Mercersburg Hosts Fourth Annual Summer Faculty Institute

Monday, August 12, 2019

This week, Mercersburg Academy will host speakers from around the country to participate in the fourth annual Summer Faculty Institute, along with 54 participants, including teachers and administrators from Mercersburg as well as surrounding independent schools.

Geared toward classroom teachers and those working with adolescents in residential, counseling, and advisory settings, the annual event is open to education professionals from within or outside the Academy.

“The institute brings our faculty together as a community of learners,” says Dr. Julia Stojak Maurer ’90, Mercersburg’s assistant head of school for academic affairs. “We are able to model lifelong learning for our students and stay abreast of the very latest research on education and adolescents.” 

This week’s Institute features five tracks, including Using the Google Suite in the Classroom, led by Greg Kulowiec and coordinated by Maurer; Social and Emotional Work, led by Chris Thurber and coordinated by Chris Howes, assistant head of school for student life and culture; a workshop on moving beyond AP courses, led by John David Bennett, dean of curricular innovation and English faculty, and Jennifer Miller Smith ’97, dean of academics; a language workshop with a group from the Rassias Method (which was created and developed in 1964 by Professor John Rassias of Dartmouth College), coordinated by Tom Thorne, chair of the language department; and Restorative Practices, led by Lee Rush and coordinated by Howes. 

Kulowiec (a nationally recognized instructor, presenter, author, and authorized Google Education Trainer) and Thurber (a board-certified clinical psychologist, educator, and author) have previously served as experts at the Summer Faculty Institute and are returning again this year.

Bennett is in his 12th year on the Mercersburg faculty; he previously taught at the Talented and Gifted Magnet High School in Dallas and was an Advanced Placement Lead Teacher for the Dallas Independent School District. Bennett is also a consultant for the National Math and Science Initiative. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington and Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. Bennett and his wife, Denise (who works in Mercersburg’s Office of Advancement), are the parents of three children, including Cameron Rogers ’12 and Olivia Grace Bennett ’19.

Smith has taught at Mercersburg since 2008 and recently completed her fifth year as head of the science department. She was valedictorian of her Mercersburg graduating class (in 1997) and holds degrees from the University of Richmond and the University of Chicago. Smith is the school’s head diving coach and a past recipient of Mercersburg’s Zern Distinguished Teaching Award. Her husband, fellow faculty member Doug Smith, is the school archivist and head golf coach. The Smiths have two children, including Cole ’23 and Nora.

Rush has worked extensively in schools and communities. He is executive director of justCommunity, Inc. based in Quakertown, Pa., and is on the board of directors of the International Bullying Prevention Association. He has been an educator and administrator in alternative education, a substance-abuse counselor in a day-treatment program, and director of human resources for a 600-person corporation.

For more information, visit or contact Mercersburg Summer and External Programs at 717-328-6225.

The Institute is one of several key initiatives supported by Mercersburg’s Daring to Lead Campaign, which surpassed its fundraising goal of $300 million at its completion in 2016.