Williston Says Farewell to Beloved Teachers


(From Left): Cunningham, Rivenburgh, Jenkins, and Rivers. Not Pictured: Tyree, Briedis. Credit: Alex Rivenburgh

At the end of this year, not only will we be saying goodbye to all the seniors, but we will also be saying goodbye to several beloved teachers as well.

Alex Rivenburgh, who has been working at Williston for five years as a History and Global Studies teacher, won’t be returning to Williston in the fall. He said he decided to leave because “I felt that it was a good time in my life to explore new regions and learn more about myself.”

“It has been an exciting adventure,” Rivenburgh told The Willistonian. “I was looking for a new step and a new place to grow as a teacher and a person.”

Next year, he will be working as an AP US History and Global Cultures teacher at the Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg, Virginia. He will also be working as the head wrestling coach at the school, a boys dorm head, and the volleyball coach.

There are many things Rivenburgh will miss about Williston, but he has a specific group on campus he will never forget: the Girls Volleyball team.

“When I started at Williston I had very little idea about what it took to coach this team, but over the last five years, I have been shown the wonderful dedication, perseverance, and true team connection that a group can have even if they are coming from a great deal of places.” Rivenburgh said.

“I am proud of who they have become and what they will do after I am gone. Those girls and that team are what I will miss the most,” he added.

After working at Williston for four years, English teacher Jacob Rivers is leaving for The Greenhill School in Dallas, Texas.

“It was a really hard decision to make because as a teacher, it’s not just leaving your job but it’s also leaving your community and your network,” Rivers said. “But personally and professionally, the opportunity was too good to pass up.”

In Texas, Rivers hopes to “further his initiative by addressing some of the needs for the education system and supporting teachers of color in independent schools across the nation.”

Rivers said that he will miss the community, the students, and the friends that he’s made here at Williston, and most of all, he will miss his friend, Williston science teacher Matthew Porter.

“There’s not a lot that I won’t miss,” Rivers stated.

Another teacher leaving after this year is David Cunningham. He has worked here for two years as an English teacher, Varsity Boys Hockey coach, and Boys Baseball coach.

“I decided to leave because I was offered a job at my alma mater [Belmont Hill], something I had hoped for since graduation in 2012,” Cunningham told The Willistonian. “Regardless of where I was working this year, I would have jumped at the opportunity.”

“I am also very excited to be back in the Boston area where I grew up,” he added.

At Belmont Hill, Cunningham will be teaching middle school English and a spring Sports Journalism elective, as well as coaching Varsity Hockey, Varsity Baseball, and Middle School Football.

Cunningham is very grateful for Williston and its people.

“I will miss the community — the students, faculty, and staff.” he said.  “Living alone in Western Mass. was a big transition for me, but everyone helped to make me feel welcomed and supported.”

The English department is also losing veteran teacher Ryan Tyree and his wife, Haley, who works as a Testing Coordinator. The Tyrees will be heading down to Mercersburg Academy in southern Pennsylvania, where Tyree will be teaching English and become the Director of Squash; Haley will be the Testing Coordinator for standardized tests hosted at the campus.

“The Director of Squash is a new position for Mercersburg, so I’m excited that I will get to oversee the leadership, development, and recruitment for both the girls and boys programs,” he said.

Although they are excited at the prospect of new challenges, the decision to leave Williston was not an easy one.

“We arrived when [our son] Holden was four months old and the Williston community has been such an integral part – an extension of our family really,” he said. Tyree said the things he’ll miss the most include “Lion paintings, kids performing Hamlet by the pond, Willy Gras, fire pit s’mores at Hathaway, bumping elbows with my players and students in Tandem.”  Tyree added that he’s “humbled and thankful to have worked with Williston students, athletes, and dorm residents for these seven years, and will carry the memories of these experiences with me on the road ahead.”

Ashley Jenkins, who has worked at Williston for two years as an English teacher, is leaving to go back to the sunshine state of Florida.

“They say you never realize what you’ve got until it’s gone—well, I now realize how important the sun is for my personal well-being,” Jenkins said. “I am excited to spend my afternoons walking the beach with Chance [her dog] and wearing flip flops every day!”

She will be working at The Greene School in West Palm Beach.

Jenkins said that she will miss the students the most because “although the dark, cold days in New England were not for me, my kids brought a little sunshine and warmth to my life every single day.”

Jenkins isn’t the only teacher headed to Florida; in fact, Math teacher Katy Briedis is also leaving Williston for a job at the Greene School.

Briedis treasures the relationships she built with my students, players, and dorm kids, all of which she said “have helped me grow and develop into a better teacher and coach.

In return, students had kind words to say about these teachers as they part ways.

For junior Grace Lane, Rivenburgh changed her perspective on history as a subject as well as on herself.

“I had never done very well in middle school history, so coming into a new school I didn’t hold out too much hope for myself,” Grace shared. “Mr. Rivenburgh revolutionized history for me. His class was the first history class I actually felt smart in. His teaching helped me realize that history is something I want to do in college.”

Catherine King ’19 had Rivers as an English teacher for the first time this year.

“I’m going to miss his energy in class, he is always able to make me think about the deeper things rather than what’s just on the surface,” Catherine said. “I’m going to miss his contagious smile and how he always finds a way for the class to come together as one to laugh, have fun, and learn.”

Sophomore Na Kyung Lee is going to miss Cunningham because “he really understands the students and tries to engage his students in the class.”

Although Punn Phentrakul ’19 is sad about Jenkins leaving, she also considers herself lucky to have had her as a teacher for two years in a row.

“I’m so happy that I had her junior year and again my senior year,” Punn said. “She is always helpful and encourages us to do our best. She brings out the best of our abilities in class.”