A Community of Lifelong Learners

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Faculty & Staff Stories in Fine Print, the Magazine of Rowland Hall

Upper School history teacher Nate Kogan in his classroom.

Each year at division commencement ceremonies, Rowland Hall proudly honors faculty who have demonstrated exceptional teaching and mentoring.

Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award 2020

The Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award is presented to one faculty member at Rowland Hall each year who demonstrates excellence in teaching, serves as a mentor to others, and contributes to the Rowland Hall community. This award was established through an anonymous gift to the school in honor of Mr. Jones' dedication to the faculty when he was the chair of the Board of Trustees.

Kate Taylor with a student.

Upper School English teacher Dr. Kate Taylor cares—about her students, her peers, and her community. Kate has been called a quiet encourager, who is aware of all of her students and who shows a specific sensitivity to those who feel they are on the margins. She is devoted to representing a variety of voices in her curriculum, helping students see themselves and learn about diverse perspectives through texts; she also gives students opportunities to better understand the lived experiences of characters, as well as to connect with the Salt Lake community, through service and engagement. Kate has further served Rowland Hall as faculty advisor to the Gay-Straight Alliance, and she led the faculty and staff Inclusion and Equity Committee, spearheading school-wide initiatives like the highly successful Dinner and Dialogue series and advocating for curriculum review schoolwide. After stepping down as co-chair of the committee, this year Kate took on the role of mentor to the new Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) student group, helping them develop curriculum for their peers. One of her colleagues summed up Kate’s work by writing, “Kate's passion for a more just and inclusive world inspires me daily.” 

For her dedication to making our school a more just, inclusive, and thoughtful community, Rowland Hall proudly honors Kate Taylor with the Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award.

Sumner Family Faculty Awards

The Sumner Family Faculty Award is given each year to an outstanding faculty member in each division who has demonstrated a love for teaching and excellence in their field. The award symbolizes the Sumner family's high regard for Rowland Hall's faculty and unparalleled commitment to the school for three generations. Congratulations to the following 2019–2020 recipients.

Beginning School: Mary Swaminathan, 3PreK assistant teacher

Mary Swaminathan in her classroom.

Mary is a deeply kind and caring human who loves, respects, and enjoys young children. She works hard to know each student and their family, and she has a particular talent for connecting with the quietest learners. She is also a wonderful teammate, sharing all classroom work with her teaching partner and lending an extra helping hand to her colleagues. But it is perhaps Mary’s authenticity, sincerity, and willingness to be vulnerable that is most remarkable about her. She helps the Beginning School team stay connected with the magnitude of their work with very young children. This spring she sent a thank-you note to a student that included eight short sentences describing the child. The parent wrote to the school, “I cannot express to you how meaningful this gesture is to our family. For her to take the time to reflect on my son’s positive qualities and to know him so well is such a gift to his development and self-worth as a child.”

Lower School: Kathryn Czarnecki, art teacher

Kathryn Czarnecki with students.

Kathryn is a creative, compassionate, and supportive teacher who welcomes students into a happy, inclusive, and lively classroom where they are free to explore, innovate, and make mistakes. She has a natural enthusiasm with children, respecting and honoring each of them as learners, and does an excellent job keeping them excited and engaged—for example, by playing music (typically in line with the themes covered in class) to inspire creativity. Students love spending time with her so much that they frequently ask if they can have lunch in her classroom. Kathryn is also a wonderful colleague and teammate. She collaborates well with grade-level teachers and is always open to their ideas, helps to provide a cordial and collegial team relationship, and is a great listener. Anyone who has taught with her will tell you that she is fun, patient, creative, and extremely humble.

Middle School: Tyler Tanner, Mandarin Chinese and publications teacher

Tyler Tanner in his classroom.

Tyler is a respected teacher within the Middle School community, where he has taught a multitude of classes, including this year’s entrepreneurship class, the first of its kind in the division. Modeling continued professional learning and growth, Tyler started the year by flipping his classroom in a way that allowed students to become more self-directed in their learning. (Who knew this would be so beneficial with the closure of campus?) Tyler also stepped up this year to coach sixth-grade basketball, and even managed to complete the yearbook from afar—while still capturing the essence of school life. Tyler loves to share his passions and skill set with students, and he is not one to shy away from a challenge. He believes strongly that success comes from hard work, a value he looks to instill in his students.

Upper School: Dr. Nate Kogan ’00, history teacher and History Department chair

Nate Kogan in his classroom.

Nate has willingly and gracefully served Rowland Hall in countless ways. In the past two years alone, he’s served as department chair, Self-Study Committee chair, Hiring Committee lead, new faculty mentor, jazz band member, and US History teacher. Nate is a model of lifelong learning. The pursuit of his PhD while teaching is a distinguishing example, but his constant pursuit of knowledge is noticeable every day. He's genuinely curious about students’ research questions and quick to adopt new technology (a skill that’s been a boon during distance learning). Nate is a natural leader, stepping into the role of department chair as if he had been doing it for years and immediately advocating for colleagues and looking for ways to elevate their strengths. One said of him, “Nate supports his colleagues the way he supports his students; offering clear guidance while also respecting one's autonomy.” Another said, “I can't underestimate how much I've benefited from his support, guidance, and motivation this year.”


Collage of teachers with books.

Have you read anything good lately?

Publicly sharing titles we love leads to discussion and learning. After all, the kinds of books we choose often tell a little something about our past, present, interests, values, and perhaps even the way we see and experience the world.—Chelsea Vasquez, seventh grade English teacher

Those looking for book recommendations may find themselves combing social media for positive answers to that question. By searching #shelfie or #buildyourstack, users can find a trove of images celebrating the written word: color-coded shelves, beaming readers holding up their favorite novels, children sprawled on furniture lost in picture books. For Rowland Hall students, inspiration can also be found by wandering the halls of the Lincoln Street Campus.

This year, a new bulletin board in the Middle School is acting as a paper-and-ink version of digital shelfies and stacks, displaying photos of the books, magazines, and newspapers faculty are currently reading. At first glance, the board may simply seem like a place to browse for titles, but it offers the larger benefit of promoting a culture of reading by sparking conversations.

“The idea isn't necessarily for kids to read the same texts as us, but to show them that all of us are readers and we're open to discussions about the texts we engage with,” explained seventh grade English teacher Chelsea Vasquez, who created the board. “Publicly sharing titles we love leads to discussion and learning. After all, the kinds of books we choose often tell a little something about our past, present, interests, values, and perhaps even the way we see and experience the world.”

The Middle School shelfie board.

The shelfie bulletin board is displayed to the left of the elevator in the Middle School commons.

Upper School English teacher Kate Taylor agrees. In 2017, Kate created “What I’m Reading” signs for faculty and staff to post on doors to model their love of reading. Like the Middle School bulletin board, these signs act as recommendations, but they also convey an important message: that Rowland Hall is a community of diverse readers. By sharing what they enjoy reading for pleasure—even those titles that may not be deemed “serious”—teachers underscore that all reading is beneficial. Furthermore, Kate said, a diet of light and challenging materials is essential to creating strong readers.

By modeling their love of reading, faculty convey an important message: that Rowland Hall is a community of diverse readers.

“I view reading as both a habit and a skill,” she said. “Both are formed and strengthened through repetition. In reading, like weight lifting, challenging reps develop strength while lighter reps develop endurance. Both have benefits. If we want students to be strong readers, they should definitely read texts that push their understanding and vocabulary, but they should also read lighter, more enjoyable works that simply get them reading to improve their endurance.”

See Our Shelfies & Share Yours

Join the conversation! Share a photo of your book recommendations on social media and tag your posts with #RHshelfies. Rowland Hall’s shelfie projects exemplify how educators find creative ways to develop lifelong readers, and we hope these projects inspire ripples through our larger community of diverse readers.


students interviewing man sitting on bench

Earlier this school year, sophomores hit iconic Salt Lake City spots to ask friendly strangers how migration has shaped their families’ stories. English teacher Dr. Kate Taylor masterminded the activity for sophomores' annual Beyond the Classroom day, in connection with their reading of Exit West

Before they took to the streets, students received a crash course from an expert folklorist, Thomas Richardson, on how to be an ethnographer and conduct interviews. Then during interviews, sophomores asked these questions:

Immigration heavily affected our way of life because we were the first peoples here.—Darren Parry, Chairman of the Shoshone Nation. See his interview in the top-left square.

  1. What story about your own or your family’s migration or travel can you share?
  2. Tell me about how migration or travel has shaped your story or your family’s story.
  3. Our class is reading a book called Exit West by Mohsin Hamid who said, “We are all migrants. All of us. We move through time and space.” How does that quote relate or not relate to your experience?

Students had a simple goal, Dr. Taylor said: listen and bear witness to the many different experiences of people in our city. 

View an exhibit of subjects’ photos and quotes just outside the Upper School library. A selection of students’ work is below.

Directions: On a desktop, hover over the audio icons to see pull quotes and hear interview audio. On a mobile device, press the audio icons.   

Student Reactions to the Assignment

Lightly edited for style and context.

It was interesting to hear about what people sacrificed and went through to get to the U.S. It makes you better appreciate your country. —Sophomore Cole McCartney

Beyond the Classroom made me realize how diverse Salt Lake City is. I was able to hear about many people’s experiences with migration or travel. I met people from Mexico, El Salvador, and other countries, and they all had very compelling stories. It was interesting to hear about what people sacrificed and went through to get to the U.S. It makes you better appreciate your country. I also found it interesting to hear different opinions on migration; there were some who were strongly for it while others didn't seem to care...I would never have talked to random people about this if it weren't for this project.
—Cole McCartney

It definitely showed me that people are always on the move, and how some don’t have to travel far to experience different things. It gave me more respect for people who do migrate often, or migrate to different countries or places that are vastly different from where they started. I feel more empathetic towards people who are migrating from oppressive countries and are struggling to find a place in this world. Even making the move from Jackson Hole to Salt Lake was difficult and took time, so these people are fighters and deserve happiness in their lives.
—Mary Clancy

At the beginning of the day, I thought it would be really scary because I would be talking with random people I didn't know, something I’ve rarely been comfortable with...I met a woman named Rosa María and asked if I could interview her. She replied, "I don't speak English, only Spanish; I'm on a trip," and I knew it would be a good opportunity to see how immigration had affected people who weren't living in the United States. I conducted the whole interview in Spanish and we laughed and had a good time...Being an immigrant myself, I thought everyone was affected in some way by immigration, but as I interviewed her I knew immigration wasn't all there was. She primarily talked about cross-cultural integration. I knew this was true but it didn't hit me until then: immigration is a big topic all around the world, but you don’t often hear in the media about how it opens people’s minds up to new ideas.
—Mena Zendejas-Portugal

Beyond the Classroom

Interactive Graphic: Freshmen and Sophomores Tell Their 150-Word Origin Stories

On a desktop, hover over a portrait to read the corresponding story. On a mobile device, tap to read, or view on ThingLink for best results.

Freshmen and sophomores contributed to the story of Rowland Hall's 150th anniversary in an especially personal way—by sharing their own 150-word origin stories, ranging from the literal to the metaphorical, the stirring to the stoic, and the lighthearted to the solemn.

Each of us makes up part of our school community, the English assignment reads, and our stories are what make the school a community.

Having students write about themselves, their values, and their experiences helps them feel more part of a community, more invested in their learning, and more resilient in the face of big challenges.—English teacher Kate Taylor

"Having students write about themselves, their values, and their experiences helps them feel more part of a community, more invested in their learning, and more resilient in the face of big challenges," explained tenth-grade English teacher Dr. Kate Taylor, also a co-chair of the Inclusion and Equity Committee. "When we invite our students' stories into the classroom, we give them more permission to bring their full selves to class."

And from a technical point of view, the assignment helped students practice for their eventual college-application essays: they had to view language economically—writing concisely without sacrificing detail—and seek creative ways to reshape their prose to meet the word count, Kate said.

After Kate pitched the assignment to poet and ninth-grade English teacher Joel Long, Joel contributed questions from writers he'd worked with. Together, the teachers honed the description to elicit the kind of vivid detail they sought from their young writers.

Kate loved the results. "I learned a lot about how my students view themselves, their place in their family, their words and their silence, and their various passions," she said. "I feel like I know them better now."

150-Word Origin Stories Assignment

Our school is 150 years old this year. Each of us makes up part of our school community, and our stories are what make the school a community. This assignment asks you to tell a short story of your origin to help celebrate our school's sesquicentennial anniversary.

Assignment: Write an origin story for yourself. It must be exactly 150 words long and should be in a consistent tense. With this limited space, you will need to think of something to describe that is emblematic of that origin. Use concrete detail to create impressionistic images of your life, family, culture, and experience. Imagine yourself creating a microcosm of the story you want to tell about your origin.

Some questions to get you started (choose one or two, you won't be able to answer all of them in 150 words).

Questions from Melanie Rae Thon inspired in part by Anna Deavere Smith:

  1. What were the circumstances of your birth? (Even if you don't "remember," you may know many things about this time!)
  2. Are you different from other people in some way: clumsy or agile, sensitive to sound or light, susceptible to anxiety or depression, often sick, unusually strong?
  3. Have you been labeled by parents or teachers or siblings or doctors?
  4. Does the label help you rise to your most inspiring vision of yourself, or trap you in someone else's assessment?
  5. Have you ever been surprised by your own strength or courage, or dismayed by your own failure to act with conviction?

Questions of Bhanu Kapil:

  1. Who are you and whom do you love?
  2. Where did you come from / how did you arrive?
  3. How will you begin?
  4. How will you live now?
  5. What is the shape of your body?
  6. Who was responsible for the suffering of your mother?
  7. What do you remember about the earth?
  8. What are the consequences of silence?
  9. Describe a morning you woke without fear.

student voices

Embracing Curiosity and Discomfort on the Path to Cultural Competence

In 2011, Rowland Hall's Board of Trustees approved a diversity mission that affirmed the school's commitment to building cultural awareness, cultivating an inclusive environment, and appreciating how our differences create a stronger community.

The school's Inclusion and Equity Committee—first created in 2008, and strengthened with the board mandate in 2011—has been hard at work implementing an action plan to bring the values of this diversity mission to the forefront. According to Upper School English teacher Kate Taylor, who co-chairs the committee with Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus, a significant long-term goal is "to provide more consistent and across-the-board training opportunities in inclusion and equity topics for our faculty and staff."

Enter Rosetta Lee, a Seattle-based educator, diversity consultant, and nationally recognized speaker on issues of inclusion and equity in schools. Rosetta visited Rowland Hall August 16–17 as the Julie Ashton Barrett Teaching and Learning Fellow, an endowed award which funds an annual visit from a master teacher or learning consultant. For two days, Rosetta led workshops for faculty and staff on issues of cultural competence, identity development, and inclusive classroom practices. With a mixture of humor, compassion, and conviction, she brought home the message that developing cultural competence is an educational imperative for the 21st century.

What does it mean to have cultural competence? Rosetta shared the definition written by subject expert and long-time researcher Terry Cross: "Cultural competence is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, institution, or individual, and enable that system, institution, or individual to work effectively in cross-cultural situations." Rosetta advocated that teachers demonstrate cultural competence by embracing anti-bias frameworks in their curriculum and ensuring that physical learning spaces reflect the needs and identities of all students. She stressed the difference between equality and equity: equitable treatment eliminates "barriers that prevent the full participation of all peoples," she said. While giving every adult in the room a shirt to wear might demonstrate equality, giving everyone a shirt that fits is an example of equity.

Rosetta advocated that teachers demonstrate cultural competence by embracing anti-bias frameworks in their curriculum and ensuring that physical learning spaces reflect the needs and identities of all students.

All faculty and staff attended a Wednesday session on cultural competence, and on Thursday, faculty separated into morning and afternoon groups in order for Rosetta to provide age-appropriate material to teachers in specific divisions. Lower School and Beginning School teachers learned about supporting positive identity development in our youngest students. This includes allowing curiosity-based questions, and answering those questions in a way that offers gentle guidance while expanding a child's definition of what is possible in the world. Rosetta spoke to Middle School and Upper School educators about the distinctions between feeling safe and comfortable: while the former is critical for everyone in a school environment, there is room for discomfort when dealing with sensitive topics related to identity and culture.

During one workshop, Rosetta told teachers "we need to create a loving, accepting—safe and wonderful and welcoming—environment for children, and also prepare them to engage with folks who are not as intentional about creating this type of environment." She spoke of teaching and practicing curiosity, something Ryan Hoglund, director of ethical education, affirmed. "I want students to develop a cross-cultural sense of curiosity and empathy, a disposition where judgment is not their first response to each other," he said.

Along with offering strategies for inclusive classroom practices and recommending online resources, Rosetta answered an array of faculty and staff questions, including how best to represent student diversity in school publications, and how to partner with parents on their children's identity-development journeys.

We need to create a loving, accepting—safe and wonderful and welcoming—environment for children, and also prepare them to engage with folks who are not as intentional about creating this type of environment. —Rosetta Lee

Rosetta's advice resonated with teachers and administrators, and in the weeks that followed her visit, many spoke of heightened awareness regarding the language they use and how it impacts students. Lower School physical education (PE) teacher Anna Ernst and her colleagues implemented Rosetta's "Bug and a Wish" framework for conflict resolution in their classes. Anna refreshed a peace corner where students air out their feelings: now, instead of simply complaining in the corner, students use props and phrase their discussions as, "It bugs me when you..." and, "I wish you would..." Anna believes this seemingly minor adjustment requires students to be more thoughtful and open. She also encourages them to extend their palms while speaking to each other, a body language that invites collaboration and empathy.

Rowland Hall's work to increase cultural competence is right in line—if not slightly ahead of—national trends. A recent Independent School magazine article on the importance of hiring for cultural competence echoes Rosetta and similarly describes the subject as an imperative for our modern, multicultural society.

Ryan and Kate see Rosetta Lee's teachings as part of an ongoing goal that we might never fully achieve, but can continuously strive for. Ryan added that he hopes increasing cultural competence in adults will create an environment where, for students, a "good day" at school doesn't just mean nothing bad happened. Rather, it means students "saw themselves positively represented in the curriculum and in the community."

Ethical Education

English Teacher Kate Taylor Joins Rowland Hall's Roster of Published Faculty

Rowland Hall Upper School teacher Kate Taylor turns her sophomore English students into Shakespearean character actors. As Kate’s students read Othello, they choose a character to analyze, research, write about, and ultimately portray in front of their classmates.

For students, this outside-the-box assignment results in a revolutionized way of approaching research.

“I have always looked at research as something I use when I need a summary of something,” one student wrote in a reflection assignment about the project. “Now I see it as an analytical tool that I can use to help me form a new perspective on something.”

In November 2015, the award-winning English Journal published Dr. Taylor’s article "Putting Research Center Stage: Performance-Driven Student Inquiry." In the following Q&A with Fine Print, Kate discusses what inspired her to write the article and the process of getting published. She joins 10 other published authors from Rowland Hall’s current faculty: Homa Firouz, Cindy Hall, Fiona Deans Halloran, Laura Johnson, Nate Kogan, Joel Long, Mike Roberts, Kate Samson, Wendell Thomas, and Robert Wilson.

This Q&A has been lightly edited for context.

What's the gist of your article?

Here's the official abstract: This article examines how to use performance-­related resources to teach research skills. In particular, it focuses on Shakespeare's Othello and argues that linking research and performance helps students put their ideas in conversation with published sources. This helps students articulate research­-based arguments about a text.

An even further simplified summary: True research involves making arguments in response to other people's claims and interpretations of a text or historical event. Some students feel more confident responding to visual interpretations than a specialized literary analysis of a text. So basing their research in performances rather than only scholarly articles allows them to practice the research skill of putting different voices in conversation with their own. They’re not limited to reading specialized literary criticism that may be too difficult for high school sophomores.

Where did the idea for this article come from? What role, if any, did Rowland Hall play in inspiring you to write the article?

The article evolved directly from my teaching at Rowland Hall. From my conversations with Upper School English teachers Kody Partridge and Carolyn Hickman, I knew students needed more practice with research skills, particularly the synthesis aspect of research. I knew my sophomores needed experience summarizing and responding to other people's arguments so they could be more successful with later research projects. So I decided to take advantage of the many accessible interpretations offered by theatrical performances of Shakespeare's plays by basing their research in performances rather than scholarship.

Describe the process of researching, writing, editing, and finally publishing the article. How long did it all take? How did it feel when it was finally done and you could flip through a copy and see your article in print?

I knew that I had created an unusual and challenging research assignment for my students, so I thought about writing an article on this assignment for several years. But when I saw a call for papers (CFP) from the English Journal on new modes of research, I recognized an opportunity. After seeing the CFP on a Monday, I thought about the idea for several days and then went home on a Friday and basically sat on the couch with my computer researching and writing my first draft for most of that night and the rest of the weekend. I felt possessed by the writing, to the point that my wife, Molly Richardson, became a little frustrated with me because I wouldn't talk to her about anything except the article. She finally just left me to write until I felt like I had finished a draft. Completing the draft felt great. It had been many years since, in graduate school, I'd worked on a longer writing project of my own. Though this was a different kind of essay than those I had written as a graduate student, it still felt great to put to the test the drafting and revision process that I teach my students every year. My first draft of the article was truly a rough draft, like the ones I teach my students to create—ideas on paper with some sense of structure but not a lot of polish. Molly, my mother, a friend from graduate school who specializes in Shakespeare, and Carolyn Hickman were some the first people I asked for feedback. They, and others, helped me focus and polish the draft over the course of the next three months. After many revisions, I submitted it, and it was accepted. When it finally came out in print, I felt a bit conflicted. Seeing the article in print excited me, but I felt sad that Molly couldn't see it with me since she had been there to see me struggle through the drafting of it. I knew she would have been so proud. [Editor’s note: Molly passed away in May 2015. Her memorial page is available here.]

Do you hope to publish again sometime soon? If so, any idea what your topic may be?

I'd love to publish again. Writing feels very rewarding, especially with a compelling topic that I feel passionate about. Upper School history teacher Nate Kogan and I have talked about writing an article on our interdisciplinary Symposium research project for sophomores. Who knows? Now that he's done with his dissertation, we may have time to collaborate on an article about that assignment.

What do you like best about teaching at Rowland Hall?

My favorite thing about teaching at Rowland Hall is the sense of community. But just after that is the freedom to develop my own curriculum and projects in response to my students' and colleagues' needs. Having the professional independence and respect to experiment with new teaching methods and strategies makes this job fun. And knowing my colleagues and students well enough to be responsible for making these experiments worthwhile makes the whole process challenging and rewarding.


You Belong at Rowland Hall