New interim head of school, Tom Bendel was hired this summer.
The upcoming school year brings many new faces to the Altamont School.
Among them is the new interim head of school, Tom Bendel. Bendel was hired this summer and joins Altamont with a depth of knowledge.
He recently served as head of school at Sabot at Stony Point in Richmond, Virginia. Previously, he served as head of school at the North Jakarta Intercultural School, head of upper school at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School and dean of student affairs at The American School in Switzerland.
Before becoming an educator, he served 20 years as an officer in the U.S. Navy.
Bendel said he has been impressed by the enthusiasm of everyone he has met at Altamont.
“Their evident joy at being part of this school is infectious,” he said. “Altamont is a great school, with a great history, and I am thrilled to have a chance to contribute to its great future.”
Making Their Return
Two teachers who have garnered previous acclaim working at The Altamont School are joining the athletic staff.
Newly hired varsity girls basketball coach Archie Johnson returns to Altamont after previously working as athletic director and boys varsity basketball coach, taking the team to the Final Four in 2004.
“In my 26 years of working in education, I have never been more fulfilled and embraced than during my time spent at Altamont,” Johnson said. “The genuine love, support and passion for students and staff makes this a special place.”
In addition, Richard Ford will serve as Altamont’s new assistant athletic director.
Ford has coached the JV boys basketball, seventh-eighth grade boys basketball and varsity boys basketball at Altamont since 2018.
Before joining the staff, he played basketball at the professional level for 11 years in Mexico, Bolivia, El Salvador, Japan and Venezuela.
New Faces With Local Connections
According to school officials, they put a focus on hiring faculty who are invested in the Birmingham community. It provides students with opportunities to get involved in the community.
Joni Wiley, geography teacher, served as director of training for the Alabama Network of Family Resource Centers and co-director of Anytown Teen Leadership Summit.
Wiley has also worked at the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center and the YMCA of Central Alabama.
“The school does a great job at being a tight-knit and supportive community that actively engages with Birmingham,” Wiley said. “I am passionate about holistic learning and student leadership, so I am ecstatic that this is a significant focus for Altamont.”
Ann Trondson, photography teacher, is the co-founder and co-director of Vinegar, an artist-run, women-led, nonprofit organization championing artists in Birmingham and beyond. The organization’s gallery space, Vinegar Contemporary, is in Forest Park.
“Altamont has a rich history and strong background in the arts. I am excited to connect students with local and national artists,” Trondson said. “It’s one thing to read about art, but it’s another thing to interact with contemporary artists who are leading conversations and using materials that push the boundaries of what art can be and do.”
Reid Watson, theater director, has directed and choreographed productions for universities, high schools and community theater locally and in New York City. He has also worked at Art Play at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center.
“As a Birmingham native, I have always respected Altamont’s core values and rich history,” Watson said. “I hope to make our world more inclusive, informed and creative using the medium of theatre.”
Jim Sydnor, debate coach, served as a program manager at SpeakFirst, an organization that provides Birmingham’s middle and high school students with the opportunity to take part in co-curricular competitive debate.
Beth Dille, director of The C. Kyser Miree Ethical Leadership Center, was director of the Environmental Center at Camp McDowell, in Winston County.
“I am excited to help Altamont’s remarkable students continue to be involved in their local community,” said Dille. “Birmingham is a special place, and I am honored to be a part of a school that creates intentional opportunities for leadership and service in our city.”
A graduate of UAB and the University of Alabama, biology teacher Maggie Hill taught science at the Jerusalem School of Bethlehem in Palestine.
Most recently, she worked at Valent Group, a risk consulting firm in Birmingham. She is excited to get back to teaching.
“Developing relationships with students and supporting their goals is one of my favorite things, and Altamont seems to be the perfect place for that,” Hill said.
Yan Tong, Mandarin teacher, worked as a Chinese teacher at the Yuren Chinese School at Birmingham and at Vestavia Hills Elementary East. By teaching a world language, she said, she hopes her students will gain a better understanding of and respect for other cultures.
Heather Kaiser, Spanish teacher, has taught at Samford University, University of Florida and King University.
She notes that she enjoys helping students make cultural and linguistic connections that not only expand their worldviews but also complement learning from other classes.