The very best part of Villa di Maria is our people. Our community of families, faculty and staff is something to be proud of and something to hold onto during our school’s COVID-19 closure. In this series, We are VdM, we’ll highlight the energies, talents, humor and wisdom of some of our amazing people—and we’ll stay connected! Today, we’ll meet Andrea, Peter, Stephanie and Sarah Kunz. Stephanie has worked at VdM in Late Stay and at Camp Pegnita as a counselor, and Sarah joined VdM’s Lower Elementary in 2017. She is currently a fourth-year student in Upper Elementary.
Villa di Maria: Tell us a bit about your family.
Andrea: Pete and I grew up in Youngstown, NY, north of Niagara Falls—as far north you can go before reaching Lake Ontario. Although we grew up about a mile from each other, we met sailing together in the mid-eighties. We sailboat raced together during the summers and would go our separate ways to continue our education. We were reacquainted in 2006 and married in 2007, at the Yacht Club where we met, worked together, and grew up sailing. Both of our daughters, Stephanie (19) and Sarah (10) enjoy it and learned how to sail in Youngstown as well! Last summer was Sarah’s first year in the Jr. Sailing program and she won most improved in the July program and most improved of the entire summer! We were all very proud of her.
In 2017, the family collectively made the decision to move on from the (Columbia River) Gorge in Oregon and take a new opportunity with Boeing in St. Louis. We enjoy attending Cardinals and Blues games as a family whether the season is going well or not. It has been a while since we lived in a place where there are (good) professional sports. We try not to talk about the Bills. Overall though, we enjoy spending time together no matter what the activity is.
VdM: How did you find Montessori and what brought you to VdM?
Andrea: Our oldest daughter attended a Montessori school before we moved to Oregon. There wasn’t one when we moved there but when Sarah turned 2 ½, she was ready to go to the new Montessori school that had just opened.
I diligently researched schools when we found out we were moving to St. Louis. I immediately put Villa on the top of our list. Peter checked out the school and after meeting Laura and Robyn he was sold too! We were able to visit as a family just as the Elementary building was completed and that built the enthusiasm for Sarah. Now we are here for our 4th year and loving VdM! Sarah enjoyed her Lower Elementary years but is LOVING Upper Elementary and thrives on anything and everything math related. Everything she experiences in the classroom is directly introduced into our home, especially practical life.
VdM: What do you and your spouse do, career-wise?
Andrea: Pete has always been fascinated by flight and studied Aeronautical Engineering at Penn State, earning his Bachelor’s in 1993 and his Master’s in 1997. In between he spent a few years working in the Marine industry fixing and commissioning sailboats. Following Penn State, Pete headed to Stanford to again study Aeronautics, earning his Ph.D. in 2003. Stanford offered tons of opportunity, working on everything from an America’s Cup campaign, to Mars exploration aircraft designs, but his thesis work centered on how tiny things fly—insects and micro-drones. For his “first job” Pete stepped a bit sideways from aerospace and took a role as a defense technology development engineer for a private firm in Phoenix. He spent a little under a year in Afghanistan, living and working with U.S. Army and International Forces. In 2006, Pete joined a small company in Washington (state), building small robotic aircraft where he served as CTO. He led the aerodynamics team, designing the outside shapes of the airplanes and predicting how they would perform.
Pete is currently Vice President and Chief Technologist for two small Boeing groups, NeXt and HorizonX. These teams use active and experimental approaches to developing corporate strategy, active technology development and market research on future mobility (a.k.a. flying cars). In addition to these day jobs, Pete also serves as Boeing’s Senior Chief Engineer for Unpiloted Systems, with a primary eye on safety in design and operations.
Dancing at a young age, I knew I wanted to be involved in dance and theatre as an adult. After a knee injury in high school (and the fact that I was not going to grow taller), I knew my aspirations of being a Rockette were not in the picture. I continued with theatre and worked in the Marine industry with Peter in the mid-nineties prior to continuing my education. I graduated with a BFA in Theatre and Fine Arts from Niagara University, a private Catholic University. This experience led me to work with several regional theatres and at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Most recently I worked as an event planner, in the traditional and nonprofit sectors. I also taught theatre, dance and set design at a high school in Oregon, while homeschooling Stephanie.
Currently I am a stay at home mom and the biggest cheerleader for Sarah’s Schooling-At-Home efforts! In an effort to ease back into theatre, I hope to teach an after-school Dance and Movement Club for the primary children next school year.
VdM: What is something your family is doing to make the most of this extended break?
Andrea: Sarah has embraced the interests of both of us, my theatre and art and Pete’s math and engineering, as well as our mutual interest in cooking and baking. It makes it easy to find enriching things to do that engage our interests with hers. Spring Break brought more opportunities to play while now we are busy with School-At-Home most of our days. During Spring Break, screen time was relaxed a bit as we watched movies and musicals and played some video games as a family, Animal Crossing being the favorite! With school back in session, our efforts are focused on less screen time. We get out for some walks, but nothing can compare to playing with friends!
We have enjoyed being able to have lunch every day with Peter while we are all home. We have been cooking, baking, playing board games and card games to keep busy. Running around with our three Border Collies (Luke 15, Missy 13 and Buddy 11) has been a great way for us to get some of the pent-up energy out. Sarah has also enjoyed the process of sketching out, CAD rendering and 3D printing with Peter.
VdM: A question specifically for Sarah – If you could snap your fingers and go anywhere in the world for 24 hours, where would you go? And why?
Sarah: I would go to Oregon to visit my old friends and have a sleep over because I really miss them and we haven’t been back since moving.
Photos courtesy of the Kunz family.