tangible way that inspires both mastery and critical thinking. I strive to develop in students the power of understanding their potential and projecting  confidence through communication, and a level of honor and excellence.

Outside of the classroom, you'll find me as a deeply family and friends-oriented person who loves to travel. I love gathering people together in a variety of contexts and I enjoy nothing more than traveling to visit family or friends and explore new places. I especially enjoy discovering locations with incredible views (whether that be mountaintops or skyscrapers) and just embracing and living in each moment as a priceless gift from the Creator.

I believe that education is a lifelong journey, and I'm excited to participate with each one of my students at their specific stages of their journey. I am looking forward to an incredible year of development and discovery with the brilliant minds at Veritas
Collegiate Academy, Arlington Campus. I am excited to embark on this academic journey. I deeply love God and I hope to inspire love that in every class I teach. 

Michael Thrash

Life Science
Physical Science
ESL Omnibus 3A
ESL Omnibus 3B

Phil Kiffer

Education:
Dickinson College: BS History and Russian Studies
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:
MA in Russian and East European Studies
Georgetown University: PhD (in progress)

5th / 6th Grade Faculty
Bridge to Logic School
Upper School Course Scheduling
Summer School faculty and facilitator

Greetings! My name is Phil Kiffer, and I am proud to be the 5th and 6th grade teacher at Veritas Collegiate Academy. I majored in History and Russian at Dickinson College and later earned an MA in Russian and East European Studies from the u university of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I began my teaching career at Georgetown University while I was a fulltime PhD candidate in the history department (degree in progress). I later transitioned to teaching the later stages of grammar school, where I have taken great pleasure in fostering my pupils’ nascent independent thinking and analytical skills while taking advantage of their natural high energy and enthusiasm for learning.

While my background is in history—I have written articles for a number of organizations, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum—I enjoy teaching all of my subjects at Veritas from grammar to Latin to chemistry. I appreciate how our model of classical education encourages dialogue between all of our subjects, helping to sharpen students’ memory and study skills while encouraging them to make comparisons between things that, at first glance, may seem dissimilar or even  completely unrelated.

My pedagogical philosophy is: raise the bar. No student should be taught at a level beneath their ability. Every student should be allowed to reach their potential. I meet every student where they are and encourage them to take the next step up. I am very careful to cultivate a classroom environment where no student is either overwhelmed or unchallenged. Students should graduate from my class having mastered the fundamentals of the grammar level of a classical education and having received a solid introduction to the subsequent logic stage.

In my free time, I love to fish and watch college football. But I always have time to respond to anyone who is interested in learning more about my class and if it might be the right fit for your pupil. Is your child a passionate learner? We allow them to reach their potential. Do you have a smart student who struggles in one subject? We can play to their strengths and relate it to something they excel in. Does your kid like to argue? We will teach them how to argue well.

Philip Kiffer

5 & 6 grade

Rainbow XU

Education:
University of Sydney
Master's in Education

Rainbow XU holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Education from the University of Sydney, and connected with VERITAS in 2015, supporting the growth of schools as Business Development Director for School’s funding and china branch. With nearly 20 years in the field of education, Rainbow recognizes the importance of providing students with an excellent academic foundation and all-round education. 

Rainbow brings a passion for education and expertise in school administration to her role as an coordinator for international students. She is looking forward to guiding and supporting our Veritas  students through her exciting k-12 experience, and leading them to success in their unique futures.

Rainbow Xu

Chinese
(Grammar and Upper School)

 

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