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Fanya DeMaria

Fifth grade teacher Fanya DeMaria is a veteran educator who has dedicated 23 years to NSU University School students. A major benefit of teaching at USchool for a little more than two decades has been her ability to forge lifelong bonds with her students and continue working with them as they advance from one level to the next. She appreciates watching them evolve developmentally and witnessing how the knowledge she imparted is used in their everyday lives, paved the way for a specific career path, and attributed to their passions.

Since she can remember, DeMaria knew she was meant to pursue a passion-driven career in teaching. Her father, who served as a tremendous influence in her life and was an advocate for education, ignited her lifelong love of learning. DeMaria spent her childhood years playing school with her brother, teaching him new things and grading his work, which prepared her for her future in the education system.  

When it comes to her teaching style, DeMaria uses a variety of techniques and best practices that encourage learning in creative and impactful ways and benefit the future of her students’ lives. Having begun her career knowing the importance of meeting each learner’s needs, strengths, and interests, DeMaria implemented a differentiated method of instruction from the moment she began teaching and continues to use it today. This approach, combined with an inquiry-based method, helps her tailor and customize her lessons in a way that supports each individual student while encouraging her learners to enjoy the process of discovery in an inviting classroom atmosphere where all thoughts are accepted, respected, and used as a springboard for future investigation.

As a certified National Geographic Educator, DeMaria is a part of a network of global minded teachers who incorporate environmental education into their curriculum and teach about the world in innovative ways that empower students to become change agents. She is also a member of the National Science Teachers Association. In her free time, she enjoys running, cooking, traveling, and spending time with her nieces.

Get to know DeMaria:

What are some ways you instill a love of learning in your students?

Finding a student’s passion and making personal connections really allows students to love learning. I want students to relate what they are learning to something in their own lives.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

The connection you form with your students. The classroom becomes your home and the students your family.

How has being a teacher impacted or changed your life?

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build the youth for our future.” My life is greatly impacted simply by knowing that I have had a fundamental role in shaping the life of so many children. Beyond teaching academic skills, I am fostering a child’s physical, social-emotional, and behavioral well-being each and every day. That in itself is enough to change one’s life.

So far in your career, what do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement has definitely been writing and designing a science lab curriculum for students in junior kindergarten through fifth grade. I devoted an entire summer to taking each grade’s curriculum and designing hands-on experiments that aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. The students truly loved coming to the lab and using the scientific method to explore a problem related to what they were learning in the classroom. Three years later, I still have students I taught in junior kindergarten come up to me saying how much they enjoyed this program.

What are some words of wisdom you would share with future educators?

Having empathy and taking a genuine interest in each of your student’s lives is so much more meaningful than sharing what we know. When a student feels safe, loved, and accepted in your classroom, they can achieve anything.

Sarah Guttman

NSU University School Lifer Sarah Guttman is culminating her 14-year educational journey at USchool as the Class of 2023 valedictorian. Since she first started at USchool in junior kindergarten, Guttman has worked hard her entire Lower, Middle, and Upper School career to achieve this high honor and has excelled academically and in extracurricular involvements and service. 

Inspired by her late mother who passed away after a battle with stomach cancer, Guttman has been a proud supporter of Debbie’s Dream Foundation, an organization founded by her mother that seeks to find a cure for stomach cancer and help patients facing the disease. In the fifth grade, Guttman started a Debbie’s Dream Club at USchool and has served as president ever since helping to raise money toward stomach cancer research, spread awareness about the disease, and deliver gift baskets and handmade cards for patients.  

Guttman has served as captain of the Sharks varsity basketball team for two years and is vice president of senior community service in our National Honor Society. She is also a staff writer for the Shark Sentinel newspaper and a member of Writing Fellows, New2U, Junior Achievement, National Science Bowl, and We Finish Together. 

Growing up, Guttman’s parents helped instill a desire for her to achieve anything she set her mind to. That mindset contributed to both her motivation and achievement over the years. In addition to the title of class valedictorian, Guttman has been named a National Merit Finalist and was presented with the Johns Hopkins Book Award, Scott Weigley Athletic and Academic Excellence Scholarship, Class Scholar Athlete Award, and Basketball Leadership Award.  

With each passing year, Guttman’s interest in and passion for psychology continues to grow. Her fascination for the field stems from an AP psychology class she took her sophomore year. Guttman will be attending Duke University where she plans to major in psychology and economics.  

Get to know Guttman:  

What passions did you develop during your time at USchool?  

USchool helped cultivate my passion for psychology and reading. I enjoy being able to discuss books with and get recommendations from my English teachers Dr. Barrow and Ms. Sellers.  

What are the top three reasons you love USchool and being a part of the Shark family?  

1) The relationships with friends and teachers I have made during my time at USchool. 2) The unique educational opportunities USchool provides. 3) USchool’s culture and philosophy of making learning interactive, applicable, and enjoyable.  

What makes that USchool experience special?  

The USchool experience is special because of the amazing teachers who genuinely care about their students, are passionate about the material, and do everything in their power to help their students succeed.  

What will you miss most about being a student at USchool?  

What I will miss most is my relationships with the friends and teachers I spent almost 14 years of my life with.  

How do you feel USchool has prepared you for life after graduation?  

USchool has prepared me by teaching me critical thinking skills that will allow me to achieve my goals and succeed in college.  

For more information about NSU University School, please email

Leah Kuker

Students that have an early start at NSU University School benefit greatly from our innovative, inclusive, and personalized learning environment, which is evident with Class of 2023 salutatorian and USchool Lifer Leah Kuker. Since the age of five, Kuker has embraced the USchool experience and taken ownership of her learning. She participated in a range of enrichment programs throughout her academic journey that not only helped her discover her passion for math and science but also gain the knowledge and skills she will need as a student at the University of Miami where she will pursue her goal of becoming a pediatric dentist.   

Growing up in a culture of community service, Kuker was taught the importance of charitable giving and community responsibility at an early age. With her strengths stretching past academics into athletics and service, Kuker has been deeply engaged within our school and local community as a member of various organizations and teams. For two years, she served as president of USchool’s chapter of Art from the Heart, which is a nonprofit organization founded by her older sister that brings the love and joy of art to those who need it most in hospitals, senior homes, schools, etc. She also played for our junior varsity and varsity tennis teams, participated in our Medical Fellowship with NSU and Independent Research Study, and was a Writing Fellow.  

Filled with gratitude for the quality of education and opportunities she has been afforded, Kuker and her twin brother decided to start a nonprofit organization called BESTS (Bringing Educational Supplies to Students) to help close the educational gap and provide academic security for families that face barriers to accessing education. She connects with guidance counselors at local elementary schools to identify groups of students in financial need or overall grade-based need and delivers individualized school supply sets to them.  

Kuker has won numerous awards for her academic achievements including the Head of School Honor Roll, AP Scholar Award with Honor, National AP Scholar Award, University of Pennsylvania Book Award, and Citizen-Scholar Award. She is also a member of the Math, Spanish, Social Studies, English, and National Honor Societies.  

Get to know Kuker: 

How have you used your gifts, talents, or interests to help others? 

I have always loved school for the structure, learning, and friendships it fostered, but I was also very aware that I connected with it in these ways because I was fortunate enough to attend a school like USchool. The teaching, resources, and security that contributed to my productive learning environment were a part of a unique experience that I knew most students were not fortunate enough to encounter. 

Who has served as a source of inspiration and guidance for you over the years and how?  

My parents have largely served as a source of inspiration and guidance for me. My mom is one of the most hard-working individuals I know. Her work ethic is inspiring, but it is her commitment to my sister, brother, dad, and I that makes her my role model. She is the inspiration and force that drives me to be my best even on my busiest and toughest days. My dad is often the glue that keeps me from cracking. He is a source of never-ending laughter and wisdom when I am down. He is my number one tennis fan and hitting partner, and I can always rely on him for support.  

What are the top three reasons you love USchool and being a part of the Shark family?  

1) I love USchool’s tight-knit community, which has allowed me to build lifelong friendships and relationships. USchool’s faculty and students have become a part of my family. 2) The flexibility to combine our passions with our education. My research in the Independent Research Study allowed me to study the quantifiable and qualitative scientific and social factors that affect physical, mental, and social well-being, complementing my interests in medicine and pre-dental aspirations. 3) I love the incredible teachers in our community. They are warm and embracing in their approach, cultivating an environment for students to learn at their maximum potential.  

What makes the USchool experience special?  

USchool is a playground of opportunity, especially because of its proximity and connection to Nova Southeastern University. The lessons I learned and connections I built as a result of the KPCOM Medical Fellowship were because of USchool’s relationship with NSU. These opportunities provided me with real-world experiences I needed to inspire my future.  

USchool has also supported my love for tennis, providing me with the coaches, courts, and valuable teammates to thrive and develop friendships on and off the court.  

How do you feel USchool has prepared you for life after graduation?  

USchool has challenged me both academically and personally to be able to handle rigorous course work in combination with my extracurricular activities. Though finding a balance can be extremely overwhelming, USchool has helped me practice and develop methods to prioritize and complete my activities and workload.  

For more information about NSU University School, please email

Adrian Walters

Adrian Walters is a valued faculty member at NSU University School whose teaching style allows students to experience success and encourages student involvement. For the past seven years, Mr. Walters has been teaching pre-algebra in the Middle School, using guided visuals and step-by-step instructions to help students better understand mathematical concepts. His start at USchool dates back to 2004 when he worked as a camp counselor and Lower School teacher assistant before transitioning to his current position.

When it comes to teaching, there are many aspects of the profession Mr. Walters enjoys including working directly with students, imparting knowledge to the younger generation, and witnessing students’ “aha” moments as they master mathematical concepts. With his experience, Mr. Walters can teach anywhere, but he chose to dedicate his career to educating students at USchool for the opportunity to collaborate between divisions, strong community, and sense of belonging. Since starting out as a teacher assistant 19 years ago, Mr. Walters has built relationships with many mentors who played a big role in his journey and contributed to his success.

Not only does he serve as a mentor and positive role model in the classroom but on the field as well as the coach of USchool’s JV boys soccer team. Coaching for the last four years has been one of his greatest joys and highlights of his career thus far. Apart from teaching and coaching, Mr. Walters is passionate about playing sports, participating in church activities, and spending time with his family.

Get to know Walters:

What led you to pursue a career in teaching?

My lifelong love for kids drove me to a career in teaching, and I wanted to make a difference in the lives of our youth.

What are some ways you instill a love of learning in your students?

Making content culturally relevant helps students apply math to real-world scenarios. It also allows them to explore and dig deeper into why and how it is applicable.

So far in your career, what do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement is impacting students beyond the classroom. Some of my students have gone on to achieve great things as young adults. It is always a joy when past students come to visit me and share the impact I have had on their lives.

How has being a teacher impacted or changed your life?

It has given me tons of gray hairs and many sleepless nights, but on the flip side, it is very gratifying to know that every day I get to relish the opportunity to impact future generations, one child at a time, by being a consummate role model and inspiring them to take risks and to value discipline, approach, and good citizenship.

What moment in your time teaching at USchool stands out as the most memorable?

The most memorable moment is when I had the opportunity to participate in a few of my students’ recognition award ceremonies throughout the years. It is an honor to see the impact I have had and my contribution to their success in real time.

Sharon Smith

Upper School math teacher Sharon Smith is a long-time member of the NSU University School community. Her immersion into our community first began as the daughter of an NSU alumna and sibling of a USchool graduate. Fast forward to today, Smith has been an advocate of our programs, mission, and students as both a USchool educator for the past 35 years and parent to two Lifers, also known as students who begin their journey at USchool in Preschool and remain with the school for 13+ consecutive years.  

Over the past three decades, Smith has taught at all levels of Middle and Upper School math from pre-algebra and precalculus to algebra 2 honors. She also served as chair of the math department for 20 years. Smith’s love of math stems from her mother who was also a teacher and her biggest inspiration. Every day, she shares her passion for the subject with her students and motivates them to learn using effective teaching strategies and individualized instruction that best reaches students and helps them develop their own passion for math.  

Since starting her career at USchool, Smith has made countless memories she will cherish for years to come, but of all these moments, the most memorable is when her former students return to thank her for the profound impact she has made on their lives. When it comes to her interests outside of the classroom, Smith enjoys completing puzzles, attending concerts, walking, and most of all, spending time with family. 

Get to know Smith:

What are some ways you instill a love of learning in your students?  

I believe my passion for my subject is obvious in the classroom. Through modeling and my own love of mathematics, many of my students have also grown to love the subject. I always explain the relevance and the “why” of what the students are learning, helping them to be successful. 

What do you enjoy most about your work?  

Watching students work in the classroom when they have an “ah ha” moment and realize they understand the material. I also love when students come back to visit and say thank you. I love my colleagues for their support and encouragement. They make every day better. I have made lifelong friendships here at USchool – there's nothing like our USchool family!  

How has being a teacher impacted or changed your life?  

Teaching is a huge part of my life. It has allowed me to be aware of differences in individuals and more accepting of others’ thoughts, opinions, and actions. I have the opportunity to help students expand their minds, help them achieve their goals, and mentor incredible young minds. I have learned to be fair, open minded, patient, resilient, and appreciative.  

What do you think makes our students at USchool stand out? 

Our students are more aware and open-minded. They are recognized, accepted, and appreciated as individuals for who they are. Students are “seen” and not able to fall through the cracks. USchool students feel safe and protected. They are educated in a risk-free, flexible environment.  

What are some words of wisdom you would share with future educators?   

Be flexible, kind, firm, and fair. Breathe and be kind to yourself and always reach out for support.