Welcome to New Faculty and Staff 2023-2024

Dr. Kristin Hayden ‘01
Education: Bachelors Degree in Biology from Dartmouth College and Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from George Washington University
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: I taught High School Science at PTS for one year before going to graduate school. I have been a pediatric sports physical therapist with Nicklaus Children's Hospital for the past 14 years where I worked mainly with dancers and gymnasts.
Fun fact: I attended Palmer Trinity in the class of 2001 and am very excited to begin this next chapter back at PTS
At PTS, my role will be… Honors Anatomy & Physiology, IB Sports Exercise and Health Science, and Biology

Ms. Brooke LeMaire ‘09
Education: Graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Miami in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Communication, Public Relations and Psychology, Minor in Motion Pictures. Graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Miami in 2019 with a Master of Arts in Communication Studies. 
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: I have a long history with PTS! I attended as a student from 6th-12th grade and graduated in 2009. While I was a student at PTS, I spent every summer volunteering as a counselor at a Girl Scout Camp (South Miami Little House) that I had attended when I was a child - this was my first foray into teaching, and I loved it! During undergrad at UM, I had a public relations internship at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden that turned into a full-time job once I graduated. In this job, I worked with local, national, and international media to promote all of Fairchild's community education initiatives. After graduating from UM with my Master's Degree in Communication Studies, I began working at PTS in September 2020, first as a classroom monitor during Covid and then as the Upper School Administrative Assistant up until now. 
Fun fact: Born and raised in Miami, FL! I enjoy reading, admiring the year-round beauty of Miami's natural landscapes, and spending quality time with lifelong friends, many of whom are also PTS alums. While at UM for undergrad, I was named both PR Student of the Year and Outstanding Senior in Public Relations for my involvement in the initiatives and activities of the School of Communication. 
At PTS, my role will be… 8th and 9th Grade English.

Ms. Sarah Kemper
Education: Florida State University-  Bachelors 
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: 11 years teaching 
Fun fact: Huge Miami Heat Fan! Love to play basketball as well!
At PTS, my role will be… US History and European History 

Mrs. Cristie Vassilaros
Education: Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Florida International Univeristy
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: 9 Years at Palmer Trinity
Fun fact: I speak Spanish trying to learn Greek. Born and raised in Miami FL. Attended Our Lady of Lourdes Academy. I LOVE yoga. I am a certified yoga teacher. 
At PTS, my role will be...Middle School Math and AP Psychology. Very excited to return to Palmer Trinity. I've taught Middle School math for over 10 years but I feel very blessed that I get to teach Psychology this year as well. My college degree is in Psychology and it is a wonderful opportunity to be able to share this passion with my students. I hope to teach them about human behavior and hopefully make them a little more empathetic to the human experience. 

Mr. Javier Valentin
Education: University of Central Florida - Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: Three  years at Gladeview Christian School teaching middle school Math and Science
Fun fact: Spanish speaker, from Puerto Rico, love playing pickleball
At PTS, my role will be… Life Science (6th) and Physical Science (8th)

Otniel D. Gonzalez
Education: Florida International University - BA in Psychology
Fun fact: I speak spanish as well.
At PTS, my role will be… IT Support Specialist

Ms. Emily Keunen ‘11
Education: Boston University/ BA, New York University/ M.Ed
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: Learning Specialist at Gulliver for the past 5 years. Previously I worked in the New York public schools. 
Fun fact: I am a PTS alum! I attended Palmer Trinity from 6th-12th grade and I can’t wait to return home! I’m an avid tennis player and also enjoy watching tennis. I have lived in 5 countries. 
At PTS, my role will be… Learning Specialist 

Mr. Eduardo Barreto
Education: Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Bachelor's degree in Education, Master's degree in English Literature
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: I worked for 9 years as an AP English Language and Composition teacher at TERRA Environmental Research Institute, and continue to work as an adjunct professor of English Composition at Miami Dade College, where students are forced to listen to me talk all day about whatever subject interests me.  
Fun fact: I was nominated Teacher of the Year for my school and became a finalist for the MDCPS South Region.
At PTS, my role will be… US English teacher. As an educator, I am the perpetual kingmaker - never the king. This is a duty I accept, knowing that duty goes with honor. The kingmaker makes the ascension possible but doesn’t ascend; the educator influences the outcome but celebrates quietly from the shadows, and I kneel, so that others may stand on my shoulders. This knowledge inspires me; it also gives me confidence because it gives me purpose. The educator is Atlas, even if sometimes he feels like Sisyphus - infinitely pushing a rock up a hill. The educator is Daedalus, crafting fireproof wings of wisdom while our Icarus flies into the sunset. This is my truth and my hope, that the educator is Prometheus - we deal in fire and knowledge, and the spark we strike ignites the soul with passion. The teacher fans the flame of talent and sets ablaze the hope for a brighter future. That’s what I believe as an educator.

Ms. Kara Toister
Education: Vanderbilt University - Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education, English, and Human and Organizational Development
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: This summer, I was  working as an Academic Instructional Coach at Breakthrough Miami’s Palmer Trinity site. I served as a Teaching Fellow at Breakthrough for the three summers preceding my current position. During the 2022-2023 school year, I completed my Professional Year as a Student Teacher for 11th grade American Literature and 8th grade Reading Language Arts.
Fun fact: I was born and raised in Miami. I recently received the Peabody College Kevin Longinotti Award for demonstration of exceptional promise as an educator at the secondary-school level. In my free time, I enjoy baking, reading, and going on walks with my new puppy.
At PTS, my role will be… 9th and 10th grade English teacher

Mrs. Melissa Rodriguez
Education: FIU/Bachelor of Education American College of Ed/ Masters in Curriculum and Instruction 
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: Taught mathematics 6-12 grade at Doral Academy for 10 years, then transferred to Florida Virtual School to teach 7th grade Math. 
Fun fact: Spanish is my second language. I love to go boating and spend time with my family. 
At PTS, my role will be… US Math teacher

Mr. Serkan Kabak
Education: San Jose State University - BSc. Chemistry, San Francisco State University - MSc. Physical Chemistry
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: Taught Upper School Math and Physics at Lawrence Woodmere Academy
Fun fact: I am Turkish. I have a variety of interests - working out, cooking, exploring nature, photography, programming, online games.
At PTS, my role will be… Upper School chemistry and physics teacher

Mrs. Dawn Lamonte
Education: AA from Miami-Dade College
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: Worked at Miami-Dade Fire Department for 35 years.
Fun fact: I know some sign language.
At PTS, my role will be… Upper School Administrative Assistant

Mr. Paul Campbell
Education: Calvin University Bachelors Communications/ Duke Divinity Masters of Divinity
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: Former Executive Director of the social justice organization, People Acting for Community Together  (PACT). Former Youth and Community Outreach Pastor
Fun fact: I was married in Spain, where my wife Tamar is from. I have been married to my wife Tamar for 11 years and we have two sons, Micah and Amos, both named after the prophets in the Bible. I graduated from West Potomac High School in Alexandria, VA, where the Most Improved Basketball Player award is named after me. 
At PTS, my role will be... US Religion and basketball coach

Mrs. Danielle Rivero
Education: MA in Sociology University of Miami
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: I have worked in academic advising and college counseling for 20 years in private high schools in Miami.
Fun fact: My perfect day would involve my three favorite things: Iced Coffee, a long walk or hike, and my Great Pyrenees pup, Altas.
At PTS, my role will be… Assistant Director of College Counseling

Ms. Taylor Haas ‘11
Education: American University (DC) - East Asian Studies & International Relations
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: PTS Alum
Fun fact: Passionate about language & cultural studies, general lover of all things cuisine, an avid traveler, and an unintentional source of random information. 
At PTS, my role will be… Administrative Assistant/Bus & Sub Coordinator

Mr. Noah Ruiz
Education: Colorado State University, BA in English (Writing, Rhetoric, and Literacy) with a History minor
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: Tutoring at Miami Dade College for 5 semesters, tutoring at CSU for 2 semesters, tutoring for Brainfuse for one year
Fun fact: I am from Denver, Colorado. I was a finalist for Sunspot Lit's Inception contest and their Culmination contest as well. I am also a musician specializing in bass guitar.
At PTS, my role will be… US English teacher

Mrs. Jennifer Arrocha 
Education: FIU B.A. in English Education. I am currently working on my Master of Instructional Leadership at FIU.
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: I was born and raised in Miami, FL where I went to FIU and received my Bachelor's degree in English Education. After teaching in a non-profit private school for a year, I decided to take a step back to raise my first child. This past year I have focused on continuing my education by working on a Master's degree in Instructional Leadership at FIU while taking care of my daughter. In my spare time, I love to read and travel with my family. 
Fun fact: I speak English and Spanish fluently. I love to travel, read, and jog.
At PTS, my role will be…6th Grade English and History teacher

Ms. Catherine Hammons 
Education: University of Memphis Bachelors in Anthropology 
Previous experience or position before coming to PTS: I have been in education for 22 years at a private international baccalaureate school in Memphis. I was director of afterschool and summer programming before entering the classroom. I taught elective classes such as Archaeology and Anthropology for middle school. For 15 years I have been teaching middle school history. In addition, I am also a lead educator for the Robert Kennedy Human Rights organization and lead teacher and student training on human rights education.
Fun fact: I fell in love with Courtney White from Miami which brings me to Miami Florida from Memphis Tn and brought me to this amazing school. My wedding will be in February 2024 aboard a cruise ship. I love to play board games and read. I am also a fan of science-fiction and comic books. In Memphis, I was recognized as the Shelby County History Teacher of the Year in 2019. I also served as a member of the education advisory board for the National Civil Rights Museum in Museum.
At PTS, my role will be… MS History teacher
Main Entrance: 8001 SW 184th Street, Miami, FL 33157
Mailing Address: 7900 SW 176th Street, Miami, FL 33157
Main:     305.251.2230
Admission:     305.969.4208