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Upper School: Grades 9–12
Welcome to Rowland Hall's independent private high school, where we encourage students to choose their challenges and become their best selves.
I am honored to be a member of Rowland Hall’s administrative team, as well as a parent of two students. You will discover here, as I have, a supportive community that balances academic excellence with whole-child development and a commitment to inclusion, sustainability, and civic engagement.
Rowland Hall’s outstanding faculty engages students in myriad authentic learning experiences every day. There are many opportunities for individual growth, in-depth study, and learning beyond the classroom through our rigorous, college preparatory curriculum, dynamic electives, and extensive co-curricular offerings. I look forward to working with you and your student to chart an engaging course and a challenging process of personal development, enrichment, and achievement. I invite you to join us today.
In early December, Rowland Hall junior Cedi Hinton received an exciting notification in her email inbox: she had been named first trumpet in the Utah All-State Band.
“I was really shocked,” she said.
Shocked, because 2020 was the third year that Cedi had auditioned for the All-State Band, a group made up of top high school musicians from across Utah. After not making the cut in 2018 and 2019, Cedi said, she almost didn’t audition again.
“I auditioned the past two years,” she explained, “and I was always planning to audition, but I just got really busy with school and said, ‘I’m not going to stress myself out more with having to record another thing.’”
So she let the deadline pass her by.
Not long after, however, she learned that the Utah Music Educators Association (UMEA), which manages the All-State Band as well as other all-state groups, had extended the deadline. This convinced her to rethink her plan.
Cedi's recording not only secured her a place in the band, but also earned her the honor of trumpet first chair—an endorsement of both her musical skill and leadership abilities.
“So I submitted a recording,” she said.
That recording, which Cedi submitted on her 17th birthday, not only secured her a place in the band, but also earned her the honor of trumpet first chair—an endorsement of both her musical skill and leadership abilities (first chairs are recognized as the best in their instrument groups and often act as section leaders). Dr. Bret Jackson, Rowland Hall’s jazz and pop band director, wasn’t surprised when he learned of this impressive accolade.
“Those who have heard Cedi performing with the Rowland Hall jazz band know what a brilliant trumpeter she is,” said Bret, who noted that the last year one of his Rowland Hall students made All-State Band was 2014. “This honor says a lot about how hard she's worked to become a well-rounded trumpeter that is comfortable performing in a variety of musical genres and mediums.”
Cedi’s journey to well-rounded trumpeter began in elementary school, when she decided to take on a new instrument after playing the piano for several years. She decided to try the trumpet, she said, because “I thought it looked kind of cool.” And though she has also enjoyed checking out other instruments over the years—such as the bass, drums, and guitar—the trumpet is the instrument that’s stuck. By sixth grade, Cedi was taking private lessons with instructor Seretta Hart, whom she still works with today. She’s also embraced opportunities to hone her skills in music groups at Rowland Hall and through Salt Lake’s Wasatch Music Coaching Academy.
In the Utah All-State Band, Cedi’s talent was further developed by professional musicians: the group, which gathered virtually in January 2021, was instructed by Loras Schissel, music director and conductor of the Virginia Grand Military Band and the Cleveland Orchestra Blossom Festival Band, and mentored by members of the Utah Symphony in an online masterclass. While Cedi acknowledged that the virtual format made some aspects of the All-State Band experience tricky, she still recognizes and appreciates the benefits of it. In particular, she said, she enjoyed how the band’s performance of John Barnes Chance’s “Incantation and Dance” pulled her out of her comfort zone—as someone who loves and prefers to play jazz music, she said, studying this song helped her better appreciate classical music.
“I really enjoyed the song and expanding what I love to play,” Cedi said, “so maybe I’ll work on more songs like this and enjoy classical music more—and that’s kind of exciting.”
Cedi plans to try out for All-State Band one more time this fall, when she’s a senior. She admitted that, even though she’s made the band once already, the thought of auditioning for it one last time still makes her nervous.
I definitely want to keep playing, and meet people who also play, and join bands and groups.—Cedi Hinton
“That really intimidates me, but I kind of have to now—and I really want to,” she said.
It’s clear that Cedi is using this experience—including the lessons she learned before making All-State Band—to help guide her journey as a musician. It serves a reminder of her talent, as well as her resilience when things haven’t quite gone as planned. It’s also shown her that, whatever opportunities come her way, she’s driven by a passion for playing and the magic of collaboration.
“I definitely want to keep playing, and meet people who also play, and join bands and groups,” she said with a smile.
Congratulations, Cedi! We are so proud of you.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s All-State Band concert will be presented online. We will share the video with the Rowland Hall community once it is released..
Alum Anna Shott ’16 sent the following email to middle and upper school computer science (CS) teacher Ben Smith ’89 on December 3, 2020. Anna graciously agreed to let us republish it here. We last interviewed Anna in 2016 when she was a senior taking her first CS class with Ben and enjoying the collaborative, problem-solving aspects of the field, which often gets falsely stereotyped as an antisocial and rote career choice. Ben has worked hard over nearly a decade to show his students—especially young women, who are underrepresented in the field—the reality: that programmers typically work together in teams to solve real-world problems and ultimately help people. This year, Ben is even weaving in social justice as a theme, using the Algorithmic Justice League as one of his teaching resources. We're grateful for Ben's dedication to CS education and can't wait to see what he and his former students like Anna do in the future. If you're an alum with a story about how a Rowland Hall teacher helped to inspire your career choice, let us know.
Dear Mr. Smith,
Hope you are doing well and enjoying a nice holiday season! I am reaching out with an update and to say thank you.
After graduating from Rowland Hall in 2016 I took a gap year where I worked at my family's company and traveled. In 2017 I enrolled as a freshman at the University of Southern California studying computer science and business. The last two summers I interned at Microsoft, first as an Explore intern and then as a program management intern. I am now a senior finishing up my last few classes before graduation in May. Next fall I’m heading to Seattle to join Microsoft full-time as a program manager.
I would not have even thought to try out programming, let alone make computer science my undergraduate major and career priority, if it weren’t for the very first computer programming class you taught at Rowland Hall during my 2015–16 senior year.
I’ve spent much of my last four years participating in startup incubators, building companies, and exploring Los Angeles. I've stayed involved in the engineering community as a counselor for an on-campus computer science camp for K–12 students and as a teacher's assistant for one of USC's core software engineering classes. I would not have even thought to try out programming, let alone make computer science my undergraduate major and career priority, if it weren’t for the very first computer programming class you taught at Rowland Hall during my 2015–16 senior year. Your class truly influenced the path I chose, and I cannot thank you enough for sparking my interest in computer science.
I've had so much fun reading the various articles on the Rowland Hall website regarding the incredible computer science program you have built. Congratulations on the numerous accolades you and your students have earned over the years. I hope the program continues to grow and expose students to computer science and engineering, and ultimately inspire many to pursue a career path in those disciplines.
I wish you and your family all the best and hope you are staying happy and healthy during this time.
Many thanks again, and happy holidays!
Sincerely, Anna Shott
Class of 2016
Top: Anna Shott ’16 at her graduation, receiving her diploma from now-retired head of school Alan Sparrow.
2020 may well be remembered as the year of overwhelming stress, and research shows that it’s not only adults feeling the pressure—students feel it, too, and it plays a big role in how they learn.
Schools have long known that they play a critical role in supporting students’ mental well-being. Even before 2020, a heightened understanding of how mental health initiatives contribute to students’ welfare and their ability to learn shifted curriculum and priorities at Rowland Hall. Today, a strong social-emotional learning (SEL) thread runs through all school divisions, and a variety of resources that support students’ mental well-being—from trained counselors, to grade-level advisories, to SEL-based curriculum—are in place. Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund explained that the shift toward this support structure began in 2010, as educators across the country began to better understand how an overly anxious mind affects learning.
You're not learning if your brain is engaged in worry and stress—learning is a higher-order thinking skill.—Ryan Hoglund, director of ethical education
“You're not learning if your brain is engaged in worry and stress—learning is a higher-order thinking skill,” Ryan said. “We knew we needed to focus on the whole child, giving them tools to free their cognitive load so they can give greater attention to learning and social connections.”
Upper School Social-Emotional Support Counselor Dr. Mindy Vanderloo said that a good way to think about this approach is to remember the phrase “Maslow before Bloom,” which underscores the theory that human beings must have their basic needs met before they can take on higher-level desires or thinking.
“If you don't have your basic needs—home, security, food, mental health—then you can't do those things that are higher up on hierarchy,” said Mindy. “Research has demonstrated the relationship between academics and mental health. We understand the importance of identifying and treating mental health problems; we also know that incorporating SEL can improve mental health.”
And while this is true in any academic year, it has become even more important in 2020, when heightened anxiety around issues including COVID-19, the election, and social unrest can further impact students’ mental well-being—which was already concerning mental health professionals. Mindy pointed to American Psychological Association research released in 2019 that found that the percentage of young Americans experiencing certain types of mental health disorders—serious psychological distress, major depression, or suicidal thoughts—has risen significantly over the past decade. Though there isn’t a clear cause why, she said, issues like social media, political divisiveness, and climate change may play a role.
“Mental health disorders have increased over time, and there isn't a known cause,” Mindy explained. “Prevalence rates are going up—and it could be we feel more comfortable talking about it now, and so we notice it more—but there is something categorically different that has changed over generations. Schools, appropriately, have responded and said, ‘This is a bigger problem than it used to be, for whatever reason, and we need to address it.’”
Resources that support students’ mental well-being are available in all Rowland Hall divisions, starting in the beginning and lower schools, where a supportive SEL foundation is first established. Guided by Emotional Support Counselor Chuck White, Rowland Hall’s preschool- and elementary-aged students begin building their social-emotional skills through programs like Second Step and Responsive Classroom. Faculty and staff also cultivate strong partnerships with caregivers during these years, providing resources that advise adults on how to talk to young learners about issues such as COVID-19 and social unrest or the election, as well as how to have healthy conversations around topics such as race.
As students move to the Middle School on the Lincoln Street Campus—and begin a phase of life known for a great deal of change—educators take even more action to help them understand and manage their own mental wellness.
“It's important to remember that in middle school brains are changing at a high rate,” said Middle School Social-Emotional Support Counselor Leslie Czerwinski. “Then on top of brain changes, hormones start to change.”
At the same time, students are learning to navigate the world in new ways, with an increase in online time—including, for many, access to social media, which can add new layers of pressure, such as the need to present perfection. It is therefore important to help these students find healthy coping strategies that they can practice in Middle School and carry into their Upper School years, and beyond.
That notion of productive struggle is that if I'm not stressed, I'm not learning; if I'm overstressed, I'm not learning. What we really want to find is that yellow zone where I'm challenged. I've always used this canoe analogy: I want you to rock your canoe, but I don't want your canoe flipping.—Ryan Hoglund
“The goal is not zero stress; that's really important to emphasize,” said Ryan. “Stress is normal—it drives us to deadlines that keep us accountable. But how do you keep it productive?” To do this, he said, Rowland Hall focuses on productive struggle, also known as the zone of proximal development, a sweet spot for each learner where the student has found balance between being too comfortable and too overwhelmed.
“That notion of productive struggle is that if I'm not stressed, I'm not learning; if I'm overstressed, I'm not learning. What we really want to find is that yellow zone where I'm challenged,” said Ryan. “I've always used this canoe analogy: I want you to rock your canoe, but I don't want your canoe flipping.”
Productive struggle not only prepares students to build resilience and succeed under the pressures of life, but to learn how to head off more serious issues, like chronic anxiety, that can develop under too much stress. In the middle and upper schools, this skill is purposefully encouraged by faculty and staff in classroom conversations as well as in advisory, a program designed to help build community and promote student wellness. Advisory now plays a major role in the Rowland Hall experience—one that is so important that sixth graders’ placement into their advisory groups is a thoughtful process handled by the middle and upper school counselors, principals, and assistant principals, who understand that identifying the best advisor for each student can lead to strong relationships that support mental well-being throughout their years on the Lincoln Street Campus. This is necessary, Mindy noted, because research shows that one of the biggest ways to protect students against mental health problems is to give them access to consistent, healthy adult mentors.
“Individual connections to supportive adults is one of the best things we can provide for students as a school,” she said.
Healthy adult role models also help students discover their own leadership capabilities. During their time at Rowland Hall—particularly as they move from sixth to twelfth grade—students are given more autonomy and ownership of their learning and self-governance, which builds their confidence.
During their time at Rowland Hall students are given more autonomy and ownership of their learning and self-governance, which builds their confidence. This includes giving students opportunities to support their own and others’ mental well-being by letting them lead critical conversations, make essential connections, and even help to develop curriculum.
“In the Upper School, what we want to do is build self-efficacy and empower students to take care of themselves. They've learned skills in advisory through informal discussions with teachers—and so how do they take the next step?” Mindy said. “We shift from a focus on adults teaching students to what students can teach each other and take into their own hands.”
This includes giving students opportunities to support their own and others’ mental well-being by letting them lead critical conversations, make essential connections, and even help to develop curriculum. In support of this goal, in 2019 Mindy created a student group called the Mental Health Educators, whose mission is to help build awareness of and combat stigma around mental health issues. Since its founding, Mental Health Educators has played a vital role in normalizing mental health discussions on the Lincoln Street Campus—members address peers at chapels and morning meetings, and they build long-term relationships with students through advisory groups, where they lead discussions around topics like stress and anxiety, as well as offer tips on areas like healthy coping mechanisms.
“The school’s been doing a good job trying to reduce stigma around mental health,” said Samantha Lehman, a Rowland Hall junior and Mental Health Educator. “The Mental Health Educators are working to improve mental health resources, and I think we’ve already seen a lot of improvements and a lot of good feedback from the student body.”
They’re also continuously finding new ways to bring their mental health training to their peers. For example, Samantha used some of the topics the group discussed—like motivation, relationships, and the importance of mental breaks—to create Instagram challenges that engaged and connected students during the long weeks of quarantine this spring. Senior Mena Zendejas-Portugal applies her mental health knowledge to her work as a member of the student Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Committee. And this fall, the entire Mental Health Educators group partnered with Dr. Carolyn Hickman, English Department chair, and Mike Shackelford, political science teacher and debate coach, to present Deliberate Dialogue, an initiative Carolyn and Mike designed to help reduce student stress during a contentious election season by giving them opportunities to practice civil discourse. Over two weeks in October, the Mental Health Educators taught the five skills of Deliberate Dialogue—open-mindedness, speaking, listening, responding, and reflecting—to all students in grades nine through eleven, as well as helped them practice constructive conversation techniques, which center around exchanging perspectives openly, challenging viewpoints respectfully, and building empathetic understanding. Samantha said the initiative fits in well with the Mental Health Educators mission “because you’re coming to the conversation seeking to understand, seeking to listen.”
We are making meaning, we are creating purpose, and those are the things that are going to help prevent us from being completely demoralized by stressors such as COVID.—Dr. Mindy Vanderloo, Upper School social-emotional support counselor
Mena added, “Once you learn how to have Deliberate Dialogue in your everyday life, that really helps you better your mental health and your relationships. The conversation turns toward building bridges and relationships, which then translates into how you perceive yourself and others.”
And this is a big deal, said Mindy, because by taking action to fight the stressors that affect their well-being—like a divisive election within a global pandemic—students feel a sense of purpose amid chaos.
“We are making meaning, we are creating purpose, and those are the things that are going to help prevent us from being completely demoralized by stressors such as COVID,” said Mindy. “If you can take a difficult or tragic event, take action, and decide to make change, it is so good for not only your mental health, but other people's mental health.”
Mena agreed. “You see students confront problems in such an elevated manner—they’re incorporating all these skills we’ve taught them, and they’re able to relieve themselves of so much stress,” she said. “It makes you feel a sense of joy and pride, not only in yourself, but in your community and in those students.”
Banner photo: Junior Remy Mickelson presenting Deliberate Dialogue skills during an advisory class.
For summer reading, Upper School history teacher Dr. Dan Jones had his 36 sophomores in Advanced Topics (AT) European History tackle Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages by Dr. David Nirenberg, a University of Chicago history professor and Divinity School dean. Dan described the book as a “genuine academic text, like you’d read in grad school.” It was a challenge, Dan said, but the sophomores “took it head on and did their very best.” Coincidentally, a parent of one of Dan’s students has a distant connection to Professor Nirenberg and helped Dan arrange a student Zoom with the author. The rich, candid conversation that ensued September 15 covered everything from how the professor became a historian to how his book relates to the social justice issues of today. We asked sophomore Layla Hijjawi to share her reaction to this Q&A—a rare opportunity and a silver lining of hybrid and remote learning during a pandemic.
Summer homework isn’t usually something that most students especially look forward to. Furthermore, Professor David Nirenberg’s Communities of Violence, the book chosen by Dr. Jones for the tenth grade AT European History summer homework, is no easy read.
The book consists of 328 pages of intense historical analysis of medieval violence and why that violence might have occurred. Professor Nirenberg primarily focuses on studying the specific context of each moment of violence to understand how the conditions that allow such horrific events to occur come to be.
While the book itself was academically brilliant, many students, myself included, found themselves wondering what it all meant for us...Luckily, Professor Nirenberg was able to shed some light on this matter.
While the book itself was academically brilliant, many students, myself included, found themselves wondering what it all meant for us. Medieval conflicts don’t necessarily define the lives of the average teenager in 2020. Instead, we exist in a continuous flow of fleeting stories on the news about issues centering around the pandemic, elections, and the occasional rumor of TikTok being shut down by the president. Most significantly, issues surrounding race, or more fittingly racism, have risen to people’s attention recently, particularly surrounding things like the Black Lives Matter movement. These other issues that dominate our media and lives made it difficult to understand why learning about seemingly prehistoric conflicts could be relevant in a world where something entirely new happened every day.
Luckily, Professor Nirenberg was able to shed some light on this matter. One silver lining of distance learning is the opportunity technology can provide for virtual teaching. Dr. Jones was able to put this opportunity to use and managed to organize a Q&A session between the students in his class and Professor Nirenberg, the very author we had read this summer. Now, when I imagined the person behind the pages and pages of my summer homework, I certainly didn’t think of the most friendly-looking or relatable man, and I somewhat assumed the Q&A would be dull. But upon entering the Zoom call, I was proven wrong. Professor Nirenberg was both receptive and down to earth, beginning our discussion with the bold claim that “being a historian sucks in a very profound way.” His explanation: “It takes a huge amount of work and thought to make the past relevant to the present in any way you can actually put to work…So that’s really hard: balancing, on the one hand, the feeling you have that something vital connects the past and the present, and the obligation to treat as complicated that connection and to honor the many, many differences and the many discontinuities.”
Students wondered how his studies could connect to issues we face today, like racism, if at all. For Professor Nirenberg, his studies of religious violence are deeply intertwined, and perhaps inseparable, from studies of race.
After warming up the group, he then proceeded to address our questions. Many students wondered how his studies could connect to issues we face today, like racism, if at all. For Professor Nirenberg, his studies of religious violence are deeply intertwined, and perhaps inseparable, from studies of race. Racism is “not [about] our worst ideas but our highest ideals that produce these terrible things,” he told us, and many of these ideals stem from religious roots and scripture. He provided several examples of how ideals from all religions can be manipulated for racist purposes. Thus, the issues of today cannot just be issues of today. For us to truly understand what is wrong with our present, we must understand the fallibility of the past and how modern problems span generations, including back to the medieval times the professor focuses on.
The intersectionality of current events and Professor Nirenberg’s work sheds some light on what is an increasingly dark issue. It is certainly easy to feel helpless and confused in a world where so much violence happens with seemingly no explanation. After all, how are we meant to fix a problem when it’s unclear why it’s happening in the first place? But with the professor’s advice in mind, I believe that many of us left that Zoom lecture with a fresh perspective on how we might begin solving some of the problems we face in our lives. How we apply the knowledge we have gained will be up to us, but Professor Nirenberg has given us the spark that may ignite our move towards change for the better.
Top: In a screen shot from the end of their Zoom Q&A session, sophomores (including article writer Layla Hijjawi, third row, first column) give the wonderful Professor Nirenberg (first row, third column) a round of applause.