Four New Faculty Members Bring Experience And Enthusiasm

Xavier High School has added four faculty members: Dr. Donna S. Griffen (mathematics/science), Melissa Peterson (guidance counselor), Jessy Stanavage (art) and Estibaliz Garria Uriarte (Spanish).

Griffen has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and biology from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash.; a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Indiana University; and this year earned a Master of Arts in Secondary Education from the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford. 

“After many years serving as a research chemist and a registered financial advisor, she pursued an education degree and most recently taught at Terryville High School. With a versatile background, Dr. Griffen will be teaching in both the math and science departments,” Principal Brendan Donohue said. “Eager to join the Xavier community, she recently attended the summer faculty/staff picnic where she received a warm Xavier welcome. She has already met with the school’s administration to begin her planning for the upcoming school year. We are happy to welcome her to the Xavier family.”

Peterson has a Master of Science in Counselor Education with Specialization in School Counseling from Central Connecticut State University (May 2020). Her undergraduate degree is from Southern Connecticut State University (BS in Communications Disorders, Speech Pathology, 2013).

Her most recent position was at Staples High School in Westport in the 2019-20 school year as a school counseling intern. She has extensive school and child-related work experience, ranging from kindergarten to high school and is a member of the Connecticut School Counselor Association and the American School Counselor Association.

“Holding the Master of Science degree and with several years’ experience in education, Ms. Peterson brings experience and a strong educational background to Xavier’s guidance department,” Principal Brendan Donohue said. “Her energy and enthusiasm will be a great fit for the department. She has already begun working closely with Director of Guidance Joan Tomasiello to ensure a smooth transition with the retirement of Rich Magner. Ms. Peterson is eager to embrace the Xavier community and we are thrilled to have her on board. Her students and their families will be in very good hands as she guides them through their Xavier experience.”

Magner retired after the current school year and had been Director of Guidance since 1997. Tomasiello has been in the Xavier guidance department for 22 years.

Stanavage is a May 2019 graduate of Central Connecticut State University with a Bachelor of Science & Education in Art Education. She was an art teacher at Stonington Middle School in the 2019-2020 school year and is a member of both the Connecticut Educators Association and the Connecticut Art Educators Association. She also had internships at the Princeton University Art Museum and the New Britain Museum of American Art.

“In her interview, Ms. Stanavage impressed the committee not only with her passion for art, but also with desire to support the Xavier mission through art,” Donohue said. “Holding a Bachelor of Science and Education in Art Education, her experience in the classroom and in the museum setting provide her with a strong foundation to continue the great tradition of excellence left by Jayne Vitale. The two have been collaborating over the summer to prepare for the new school year. Ms. Stanavage will also be taking over the Art Club and is planning to pursue a Master’s degree. We are very happy to welcome Ms. Stanavage to the Xavier community.”

Ms. Vitale, the school’s first art teacher, retired this year after 34 years at Xavier, and taught in both the Fine Arts and Language departments. Stanavage and Garria Uriarte are part-time.

Garria Uriarte has a BA in English Literature from Deusto University in Bilbao, Spain, and an MA in Economics and International Communication from Universitat des Saarland in Bilbao. She is fluent in German, Spanish, English and Basque.

“A Spanish native, Mrs. Garria Uriarte brings a wealth of cultural experience to Xavier,” Donohue said. “She holds a Secondary Teaching Certificate in Spain and a Masters in European Economics. Her strong educational background and her varied professional experience will provide her students not only with the knowledge of the Spanish language, but will also help them see the immense value of mastering a second language in today’s world. She is eager to get to know her students well so that she can inspire them to do their best in all that they do. We welcome her to the Xavier community.”