Susan earned her PHD in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. From her experience teaching at the college level she believes that the most successful students are the ones who can think for themselves and know what they want to learn. Susan also firmly believes in the democratic process and the sense of justice and responsibility it gives to all those involved. Susan and her partner, Nancy Golumbia, are excited that their five year old son started PFS last fall!
Mark Filippone entered education after getting caught up in the Savings and Loan scandal of the 1980s. He studied physics at Norristown State University but was denied his degree when his perpetual motion machine prototype was destroyed in a mysterious fire. Mark’s favorite food is olives, which he once subsisted on exclusively for 45 days. An avid nature lover, he can tame any wild animal within minutes, with the exception of the mud shark, which sends him into hysterics, due to a tragic childhood incident which he refuses to discuss. Mark’s favorite color is gamboge.
After twenty years of studying in traditional classrooms, Nancy taught herself systems and network administration and found a career for herself. She wants students in Philadelphia to have the chance to learn for themselves and find their own interests and talents earlier in life than she did. She loves helping to create an awesome space for kids to go everyday.
Michelle Loucas began her career teaching English in Greece to students aged 7 to adult. In Baltimore, she drew governmental attention to two groups whose potential was being overlooked when she paired homeless and formerly homeless poets with student writers in her high school English classes. In South San Francisco, Michelle piloted a senior project that let students devote most of their final semester in high school to exploring their own interests. She went on to serve as teacher trainer and consultant on student-driven service learning projects in K-8 Philly schools, before serving as Coordinator of the Master’s Program in Secondary Education at Penn for five years. Never satisfied with the amount of learning she found in traditional schools, she believes democratic schools are the best way to educate today’s kids. In the past few years she has spent a lot of time visiting Sudbury schools all over the country and playing hide and seek with her two kids. She feels lucky to be staffing at PFS, where she gets to witness authentic discoveries of all kinds every day.
PFS is the third democratic school at which “Reb” (Robert Loucas) has worked as a staff member. He worked with the Fairhaven School founders and staffed during their first two years of operation. He has also taught in high schools in struggling parts of Baltimore, MD and Camden, NJ, as well as at Penn Charter, here in Philadelphia. The struggle to reconcile the best school experiences with some of the worst propelled him to law school, where he concentrated on education law and student rights. He then worked as a Child Advocate for the Defender Association of Philadelphia. He is excited about bringing together the powerful learning opportunities of democratic schools with the talents of urban youth.
Eric is an associate in the Corporate & Securities Group at Drinker, Biddle, & Reath LLP. Before joining the firm, Eric served as judicial clerk to Vice Chancellor Leo E. Strine, Jr. of the Delaware Court of Chancery. Eric earned his bachelor’s degree from Haverford College in 1991, and his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, magna cum laude, in 2004. Eric is admitted to practice law in Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Eric chose to major in comparative religion at Haverford because he found it the most interesting subject offered. That choice did not, however, provide an immediately apparent career path. He has never regretted that decision. Later, in choosing to return to law school and pursue the career of his choice ten years after graduating from college, Eric again got to experience both the power and the responsibility of education deliberately pursued. He believes that the democratic school model allows children to experience, and develop the skills associated with, independence, self-reliance and responsibility at a much earlier age than traditional models. By doing so, it enhances self-awareness, allows students to explore what makes them happy, and helps them to develop the problem-solving skills necessary to pursue goals in a rapidly changing world. Eric hopes the Philly Free School is a vibrant and thriving community by the time his daughter is old enough to attend.
Where I’m from: Madison, WI
Favorite tenet of democratic education: The part that excites me most about Philadelphia Free School is that students will truly be immersed in interest-based learning. I have learned most of the important things in my life through interest-based learning. I’ve always found it is more fun, more permanent, and takes me on exciting and unplanned “learning tangents” which often become new interests.
Things I’ve learned through interest-based learning: photography, disc golf, mandolin, and pretty much anything social media.
Similar experiences: I attended Wingra School, a K-8 independent school in Madison, WI, where mixed-aged classrooms, multidisciplinary learning, and interest-guided learning took place. Wingra certainly gave me a great start!
Joel currently works in the kitchen at Jack’s Firehouse making sure it runs. He is also a volunteer staff member at Philly Free School. Upon discovering the Philly Free School Joel realized the wool had been pulled over his eyes in his youth. Through further reflection it has become apparent to him that he learned much more in his 20′s via interest-based and need-based learning. He looks forward to years of advocacy for the success of the Philly Free School and others like it, and firmly believes that the democratic process should be something that children actually live, instead of learning about it theoretically through “acceptable” books. Joel’s son, Solomon, will be enrolled when he reaches the age of four.