Virtual Assembly Successful as Faculty Members Bid Farewell to KO


The end of May marks a time of many joyous occasions for the KO community as the school year begins to wind down with summer just around the corner.  The most cherished annual traditions are panning out a bit differently than usual right now by virtue of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this did not impede the Faculty Appreciation Ceremony’s honoring of KO’s departing staff.

The Faculty Appreciation Ceremony took place virtually on May 20. In an introduction to the audience, Head of School Tom Dillow called the ceremony “bittersweet.”  “It’s an important opportunity for us to come together as a community one last time,” Mr. Dillow said,  “but on the other hand, it’s an assembly where we say farewell to some people that we care a lot about and that we’re going to miss.” In total, there are eight faculty members who are leaving KO at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Debbie Fiske has served as director of athletics for the past five years and has benefited the program in an array of different ways. At KO, she helped improve the school’s facilities in the building of the Hoffman Fieldhouse, new scoreboards, and providing every team with updated equipment. She also was a major contributor to arranging the school’s primetime Friday night lights games in the fall, which proved to be very popular by the large number of attendees supporting Wyvern athletics.  A four-year point guard at the University of Connecticut under legendary coach Geno Auriemma, Ms. Fiske was an integral part of winning their first Big East Tournament title in 1989 as well as propelling the Huskies to a remarkable Final Four run in the NCAA Tournament in 1991. As a top tier Division I athlete, Ms. Fiske’s leadership skills translated well to the success of KO’s athletic program. In Mr. Dillow’s speech, he mentioned one member of the athletics department’s admiration for Ms. Fiske. “She made KO athletics all about the kids and families, more so than ever before. Debbie truly understood that the experience and environment of athletics was as important as winning.” The KO community appreciates all of Ms. Fiske’s hard work and wishes her all the best on the next chapter of her life!

Dean of Students Will Gilyard is leaving KO after spending the last nine years in the KO Community.  A warm, kind-spirited soul is the first thing you will notice about Mr. Gilyard, and his infectious smile is truly one of a kind. He understands students well, making KO a safe place of inclusion and encouraging everyone to be comfortable in their own shoes. Junior Ian Givens, one of Mr. Gilyard’s advisees, mentioned the impact he had as an advisor. “He is a thoughtful and caring person whose presence always lights up the room,” he said. “Mr. G has been a great role model and friend to me during my years at KO.” Mr. Dillow had a lot to say about Mr. Gilyard and his incredible impact on KO. “He tirelessly pursues the goal that our community is a place where every student feels that they belong,” Mr. Dillow said. “One of Will’s greatest strengths is his authenticity. He speaks from the heart, he celebrates all individual and community successes openly and enthusiastically but he also has the courage to name the problem and steer us to be a better school when we need to hear that message too.” We will miss Mr. Gilyard and know that his next school will be lucky to have him!

Upper School Spanish teacher Brenda Semmelrock has worn many hats during her 38 years at KO.  She has served as the school’s archivist since 2011, advisor in all forms, president of the KO Cum Laude Society, robotics coach, form dean, and language department chair.  But it is clear that her favorite role is teaching Spanish and inspiring students to learn about another language and culture. Sophomore Amrita Natarajan has had Mrs. Semmelrock as a teacher for the past two years and has loved learning about the Spanish language and the heritage of many different countries. “I really appreciate how much Señora loves what she is teaching,” Amrita said. “She always mixes things up in class whether it be showing us a video, virtually exploring parts of Spain, or even simulating baking a cake. I’m really going to miss having her as my teacher next year!” Undoubtedly, Mrs. Semmelrock’s extraordinary legacy will leave a lasting mark on the school as she has been an incredible role model and teacher at KO. We wish her the best of luck in retirement!   

There are five other faculty members that will be leaving after the end of this school year.  Laura Doyle will be leaving KO after 18 years as the Middle School guidance counselor. She truly knows the in’s and out’s of a teenager and is always there for all of her students. Beau Macksoud has served as a Middle and Upper School Spanish teacher for the past four years as well as a form dean and coach of several sports teams. Mr. Macksoud’s passion for teaching and sharing his magnificent stories of traveling the world engage his students in learning about cultures that are foreign to them. Maria Tuckler has been a Middle and Upper School Spanish teacher at KO for one year. Her unwavering calm nature has made her an easy person to talk to and communicate with about anything. Sarah Nolan has taught Earth Science at the KO Middle School for one year, and her distinct love of science is present in the classroom. She introduced many new hands-on activities to her classes that kept students engaged and challenged while working on complex science schemes. We wish all of our departing faculty a heavy-hearted goodbye as they move on to new endeavors in their lives and thank all of them for their time at KO!

Once a Wyvern, always a Wyvern!