Meet Our New Faculty

As we enter the 2017-2018 school year, we welcome an inspiring and dedicated group of new teachers and counselors to our faculty. Please take a moment here to get to know them:

Arcari photo

Michelle Arcari (Social Studies) – Mrs. Arcari is an attorney who has served both in private practice and as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office. She holds a B.A. from Mary Washington College in historic preservation and a J.D. from the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America. She comes to O'Connell as a career switcher with substitute experience in the Arlington Diocese.
FUN FACT - She is also a CYO girls basketball coach and a former intercollegiate field hockey player.

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Suzanna Dawyot (English) – Ms. Dawyot received her Masters of Education from Providence College and her B.A. in English literature (with minors in mathematics and philosophy) from The Catholic University of America. For the past four years, she has been teaching language arts and math at Seton School in Manassas, where she also moderated the student council and coached junior high girls soccer. She volunteers her time as a retreat team leader.
FUN FACT – She is proficient in the Slovenian language.

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Peggy DiNunzio (Library Assistant) - Mrs. DiNunzio has experience as a pre-school teacher who more recently has been working as a substitute teacher, art teacher and reception coordinator at St. Agnes in Arlington. She holds two associate degrees from Youngstown State University--one in early childhood education and another in nursing. She brings her enthusiasm for student learning and her compassionate approach to student engagement to the O'Connell library.
FUN FACT - She is the mother of three boys and a former registered nurse.

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Erikka Durdle (Social Studies) – Mrs. Durdle is a U.S. Air Force reservist with a B.A. in international relations and African studies from the American Military University, and a M.S. in secondary education (history and social sciences) from Old Dominion University. She completed her student teaching at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, where she taught 9th through 11th grade world and U.S. history.
FUN FACT – She is a certified Yoga instructor.


Brittany Gordon (English) – Ms. Gordon comes to O'Connell with six years of teaching experience in Maryland at the elementary and high school level. Most recently she has been teaching at Reid Temple Christian Academy, and was previously at Montrose Christian School. She holds a B.A. in English and Secondary Education from Virginia Tech and recently received her M.Ed. from Walden University.
FUN FACT - She was a member of the VT women's basketball team, serving as captain her senior year. She continues to coach area girls basketball.

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Jenny Hall (Math) – Ms. Hall holds a B.A. in mathematics from the University of Texas and a Master's in secondary education from Texas State University. She has taught high school mathematics at international schools in Costa Rica, Thailand and Japan. She recently returned to the U.S. and has been tutoring and substitute teaching in Arlington County. She also has training and experience as an International Baccalaureate teacher and an ESL instructor.
FUN FACT – She is a long-distance runner and is proficient in the Spanish language.

Hilla PhotoCharles Hilla (Spanish) – Mr. Hilla has a B.A. in Spanish and international relations from James Madison University, and Is currently enrolled in the M.A. program in international commerce and policy at George Mason University. He studied abroad in Spain and recently completed a full-year teaching/service assignment at the Fe y Alegria School in the Dominican Republic, where all lessons and teacher meetings were conducted in Spanish. He has also served as a "guest educator" and substitute teacher in the D.C. public charter school system.
FUN FACT – He is a graduate of St. Ann's School in Arlington and now volunteers there with their youth group.


Robert Horan (Technology/Journalism) – Mr. Horan received his bachelor's degree in communications with a concentration on media production from George Mason University. He has most recently been a part of the alumni service corps at Gonzaga College High School, where he taught television communication and assisted with campus ministry, retreats and media projects. At George Mason he served as the videographer for their Catholic campus ministry program and managed the Mason Cable Network.
FUN FACT – He is member of the Knights of Columbus (3rd Degree) and earned the rank of Eagle Scout.

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Rebecca Johnson (Social Studies) – Ms. Johnson holds a B.A. in history and an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in secondary history/social studies education. Both her undergraduate and graduate studies were completed at George Mason University. She most recently gained experience in the classroom at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Fairfax where she taught 9th grade history and geography.
FUN FACT – She has published an entry on Betty Washington Lewis in the Mount Vernon Digital Encyclopedia.

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Sister Margaret Langer, IHM (Expanded Services) – The school is blessed to have Sister Margaret in residence at Bishop O'Connell. As a part of her ministry, she has worked with special needs children and their families for 19 years. Most recently, she has been working with children with hearing loss in Montgomery County Public Schools. She holds a B.A. in social sciences and theology from Immaculata University and an M.Ed. in special education from the College of New Jersey. She later received her M.A. in deaf education from Gallaudet University.
FUN FACT – She has earned status as a writing consultant for the teaching of writing from the Maryland Writing Project at the University of Towson and in her spare time she is a writing tutor.

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Tracey Leipold (11th & 12th Grade Counselor) - Ms. Leipold is a licensed school counselor with a B.A. in Psychology (Le Moyne College) and an M.A. in School Counseling (Appalachian State University). She began her career as an Auxiliary Services Specialist at a residential treatment facility for abused children where she supervised 20 staff members and served as a therapeutic crisis intervention trainer. Her most recent position was at Cornell University as an assistant women's soccer coach and before that at Lemoyne University as head women's soccer coach. In both roles, she worked with student-athlete academic progress, including progress toward degree requirements, working with NCAA requirements, accessing transcripts and test scores for eligibility and admissions, and advising families on academic requirements and FAFSA applications.
FUN FACT - While in college, she was a member the Le Moyne women's soccer team.

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Maria Madden (Social Studies) – Ms. Madden originally did her student teaching at Bishop O'Connell, and most recently served as a permanent substitute teacher, including providing long-term coverage for a 9th grade religion class. She previously taught history in the middle school at Saint Theresa School in Ashburn, Va. She holds a B.A. in history from Marymount University. She also has experience in faith formation and in direct service to those in need in her community.
FUN FACT – She completed coursework on "The World of J.R.R. Tolkien" at a summer study program at Oxford University in the U.K.

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Kyle McCartin (Muller Academic Support) – Mr. McCartin received his B.A. in anthropology followed by his M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Virginia. He most recently served as a credit recovery teacher in the Coronado Unified School District in California, where he developed coursework for differentiated instruction to meet individual student needs in grades 9 through 12.
FUN FACT – He was a three-year football letterman at the University of Virginia, who played and coached one season in the German Football League in Pforzheim, Germany.

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Melinda Moore (Mathematics) – Mrs. Moore comes to O'Connell after 11 years as a middle school mathematics and religion teacher at St. Mark School in Vienna. She earned a B.S. in industrial engineering from Penn State and holds her Virginia state teaching certification. She also holds an advanced catechist certificate and is experienced in RCIA.
FUN FACT – She can still do a back handspring.

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Mary Clare Murray (German) – Mrs. Murray received her B.A. in art history with a minor in German from Bryn Mawr College and her teaching certificate in secondary education/foreign language from George Washington University. She is currently working on a master's degree in world language teaching. She was a Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Germany in 1992-1993 and subsequently taught German in Arlington and Loudoun County schools. She has also been involved in special sacramental instruction at St. John the Beloved parish, including First Penance, First Communion and Confirmation.
FUN FACT - She and her husband met on a blind date arranged by a priest.

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Alicia Patak (9th & 10th grade counselor) - Ms. Patak is a licensed school counselor with a B.S. in Human Development (State University of New York at Binghamton) and M.A. in School Counseling (Marymount University). Miss Patak completed a year-long internship at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, in addition to a previous counseling internship at Chenango Forks High School in Binghamton. In her experiences she has provided individual counseling, conducted lunch groups on social issues such as anxiety and behavior management; developed and conducted classroom guidance lessons for all numerous grade levels, developed and implemented study skills groups, wrote letters of recommendation for college bound seniors, and collaborated with families, faculty and school administration, social workers and school psychologists.
FUN FACT - She is a Duke basketball fan.

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Jonathan Perez (Religion) – Mr. Perez comes to O'Connell with experience as a classroom teacher in Catholic schools as well as in youth ministry and retreat facilitation. He hold a B.A. in history from Old Dominion University and most recently taught at St. Columba Catholic School in Oxon Hill, Md.
FUN FACT – He is the co-founder of a podcast aimed at building a digital community of Catholic dads who can help each other grow.

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Melissa Pore (Computers/Engineering) – Mrs. Pore has been a K-12 technology teacher first in Texas but most recently in the Arlington Diocese. From 2009-2015 she was the computer teacher and STEAM coordinator at St. Thomas More, where she helped students successfully build and launch the first grade school satellite as part of the NASA CubeSat Initiative. She holds a B.A. in psychology from the University of Texas at Arlington and an M.Ed. from Texas Tech.
FUN FACT – She holds an amateur radio technician license and has provided ground support for the International Space Station Amateur Radio at NASA (Md.).

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Geoffrey Rixon (Social Studies) – Mr. Rixon holds a B.A. in American Studies with a minor in theology from Fordham University and this fall he is completing his M.Ed. with a concentration secondary social studies at Marymount University. He got his start in the classroom in the Teach for America program, assigned as an ESL teacher for two years in Memphis, Tenn.
FUN FACT – He grew up in the area and played ice hockey at Paul VI in Fairfax.

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Eric Ruff (Social Studies) – Mr. Ruff holds bachelor's degrees from the University of Missouri in political science and journalism and a master's in legislative affairs from George Washington University. He spent his early career on Capitol Hill in legislative and public affairs, media relations and communications. He rounded out his career in government as a special assistant and press secretary at the Department of Interior and the Department of Defense, before directing policy and communications in the corporate world. He is a career switcher who joined the O'Connell faculty last year as a long-term substitute teacher.
FUN FACT – He grew up in an Air Force family and in high school and early college he played lead guitar in a band.

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Frank Russo (Religion) – Mr. Russo comes to O'Connell from Brooklyn, N.Y., where he has been teaching middle and high school students in Catholic schools. For the past ten years, he has been a theology teacher at Fontbonne Hall Academy, where he also worked with the guitar club, yearbook and campus ministry committee. He holds a B.A. in psychology from St. John's University and an M.A. in theology from Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, N.Y.
FUN FACT - As a 5-year old boy, he accidently slid underneath the feet of Joe DiMaggio at a Yankees old-timers event. The Hall of Famer called him "safe."

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Danielle Sensabaugh (Social Studies) – Ms. Sensabaugh was the long-term substitute teacher last fall for AP Art History and Honors Humanities. She has her B.A. in art history from West Virginia University and her M.A. in art history with a specialization in modern European art from American University. She recently completed a year-long internship at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
FUN FACT - She has a cat named Cleocatra.

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Henry Yockey (Science) – Mr. Yockey is a 2013 graduate of Bishop O'Connell and a recent Virginia Tech graduate, where he received two degrees—a B.S. in physics and a B.S. in computational modeling and data analytics—while staying on the Dean's List.
FUN FACT – He was treasurer of the student council his senior year at O'Connell.