Getting to know the newest faculty members: A profile series

As the San Francisco fall sets in, the new Urban School teachers settle into their new roles at the school. The Urban Legend interviewed three of these newcomers to give the students and faculty a better sense of the unique individuals who have most recently joined our community.

Ratna Kamath

Ratna Kamath:

Straight from teaching humanities at The Bay School of San Francisco, Ratna Kamath is the newest addition to The Urban School English Department. She has been teaching for four years, after a career as a book editor at Random House publishing.

She made the switch to teaching because she missed making a visible impact on people: “Book editing is really great. But you don’t end up interacting with people who are benefitting from your books,” Kamath said. “Teaching seemed like a great way to channel my passions in a direction that you can actually see the tangible difference you make,” she continued. During the fall of 2017, Kamath is teaching English 1A and Latin American Literature.

Outside of teaching, travel has been a defining aspect of Kamath’s life. Born in Sydney, Australia, Kamath moved to the United States at the age of ten. She’s also lived in Chicago, Southern California, New York and now the Bay Area.

In college, she even lived in Scotland for a year: “I was an anthropology major in college, and there was a 300 member pagan cult in Scotland… So I lived amongst them for a year, to study them, observe, and interview,” she said. “It was memorable, for sure,” Kamath continued with a laugh.

When she’s not studying the Scots, Kamath enjoys outdoor activities such as open-water swimming, which she discovered when she returned  to Australia to get her masters degree.

Another central focus for Kamath is food and nutrition. Being gluten, lactose, and peanut intolerant, Kamath often adapts “ethnic food, usually the Thai and Mexican genre,” to meet her dietary needs.

The favorite lunch item of this cosmopolitan teacher? Guacamole. “I would put avocados with anything,” Kamath admitted, “it makes me feel happier about life.”

Dana Sadava

Kristjiana Gong:

This autumn, Kristjiana Gong joined the Urban School faculty as a history and service learning teacher. After several years teaching at a K through 12 school in Connecticut, Gong returned to California, and is working alongside her former colleague from Choate Rosemary Hall, the Urban School’s very own Skyler Silverman.

Gong has a particular interest in the Reconstruction Era of American history: “It was a moment of hopefulness that I think embodies the best of what I think America could be,” she said, “even if it also was a moment of chaos and sadness where a lot of violence was going on in the South.”

Gong sees history as a way of understanding the present: “I’m always interested in seeing what were the tiny things that went wrong, and about how that can impact the kind of decision making I do now, and the kind of things I want to vote for.”
In her free time, Gong loves to watch TV. “I know that’s the least intellectual sounding answer that I can possibly give, but I really like TV,” she said. For her, TV is interesting “from a social and political stance. I’m always interested to see who is represented and how.”
Gong’s favorite type of food is “breakfast for every meal.” In terms of sweet or savory, she said, “I tend to have an enormous sweet tooth, so I’ll lean that way, but I love any form of eggs benedict or scramble[d], or breakfast sandwiches.

This breakfast lover is also a self-described homebody. “Honestly, I think people are surprised by how hermit-y I am,” she admitted. In her five years of college, she said, “I went to a total of five parties, where party is defined as something where you need help cleaning up from friends the day after.” She explained that her reclusive behavior surprises people: “I have a large personality, so it seems like maybe I might be the kind of person that socializes out, but I like to stay in.”

Dana Sadava

Dana Sadava:

A professional conductor for the past five years, Dana Sadava is the new teacher and conductor of the Urban School Chamber Orchestra. Sadava has been interested in music since she was a child, and started playing the piano at age eight.

“Honestly, I think I started because I was jealous of my friends who all played instruments,” Sadava said. It didn’t take long for her to discover her appreciation for music, and the culture that surrounds it. “I think I got hooked on the social aspect,” Sadava said, “just being able to make music with people and form friendships that way.”
When asked why she chose classical music as her professional interest, Sadava said, “I think it’s a genre that a lot of people can relate to… because it has really enduring qualities that some types of pop don’t.” However, on her own time, Sadava admitted that she does not listen to classical, she said, “if you turned on the radio, I’d be able to sing along with pretty much anything.”
Sadava’s career has not always been so music focused. “I used to be an engineer,” she said, “I started out my career working for NASA actually.” Sadava spent two years using her engineering degree, “on a study for a Mars mission that never went up.” As a child, Sadava said, “I was good at math and science… so I kind of fell into that.” However, after a few years, she decided to switch into the music industry.

“I decided that I needed to try [playing music professionally].” Sadava said. “I had to get my act together, and apply to conservatories, and do graduate work in music which was really hard coming from engineering.”

Outside the realm of music and engineering, Sadava is an exercise enthusiast with a passion for pie. “I play soccer,” she said, and she is “still playing in a rec league.” When asked about her favorite food, Sadava responded that she loves “potatoes in any form, and pies. I love pie of all kinds. I will not eat cupcakes or anything, just give me pie.”