Brookewood Thomas More Institute

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Please find faculty email addresses followed by bios below:

Richard B. McPherson, President, International Student Coordinator:
Kevin J. Davern, Headmaster, College Counselor:
Matthew Bronzi, Assistant Headmaster:
RJ Hawley, Executive Director:
Ellen Clifford, Assitant Head, Director of Development:
Thomas Stroot, Dean of Students:
Istvan Teleki, Lower School Head:
Tad Shields, Chief Financial Officer:
Gustavo Gilardi, Director, Thomas More Institute:
Fr. Roberto Amoruso:
James Bostick:
Charles Devereux:
Patrick Duffy, Head Baseball Coach:
Caleb Glaser, Director of Admission:
Sandi Gersten:
Justin Kanka:
Jeff Kantor:
Adele Kolf:
Harris Moriarty:
Kevin Oriani:
Edward O'Daniel:
Yvonne O'Neill:
Tyree Spinner, Head Football Coach: tspinner@avalonschoolsorg, (301) 760-0403
Rebecca Streeter:
Matthew Stroot:
Jennifer Tifford:
Thomas Tobin:

Richard B. McPherson, President, The Avalon School and Brookewood School, Director, International Student Program        

      Richard McPherson helped found The Avalon School in 2003 after more than two decades of experience in the independent school education of young men.  He is the former headmaster of The Heights School, an independent day school for boys in grades 3-12, located in Potomac, Maryland.  Under his leadership, enrollment rose from 270 students to 460, and the number of Advanced Placement Scholars grew from three to 32. He also led the school through an ambitious building and improvement program of more than $3 million, providing an excellent foundation for shepherding Avalon through the coming years.          
     Rich, a seasoned teacher of mathematics, from long division through the advanced levels of calculus, continues his work in the classroom in addition to his administrative duties.         
     A graduate of Harvard College (’79), Rich taught for two years before pursuing a career as an actuary in New York, where he held positions at Coopers & Lybrand and Metropolitan Life.  In 1984, he was named an Associate of the Society of Actuaries.  That year also marked his return to his true vocation – education.  Prior to assuming the position of Heights' headmaster in 1997, Rich taught a variety of courses, coached a host of sports and led the 1991-92 varsity basketball team to a top-twenty ranking in The Washington Post.  He was the recipient of a National Endowment of the Humanities fellowship at Harvard in 1988, where he studied Aristotle’s natural philosophy.
     In 2003, Rich’s leadership in the field of education, record of service to the Church, and volunteer service to the poor led to his investiture into the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem on Rhodes and Malta, commonly recognized as the Order of Malta, by His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick.        
     A native of Massachusetts, Rich is a devotee of author G.K. Chesterton, poetry, the Boston Red Sox, and mathematical conundrums.  He, his wife Janice, and their six children, including  Avalon graduates Matthew (’10) Gil (’11), and John Paul (’13), as well as Michael (’17), and daughters Anne Marie and Maggie (Brookewood ’16), reside in Clarksburg, MD.    


Kevin J. Davern, Headmaster, College Counselor  
     Kevin Davern brings a wealth of administrative and classroom experience to his role as the first headmaster of The Avalon School.  September marks his twenty-third year in the independent school education of young men.  He is the former Assistant Head of School and Director of Admission at The Heights School, where he taught Lower and Middle School before moving to the Upper School in 1995.  He concentrated his efforts on mathematics, history, and religion in addition to extensive administrative duties, and served as director of the summer math program for four years.          
     Kevin is an honors graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where he majored in history, and also captained the varsity basketball team.  He has the distinction of twice being named the school’s male Academic-Athlete of the Year, and was the recipient of the Landers Award for Achievement in History.  This year Kevin will continue to share his extensive knowledge of his favorite subject, teaching U.S. History, Advanced Placement U.S. History, and Apologetics.  He also will coach the Black Knights varsity basketball team again this year.         
     Kevin was awarded a master’s of education with a concentration in administration and supervision from the Johns Hopkins University in 2000.  He and his wife, Jennifer, live in Silver Spring, MD with their sons, Jimmy (Avalon ’15) and Thomas (Avalon ’19), and four daughters, Katie (Brookewood ’12), Mary (Brookewood ’13), Tricia (Brookewood ’17) and Rachel (Brookewood ’22).    


Matthew Bronzi, Assistant Headmaster

      Matt Bronzi, in addition to his role as Middle School coordinator, will teach Chemistry, Life Science, Physical Science and Advanced Placement Biology this year. Matt brings his passion for science to Avalon from both the academic and corporate worlds. Following graduation with honors from Rock Valley College in Illinois, he earned his bachelor of science degree in biochemistry from the University of Dallas.  A recipient of the Robert Welch Scholarship, Matt was an integral part of organic chemistry research  (published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry, Jan. ’05) at the school.  In addition to his studies, he tutored in both mathematics and the sciences.  Most recently, Matt worked with Baxter Bioscience in the manufacture of a meningitis vaccine.  He and his wife, Margaret, and sons Frankie (Avalon ‘23), Peter (Avalon ’25), Vincent (Avalon '30), Martin (Avalon '33), and and their daughter, Agnes (Brookewood ’28), reside in Frederick, MD.


Albert Shields, Chief Financial Officer, Founding Chairman, The Avalon School
     Tad Shields lived in Germantown for more than 15 years and recognized the urgent need for an independent Catholic school in Upper Montgomery County.  He was instrumental in the founding of The Avalon School and served as its first chairman of the Board of Trustees.  As Chief Financial Officer, Tad oversees the economic health of both Avalon and Brookewood.  He also will serve as head coach of Avalon’s varsity football team this season.    
     In 1987, Tad founded and then served for 11 years as CEO of Simulation Laboratories, Inc., a data communications equipment manufacturing company in Ijamsville, Md.  He is the former president of Timeplex Corporation and has held various management positions with Data General and Automatic Data Processing, Inc.  Tad holds a bachelor of arts in mathematics and economics from Denison University and an MBA from the University of Michigan.  He and his wife, Judie, live in Potomac.


Ellen M. Clifford, Assistant Head of School, Director of Development
     Ellen Clifford, an Avalon founder, brings more than 30 years of fundraising and communications experience to her role as assistant head and director of development.  She also serves as development director at Brookewood School.  A development professional for eighteen years in independent schools including The Heights School, Harbor School, and Bullis, she specializes in the creation and expansion of advancement programs.           
     Prior to entering the field of education, Ellen served for 12 years as a senior writer and editor at the U.S. Agency for International Development, as a production associate and publicist for the Washington Bureau of ABC News, on Capitol Hill in both the U. S. House and Senate, and as special assistant to the co-chairman of the Republican National Committee.  Her work in education includes six years as an independent school trustee and board chairman.  She was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship in 2005.  The mother of two grown daughters, Ellen lives in Bethesda, MD.

Rollin James Hawley III, Executive Director

     R.J. came to Avalon in 2003, following two years at The American School in Switzerland (TASIS).  During his 19 years in independent school education, he has taught journalism and ethics and a wide range of science and mathematics courses, and also garnered extensive experience as a college counselor both here and in Europe.  R.J. is a graduate of Georgetown University, where he studied biology and philosophy and began his intensive exploration of Aristotle’s works on man.  He completed his Master of Science in Educational Administration at Trinity Washington University in 2013. He and his wife, Kristen, and their four children, Will (Avalon ’20), Alec (Avalon ’24), Maggie (Brookewood’19), and Clare (Brookewood ’25), live in Silver Spring, MD.

Istvan Teleki, Lower School Head   
     Istvan is an Avalon founder and Head of the Lower School. He has spent the last 10 years teaching lower school boys a variety of subjects, but his specialty and great love is Natural History, and class is often spent outside identifying birds, insects, and trees.         
     Istvan also brings multilingual skills to his positions at Avalon. He is fluent in Spanish and Hungarian, and has taught the AP Spanish class in the Upper School. After graduating cum laude from Providence College, he spent a year in Navarre, Spain, teaching university students.  To date he has welcomed students from Brazil, China, Italy, Spain, Vietnam, and Sierra Leone.
     Istvan lives in Gaithersburg with his wife, Caitlin, and his five children: Karoly (Avalon ’23), Joseph (Avalon ’25), Lilianna (Brookewood ’27), Margaret (Brookewood ’28) and Lucy (Brookewood ’31).    


Thomas Stroot, Dean of Students     
     Tom Stroot is a still recovering public school teacher, who now teaches the young men of the Fifth Grade as well as upper and middle school math, and coordinates the Avalon Transportation Service.  He also serves as coordinator of Avalon’s home school division, The Thomas More Institute, and will coach the Middle School swim team and Middle School basketball.          
     A graduate of The Heights School, Tom earned a B.A. in Political Science at Villanova University, and then worked for several years in the Montgomery County Pubic School (MCPS) system with students who had a variety of physical and educational needs.  Accepted for the Education Master’s degree program at the University of Maryland in 1998, he graduated with a 4.0 and went on to teach fifth grade in the MCPS.      
     Tom and his wife, Mary, live in Damascus with their two daughters, Kaylor, who enters Brookewood this year, and Ella, and young son, Patrick (Avalon '25).




Fr. Roberto Amoruso

      Fr. Roberto comes to Avalon via Kenya, Africa, where he spent 12 years serving as a chaplain, teacher, missionary and social services director.  This year he will teach Apologetics, Spanish II, Advanced Latin and Religion.
      Fr. Roberto holds degrees from the Polytechnic University of Milan in Agronomy and from the Lateran University of Rome in Philosophy and Theology.  Following his ordination to the priesthood, he taught high school religion and Italian in Rome and served as the school chaplain and director of campus ministry.  It was during this time that he perfected his skills as a skier and windsurfer, giving lessons during the winter and summer breaks.  In 1993, Fr. Roberto was called to teach chemistry at Queen of the Apostles Seminary while he established an out-station for a large parish in Nairobi.  His high school work continued at the Italian School of Nairobi Dante Alighieri where he taught philosophy and history. Moving into social services in 1997, Fr. Roberto worked with terminal AIDS patients, single mothers, orphans and young men who had dropped out of school.  He also conducted a Distant Adoption program linked to several parishes in Italy. His last post in Kenya was at Utalli College where he served as chaplain and taught Italian in addition to the martial arts of Karate and Aikido at the school and in the parish where he lived.
      Fr. Roberto brings a unique set of skills to Avalon.  Along with his pastoral and athletic expertise, he is fluent in Italian, English, French, Kiswahili and Gikuyu, Latin, and has a reading knowledge of Greek.  He is a member of the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, a Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right.   Fr. Roberto lives in Bethesda, MD.

James Bostick

      Jim Bostick’s passions are history and languages.  He teaches Advanced Placement European History as well as Spanish I and III, Ethics and Moral Theology, and Church History at Avalon.  In addition, he is the moving force behind the school’s system of Houses.  A cum laude graduate of the University of Dallas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, he is a master’s candidate at the University of Navarre in Pamplona, Spain, where he served on the faculty of economics.  He also is the recipient of a scholarship from the Embassy of Spain for summer courses in language and culture in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
      Jim has been a teacher for more than a decade, during which time he has coached debate, served as a forensic judge, and led cultural tours of Spain.  A native Texan, Jim now lives in Falls Church, VA, with his wife, Colet, daughter, Eleanor, who attends Brookewood, and son, James (Avalon ‘24).

Charles Devereux

     Chuck Devereux joins the Avalon faculty this year on a full-time basis.  Students and sports enthusiasts know him as a substitute teacher and assistant coach of Avalon’s award-winning varsity baseball team, as well as a professional baseball player.  In addition to Lower School Literature, Chuck’s concentration will be in Middle School Science, History and Math.
     A native Washingtonian, Chuck attended the University of Maryland on a baseball scholarship and captained the team in 1992.  The Terrapin earned a degree in criminal justice in 1993. He joined the Orioles organization  in 1992, playing for the Frederick Keys, the Bowie Baysox and the Baltimore Orioles through the 1995 season.  His baseball career also took him to Taiwan, where he played for the Taipei Tigers, and to Perth, Australia with the Wanerroo Giants before returning to the U.S. in 1998. Chuck served as an assistant baseball coach and substitute teacher at Landon School for Boys through 2012, and as a substitute teacher  and coach at Avalon and other independent schools in the area.   He also coached the B-CC Baseball Association Youth Travel Team from 2000-12, and served as a camp coordinator and pitching coach at the Maryland Baseball Academy and The Baseball Zone from 1998 to the present.
     Chuck, wife, Deena, and their son, Ren (Avalon ’25) live in Derwood, MD.

Patrick Duffy, Head Baseball Coach   
Patrick Duffy returns for his eleventh season as head baseball coach at The Avalon School. During his tenure he has guided the Black Knights to seven State Championship appearances, with a 159-87 record. In 2006 - the school's third season of baseball and only it's second season of playing a full varsity schedule - the Black Knights were victorious in their run for the state championship. In 2009 and 2010 the Black Knights won back-to-back titles with rosters mostly comprised of underclassmen. The team most recently won their fourth championship in 2013.    
     The baseball team's success has embodied the school's attitude, "Small School, Big Possibilities." Avalon players land opportunities to play at all levels of college baseball. Avalon, which typically graduates two or three baseball players a year, has produced a professional pitcher (Kevin Fuqua ’07), and eleven college signings in the first seven classes (2007-2013). Additionally, one graduate received a walk-on invite to an Atlantic Coast Conference school, and others have pursued opportunities on college club teams.    
     In 2012, Duffy took the title of Commissioner of the Old Line Baseball Conference (OLBC), which he helped to establish in 2007. He previously served as OLBC’s Head of Media Relations, and Webpage Facilitator. The Black Knights have either won or finished in 2nd place in five of the league's six years. Several Avalon players have received All-OLBC awards, including Bennie Sanchez ’09, Josh Brunvoll ’11, and Niko Sanchez ’13, who were named conference Most Valuable Player in their senior year.  In 2010, 2011 and 2013, the Conference coaches unanimously voted Duffy OLBC Coach of the Year.    
     In addition to the baseball program, Coach Duffy head of the Physical Education department.  He also has taught a variety of subjects to grades 1 through 12, including Upper School Journalism, Language Arts, Vocabulary, and Coaching/Leadership.    
     Duffy also is a realtor for R.K. Ashton Real Estate, and a coach for Dig In Baseball, a Maryland based baseball training and skills development organization with tournament teams, and a collegiate squad.  Coach Duffy lives in Bethesda.


Gustavo Gilardi, Director, Thomas More Institute

      Gustavo Gilardi returns for his third year on the Avalon faculty, and will serve as Coordinator of Avalon’s home school division, the Thomas More Institute, in addition to his work as Head Coach of the Black Knights varsity soccer team.  He also will share his teaching skills honed at the InLingua Academy - where he taught Spanish language immersion courses to Federal employees - in Avalon’s Upper School Spanish program.  A master’s candidate at the University of Maryland University College, Gustavo holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Forestry Sciences from Universidad Nacional Agraria, Peru, where he worked as a forester in the tropical rain forest, as well as an A.A. degree in Business Administration.  He has served as a volunteer youth soccer coach since 2007, and holds a National Soccer Coaches American Association regional diploma to coach at the high school level.  In addition to his coaching and teaching duties, Gustavo overseas a landscaping maintenance company he founded in 1996, and currently serves as a Board member and treasurer of Poolesville Green.  He and his wife, Susana, reside in Poolesville, MD with their four children, Sebastian (Avalon ’16), David (Avalon ’15),  Melissa (Brookewood ’18), and Marisol (Brookewood ’20). 


Sandi Gersten
     Sandi Gersten continues her role in the Lower School as a resource assistant and First Grade religion teacher.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from James Madison University and is a Master of Education candidate.  Prior to homeschooling her five children, Sandi managed a private contract through the Criminal Investigation Division of the Department of Justice, where she coordinated the efforts of federal law enforcement agencies in the prosecution of financial crimes. She lives in Silver Spring with her husband, David, four sons, Liam (Avalon ’18), Michael (Avalon ’19), David (Avalon ’20), Gabriel (Avalon ’20), and daughter Phoebe (Brookewood ’13).

Caleb Glaser
     Caleb Glaser joins the Avalon faculty this year to teach several Lower School classes and serve as Physical Education instructor for the seventh & eight grades.  Following his 2012 graduation from Ave Maria University with a bachelor’s degree in history, Caleb served as a legislative intern for Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (NE) on Capitol Hill, and led a walk across the United States for the pro-life organization, Crosssroads.  He also possesses extensive experience in the construction industry, and will share his skills with both Avalon and Brookewood schools.  Caleb lives in Aspen Hill, MD.  

Justin Kanka

Adele Kolf

Pablo Antonio Melendez


Harris Moriarty


Edward O’Daniel

     Ed O’Daniel brings a unique set of skill and experience to his role as Avalon’s English as a Second Language instructor and Assistant Coach for the Varsity Black Knights football team.  Ed, who secured an undergraduate degree at Texas Southern University, was drafted in 1971 to the San Diego Chargers.  However, injuries sidelined his career before it began, and he undertook graduate studies at the University of Massachusetts where he initiated his teaching and business careers.  Over the past four decades his career has centered on sales and marketing, as well as teaching and coaching.  Prior to joining the Avalon family, Ed taught at Gaithersburg High School in the Special Education Department.  He is the grandfather of nine.  

Yvonne O’Neill
Yvonne O’Neill has first-hand experience teaching boys; she and her husband are raising six of them.  Prior to joining the Avalon faculty, she served as a substitute teacher and First Grade teacher assistant at St. Jane de Chantal School.  Yvonne began her formal teaching career at Bradley Hills Pre-school, and also taught at the Holton Arms Creative Summer Program.  She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Washington College, and her Masters at The American University.  Her son, Jim, is a junior at Avalon. She, her husband Tom, and a selection of sons, reside in Bethesda, MD.

Kevin Oriani

Tyree Spinner, Head Football Coach
(301) 760-0403

Rebecca Streeter

      Rebecca Streeter brings both professional and personal independent school experience to Avalon.  A former teacher at the Chevy Chase United Methodist Church Preschool where she served as faculty liaison to the School Board, she also served on the executive board of The Heights School Parents’ Association and edited their monthly newsletter.
      Rebecca honed her editing and writing skills at the National Rifle Association, where she worked for its Institute for Legislative Action as a production manager for publications.  She is a graduate of the University of Maryland with a B.A. degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology.
      Her many duties at Avalon include  teachings second and third grade Language Arts, serving as the school Registrar and overseeing operation of the school’s office.  She resides in Chevy Chase with her husband, Jim, and three sons, James, Charles (Avalon ’07), and William (Avalon ’11).


Matthew Stroot, Transportation Coordinator

      Matthew Stroot continues to bring his extensive and dynamic teaching skills to the Middle and Upper Schools this year, including English and Composition, Math, Latin, and Algebra II.  His twelve years of classroom experience is augmented by more than a decade’s work as a coach. His success leading a local swim team, the Cedarbrook Seahawks, to division championships was reflected in the successful inaugural year of the swim team he established at his alma mater, The Heights School, and as coach of the junior varsity basketball team. Matt earned his B.A. from Wake Forest University, where he majored in English. He also captained the college’s club swim team and worked with the homeless at the Samaritan Inn, a men’s shelter in the Winston-Salem area.  Matt is the faculty Head of House for Washington House.  Matt and his wife, Lesley, their two daughters and son, reside in Rockville, MD.

Michael Stroot

      In addition to providing the school with two superb teachers, sons Tom and Matt Stroot, Mike Stroot brings the experience of a seasoned teacher and an international career as a technical advisor at the Bureau of the Census to Avalon.  Among the countries he has lived and worked in: American Samoa, Banglades, Bahamas, China, CNMI (Northern Marianas), Egypt, Ghana, Guam, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad, Turks and Caicos, U.S. Virgin Island and Yemen. In addition he trained statistical programmers in conjunction with several international organizations and began his career as a health services officer in the U.S. Public Health Service at the National Institutes of Health.  Mike also taught middle and high school mathematics for more than a decade at The Heights School in Potomac. He holds a B.S. degree from the University of Santa Clara, and a masters in mathematics from the University of Maryland.   A grandfather of eight, he and his wife Jane live in Kensington, MD, where he also teaches mathematics at Brookewood School.

Thomas Tobin

      Tom Tobin’s love of language is reflected in his history, which includes more than a decade of teaching English at all levels of the curriculum at Springbrook High School, where he designed and implemented the English component of the International Baccalaureate curriculum, the school’s signature program.  Now in his seventh year at Avalon, Tom brings his experience to the Upper School English program, including its AP and Honors sections, as well Journalism.  A graduate of the Georgetown University with a B.A. in English literature, he received an M.P.A. from the George Washington University and a M.Ed. from the University of Maryland.  Tom lives in Aspen Hill with his wife, Grainne, and his four children.  His sons, Matthew (Avalon’16),  Daniel (Avalon'18),  and Liam (Avalon ’20) attend the school, and their daughter, Maggie, is at Brookewood.


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