A Community of Lifelong Learners

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

Livia Anderson sitting in front of her mural.

After three years of intermittent painting, junior Livia Anderson in August applied the last strokes on a vibrant mural dominating one wall of eighth-grade American Studies teacher Bill Tatomer’s classroom.

Livia—who received help from assistant artist and twin sister Leonie—started the mural the summer before eighth grade at the request of Mr. Tatomer. Now, her “client” couldn’t be happier with the final product: “I’m so fortunate to have this student-centric, curriculum-specific masterpiece in my classroom,” Mr. Tatomer said. “I’ll treasure it, and my students will get to appreciate it for years and years to come.”

Livia's mural features a famous World War II scene, plus imagery inspired by the westward expansion of the US.

In the following Q&A—lightly edited for length and context—Livia discusses how she made the mural, her productive struggle during the the three-year undertaking, how she persevered, and what she learned.

Why did you volunteer to paint this mural?

Most of the time I use small canvases, so completing an artwork of such magnitude was foreign to me. It was a great opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and experiment with new methods and mediums.

Is this your first mural-painting experience? What was that like? Will you do it again?

This was my first time painting a mural. It was exciting because I experimented with different tools, such as airbrushes, sponges, paint rollers, etc. If I’m ever given the opportunity to paint another mural, I’ll wholeheartedly accept. I’ll say, however, that I was unprepared when it came to time management, so that made it difficult to complete quickly.

It took me far longer than I expected, but I’m glad I completed it...If I’m ever given the opportunity to paint another mural, I’ll wholeheartedly accept. —Junior Livia Andersen, mural artist

How long did it take? Explain the process and timeline.

I began painting the mural in summer 2015, before I started eighth grade, and completed it this summer—so it took about three years. I finished most of the sketching and background painting during the first summer, but the details took me longer. I mostly worked on it when school was out for summer, which allowed for hours of uninterrupted work at a time.

How do you feel about the final product?

I’m quite proud of the mural, to say the least. It took me far longer than I expected, but I’m glad I completed it.

Explain the imagery you used. What inspired you?

I knew Mr. Tatomer wanted me to depict the American flag, but I challenged myself when it came to the other elements. I decided to pay tribute to Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, the famous 1945 photo by Joe Rosenthal. I also included elements of the westward expansion, such as bison and a steam engine, and “We the People” as a nod to the foundation of America.

You've taken several art electives with teacher Rob Mellor. How did your knowledge and skills influence this mural, if at all?

I used quite a bit of the skills I’ve learned. The two main principles I had to take into consideration were perspective and proportion, and I used my knowledge from art classes to do so.

What did you get out of the experience?

Throughout the creation of this mural, I learned so much and improved my artistic skills. I used new tools and mediums and depicted things I don’t work with often, such as the human form and geometric objects.

Visual Arts

Aviation Curriculum and Culture Takes Off Under Direction of Retired Navy Pilot

Pilots have the greatest office in the world. It's one of the simple-yet-effective pitches from Middle School teacher Bill Tatomer to pique interest in aviation.

At Rowland Hall, interests are piqued. Middle schoolers pack Bill's aviation electives. Upper schoolers recently started a lively Aviation Club. One recent alumnus—Davis Kahler '17—is studying at Westminster College to become a pilot, and some current students want to follow suit.

Bill's matter-of-fact passion for aviation helps to sell the subject. Beyond the incredible view from the "office," flying is just fun, the retired US Navy pilot said. "You're flying different profiles with different people, seeing different places," he said. "The dynamic environment made for a wonderful profession." Even his old uniform, a green flight suit, still brings him joy. "I miss wearing this pretty much every day because it's so darn comfortable," he said on Halloween, clad in the coveralls as an easily accessible costume.

Bill flew planes in the Navy for 22 years before retiring in 2007. Like so many former military pilots, he planned to become a commercial airline pilot. But he sought to reverse his career trend of spending about 40% of his time away from his two daughters and wife Linda, now the Lower School specialty principal. After Bill's final military tour in Hawaii, the family returned to Bill and Linda's former home of Salt Lake City. Bill landed a coaching job at Rowland Hall while he waited to interview with the airlines. Then, former Middle School Principal Stephen Bennhoff offered him a long-term maternity substitute position for seventh-grade world studies teacher Margot Miller. "I got into the class setting with the kids, and just fell in love," he said. He subsequently canceled scheduled interviews with Southwest and FedEx, and now celebrates 10 years in our classrooms.

Within two years of his Rowland Hall tenure, Bill convinced Stephen to let him teach a six-week aviation elective. From there, the curriculum grew: he now teaches three six-week intro classes, a six-week flight design class, and a trimester advanced flight class.

The intro class covers topics such as professions in aviation, aerodynamics, and Bernoulli's principle. In flight design, students learn about the aircraft engineering process and design one of their own prototype airplanes, guided by constraints such as size, materials, and flight distance. In the advanced course—an abbreviated Federal Aviation Administration ground-school class—students learn pilotage using simulators, and as a capstone activity actually pilot a real flight with instructors from Westminster College, Bill's alma mater.

Bill Tatomer with students and planes

During a field trip to the Westminster College Flight Center, located in the southeast corner of the Salt Lake City International Airport, Bill Tatomer fist-bumps a Middle School aviation student after she correctly answered a question.

As classes expanded, so did corresponding equipment in Bill's classroom: he now has four flight simulators thanks to ongoing tech help from Lincoln Street Campus Network Manager Nick Banyard, and general program support from current Principal Tyler Fonarow. When practicing on the so-called "sims," students reference flight checklists straight from the Westminster program. Bill serves as air traffic controller. Sims are linked so students can see each other taxiing out, flying on their assigned mission profile, and following the aircraft landing pattern. A deer might show up on the runway, and birds might hit the plane mid-flight. "The realism is incredible," Bill said.

The aviation curriculum aligns with our commitment to experiential education, and with our Strategic Plan goal of providing the region's most outstanding math and science program.

The aviation curriculum aligns with our commitment to experiential education, and with our Strategic Plan goal of providing the region's most outstanding math and science program. "From metereology to aerodynamics to flight physiology, there are so many STEM applications," Bill said. "Every class is STEM-based."

Junior Ned Friedman, president of the Aviation Club and an aspiring Air Force pilot, agreed. For the past couple of years, he's attended summer camp to fly gliders and has learned, for example, about aircraft engineering and how weather—especially wind—affects the physics of flight. Ned didn't attend Rowland Hall's Middle School, but commended Bill for his infectious love of the subject, and for serving as faculty liaison for the Aviation Club and connecting that group with Westminster's myriad aviation resources.

Sophomore Sophie DuBois, club vice president, loved taking Bill's beginning and advanced aviation classes, and especially loved flying from Salt Lake to Heber in the latter class. Now, she said unequivocally, "I want to be a pilot."

"That's why Rowland Hall is so great," she said. "We can have experiences like this that not a lot of other schools, at least locally, are able to offer," Sophie said. Bill, she added, was her favorite eighth-grade teacher. He's inclusive and tries to get everyone interested in what he's teaching. The Utah Air Force Association agrees: in May, they named him Chapter 236 (Southern Utah) Secondary Teacher of the Year.

That's why Rowland Hall is so great. We can have experiences like this that not a lot of other schools are able to offer.—Sophie DuBois, sophomore

In addition to dovetailing with our Strategic Plan, the rise of aviation at Rowland Hall coincides with a national pilot shortage. To curtail that shortage, the industry could encourage more women to join the field, since they comprise just 5% of pilots. Westminster is doing a bit better: there, the percentage of women in the aviation program is about thrice that, according to Aviation Admissions Counselor Stacie Whitford, one of Bill's main Westminster liaisons. The retired Navy commander is doing his part to close the gender gap—Sophie said he recruited plenty of girls for her Middle School classes. The teacher hopes to continue building on our school's partnership with Westminster, and sending them aviation students, especially young women.

Upper schoolers who want to advance in their aviation studies can do so through a Westminster course for high schoolers that runs January through April, and through a new Rowland Hall Interim trip that condenses Westminster's aviation summer camp into five days. Plus, the roughly 15-member Aviation Club meets 9:20 am Tuesdays in Bill's room, MS 203. In addition to educational trips after school or on weekends, the group is diving into community service. Through December 8, they're collecting donated toys, school supplies, clothes, and more for Angel Flight West's Utah Santa Flight, which will bring the items to students at a title 1 school in Roosevelt, Utah.

Experiential Learning

Faculty Honorees at 2016 Graduation Ceremonies

Congratulations to the following teachers who received awards this June for outstanding service to their profession and to the school.

The Sumner Family Faculty Awards are given each year to outstanding faculty members in each division who have demonstrated a love for teaching and excellence in their field. It is an award given by a family who has shown an unparalleled commitment to the school for three generations. The award symbolizes the Sumner family's high regard for the faculty.

Congratulations to the 2015–2016 recipients of the Sumner Family Faculty Awards:
Beginning School: Katie Williams
Lower School: Erika McCarthy
Middle School: Bill Tatomer
Upper School: Rob Mellor

The Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award was established through an anonymous gift to the school in honor of Mr. Jones' dedication to the faculty when he was a trustee and chair of the board. This year Rowland Hall proudly honors Kody Partridge, Upper School English teacher, for demonstrating excellence in the classroom and service to the entire Rowland Hall community with the Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award.

People

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