Empowering

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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 an alum and a current student. 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 cocurricular 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.

Sincerely, 

Ingrid Gustavson signature

Ingrid Gustavson 
Upper School Principal

Upper School Stories in Fine Print Magazine

Rowland Hall Advanced Research Chemistry students presented original research at the American Chemical Society conference.

People don’t often associate high school with opportunities to develop an original thesis or conduct research alongside an expert. But at Rowland Hall, we're working to change that.

Rowland Hall has a long and proud history of preparing students to thrive not only in college, but in career and life. As a leader in education, we know this begins with ongoing opportunities to build student confidence, whether that’s by climbing a tree or testing a new invasive insect trap. As a result of our approach, many students enter the Upper School with an understanding of their own interests and passions. They’re ready to grow the knowledge and skills they’ll need after graduation, as well as to embrace new, self-directed learning opportunities that allow them to address real-world questions, including some of the toughest we’re facing today.

To ensure that students are well prepared for what lies ahead, the Upper School offers a wide array of advanced courses that build knowledge as well as provide opportunities to practice skills. These include Advanced Placement classes and faculty-designed Advanced Topics courses, which deeply dive into their subjects and offer more opportunities for lab, hands-on, and project-based work.

I'm not sure many other high schools can or do offer the opportunity to do such in-depth research on a topic of your choice. These classes were incredibly fulfilling for me because they were more independent, and I could dictate what I wanted to research based on my own interests.—Sophie Baker, class of 2024

An increased focus on research-based courses, particularly over the last four years, is further setting apart Rowland Hall’s program. Classes including Research Science, unveiled in fall 2020, and authentic learning opportunities such as collaborating on peer-reviewed journal articles have helped prove that high school students can help find solutions to real-world problems and create impactful knowledge—a key focus of Rowland Hall’s strategic vision. To further this important work, the Upper School recently took steps to formalize and expand research classes. The result? A new class designation, Advanced Research (AR), which was applied to four areas of study—chemistry, biology, humanities, and debate—in its first year, 2023–2024.

“Advanced Research is a program across different disciplines that allows students with significant interest, and some advanced coursework already under their belts, to go deep in an area of study with the goal of a college-level, real-world application to their work,” explained Upper School Principal Ingrid Gustavson. To be designated AR, a class must allow students to develop original theses and/or conduct research under the guidance of an expert, offer some student choice in what is studied, and provide opportunities to present original work or compete for an external audience. And because AR classes are so advanced, they tend to be more intimate (even for a school with an already impressive nine-to-one faculty-to-student ratio), providing more opportunities for one-on-one mentoring and bonding with peers.

“I'm not sure many other high schools can or do offer the opportunity to do such in-depth research on a topic of your choice,” said senior Sophie Baker, who took AR Biology and AR Humanities this year. “These classes were incredibly fulfilling for me because they were more independent, and I could dictate what I wanted to research based on my own interests.”

Below, we provide a glimpse at each of the four AR classes offered in the program’s inaugural year. You can also check out each section individually: AR Chemistry, AR Biology, AR Humanities, and AR Debate.


AR Chemistry and the Promise of Algae

For most, the word algae calls to mind a carpet of green scum atop a body of water. But to this year’s AR Chemistry students, the word holds the promise of a more sustainable world.

“There are many unique ways algae can be used,” said science teacher Tascha Knowlton—from biofuel to biodegradable plastic to medicine. And because algae also captures large amounts of carbon, it’s becoming an important tool for a greener future.

Algae first captured upper schoolers’ attention last spring, when Tascha asked her students, including those enrolled in her upcoming AR Chemistry class, to research the organism for an end-of-term project. The students were so excited by what they found, they asked if they could make algae the focus of their AR Chemistry research. While Tascha had been planning to continue the graphite research started in Research Chemistry (the original name of AR Chemistry), she was happy to change course to follow the students’ interest.

And though there were several directions the students could take their research, the six seniors in this year’s class decided to focus on two: the use of algae as a wastewater treatment and as a substitute for limestone in cement, both of which contribute to a more sustainable world. As a wastewater treatment, algae provides a more effective alternative to the chemicals and bacteria that remove pollutants in water; the byproducts of this process can also be used to create bioproducts. In cement, the calcium carbonate byproduct of algae can take the place of limestone, which lessens the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere during limestone mining.

Rowland Hall students learned about algae at Utah's Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility.

Class member Quinn Orgain testing water at the Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility.


This fall, the students began diving into current research on these subjects, as well as writing their own proposals and abstracts and conducting lab work. One group studied the effect of two types of algae, chlorella and Scenedesmus, in wastewater, and the other focused on the use of Emiliania huxleyi, a special type of algae that produces a calcium carbonate shell, in biocement. They also spoke with experts, including Dr. Ronald Sims from Utah State University, who took them on a tour of the Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility, which recently piloted an algae wastewater cleaning program, and biocement specialists. These opportunities to immerse themselves in their chosen areas of research made a big impression on the young scientists.

These classes really provide an outlet to explore personal areas of interest and use your education to make an impact that resonates with you and your values.—Gabriella Miranda, class of 2024

“These classes really provide an outlet to explore personal areas of interest and use your education to make an impact that resonates with you and your values,” said Gabriella Miranda, a member of the wastewater group. “Truly, I think the AR program embodies academic freedom and gives students valuable insight.”

By the spring, the class was ready to take their work on the road. In early March, both groups competed at the University of Utah Science & Engineering Fair, where the wastewater team placed third in the Biology & Microbiology category and the biocement team placed second in the Chemistry & Biochemistry category. Later that month, they traveled to New Orleans for the American Chemical Society spring conference, where they confidently shared their work with attendees from around the world.

“Their posters and how they presented themselves was on par or better than any undergraduate posters, and there are hundreds,” said Tascha. And she wasn’t the only one impressed—many attendees shared their amazement that the Rowland Hall group was still in high school; one undergraduate even said he wished he’d had this type of experience before college. Tascha hoped moments like these provided the students with perspective about their experience, showed them their capabilities, and gave them the confidence they’ll need to hit the ground running as undergraduates. “They’ll be able to jump in and expand opportunities in college, versus having to get familiar with the work later,” said Tascha.

The experience may even inspire careers.

“Prior to taking AR Chemistry, I wasn’t particularly passionate about any given subject. With the pressure of college majors looming, I often dismissed the decision entirely,” said class member Halle Baughman. “Through this in-depth investigation, I was able to explore my passion for sustainability by integrating it with my interest in the sciences. I found a topic with the promise of success and my personal investment.” As a result, Halle changed her indicated major from undecided to sustainability and design.

“My project excited me in ways I couldn’t imagine,” said Halle. “The process was truly life-changing.”

Learn more about the AR Chemistry class’s time in New Orleans.


AR Biology Works to Better Understand and Find Treatments for Aggressive Cancer

To Upper School science teacher Dr. Padmashree Rida, providing students with research opportunities is a no-brainer.

“It’s important to invest in mentoring and guiding high schoolers,” she said. “This is how you’re going to build on the next generation of people who can impact big areas.”

With the introduction of the AR designation, Dr. Rida knew she could further expand student research opportunities in an AR Biology class, opening the door for more students to build strong research, critical-reading, and science-writing skills during school hours and under the guidance of a trusted mentor invested in their growth.

That’s why the former university research scientist and breast cancer researcher, who joined the faculty in 2021, has been on a constant lookout for ways to bring students into the process of research science. In addition to sharing her expertise in class, Dr. Rida has even welcomed students to the teams of researchers she collaborates with on peer-reviewed papers. (Two, now-alums Max Smart ’22 and Tianyi Su ’22, have already been published.) And with the introduction of the AR designation, Dr. Rida knew she could further expand these opportunities in an AR Biology class, opening the door for more students to build strong research, critical-reading, and science-writing skills during school hours and under the guidance of a trusted mentor invested in their growth.

And it all begins, she explained, by deciding what to study.

“Defining the scope of the work is itself a big step,” she said, and one she wanted the three seniors enrolled in her first AR Biology class to experience. Though Dr. Rida did provide some parameters (she encouraged students to choose a topic within her area of expertise, and one that can be done on campus—after all, the school has no biosafety clearance to work with cancer cells), she wanted students to have a say in what they studied. She also wanted them to get familiar with identifying research worth pursuing by learning what kind of questions to ask: What is already known about a topic? What are people not yet asking that is of value to the field? What are some of the gaps in our knowledge that we can help fill?

Armed with this guidance, the students kicked off the year by reading papers and brainstorming subjects that were both manageable and could make a contribution to the research field. By early November, they’d chosen their topic: to uncover more about why androgen receptor-low triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is so lethal. By understanding drivers of the disease, they hoped to help identify novel, actionable treatment targets, as this cancer currently has no approved targeted treatments and, as a result, poor outcomes, particularly in Black women.

“Black women are twice as likely as white women to get TNBC, and within this subgroup Black women are disproportionately afflicted with the androgen receptor-low form of TNBC,” said Dr. Rida. “Identification of potential treatment targets for androgen receptor-low TNBC could therefore help us ameliorate the stark racial disparities observed in breast cancer outcomes.”

To further keep research manageable, the students limited their scope to the centrosome biology that may play a role in this cancer subtype’s deadly impact. Centrosomes, miniscule structures in cells that organize the cell’s cytoskeleton, are critical for cell division; however, excessive centrosomes, which are commonly found in cancer cells (and at a higher level in tumors of Black women), are implicated in the aggressive clinical behavior of TNBC. That’s because cancer cells cluster their extra centrosomes during cell division via a process that increases genomic instability and clonal heterogeneity inside tumors, contributing to treatment resistance and disease progression. Although we have known for a few decades that, to survive, cancer cells must dial up their centrosome-clustering mechanisms as they generate extra centrosomes, exactly how this accompanying upregulation is achieved was undefined.

Rowland Hall students attend the 2024 meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research.

The AR Biology students and Dr. Rida at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research.


In pursuit of answers, the AR Biology students began analyzing publicly available gene expression data to identify the pathways that are in overdrive in androgen receptor-low TNBCs, while keeping their eyes peeled for crucial links that connect centrosome-amplification mechanisms to centrosome-clustering pathways. The students were fortunate to identify oncogenes (genes with the potential to cause a cell to become cancerous) that connect these two pathways, synchronously upregulating both drivers of aggressive disease, said Dr. Rida. This helped identify potential treatment targets for high-risk patients. And the students did all this alongside learning how to navigate databases and perform in silico analyses, wade through dense primary sources, create publication-quality figures, and collaborate with researchers outside Rowland Hall. It could be tough at times, but it was worth it.

We were working on something that actually had real-world value.—Sophie Baker, class of 2024

“We were working on something that actually had real-world value,” said senior Sophie Baker, as well as something that allowed the group to discover their own capabilities. “The most important thing that I learned about myself this year is that I can actually complete research of this scale,” Sophie continued. “It's impossible to know if you're capable of doing something until you try, so it was nice to be given the opportunity to try in a supportive environment.”

Best of all, the students’ potentially life-changing work didn’t stay in the classroom. In April, they traveled to San Diego to present their findings as a poster at the American Association of Cancer Research’s annual meeting. And later this spring, they were part of a group (including City of Hope researchers) that submitted a journal manuscript that’s currently in its first round of peer review. Dr. Rida said both opportunities have brought immense value to the students.

“It helps place work they did in the context of the real world issues—this actually can advance understanding of tumor biology, or guide clinicians or researchers,” she said. And on the flip side, she continued, these opportunities also show clinicians and higher education researchers the benefits of welcoming high school students to the table.

“We’re changing the culture,” said Dr. Rida.

Click the image below to view the poster presented by AR Biology students at the American Association of Cancer Research’s Annual Meeting.


AR Humanities Expands Opportunities for Student Voices

Rowland Hall students are known for their writing. Throughout their time at the school, there is an ongoing emphasis on developing strong writing skills, and faculty members provide expert guidance as students grasp the foundations of language and grammar, then begin to build on their skills, knowledge, and confidence. Year by year, the school graduates exceptional writers, many of whom share their voices, whether that’s through poetry, science, or newspaper op-eds.

With the introduction of AR Humanities, Upper School students can apply and build writing skills on a whole new level: through college-level humanities research.

“Even though I'm a ‘STEM student’ of sorts and really like robotics and whatnot, I was really interested in doing some sort of deep dive into writing and humanities-based research,” said Omar Alsolaiman, one of the six seniors enrolled in AR Humanities in fall 2023. “And I thought the idea of getting to a full paper by the end was super exciting.”

Omar is referring to the 15- to 20-page research paper that is the pinnacle of the AR Humanities experience. Written over the 17 weeks of the fall semester, each student’s paper is the culmination of their time tackling research like professional scholars: by choosing a focused project question, developing unique arguments, and examining primary and secondary sources.

This class is an opportunity for students to craft questions around something that’s meaningful and interesting to them ... and to ultimately make small but meaningful contributions to a larger body of knowledge about whatever topic they want to study.—Dr. Nate Kogan ’00, history teacher

“This class is an opportunity for students to craft questions around something that’s meaningful and interesting to them, and to work to pursue that in the way one would an undergraduate senior thesis,” said history teacher Dr. Nate Kogan ’00. “They’re more independently trying to emulate the methods and practices and scholarship they’ll be more fully immersed in when they go to college, and to ultimately make small but meaningful contributions to a larger body of knowledge about whatever topic they want to study.”

In addition to providing the students with his own support as a historian and academic, Nate uses Wendy Belcher's Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks, a workbook for academic publishing, to guide them through the research process. “I try to give the class a well-scaffolded and accessible entry point to the type of work real scholars in the humanities use,” he said. “This book helps plan the course by setting up a practical and accessible framework of steps you have to go through, which can often be opaque and challenging for students.”

And whatever a student’s inquiry, said Nate, they pursue the same process, meaning that over the semester, each class member became familiar with how college-level research unfolds as they pursued individualized research topics:

  • how American media coverage of Haiti employed necropolitical narratives;
  • how the medieval kingdom of Al-Andalus fostered social cohesion amongst a multiethnic and religiously diverse community;
  • how neoliberal economic and regulatory policies toward pharmaceutical companies exacerbated in opioid crisis in Appalachia;
  • how neoliberal economic policies exacerbated the gender wage gap and intensified racially driven critiques of welfare policy;
  • how changing attitudes toward migrant players in the US men’s soccer program limited the competitiveness of the team at international competitions; and
  • how the community-based ideologies and practices of the original Black Panther Party evolved into a more exclusionary form with the New Black Panther Party in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I learned a lot about what college-level writing would be like, and I definitely learned a ton of great formal writing strategies while also researching something I'm really interested in that I hope to continue learning about,” said Omar, who worked on the Al-Andalus project, and credits AR Humanities for building his ability to write efficiently and systematically—a skill he believes will be invaluable in college.

I learned a lot about what college-level writing would be like, and I definitely learned a ton of great formal writing strategies while also researching something I'm really interested in that I hope to continue learning about.—Omar Alsolaiman, class of 2024

And since this is an AR class, the experience also included the chance for the students to share their work. As the semester began to wind down, the group worked to condense their arguments into eight-minute presentations for a mini-conference, held at the Upper School in December. Not only was the conference a chance to share their research with more people, but it also improved their final papers.

“The goal of the presentation is to serve as a testing ground for the clarity of their written arguments: ‘Can I take this stuff I've been mulling over and writing about and communicate it clearly to other people?’” said Nate. “That process of distilling an argument and trying to articulate it in a more condensed format also helps with the final revision stage: ‘Which points landed? Where do I need to play up the evidence more clearly?’”

By the end of the semester, all six students had completed beautifully written research papers that reflected their diverse and wide-ranging interests. (Though it wasn’t required, one student submitted their paper to The Concord Review, a high school history scholarship journal, in addition to Nate.) When asked to reflect on the class experience, Omar said it was valuable in many ways, not least of which was its reminder of the importance of the humanities as well as the ability to write well—areas that can easily be forgotten in the noise of a technology-heavy world.

“This class definitely reminded me how important the humanities are to me, so in college I'm hoping to find some outlet or focus on the humanities, despite my overarching path in engineering and STEM,” he said. “It also recentered my strengths in writing as one of my most important skills for the future.”

Click the video below to listen to this year’s AR Humanities students share their research at their mini-conference.


AR Debate Soars in First International Debate Research Opportunity

Rowland Hall and debate go hand in hand. For nearly 40 years, the school has offered a top debate program—we’ve even been named a Debate School of Excellence by the National Speech and Debate Association, and our debate team has claimed the last four 3A speech and debate state championships (2021–2024).

Needless to say, a lot of exceptional debaters roam the Upper School halls, so when the division’s administrative team was identifying potential areas for AR classes, they knew that a high-level debate-based research class would appeal to and benefit the school’s most advanced debaters. And for debate coach Mike Shackelford, AR Debate offered an ideal space for debaters to not only work on ongoing prep for their Policy and Public Forum competition events, but to harness their knowledge and skills in a new way.

“Our kids are really good at research, and it was important to me to give them an opportunity to show off their research skills in a more traditional format,” he said.

And Mike knew just the right outlet: the International Public Policy Forum global essay contest, which he had heard about from some of his national colleagues. Jointly administered by the Brewer Foundation and New York University, this contest “gives high school students around the globe the opportunity to engage in written and oral debates on issues of public policy.”

To participate in the IPPF contest, teams of at least three students from the same school are invited to submit a qualifying essay of no more than 3,000 words on the topic (this year’s was “Resolved: Governments should provide a universal basic income”). Teams can either affirm or negate the topic in qualifying essays. From there, a panel of judges chooses the top 64 schools to advance to a single-elimination, written debate tournament—in other words, teams are invited to engage in a pen pal-style debate competition. During each round, a team receives a competitor school’s latest 3,000-word essay via email, then writes an 1,800-word rebuttal. Judges review both essays and choose the top response from each round. The contest ends with the final eight teams traveling to New York City in early May for IPPF Finals Weekend.

Even with steep odds, the Rowland Hall team stood out. They were selected to move on to the top 64—and called out for their exceptional work on their qualifying essay. "This is a fantastic paper, bordering on brilliant,” one judge wrote. “This paper reflects scholarship rivaling post-graduate work.”

In October, the eight AR Debate students (three seniors, three juniors, and two sophomores) began working on their qualifying round essay. To stand out, the Rowland Hall group decided to write their essay using a critical feminist analysis, affirming universal basic income as a way to reduce domestic violence, reverse the stigma of welfare, and promote a more just concept of work that’s valued in the United States.

"We took this approach because we thought other papers would be written from traditional economic topics, and we didn’t want to silence an important perspective,” said Mike.

The team hoped to qualify to the round of 64, but suspected competition would be stiff. Indeed, this year, 311 teams, representing schools in 26 countries, submitted qualifying essays to the IPPF. But even with these steep odds, the Rowland Hall team stood out. They were selected to move on to the top 64—and called out for their exceptional work on their qualifying essay.

"This is a fantastic paper, bordering on brilliant,” one judge wrote. “This paper reflects scholarship rivaling post-graduate work.”

Buoyed by this feedback, the group jumped into the competition, ultimately submitting and defending seven different essays to and against schools from Texas to Canada. With a trip to New York as their new focus, the AR Debate students remained nimble, switching sides in their essays as required and working closely to write their best responses.

Rowland Hall debaters qualified to the Sweet 16 of the International Public Policy Forum global essay contest.

This year's AR Debate class with their Sweet 16 IPPF Contest medals.


“It’s rare, at least in debate, to have that much of a collaborative research opportunity—to have one product with six cooks in the kitchen, writing, collaborating, and thinking,” said Mike of this new opportunity for debaters. “The competitive debate world is so insulated, so this experience was so valuable in translating the skills they’ve been building. They know intuitively they’re great researchers, but I don't think they ever had practice taking their debate cases and translating them into papers.”

The small nature of the AR Debate class created an environment that facilitated targeted, individual growth in addition to improvement as a team. This meant that each of us got more individual attention in terms of feedback and skill improvement than before.—Eli Hatton, class of 2025

Class members also felt the benefits of stretching their skills. “AR Debate has given us the opportunity to use our research and argumentative skills beyond Policy Debate competition. I am glad I took AR Debate mainly because of the dedicated time and space for focusing on improving debate skills, practicing debates, and building arguments and strategy,” said junior Eli Hatton, who plans to continue debating in college and appreciated how the research-based approach of the class challenged class members, helping them become stronger debaters.

“The small nature of the AR Debate class created an environment that facilitated targeted, individual growth in addition to improvement as a team. This meant that each of us got more individual attention in terms of feedback and skill improvement than before,” Eli continued. “I personally learned quite a lot about the areas where I needed to improve and became a much better debater as a result.”

And though the team didn’t make it to New York City (they were defeated in the Sweet 16 round, in a 2-1 decision, in early April), they are proud of what they accomplished and how far they went in their first IPPF contest. Returning debaters are even looking forward to next year’s competition.

“After the close loss, I was expecting students to be hesitant in making the same investment next year," said Mike. "Instead, they unanimously said it was a positive and fun experience and that they would want to do it again.”

Check out the AR Debate students’ work: view one of the team’s negative essays (submitted during the round of 32) and one of their affirmative essays (submitted during the round of 16).


Editor’s note: In addition to the classes covered in this article, Rowland Hall will expand AR offerings to include AR Computational and Mathematical Sciences in fall 2024. This class will provide a new opportunity for student-driven projects in computer science and math.

Research

Rowland Hall bids farewell to and thanks departing faculty and staff.

Kendra Tomsic, beloved and legendary director of athletics, is retiring after 32 years at Rowland Hall. It is difficult to quantify the number of student-athletes, coaches, colleagues, and families who have been impacted by Kendra during her time at the school. She’s been a coach, supervisor, and colleague, and she was the first woman in Utah history to serve as president of the Utah Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. She’s also been honored in myriad ways at regional, state, and national levels. After more than three decades at Rowland Hall, Kendra is most proud that she had the opportunity to impact young athletes. She made all who worked with her feel supported, heard, encouraged, and empowered, and we wish her all the best in her new chapter. Read Kendra’s retirement tribute.

Diane Guido, Upper School psychology teacher, is retiring after 31 years at Rowland Hall. An institution unto herself, Diane’s three sections of AP Psychology were perennially overflowing. Diane is funny, humble, demanding, a puzzle master, stylish, supportive, and truly dedicated to her students, who do exceedingly well on that AP test. To quote the College Board in 2005, “Your school has been identified as having the strongest AP Psychology course in the world among schools in your size range. No other school had a greater proportion of its student body succeed in AP Psychology.” Diane also worked with many students over the years as our school counselor before going part time a few years ago. We are grateful to have had her all these years. Read Diane’s retirement tribute.

Katie Schwab, third-grade teacher (pictured in banner), is stepping away from teaching after 23 years at Rowland Hall. Katie first taught in the Beginning School for nine years, then moved to the Lower School, where she taught second and third grade. Katie is highly respected, beloved, and admired for her commitment to and skill in supporting children in the fullness of their school experiences. She helps students grow and stretch academically, and masterfully fosters their development of social-emotional and self-regulation skills. She is a trusted guide for families, often for years after their child has been in her class, and a source of counsel and support for colleagues. The parent of two alumni (Alexa ’19 and Zach ’22) and the daughter of Susan Freed ’60, Katie’s connections to our community run deep. She will be sorely missed, and we wish her the best.

Lynelle Stoddard, 3PreK lead teacher, is retiring to care for a grandchild. For 15 years, Lynelle has been a steadfast advocate for our youngest students and their families. She’s provided a calm, caring, and developmentally appropriate curriculum and classroom environment for hundreds of littles, and walked alongside families with compassion and sage advice. Lynelle is an organized, thoughtful, and kind colleague whose conscientiousness and professionalism are admired by everyone. We are sad to see her go, but delighted for her to take on her next adventure.

Christian Waters, director of technology integration, left Rowland Hall in August to pursue a new opportunity in the Park City School District. During his 15 years of distinguished service, Christian taught students across all divisions and acted as an invaluable resource for teachers, administrators, and the Technology Department. Christian was also instrumental in helping us begin to fulfill the promise of our strategic priorities through the expansion of our programs in computer science, coding, and robotics. Thank you, Christian.

Josh Leger, technology systems administrator, left Rowland Hall in January to join Bunnell, where he’s putting his amazing technology and interpersonal skills to work. Josh joined the Technology Department two and half years ago after working for the Operations Department for 12 years in various positions, including director of transportation. Josh was a wonderful asset to the school for years and we wish him well.

Wendell Thomas, director of teaching and learning, is leaving the school to take on new challenges at Colegio Internacional Puerto la Cruz in Venezuela. Wendell and his family have been integral to the Rowland Hall community for the past 10 years. Under Wendell’s leadership, we’ve increased professional development opportunities; created more cross-divisional moments of learning; standardized ways of gathering and reflecting upon student data and feedback; grown teacher leadership through our accreditation process, professional development, instructional coaching, and professional learning communities; and brought in nationally known experts to speak about subjects including feedback, project-based learning, and mathematics. In addition, Wendell has helped us think about cycles of continual improvement, document curriculum, and navigate conversations with grace and positivity. Wendell has also worked with division leadership to support teachers in professional growth cycles and classroom observations, as well as improve upon our hiring practices by being more reflective. Finally, Wendell has stepped in at various times to teach science in the Upper School and TREC in the Lower School, and served as an interim department chair. We will truly miss his research-based approach to best practices and wealth of knowledge.

Mary Swaminathan, 4PreK assistant teacher, is re-retiring after nearly 10 years of service to the Beginning School. After stepping away from teaching during COVID-19, we were delighted to welcome Mary back for an encore performance alongside Isabelle Buhler. During her time at Rowland Hall, Mary has touched the lives of countless kids and families. We’ll miss her deep care, unwavering team spirit, and ever-present good humor for years to come.

Jennifer Nelson, Beginning Band teacher, is leaving Rowland Hall after nine years to spend more time with her family. Jennifer has been teaching the Middle School Beginning Band class since 2015, and in that time has introduced countless students to musical instruments, feeding their love of music and helping to build our successful middle and upper school jazz band programs.

Dani Howe, controller, left the school in December for a new opportunity after eight years of dedicated service. During her time at Rowland Hall, Dani transformed the accounting and control processes of Rowland Hall, improving our finances while working closely with faculty, staff, and students. She gave her time and expertise freely to many projects over the years, and while she is sorely missed we are very happy for the exciting opportunity she has to grow her career.

Gita Varner ’05, project coordinator for athletics, left the school in August after eight years. Gita left an incredible mark at Rowland Hall, thanks to her dedication and unwavering commitment to improving processes. Gita’s contributions enhanced the school in numerous ways, from her time in the Advancement Office to her efforts against COVID-19 to her work to improve the school’s safety protocols. While we were sad to bid her farewell, we’re excited to see Gita embark on a new chapter and comforted by the fact that she continues to help with athletic scorekeeping and stays involved in the school’s alumni events.

Wendy Butler, Lincoln Street Campus librarian, is leaving Rowland Hall after nearly six years. Wendy joined the school in fall 2018 when we lost our librarian after the year had already started. We were fortunate to find Wendy and her wealth of experience as a longtime independent school educator, department chair, and director of global programs. Wendy jumped in with both feet, immediately reorganizing, auditing, streamlining, and generally improving library collections and systems, as well as book displays, make-up testing, and shared-space systems. Wendy was eager to make the library more user-friendly, too, and integral to the redesign process that made it the most popular study and hangout space in the Upper School. Additionally, Wendy taught a variety of offerings in the History Department, most recently adding a new course, AP World History: Modern. We will miss her initiative, collaboration, strategic thinking, and care for all students.

Leslie Czerwinski, Middle School social-emotional support counselor, is leaving Rowland Hall after six years to return to private practice and focus on her family and bike team. Leslie is hardworking, even-keeled, supportive, caring, and fun, and she leads with her heart. She is a strong advocate for all students, supporting them and their families without hesitation. A motto Leslie has spread across the Middle School is: What you feed will grow. Leslie has nurtured and strengthened our community and culture and is leaving us a stronger and more inclusive space.

Collin Wolfe, McCarthey Campus PE teacher, will be relocating closer to family after six action-packed years on the beginning and lower schools’ PE faculty. Collin has made a meaningful mark on the lives of countless kids and families with his fun-loving approach and dedication to this community. In addition to his truly excellent teaching, we’ll miss his cheerful greeting at the Lower School doors each morning, colorful Color Day rotation reminders, and wicked dance moves (as seen in countless COVID-era PE videos).

Jen Bourque, fifth-grade teacher, is stepping away from Rowland Hall to focus on her growing family. Jen taught fifth grade for five years and has had an enormous impact on the curriculum and team. Apart from being an excellent teacher and colleague, Jen has led lots of important work in DEI as a consistent and committed member of the Belonging@RH group, and she launched and led SEED Seminars over the last two years for faculty at Rowland Hall, The McGillis School, and Park City Day School. We will miss Jen’s sense of humor, quick wit and insight, and extraordinary work ethic, and wish her all the best in this new chapter of her life.

Jill Gerber, seventh-grade English teacher, is leaving Rowland Hall after four years. Jill brought to the Middle School a wealth of experience, a love of learning, and a strong, student-centered vision. She is hardworking and self-motivated, especially when it comes to supporting our diverse student body and collaborating with colleagues on interdisciplinary and problem-based curricula. Jill has been on numerous faculty committees and led a variety of professional development sessions. Although her colleagues will miss her, her students are most saddened to see her leave as she is a fearless advocate for them and supports all of their endeavors in the classroom, on the volleyball court, or while playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Quincy Jackson ’16, 4PreK assistant teacher, is stepping away from teaching after this year. Quincy spent three years serving in our kindergarten and PreK programs, and also spent several years supporting Extended Day. In addition to Quincy’s many contributions in the classroom, she served for two years as the Beginning School’s divisional equity coordinator. We are grateful for her work in each of these roles and wish her the best.

Jane Singleton, Middle School academic support coordinator, is leaving Rowland Hall to embrace new adventures. Jane joined the Middle School community three years ago, transforming our learning support program and proving to be an invaluable resource to students, families, and faculty. The Middle School has benefited greatly from Jane’s organizational systems, attention to detail, and data-driven approach to supporting students. Our academic support program has not only grown in the number of students supported, but has also become more equitable, supporting all students with executive functioning and metacognition as well as teachers with differentiation. Jane will be missed.

Lexi Kemp, third-grade teacher, is leaving Rowland Hall after two years to teach middle and upper school history at Waterford. Lexi has been a warm and engaged colleague, developing strong relationships with his third graders. We wish him all the best as he shifts to teaching older students.

Nicholas Renzo, director of people operations, left the school in November to pursue new adventures. We’re thankful to Nicholas for his hard work leading our Human Resources Department and for the HR expertise he provided during his year and a half at the school. Many improvements were achieved under his leadership, including the announcement of enhanced benefits for 2024. We wish Nicholas all the best.

Beth Singleton, director of auxiliary programs, resigned in August after a year and a half at the school to relocate to the Southeast. Beth did a terrific job in her short time at Rowland Hall, inspiring and cheering on her team and working to create a vibrant and growing summer program after COVID-19. We appreciate all that she brought to the school.

Carlos Eyzaguirre, entrepreneurship teacher, is leaving Rowland Hall after a year. Carlos played a critical role in the Upper School this year, where he helped launch two new business and entrepreneurship courses. Carlos’s own experience founding start-ups and working in investment management provided invaluable experience for his students, whether they were developing their own projects or learning the basics of the business world. Carlos models intellectual curiosity, a passion for seeking out new learning opportunities, and a commitment to elevating students’ own initiatives and interests. Carlos leaves a strong foundation on which to grow the program.

Paul Hochman, media arts teacher, is leaving the school after a year. Paul had a big impact on the middle and upper schools by helping us launch a new media arts program. Paul’s experience as an educator and in journalism, as well as in his current role as president of Humongous Media, helped to shape and inspire students. Thanks to Paul, they learned the importance of storytelling through short films and their work was showcased at assemblies, the dance performance, and the band concert. We will miss Paul’s infectious enthusiasm and energy.

Sam Johnson, fifth-grade teacher, made the difficult decision to not return for the 2023–2024 school year. During her year at Rowland Hall, Sam thoughtfully contributed to the Lower School community, building strong relationships with children, families, and colleagues. We wish her the best.

Braden Morrill, director of annual giving, left Rowland Hall in July to start a new position at the Humane Society of Utah. During Braden’s year at Rowland Hall, he made great relationships with donors and volunteers and raised just over $1 million for the Annual Fund. His easygoing attitude and strong work ethic will be missed, and we wish him the best of luck on his next endeavor.

Kodie Osterberg, human resources specialist, left the school in April to pursue a new opportunity. Kodie was a valued member of the Business Office for a year, supporting our human resource functions. She was instrumental in delivering recent benefits improvements implemented for 2024 and helped us improve numerous HR processes. We wish her well in her next role.

Kristi Torsak, Middle School computer science teacher, left Rowland Hall in October after six months at the school. During her short time at Rowland Hall, Kristi positively influenced the computer science program, especially in the areas of robotics and web design, now two of our more popular elective classes. We wish her the best.

​​Cassia Peeler, Middle School French and Spanish teacher and advisor, decided to step away from teaching in December to focus on her family. We wish them all well.

Rachel Slivnick, fifth-grade teacher, stepped away from teaching in November to focus on caring for her young family at home. We wish them well.

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2023 Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award winner Melanie Robbins, Rowland Hall kindergarten lead teacher

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

The Sumner/Larsen Excellence in Teaching Faculty Awards

The Sumner/Larsen Excellence in Teaching Faculty Awards are given each year to outstanding faculty members in each division who have demonstrated a love for teaching and excellence in their fields. This award was established in 1985 by Kit Sumner and family, who have shown an unparalleled commitment to Rowland Hall for three generations. In 2022, Kurt Larsen, who shares the Sumners’ high regard for Rowland Hall’s faculty and dedication to the school, joined Kit Sumner in funding this award to increase its impact. The renamed Sumner/Larsen Excellence in Teaching Faculty Award is one of the highest recognitions of excellence in teaching at Rowland Hall.

Congratulations to the following recipients.

Beginning School: Bethany Stephensen, kindergarten lead teacher

Rowland Hall lead kindergarten teacher Bethany Stephensen.

Bethany Stephensen is a steadfast advocate for young children and for those who care for them. She is admired by her colleagues for her calm and centered approach with her students, even in the moments of relative chaos that are so common in the Beginning School. She is a trusted resource for families and a source of support and encouragement for colleagues. She is an innovator grounded in a rich understanding of what’s best for young learners, who has quietly and thoughtfully encouraged her team to make impactful changes to their grade level’s curriculum over the last few years. She is a deeply kind-hearted and compassionate human, who carries her students and their families in her heart, often with lightness, sometimes with heaviness, and always with love, for years beyond their time with her. Bethany can be counted on to share her valuable wisdom and insights with colleagues, often a day or two after the conversation because she’s been thoughtfully processing the discussion. She is a transformer of classroom spaces, an inspirer of rich dramatic play, a lifelong dancer and dance educator, and an unabashed Spice Girls fan.

Lower School: Jodi Spiro, third-grade teacher

Rowland Hall third-grade teacher Jodi Spiro.

Jodi Spiro has a talent for both teaching and for savoring life. She finds humor around most every corner and delights in the range of diverse personalities and quirks of her students. She seeks out adventure and growth both at school and in her life outside of school, demonstrating openness and eagerness for whatever may come her way. Jodi shows up with an authentic commitment to supporting students in their slightly weird projects or off-kilter ideas for writing original books, creating wacky showcase performances, and initiating change in our school community. She is a colleague who can be counted on to cheer you up or cheer you on when you need it, and who chips in to do important and hard work along with the fun stuff. And while Jodi may be famous for her deep understanding of and skill in teaching mathematics, it is her skill in helping kids and parents better understand themselves and each other that is so impactful. Jodi has changed a lot of lives for the better in her time at Rowland Hall, helping kids and families step through the many transitions in elementary school.

Middle School: Sara Donnelly, eighth-grade science teacher

Rowland Hall eighth-grade science teacher Sara Donnelly.

Sara Donnelly builds relationships with students in quiet and understated ways—knowing their strengths, growth edges, and interests—and fosters an environment where everyone feels valued and confident in their abilities. She is creative in her lesson design, balancing skill building and content knowledge with engaging, hands-on activities. She collaborates on a myriad of interdisciplinary projects and, on a departmental level, pushes for a culture of creative exploration and adopts a claim, evidence, and reasoning model for how to think and write scientifically. She looks for opportunities to support students and connect outside the classroom. And in her six years at Rowland Hall, Sara has continually transformed and refreshed the eighth-grade science curriculum, never taking what was done before and settling. From dissections to mirror mazes to the multitude of engineering and design projects, Sara constantly takes feedback from students, and the latest research on best teaching practices, to create an optimal learning environment that is engaging, challenging, and positive.

Upper School: Lynn Oliva, Spanish teacher

Rowland Hall Upper School Spanish teacher Lynn Oliva.

Lynn Oliva embodies this year’s theme, Learn for Life, in all aspects. She is relentlessly curious, always eager to take on a new professional learning experience, volunteer for a committee, engage in dialogue about teaching and learning, share her space, or show up in support of students and colleagues. She is described by students and advisees as kind, caring, patient, bubbly, committed, energetic, fair, understanding, approachable, and thoughtful. There are always students in her classroom, regardless of whether it is class time or not. Lynn looks to improve her craft and has taken special care to find coursework that better supports students with diverse learning needs, as well as to improve her own knowledge of and experience with her subject. In the past year alone, Lynn participated in Leadership and Design’s Culture Lab, volunteered for multiple committees, learned French for last year’s Interim, went to Gibraltar to get documents in support of her petition for Spanish citizenship, helped design and lead the fiber arts Interim, been lead advisor for the 11th grade, and advised several seniors. This is all in addition to working tirelessly in the classroom to create a spark for each and every student to learn and speak Spanish.

Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award 2024

The Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award is presented to Rowland Hall faculty members who demonstrate excellence in teaching, serve as mentors to others, and contribute 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.

This year’s Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award has been awarded to Tiya Karaus, second-grade teacher.

Rowland Hall second-grade teacher Tiya Karaus.

Tiya Karaus has an easy laugh and a gift for deep insight, and uses both to inspire students and colleagues. She demonstrates tenacity and stamina each school year, creatively solving (and re-solving) tricky problems in the classroom. She models persistence for colleagues, inspiring them to keep at it even when they feel tired or discouraged. In only a handful of years, Tiya has served the school in many ways, including contributing thoughtful insights to complex hiring processes. Colleagues report learning a great deal from her, and she can be counted on to interrogate her own assumptions and gracefully ask questions to move thinking forward. Kiya places a high value on creating a positive, empowering learning environment for students. A deeply dedicated teacher, she helps students see how much they are capable of. When helping students solve social problems, she masterfully supports their autonomy and dignity by coaching them to advocate for themselves, set boundaries, and express their feelings honestly and respectfully. This year, Kiya stepped into an unofficial leadership role, thoughtfully providing both structure and connection time for her grade-level team and acting as an effective advocate for their needs. She can always be counted on to step in and offer a helping hand, and can often be found walking fairly quickly from here to there to check in with folks, offer a listening ear, or just help make copies.

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You Belong at Rowland Hall