Faculty Farewells: Kafoglis leaves HM

Ben Rafal, Staff Writer

After six years at the school, math teacher Ben Kafoglis is moving on to the next chapter of his career. Kafoglis has taught all four grades in the high school during his years at the school, and he will be continuing to teach high school math at Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn next year. 

Kafoglis has enjoyed being able to teach all different grade levels and connect with multiple different grades, especially this year’s graduating class, Kafoglis said. “I taught three sections of Geometry for these [seniors], two sections of Pre-calc, and two sections of Calculus, so I’ve built a connection with a good amount of seniors,” he said.

Leo Giorgini (12), who has been in Kafoglis’ advisory for multiple years, remembers connecting with him in ninth grade. Kafoglis helped Giorgini look over a presentation an hour prior to class, taking the time to help a new Upper Division student, Giorgini wrote. “I do not think most teachers would have been willing to accomodate a frantic freshman, but he found the time,” he wrote.

Kafoglis often built his best connections with students in advisory, he said. Having a small advisory of five seniors, all of whom he has taught, Kafoglis has enjoyed connecting with a tight-knit group. “It’s one of the places where I get to really interact with students as their full selves,” he said. “In that, you get the highs and the lows, because high school is hard. It can be emotional, maybe after taking a math test that didn’t go your way or how you feel as you receive bad news back from a college.”

Joaquin Ramirez-Villareal (12) remembers Kafoglis’s advisory being a place where his voice was always heard, no matter what he had to say, he said. “Though I know he’s going to enjoy his new school in Brooklyn as a Brooklyn native, I’m going to miss him greatly as a teacher, advisor, and friend.”

 

Kafoglis’ presence in the classroom as a trustable figure is noticed by everyone, math teacher Charles Worrall said. “His deeply considered care for his students, for our school, and for how he inhabits and imagines his role as a teacher has been awe-inspiring,” Worrall said.

When Kafoglis began at the school, he was most nervous about teaching Geometry, given that he had the least experience with its curriculum, he said. However, he soon realized that it was a great course for building critical thinking skills in new high-schoolers. “Geometry in particular allows me to put a complicated scenario on the board and the whole class can throw out ideas,” he said. “It feels like a big problem-solving, brainstorming activity that we get to all do together, and that I felt was always really engaging for students.”

The wide range of extracurricular activities available at the school were often enjoyable for Kafoglis, especially when speakers on social justice—such as writers Jelani Cobb or Ta-Nehisi Coates—visited the school, he said. “My very first year here, the late Robert Moses, a civil rights activist who used to be a math teacher at Horace Mann, came to speak. I was asked to introduce him, and that was a moment I will never forget,” Kafoglis said. “As a civil rights icon, being able to shake his hand, hear him speak, and find a connection as two Horace Mann math teachers, was a big honor for me.”

Teaching during the pandemic has given Kafoglis a new perspective on classroom environments, he said. In a year when students were separated by barriers and individual desks, it became apparent that communication between students was essential to a thriving class dynamic, Kafoglis said. “This year, even more so, I try to emphasize students learning from one another and not just listening to me at the board.

Kafoglis had a unique path to the school, as he interviewed for an open position shortly after he graduated college, he said. Originally, Kafoglis did not receive the position, but was later hired by Worrall, who was then a department chair. 

Worrall initially interviewed Kafoglis at a New England job fair two years prior to his hiring, and was surprised and impressed at how intelligently Kafoglis spoke about math at such a young age, Worrall said. Worrall told Kafoglis that he hoped they would once again be in touch after he gained teaching experience, and after two years, Kafoglis’ resume displayed that he had blossomed into a fantastic teacher in upstate New York.

Kafoglis will go on to teach high school math in Brooklyn, hoping for a change that allows him to stay closer to home, he said. “I’m excited about what my work-life balance will be like, and I’m excited to walk and bike to school instead of taking the train. But I’m certainly not happy to be leaving,” he said.“I’m definitely excited for my next [opportunity] while being sad that I have to say goodbye.”