Miramonte Teacher Takes Leave

Laila Abtahi and Laila Abtahi

English teacher Ann Barnett informed the Miramonte administration prior to winter finals, that she will be on a leave of absence for the remainder of the year. Her announcement led to a series of teacher reassignments.

Barnett, co-head of the English department at Miramonte, left for serious health problems. According to Barnett, the medical problems relapsed over winter break. However, she did reassure her students that her condition is not life threatening.

Barnett taught AP English, English 4 and English 1. The district assigned Neal Modelevsky, a former teacher at Del Oro, to undertake her freshman classes as well as her English 4 classes, and English teacher Clay Collins to cover her AP class.

“We have been working to ensure a smooth transition and the best possible outcome for students and their learning,” said Associate Principal Jan Carlson.

English teacher Clay Collins is the fourth teacher for this particular AP English class, which originally belonged to Mark Litton.

Before acquiring the position as English teacher, Modelevsky initially replaced Drama teacher Heather Cousins when she too, was on leave of absence. Modelevsky dropped his position as Drama teacher after finals. The change of subject pleased Modelevsky, who considers English his area of strength. Shakespeare, from a literary perspective, helped Modelevsky, an English teacher since 1992, teach Drama.

“As I’ve told my students, I felt like going home again. I enjoy Drama but that’s not where my heart is,” said Modelevsky.

Franette Armstrong, new to Miramonte, took Modelevsky’s spot to continue the Drama program. Transitioning midstream didn’t pose a problem for Armstrong, who built a career around multitasking.

“I think it’s more difficult for my students who began the year with Ms. Cousins, had two subs briefly and then Mr. Modelevsky—now me. That is a lot of change in only one semester,” said Armstrong. “I never intended to have something productive to do during this economic slowdown.”

Several years ago, Armstrong spent time in the advertising business and achieved some prestigious awards. Armstrong won two Gold Clio awards, the equivalent of Oscars for the industry of commercial advertising. Armstrong simultaneously wrote seven books, one of which was turned into a PBS documentary. Although was she never taught Drama, Armstrong has a dance background and choreographed four of the spring musicals at Miramonte, which familiarized her with the drama course.

As a byproduct of Barnett’s departure, Barnett’s former students approached their finals with concern and stress. Students received information of her leave of absence through copies of a letter of which Barnett wrote and the administration distributed.

“It was difficult since we’ve been rotating through teachers,” said AP English student, senior Molly Fehr. “Also, Mr. Collins’ other AP English class has read more books than us, so right now we’re trying to catch up to where they are.”

Barnett plans to return next year, but notified students that they’re welcome to e-mail her if they have any questions.