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First-grade teacher Susanna Mellor leading morning meeting.

On a Thursday in November, Susanna Mellor’s first-grade class was seated in a circle, ready to begin their morning meeting. That day, they started with a pinky greeting: everyone hooked fingers, forming a chain, and then Susanna turned to one of the students next to her. “Good morning, Thomas,” she began. The salutation passed around the circle, ending with a hearty, full-group welcome: “Good morning!”


Morning meeting is one of several practices recommended by Responsive Classroom, a student-centered approach to social and emotional learning (SEL) and effective classroom management. Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus explained that the division started utilizing Responsive Classroom in 2016 as a way to support Rowland Hall’s long-standing commitment to SEL, which is associated with higher academic achievement, improved teacher-student interactions, and higher-quality instruction.

Responsive Classroom gives teachers the tools to create truly joyful, safe, and inclusive classrooms. More importantly, it gives students more responsibility and ownership in the process of building a community of kindness, respect, and learning.—Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus

“Responsive Classroom gives teachers the tools to create truly joyful, safe, and inclusive classrooms that help our students thrive,” he said. “More importantly, it gives students more responsibility and ownership in the process of building a community of kindness, respect, and learning with their classmates.”

Morning meeting achieves this by engaging young learners in a welcoming atmosphere at the start of each school day. In addition to an inclusive greeting, the meeting includes a moment of sharing, a group activity, and a daily message. Whatever the day’s focus, teachers use the meeting to make sure each child is recognized and participating in the class.

“Responsive Classroom practices help build confidence and ease anxiety by fostering a sense of belonging and significance,” Susanna said. And, she added, as the school year progresses, its rewards multiply. “When they listen to each other, students feel that they matter. I see new friendships begin to bud, classmates work comfortably and easily together, and students take risks as they share ideas in class discussions.”

The Responsive Classroom Approach

Responsive Classroom, first developed by the Center for Responsive Schools in 1981, creates safe, nurturing learning environments through four key domains: engaging academics, positive community, effective management, and developmentally responsive teaching. Because Rowland Hall is focused on integrating SEL into our academic and co-curricular programs (we formally added it to goal 1 of our Strategic Plan in November 2018), incorporating Responsive Classroom into the Lower School curriculum was a logical choice. And it has made a difference.

“It's given our teachers more clarity and alignment when they consider how best to support students, structure learning activities, and promote positive behavior expectations,” Jij said. “Students, in turn, experience more consistency and are clear on why their actions matter for their own learning and for the learning of others.”

Rowland Hall is focused on integrating social and emotional learning into our academic and co-curricular programs; we even formally added it to goal 1 of our Strategic Plan in November 2018.

To drive student success, Responsive Classroom also emphasizes interactive modeling to teach the skills, strategies, and procedures that help kids thrive at school.

“Interactive modeling has made my classroom a more calm, efficient, and productive learning environment,” Susanna said. “When students watch and comment on what I do as I role-play a procedure, they actively deduce the steps by verbalizing them and listening to peers do the same. As a result, they have a firm and clear understanding when it comes time for them to begin the task at hand.”

Integrating Responsive Classroom into Established Practices

Responsive Classroom has helped Rowland Hall refocus many classroom practices toward the school’s overarching SEL goals. One example occurs at the beginning of each school year: developing classroom agreements. Unlike traditional lists of rules, classroom agreements are created in partnership, giving teachers and students buy-in on how their classrooms will run. While the agreements have been a part of the Lower School for many years, Responsive Classroom added another layer to the process.

“Using the Responsive Classroom approach has allowed my students to delve deeper into the process of exploring their own hopes and dreams, and how we can work as a group to help each other achieve our goals,” Susanna said. She explained that students become engaged, thoughtful, and passionate as they determine what will help them do things like learn how to read, try harder math problems, or even score soccer goals. “I notice students putting much more thought and reflection into this process, making it more meaningful and effective,” she said.

Collaborating on classroom agreements also makes it more likely that children will follow, and reference, those agreements during the school year.

“Students refer back to these agreements when obstacles arise and really demonstrate ownership of them,” said Susanna. “For example, when having a class discussion about erasers being damaged intentionally, several children commented, ‘That’s not following our agreement. We said we’d take care of our materials this year so that we could become better writers.’”

Susanna Mellor's class reads the morning message.

Morning meeting gives students an opportunity to revisit class agreements and reflect on how they can work together in support of classroom goals.

Classroom agreements are referenced regularly by instructors too. In Susanna’s morning meeting, for instance, students are asked which agreements they want to focus on and what actions they can take to make sure those agreements are honored. One student reminded classmates that they can meet their goal to keep calm in the classroom by walking; another observed that they can fulfill the agreement to try harder math problems by listening respectfully during instruction.

Using Responsive Classroom in New Ways

Responsive Classroom also inspires new methods to empower students. This fall, the Lower School used the foundation of classroom agreements in a new way: to create school-wide Winged Lion Agreements.

On September 6, 17 student delegates from grades one through five—one from each class—gathered in the McCarthey Campus parlor for the first-ever student constitutional convention. Delegates shared their classes’ newly developed classroom agreements with the group before beginning a discussion on agreements that could be applied to the whole school.

Student delegates created Winged Lion Agreements

Responsive Classroom helps educators look for ways to engage students in their school community. Above, the student delegates who helped craft the Lower School's first Winged Lion Agreements in September.

When students help make decisions about how the school runs, they understand their voices are valued and that they play a role in making school enjoyable for everyone.—Lower School Specialty Principal Linda Tatomer

Lower School Specialty Principal Linda Tatomer—who has completed all Responsive Classroom courses, including the Responsive Classroom for Leadership conference—led the discussion and was impressed by how the process unfolded. “When students help make decisions about how the school runs, they understand their voices are valued and that they play a role in making school enjoyable for everyone,” she said. “And because each student was a stakeholder in the convention’s outcome, they were serious about identifying meaningful goals.” She was also thrilled by the inclusion she saw in the room, especially by the way fifth graders mentored the first graders. “They really made connections and made them feel valued,” Linda said.

After thoughtful discussion, the group decided on five agreements for the year: 
    •    Be kind

    •    Respect

    •    Work hard and never give up

    •    Be safe

    •    Have fun


Each item was purposefully selected, down to exact words—for instance, the delegates chose the word “respect” because of its ability to encompass a wide range of areas, from personal behavior to how students should treat their surroundings.

Designing Better School Days with Responsive Classroom

Responsive Classroom further helps the Lower School team continuously reevaluate how to best meet students’ needs. One recent change to the school day occurred as a result of a February 2019 meeting with a Responsive Classroom consultant, who was sent to observe a full day at the school after Linda completed her training in the approach.

“One thing the consultant noticed was that our dining hall is very noisy,” Linda remembered. The consultant recommended a proven solution she thought would benefit the division: moving recess before lunch, an idea that the Lower School student support team had been considering for two years prior to the visit.

Lower School students on the playground.

In 2019, the Lower School moved recess from after to before lunch, resulting in school-wide behavior improvements.

“The change would have numerous benefits,” said Linda. “Children could focus on eating, noise would go down, and no one would be racing to get outside.” After presenting the idea to an enthusiastic Lower School faculty in the spring, Jij and Linda began working on making the change for the fall. When it was time to introduce the schedule adjustment to students during the second chapel of the year, Jij, Linda, and Chuck White, the McCarthey Campus emotional support counselor, were thoughtful in their approach, using a similar style students had already experienced in the classroom.

“We asked, ‘What should lunch feel and sound like?’” Linda said. The team also emphasized the why behind the discussion so students would understand both the reason for change and its related benefits. “We talked about how we can all follow agreements to make school more enjoyable for everyone,” Linda said.

Using a dining table that had been brought into the chapel, Jij, Linda, and Chuck then modeled for students proper lunch behavior: entering the dining hall respectfully, staying seated facing the table, and talking at an appropriate volume. Each child was also given the chance to practice at the table.

Children have adjusted well to the change, Linda said. It was, she explained, an extension of the discussions students have become accustomed to—and, importantly, it reminded them that they each play a part in creating a respectful, safe, and joyful school for all.

“I’m really proud of them,” she said.

Responsive Classroom Resources for Parents and Caregivers

Responsive Classroom has been an influential tool in helping Rowland Hall meet SEL goals in the Lower School. Because we are committed to partnering with parents and caregivers in their children’s education, we have made many Responsive Classroom materials available in the parent section of the McCarthey Campus’ Steiner Library for those who are interested in more information about the approach.

Academics

Senior Jordan Crockett Commits to Playing D1 Soccer for the University of Denver

On November 13, surrounded by family and friends, Rowland Hall senior Jordan Crockett did something she had been dreaming about for years: she signed the National Letter of Intent confirming her decision to play soccer at the University of Denver (DU). 

A dream come true: Jordan signing her National Letter of Intent at her November 13 signing party.


Jordan is one of eight women who signed onto DU’s 2020 roster this month. As a Division I school—the highest level of intercollegiate sports sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)—DU recruits some of the strongest high-school athletes from around the country. Jordan brings to the team years of high-level experience in club soccer, where she has played on several Utah teams: Black Diamond Soccer Club, Utah Soccer Alliance, and Celtic Premier FC, which won the US Youth Soccer National Championship in July.

While club players often choose to play at that level alone, rather than on high school teams, Jordan opted to play at Rowland Hall because of its close-knit community and for an extra, athletics-focused layer of college counseling and preparation. Bobby Kennedy, who coached Jordan for four years, explained that Rowland Hall was committed to helping her achieve her goal of playing D1 soccer. To do this, the school didn’t just help to hone her technical skills; her coaches, teachers, and college counselor also helped Jordan identify her top schools and develop the academic skills necessary to secure a spot on their teams—and, ultimately, in their classrooms.

Jordan’s high-caliber skills don’t come with an inflated ego: she’s a recognized leader among her peers, in part, because she’s fully committed to Rowland Hall’s team-first, family-like atmosphere, Bobby said.

“When we asked all the kids where they would prefer to play, she would write down, ‘Anywhere on the field but goalie,’” he explained. “You might think a player that’s reached her level of prominence in club, and is the classification’s MVP, would say, “I want to play center midfield,’ or ‘I want to play up front where I can score goals.’ By saying ‘I’ll play anywhere,’ you can read into the fact that she’s putting the team first.”

In addition to her strong leadership, Bobby said, Rowland Hall will remember Jordan as a consummate student-athlete, and probably the most impactful player in the last 10 years. 

“She’s literally a once-in-a-decade player,” he said.

Update November 26, 2019: For the second time, Jordan Crockett has been named 2A MVP. Read the story in the Deseret News. Congratulations, Jordan!


We asked Jordan to share more about her experience and how it feels to commit to DU. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tell us about your athletic journey.

I started playing soccer when I was two, with my mom. I wasn’t really focused on soccer at first—I was a gymnast until I was around six. Then I decided I just wanted to play soccer, and that’s when I started playing club competitively. Once I got to Rowland Hall, my freshman year was a little bit rocky, adjusting to a level I wasn’t really used to playing at. But to build a relationship with people who are in the same community as me every single day was super special. The next three years we won the state championship, which was amazing. And with club, my junior year, I was also able to win the national championship. We are the first team from Utah to ever do that, so that was pretty amazing too.

Why was it important for you to continue playing at the high school level, even while you were involved with club soccer?

I didn’t want to let go of the community; I wanted to stay throughout my four years. It was a different level, but taught me how to lead in a different way and how to share an experience with everyone else. It helped me understand that I’m building family relationships with all of my teammates.

What does it mean to you to be recruited by a D1 school for the sport you love?

Relieved is one of the main things. I was recruited by many D1 schools, and to go to Denver is honestly a blessing. I remember 13-year-old me taking Polaroid pictures of my Denver soccer shirt and posting them on my wall. It’s really a dream come true.

How were you able to balance academics and athletics while at Rowland Hall?

My teachers, the principals, and the whole staff at Rowland Hall are so helpful and really easy to communicate with about being a high-level athlete and having to balance academics. I think being able to have a community that’s so accepting, and having them support me through my whole athletic career, was super helpful.

What is the top skill you gained at Rowland Hall that you'll be taking with you to Denver?

Probably the willingness to be open to new things. Rowland Hall has given me a lot of opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom. It’s really cool that Rowland Hall is a community that is able to teach you new things every single day.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I want to be on the national team—that’s one of my biggest hopes and dreams. But if not, then I see myself in a job I enjoy, with my family and friends supporting me, and just enjoying life— trying to take each day a step at a time and live with no regrets.

Athletics

Ben Amiel 2019 Outstanding Young Volunteer

 

Rowland Hall is thrilled to announce that senior Ben Amiel was honored as the 2019 Outstanding Young Volunteer at the Utah Philanthropy Day luncheon on November 19. This annual award goes to one role model who’s under age 30 and demonstrates exceptional and sustained commitment to philanthropy and volunteerism in the community.

Ben’s nomination was spearheaded by Jewish Family Service (JFS), where he began volunteering in the food pantry at age 13 for his bar mitzvah project. Ben still serves in the food pantry today, and over the years has taken on more responsibility: in fall 2017, when JFS received a grant to enlarge the pantry, Ben helped reorganize the space. In 2018, he ran an iPod drive and fundraiser for Music and Memory, a program for people suffering from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

It is a rarity to come upon such a young person with such an interest in responding to the varied needs of our clients.—Jewish Family Service

“Ben brings a kind, calming presence to the agency,” the JFS team wrote in their nomination letter. “He seems to recognize the value in each person, and also in what we do to support them.” And his work makes a difference—his dedication to Music and Memory, for instance, resulted in the most successful donation drive in JFS history.

“Ben’s willingness to commit to JFS, adapting and finding additional ways to support and further our work is exceptional,” the team said. “It is a rarity to come upon such a young person with such an interest in responding to the varied needs of our clients. Many of our volunteers opt in for a short time, often fulfilling a goal or project, or doing something they think will look good on a resume. Ben is a committed volunteer.”

His demonstrated devotion to JFS helped set Ben apart from other nominees in the Outstanding Young Volunteer category. “What’s superlative about Ben is his tremendous, and ongoing, commitment to JFS,” said Utah Philanthropy Day committee member Jessie Foster Strike. “Each year, Ben has found new ways to deepen his contributions to the organization, which has allowed JFS to deepen its service to the community. Whether he’s stocking shelves in the food pantry, organizing a fundraiser, or educating himself on a new program, he sees an opportunity, steps up, and take the initiative to help.”

Ben Amiel at the Jewish Family Service food pantry.

Ben Amiel working in Jewish Family Service's food pantry. Photo courtesy Darcy Amiel

Ben’s dedication to JFS, on top of his rigorous academic and extracurricular load, would be impressive on its own. But he has also chosen to dedicate much of his time to serving fellow students at Rowland Hall, where he’s attended school since third grade.

“Over the years, I have seen the development of a truly sincere mentor of younger students and a hardworking individual who values and contributes to his community,” wrote Rowland Hall’s Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund in one of the letters that the school contributed to the JFS nomination.

Ben’s commitment to leadership and service at Rowland Hall is best illustrated by his involvement with the school’s debate program. A successful debater himself (he’s an Academic All-American, a National Qualifier, and has won awards at tournaments all over the state and country), Ben has mentored Middle School debate students since his freshman year, happily giving his limited free time to tasks like helping students hone their research and argumentation skills and judging tournaments.

“Debate is Ben's life and he's naturally drawn to opportunities that let him showcase his experience and wisdom,” said Debate Coach Mike Shackelford. He explained that Ben played a major role in establishing the debate mentoring program, including setting the tone and expectations for those who want to help. And he doesn’t shy away from the time-consuming work required, Mike said, because he understands the benefits of mentoring. “Ben will go out of his way to give real coaching feedback. He'll write out comprehensive evaluations. He'll proofread student work. He's always pushing them to meet their potential.”

Ben understands that dialogue is the basis of a healthy democracy. More important than ‘winning’ any argument, for Ben, is the opportunity for ideas to be tested and exchanged respectfully in public.—Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund

This influence on middle schoolers is powerful, particularly because Ben has been in their shoes and serves as an example of where hard work can lead. “Middle School students can relate to Ben in direct and meaningful ways that I will never be able to,” Mike said. “They can see themselves on the same path. This gives them confidence and assurance that it will work out.”

Ben’s love of debate and, most importantly, to learning itself, also inspired him to establish a student debate group that meets weekly to discuss timely political topics. “Ben understands that dialogue is the basis of a healthy democracy,” Ryan wrote. “More important than ‘winning’ any argument, for Ben, is the opportunity for ideas to be tested and exchanged respectfully in public.”

Mike agreed. “He's always had a larger perspective on why he debates. For him, debate is a means to an end. He doesn't do it for trophies—he participates because he loves the challenge, the skill development, the knowledge he gains, and the people he meets. Setting up clubs and doing service is just a natural extension to this purposeful approach to activities.”

It is this natural drive to use his strengths to make a difference that truly sets Ben apart as a leader. Former Upper School history teacher Fiona Halloran summed it up when she wrote, “I believe that Ben is a person for whom puzzles and challenges are central to intellectual and personal engagement. He thinks the world ought to function smoothly. It does not. So he seeks ideas and actions that can make it a little better.”

Thank you, Ben, for your commitment to making the world a little better every day. From all of us at Rowland Hall, congratulations on this recognition.

Students

Preschoolers explore the nature yard.

On an overcast autumn day, a voice rang out in the Lower School nature yard. “Match!” it cried.

At the sound, the entire 4PreK class came running. One by one, they began smelling one of the yard’s plants, on a mission to find a scent match to a mystery plant they had been given that morning.

Research shows there are powerful benefits of sensory learning—building nerve connections in the brain, improving fine motor skills and perception, encouraging social interaction, and enhancing memory are among them.

This activity is one of several sensory learning exercises that Kate Nevins’ and Brittney Hansen’s preschool class enjoyed this fall, and was designed to engage students’ sense of smell. Before going outdoors, each child had been given a bit of the crumpled mystery plant (wild sagebrush), which they rubbed between their hands and smelled. The group then went to the nature yard to locate a full sage plant by scent alone. “Children ran from plant to plant smelling the scent on the palm of their hand and then smelling the plant to see if the scent matched,” the teachers wrote about the activity. “As soon as a child was sure they found the right plant they would yell, ‘Match!’ and we would all come running to smell for ourselves.”

Because research shows there are powerful benefits of sensory learning—building nerve connections in the brain, improving fine motor skills and perception, encouraging social interaction, and enhancing memory among them—Rowland Hall embraces opportunities to add it to lessons. “The five senses have been a part of the 4PreK curriculum for at least the past 20 years—it is such a critical unit for four- and five-year-olds to explore,” said Brittney.

In the 4PreK program, senses are introduced as tools for making scientific discoveries and observations about the world. And sensory learning can be quite simple. For example, for the listening exercise, the preschoolers walked to the McCarthey Campus back field, where they closed their eyes and concentrated on, and named, the sounds around them. When exploring touch, the children lay down on the grass and described how the blades felt against their bodies.

Our young naturalists were encouraged to slow down and use a keen eye. We are learning that scientists have to be patient and look very carefully.

Students also learned the importance of perseverance. For a color hunt designed to engage sight, each student painted the wells of an empty egg carton a different color, then went outdoors to collect items that matched those colors. “Some colors proved to be more difficult to find,” the teachers said. “Our young naturalists were encouraged to slow down and use a keen eye. We are learning that scientists have to be patient and look very carefully.”

The unit also recommended continuing sensory learning at home. After the color hunt, for instance, the teachers prompted parents and guardians to help students find ways to use their collection boxes around the house. “Encourage your children to take the cartons outside in your yard or with you on a neighborhood walk,” they told parents and caregivers. This helps create a powerful connection between school and home (an ongoing goal at Rowland Hall) and builds early childhood skills like language development, fine and gross motor skills, and problem-solving in a pressure-free, fun way.

Interested in other ways you can bring sensory learning into your home? Check out 31 Days of Sensory Play to get started.

STEM

Teacher Katie Williams watches a student construct a home out of blocks.

In late October, Katie Williams’ and Vicki Smith's kindergarten class buzzed with the noise of pint-sized architects and construction workers busy assembling miniature versions of their family homes. With printed photos as their guides and wooden and foam blocks as their materials, the children were hard at work building walls, adding stories, and brainstorming methods for constructing tricky architectural features.

This activity is one of many that makes up the unit of study on community that takes place every October and November. Katie explained that the unit—which begins after the first month of school, when students meet one another, and concludes before the family-centered Thanksgiving holiday break—is a fantastic way to help children discover more about themselves, their classmates, and their families, as well as how everyone fits into the communities around them.

By helping students see the bigger picture of how lives intertwine, they begin to learn how to balance the needs of themselves and others.

The class began the unit by reading Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day?, which explores the animal inhabitants of Busytown and how they work together to provide food, housing, and clothing for their families. The story started a kid-friendly discussion on the interconnectedness of communities, and because it also identifies children as helper workers, it opened the students’ eyes to their own place within their communities. “They’re still identifying who they are,” Katie said. By helping them see the bigger picture of how lives intertwine, she continued, “they begin to learn how to balance the needs of themselves and others.”

The class built on their discoveries. After identifying what makes them special individually, they expanded the discussion outward: from a person to a classroom community; from the classroom to the school community; from the school community to the surrounding neighborhood; and so on, up to the global community. The class took a walking field trip to 9th and 9th, where students identified what the Salt Lake City neighborhood and Busytown have in common (a bakery, a salon, and a fire station, among other things). The trip ended at Rowland Hall’s Lincoln Street Campus, where the children enjoyed exploring the middle and upper schools they may one day attend.

Each person is one of many and responsible for helping their community.—Kindergarten teacher Katie Williams

While the unit’s activities are definitely fun, they also stretch young learners developmentally. For example, collaborating with peers on community maps sharpened the children’s social-emotional skills, while solving problems—like how to replicate the particularly difficult slope of a roof—built cognitive skills.

The unit also guided them toward the goal of balancing their needs with those of others. On that October morning, the students who first completed their homes began helping those who needed assistance, and after construction was complete, they connected their creations with roads, turning the classroom into a mini-neighborhood. It was a reminder that every student contributes to making kindergarten an enjoyable place. After all, as Katie said, each person is one of many and responsible for helping their community.

Academics

Family creates flashlight at Maker Night.

Paper rockets whizzed through the air. Hot-air balloons fashioned out of fruit containers and plastic bags spiraled up a wind tunnel. Light from popsicle-stick flashlights and homemade circuits flared. And the sound of laughter—from both kids and adults—filled the room.

Rowland Hall’s first Maker Night, which attracted more than 140 people, was a success.

The event, held in the McCarthey Campus Field House on November 7, was inspired by the Lower School’s Maker Day, where kids explore a variety of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) activities. Maker Night built on this event by including Beginning School and Lower School families in the hands-on learning experiences.

As Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus surveyed the activity around the room, he couldn’t help but grin. “We love the fact that families can experience what kids experience in the classroom,” he said.

Maker Night attendees traveled among stations, engaging a variety of skills as mini scientists and engineers. As the night progressed, parents like Jenna Pagoaga, mother of second grader William and preschooler Ollie, found themselves managing a small cache of completed experiments. “It’s a great community event,” she said as she watched William run to the Sky Floaters table to design a blimp for a Lego passenger. “It’s fun to see them be creative and use what they learn in class.”

Slideshow: Images from Rowland Hall's first Maker Night.

One of the biggest draws of the night was Nerdy Derby, where kids built cars and raced them on one of the three lanes of a tall, curvy track. The evening was punctuated with the cheers of those whose cars made it to the end of the track—and the groans of those whose creations fell apart on descent. Undeterred, those students simply grabbed the debris and ran back to the design table to figure out how to strengthen their vehicles. That is the point of Maker Night.

It's important for parents to see what their kids are capable of. Give them a pile of stuff. Let them explore. The play-based part of it, the creativity part, is very important.—Jodi Spiro, Lower School math specialist

“Kids are learning it’s OK to try things out, mess up, and try again,” Jij explained. He also noted the importance of giving children independence when it comes to exploration. “Often, learning outcomes are decided beforehand; this is more open-ended,” he said. “It’s exciting to think of kids leading their own learning.”

Lower School Math Specialist Jodi Spiro echoed this idea. Maker Night, she said, emphasized to parents and caregivers the scientific process of thinking, planning, testing, and redesigning. And it showed that kids don’t always need formal instruction to learn. “It’s important for parents to see what their kids are capable of,” she said. “Give them a pile of stuff. Let them explore. The play-based part of it, the creativity part, is very important.”

Tasha Hatton, who attended Maker Night with her fifth grader, Gabrielle, is excited by how simple an environment of exploration can be. She remembered how Gabrielle lit up when she saw fourth-grade teacher Haas Pectol’s recycled-plastic station, where children were braiding the plastic from discarded Halloween costumes into ropes that can be turned into things like baskets—or even, as Haas demonstrated, crocheted clutches. Maker Night, Tasha said, stimulated her family’s curiosity. “It’s introduced us to ideas we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.”

Tasha also marveled at how something as simple as recycled plastic can do wonders for a child’s imagination. “They’ll look at the world differently,” she said. “The next time they see something like that, it might spark a new idea.”

STEM

Podcasters rescording

Rowland Hall is excited to announce the release of our first podcast: princiPALS. Featuring Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman and Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus, princiPALS tackles big questions and ideas about how to raise children who thrive, and was created as an educational resource for our community.

When Rowland Hall uses the phrase 'community of learners' to describe our school, we mean it. We strive to offer adults at Rowland Hall, including parents and caretakers, opportunities for growth and development, just as we do for our students.—Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund

“When Rowland Hall uses the phrase community of learners to describe our school, we mean it,” said Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund. “We strive to offer adults at Rowland Hall, including parents and caretakers, opportunities for growth and development, just as we do for our students.” These opportunities—which also include lectures, discussions, readings, student panels, and film screenings—set the stage for school-wide success.

Parent and caretaker education supports lifelong learning, creates a community-wide culture of trust and vulnerability, and strengthens the critical Home & School partnership,” explained Ryan.

Director of Marketing and Communications Stephanie Orfanakis, who helped produce princiPALS, added, “The more tools we can access together, the better the outcome for children.” Stephanie also noted that a podcast is an ideal tool for those whose schedules may not allow much room for in-person gatherings. “Not all caregiving adults are available to attend education events,” she said. “A podcast is another option for engagement—parents can tune in when it’s convenient.”

PrinciPALS host, alumnus Conor Bentley ’01, agreed. "The work Jij and Emma do at Rowland Hall and the resources the school provides to families are important, and a podcast is an effective way to present that,” he said.

Those who listen to princiPALS can expect to not only benefit from Emma’s and Jij’s expertise, but to walk away with ideas they can immediately implement. The podcast’s first episode focuses on how to build children's resilience—a topic, Emma said, chosen for its continual relevance. "The research is clear: resilience is at least as important as talent in terms of long-term success," she explained. "We see the positive impact of helping kids develop resilience from a young age." Knowing this, she and Jij offer proven methods on building resilience that parents and caregivers can try out. This feature of princiPALS is important to the team, who want to use their positions to help make raising children easier. As Jij stated in the podcast’s introduction: “Parenting is hard. Teaching is hard. But both are a little bit easier when done in partnership.”

PrinciPALS episode 1, “Building Resilience in Children,” is now available on Rowland Hall’s website, or you can listen and subscribe on Stitcher. Apple Podcast coming soon.


Top photo, from left: Emma Wellman, Conor Bentley, and Jij de Jesus recording the first episode of princiPALS.

Community

Rowland Hall student essayists.

For the second-consecutive year, a Rowland Hall student has taken home the grand prize in the middle school category of the McCarthey Family Foundation’s Lecture Series Essay Contest. Eighth grader Omar Alsolaiman won $1,500 for his cogent interpretation of a famous Walter Cronkite quote on how freedom of the press is the bedrock of democracy.

Omar entered the contest because he thought it would be fun, he said, and a good opportunity to learn more about the Constitution and our rights. In the process of crafting his submission, he discovered a lot about the topic and his own writing style. “I learned that I prefer writing a detailed outline that allows me to organize my thoughts and then practically copy and paste them into the final essay,” he said. “I also learned that I am often a writer who struggles to ‘cut the fat.’” But cut the fat, he did: Omar’s essay clocked in at 493 words, just under the competition’s 500-word limit. He was surprised, excited, and grateful, he said, to learn his hard work paid off with a win.

In addition to Omar’s win, seventh grader Aiden Gandhi and senior Kajal Ganesh landed finalist nods in their respective categories. Aiden was also a finalist last year.

In addition to Omar’s win, seventh grader Aiden Gandhi and senior Kajal Ganesh landed finalist nods in their respective categories. Aiden was also a finalist last year, when then-eighth-grader Arden Louchheim won. Read last year’s story.

The total number of contest submissions grew to 456 this year, up from 400 last year, and the number of middle school entries doubled. Foundation Trustee Philip G. McCarthey—also the vice chair of Rowland Hall’s Board of Trustees—complimented the quality of submissions. "The essays reflected an exceptionally well-informed student population keenly aware of the challenges facing press freedom in our society today,” he said. 

Omar will be recognized during the November 9 McCarthey Family Foundation Lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and presidential historian Jon Meacham. Rowland Hall hosts this popular annual event but that doesn’t factor into the contest: judges aren’t told essayists’ names or schools.

Below is Omar’s essay, unedited by Rowland Hall.

Views expressed in the following essay are those of the writer and don't necessarily represent those of Rowland Hall and its employees.


Essay Question for Utah Students in Grades Six Through Eight

“Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.” —Walter Cronkite

In an essay of no more than 500 words, (1) explain the meaning of this quote and (2) provide examples to support your explanation.

Winner

By Omar Alsolaiman, Rowland Hall eighth grader

We inherited our democratic government from people who believed that freedom of the press was valuable enough to be enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The American belief in this right dates all the way back to a time even before America in one of the most famous pre-colonial trials, the Zenger Trial. Peter Zenger, an immigrant in New York, published articles critical of the royal governor William Cosby. Cosby was so angered that he charged Zenger with libel and jailed him, a strategy that backfired when the public supported Zenger. The jury quickly freed him, establishing that in a democratic society, anything that could be proved could be published. 

History proves Walter Cronkite right; freedom of the press came before American democracy. But to truly understand his quote, we need to understand the two main reasons that freedom of the press is so essential to democracy. First, the power of the press can expand democracy. Secondly, democracy is about the ability of communities to make informed decisions according to what they want. Without a free press, the people can be kept in the dark about the issues that affect their communities.

Democracy is about the ability of communities to make informed decisions according to what they want. Without a free press, the people can be kept in the dark about the issues that affect their communities.—Omar Alsolaiman

Throughout American history, the press has been a tool for expanding the ability of people to participate in democracy, allowing the U.S. to become more democratic over time. David Graham Phillips was a muckraker, a term for journalists who exposed problems and advocated for solutions during the early 20th century. In The Treason of the Senate, he exposed the corruption of the United States Senate at the time which eventually led to the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an amendment that established a popular election for senators. In this way, freedom of the press allowed for an expansion of democracy, handing more power to the people. The amendment made corruption more difficult since senators needed to rely on the support of many people, not just a few state legislators. 

It is not only national journalism that matters though. The communities we live in each have their own problems which can’t be solved without exposure through the press. In 2017, Rebecca Liebson, a student reporter at Stony Brook University broke the story that the administration would be cutting their budget, many different departments, and laying off over 20 professors from the school. The campus became outraged by this plan which would not have been exposed without Liebson. The administration attempted to scare her into silence. However, this only proves the power of the press. Stony Brook wanted to preserve its reputation while doing unpopular things, hiding the truth from the people who could punish it by leaving, not donating, or protesting. Democracies only work when people like Liebson do their civic duty to keep people informed about what goes on in their communities. Leaders always prefer their actions happen in the dark so that they can encounter no opposition, but as Justice Brandeis said, “sunlight . . . is the best disinfectant.”


Top photo: From left, seventh grader Aiden Gandhi, eighth grader Omar Alsolaiman, and senior Kajal Ganesh.

Student Voices

Academics

First-grade teacher Susanna Mellor leading morning meeting.

On a Thursday in November, Susanna Mellor’s first-grade class was seated in a circle, ready to begin their morning meeting. That day, they started with a pinky greeting: everyone hooked fingers, forming a chain, and then Susanna turned to one of the students next to her. “Good morning, Thomas,” she began. The salutation passed around the circle, ending with a hearty, full-group welcome: “Good morning!”


Morning meeting is one of several practices recommended by Responsive Classroom, a student-centered approach to social and emotional learning (SEL) and effective classroom management. Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus explained that the division started utilizing Responsive Classroom in 2016 as a way to support Rowland Hall’s long-standing commitment to SEL, which is associated with higher academic achievement, improved teacher-student interactions, and higher-quality instruction.

Responsive Classroom gives teachers the tools to create truly joyful, safe, and inclusive classrooms. More importantly, it gives students more responsibility and ownership in the process of building a community of kindness, respect, and learning.—Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus

“Responsive Classroom gives teachers the tools to create truly joyful, safe, and inclusive classrooms that help our students thrive,” he said. “More importantly, it gives students more responsibility and ownership in the process of building a community of kindness, respect, and learning with their classmates.”

Morning meeting achieves this by engaging young learners in a welcoming atmosphere at the start of each school day. In addition to an inclusive greeting, the meeting includes a moment of sharing, a group activity, and a daily message. Whatever the day’s focus, teachers use the meeting to make sure each child is recognized and participating in the class.

“Responsive Classroom practices help build confidence and ease anxiety by fostering a sense of belonging and significance,” Susanna said. And, she added, as the school year progresses, its rewards multiply. “When they listen to each other, students feel that they matter. I see new friendships begin to bud, classmates work comfortably and easily together, and students take risks as they share ideas in class discussions.”

The Responsive Classroom Approach

Responsive Classroom, first developed by the Center for Responsive Schools in 1981, creates safe, nurturing learning environments through four key domains: engaging academics, positive community, effective management, and developmentally responsive teaching. Because Rowland Hall is focused on integrating SEL into our academic and co-curricular programs (we formally added it to goal 1 of our Strategic Plan in November 2018), incorporating Responsive Classroom into the Lower School curriculum was a logical choice. And it has made a difference.

“It's given our teachers more clarity and alignment when they consider how best to support students, structure learning activities, and promote positive behavior expectations,” Jij said. “Students, in turn, experience more consistency and are clear on why their actions matter for their own learning and for the learning of others.”

Rowland Hall is focused on integrating social and emotional learning into our academic and co-curricular programs; we even formally added it to goal 1 of our Strategic Plan in November 2018.

To drive student success, Responsive Classroom also emphasizes interactive modeling to teach the skills, strategies, and procedures that help kids thrive at school.

“Interactive modeling has made my classroom a more calm, efficient, and productive learning environment,” Susanna said. “When students watch and comment on what I do as I role-play a procedure, they actively deduce the steps by verbalizing them and listening to peers do the same. As a result, they have a firm and clear understanding when it comes time for them to begin the task at hand.”

Integrating Responsive Classroom into Established Practices

Responsive Classroom has helped Rowland Hall refocus many classroom practices toward the school’s overarching SEL goals. One example occurs at the beginning of each school year: developing classroom agreements. Unlike traditional lists of rules, classroom agreements are created in partnership, giving teachers and students buy-in on how their classrooms will run. While the agreements have been a part of the Lower School for many years, Responsive Classroom added another layer to the process.

“Using the Responsive Classroom approach has allowed my students to delve deeper into the process of exploring their own hopes and dreams, and how we can work as a group to help each other achieve our goals,” Susanna said. She explained that students become engaged, thoughtful, and passionate as they determine what will help them do things like learn how to read, try harder math problems, or even score soccer goals. “I notice students putting much more thought and reflection into this process, making it more meaningful and effective,” she said.

Collaborating on classroom agreements also makes it more likely that children will follow, and reference, those agreements during the school year.

“Students refer back to these agreements when obstacles arise and really demonstrate ownership of them,” said Susanna. “For example, when having a class discussion about erasers being damaged intentionally, several children commented, ‘That’s not following our agreement. We said we’d take care of our materials this year so that we could become better writers.’”

Susanna Mellor's class reads the morning message.

Morning meeting gives students an opportunity to revisit class agreements and reflect on how they can work together in support of classroom goals.

Classroom agreements are referenced regularly by instructors too. In Susanna’s morning meeting, for instance, students are asked which agreements they want to focus on and what actions they can take to make sure those agreements are honored. One student reminded classmates that they can meet their goal to keep calm in the classroom by walking; another observed that they can fulfill the agreement to try harder math problems by listening respectfully during instruction.

Using Responsive Classroom in New Ways

Responsive Classroom also inspires new methods to empower students. This fall, the Lower School used the foundation of classroom agreements in a new way: to create school-wide Winged Lion Agreements.

On September 6, 17 student delegates from grades one through five—one from each class—gathered in the McCarthey Campus parlor for the first-ever student constitutional convention. Delegates shared their classes’ newly developed classroom agreements with the group before beginning a discussion on agreements that could be applied to the whole school.

Student delegates created Winged Lion Agreements

Responsive Classroom helps educators look for ways to engage students in their school community. Above, the student delegates who helped craft the Lower School's first Winged Lion Agreements in September.

When students help make decisions about how the school runs, they understand their voices are valued and that they play a role in making school enjoyable for everyone.—Lower School Specialty Principal Linda Tatomer

Lower School Specialty Principal Linda Tatomer—who has completed all Responsive Classroom courses, including the Responsive Classroom for Leadership conference—led the discussion and was impressed by how the process unfolded. “When students help make decisions about how the school runs, they understand their voices are valued and that they play a role in making school enjoyable for everyone,” she said. “And because each student was a stakeholder in the convention’s outcome, they were serious about identifying meaningful goals.” She was also thrilled by the inclusion she saw in the room, especially by the way fifth graders mentored the first graders. “They really made connections and made them feel valued,” Linda said.

After thoughtful discussion, the group decided on five agreements for the year: 
    •    Be kind

    •    Respect

    •    Work hard and never give up

    •    Be safe

    •    Have fun


Each item was purposefully selected, down to exact words—for instance, the delegates chose the word “respect” because of its ability to encompass a wide range of areas, from personal behavior to how students should treat their surroundings.

Designing Better School Days with Responsive Classroom

Responsive Classroom further helps the Lower School team continuously reevaluate how to best meet students’ needs. One recent change to the school day occurred as a result of a February 2019 meeting with a Responsive Classroom consultant, who was sent to observe a full day at the school after Linda completed her training in the approach.

“One thing the consultant noticed was that our dining hall is very noisy,” Linda remembered. The consultant recommended a proven solution she thought would benefit the division: moving recess before lunch, an idea that the Lower School student support team had been considering for two years prior to the visit.

Lower School students on the playground.

In 2019, the Lower School moved recess from after to before lunch, resulting in school-wide behavior improvements.

“The change would have numerous benefits,” said Linda. “Children could focus on eating, noise would go down, and no one would be racing to get outside.” After presenting the idea to an enthusiastic Lower School faculty in the spring, Jij and Linda began working on making the change for the fall. When it was time to introduce the schedule adjustment to students during the second chapel of the year, Jij, Linda, and Chuck White, the McCarthey Campus emotional support counselor, were thoughtful in their approach, using a similar style students had already experienced in the classroom.

“We asked, ‘What should lunch feel and sound like?’” Linda said. The team also emphasized the why behind the discussion so students would understand both the reason for change and its related benefits. “We talked about how we can all follow agreements to make school more enjoyable for everyone,” Linda said.

Using a dining table that had been brought into the chapel, Jij, Linda, and Chuck then modeled for students proper lunch behavior: entering the dining hall respectfully, staying seated facing the table, and talking at an appropriate volume. Each child was also given the chance to practice at the table.

Children have adjusted well to the change, Linda said. It was, she explained, an extension of the discussions students have become accustomed to—and, importantly, it reminded them that they each play a part in creating a respectful, safe, and joyful school for all.

“I’m really proud of them,” she said.

Responsive Classroom Resources for Parents and Caregivers

Responsive Classroom has been an influential tool in helping Rowland Hall meet SEL goals in the Lower School. Because we are committed to partnering with parents and caregivers in their children’s education, we have made many Responsive Classroom materials available in the parent section of the McCarthey Campus’ Steiner Library for those who are interested in more information about the approach.

Academics

Preschoolers explore the nature yard.

On an overcast autumn day, a voice rang out in the Lower School nature yard. “Match!” it cried.

At the sound, the entire 4PreK class came running. One by one, they began smelling one of the yard’s plants, on a mission to find a scent match to a mystery plant they had been given that morning.

Research shows there are powerful benefits of sensory learning—building nerve connections in the brain, improving fine motor skills and perception, encouraging social interaction, and enhancing memory are among them.

This activity is one of several sensory learning exercises that Kate Nevins’ and Brittney Hansen’s preschool class enjoyed this fall, and was designed to engage students’ sense of smell. Before going outdoors, each child had been given a bit of the crumpled mystery plant (wild sagebrush), which they rubbed between their hands and smelled. The group then went to the nature yard to locate a full sage plant by scent alone. “Children ran from plant to plant smelling the scent on the palm of their hand and then smelling the plant to see if the scent matched,” the teachers wrote about the activity. “As soon as a child was sure they found the right plant they would yell, ‘Match!’ and we would all come running to smell for ourselves.”

Because research shows there are powerful benefits of sensory learning—building nerve connections in the brain, improving fine motor skills and perception, encouraging social interaction, and enhancing memory among them—Rowland Hall embraces opportunities to add it to lessons. “The five senses have been a part of the 4PreK curriculum for at least the past 20 years—it is such a critical unit for four- and five-year-olds to explore,” said Brittney.

In the 4PreK program, senses are introduced as tools for making scientific discoveries and observations about the world. And sensory learning can be quite simple. For example, for the listening exercise, the preschoolers walked to the McCarthey Campus back field, where they closed their eyes and concentrated on, and named, the sounds around them. When exploring touch, the children lay down on the grass and described how the blades felt against their bodies.

Our young naturalists were encouraged to slow down and use a keen eye. We are learning that scientists have to be patient and look very carefully.

Students also learned the importance of perseverance. For a color hunt designed to engage sight, each student painted the wells of an empty egg carton a different color, then went outdoors to collect items that matched those colors. “Some colors proved to be more difficult to find,” the teachers said. “Our young naturalists were encouraged to slow down and use a keen eye. We are learning that scientists have to be patient and look very carefully.”

The unit also recommended continuing sensory learning at home. After the color hunt, for instance, the teachers prompted parents and guardians to help students find ways to use their collection boxes around the house. “Encourage your children to take the cartons outside in your yard or with you on a neighborhood walk,” they told parents and caregivers. This helps create a powerful connection between school and home (an ongoing goal at Rowland Hall) and builds early childhood skills like language development, fine and gross motor skills, and problem-solving in a pressure-free, fun way.

Interested in other ways you can bring sensory learning into your home? Check out 31 Days of Sensory Play to get started.

STEM

Teacher Katie Williams watches a student construct a home out of blocks.

In late October, Katie Williams’ and Vicki Smith's kindergarten class buzzed with the noise of pint-sized architects and construction workers busy assembling miniature versions of their family homes. With printed photos as their guides and wooden and foam blocks as their materials, the children were hard at work building walls, adding stories, and brainstorming methods for constructing tricky architectural features.

This activity is one of many that makes up the unit of study on community that takes place every October and November. Katie explained that the unit—which begins after the first month of school, when students meet one another, and concludes before the family-centered Thanksgiving holiday break—is a fantastic way to help children discover more about themselves, their classmates, and their families, as well as how everyone fits into the communities around them.

By helping students see the bigger picture of how lives intertwine, they begin to learn how to balance the needs of themselves and others.

The class began the unit by reading Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day?, which explores the animal inhabitants of Busytown and how they work together to provide food, housing, and clothing for their families. The story started a kid-friendly discussion on the interconnectedness of communities, and because it also identifies children as helper workers, it opened the students’ eyes to their own place within their communities. “They’re still identifying who they are,” Katie said. By helping them see the bigger picture of how lives intertwine, she continued, “they begin to learn how to balance the needs of themselves and others.”

The class built on their discoveries. After identifying what makes them special individually, they expanded the discussion outward: from a person to a classroom community; from the classroom to the school community; from the school community to the surrounding neighborhood; and so on, up to the global community. The class took a walking field trip to 9th and 9th, where students identified what the Salt Lake City neighborhood and Busytown have in common (a bakery, a salon, and a fire station, among other things). The trip ended at Rowland Hall’s Lincoln Street Campus, where the children enjoyed exploring the middle and upper schools they may one day attend.

Each person is one of many and responsible for helping their community.—Kindergarten teacher Katie Williams

While the unit’s activities are definitely fun, they also stretch young learners developmentally. For example, collaborating with peers on community maps sharpened the children’s social-emotional skills, while solving problems—like how to replicate the particularly difficult slope of a roof—built cognitive skills.

The unit also guided them toward the goal of balancing their needs with those of others. On that October morning, the students who first completed their homes began helping those who needed assistance, and after construction was complete, they connected their creations with roads, turning the classroom into a mini-neighborhood. It was a reminder that every student contributes to making kindergarten an enjoyable place. After all, as Katie said, each person is one of many and responsible for helping their community.

Academics

Collage of teachers with books.

Have you read anything good lately?

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

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

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

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

The Middle School shelfie board.

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

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

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

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

See Our Shelfies & Share Yours

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

Community

students conducting science experiment

By Alisa Poppen, Upper School science teacher and department chair

Editor's note: Alisa gave the following talk—lightly edited here for style and context—during a September 3 Upper School chapel that explored creativity in academics and life.


If you’re a sophomore in chemistry right now, I wouldn’t fault you for thinking that science is solely about precision. We’ve spent days and days making sure you know how to include the appropriate number of digits in a measurement. Most of you are with one of two women who seem strangely enthusiastic about the difference between 12 and 12.0.

When, in first-period chemistry last year, then-sophomore James Welt said, “In math, those two numbers might be the same, but in science…,” I nearly teared up. And then quoted him at least 25 times. And possibly mentioned it at parent-teacher conferences. And in the first semester comments. And, most importantly, secured his permission to mention it, again, today.

The start of the year has been all about measurement and certainty. And doing it right. And if that was all you learned, you might lose sight of the fact that science is, at its essence, a creative endeavor.

If you’re in Advanced Topics Biology, you’ve been counting and counting, and then carefully making graphs on which you place your error bars correctly to represent the range in which we would expect to find most sample means. In short, the start of the year has been all about measurement and certainty. And doing it right. And if that was all you learned, you might lose sight of the fact that science is, at its essence, a creative endeavor.

An example: In the 19th century, Gregor Mendel bred pea plants. Lots and lots of pea plants. He knew that, like many flowering plants, peas were most likely to self-pollinate, but he asked, “What if I force them to cross-pollinate?” When he finished, he counted pea plants. This many with purple flowers, this many with white…that’s all he had: numbers of purple and numbers of white. But to make sense of those numbers, he imagined. What could be going on, deep inside those pea plants, to explain those numbers? He settled on this: each plant has two factors, pieces of information, only one of which was transferred to offspring. He couldn’t see those factors with the naked eye, but he imagined they must be there. How else would those numbers make sense?

teacher talking to students

Alisa Poppen talks to chemistry students about a lab for which they're creating a representative sketch of an experiment and graphing actual results.

Mendel's rudimentary model inspired others—far too many to name—to creatively search for and characterize his factors. Spoiler alert: they’re chromosomes, composed of DNA. Along the way, we’ve realized that Mendel’s factors alone don’t determine how we develop. And so we continue to look. A woman in California, Jennifer Doudna, characterized a protein complex from bacterial cells called CRISPR, and because of her work, we now ask questions like this: what if we could modify our own DNA? And (for Upper School ethics and English teacher Dr. Carolyn Hickman) if we could, should we?

We get to imagine. Anyone who tells you that creativity belongs only to the artists, or the writers, hasn’t been paying attention. Science is, at its core, the act of asking questions—What if? How? Why?—and then creatively designing experiments to test those questions.

The summer before last, I worked in a lab that uses cotton as a model to study how genomes change. I would love to go on and on about the work, but to keep this short, I’ll just say this: the cotton seeds were breathtakingly uncooperative. On Monday they behaved one way, and on Thursday they were completely different. The data were never the same twice. After testing several possible explanations, we were stumped.

Sitting in the lab one afternoon, I threw out a possible explanation that, truth be told, I wasn’t completely sure of. Justin, my grad student/mentor, thought for a moment and then said, “What if that’s it?” and then grabbed three paper towels and a Sharpie. “We could do this,” he said, while sketching out the experiment. “And if we’re right, the results will look like this,” and he quickly drew a graph. We then sat quietly for a minute or so, staring at the paper towels, and then he said this: “This is my favorite part, when we get to imagine what the experiment would look like.”

We get to imagine. Anyone who tells you that creativity belongs only to the artists, or the writers, hasn’t been paying attention. Science is, at its core, the act of asking questions—What if? How? Why?—and then creatively designing experiments to test those questions. Testing a scenario that hasn’t been tested before. Yes, we measure, and yes, we replicate, so that the answers to our questions are supported by evidence. But the measuring and the replicating is always preceded by an act of creativity. And that, for us, is often the favorite part.

STEM

student with teacher at event

After honing her letter-to-the-editor skills in Kody Partridge’s English 11 class, junior Laura Summerfield took that lesson to the next level: she entered and won Westminster College's annual Honors College Statewide Essay Contest. Read her winning essay in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Laura—an aspiring journalist herself—penned the persuasive piece in response to the following prompt: “Write an essay (600 words or less) that explores the role played by media in promoting or impeding civility in our political and civic discourse. In an age of Twitter and ‘fake news,’ what responsibility does the media have to encourage civility?”

My generation may be one of the last that remembers civility in politics unless we do something to reignite it.—Laura Summerfield, Class of 2020

The contest drew 85 entrants from 22 high schools across Utah, according to Westminster Honors College Dean Richard Badenhausen. A distinguished, bipartisan panel of five judges (a former Salt Lake City mayor, an acclaimed author, a lobbyist, a professor, and a Trib reporter) evaluated 13 finalists. Although it was an extremely close contest—Laura won by one point—her essay was the only one that appeared on every judge’s ballot.

Westminster held the contest in conjunction with a March 19 lecture by New York Times Op-Ed Editor James Dao. Laura received her prize, a $2,000 check, that evening, and the Trib published her piece not long after.

“When I received the email telling me I had won, I literally didn't believe it,” Laura said. “Even when my essay was in the Trib, I didn't believe it. I still don't believe it.”

I want students to know that their words matter to me and to others.—Upper School English Teacher Kody Partridge

Incredulous as she may be, there’s no denying that Laura—thanks in part to family discussions and Kody’s class—was well prepared to respond to this year’s prompt. “The topic resonated with me because my family's go-to pre-dinner, dinner, and post-dinner programming is the news and political talk shows, so I knew the state of our political climate,” Laura said. “This topic is important because my generation may be one of the last that remembers civility in politics unless we do something to reignite it.”

Kody attended the March event to support Laura and hear the lecture. Though Laura didn’t write the award-winning essay specifically for Kody’s class, the beloved Upper School teacher of over 16 years has a unit that covers writing letters to the editor, and respectfully and compellingly voicing opinions outside of the classroom. “I want students to know that their words matter to me and to others,” Kody said. The lesson certainly got through to Laura, and Kody is a proud teacher. “Laura is a talented writer and a thoughtful young woman,” she said. “It was a fantastic letter.”


Top photo: Laura and Kody at the March 16 event.

Writing

Teacher helping students with a computing activity

Junior Alex Armknecht named Aspirations in Computing Northern Utah Affiliate winner, sophomore Katy Dark and teacher Ben Smith ’89 receive honorable mentions

It helps me confirm my commitment to equity and inclusion of girls in computer science classes at Rowland Hall.—Teacher Ben Smith ’89

Computer science teacher and alumnus Ben Smith ’89 has spent the past several years encouraging his students as they apply for—and often place in—the National Center for Women and Information Technology's (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing awards. For the first time this year, NCWIT recognized the teacher alongside his students.

Ben learned in March that he’d been named a 2019 Northern Utah Affiliate Honorable Mention recipient of the NCWIT Educator Award, which goes to teachers who continually encourage young women’s aspirations in computing.

“I have been active with NCWIT for several years now, and it was good to get recognition for those efforts—it was a bit of a surprise,” Ben said. “It helps me confirm my commitment to equity and inclusion of girls in computer science classes at Rowland Hall.”

Ben was one of three teachers honored by the regional affiliate, junior Alex Armknecht was one of 16 student winners, and sophomore Katy Dark was one of 30 honorable mentions. Student winners are selected annually "based on their aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing; leadership ability; academic history; and plans for post-secondary education," according to Aspirations in Computing (AiC).

Teacher with students at awards ceremony for women in computing.

From left, sophomore Katy Dark, teacher Ben Smith, and junior Alex Armknecht at the regional awards ceremony in March.

Since 2014, 11 Rowland Hall students have earned a collective 14 NCWIT awards, including two honorable mentions at the national level.

Alex’s 2019 award follows her honorable mention last year. A Middle School coding seminar first sparked Alex’s interest in the subject—from there, she worked with administrators and faculty to create a computing elective, and even recruited other girls to take the class. Last year in Ben’s AP Computer Science Principles class, Alex made a math app to help kids learn division, and fourth graders in teacher Tyler Stack's class picked her project as their favorite. She plans to keep studying computer science.

Katy also plans to pursue computing. In addition to the AiC award, she recently won a national President's Volunteer Service Award for her work tutoring students and developing a coding club at Dual Immersion Academy, a bilingual Spanish-English charter school she attended during her elementary years.

Ben, Alex, and Katy attended a March 16 ceremony in Provo where they met peer students and teachers, accepted their awards, and left with swag bags—a much-anticipated highlight for Ben. “Every year I see my students getting these killer swag bags and I go home empty handed,” the teacher joked before attending the ceremony. “I might just get one of my own this year.”

Since 2014, 11 Rowland Hall students have earned a collective 14 NCWIT awards, including two honorable mentions at the national level. The center and its AiC awards have become big names in the computer science world. Women are underrepresented in that field, but the 2004-founded organization is working hard to move the needle and empower women to pursue and succeed in computing.

Related stories

STEM

Student in traditional Islamic dress gestures toward a pot.

On March 20, seventh graders used illustrations, demos, dioramas, and even virtual reality to transport Rowland Hall community members to a different time and place—the Golden Age of Islam that started in the seventh century and stretched from Spain to China.

According to seventh-grade world studies teacher Margot Miller, last week's exhibition was driven by one question: "How can we showcase the Golden Age of Islam in order to educate our community about Islamic inventions and challenge assumptions and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims?"

The middle schoolers used the book 1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilizations and conducted additional research to become experts on their topics. For the main attraction, they transformed the Middle School's upstairs art hallway, adjacent staircase, and the band room hallway into a funnel of knowledge—visitors snaked through topical sections dealing with food, fashion, medicine, school, astronomy, architecture, and more. The seventh graders also prepared oral and written presentations, and eagerly enlightened all who passed through the exhibition.

World Studies

Arts

Phinehas Bynum performs in Candide
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


Phinehas Bynum makes “whizbangs and gizmos” to automate mundane things in his Minneapolis house. A motion sensor on his washing machine messages him when the washer stops. Between loads, he composes and plays music in his DIY home-recording studio. It’s a delightful showcase of his two biggest passions.

Phinehas—Phin, for short—holds a music and computer science degree from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. By day, he works for software company Jamf on a technical-implementation team that teaches and trains clients. But the renaissance man has also been a lifelong singer—performing with the likes of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as a fourth grader, the renowned St. Olaf Choir as a college student, and operas around Minneapolis, including the Minnesota Opera (MNOp), since college.

You can make someone's day better by fixing their computer, or by singing them a song. And both of these involve compassion, creativity, logic, and technique.—Phinehas Bynum ’08

“I was just about born singing,” said Phin, whose parents prophetically gave him a name that means, among other interpretations, mouth of brass. “Every time you say ‘Phinehas’ a trumpet gets its wings,” the alum quipped. Naturally, young Phin also dabbled in reverse engineering. “Mama and Papa stepped on clock springs and screws on the daily because I took everything apart to see how it worked,” he said. “Computer science was an extension of tinkering for me because you could change how something worked just by telling it to change, no take-apart required.” 

Phin has deftly balanced singing and computing, which he said similarly fulfill him. “You can make someone's day better by fixing their computer, or by singing them a song,” he said. “And both of these involve compassion, creativity, logic, and technique.” And he continues the balancing act, in part, because of Rowland Hall. “I was always encouraged to spend time doing what I was passionate about, and that goal has stuck with me,” he said. “Ultimate frisbee, robotics club, cross country, choir, jazz band—most of the things I am doing now, I was also doing in some form in high school.”

Actors on stage in front of orchestra.

Phinehas Bynum, second from left, stars in VocalEssence and Theater Latté Da’s March 2019 production of Candide. (Photos by Bruce Silcox, courtesy of VocalEssence)

Now, Phin’s arts life is expanding. The singer made his theatrical debut in March to rave reviews. Two Minneapolis arts organizations collaborated to present Candide, a reimagining of the Leonard Bernstein operetta. Phin landed the titular role. Tickets to the five-night, 505-seat show in the heart of downtown sold out early, so the final dress rehearsal became a sixth production. Phin called the performance—his largest to date—transformative. He described his character as an optimist whose misadventures make him wiser instead of bitter. “I'd consider myself a stubborn, but quiet optimist,” Phin said. “It was core-shaking to inhabit a character who lives his optimism completely on the outside, and it challenged me to let the rest of the world, the audience, see that element of me.” His months of practice paid off. In the Star Tribune, critic Terry Blain praised Phin’s performance: “Bynum cut a convincingly boyish figure, his light tenor imparting a touchingly artless quality to songs.”

Since Candide wrapped, Phin has spent more time making his own music—an exploration of jazz, pop, and electronic. He’s recording an album, a longtime dream that combines his musical and technical pursuits. He’s also excited to sing with MNOp again. “I get to sit in a room of wonderfully passionate and diverse folks and bring feelings and ideas and notes and rhythms off a piece of paper and into reality,” he said. “It's the best.” 

Phin credited Rowland Hall for a solid foundation, and expressed gratitude to teachers and administrators—particularly the late Linda Hampton, a beloved Upper School staffer who attended nearly all of his performances. “Linda called herself my ‘biggest fan,’” Phin said. “I’m blessed that my musical endeavors have always been supported by my family and friends, but Linda will always have a special place in my heart.”

Alumni

orchestra concert

Winged Lion musicians enjoyed a banner school year dotted with captivating chapel and morning-meeting performances, well-attended concerts, a visit from a Stradivarius-playing concertmaster, and glowing reviews at competitions.

Highlights for the year, according to music teachers Sarah Yoon and Jeremy Innis:

  • On October 16, our Advanced Chamber Ensemble (ACE) performed at Primary Children's Hospital for the third year in a row; read our November 2017 story about ACE and their volunteerism. New this year, the hospital internally televised the concert for all patients to enjoy.

  • On April 23, Pacific Symphony Concertmaster Dennis Kim visited Rowland Hall for a masterclass, brown-bag lunch concert, and Q&A session. Dennis worked with our musicians in small groups, giving them direct, practical pointers—particularly on playing their instruments with passion. He also shared personal anecdotes, including the story of his career and how he acquired a Stradivarius violin, one of the most celebrated and valuable instruments in the world.

  • On May 2, ACE and the Upper School Orchestra performed music from Schindler’s List at the Jewish Community Center for Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. “It was very powerful to be among Holocaust survivors and family members,” Sarah said.

  • On June 1, choir students performed Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” along with our jazz band and dance company at the Salt Lake City Pride Parade; participation was driven by middle and upper schoolers in LGBTQ+ advocacy and allyship clubs.

Competition Highlights

Sixteen Rowland Hall students competed at Regionals on March 26. From there, one choir and all eight ACE students moved onto the Utah High School Activities Association’s State Solo and Ensemble South Festival held Saturday, April 27, in Provo.

At State, all of our competing students (listed below) received a “superior” rating, the highest on a five-point scale. View a full PDF of all results.

Solos

  • Cora Lopez, contralto singer, La fleur que tu m'avais jetee by Bizet
  • Claire Sanderson, piano, Chopin Nocturne
  • Ziteng Zeng, violin, Mozart Rondo from Serenade in D minor "Haffner"
  • Jake Bleil, string bass, Koussevitzy Valse Miniature
  • Augustus Hickman, violin, Bach Concerto in A minor

Duets

  • Austin Topham and Zach Benton, violin and viola, Handel Halvorsen Passacaglia
  • Patrick McNally and Ziteng Zeng, violin, Vivaldi Concerto in D minor
  • Augustus Hickman and Atticus Hickman, violin, Bach Double Concerto

Music

students performing on stage
Middle and upper school actors, dancers, musicians, and visual artists derived their own absurd, whimsical, haunting, and comedic version of Alice in Wonderland, performed April 11–13 in the Larimer Center for the Performing Arts.

The innovative show featured large-scale murals, traveling props, a costume menagerie, every style of dance, and integrated orchestral, vocal, and jazz music.

theater

dancers on stage

Every arts performance is a collaborative event, and in recent years we’ve had a large contingency of alumni return and contribute their time and talents to our programs. This January’s dance concert, Home: The Monsters We Run From, The Refuge We Seek, featured a film by Oliver Jin ’18 and a piece choreographed by Laja Field ’08. Also assisting: Max Jacquin ’18 worked on the lighting design and Sophia Cutrubus ’18 trained dancers in the Middle School Arts & Ensemble program.

Oliver’s film served as an introduction to the dance concert, framing the themes of migration and departure in scientific terms and providing audience members with a foundation to aid their interpretation of the dancers’ work. “The film is a message that says migration and movement and departure are an integral part of our humanity,” Oliver said. He credited Rowland Hall with showing him how the arts are intertwined. Now in his first year at Sarah Lawrence College studying photography, Oliver frequently attends art installations, dance lectures, and other performances to support and learn from fellow artists.

Laja Field ’08 enjoyed coming back to Rowland Hall and collaborating with the current group of students and artists. She said the school feels like home to her: “The teachers and experiences I had there I hold very close to my heart.”After graduating in 2008, Laja Field earned her bachelor’s degree in modern dance at the University of Utah and went on to dance professionally, eventually founding the physical dance theatre company LAJAMARTIN with her partner, Martin Durov. She said studying dance at Rowland Hall—and the opportunity to complete a distinction in dance—helped her envision a career in the field. Laja was thrilled to return and create a piece on current students, which  was partly inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story.

“I believe that, if we tell more stories, and we’re able to invite another perspective through dance, there’s an opportunity to see something in a new way,” Laja said. She described her piece as a mish-mash of cultural influences, which asks people to consider their roles in any given community. “Who are we? Are we the ones who open our arms? Are we the ones who listen to new stories and open up our perspectives and take them in? Or are we stuck in our ways?”

Rowland Hall’s arts department chair Sofia Gorder celebrated the desire of our alumni to collaborate with other artists and stay engaged with their alma mater: “The school breeds this idea that we come back and we give back. That’s part of the culture.” See clips from the concert and hear more from Laja and Oliver about what giving back to the arts means to them.
 

Alumni

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

Choreographing 'Home'

My Experience Collaboratively Creating the January 17–19 Dance Concert Home: The Monsters We Run From, the Refuge We Seek

By Katie Rose Kimball, Class of 2019

Every dance concert is a culmination of many artistic processes, patched and threaded together into an epic mosaic of experience, ideas, and connections. Each choreographer and dancer can trace their own emotional story through the development of the program, if only because the process takes months to complete.

Above, students run through Home in a dress rehearsal before opening night.

Coming out of the last summer of high school, I found myself thinking about the habits I had formed to structure summer days—drinking morning tea, eating questionable meals, redesigning my room—and my relationship with routines as a whole, whether they were mind-numbing, comforting, or something in between. When I was presented with the tagline of this year's concert—Home: The Monsters We Run From, the Refuge We Seek—I found myself with the perfect avenue to explore my questions about routine.

To create my dance, I settled into a cyclical process of choice, inspiration, and response. For instance, I chose music with layers of repetition to reflect how routines build on top of each other. When I was considering one potential song, another dancer casually commented that it sounded like a morning alarm. That comment propelled me to build the storyline of my dance around morning routines. This choice led to more deliberate decisions like having one dancer make a cup of tea while the rest slept. And so it went until I had filled the whole three minutes of music.

One of the hardest parts of the process was struggling with the vulnerability that comes with asking someone else to perform your art.

One of the hardest parts of the process was struggling with the vulnerability that comes with asking someone else to perform your art. When I teach a dance to another person, it's as if I'm painting a piece on wood and metal and cloth that was intended for a blank canvas. The general strokes of what I'm trying to convey transfer easily, but each individual's performance has different details and a different underlying tone. Yet, this transformation also allows me to see my ideas in a way I never can when they're caught inside my own mind. I'm forced to face that which I was trying to avoid, and I discover comfort in places I'd never thought to look.

I find myself creating a little piece of Home.

Looking around, I see each person in the dance company looking to find this piece of home, whether that's by asking what it means to be a refugee, examining our relationship with technology, exploring a child's imagination, or revealing our underlying dread of deadlines. This year's dance concert brings together a unique collection of voices that are ready to welcome you into their home.

Dance

Band Director Dr. Bret Jackson Named State Music Educator of the Year

Rowland Hall Band Director Dr. Bret Jackson can end 2018 on a high note: the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) this month named him Music Educator of the Year.

Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic nominated Bret. She said she's ecstatic UHSAA selected him and the honor is well-earned. "He is truly the consummate professional who loves his students and who loves to bring music into their lives."

It never fails that I see or hear him working with a student or students in the music room every time I walk by. —Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic, Dr. Jackson's nominator

Bret trains students to view music as a creative art that has relevance and potency in their lives, Kendra wrote in her nomination letter, and he's often the first person in the building each morning and the last to leave each night. "It never fails that I see or hear him working with a student or students in the music room every time I walk by," she added. "His dedication and commitment to creating a strong music program at Rowland Hall is incredible."

Through that dedication—plus his musical prowess and unfailingly friendly disposition—Bret has made a big impression on Rowland Hall since his 2005 hiring. He and his students have accumulated numerous awards, including top honors at state and region music festivals and competitions. And his contributions extend beyond the music department: he's always happy to organize a jazz band performance at sports games and other school events, Kendra wrote. "Any time our band is involved with a sporting activity, our fan attendance goes up exponentially because of the festive atmosphere that Dr. Jackson and his jazz band creates in the gym."

I feel lucky to have a career that allows me to help young people develop important life skills and a love for art through nurturing their musical talents.—Band Director Dr. Bret Jackson

Bret loves teaching young musicians in their formative years: he said his own life has been largely defined by the opportunities for growth, achievement, and leadership he had back in high school. "Recognizing this, I feel lucky to have a career that allows me to help young people develop important life skills and a love for art through nurturing their musical talents."

The top teacher added he's grateful for the award and bolstered by the recognition. "If it can help get the word out that there is great music being made at Rowland Hall, then all the better."

Read more about Bret in his biography.

The accolade is part of UHSAA's Distinguished Service Awards, initiated in 1987 to honor individuals for their service and contributions to high school activities. Bret will join 16 other coaches, officials, teachers, and contributors who will be honored at a January luncheon.

Bret is the seventh Rowland Hall employee on record to receive a UHSAA Distinguished Service Award. Full list:

  1. Dr. Bret Jackson, band director and music teacher, 2018 Music Educator of the Year
  2. Bobby Kennedy, girls soccer head coach, 2015 2A Coach of the Year
  3. Mark Oftedal, cross country and track and field coach, 2014 2A Coach of the Year
  4. Kathy Howa, softball and volleyball coach, 2013 Distinguished Contributor of the Year
  5. Shawn MacQueen, former boys basketball and golf coach, 2009 2A Coach of the Year
  6. Ryan Hoglund, former debate coach and current director of ethical education, 2007 Speech Educator of the Year
  7. Kendra Tomsic, director of athletics, 2004 Athletic Director of the Year

Music

Celebrating 150 Years in Our Classrooms

For the sesquicentennial, we asked Rowland Hall's teachers to find ways to incorporate our 150th anniversary into their curriculum. They rose to the challenge, creating fun and instructional opportunities for students, including art installations, math activities, spelling lessons, and service projects related to our school's history and/or the number 150.

Below are a few of the year's highlights. Check out photos and video from all the curricular activities on the Rowland Hall 150 website.


Upper School: Studio Art Installation

Art teacher Rob Mellor quite literally wove our sesquicentennial into his curriculum. His six-member Studio Art 3 class created a shallow installation of string secured by 150 nails. The 3-D line design incorporates color, pattern, random chance, and a large spiral as a nod to Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty artwork at the Great Salt Lake. Students created connections from nail to nail and linked each symbolic year together to create an open tapestry. Mr. Mellor said the project entailed "classic problem solving within a group dynamic. Compromise, trial and error, concept and meaning."


Middle School: 150 Rube Goldberg Machine

Middle School students in Ben Smith's class took on the major challenge of creating a SeRuGoMa, also known as the Sesquicentennial Rube Goldberg Machine. They built the machine on three large cardboard numbers (1,5,0) and divided into teams to design and construct seven actions per cardboard number, each of which triggered a subsequent action. They shared their creation with fellow students and visitors on Grandparents Day in November and on Maker Day in May.


Lower School: Giving Back, 150-Style

Lower School students in the first and third grades used the sesquicentennial celebration as an opportunity for community service. Third-grade students knitted over 150 hats to donate to the House of Hope, while first-grade students completed 150 acts of kindness over the course of the year. We're especially proud of these big-hearted and generous Winged Lions, who even received a shout-out on KSL's morning news for their good deeds!


Beginning School: Birthday Bash

Our Beginning School students participated in a birthday bash on the 150th day of school. They prepared 150 beautiful butterflies as a gift to Rowland Hall, and then celebrated on the quad with singing and dancing.
Sesquicentennial

Experiential Learning

First-grade teacher Susanna Mellor leading morning meeting.

On a Thursday in November, Susanna Mellor’s first-grade class was seated in a circle, ready to begin their morning meeting. That day, they started with a pinky greeting: everyone hooked fingers, forming a chain, and then Susanna turned to one of the students next to her. “Good morning, Thomas,” she began. The salutation passed around the circle, ending with a hearty, full-group welcome: “Good morning!”


Morning meeting is one of several practices recommended by Responsive Classroom, a student-centered approach to social and emotional learning (SEL) and effective classroom management. Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus explained that the division started utilizing Responsive Classroom in 2016 as a way to support Rowland Hall’s long-standing commitment to SEL, which is associated with higher academic achievement, improved teacher-student interactions, and higher-quality instruction.

Responsive Classroom gives teachers the tools to create truly joyful, safe, and inclusive classrooms. More importantly, it gives students more responsibility and ownership in the process of building a community of kindness, respect, and learning.—Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus

“Responsive Classroom gives teachers the tools to create truly joyful, safe, and inclusive classrooms that help our students thrive,” he said. “More importantly, it gives students more responsibility and ownership in the process of building a community of kindness, respect, and learning with their classmates.”

Morning meeting achieves this by engaging young learners in a welcoming atmosphere at the start of each school day. In addition to an inclusive greeting, the meeting includes a moment of sharing, a group activity, and a daily message. Whatever the day’s focus, teachers use the meeting to make sure each child is recognized and participating in the class.

“Responsive Classroom practices help build confidence and ease anxiety by fostering a sense of belonging and significance,” Susanna said. And, she added, as the school year progresses, its rewards multiply. “When they listen to each other, students feel that they matter. I see new friendships begin to bud, classmates work comfortably and easily together, and students take risks as they share ideas in class discussions.”

The Responsive Classroom Approach

Responsive Classroom, first developed by the Center for Responsive Schools in 1981, creates safe, nurturing learning environments through four key domains: engaging academics, positive community, effective management, and developmentally responsive teaching. Because Rowland Hall is focused on integrating SEL into our academic and co-curricular programs (we formally added it to goal 1 of our Strategic Plan in November 2018), incorporating Responsive Classroom into the Lower School curriculum was a logical choice. And it has made a difference.

“It's given our teachers more clarity and alignment when they consider how best to support students, structure learning activities, and promote positive behavior expectations,” Jij said. “Students, in turn, experience more consistency and are clear on why their actions matter for their own learning and for the learning of others.”

Rowland Hall is focused on integrating social and emotional learning into our academic and co-curricular programs; we even formally added it to goal 1 of our Strategic Plan in November 2018.

To drive student success, Responsive Classroom also emphasizes interactive modeling to teach the skills, strategies, and procedures that help kids thrive at school.

“Interactive modeling has made my classroom a more calm, efficient, and productive learning environment,” Susanna said. “When students watch and comment on what I do as I role-play a procedure, they actively deduce the steps by verbalizing them and listening to peers do the same. As a result, they have a firm and clear understanding when it comes time for them to begin the task at hand.”

Integrating Responsive Classroom into Established Practices

Responsive Classroom has helped Rowland Hall refocus many classroom practices toward the school’s overarching SEL goals. One example occurs at the beginning of each school year: developing classroom agreements. Unlike traditional lists of rules, classroom agreements are created in partnership, giving teachers and students buy-in on how their classrooms will run. While the agreements have been a part of the Lower School for many years, Responsive Classroom added another layer to the process.

“Using the Responsive Classroom approach has allowed my students to delve deeper into the process of exploring their own hopes and dreams, and how we can work as a group to help each other achieve our goals,” Susanna said. She explained that students become engaged, thoughtful, and passionate as they determine what will help them do things like learn how to read, try harder math problems, or even score soccer goals. “I notice students putting much more thought and reflection into this process, making it more meaningful and effective,” she said.

Collaborating on classroom agreements also makes it more likely that children will follow, and reference, those agreements during the school year.

“Students refer back to these agreements when obstacles arise and really demonstrate ownership of them,” said Susanna. “For example, when having a class discussion about erasers being damaged intentionally, several children commented, ‘That’s not following our agreement. We said we’d take care of our materials this year so that we could become better writers.’”

Susanna Mellor's class reads the morning message.

Morning meeting gives students an opportunity to revisit class agreements and reflect on how they can work together in support of classroom goals.

Classroom agreements are referenced regularly by instructors too. In Susanna’s morning meeting, for instance, students are asked which agreements they want to focus on and what actions they can take to make sure those agreements are honored. One student reminded classmates that they can meet their goal to keep calm in the classroom by walking; another observed that they can fulfill the agreement to try harder math problems by listening respectfully during instruction.

Using Responsive Classroom in New Ways

Responsive Classroom also inspires new methods to empower students. This fall, the Lower School used the foundation of classroom agreements in a new way: to create school-wide Winged Lion Agreements.

On September 6, 17 student delegates from grades one through five—one from each class—gathered in the McCarthey Campus parlor for the first-ever student constitutional convention. Delegates shared their classes’ newly developed classroom agreements with the group before beginning a discussion on agreements that could be applied to the whole school.

Student delegates created Winged Lion Agreements

Responsive Classroom helps educators look for ways to engage students in their school community. Above, the student delegates who helped craft the Lower School's first Winged Lion Agreements in September.

When students help make decisions about how the school runs, they understand their voices are valued and that they play a role in making school enjoyable for everyone.—Lower School Specialty Principal Linda Tatomer

Lower School Specialty Principal Linda Tatomer—who has completed all Responsive Classroom courses, including the Responsive Classroom for Leadership conference—led the discussion and was impressed by how the process unfolded. “When students help make decisions about how the school runs, they understand their voices are valued and that they play a role in making school enjoyable for everyone,” she said. “And because each student was a stakeholder in the convention’s outcome, they were serious about identifying meaningful goals.” She was also thrilled by the inclusion she saw in the room, especially by the way fifth graders mentored the first graders. “They really made connections and made them feel valued,” Linda said.

After thoughtful discussion, the group decided on five agreements for the year: 
    •    Be kind

    •    Respect

    •    Work hard and never give up

    •    Be safe

    •    Have fun


Each item was purposefully selected, down to exact words—for instance, the delegates chose the word “respect” because of its ability to encompass a wide range of areas, from personal behavior to how students should treat their surroundings.

Designing Better School Days with Responsive Classroom

Responsive Classroom further helps the Lower School team continuously reevaluate how to best meet students’ needs. One recent change to the school day occurred as a result of a February 2019 meeting with a Responsive Classroom consultant, who was sent to observe a full day at the school after Linda completed her training in the approach.

“One thing the consultant noticed was that our dining hall is very noisy,” Linda remembered. The consultant recommended a proven solution she thought would benefit the division: moving recess before lunch, an idea that the Lower School student support team had been considering for two years prior to the visit.

Lower School students on the playground.

In 2019, the Lower School moved recess from after to before lunch, resulting in school-wide behavior improvements.

“The change would have numerous benefits,” said Linda. “Children could focus on eating, noise would go down, and no one would be racing to get outside.” After presenting the idea to an enthusiastic Lower School faculty in the spring, Jij and Linda began working on making the change for the fall. When it was time to introduce the schedule adjustment to students during the second chapel of the year, Jij, Linda, and Chuck White, the McCarthey Campus emotional support counselor, were thoughtful in their approach, using a similar style students had already experienced in the classroom.

“We asked, ‘What should lunch feel and sound like?’” Linda said. The team also emphasized the why behind the discussion so students would understand both the reason for change and its related benefits. “We talked about how we can all follow agreements to make school more enjoyable for everyone,” Linda said.

Using a dining table that had been brought into the chapel, Jij, Linda, and Chuck then modeled for students proper lunch behavior: entering the dining hall respectfully, staying seated facing the table, and talking at an appropriate volume. Each child was also given the chance to practice at the table.

Children have adjusted well to the change, Linda said. It was, she explained, an extension of the discussions students have become accustomed to—and, importantly, it reminded them that they each play a part in creating a respectful, safe, and joyful school for all.

“I’m really proud of them,” she said.

Responsive Classroom Resources for Parents and Caregivers

Responsive Classroom has been an influential tool in helping Rowland Hall meet SEL goals in the Lower School. Because we are committed to partnering with parents and caregivers in their children’s education, we have made many Responsive Classroom materials available in the parent section of the McCarthey Campus’ Steiner Library for those who are interested in more information about the approach.

Academics

Family creates flashlight at Maker Night.

Paper rockets whizzed through the air. Hot-air balloons fashioned out of fruit containers and plastic bags spiraled up a wind tunnel. Light from popsicle-stick flashlights and homemade circuits flared. And the sound of laughter—from both kids and adults—filled the room.

Rowland Hall’s first Maker Night, which attracted more than 140 people, was a success.

The event, held in the McCarthey Campus Field House on November 7, was inspired by the Lower School’s Maker Day, where kids explore a variety of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) activities. Maker Night built on this event by including Beginning School and Lower School families in the hands-on learning experiences.

As Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus surveyed the activity around the room, he couldn’t help but grin. “We love the fact that families can experience what kids experience in the classroom,” he said.

Maker Night attendees traveled among stations, engaging a variety of skills as mini scientists and engineers. As the night progressed, parents like Jenna Pagoaga, mother of second grader William and preschooler Ollie, found themselves managing a small cache of completed experiments. “It’s a great community event,” she said as she watched William run to the Sky Floaters table to design a blimp for a Lego passenger. “It’s fun to see them be creative and use what they learn in class.”

Slideshow: Images from Rowland Hall's first Maker Night.

One of the biggest draws of the night was Nerdy Derby, where kids built cars and raced them on one of the three lanes of a tall, curvy track. The evening was punctuated with the cheers of those whose cars made it to the end of the track—and the groans of those whose creations fell apart on descent. Undeterred, those students simply grabbed the debris and ran back to the design table to figure out how to strengthen their vehicles. That is the point of Maker Night.

It's important for parents to see what their kids are capable of. Give them a pile of stuff. Let them explore. The play-based part of it, the creativity part, is very important.—Jodi Spiro, Lower School math specialist

“Kids are learning it’s OK to try things out, mess up, and try again,” Jij explained. He also noted the importance of giving children independence when it comes to exploration. “Often, learning outcomes are decided beforehand; this is more open-ended,” he said. “It’s exciting to think of kids leading their own learning.”

Lower School Math Specialist Jodi Spiro echoed this idea. Maker Night, she said, emphasized to parents and caregivers the scientific process of thinking, planning, testing, and redesigning. And it showed that kids don’t always need formal instruction to learn. “It’s important for parents to see what their kids are capable of,” she said. “Give them a pile of stuff. Let them explore. The play-based part of it, the creativity part, is very important.”

Tasha Hatton, who attended Maker Night with her fifth grader, Gabrielle, is excited by how simple an environment of exploration can be. She remembered how Gabrielle lit up when she saw fourth-grade teacher Haas Pectol’s recycled-plastic station, where children were braiding the plastic from discarded Halloween costumes into ropes that can be turned into things like baskets—or even, as Haas demonstrated, crocheted clutches. Maker Night, Tasha said, stimulated her family’s curiosity. “It’s introduced us to ideas we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.”

Tasha also marveled at how something as simple as recycled plastic can do wonders for a child’s imagination. “They’ll look at the world differently,” she said. “The next time they see something like that, it might spark a new idea.”

STEM

Inaugural Camping Trip Rounds Out Fourth Graders' Year of Field Studies

Fourth grade is the year of the field trip at Rowland Hall. Each year students head out of the classroom and into some of Utah's most remarkable places. They learn about geology, the water cycle, conservation, and state history. For the first time this year they capped their experiences with an overnight in Mapleton Canyon, where they put their newfound knowledge to the test.

"The concept of an overnight field study just made sense as a culminating experience for students to truly immerse themselves in their home state," said Jij de Jesus, Lower School principal. "It also helped them gain a sense of responsibility and independence as the transition to fifth grade approaches."

Thanks to a generous donation by a Rowland Hall supporter, the school partnered with Find Your Path Utah, a company specializing in experiential education. Founder Tyler Fonarow, a former Rowland Hall administrator and current parent, instantly saw all the marvelous possibilities. And he knew one thing: he didn't want these kids to think of this as just another camping trip.

"We kept it as much like school as possible, as far as the schedule," Tyler said. "We wanted to give them a chance to use the outdoor skills they've built up over the course of the year to understand that learning can happen in any place."

This was about getting our students outside with their classmates to help them see the interconnectedness of the natural and human world around them. —Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus

Our intrepid students faced fun challenges the moment they stepped off the bus in Mapleton: they found out they'd have to hike to their campsite a mile up the canyon while the bus carried their supplies. And it wasn't just a nice stroll up a paved trail—a creek crossing, for one, required creative problem-solving if they wanted to keep their feet dry.

"It was a neat opportunity to have the kids get out of their comfort zone a little bit," Tyler said. "Some kids chose to be carried, some kids chose to put the water shoes on, some kids chose to walk with garbage bags. It's called challenge by choice. It's about pushing the kids to the level where they are comfortable and still challenged."

After the hike in, fourth graders enjoyed activities centered on discovering a sense of place in their environment, studying water science and macroinvertebrates, leaving no trace, and being present.

“This was about getting our students outside with their classmates to help them see the interconnectedness of the natural and human world around them,” Jij said. "The state legislature's recent Utah's Every Kid Outdoors Initiative supports the idea that kids benefit from getting outside, especially with the incredible experiences locally accessible to us."

The lessons stuck with the students. Fourth grader Meg Hoglund said that from now on, whenever she goes fishing with her dad she'll check fishes' mouths for macroinvertebrates. "I also learned that your little piece of trash can contribute to a big problem for the environment later on," she said. "That's why leave no trace means NO trace at all."

At the end of the overnight, the kids wrote poems about the trip. Verses covered an array of memories—from the importance of protecting the watershed, to getting long hair stuck in a zipper. Fourth-grade teacher Matthew Collins said the poems helped students encapsulate their experiences: "With every line, we saw how much they learned and grew and just how much the experiential-education trips of the last year impacted them."

Experiential Learning

students interviewing man sitting on bench

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Student Reactions to the Assignment

Lightly edited for style and context.

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Classroom

Data Dash: My Tech-Driven Orthopedic Internship Helping Injured Patients

By Steven Doctorman, Class of 2020

I begin by applying a double-sided adhesive sticker to a motion-reflective marker—a small, silvery sphere. There are about 30 markers on the floor, each one in need of a sticker. These markers are then applied to certain parts of the patient's body, each one in a specific location in relation to a joint or muscle mass.

Patients crack the occasional joke: about the tight shorts they have to wear, about how tearing off the markers will feel like removing a Band-Aid, about how their midriff is on display when markers are used to track hip joints.

I sit on a stool, scoot behind the computer, and watch as one of the personal trainers gives the same instructions: the cameras in the ceiling track every movement, and we first have to calibrate those cameras by having the patient make certain movements, such as marching with one leg or kicking out to the side. The markers appear on the computer and we record movements, from walking and running to jumping and squatting. Patients are here because of certain injuries, and by monitoring movements the computer algorithm can calculate the data necessary to diagnose treatment options. I, both literally and figuratively, take a backseat to the computer work, but I'm captivated by the procedure and by doctors' discussions of the asymmetry of certain joints.

I intern at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) in a lab that works with physical trainers to help individuals in post-surgical recovery. My responsibilities range from data tracking and analysis to marker prep and observation. On days when we don't have a patient, I use a computer program to identify flaws in previously recorded data and replace those flaws with accurate estimates. On days when we have a patient, I help apply adhesive stickers to markers and then observe data collection and doctors' analyses. This kind of lab work fascinates me, and witnessing the real-world implications of technical and biomedical innovation is inspirational.

I first learned about Rowland Hall's internship program from a flyer on a hallway bulletin board. It described how students worked in a blood-synthesis lab over the summer, and what they learned. As I became more interested in lab work my sophomore year, I reached out to Dr. Laura Johnson, an Upper School English teacher who also manages student internships. She's the archetypal Rowland Hall teacher, dedicated to helping her students succeed. Her efforts were heartwarming: she worked tirelessly to identify an opportunity that matched my schedule and interests. She contacted an array of labs and eventually found the TOSH internship in September, the beginning of my junior year.

My work at TOSH has directly intersected with my classes, and vice versa. In Advanced Topics Biology, learning about data collection with standard error bars allowed me to identify whether someone's hip flexion was within the healthy range. In physics, learning about motion and gravity have helped me understand the results from force plates. Even calculus has helped me with data synthesis, as I'm able to track a graph on the x-, y-, and z-axes and apply the correct computer algorithm to replace faulty data. My schoolwork applies to real-world concepts, which, in my opinion, is priceless.

As recording wraps up, I help one of the physical trainers remove the markers. I take off the adhesive stickers and throw them away. I then watch as the doctors write a report about what treatment and exercises are needed. They compare the patient's data with a database that shows the abilities of healthy individuals. When I'm not actively helping, I either watch the doctors write their report, or return to old data and correct errors. The latter improves their database. And each recording helps make a difference in people's lives, which is an added bonus to an already meaningful internship.

Current upper schoolers interested in internships should contact teacher Laura Johnson. Prospective families who want to learn more are invited to our January 30 Upper School Open Door—RSVP here.    STEM

Student Steven Doctorman at his TOSH internship.

Gallery: Students Learn Snow Science, Safety, and More in Avalanche Course

Some upper schoolers have been taking an Avalanche Level I Course this winter, coordinated through our physical education program and led by Utah Mountain Adventures. The students have practiced safe travel in avalanche terrain, dug snow pits and performed field tests to recognize weak and strong layers in snow pack, trained with avalanche beacons, and more. According to Utah Mountain Adventures, "The graduate of this course will understand the basics of snow science, stability evaluation, safe travel, and rescue, and be ready to make informed decisions in avalanche terrain."
 

Photos by Upper School math teacher Emina Alibegović

Experiential Learning
Senior's Summer at Oxford Offers Window into College Life, Engineering Major

This summer, Rowland Hall senior Aislinn Mitcham embarked on an exciting learning opportunity: she spent four weeks at Oxford University in England, taking classes taught by university professors and living in the undergraduate dorms. While many peers spent the summer preparing to apply for college, Aislinn experienced what attending college might actually be like, and she considers herself fortunate. "It reinvigorated me for the college application process," she said, and gave her a balanced perspective heading into the busy fall semester.

Aislinn—who earned one of the program's highly selective scholarships—opted to major in engineering and minor in medical science. In her engineering class, which met for three-hour sessions six days a week, students tackled projects ranging from building an FM radio to learning Python, a coding language.

Founded in 1985, the Oxford Tradition offers high school students entering grades 10 through 12 a chance to study with leading academics and earn college credit. Each student must choose a major and minor area of study from a wide variety of courses, and Aislinn—who earned one of the program's highly selective scholarships—opted to major in engineering and minor in medical science. In her engineering class, which met for three-hour sessions six days a week, students tackled projects ranging from building an FM radio to learning Python, a coding language. Aislinn plans to study engineering in college and found the class a perfect fit, especially since Rowland Hall doesn't offer specific courses in engineering. She credited Upper School teacher Robin Hori, who encouraged her to attend the program and wrote a letter of recommendation for her scholarship application, saying that the project-based learning in his physics class prepared her well for the demands of Oxford.

Rowland Hall prepared Aislinn to test the waters of the college experience in a practical sense too. While the program has structured times for classes and many suggested social activities for the evenings, students are ultimately responsible for their own schedules. "It's your responsibility to be up, to know when breakfast is, to know when dinner is," Aislinn said. "And I do feel we have that responsibility here, to a certain extent. If you don't have a class, you're allowed to be other places, but you have to be back on time, and get your stuff done."

Aislinn also embraced a mentoring role in her peer group—one she doesn't always play at home, as the younger sibling—and even taught other program students how to do laundry.

Aislinn and her friends at the end-of-program formal dinner.

The people she met, and the friendships she formed, are what Aislinn will remember the most about her time at Oxford. She bonded with other students during cultural activities, including visiting local museums, going on ghost tours, and attending a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Aislinn acknowledged that being in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar faces was intimidating at first, but she got over any initial shyness. "Getting to meet people who have completely different world views and world experiences was really important to me," she said.

Getting to meet people who have completely different world views and world experiences was really important to me. —Aislinn Mitcham

Aislinn will use her experience studying abroad to help guide her future learning as well. While she previously regarded attending an out-of-state college as a must, she is now considering nearby options—such as the U—as well. "I loved being away in a new environment, but I also realized how important my family is to me," she said, adding that the U is a really good school, and students shouldn't "just ignore it because it's close."

Regardless of where she ends up, Aislinn has real-world practice in engineering that she can draw upon, thanks to the Oxford program. The last week of class, they attempted to build robots, but they couldn't get them to synchronize successfully with their phones. "One of my favorite things about the program," Aislinn said, "was learning how much of engineering is trying and failing, trying and failing. Even my teacher didn't always know why things were failing."

The process of discovery—in the classroom and throughout her time abroad—is something Aislinn hopes other Rowland Hall students can have as well. "Go into it with an open mind," she encouraged. "It's an amazing experience."

Students

Mud Kitchen Enhances Beginning School's Menu of Outdoor Play Spaces

"It's a beautiful pie party today!" a bundled-up three-year-old declared one sunny January morning on the Beginning School playground.

Beginning schoolers have been throwing plenty of beautiful pie parties lately thanks to their playground's latest addition: a mud kitchen. They may fill their "pies" with pine cones and sand instead of pecans and sugar, but it is indeed beautiful to see how the kitchen stirs the students to use their imaginations, collaborate, and dig into nature.

Professional development introduced Beginning School Lead Enrichment Teacher Alesa Davis to mud kitchens—she first heard of the concept through conferences held by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

"We most often see more engaged and interactive play in the outside space when children are using their own imaginations," Alesa said. "We, as teachers, are always thinking of ways to enhance and encourage that kind of play." For Alesa, a mud kitchen sounded like a great way to achieve that ever-present goal.

So after years of marinating on the idea, last summer, the 11-year Rowland Hall veteran decided to finally make it a reality. Initially deterred by a limited and pricey selection of prefabricated options, she and her husband, John, opted to take it on as a DIY project.

Alesa bought a reasonably priced potting bench online and began scouring hardware and secondhand stores for the necessary tools and accoutrements. Thanks to the treasure trove that is Deseret Industries (affectionately known to thrifty Utahns as "the DI"), she found a faucet for $3 and a brand-name toy wooden stovetop for $1. Together, the Davises trimmed the potting bench down to toddler height, and relocated the burners and knobs from the thrifted stovetop to the new bench. Then, they slathered on several coats of wood preserver, and appended the final touch—hooks under the shelving for pots and pans. "Another trip to the DI, and we had enough pots and pans, dishes and plates, and spoons to start up any imaginary restaurant," Alesa said. To round out the nature motif, teachers added log stools, and an outdoor wooden bench purchased for the playground last school year.

Beginning School Principal Carol Blackwell applauded Alesa's dedication. "She is a very resourceful teacher, and she constructed the mud kitchen for the benefit of all," Carol said. "Rather than put the mud kitchen on a wish list for someone else to implement, she took the initiative."

Since playground space is at a premium, it took some brainstorming to determine where the mud kitchen would live. Faculty and staff eventually settled on a corner dirt patch previously occupied by a tree. "It turned out to be the ideal place," Alesa said. "Boxed in by two brick walls, it became a cozy little kitchen nook."

Others agree. 2PreK and 3PreK lead teacher Gail Rose and assistant teacher Mary Swaminathan said the kitchen transformed an underutilized area into a hub. "Deliveries of fresh food and visits from customers are regular activities," Gail said, explaining it's a destination for students riding scooters and toting wheelbarrows. Accordingly, the kitchen helps students build physical and social skills: "The stumps and crates are used for both sitting and heavy muscle work as the children prove their strength and make room for friends at the table."


Alesa said she couldn't have predicted all the creative-play premises students have cooked up. "From a pie shop and an ice cream parlor to a poisonous-potion kitchen, they've giggled with delight over their own ideas blooming to life," she said.

Plus, a mud kitchen isn't a bad fit for a school community and metro area rife with outdoor enthusiasts. Encouraging youngsters to play outside and dig in the dirt, author Linda Åkeson McGurk posits in a new buzzed-about parenting book, ignites an appreciation for nature that can ultimately bolster one's health, resilience, and confidence.

Indeed, students now scamper around our playground with their pots and pans, collecting various earthly treasures: leaves, grass, sand, bark, water from our rain gutters, and snow from the ground. Then, they work together to concoct recipes and stage scenes inspired by food establishments. "We've been thrilled to watch their interactions, especially across age levels," Alesa said. "Children that don't typically socialize as much have found their voices in the mud kitchen."

As the seasons change, so do the students' pie ingredients, and teachers rotate kitchen tools as needed over the course of a year. But in general, the kitchen runs itself.

"When children are so engaged that they don't need us or even notice us on the playground, we know we've been successful," Alesa said. "That was the goal, and it was accomplished. Here's to many more hours of childhood happiness."

Experiential Learning

STEM

Preschoolers explore the nature yard.

On an overcast autumn day, a voice rang out in the Lower School nature yard. “Match!” it cried.

At the sound, the entire 4PreK class came running. One by one, they began smelling one of the yard’s plants, on a mission to find a scent match to a mystery plant they had been given that morning.

Research shows there are powerful benefits of sensory learning—building nerve connections in the brain, improving fine motor skills and perception, encouraging social interaction, and enhancing memory are among them.

This activity is one of several sensory learning exercises that Kate Nevins’ and Brittney Hansen’s preschool class enjoyed this fall, and was designed to engage students’ sense of smell. Before going outdoors, each child had been given a bit of the crumpled mystery plant (wild sagebrush), which they rubbed between their hands and smelled. The group then went to the nature yard to locate a full sage plant by scent alone. “Children ran from plant to plant smelling the scent on the palm of their hand and then smelling the plant to see if the scent matched,” the teachers wrote about the activity. “As soon as a child was sure they found the right plant they would yell, ‘Match!’ and we would all come running to smell for ourselves.”

Because research shows there are powerful benefits of sensory learning—building nerve connections in the brain, improving fine motor skills and perception, encouraging social interaction, and enhancing memory among them—Rowland Hall embraces opportunities to add it to lessons. “The five senses have been a part of the 4PreK curriculum for at least the past 20 years—it is such a critical unit for four- and five-year-olds to explore,” said Brittney.

In the 4PreK program, senses are introduced as tools for making scientific discoveries and observations about the world. And sensory learning can be quite simple. For example, for the listening exercise, the preschoolers walked to the McCarthey Campus back field, where they closed their eyes and concentrated on, and named, the sounds around them. When exploring touch, the children lay down on the grass and described how the blades felt against their bodies.

Our young naturalists were encouraged to slow down and use a keen eye. We are learning that scientists have to be patient and look very carefully.

Students also learned the importance of perseverance. For a color hunt designed to engage sight, each student painted the wells of an empty egg carton a different color, then went outdoors to collect items that matched those colors. “Some colors proved to be more difficult to find,” the teachers said. “Our young naturalists were encouraged to slow down and use a keen eye. We are learning that scientists have to be patient and look very carefully.”

The unit also recommended continuing sensory learning at home. After the color hunt, for instance, the teachers prompted parents and guardians to help students find ways to use their collection boxes around the house. “Encourage your children to take the cartons outside in your yard or with you on a neighborhood walk,” they told parents and caregivers. This helps create a powerful connection between school and home (an ongoing goal at Rowland Hall) and builds early childhood skills like language development, fine and gross motor skills, and problem-solving in a pressure-free, fun way.

Interested in other ways you can bring sensory learning into your home? Check out 31 Days of Sensory Play to get started.

STEM

Family creates flashlight at Maker Night.

Paper rockets whizzed through the air. Hot-air balloons fashioned out of fruit containers and plastic bags spiraled up a wind tunnel. Light from popsicle-stick flashlights and homemade circuits flared. And the sound of laughter—from both kids and adults—filled the room.

Rowland Hall’s first Maker Night, which attracted more than 140 people, was a success.

The event, held in the McCarthey Campus Field House on November 7, was inspired by the Lower School’s Maker Day, where kids explore a variety of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) activities. Maker Night built on this event by including Beginning School and Lower School families in the hands-on learning experiences.

As Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus surveyed the activity around the room, he couldn’t help but grin. “We love the fact that families can experience what kids experience in the classroom,” he said.

Maker Night attendees traveled among stations, engaging a variety of skills as mini scientists and engineers. As the night progressed, parents like Jenna Pagoaga, mother of second grader William and preschooler Ollie, found themselves managing a small cache of completed experiments. “It’s a great community event,” she said as she watched William run to the Sky Floaters table to design a blimp for a Lego passenger. “It’s fun to see them be creative and use what they learn in class.”

Slideshow: Images from Rowland Hall's first Maker Night.

One of the biggest draws of the night was Nerdy Derby, where kids built cars and raced them on one of the three lanes of a tall, curvy track. The evening was punctuated with the cheers of those whose cars made it to the end of the track—and the groans of those whose creations fell apart on descent. Undeterred, those students simply grabbed the debris and ran back to the design table to figure out how to strengthen their vehicles. That is the point of Maker Night.

It's important for parents to see what their kids are capable of. Give them a pile of stuff. Let them explore. The play-based part of it, the creativity part, is very important.—Jodi Spiro, Lower School math specialist

“Kids are learning it’s OK to try things out, mess up, and try again,” Jij explained. He also noted the importance of giving children independence when it comes to exploration. “Often, learning outcomes are decided beforehand; this is more open-ended,” he said. “It’s exciting to think of kids leading their own learning.”

Lower School Math Specialist Jodi Spiro echoed this idea. Maker Night, she said, emphasized to parents and caregivers the scientific process of thinking, planning, testing, and redesigning. And it showed that kids don’t always need formal instruction to learn. “It’s important for parents to see what their kids are capable of,” she said. “Give them a pile of stuff. Let them explore. The play-based part of it, the creativity part, is very important.”

Tasha Hatton, who attended Maker Night with her fifth grader, Gabrielle, is excited by how simple an environment of exploration can be. She remembered how Gabrielle lit up when she saw fourth-grade teacher Haas Pectol’s recycled-plastic station, where children were braiding the plastic from discarded Halloween costumes into ropes that can be turned into things like baskets—or even, as Haas demonstrated, crocheted clutches. Maker Night, Tasha said, stimulated her family’s curiosity. “It’s introduced us to ideas we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.”

Tasha also marveled at how something as simple as recycled plastic can do wonders for a child’s imagination. “They’ll look at the world differently,” she said. “The next time they see something like that, it might spark a new idea.”

STEM

Four students sitting around their teacher, learning about computers and circuits.

After years of watching CSforAll Summit videos online, Rowland Hall alumnus and computer science teacher Ben Smith ’89 is elated to attend the national conference in person: the third-annual event is happening October 21–23 here in Salt Lake City, at the University of Utah.

In conjunction with the summit, CSforAll asks participants to make a specific commitment to support the ultimate goal of “making high-quality computer science an integral part of the educational experience of all K–12 students and teachers.” Accordingly, Rowland Hall is committing to increase girls’ participation in computer science to more closely mirror the school's demographics. 

Read on for a Q&A with Ben about that commitment, the summit, and why this matters to Rowland Hall.

Graphic: Rowland Hall commits to increasing the participation of girls in computer science.

Who from Rowland Hall is attending the CSforAll Summit?  

I’m going with Chief Information Officer Patrick Godfrey and Director of Technology Integration Christian Waters. It’s Rowland Hall’s first time sending anyone. The summit was originally held in the Obama White House for the first few years, and now it travels to a new city each year. This is a great opportunity to have this event in our hometown, very close to the school.

The summit is the one place each year that focuses on equity, inclusion, and access to CS for all students, a goal that Rowland Hall and the computer science program have been dedicated to for quite some time.—Computer Science teacher Ben Smith ’89

Why are you excited to attend the summit?

I’m a member of the CSforAll teacher community, and I watch the announcements and videos coming out of the summit each year. The summit is the one place each year that focuses on equity, inclusion, and access to CS for all students, a goal that Rowland Hall and the computer science program have been dedicated to for quite some time.

Why did we set a broad commitment, as opposed to a narrow one (for instance, “launch a coding camp”)?

We wanted a commitment that each division and each teacher could adopt, even if the method by which they accomplish it varies based on circumstances. Perhaps one division could pursue integrating CS into all science and math classrooms, thereby reaching all students, while another one might make a concerted effort at recruitment strategies, and another might reconfigure the course offerings or schedule to accommodate CS for all students.

What do you hope to get out of the conference that will help us reach our goal?

I hope to hear from people about structures, innovative strategies, and methods for making our commitment possible. There are some important topics at the conference, such as "Teaching Ethics and Social Impacts of Computing in K–12 CS," "Building a Supportive Pathway for Girls in CS, Engineering, and Beyond," and "Inspiring Engagement through Popular Culture and Media."

What has our male/female CS participation looked like in the past several years?

We’ve tracked participation in tech and CS classes in the Middle School and Upper School for six years. In both divisions, we’ve moved the needle for girls participating in CS classes closer to our school demographics (which are roughly 50/50), with the Middle School reaching a high in 2017 of 40% participation by girls. This year, the Advanced Placement CS courses in the Upper School have 60% girls—a majority for the first time at Rowland Hall. We still have challenges with the competing interests of sports, theater, dance, and music on students’ schedules, as CS is not a required course. What’s impressive is that we’ve been able to consciously and successfully close the gap for girls, though we still need to look at students of color and other demographic factors.

Add anything else you think is important.

Rowland Hall's CS, engineering, and STEM program has grown immensely in the last six years, and we’re on the precipice of changes and adoption at all divisions.

STEM

students conducting science experiment

By Alisa Poppen, Upper School science teacher and department chair

Editor's note: Alisa gave the following talk—lightly edited here for style and context—during a September 3 Upper School chapel that explored creativity in academics and life.


If you’re a sophomore in chemistry right now, I wouldn’t fault you for thinking that science is solely about precision. We’ve spent days and days making sure you know how to include the appropriate number of digits in a measurement. Most of you are with one of two women who seem strangely enthusiastic about the difference between 12 and 12.0.

When, in first-period chemistry last year, then-sophomore James Welt said, “In math, those two numbers might be the same, but in science…,” I nearly teared up. And then quoted him at least 25 times. And possibly mentioned it at parent-teacher conferences. And in the first semester comments. And, most importantly, secured his permission to mention it, again, today.

The start of the year has been all about measurement and certainty. And doing it right. And if that was all you learned, you might lose sight of the fact that science is, at its essence, a creative endeavor.

If you’re in Advanced Topics Biology, you’ve been counting and counting, and then carefully making graphs on which you place your error bars correctly to represent the range in which we would expect to find most sample means. In short, the start of the year has been all about measurement and certainty. And doing it right. And if that was all you learned, you might lose sight of the fact that science is, at its essence, a creative endeavor.

An example: In the 19th century, Gregor Mendel bred pea plants. Lots and lots of pea plants. He knew that, like many flowering plants, peas were most likely to self-pollinate, but he asked, “What if I force them to cross-pollinate?” When he finished, he counted pea plants. This many with purple flowers, this many with white…that’s all he had: numbers of purple and numbers of white. But to make sense of those numbers, he imagined. What could be going on, deep inside those pea plants, to explain those numbers? He settled on this: each plant has two factors, pieces of information, only one of which was transferred to offspring. He couldn’t see those factors with the naked eye, but he imagined they must be there. How else would those numbers make sense?

teacher talking to students

Alisa Poppen talks to chemistry students about a lab for which they're creating a representative sketch of an experiment and graphing actual results.

Mendel's rudimentary model inspired others—far too many to name—to creatively search for and characterize his factors. Spoiler alert: they’re chromosomes, composed of DNA. Along the way, we’ve realized that Mendel’s factors alone don’t determine how we develop. And so we continue to look. A woman in California, Jennifer Doudna, characterized a protein complex from bacterial cells called CRISPR, and because of her work, we now ask questions like this: what if we could modify our own DNA? And (for Upper School ethics and English teacher Dr. Carolyn Hickman) if we could, should we?

We get to imagine. Anyone who tells you that creativity belongs only to the artists, or the writers, hasn’t been paying attention. Science is, at its core, the act of asking questions—What if? How? Why?—and then creatively designing experiments to test those questions.

The summer before last, I worked in a lab that uses cotton as a model to study how genomes change. I would love to go on and on about the work, but to keep this short, I’ll just say this: the cotton seeds were breathtakingly uncooperative. On Monday they behaved one way, and on Thursday they were completely different. The data were never the same twice. After testing several possible explanations, we were stumped.

Sitting in the lab one afternoon, I threw out a possible explanation that, truth be told, I wasn’t completely sure of. Justin, my grad student/mentor, thought for a moment and then said, “What if that’s it?” and then grabbed three paper towels and a Sharpie. “We could do this,” he said, while sketching out the experiment. “And if we’re right, the results will look like this,” and he quickly drew a graph. We then sat quietly for a minute or so, staring at the paper towels, and then he said this: “This is my favorite part, when we get to imagine what the experiment would look like.”

We get to imagine. Anyone who tells you that creativity belongs only to the artists, or the writers, hasn’t been paying attention. Science is, at its core, the act of asking questions—What if? How? Why?—and then creatively designing experiments to test those questions. Testing a scenario that hasn’t been tested before. Yes, we measure, and yes, we replicate, so that the answers to our questions are supported by evidence. But the measuring and the replicating is always preceded by an act of creativity. And that, for us, is often the favorite part.

STEM

Student leans on lockers in hallway.

Sophomore Katy Dark’s family immigrated to Salt Lake City from Argentina when she was a toddler, but the bilingual student still seamlessly slides into her first language on a dime—like when she greets her abuela visiting Rowland Hall for Grandparents Day, or when she volunteers for the after-school coding club she founded at Dual Immersion Academy (DIA).

In February, Katy won a President's Volunteer Service Award for her work at DIA, among other efforts. The sophomore earned the gold-level award for 2018, meaning she volunteered over 250 hours in one year. She’s the first Rowland Hall student to win this national award in over a decade, according to Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund.

Katy was surprised by the distinction but grateful to Rowland Hall—her invaluable experiences here inspired her to help DIA after they lost funding for computer science this school year. “Rowland Hall opened up a lot of possibilities for me,” Katy said, “and I know that coding can give DIA students new opportunities.”

Katy has accomplished much in the past few years, with help from the Rowland Hall community. That's part of why she’s now paying it forward to DIA students. “As a Latina, I don’t get all these opportunities normally,” she said. “I wanted to be able to even the playing field.”

Katy, a Patricia C. Brim Memorial Scholar who’s been here since sixth grade, has had an especially remarkable few years. In March, she won an Aspirations in Computing regional honorable mention. She’s only a sophomore, and she said she already has a scholarship offer from a local college. Also this year, she traveled to Costa Rica for interim and to Southern Utah, Nashville, and Portland for student diversity and leadership retreats. Last summer, she interned with the National Security Agency, and the summer before that she studied criminology and computer science at the University of Cambridge in England. She did all these things, she said, with help from the Rowland Hall community, which is part of why she’s now paying it forward to DIA students. “As a Latina, I don’t get all these opportunities normally,” Katy said. “I wanted to be able to even the playing field.” The DIA coding club has taken a lot of work, she said, but she’s invested in the community and up for the challenge.

The sophomore has remained fluent in Spanish thanks in part to attending DIA for elementary school. Her mom, Patricia Dark—one of DIA’s co-founders—enrolled Katy and older sister Elli (now a Rowland Hall senior) in the bilingual academy to keep their language skills sharp. When Katy left DIA she kept close ties, volunteering after school and on weekdays when Rowland Hall wasn’t in session.

DIA has about 500 students total in kindergarten through eighth grade, and they take classes in English and Spanish: the academy prepares students to become “bilingual, bi-literate, and bicultural while developing the tools to be successful in higher education, the workforce and in life,” according to their mission. It’s a Title One school where about 98% of students (compared to about 57% of Salt Lake City School District students) come from economically disadvantaged families and qualify for free or discounted school lunch.

After hearing about DIA’s funding cuts, Katy—a passionate computer science student who’s already laser-focused on pursuing a career in the field—sprang into action and started the coding club. She spends her weekends planning lessons, which she delivers Tuesdays from 3 to 5:30 pm—except in spring when she golfs for Rowland Hall and friend Alex Armknecht, a junior, subs for her. Katy has taught her 22 club members about programming basics using kid-friendly sources such as Hour of Code and Scratch. She’s also gotten to know the kids, tailored her approach based on their levels of comfort with the material, invited them to community coding events, helped them with non-computing schoolwork, and served as a mentor. “These kids are incredible,” Katy wrote in an essay about her volunteerism, “and they can do so much more than most people realize.” She said she hopes the club encourages DIA students to take computer science in high school, and ultimately, college.

Katy is self-motivated and didn’t necessarily expect recognition for her service, but teachers agree the national distinction is deserved. “Katy is incredibly dedicated to computer science,” said Ben Smith, her AP Computer Science teacher. The coding club was entirely her idea, he added. “I gave her some advice, but she really took off on her own.”

Katy also runs Rowland Hall’s Latinx affinity group, has volunteered with the Rotary Club, and has been “a tireless contributor to her community,” according to Ryan. “Katy sets a clear bar amongst her peers about the importance of giving back,” the ethical education director said, “and not waiting for an opportunity to arise, but instead creating those opportunities where she sees them.”

Volunteerism

Teacher helping students with a computing activity

Junior Alex Armknecht named Aspirations in Computing Northern Utah Affiliate winner, sophomore Katy Dark and teacher Ben Smith ’89 receive honorable mentions

It helps me confirm my commitment to equity and inclusion of girls in computer science classes at Rowland Hall.—Teacher Ben Smith ’89

Computer science teacher and alumnus Ben Smith ’89 has spent the past several years encouraging his students as they apply for—and often place in—the National Center for Women and Information Technology's (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing awards. For the first time this year, NCWIT recognized the teacher alongside his students.

Ben learned in March that he’d been named a 2019 Northern Utah Affiliate Honorable Mention recipient of the NCWIT Educator Award, which goes to teachers who continually encourage young women’s aspirations in computing.

“I have been active with NCWIT for several years now, and it was good to get recognition for those efforts—it was a bit of a surprise,” Ben said. “It helps me confirm my commitment to equity and inclusion of girls in computer science classes at Rowland Hall.”

Ben was one of three teachers honored by the regional affiliate, junior Alex Armknecht was one of 16 student winners, and sophomore Katy Dark was one of 30 honorable mentions. Student winners are selected annually "based on their aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing; leadership ability; academic history; and plans for post-secondary education," according to Aspirations in Computing (AiC).

Teacher with students at awards ceremony for women in computing.

From left, sophomore Katy Dark, teacher Ben Smith, and junior Alex Armknecht at the regional awards ceremony in March.

Since 2014, 11 Rowland Hall students have earned a collective 14 NCWIT awards, including two honorable mentions at the national level.

Alex’s 2019 award follows her honorable mention last year. A Middle School coding seminar first sparked Alex’s interest in the subject—from there, she worked with administrators and faculty to create a computing elective, and even recruited other girls to take the class. Last year in Ben’s AP Computer Science Principles class, Alex made a math app to help kids learn division, and fourth graders in teacher Tyler Stack's class picked her project as their favorite. She plans to keep studying computer science.

Katy also plans to pursue computing. In addition to the AiC award, she recently won a national President's Volunteer Service Award for her work tutoring students and developing a coding club at Dual Immersion Academy, a bilingual Spanish-English charter school she attended during her elementary years.

Ben, Alex, and Katy attended a March 16 ceremony in Provo where they met peer students and teachers, accepted their awards, and left with swag bags—a much-anticipated highlight for Ben. “Every year I see my students getting these killer swag bags and I go home empty handed,” the teacher joked before attending the ceremony. “I might just get one of my own this year.”

Since 2014, 11 Rowland Hall students have earned a collective 14 NCWIT awards, including two honorable mentions at the national level. The center and its AiC awards have become big names in the computer science world. Women are underrepresented in that field, but the 2004-founded organization is working hard to move the needle and empower women to pursue and succeed in computing.

Related stories

STEM

Data Dash: My Tech-Driven Orthopedic Internship Helping Injured Patients

By Steven Doctorman, Class of 2020

I begin by applying a double-sided adhesive sticker to a motion-reflective marker—a small, silvery sphere. There are about 30 markers on the floor, each one in need of a sticker. These markers are then applied to certain parts of the patient's body, each one in a specific location in relation to a joint or muscle mass.

Patients crack the occasional joke: about the tight shorts they have to wear, about how tearing off the markers will feel like removing a Band-Aid, about how their midriff is on display when markers are used to track hip joints.

I sit on a stool, scoot behind the computer, and watch as one of the personal trainers gives the same instructions: the cameras in the ceiling track every movement, and we first have to calibrate those cameras by having the patient make certain movements, such as marching with one leg or kicking out to the side. The markers appear on the computer and we record movements, from walking and running to jumping and squatting. Patients are here because of certain injuries, and by monitoring movements the computer algorithm can calculate the data necessary to diagnose treatment options. I, both literally and figuratively, take a backseat to the computer work, but I'm captivated by the procedure and by doctors' discussions of the asymmetry of certain joints.

I intern at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) in a lab that works with physical trainers to help individuals in post-surgical recovery. My responsibilities range from data tracking and analysis to marker prep and observation. On days when we don't have a patient, I use a computer program to identify flaws in previously recorded data and replace those flaws with accurate estimates. On days when we have a patient, I help apply adhesive stickers to markers and then observe data collection and doctors' analyses. This kind of lab work fascinates me, and witnessing the real-world implications of technical and biomedical innovation is inspirational.

I first learned about Rowland Hall's internship program from a flyer on a hallway bulletin board. It described how students worked in a blood-synthesis lab over the summer, and what they learned. As I became more interested in lab work my sophomore year, I reached out to Dr. Laura Johnson, an Upper School English teacher who also manages student internships. She's the archetypal Rowland Hall teacher, dedicated to helping her students succeed. Her efforts were heartwarming: she worked tirelessly to identify an opportunity that matched my schedule and interests. She contacted an array of labs and eventually found the TOSH internship in September, the beginning of my junior year.

My work at TOSH has directly intersected with my classes, and vice versa. In Advanced Topics Biology, learning about data collection with standard error bars allowed me to identify whether someone's hip flexion was within the healthy range. In physics, learning about motion and gravity have helped me understand the results from force plates. Even calculus has helped me with data synthesis, as I'm able to track a graph on the x-, y-, and z-axes and apply the correct computer algorithm to replace faulty data. My schoolwork applies to real-world concepts, which, in my opinion, is priceless.

As recording wraps up, I help one of the physical trainers remove the markers. I take off the adhesive stickers and throw them away. I then watch as the doctors write a report about what treatment and exercises are needed. They compare the patient's data with a database that shows the abilities of healthy individuals. When I'm not actively helping, I either watch the doctors write their report, or return to old data and correct errors. The latter improves their database. And each recording helps make a difference in people's lives, which is an added bonus to an already meaningful internship.

Current upper schoolers interested in internships should contact teacher Laura Johnson. Prospective families who want to learn more are invited to our January 30 Upper School Open Door—RSVP here.    STEM

Student Steven Doctorman at his TOSH internship.

Senior's Summer at Oxford Offers Window into College Life, Engineering Major

This summer, Rowland Hall senior Aislinn Mitcham embarked on an exciting learning opportunity: she spent four weeks at Oxford University in England, taking classes taught by university professors and living in the undergraduate dorms. While many peers spent the summer preparing to apply for college, Aislinn experienced what attending college might actually be like, and she considers herself fortunate. "It reinvigorated me for the college application process," she said, and gave her a balanced perspective heading into the busy fall semester.

Aislinn—who earned one of the program's highly selective scholarships—opted to major in engineering and minor in medical science. In her engineering class, which met for three-hour sessions six days a week, students tackled projects ranging from building an FM radio to learning Python, a coding language.

Founded in 1985, the Oxford Tradition offers high school students entering grades 10 through 12 a chance to study with leading academics and earn college credit. Each student must choose a major and minor area of study from a wide variety of courses, and Aislinn—who earned one of the program's highly selective scholarships—opted to major in engineering and minor in medical science. In her engineering class, which met for three-hour sessions six days a week, students tackled projects ranging from building an FM radio to learning Python, a coding language. Aislinn plans to study engineering in college and found the class a perfect fit, especially since Rowland Hall doesn't offer specific courses in engineering. She credited Upper School teacher Robin Hori, who encouraged her to attend the program and wrote a letter of recommendation for her scholarship application, saying that the project-based learning in his physics class prepared her well for the demands of Oxford.

Rowland Hall prepared Aislinn to test the waters of the college experience in a practical sense too. While the program has structured times for classes and many suggested social activities for the evenings, students are ultimately responsible for their own schedules. "It's your responsibility to be up, to know when breakfast is, to know when dinner is," Aislinn said. "And I do feel we have that responsibility here, to a certain extent. If you don't have a class, you're allowed to be other places, but you have to be back on time, and get your stuff done."

Aislinn also embraced a mentoring role in her peer group—one she doesn't always play at home, as the younger sibling—and even taught other program students how to do laundry.

Aislinn and her friends at the end-of-program formal dinner.

The people she met, and the friendships she formed, are what Aislinn will remember the most about her time at Oxford. She bonded with other students during cultural activities, including visiting local museums, going on ghost tours, and attending a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Aislinn acknowledged that being in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar faces was intimidating at first, but she got over any initial shyness. "Getting to meet people who have completely different world views and world experiences was really important to me," she said.

Getting to meet people who have completely different world views and world experiences was really important to me. —Aislinn Mitcham

Aislinn will use her experience studying abroad to help guide her future learning as well. While she previously regarded attending an out-of-state college as a must, she is now considering nearby options—such as the U—as well. "I loved being away in a new environment, but I also realized how important my family is to me," she said, adding that the U is a really good school, and students shouldn't "just ignore it because it's close."

Regardless of where she ends up, Aislinn has real-world practice in engineering that she can draw upon, thanks to the Oxford program. The last week of class, they attempted to build robots, but they couldn't get them to synchronize successfully with their phones. "One of my favorite things about the program," Aislinn said, "was learning how much of engineering is trying and failing, trying and failing. Even my teacher didn't always know why things were failing."

The process of discovery—in the classroom and throughout her time abroad—is something Aislinn hopes other Rowland Hall students can have as well. "Go into it with an open mind," she encouraged. "It's an amazing experience."

Students

Community & Traditions

Podcasters rescording

Rowland Hall is excited to announce the release of our first podcast: princiPALS. Featuring Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman and Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus, princiPALS tackles big questions and ideas about how to raise children who thrive, and was created as an educational resource for our community.

When Rowland Hall uses the phrase 'community of learners' to describe our school, we mean it. We strive to offer adults at Rowland Hall, including parents and caretakers, opportunities for growth and development, just as we do for our students.—Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund

“When Rowland Hall uses the phrase community of learners to describe our school, we mean it,” said Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund. “We strive to offer adults at Rowland Hall, including parents and caretakers, opportunities for growth and development, just as we do for our students.” These opportunities—which also include lectures, discussions, readings, student panels, and film screenings—set the stage for school-wide success.

Parent and caretaker education supports lifelong learning, creates a community-wide culture of trust and vulnerability, and strengthens the critical Home & School partnership,” explained Ryan.

Director of Marketing and Communications Stephanie Orfanakis, who helped produce princiPALS, added, “The more tools we can access together, the better the outcome for children.” Stephanie also noted that a podcast is an ideal tool for those whose schedules may not allow much room for in-person gatherings. “Not all caregiving adults are available to attend education events,” she said. “A podcast is another option for engagement—parents can tune in when it’s convenient.”

PrinciPALS host, alumnus Conor Bentley ’01, agreed. "The work Jij and Emma do at Rowland Hall and the resources the school provides to families are important, and a podcast is an effective way to present that,” he said.

Those who listen to princiPALS can expect to not only benefit from Emma’s and Jij’s expertise, but to walk away with ideas they can immediately implement. The podcast’s first episode focuses on how to build children's resilience—a topic, Emma said, chosen for its continual relevance. "The research is clear: resilience is at least as important as talent in terms of long-term success," she explained. "We see the positive impact of helping kids develop resilience from a young age." Knowing this, she and Jij offer proven methods on building resilience that parents and caregivers can try out. This feature of princiPALS is important to the team, who want to use their positions to help make raising children easier. As Jij stated in the podcast’s introduction: “Parenting is hard. Teaching is hard. But both are a little bit easier when done in partnership.”

PrinciPALS episode 1, “Building Resilience in Children,” is now available on Rowland Hall’s website, or you can listen and subscribe on Stitcher. Apple Podcast coming soon.


Top photo, from left: Emma Wellman, Conor Bentley, and Jij de Jesus recording the first episode of princiPALS.

Community

Kendra Tomsic coaching a volleyball game.

Kendra Tomsic fell in love with sports at a young age, but when she was growing up, schools didn’t offer girls’ teams. Instead of deterring her, that early experience sparked a passion that still drives her today.

“As a pre-Title IX athlete who never had a coach or even the chance to compete until college, I vowed to help make certain others would have the opportunities I didn’t,” Kendra told attendees of YWCA Utah’s Leader Luncheon on September 13, as she accepted this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Sports and Athletics.

As a pre-Title IX athlete who never had a coach or even the chance to compete until college, I vowed to help make certain others would have the opportunities I didn’t.—Kendra Tomsic

She continued, “I made a commitment to become a coach and athletic director who would not only teach female athletes skills and strategies, but who would use sports to teach and model leadership, strength, confidence, courage, tenacity, resiliency, and the importance of teamwork.”

Kendra’s 42 years of dedication to this work—28 of them at Rowland Hall in roles including director of athletics, PE teacher, and volleyball, softball, and basketball coach—led YWCA Utah to select her as one of five women honored at this year’s luncheon. Award recipients are community leaders who advance the well-being of Utah women and girls, and who exemplify the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. In her roles as an administrator, educator, and coach, Kendra has harnessed her passion for athletics to empower Utah girls and women and to promote high school athletics at the state and national levels.

“It's not possible to overstate her positive impact on athletics in general and girls’ athletics in particular in Utah,” said Head of School Alan Sparrow. “Her commitment to getting women's athletics treated with the same opportunities and respect as men's athletics is inspirational. Through her dedication, diplomacy, and tenacity, girls’ athletics in Utah high schools have improved dramatically. She is universally respected by her peers and they listen to her when she points out inequities.” They’ve also celebrated her: Kendra’s long list of accolades includes a national Distinguished Service Award and state Athletic Director of the Year. But it’s praise from students that best illustrates the importance, and reach, of Kendra’s work. When news of the YWCA award was posted on Rowland Hall’s alumni Facebook page, an outpouring of love quickly followed, resulting in the page’s highest interaction to date.

“I am proud to say I know her.”

“There’s no one more deserving!”

“She’s amazing in every way and her dedication to making young women better athletes and, above that, better people cannot be topped!”

Kendra Tomsic with YWCA CEO Anne Burkholder.

Kendra Tomsic, right, with YWCA Chief Executive Officer Anne Burkholder at the September 13 Leader Luncheon. (Photo courtesy Charles Uibel Photography)

Kacie Tachiki Turcuato ’99 is one alumna who can attest to Kendra’s transformative power. The former volleyball player remembers her coach as a true mentor who believed in her potential, and who had the special ability to bring out and refine her strengths.

“I’m not a natural-born athlete,” Kacie said. “I’m super short and in my first year of high school I was very weak; I couldn’t even get a serve over the net. I just played because it was fun and recreational. But Kendra believed in me, she worked with me, and by the time I left Rowland Hall, I was a stronger athlete: I got the school’s Senior Athlete of the Year, I got Salt Lake Tribune’s Prep Athlete of the Week. I went from feeling like I couldn’t do anything to really feeling accomplished.”

Kacie called Kendra one of the most influential people in her life, and that influence didn’t stop at graduation. Her guidance has inspired Kacie in many ways, from pursuing a career in physical therapy to returning to Rowland Hall as an assistant volleyball coach.

Students have the utmost respect for her, because they just know who she is. When she talks, everyone’s engaged and they trust her.—Kacie Tachiki Turcuato ’99

“I feel so lucky because I honestly think I’d be somewhere totally different without her,” Kacie said. “I’ve had a very fortunate, successful career and life, and I can’t imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t met her. She can really bring out the best in you.”

Alan also spoke of this capability. “Kendra's deep commitment and caring for each and every player and coach she works with is obvious,” he said. “You can hear it in her tone of voice when she speaks to the students. You can see it in the compassion she shows when a player or student is upset or hurt. You notice it when she genuinely shows interest in her students’ lives outside and inside of school.”

Kendra’s compassion comes up again and again when people talk about her; it’s an important factor in how she mentors others. Coupled with an ability to build trust, Kendra successfully models life skills such as confidence, resiliency, and teamwork on the court and field—and students respond to it. “Students have the utmost respect for her, because they just know who she is,” said Kacie. “When she talks, everyone’s engaged and they trust her. It’s pretty cool to watch.”

This is true for Gita Varner ’05, a former volleyball and softball team manager, whose strongest memories of Kendra involve the life lessons she learned from her and now uses every day.

“Kendra was a role model for me on how to be true to yourself and accept everyone as they come,” Gita said. Kendra’s high standards also taught her the importance of hard work. “She helped instill a strong work ethic in me because she always expected me to be doing something.”

Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, and guts—that’s what little girls are made of. To heck with sugar and spice!

And it may be inspiring students to use, and then themselves model, those life skills during and after their time at Rowland Hall that means the most to Kendra. As she closed her remarks at the Leader Luncheon, she shared a quote from professional surfer Bethany Hamilton-Dirks, along with a reminder of the role we all play in female empowerment: “‘Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, and guts—that’s what little girls are made of. To heck with sugar and spice!’ It is my work, and your work, to continue to send that message to young women, the future leaders of tomorrow.”

Thank you, Coach T, for this important lesson, and for the many others you teach student-athletes every day. Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition.

People

Collage of teachers with books.

Have you read anything good lately?

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

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

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

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

The Middle School shelfie board.

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

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

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

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

See Our Shelfies & Share Yours

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

Community

soccer team

What he’s been reading, what he'd do if he weren’t an educator, and why he wants to know what you hope for

In June, Board Chair Jennifer Price-Wallin announced the appointment of Michael “Mick” Gee as Rowland Hall’s next head of school. A native of the UK, Mick has over 20 years of leadership experience in independent schools and currently serves as the head of Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, New York. While Mick won’t begin his headship here until July 1, 2020, his wife, Amy, and daughter, Madeleine, became Salt Lake City residents in August so Madeleine could join Rowland Hall’s class of 2021.
 
We caught up with Mick while he was fishing at the Finger Lakes in New York during the summer. Read on to learn more about what he’s been reading, what work he might do if he weren’t an educator, and why he wants to know what you hope for. 

This Q&A has been edited for length and style.


We know you are an avid soccer player. What role does soccer play in your life?

With soccer, I love the competitive element. I love the team sport. I love the camaraderie, and I love playing the game.

I think if I was asked to describe myself, I would say athlete first rather than teacher. Or, it would be close. I come from a football-mad country, and I’ve been playing since I was eight, competitively. There are two things I do that, when I’m doing them, I don’t think about anything else. Fishing is one, and soccer is the other. 

With soccer, I love the competitive element. I love the team sport. I love the camaraderie, and I love playing the game. I think I got better as I got older, too, even though I played at a pretty high level when I was 18. Now I play with the over-30 and over-40 guys, which keeps the challenge up for me. I’ve played in competitive leagues in Nottingham, London, Pittsburgh, and Rochester, and hopefully next, Salt Lake City. 

If you didn’t work in education, what kind of work would you do?

If I wasn’t going to be a professional soccer player—and I think those days are gone—I like the idea of professional DJing as well. There’s a guy called Pete Tong who runs the BBC Radio 1 dance show, DJing all over the country. That’s a great job. I like the technical, scientific side to it. 

Growing up, I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon—also a technical, scientific career.

Tell us about your funniest memory from your days as a classroom teacher.

This round-bottomed glass flask fell off of the reflux, bounced off the desk and the bench, kicked over the flame and poured right onto me, setting my trousers on fire.

True story: I was teaching chemistry in England when I first started out, in a public school, with classes of 28 students. When you're teaching chemistry, the lab safety requires extra attention. One of the rules was that you couldn’t sit down during labs, so if anything spilled, you could quickly get out of the way.

So with one class of eighth graders—not the most forgiving crowd— I was demonstrating a fractional distillation (separating different alcohols from each other by boiling point). As I was doing it, I asked the class, “What’s one of the rules? Is there anything I’m doing wrong?” And one of the kids said, “Yeah, you’re sitting down. You can’t get out of the way.” As he said it, this round-bottomed glass flask fell off of the reflux, bounced off the desk and the bench, kicked over the flame and poured right onto me, setting my trousers on fire. The kids thought it was set up, like a way of teaching them a lesson. Then when they saw the look of panic on my face, they realized.

I'm lucky because alcohol burns off before the material burns, so I had a few seconds to recover. But I was running around with my trousers on fire because I didn’t do what I told the kids to do. 

It wasn’t really funny at the time, but it’s funny now. 

Gee family

Immediately above: Head-elect Mick Gee and wife Amy Gee with daughter Madeleine, center, a member of Rowland Hall's class of 2021.
Top of page: Mick is still an avid soccer player. Here he is (front row, third from left) with his 1983–1984 sixth form college soccer team, which made it to England’s final four.

I’m interested in giving kids a chance to really flourish in something, and maybe not do as much of the must-do stuff.

What’s the last book you read that impacted you strongly, and why?

The End of Average by Todd Rose. The premise of the book is essentially that we teach to the middle, we teach to the average, and it's a pretty prescriptive curriculum, right? We don't give kids or adults the chance to dive into things because we tell them you have to do four years of that subject and three years of this and two years of that. Every school does it. So what I’ve been trying to do in education in the last few years is explore what we can do instead of what we must do. I’m interested in giving kids a chance to really flourish in something, and maybe not do as much of the must-do stuff. 

What is one piece of great advice you received as an educator? Who gave it to you, and why did it resonate?

One that’s stuck with me came from Tom King, who was the head of school at Sutton Centre, a community-based school near Nottingham. The kids at that school were on top of you, and they were from really disadvantaged backgrounds, and at times, they were dangerous. I once had to disarm a kid who came into my class with a baseball bat. It was an interesting environment.

Tom King always talked about being good on the stairs. And what he meant by that was: you have to be able to deal with the unknown. You can be brilliantly planned, but if you’re not good on the stairs, you’re not going to succeed. And the kids won’t respect you just because you’re the teacher—you have to earn their respect. You have to talk to them on their terms and you have to show them that you care about them. You always have to earn people’s respect: you do it as a teacher, you do it with opposition soccer players, you do it as a coach. 

About one year out from officially becoming the head of Rowland Hall, what is one question you’d like to pose to our community?

Ultimately we’re in the hope business, and we have more control of building that hope at independent schools.

The question I asked the search committee during my semifinalist interview was: what do you hope for? I wonder about that. We have our polished marketing materials and curriculum guides, but, what do we hope for our graduates? I keep thinking about that because I have a daughter who is going to graduate from Rowland Hall, and so I wonder what the people at the school hope for her, and how those hopes match up with her own. 

I think we don’t ask ourselves that enough—we talk about what we’re going to teach, and we look for a good college, and so on. But ultimately we’re in the hope business, and we have more control of building that hope at independent schools. So when our graduates walk out the door of Rowland Hall, what do we hope for? Probably everything, I imagine.

Community

At the Intersection of Homelessness, Healthcare, and Humanity

Rowland Hall alumnus Jeff Norris lives his purpose treating and advocating for underserved populations as the medical director of Father Joe’s Villages in San Diego When Jeff Norris ’03 applied to medical school, the admissions office at the University of Utah called him in for a rare second interview. He had submitted a personal statement focused on the connection between medicine, public health, and social justice, and that intersectional approach raised some eyebrows.
 
Admissions officers asked Jeff if he was sure he wanted to go to medical school, and not study public health or social work. But he assured them: he knew he wanted to be a clinician who worked with, and advocated for, underserved populations.

Jeff credited Rowland Hall with launching his career trajectory. In high school, under the mentorship of then-faculty member Liz Paige, he volunteered with Amnesty International and prepared and served food at local youth groups. The positive experience of serving others and making an impact—and relevant content in history and psychology courses—got the wheels turning in Jeff’s brain: “I started reflecting on my role in the world and how I could try to do something to make a difference for others. What is my purpose for being here?”

Jeff's self-described “deliberate and diligent” approach to his career—melding his interests in science and social justice, being motivated by a desire to give back to the world—has been nothing short of a success.

The service and activism Jeff began at Rowland Hall carried through his years as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as a med student at the University of Utah, and as a family medicine resident at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. His self-described “deliberate and diligent” approach to his career—melding his interests in science and social justice, being motivated by a desire to give back to the world—has been nothing short of a success: in 2016, Jeff became the medical director of Father Joe’s Villages, an award-winning nonprofit that provides integrated services to people experiencing homelessness in San Diego.
 
Jeff’s day-to-day work requires a breadth of skill, knowledge, and tenacity: he estimates he spends about 40 percent of his time treating patients and the other 60 percent engaged in clinic administration, fundraising, and advocacy—including ensuring that state and federal legislation supports nonprofits like his. He serves on a number of boards, including a large network of clinics with over 100,000 patients in the San Diego area. For Jeff, it’s about more than staying connected and representing the interests of Father Joe’s Villages. “It is being present in the community to advocate for the needs of not just those experiencing homelessness, but underserved populations more broadly.”


At the clinic he leads—which serves walk-ins along with residents of Father Joe’s Villages and people receiving assistance from other local agencies—Jeff focuses on decreasing the barriers his patients face in getting adequate care, and staying on the cutting edge of what they need in order to improve their health. “The challenges our patients face are pretty unique, compared to most patient populations,” he said. “Their lives are very chaotic, and they have a lot going on medically, psychiatrically, behaviorally, socially…in all senses.” A significant portion of his time is spent managing programs to deliver medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD)—drugs such as buprenorphine (suboxone) or naltrexone—and for alcohol abuse. 

At the clinic he leads, Jeff focuses on decreasing the barriers his patients face in getting adequate care, and staying on the cutting edge of what they need in order to improve their health.

Among the most recent and cutting-edge programs Jeff and his team at Father Joe’s Villages are running is the Street Health Program, which launched this spring and is already impacting lives for the better. As the name suggests, the initiative involves going out into the streets and providing healthcare directly to people experiencing homelessness. So far, they’ve reached a number of people who’ve avoided or been underserved by traditional healthcare. One example: a man who had been using heroin for 30 years and had never before been interested in treatment. Pending a grant, the street health team hopes to treat patients with OUD at the first point of contact. In the meantime, they wrote a prescription for this particular patient because, as Jeff said, “it was the right thing to do.”
 
One of the long-term goals of the Street Health Program is to develop rapport with individuals so that they will visit the clinic for treatment. Additionally, the launch has created quite a buzz throughout San Diego, so Jeff hopes other clinics and treatment centers will consider similar programs (which do already exist in other large metropolitan areas like New York and San Francisco). “It can’t just be us,” he said. “There are enough folks experiencing homelessness that we certainly cannot meet the need unilaterally.”
 
Jeff is rightly proud of his advocacy work and the impact his clinic makes on a daily basis, and he speaks passionately of the need for everyone to recognize the homelessness crisis—not just in San Diego, but also in Salt Lake City and urban areas throughout the country. While rising housing costs and relatively stagnant wages are the two primary drivers of the problem, Jeff doesn’t discount the power of the individual to make a difference, whether through volunteering, donating goods, or elevating the dialogue to fight the stigma against those experiencing homelessness.
 
When he’s not working, Jeff stays active outdoors, taking advantage of all that San Diego’s famously temperate climate has to offer. He also prioritizes time with his family: two-year-old daughter Alex keeps Jeff and wife Sonia Ponce—a practicing cardiologist—quite busy.
Jeff always treated those he served with dignity and compassion. It is wonderful to see him intently living his purpose, in the intersection of bettering human relationships as a way to improve healthcare. —Ryan Hoglund, director of ethical education

Rowland Hall’s Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund is not at all surprised that Jeff is making a difference in the lives of others. He recalled how, as a high school student, Jeff was always highly engaged and motivated to serve, often being the last to leave a volunteer event. “Jeff always treated those he served with dignity and compassion,” Ryan said. “It is wonderful to see him intently living his purpose, in the intersection of bettering human relationships as a way to improve healthcare.”

Just as Jeff credited Rowland Hall for sparking his interest in a life of service to others, Mr. Hoglund credited Jeff for setting an example of genuine student leadership at the school. And, to the student leaders today, Jeff sent these words of encouragement: “Figure out what gives you energy and makes you feel like you're contributing to the world in some positive way, then grab that bull by the horns and don’t let go of it. That’s where you're going to be able to make a difference, to be satisfied with who you are and what you're doing in this world.”


All photos courtesy of Father Joe's Villages.

Alumni

Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman Reflects With Gratitude on First Year

Rowland Hall’s Beginning School is a cozy, welcoming place buzzing with the distinctive energy of active, engaged students. “One of my very favorite things is that on any given day in the Beginning School you can almost always count on getting to walk around and see young children working together at something they care deeply about,” said Emma Wellman, who just finished her first year as the division’s principal. “They are experimenting and they are failing. They are problem-solving and working through tension and conflict together, and making a mess, and being too loud—and it’s just the best ever.”

They are experimenting and they are failing. They are problem-solving and working through tension and conflict together, and making a mess, and being too loud—and it’s just the best ever.—Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman

Emma joined Rowland Hall from the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, known colloquially as Lab, where she most recently served as interim director of the Extended Day Program. After five years at Lab as both a teacher and an administrator, working with hundreds of children from ages three through 13, she was ready for a more intimate experience in the next chapter of her career. “I wanted to work at a place where I could know all the children and the families,” she explained. “And I wanted to work with professional teachers—people who have chosen it for their life’s work and were really committed and dedicated deep thinkers.”

From day one, Emma has been sure of her choice. “Every day this school year, I have woken up and felt huge gratitude that I get to be part of this community,” she said. “There is a deep respect for young children as people and as learners, and that’s really important to me. The teachers are genuinely interested in who these little people are and what is happening in their minds and in their hearts.”

Emma’s own commitment to students and the wider Rowland Hall community meant that the top item on her first-year agenda was connecting with students, parents, faculty, and staff because those relationships would set the foundation for success. She wanted to know the students, and their families, by name. “An early goal for myself was knowing all of the names of the children—and I did that by Back to School Night,” she said.

She went into Beginning School classrooms to discover each team’s curriculum, learning style, and personality, as well as how faculty members like to be supported. A self-described developmentalist, she also engaged her professional background to help provide age-appropriate activities and lessons. “I believe all people are becoming,” she said, stressing the importance of actively engaging children at their level so they discover how to learn—and enjoy the journey.

Emma has seen this approach working in the Beginning School. She described watching a kindergartener experimenting with how to make a ball roll from one end of a complicated ramp structure to the other. “It was really tricky, this route he had made, with lots of hills and so forth,” she explained. The setup required him to continuously step back to examine the design and to make adjustments, from the height of slopes to the size of the ball.

“It went on for a long, long time—and then he got it to work, and that was amazing. So exciting! Then he got it to work another time, and his comment was, ‘After it works it’s boring,’” she laughed. “And I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I hope you hold onto that for the rest of your life,’ that the process of figuring it out is the good stuff.”

Moving into her second year at Rowland Hall, Emma wants to build upon the work already underway. She’ll enrich the relationships she built this year and continue to give students developmentally appropriate opportunities. Over the summer, she’ll take what she has learned from students, families, and teachers and map out a community-centered plan for 2019–2020 that will include enhancing outdoor play spaces; strengthening the snack policy that prioritizes healthy, nutritious, whole foods; reflecting on the school’s accreditation self-study; thinking deeply about parent communications; and soaking in knowledge from Alan Sparrow—whom Emma describes as “a wise and wonderful leader”—during his final year as head of school.

Whatever the next year holds, it’s clear that Emma will be fully focused on supporting Rowland Hall’s youngest students as they discover their love of learning and start to think critically, take risks, solve problems, and collaborate with others. “This is the stuff of learning,” she said.

People

Carol Frymire

Longtime staff member Carol Frymire to retire after 30 years of stepping in and stepping up at Rowland Hall

It’s not hard to see where Carol Frymire got her work ethic: her mother, Ina Wyman, was a schoolteacher by day, a Murray City Library employee by night, and a devoted wife and mother around the clock. So it makes sense that Carol has worked consistently since she was a teenager, first in jobs at an Arctic Circle restaurant and a drugstore soda fountain, later in customer service for Eastern Airlines, and finally—luckily for Rowland Hall—in several different capacities as a school staff member for the past 30 years.

First hired as a receptionist in the late 1980s, Carol has since held all of the following positions: assistant to Head of School Alan Sparrow; owner’s representative during construction of the McCarthey Campus; early morning and after-school childcare provider; director of alumni relations; student-billing manager; auction director and assistant; calendar coordinator; database manager; and for the past five years, assistant to Director of Technology Patrick Godfrey. In addition, she also wore the hat of school parent for several years—her son Andy was a Rowland Hall student from seventh through eleventh grades, and though he left his senior year to play hockey at Highland High School, he’s considered an honorary alum.

While Rowland Hall is known for its supportive culture that encourages professional growth, and many faculty and staff have switched jobs once or twice during their tenure at the school, Carol might just hold the record for most number of roles. It doesn’t faze her, however: she’s always been willing to go where she’s needed and learn new skills, all in service of the school’s mission.

“She provides awesome customer service,” Patrick Godfrey said. “She’ll jump in to help at Maker Day or get students geared up for skiing and snowboarding—all things that are not in her job description.” In a similarly selfless fashion, when she was alumni director, Carol formed a special bond with Margaret Jackson, an alumna from the class of 1942. “She had rheumatoid arthritis and was in a wheelchair,” Carol recalled. “So I’d pick her up and take her to things. She was my friend.”

Carol might just hold the record for most number of roles. It doesn’t faze her, however: she’s always been willing to go where she’s needed and learn new skills, all in service of the school’s mission.Carol’s caring nature, flexibility, and can-do attitude have served the school community tremendously through the years. According to Alan Sparrow, Carol became his assistant the same day he began his headship, and they grew in their positions side by side. “There were many times we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, laughed, and said, ‘I guess we’re going to learn how to do this together!’” he said. Some issues they tackled in the 1990s included establishing basic human-resources policies and examining faculty salaries and credentials. And even though Carol eventually moved into a new role, he continued to consult her for advice—and relied on her to keep him updated on news and events throughout the school community.

Perhaps the most shining example of Carol’s willingness to step up occurred in 2009, when a gas leak near 1500 East and 500 South resulted in a mandatory evacuation of the McCarthey Campus and surrounding areas. As Carol remembers it, Director of Operations Ann Burnett walked down the hallway to her office, threw a set of bus keys on her desk, and told her to go pick up the four-year-old students and take them to the Lincoln Street Campus.

Carol—never having driven a bus before, or anything similar—might have been a little nervous, but she never hesitated. She teamed up with then-teacher Linda Strohacker, loaded the bus with children, and headed out to complete her charge.

“I drove over probably 15 sprinkler heads when I pulled the bus out of the circle,” Carol laughed. Plus she had inadvertently deployed the stop sign on the side of the bus and couldn’t figure out how to retract it. “All the way down the hill, the sign was vibrating out there…prrr-prrr-prrr,” she mimicked. Nevertheless, she delivered the students safely and was subsequently asked by a police officer to help evacuate very young children—including infants—from the nearby KinderCare facility. And after that, she and her bus were summoned to the local Veterans Affairs hospital in case anyone needed transportation from there as well.

Finally, after being released by her police escort, Carol returned to the Lincoln Street Campus to pick up evacuated lower and beginning school faculty, and she drove them home on the bus.

While she smiled at the memory of that day, and the certificate of recognition she received for “careening above and beyond the call of duty,” Carol was also quick to shrug off her contributions as anything more than what others would do. “People rise to the occasion,” she said. “It worked out well, and every single one of our kids got down the hill in record time.”

No matter what position she had, Carol understood that students come first in our culture. —Head of School Alan SparrowBecause for Carol, it’s always been about the students at Rowland Hall, and the unexpected daily interactions have kept her amused and engaged in her work. “It’s the happenstance, off-the-cuff things they say each day,” she said. “They just tickle me because they’re so willing to be vulnerable, and funny.” Her peers recognize just how much the students have meant to Carol. “She gets the big picture of what we do here at Rowland Hall and has always been focused on the students,” Patrick Godfrey said.

Alan Sparrow added: “No matter what position she had, Carol understood that students come first in our culture.” 

Now, after a lifetime of working and the last 30 years of prioritizing students and colleagues at Rowland Hall, Carol will retire this summer and start a new adventure in Southern Utah with her husband, David. She plans to spend much of her time reading, improving her golf game, camping, and visiting with her children and grandchildren. She doesn’t want to plan too much, knowing that retirement is likely to be a major adjustment. “I’ve never not worked since I was 14,” she said.

While she’s definitely earned the right to rest and take things as they come, she will be sorely missed around campus. “Her friendship and loyalty will be hard to replace,” Patrick Godfrey said. 

People

portrait of two moms outside school

Inclusion isn’t just a priority in our classrooms and on our playgrounds—it’s also a goal for all three 2019–2020 Home & School leaders, who want to make every family feel welcome.

Dawn Farrell will lead the Lincoln Street Campus Home and School Association, while Kari Corroon and alumna Jenna (Gelegotis) Pagoaga ’98 will serve as co-presidents for the McCarthey Campus. Jenna has two kids at McCarthey: Oliver is a rising 3PreK student and William is a rising second grader. Kari has twin sons: Reed and Ryker, rising fourth graders. Dawn's son, Kemper, is a rising senior.

Read more about Home & School here and learn about these leaders in the following Q&A.

Questions or ideas? Email the incoming presidents:

Dawn Farrell

    Dawn Farrell

How long have you lived in the Salt Lake area, and what brought you and your family here?

Dawn: I moved to Utah in 1990 from Indiana. My dad transferred here when I was a sophomore in high school. It was so traumatic for me at the time (at 16 years old, everything is traumatic), but now Utah is my home. For three years, we lived on the Big Island of Hawaii with our two sons, Keaton and Kemper, but we've been back in Utah since 2017.

Jenna: I was born and raised in Salt Lake City. I spent a few years outside of the state after college with my husband, Steve, while he served in the Army, but ultimately we decided to come back home to raise our family. It’s a beautiful place to live; it was too hard to stay away!

Kari: I was born and raised in the Salt Lake area.

What are your personal hobbies and interests?

Dawn: Right now, most of my time is spent getting certified to become a pilates instructor. I love pilates! I also love to cook, play tennis, and take indoor spin classes. I wish I had more time to craft. I especially like to embroider.

Jenna: I enjoy the outdoors, musical theater, University of Utah football games and gymnastic meets, and dinner with friends at local restaurants. And as the parent of young children, of course, I enjoy a good nap.

Kari: If the sun is shining, I’m outside. My favorite thing to do is hike with my dogs, a 10-year-old Pug mix and a nine-month-old Golden Retriever. I love the theater and go to every show that I possibly can. I love being with my family, no matter what we’re doing!

What's your family's favorite activity or destination?

Dawn: I asked everyone in my family their opinions about our favorite activity and everyone said playing board games together. We break out a game every night at dinner. Our favorite games right now are Monopoly Deal and Bananagrams.

Jenna: Put us near the water and we’re happy! We love spending time at the beach in Southern California or exploring the beauty of Red Fish Lake in Idaho. And you can often find us spending school breaks at the Happiest Place on Earth, enjoying the magic of Disneyland.

Kari: Our family loves to travel. We visit my husband’s family several times a year in New York and Florida. We love to discover new places and explore cities together. We also love to camp, ride bikes, and backcountry ski.

Why did you choose Rowland Hall for your kids?

Dawn: When I was in college, I worked at Coffee Garden for a while. I always thought the kids who came in from Rowland Hall were so cool. They were always polite and articulate. I thought it seemed like a great place to go to school.

As a proud 'lifer' and alumna of Rowland Hall, I wanted to give my children the same experience and spectacular education I was privileged to receive.—Parent and alumna Jenna (Gelegotis) Pagoaga ’98

Jenna: As a proud “lifer” and alumna of Rowland Hall, I wanted to give my children the same experience and spectacular education I was privileged to receive. Though Rowland Hall has evolved through the years, the strong traditions and values still hold true. It has been a heartwarming experience seeing this through my children’s eyes. Watching them learn about different cultures and beliefs in chapel and experience diverse viewpoints in their classrooms is wonderful. And, we all love the tradition of Color Day and have enjoyed starting another generation of holiday plates in our kitchen. What a fantastic school to be a part of then and now!

Kari: I am an early childhood educator, and I discovered Rowland Hall while doing my graduate work at the University of Utah. The school’s educational philosophy aligns perfectly with my own. Rowland Hall is a magical place with the most amazing educators and administrators. I knew there was no better place for my own children to go to school. My twin boys will be starting fourth grade next year. They started in kindergarten and have absolutely loved every year. Rowland Hall has given them a love for learning that will last their entire lives.

What are your goals as the new Home & School presidents?

Dawn: My goal is to offer more support to the students. I would love to brainstorm with student council in the fall to see if Home & School can support them in activities that will help increase the sense of community and inclusion. I would also like to start a life-skills activity day for our senior class. If you’re a skilled professional (or are just good at something!) and are willing to share your talents with our seniors, please contact me.

Jenna: My hope is to continue to foster a strong and inclusive parent community at Rowland Hall. We offer such unique and important programming and it’s my goal, along with Kari’s, to encourage all those interested in participating to do so. We hope to increase awareness of Home & School events and provide a welcoming environment for families to connect, learn, and socialize together. We challenge you to participate in Home & School in whatever capacity you can. You won’t be disappointed.

Kari: Jenna and I are really looking forward to helping out in Home & School next year. Our goal is to make every family, new and old, feel included. We want every parent who has a desire to volunteer to feel welcomed and appreciated. We want to support the incredible teachers and staff in every way that we can. We look forward to a great year!

Add anything else you'd like our community to know about you and your new role.

Dawn: Every family who has a student enrolled at the Lincoln Street Campus is a member of Home & School, yet I don't know the majority of you. Please take a second to introduce yourself! I cannot express enough how much I appreciate your participation in this organization. From your monetary donations to every second you spend volunteering, you’re helping bridge the gap between your home and your child's school. Thank you!

Jenna: We would love to meet you! Stop us in the halls, email us your questions, come to our monthly meetings. We want to get to know you all!

Home & School

Athletics

Senior Jordan Crockett Commits to Playing D1 Soccer for the University of Denver

On November 13, surrounded by family and friends, Rowland Hall senior Jordan Crockett did something she had been dreaming about for years: she signed the National Letter of Intent confirming her decision to play soccer at the University of Denver (DU). 

A dream come true: Jordan signing her National Letter of Intent at her November 13 signing party.


Jordan is one of eight women who signed onto DU’s 2020 roster this month. As a Division I school—the highest level of intercollegiate sports sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)—DU recruits some of the strongest high-school athletes from around the country. Jordan brings to the team years of high-level experience in club soccer, where she has played on several Utah teams: Black Diamond Soccer Club, Utah Soccer Alliance, and Celtic Premier FC, which won the US Youth Soccer National Championship in July.

While club players often choose to play at that level alone, rather than on high school teams, Jordan opted to play at Rowland Hall because of its close-knit community and for an extra, athletics-focused layer of college counseling and preparation. Bobby Kennedy, who coached Jordan for four years, explained that Rowland Hall was committed to helping her achieve her goal of playing D1 soccer. To do this, the school didn’t just help to hone her technical skills; her coaches, teachers, and college counselor also helped Jordan identify her top schools and develop the academic skills necessary to secure a spot on their teams—and, ultimately, in their classrooms.

Jordan’s high-caliber skills don’t come with an inflated ego: she’s a recognized leader among her peers, in part, because she’s fully committed to Rowland Hall’s team-first, family-like atmosphere, Bobby said.

“When we asked all the kids where they would prefer to play, she would write down, ‘Anywhere on the field but goalie,’” he explained. “You might think a player that’s reached her level of prominence in club, and is the classification’s MVP, would say, “I want to play center midfield,’ or ‘I want to play up front where I can score goals.’ By saying ‘I’ll play anywhere,’ you can read into the fact that she’s putting the team first.”

In addition to her strong leadership, Bobby said, Rowland Hall will remember Jordan as a consummate student-athlete, and probably the most impactful player in the last 10 years. 

“She’s literally a once-in-a-decade player,” he said.

Update November 26, 2019: For the second time, Jordan Crockett has been named 2A MVP. Read the story in the Deseret News. Congratulations, Jordan!


We asked Jordan to share more about her experience and how it feels to commit to DU. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tell us about your athletic journey.

I started playing soccer when I was two, with my mom. I wasn’t really focused on soccer at first—I was a gymnast until I was around six. Then I decided I just wanted to play soccer, and that’s when I started playing club competitively. Once I got to Rowland Hall, my freshman year was a little bit rocky, adjusting to a level I wasn’t really used to playing at. But to build a relationship with people who are in the same community as me every single day was super special. The next three years we won the state championship, which was amazing. And with club, my junior year, I was also able to win the national championship. We are the first team from Utah to ever do that, so that was pretty amazing too.

Why was it important for you to continue playing at the high school level, even while you were involved with club soccer?

I didn’t want to let go of the community; I wanted to stay throughout my four years. It was a different level, but taught me how to lead in a different way and how to share an experience with everyone else. It helped me understand that I’m building family relationships with all of my teammates.

What does it mean to you to be recruited by a D1 school for the sport you love?

Relieved is one of the main things. I was recruited by many D1 schools, and to go to Denver is honestly a blessing. I remember 13-year-old me taking Polaroid pictures of my Denver soccer shirt and posting them on my wall. It’s really a dream come true.

How were you able to balance academics and athletics while at Rowland Hall?

My teachers, the principals, and the whole staff at Rowland Hall are so helpful and really easy to communicate with about being a high-level athlete and having to balance academics. I think being able to have a community that’s so accepting, and having them support me through my whole athletic career, was super helpful.

What is the top skill you gained at Rowland Hall that you'll be taking with you to Denver?

Probably the willingness to be open to new things. Rowland Hall has given me a lot of opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom. It’s really cool that Rowland Hall is a community that is able to teach you new things every single day.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I want to be on the national team—that’s one of my biggest hopes and dreams. But if not, then I see myself in a job I enjoy, with my family and friends supporting me, and just enjoying life— trying to take each day a step at a time and live with no regrets.

Athletics

Sara Matsumura playing volleyball.

Haverford College senior Sara Matsumura ’16 added to her impressive list of achievements on September 9, when she was awarded the Centennial Conference’s Player of the Week after being named Most Valuable Player of the Ford Invitational only two days earlier. Then, on September 16, the NCAA announced that Sara was ranked third in Division III in total digs and seventh in service aces.

“I am over-the-moon ecstatic,” Sara said about the start of her senior season.

Despite the recent attention she has personally received, the Haverford volleyball co-captain remained focused on her team. “It is amazing to see all of our hard work coming to fruition and so motivating to see everyone reaching and playing at their full potential,” she said. “I feel a lot of appreciation for the group of girls I get to play with."

I am over-the-moon ecstatic. It is amazing to see all of our hard work coming to fruition and so motivating to see everyone reaching and playing at their full potential.—Sara Matsumura, Class of 2016

Kendra Tomsic, Sara’s former coach and Rowland Hall’s director of athletics, was not surprised to learn of Sara’s focus on teamwork. “Sara never cared about individual stats or accolades—she loved her teammates and celebrated their accomplishments as if they were her own,” she said of Sara’s time playing for the Winged Lions. “Her unmatched work ethic, positive attitude, fiery spirit, enthusiasm, heart, and passion for the game were an inspiration to her teammates and coaches.”
 
Kendra also praised Sara’s athletic prowess. “Sara is undoubtedly one of the most talented volleyball players to come out of our program. Her stats were tops in nearly every category, and she was instrumental to our winning several consecutive region titles,” she said. “I am so very proud and excited, but definitely not surprised, that Sara has continued to excel and has made such an amazing impact on her Haverford College team.”
 
Sara credited Rowland Hall for preparing her for success at the college level, both on the court and in the classroom. “The endless support I received from Rowland Hall’s coaching staff gave me the confidence I needed to gain an I-own-the-court mentality. As a back-row player, that is essential and has definitely been tested when facing strong teams,” she said. “Rowland Hall also prepared me to balance school and volleyball, as academics is our top priority at Haverford too.”
 
These balancing skills, first gained at Rowland Hall and then strengthened at Haverford, are essential to Sara’s success. When she isn’t excelling on the court, the chemistry major is researching microplastics and bioplastics for her senior thesis. After graduation, she plans on taking a gap year to work at an environmentally focused company, then earning a PhD in environmental engineering or chemistry. Armed with an arsenal of skills she has gathered as a student-athlete, we have no doubt she’ll continue to do great things, and we can’t wait to see them.

Update November 12, 2019: Sara was selected for a first-team spot for the 2019 All-Centennial Conference volleyball teams; this is the third consecutive season Sara has been named to an All-Centennial squad. She was also named to the Centennial Conference All-Sportsmanship team for the fourth consecutive season, becoming the first player in program history to earn that distinction four times since the introduction of the plaudit to the conference's postseason awards in 2009. Read the news release.

Update November 14, 2019: Sara was selected to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III All-Mid Atlantic Region team. She is the first Haverford player to garner all-region honors since 2015. Read the news release.

Update November 19, 2019: Sara was named an All-America Honorable Mention. She is the first Haverford player to be included on the list since 2015 and the tenth in program history. Read the news release.

Congratulations, Sara!


Top of page: Sara Matsumura playing in a Haverford College volleyball game. (Photo courtesy David Sinclair)

Alumni

Kendra Tomsic coaching a volleyball game.

Kendra Tomsic fell in love with sports at a young age, but when she was growing up, schools didn’t offer girls’ teams. Instead of deterring her, that early experience sparked a passion that still drives her today.

“As a pre-Title IX athlete who never had a coach or even the chance to compete until college, I vowed to help make certain others would have the opportunities I didn’t,” Kendra told attendees of YWCA Utah’s Leader Luncheon on September 13, as she accepted this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Sports and Athletics.

As a pre-Title IX athlete who never had a coach or even the chance to compete until college, I vowed to help make certain others would have the opportunities I didn’t.—Kendra Tomsic

She continued, “I made a commitment to become a coach and athletic director who would not only teach female athletes skills and strategies, but who would use sports to teach and model leadership, strength, confidence, courage, tenacity, resiliency, and the importance of teamwork.”

Kendra’s 42 years of dedication to this work—28 of them at Rowland Hall in roles including director of athletics, PE teacher, and volleyball, softball, and basketball coach—led YWCA Utah to select her as one of five women honored at this year’s luncheon. Award recipients are community leaders who advance the well-being of Utah women and girls, and who exemplify the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. In her roles as an administrator, educator, and coach, Kendra has harnessed her passion for athletics to empower Utah girls and women and to promote high school athletics at the state and national levels.

“It's not possible to overstate her positive impact on athletics in general and girls’ athletics in particular in Utah,” said Head of School Alan Sparrow. “Her commitment to getting women's athletics treated with the same opportunities and respect as men's athletics is inspirational. Through her dedication, diplomacy, and tenacity, girls’ athletics in Utah high schools have improved dramatically. She is universally respected by her peers and they listen to her when she points out inequities.” They’ve also celebrated her: Kendra’s long list of accolades includes a national Distinguished Service Award and state Athletic Director of the Year. But it’s praise from students that best illustrates the importance, and reach, of Kendra’s work. When news of the YWCA award was posted on Rowland Hall’s alumni Facebook page, an outpouring of love quickly followed, resulting in the page’s highest interaction to date.

“I am proud to say I know her.”

“There’s no one more deserving!”

“She’s amazing in every way and her dedication to making young women better athletes and, above that, better people cannot be topped!”

Kendra Tomsic with YWCA CEO Anne Burkholder.

Kendra Tomsic, right, with YWCA Chief Executive Officer Anne Burkholder at the September 13 Leader Luncheon. (Photo courtesy Charles Uibel Photography)

Kacie Tachiki Turcuato ’99 is one alumna who can attest to Kendra’s transformative power. The former volleyball player remembers her coach as a true mentor who believed in her potential, and who had the special ability to bring out and refine her strengths.

“I’m not a natural-born athlete,” Kacie said. “I’m super short and in my first year of high school I was very weak; I couldn’t even get a serve over the net. I just played because it was fun and recreational. But Kendra believed in me, she worked with me, and by the time I left Rowland Hall, I was a stronger athlete: I got the school’s Senior Athlete of the Year, I got Salt Lake Tribune’s Prep Athlete of the Week. I went from feeling like I couldn’t do anything to really feeling accomplished.”

Kacie called Kendra one of the most influential people in her life, and that influence didn’t stop at graduation. Her guidance has inspired Kacie in many ways, from pursuing a career in physical therapy to returning to Rowland Hall as an assistant volleyball coach.

Students have the utmost respect for her, because they just know who she is. When she talks, everyone’s engaged and they trust her.—Kacie Tachiki Turcuato ’99

“I feel so lucky because I honestly think I’d be somewhere totally different without her,” Kacie said. “I’ve had a very fortunate, successful career and life, and I can’t imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t met her. She can really bring out the best in you.”

Alan also spoke of this capability. “Kendra's deep commitment and caring for each and every player and coach she works with is obvious,” he said. “You can hear it in her tone of voice when she speaks to the students. You can see it in the compassion she shows when a player or student is upset or hurt. You notice it when she genuinely shows interest in her students’ lives outside and inside of school.”

Kendra’s compassion comes up again and again when people talk about her; it’s an important factor in how she mentors others. Coupled with an ability to build trust, Kendra successfully models life skills such as confidence, resiliency, and teamwork on the court and field—and students respond to it. “Students have the utmost respect for her, because they just know who she is,” said Kacie. “When she talks, everyone’s engaged and they trust her. It’s pretty cool to watch.”

This is true for Gita Varner ’05, a former volleyball and softball team manager, whose strongest memories of Kendra involve the life lessons she learned from her and now uses every day.

“Kendra was a role model for me on how to be true to yourself and accept everyone as they come,” Gita said. Kendra’s high standards also taught her the importance of hard work. “She helped instill a strong work ethic in me because she always expected me to be doing something.”

Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, and guts—that’s what little girls are made of. To heck with sugar and spice!

And it may be inspiring students to use, and then themselves model, those life skills during and after their time at Rowland Hall that means the most to Kendra. As she closed her remarks at the Leader Luncheon, she shared a quote from professional surfer Bethany Hamilton-Dirks, along with a reminder of the role we all play in female empowerment: “‘Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, and guts—that’s what little girls are made of. To heck with sugar and spice!’ It is my work, and your work, to continue to send that message to young women, the future leaders of tomorrow.”

Thank you, Coach T, for this important lesson, and for the many others you teach student-athletes every day. Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition.

People

Girl soccer players walking away with arms around each other.

Rowland Hall won its second-consecutive Utah Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (UIAAA) 2A Directors Cup for excellence across three areas: athletics, academics, and sportsmanship and student leadership.

Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic said the prestigious award, announced July 13, demonstrates that Rowland Hall is home to some truly gifted student-athletes. “I am so very proud of our athletes for their efforts in the competitive arena as well as in the classroom,” Kendra said, “and thankful to our coaches who are so supportive of our student-athletes' academic commitments.”

Strong showings at state tournaments—along with high GPAs—helped Rowland Hall secure its second Directors Cup in the award's nine-year history. The UIAAA recognized seven of our teams for having the highest GPAs among their 2A competitors: volleyball, girls basketball, boys cross-country, boys tennis, boys track, and girls and boys soccer. And top-five finishes at state competitions included first place in 2A for girls soccer, second place in 3A for girls swimming, second place in 2A for boys soccer, third place in 2A for boys golf, third place in 2A for boys basketball, third place in 2A for girls golf, and fourth place in 3A for boys tennis.

The description of the Directors Cup, from UIAAA:

The UIAAA Directors Cup is awarded each year to the top school in each class that demonstrates combined excellence in athletic, academic, and sportsmanship and student-leadership [categories]. Each category makes up a percentage toward a school’s total ranking:

  1. Athletic (40%): The place or position a school team finishes in the state tournament.
  2. Academic (40%): Varsity team GPA.
  3. Sportsmanship and student leadership (20%): School’s participation in UHSAA-sponsored sportsmanship and leadership initiatives.

The top-five ranked schools in 2A:

  1. Rowland Hall: 15.26 points
  2. Gunnison: 13.47
  3. Waterford: 12.8
  4. Kanab: 10.12
  5. Layton Christian: 9.65

Rowland Hall's score also amounted to the fourth-highest point total among all classifications in the state.

Read last year's story about our first Directors Cup.

Athletics

Lizzie Carlin: Born to Run

Lizzie Carlin may only be a freshman, but she is already part of Rowland Hall history. In her first year on the track team she has broken the school records for both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints, and she has her eye on the record for the 400.

“Lizzie’s really got goals,” said Mark Oftedal, head track and field coach. “She came in with goals in her freshman year, which is kind of unusual for a freshman to come in knowing straightaway, ‘These are the events I want to do. These are my goals. These are the times I'm shooting for.’"

Lizzie quickly turned her goals into reality. At her first track meet of the season she broke the school record in the 100-meter sprint with a time of 12.87 seconds. At the second meet, she claimed her second school record when she ran the 200 in 26.96 seconds.

Sibling rivalry may have had a bit to do with how Lizzie set her goals. The first two records she broke were set by her older sister, Emma Carlin ’17. Now though, while Lizzie’s still interested in breaking records, she’s running more for herself. “I just want to get faster,” she said. “I don't know if I really have an end goal, but I think mostly I'm just trying to get better with every practice and get the best times I can.”

Those amazing times may seem to come easy to Lizzie, but there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes. This is only her first year running track—ever. She was, and still is, a soccer player. As we all know, the two sports are very different. Yet, with the help of coaches she has been able to navigate between the two. 

“We're trying to work more with her to get rid of the soccer arms—when you're running with your elbows out because you're trying to keep people away from the ball,” Coach Oftedal said. “We're trying to get her more linear in her sprint form, which will help take her times down.”

Lizzie said the physical differences between the two sports haven’t been the only adjustment. She’s had to change her mindset as well. “It's probably the first individual sport I've ever done,” she said. “That kind of gives me more motivation to do it well, because I know if I mess up, it's not like my team can fix it for me. And so that makes me work harder.”

There is a lot of hard work in Lizzie’s future if she wants the school record for the 400-meter sprint. At the final meet of the year she ran the race in 1:01.44 seconds. Her best time for the year was 1.00.76. The record, held by Candice Nkoy ’15, is 59.47. Lizzie had hoped to break it before the end of the year, but just over a second still stands between her and making more history. Will she be able to do it?

“She’s got the speed, obviously,” Coach Oftedal said. “Over time she will build endurance, and be able to carry that speed throughout the length of the race better.”

Lizzie knows breaking the record will be a challenge, but she’s digging deep to make it happen. “It's just having the motivation to go out and train on my own, so that I can get better at it,” Lizzie said. “That's the hardest part for me.”

Lizzie’s coaches see her drive growing, and they’re helping her overcome any qualms or fears that may get in her way. “She says she hates to compete, but I think it's because she cares so much about the outcome, the results, that she gets nervous,” Coach Oftedal said. “She's young. She's learning to deal with her nerves.”

Lizzie is at the right school for finding motivation and overcoming challenges. After all, it isn’t a question of if, but when: she hasn’t broken the 400 record, yet. She still has three more years, and the whole school cheering her on.

Athletics

Ally Hansen

Senior Ally Hansen (pictured above, center) gave the following speech to 330 guests at Rowland Hall's biennial auction March 16. After she shared her story, a paddle raise garnered $88,050 for school financial aid. Thank you to Ally for her heartfelt words, and to our generous donors for empowering wonderful students like her to attend Rowland Hall.

I’ve been attending Rowland Hall since seventh grade, but before that I’d attended the same public school since kindergarten. It was considered small, yet it was almost twice the size of Rowland Hall’s middle and upper schools combined. Despite the size, I never really fit into the community. It was uninviting, unaccepting, and relatively unfriendly. I didn’t like it there very much, and wanted an escape. I looked at other options for middle school, but they were limited. 

A friend told me about Rowland Hall and I looked into it. I quickly realized it wouldn’t be an option for me, as there was no way I could afford it. Then, another friend—a Rowland Hall junior with whom I played competitive basketball—told me about the Malone Scholarship. So I applied, and here I am six years later.

Rowland Hall gave me something no other place had ever given me: a sense of belonging. I felt happy with who I was, quirks and all.

At my previous school, I was always the tomboy. I didn’t want to walk around talking about clothes or boys during recess; I wanted to play football on the back field instead. But I was never really included anywhere—the boys wouldn’t let a girl play with them, and the girls thought I was weird. During my first few weeks at Rowland Hall, I met this boy and one of the very first things he asked me was if I wanted to throw a football with him during recess. He is now one of my very best friends. This is just one example of the warm, loving, and accepting community I was quickly welcomed into. Rowland Hall gave me something no other place had ever given me: a sense of belonging. I felt happy with who I was, weird quirks and all. 

Rowland Hall made me realize my true potential and gave me all the tools I needed to be successful. I played basketball my two years in Middle School and all four years in the Upper School, making varsity my freshman year. This last year, I was lucky enough to be elected team captain. I was a good leader because I always led by example. I knew that if I did what I was supposed to, then others would follow in my footsteps. Also, I always pushed for “better” and never wanted to settle for “good enough.” Rowland Hall taught me what a real leader looks like, so when it was my turn to step into those shoes I knew exactly what to do.

Ally Hansen takes a jump shot in a basketball game.

Ally Hansen takes a jump shot in a January 10 basketball game.

I’ve been able to write my own ticket because of the education Rowland Hall provides. When I enrolled in Rowland Hall, I couldn’t have even imagined how great my life would turn out.

Lastly, Rowland Hall opened my eyes to all of the opportunities out there—ways to become the most successful person I can be. The school community made me feel like I was good enough to pursue my dreams. I’d been dead set on attending the University of Utah as long as I can remember. But my truly amazing counselors, teachers, and friends exposed me to the idea of expanding my horizons and considering other schools. Now, I’ll be attending Arizona State University (ASU) in fall, majoring in sports journalism and pursuing a dream I’ve had since I was little: becoming a sportscaster. I would have never even looked at that college had it not been for that very same seventh-grade friend who asked me to throw the football (he’s the one who told me about ASU), and for Rowland Hall, which opened my eyes to new possibilities.

My whole life is different because of my scholarship. I now have four of the most amazing friends anyone could ask for and I’ve been able to write my own ticket because of the education Rowland Hall provides. When I enrolled in Rowland Hall, I couldn’t have even imagined how great my life would turn out. None of this would have been possible without the Malone Family Foundation’s generosity. I will be forever grateful. I only hope that other people will be able to have the same opportunities and experiences I did. But for many, Rowland Hall is not a financial option without the generosity of people like you. So tonight, I ask you to please get out your phones and give generously to support future students like me. Thank you.

scholarships

Zack Alvidrez and team

Zack Alvidrez aimed to build a strong culture in the boys basketball program this season. What he created took the team to a third-place trophy at the State Tournament, their best-ever finish in 2A.

For Rowland Hall senior Trey Provost, the most memorable moment of the basketball season is precisely what you would expect: his buzzer-beating shot to take down Gunnison in the first round of the State 2A Tournament, which brought all his teammates onto the floor in celebration. It was a finish fit for March Madness—although it took place in February—and set the team on course for their best showing in the tournament in over a decade.

Coach Zack Alvidrez cited several joyous moments in the State Tournament, but one other game really stood out to him. It came during Region play, in a matchup at home against rival Waterford. Rowland Hall’s defense stymied their opponents, holding them to just two points at halftime—and the team’s locker room conversation was about how they could do even better. “That showed me they were ready,” Coach Alvidrez said.

As the new head coach this season, Coach Alvidrez’s primary goal was to build a strong culture in the program, one where hard work, communication, and responsibility were paramount. From their earliest practices, he sought investment from everyone on the team—regardless of grade level or experience—and vowed to match their effort. He made himself available for extra workouts, skill development, and weight-training sessions, and he regularly asked players for input, citing a desire to create shared ownership.

As the new head coach this season, Coach Alvidrez’s primary goal was to build a strong culture in the program, one where hard work, communication, and responsibility were paramount. From their earliest practices, he sought investment from everyone on the team—regardless of grade level or experience—and vowed to match their effort.

Such a strong commitment to the team stems from the love Coach Alvidrez has had for this sport since he was in eighth grade. After playing basketball throughout high school and college, he had a seven-year professional career internationally, which might have continued longer if not for a devastating injury to his Achilles tendon. Although he lamented the situation, Zack soon turned elsewhere, launching a competitive league and running basketball camps for kids, something he’d done periodically since college. He connected with Rowland Hall students through his league games, and three years ago began coaching for our Middle School. In fact, some players in Rowland Hall’s class of 2020 have been learning from Coach Alvidrez—in one forum or another—since they were in sixth grade.

Relationships matter, and as the foundation of what Coach Alvidrez has started to build at Rowland Hall, he taught his players to value their interactions with others. “He made us focus on being respectful to everyone, such as our own teammates, our opponents, our coaches, teachers, bus drivers…basically everyone we encountered,” Trey Provost said. Those high expectations were paired with incredible attention to detail on the court and Coach Alvidrez’s meticulous preparation before every game, watching hours of game film and producing long scouting reports to share with the team.

“I think a lot of our shortcomings can be made up for if I’m prepared, and we’re prepared as a team,” he said.

His approach worked. Rowland Hall went undefeated in Region 17 play, and finished third at the State Tournament, notching a gritty win along the way against the defending State Champions from Beaver High School. The standout play from Trey Provost and junior Isaiah Adams—who subsequently won Larry H. Miller Player of the Week honors—led the team during the playoffs, along with steady contributions from juniors Boston Ballard and Oscar Percy and seniors Maya Royer and Zander Smith. During the third-place game against Kanab, which required a second-half comeback to seal the win, Zander played “the game of his life,” according to Coach Alvidrez, scoring 23 points and playing excellent defense.

 

“All these guys stepped up,” the coach continued. “We had a true definition of a team. We didn’t have one guy to focus on—we had five guys on the floor at all times that needed to be accounted for.”

Playing a team sport…yes, it’s about wins and losses and championships, but if it’s done right, it should teach you life lessons and prepare you for college. —Coach Zack Alvidrez

Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic lauded her new head coach’s performance in building team culture and modeling the high expectations he has for his players. “Zack is one of the best hires we’ve ever made in the boys basketball program, not because he knows and can teach the game so well, but because he gets it—he is able to strike a healthy balance between pushing the players on the court and expecting top-notch behavior off the court.” 

Coach Alvidrez is excited for the future of basketball at Rowland Hall, not just because he believes the state championship trophy is within reach, but because he sees this sport as a vehicle for teaching the values and behaviors students need for lifelong success. “Playing a team sport…yes, it’s about wins and losses and championships, but if it’s done right, it should teach you life lessons and prepare you for college.” 

Also exciting to Coach Alvidrez: buzzer beaters, exceptional defense, and the overwhelming support he’s received from everybody in the school community. “It’s a huge blessing,” he said.

Athletics
 

team in park

Carson Burian led a young cross-country team to a Region 17 title last fall, and he's not slowing down. Read about his training methods, goals, and why he thinks 2019 will be his best year yet.

Running can be a lonely sport, particularly for high school athletes pursuing an advanced career. Rowland Hall's cross-country and track and field coach Mark Oftedal knows the situation all too well, having watched his son Eli—a 2015 alum and elite runner who now races for Colorado State University—endure many solitary training sessions. So when he met Carson Burian last fall, Mr. Oftedal recognized what the talented young runner was facing. "I told him, 'You're in a difficult situation, at a small school with a small team, training at your level.' I knew he would be off on his own quite frequently."

Indeed, Carson has experienced just that: long miles on the road alone, when he focuses on long-term goals—such as running in college—to stay motivated. This past summer, he logged between 60–65 miles most weeks, often training in Park City to escape the heat and ozone in the valley. The sophomore, who individually placed first at this year's Region Championship and third at the 2A State meet, used to play up to six sports. He didn't take running all that seriously when he joined the Middle School cross-country team, but after winning every race in his eighth-grade division, he realized that the sport might hold a future for him. Now, he trains year-round for races, competes in cross country and track, and supplements his running with weight lifting—and the occasional ski day, like many Utahns.

Mr. Oftedal described Carson as an intense, determined young athlete who does his research before races and sets realistic goals for himself. While he's competitive, Carson will never bad-mouth his competition—in fact, he wants to race against the best in the field, making a potential victory that much sweeter.

Mr. Oftedal described Carson as an intense, determined young athlete who does his research before races and sets realistic goals for himself. While he's competitive, Carson will never bad-mouth his competition—in fact, he wants to race against the best in the field, making a potential victory that much sweeter. "He wants to bring himself to and beyond the level of the people in front of him," Mr. Oftedal said. And since he's racing against juniors and seniors, he oftentimes has to be patient with himself. Carson can be philosophical about his performance, especially if he's not feeling in peak physical or mental condition on race day. "I still try to run the best race I can," he said, "and though I may be disappointed with my time, I'll usually understand why."

For a young runner, Carson has already developed a balanced regimen of nutrition, sleep, hydration, and workouts. He's learned to listen to his body, and knows that adjusting his pace by five seconds will allow him to push through several more miles instead of hitting a wall. Much of his growth stems from intense training and research, both at Rowland Hall and elsewhere—he attended a running camp at Northern Arizona University this summer, which he credited with giving him an extra boost of motivation during the hottest months of the year. But Carson has also been forced to adapt at times due to injury: last December, he strained ligaments in his foot two days before a race, and then batted through ongoing pain at the start of the track season because he hadn't healed properly. Thankfully, he's stayed healthy since, and says he's hoping to shave another 20–25 seconds off his mile next spring.

Carson's talent and mindset are only part of what makes him a special athlete. His individual performances certainly help the team at race time, but his sportsmanship and leadership help everyone persevere through tough practices. He understands the importance of being a good teammate, and said he'll give others encouragement when they might be struggling, sometimes simply by running alongside them. "It's all about trying to create positivity within the group," he said.

That's a strategy Mr. Oftedal and his assistant coaches, Laura Johnson and Giselle Slotboom, often employ during races too. "We try to give runners cues, and so if someone is having a rough time we'll ask their peer to join up with them and give them a boost." In fact, the camaraderie Mr. Oftedal saw in this fall's cross-country team is one of the things that pleased him most: even with varying levels of ability and experience among the group, they were often running together at practice and training together outside of school.

Carson's dedicated approach to conditioning and wellness has rubbed off on his peers, according to Mr. Oftedal. "Anytime you've got kids that are pushing at the top, it's going to positively influence others." He noticed students comparing their patterns and choices to Carson's, and then emulating his habits or characteristics. "They realize it's not just about showing up for practice and putting in the miles. It's a lifestyle decision."

Mr. Oftedal was quick to add, "It's a gain for Carson, too," as he can find inspiration watching his teammates make huge improvements, and they encourage his growth in return.

A successful season for me is when I meet these kids years down the line and they're still running—still finding joy in competing, or just running for themselves. —Coach Mark Oftedal

This year's cross-country team was a young group, led by sophomores and juniors, which Mr. Oftedal and Carson find exciting. Their achievements included Region 17 titles for both the girls and boys teams, and a third-place finish for the boys at the 2A State Championship—only one point behind the second-place team. With no one on the boys varsity team graduating in 2019, Carson believes the top spot in the state will soon be within reach.

Carson's future, as well as the team's future, is undoubtedly bright, but Mr. Oftedal doesn't necessarily measure success in terms of championships. He recently heard from the parents of a 2012 alum that their son is training for a marathon, and that news is just as satisfying to Mr. Oftedal as any state title. "A successful season for me is when I meet these kids years down the line and they're still running—still finding joy in competing, or just running for themselves," he said.

And if they still hear Coach Oftedal's or a teammate's voice encouraging them to push through training sessions, well, that might just make the runner's life a little less lonely after all.

Athletics

Ethical Education

Ben Amiel 2019 Outstanding Young Volunteer

 

Rowland Hall is thrilled to announce that senior Ben Amiel was honored as the 2019 Outstanding Young Volunteer at the Utah Philanthropy Day luncheon on November 19. This annual award goes to one role model who’s under age 30 and demonstrates exceptional and sustained commitment to philanthropy and volunteerism in the community.

Ben’s nomination was spearheaded by Jewish Family Service (JFS), where he began volunteering in the food pantry at age 13 for his bar mitzvah project. Ben still serves in the food pantry today, and over the years has taken on more responsibility: in fall 2017, when JFS received a grant to enlarge the pantry, Ben helped reorganize the space. In 2018, he ran an iPod drive and fundraiser for Music and Memory, a program for people suffering from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

It is a rarity to come upon such a young person with such an interest in responding to the varied needs of our clients.—Jewish Family Service

“Ben brings a kind, calming presence to the agency,” the JFS team wrote in their nomination letter. “He seems to recognize the value in each person, and also in what we do to support them.” And his work makes a difference—his dedication to Music and Memory, for instance, resulted in the most successful donation drive in JFS history.

“Ben’s willingness to commit to JFS, adapting and finding additional ways to support and further our work is exceptional,” the team said. “It is a rarity to come upon such a young person with such an interest in responding to the varied needs of our clients. Many of our volunteers opt in for a short time, often fulfilling a goal or project, or doing something they think will look good on a resume. Ben is a committed volunteer.”

His demonstrated devotion to JFS helped set Ben apart from other nominees in the Outstanding Young Volunteer category. “What’s superlative about Ben is his tremendous, and ongoing, commitment to JFS,” said Utah Philanthropy Day committee member Jessie Foster Strike. “Each year, Ben has found new ways to deepen his contributions to the organization, which has allowed JFS to deepen its service to the community. Whether he’s stocking shelves in the food pantry, organizing a fundraiser, or educating himself on a new program, he sees an opportunity, steps up, and take the initiative to help.”

Ben Amiel at the Jewish Family Service food pantry.

Ben Amiel working in Jewish Family Service's food pantry. Photo courtesy Darcy Amiel

Ben’s dedication to JFS, on top of his rigorous academic and extracurricular load, would be impressive on its own. But he has also chosen to dedicate much of his time to serving fellow students at Rowland Hall, where he’s attended school since third grade.

“Over the years, I have seen the development of a truly sincere mentor of younger students and a hardworking individual who values and contributes to his community,” wrote Rowland Hall’s Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund in one of the letters that the school contributed to the JFS nomination.

Ben’s commitment to leadership and service at Rowland Hall is best illustrated by his involvement with the school’s debate program. A successful debater himself (he’s an Academic All-American, a National Qualifier, and has won awards at tournaments all over the state and country), Ben has mentored Middle School debate students since his freshman year, happily giving his limited free time to tasks like helping students hone their research and argumentation skills and judging tournaments.

“Debate is Ben's life and he's naturally drawn to opportunities that let him showcase his experience and wisdom,” said Debate Coach Mike Shackelford. He explained that Ben played a major role in establishing the debate mentoring program, including setting the tone and expectations for those who want to help. And he doesn’t shy away from the time-consuming work required, Mike said, because he understands the benefits of mentoring. “Ben will go out of his way to give real coaching feedback. He'll write out comprehensive evaluations. He'll proofread student work. He's always pushing them to meet their potential.”

Ben understands that dialogue is the basis of a healthy democracy. More important than ‘winning’ any argument, for Ben, is the opportunity for ideas to be tested and exchanged respectfully in public.—Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund

This influence on middle schoolers is powerful, particularly because Ben has been in their shoes and serves as an example of where hard work can lead. “Middle School students can relate to Ben in direct and meaningful ways that I will never be able to,” Mike said. “They can see themselves on the same path. This gives them confidence and assurance that it will work out.”

Ben’s love of debate and, most importantly, to learning itself, also inspired him to establish a student debate group that meets weekly to discuss timely political topics. “Ben understands that dialogue is the basis of a healthy democracy,” Ryan wrote. “More important than ‘winning’ any argument, for Ben, is the opportunity for ideas to be tested and exchanged respectfully in public.”

Mike agreed. “He's always had a larger perspective on why he debates. For him, debate is a means to an end. He doesn't do it for trophies—he participates because he loves the challenge, the skill development, the knowledge he gains, and the people he meets. Setting up clubs and doing service is just a natural extension to this purposeful approach to activities.”

It is this natural drive to use his strengths to make a difference that truly sets Ben apart as a leader. Former Upper School history teacher Fiona Halloran summed it up when she wrote, “I believe that Ben is a person for whom puzzles and challenges are central to intellectual and personal engagement. He thinks the world ought to function smoothly. It does not. So he seeks ideas and actions that can make it a little better.”

Thank you, Ben, for your commitment to making the world a little better every day. From all of us at Rowland Hall, congratulations on this recognition.

Students

Teacher Katie Williams watches a student construct a home out of blocks.

In late October, Katie Williams’ and Vicki Smith's kindergarten class buzzed with the noise of pint-sized architects and construction workers busy assembling miniature versions of their family homes. With printed photos as their guides and wooden and foam blocks as their materials, the children were hard at work building walls, adding stories, and brainstorming methods for constructing tricky architectural features.

This activity is one of many that makes up the unit of study on community that takes place every October and November. Katie explained that the unit—which begins after the first month of school, when students meet one another, and concludes before the family-centered Thanksgiving holiday break—is a fantastic way to help children discover more about themselves, their classmates, and their families, as well as how everyone fits into the communities around them.

By helping students see the bigger picture of how lives intertwine, they begin to learn how to balance the needs of themselves and others.

The class began the unit by reading Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day?, which explores the animal inhabitants of Busytown and how they work together to provide food, housing, and clothing for their families. The story started a kid-friendly discussion on the interconnectedness of communities, and because it also identifies children as helper workers, it opened the students’ eyes to their own place within their communities. “They’re still identifying who they are,” Katie said. By helping them see the bigger picture of how lives intertwine, she continued, “they begin to learn how to balance the needs of themselves and others.”

The class built on their discoveries. After identifying what makes them special individually, they expanded the discussion outward: from a person to a classroom community; from the classroom to the school community; from the school community to the surrounding neighborhood; and so on, up to the global community. The class took a walking field trip to 9th and 9th, where students identified what the Salt Lake City neighborhood and Busytown have in common (a bakery, a salon, and a fire station, among other things). The trip ended at Rowland Hall’s Lincoln Street Campus, where the children enjoyed exploring the middle and upper schools they may one day attend.

Each person is one of many and responsible for helping their community.—Kindergarten teacher Katie Williams

While the unit’s activities are definitely fun, they also stretch young learners developmentally. For example, collaborating with peers on community maps sharpened the children’s social-emotional skills, while solving problems—like how to replicate the particularly difficult slope of a roof—built cognitive skills.

The unit also guided them toward the goal of balancing their needs with those of others. On that October morning, the students who first completed their homes began helping those who needed assistance, and after construction was complete, they connected their creations with roads, turning the classroom into a mini-neighborhood. It was a reminder that every student contributes to making kindergarten an enjoyable place. After all, as Katie said, each person is one of many and responsible for helping their community.

Academics

Four students sitting around their teacher, learning about computers and circuits.

After years of watching CSforAll Summit videos online, Rowland Hall alumnus and computer science teacher Ben Smith ’89 is elated to attend the national conference in person: the third-annual event is happening October 21–23 here in Salt Lake City, at the University of Utah.

In conjunction with the summit, CSforAll asks participants to make a specific commitment to support the ultimate goal of “making high-quality computer science an integral part of the educational experience of all K–12 students and teachers.” Accordingly, Rowland Hall is committing to increase girls’ participation in computer science to more closely mirror the school's demographics. 

Read on for a Q&A with Ben about that commitment, the summit, and why this matters to Rowland Hall.

Graphic: Rowland Hall commits to increasing the participation of girls in computer science.

Who from Rowland Hall is attending the CSforAll Summit?  

I’m going with Chief Information Officer Patrick Godfrey and Director of Technology Integration Christian Waters. It’s Rowland Hall’s first time sending anyone. The summit was originally held in the Obama White House for the first few years, and now it travels to a new city each year. This is a great opportunity to have this event in our hometown, very close to the school.

The summit is the one place each year that focuses on equity, inclusion, and access to CS for all students, a goal that Rowland Hall and the computer science program have been dedicated to for quite some time.—Computer Science teacher Ben Smith ’89

Why are you excited to attend the summit?

I’m a member of the CSforAll teacher community, and I watch the announcements and videos coming out of the summit each year. The summit is the one place each year that focuses on equity, inclusion, and access to CS for all students, a goal that Rowland Hall and the computer science program have been dedicated to for quite some time.

Why did we set a broad commitment, as opposed to a narrow one (for instance, “launch a coding camp”)?

We wanted a commitment that each division and each teacher could adopt, even if the method by which they accomplish it varies based on circumstances. Perhaps one division could pursue integrating CS into all science and math classrooms, thereby reaching all students, while another one might make a concerted effort at recruitment strategies, and another might reconfigure the course offerings or schedule to accommodate CS for all students.

What do you hope to get out of the conference that will help us reach our goal?

I hope to hear from people about structures, innovative strategies, and methods for making our commitment possible. There are some important topics at the conference, such as "Teaching Ethics and Social Impacts of Computing in K–12 CS," "Building a Supportive Pathway for Girls in CS, Engineering, and Beyond," and "Inspiring Engagement through Popular Culture and Media."

What has our male/female CS participation looked like in the past several years?

We’ve tracked participation in tech and CS classes in the Middle School and Upper School for six years. In both divisions, we’ve moved the needle for girls participating in CS classes closer to our school demographics (which are roughly 50/50), with the Middle School reaching a high in 2017 of 40% participation by girls. This year, the Advanced Placement CS courses in the Upper School have 60% girls—a majority for the first time at Rowland Hall. We still have challenges with the competing interests of sports, theater, dance, and music on students’ schedules, as CS is not a required course. What’s impressive is that we’ve been able to consciously and successfully close the gap for girls, though we still need to look at students of color and other demographic factors.

Add anything else you think is important.

Rowland Hall's CS, engineering, and STEM program has grown immensely in the last six years, and we’re on the precipice of changes and adoption at all divisions.

STEM

Claire Wang in front of US Capitol
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


In her daily fight against climate change, Claire Wang’s weapons of choice include her bicycle, travel utensils, and reusable water bottle.

But the 21-year-old’s real arsenal is her character: her empathy, intellect, and contagious optimism that she wields to mobilize peers, negotiate with institutions, and drive environmental progress locally and nationally. Now, Rowland Hall’s first Rhodes Scholar graduates to the global stage.

There’s no choice but to be hopeful. We have a collective obligation to keep working towards a better future. Giving up would be a selfish act.—Claire Wang ’15

In Claire, the daunting problem of climate change finds a formidable opponent: the former nationally ranked Rowland Hall debater loves what she does and refuses to be discouraged. “There’s no choice but to be hopeful,” she said. “We have a collective obligation to keep working towards a better future. Giving up would be a selfish act.”

Claire was always interested in science and environmentalism; after coming to Rowland Hall in seventh grade, relevant curriculum furthered her interest in climate advocacy, while debate turned her into a policy wonk. In high school, she started volunteering for Utah Clean Energy through a school connection. “That was the moment I realized that I love this work and I want to do it for a living,” Claire said. “Rowland Hall was really supportive of that.” As a senior, she co-organized a press conference—held at the McCarthey Campus and covered by local news outlets—advocating against new fees on solar panels. And just before she finished high school, the Sierra Club asked her to help plan a national youth-led movement for renewable energy.

Claire Wang speaks with a broadcast news reporter at a 2015 press conference on solar panels, held at Rowland Hall.

Claire graduated as valedictorian and accepted a full ride to Duke University, where she majored in environmental science and policy. As a freshman, she worked with college administrators to secure Duke’s official support for renewable-energy policy reform. Then, Duke Energy—a large utility company unaffiliated with the university—announced plans to build a natural-gas plant on the university’s campus. It was the first of eight small-scale gas plants planned for the Carolinas. Claire spent two years fighting the campus plant proposal, and the university suspended the plans in spring 2018. Since then, none of the other North Carolina plants have entered the planning process. “Turning the tide early with the first plant ended up being really impactful,” Claire said.

Claire thrived in community campaigns at Duke and beyond—she even won prestigious Truman and Udall Scholarships in recognition of her work—and envisioned a career in national policy. But a 2018 study-abroad program on climate change and the politics of food, water, and energy spurred a shift. She visited a hydroelectric dam in Vietnam, and an ethnic-minority community displaced because of that dam. She also learned about how extreme weather impacts farmers, from drought in Bolivia to hail in Morocco. Now, Claire wants to reduce financing for fossil-fuel infrastructure, especially in developing countries. “We're not going to be able to achieve a livable climate future without cutting those back,” she said.

Eschew the conventional belief that salaries define successful careers. “Instead, focus on the impact you have on the world,” Claire said. “What you do with your life is not just a job—it’s a legacy.”

That global perspective drove Claire to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship—the oldest award for international study, covering graduate school at England’s University of Oxford. When she learned she’d been selected, Claire was elated, but incredulous. “It was a mix of nervousness, excitement, pride, and a general sense of, ‘Wait, did this actually happen?’”

Claire will be at Oxford for two years, starting with a one-year master’s in environmental change and management. She expects to land in policy, perhaps working for the government or an international group. Regardless, she’ll be doing work that’s meaningful to her, and she encourages other young people to follow suit: eschew the conventional belief that salaries define successful careers. “Instead, focus on the impact you have on the world,” she said. “What you do with your life is not just a job—it’s a legacy.”


Top photo: Claire in front of the United States Capitol. Over the summer, Claire interned with the Natural Resources Defense Council as part of the Truman Scholars' Summer Institute.

Alumni

Sarah Day near fence with Montana mountains in background
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


Sarah Day loved her bucolic childhood spent mostly on a 3,000-acre cattle ranch just outside of Bozeman, Montana. Her family ran a calf-cow operation with 350 cattle and a supporting cast of horses, dogs, and barn cats. “Every day revolved around stewarding the land and the animals,” she said, explaining she took notice as adults around her fixed fences, moved cows, and farmed the land. “I carried that with me.”

Rowland Hall taught me to think about how I can give back and how to take action.—Sarah Day ’06

Her family sold the ranch in 2001, and since then, it’s been rezoned for residential development and broken up into smaller parcels. That change—plus Bozeman’s location in one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties—means housing may be in the former ranch’s future. “It's a little heartbreaking,” Sarah said. “It wasn’t the intention when we sold it.” But Sarah’s not one to sit on the sidelines. The alumna said her nine years at Rowland Hall encouraged her to prioritize community involvement. “Rowland Hall taught me to think about how I can give back,” she said, “and how to take action.” So she asked herself what she could do to protect Bozeman’s open lands—maybe even her family’s former ranch—in the future.

Sarah has been a sales associate for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Montana Properties just since June 2018. She earned a bachelor’s in economics from Connecticut College and a master’s in accounting from Montana State University, then worked in accounting and fundraising. She sought a career shift after a continuing-education accounting class on conservation easements struck a chord with her. The Montana Association of Land Trusts (MALT) hosted the class for accountants, lawyers, real estate agents—anyone who might work on conservation easements, voluntary legal agreements that protect landowners’ properties from future development. Thanks in part to MALT and its member organizations championing such easements, Montana is a leader in open-space preservation. 

MALT’s class heightened Sarah’s interest in becoming a real estate agent—a career her beloved late father introduced her to—but only if she could leverage her city’s economic success to advocate land protection. She knew of a local firm donating a profit percentage to animal shelters, and figured she could do that with conservation. “It just started to click,” she said. So Sarah made the career jump, and now gives 10% of her commissions to local land trusts. It felt amazing to write her first donation check in early 2019, she said. And she’s not only giving cash to the cause—she’s also giving time, as a member of Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s NextGen Advisory Board, a group of young professionals fostering advocacy among their peers.

Sarah gives 10% of her commissions to local land trusts. She’s also giving time as a member of Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s NextGen Advisory Board, a group of young professionals fostering advocacy among their peers.

In the long term, Sarah hopes to work with clients interested in contributing to conservation. For now, she’s content to grow her business and promote Bozeman’s outdoors via her volunteerism, philanthropy, and simple gestures such as handing out trail maps at open houses. Naturally, she and husband Ian Kirby also take advantage of the town’s 80-mile trail system. They favor one loop on Drinking Horse Mountain, shaded by trees and overlooking the valley. It’s gorgeous, Sarah said, and at the trail’s bottom, their Border Collie and Corgi mix, Gear—so named after Ian’s job as a mechanic—likes to splash around in a creek. “Outdoor therapy is a real thing,” she said. “It puts everything in perspective.” And Sarah is working to ensure Bozemanites will always be able to get that perspective from their own backyards.


Top: Sarah Day ’06 on Peet’s Hill, one of her favorite Bozeman trails. (Photo by Troy Meikle)

Alumni

At the Intersection of Homelessness, Healthcare, and Humanity

Rowland Hall alumnus Jeff Norris lives his purpose treating and advocating for underserved populations as the medical director of Father Joe’s Villages in San Diego When Jeff Norris ’03 applied to medical school, the admissions office at the University of Utah called him in for a rare second interview. He had submitted a personal statement focused on the connection between medicine, public health, and social justice, and that intersectional approach raised some eyebrows.
 
Admissions officers asked Jeff if he was sure he wanted to go to medical school, and not study public health or social work. But he assured them: he knew he wanted to be a clinician who worked with, and advocated for, underserved populations.

Jeff credited Rowland Hall with launching his career trajectory. In high school, under the mentorship of then-faculty member Liz Paige, he volunteered with Amnesty International and prepared and served food at local youth groups. The positive experience of serving others and making an impact—and relevant content in history and psychology courses—got the wheels turning in Jeff’s brain: “I started reflecting on my role in the world and how I could try to do something to make a difference for others. What is my purpose for being here?”

Jeff's self-described “deliberate and diligent” approach to his career—melding his interests in science and social justice, being motivated by a desire to give back to the world—has been nothing short of a success.

The service and activism Jeff began at Rowland Hall carried through his years as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as a med student at the University of Utah, and as a family medicine resident at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. His self-described “deliberate and diligent” approach to his career—melding his interests in science and social justice, being motivated by a desire to give back to the world—has been nothing short of a success: in 2016, Jeff became the medical director of Father Joe’s Villages, an award-winning nonprofit that provides integrated services to people experiencing homelessness in San Diego.
 
Jeff’s day-to-day work requires a breadth of skill, knowledge, and tenacity: he estimates he spends about 40 percent of his time treating patients and the other 60 percent engaged in clinic administration, fundraising, and advocacy—including ensuring that state and federal legislation supports nonprofits like his. He serves on a number of boards, including a large network of clinics with over 100,000 patients in the San Diego area. For Jeff, it’s about more than staying connected and representing the interests of Father Joe’s Villages. “It is being present in the community to advocate for the needs of not just those experiencing homelessness, but underserved populations more broadly.”


At the clinic he leads—which serves walk-ins along with residents of Father Joe’s Villages and people receiving assistance from other local agencies—Jeff focuses on decreasing the barriers his patients face in getting adequate care, and staying on the cutting edge of what they need in order to improve their health. “The challenges our patients face are pretty unique, compared to most patient populations,” he said. “Their lives are very chaotic, and they have a lot going on medically, psychiatrically, behaviorally, socially…in all senses.” A significant portion of his time is spent managing programs to deliver medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD)—drugs such as buprenorphine (suboxone) or naltrexone—and for alcohol abuse. 

At the clinic he leads, Jeff focuses on decreasing the barriers his patients face in getting adequate care, and staying on the cutting edge of what they need in order to improve their health.

Among the most recent and cutting-edge programs Jeff and his team at Father Joe’s Villages are running is the Street Health Program, which launched this spring and is already impacting lives for the better. As the name suggests, the initiative involves going out into the streets and providing healthcare directly to people experiencing homelessness. So far, they’ve reached a number of people who’ve avoided or been underserved by traditional healthcare. One example: a man who had been using heroin for 30 years and had never before been interested in treatment. Pending a grant, the street health team hopes to treat patients with OUD at the first point of contact. In the meantime, they wrote a prescription for this particular patient because, as Jeff said, “it was the right thing to do.”
 
One of the long-term goals of the Street Health Program is to develop rapport with individuals so that they will visit the clinic for treatment. Additionally, the launch has created quite a buzz throughout San Diego, so Jeff hopes other clinics and treatment centers will consider similar programs (which do already exist in other large metropolitan areas like New York and San Francisco). “It can’t just be us,” he said. “There are enough folks experiencing homelessness that we certainly cannot meet the need unilaterally.”
 
Jeff is rightly proud of his advocacy work and the impact his clinic makes on a daily basis, and he speaks passionately of the need for everyone to recognize the homelessness crisis—not just in San Diego, but also in Salt Lake City and urban areas throughout the country. While rising housing costs and relatively stagnant wages are the two primary drivers of the problem, Jeff doesn’t discount the power of the individual to make a difference, whether through volunteering, donating goods, or elevating the dialogue to fight the stigma against those experiencing homelessness.
 
When he’s not working, Jeff stays active outdoors, taking advantage of all that San Diego’s famously temperate climate has to offer. He also prioritizes time with his family: two-year-old daughter Alex keeps Jeff and wife Sonia Ponce—a practicing cardiologist—quite busy.
Jeff always treated those he served with dignity and compassion. It is wonderful to see him intently living his purpose, in the intersection of bettering human relationships as a way to improve healthcare. —Ryan Hoglund, director of ethical education

Rowland Hall’s Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund is not at all surprised that Jeff is making a difference in the lives of others. He recalled how, as a high school student, Jeff was always highly engaged and motivated to serve, often being the last to leave a volunteer event. “Jeff always treated those he served with dignity and compassion,” Ryan said. “It is wonderful to see him intently living his purpose, in the intersection of bettering human relationships as a way to improve healthcare.”

Just as Jeff credited Rowland Hall for sparking his interest in a life of service to others, Mr. Hoglund credited Jeff for setting an example of genuine student leadership at the school. And, to the student leaders today, Jeff sent these words of encouragement: “Figure out what gives you energy and makes you feel like you're contributing to the world in some positive way, then grab that bull by the horns and don’t let go of it. That’s where you're going to be able to make a difference, to be satisfied with who you are and what you're doing in this world.”


All photos courtesy of Father Joe's Villages.

Alumni

Three people pose outside with an Emmy.

Charismatic Rowland Hall lifer and Emmy winner Jared Ruga ’06 is apparently just as comfortable in the spotlight as he is behind the camera. On May 29, he flexed his storytelling prowess and delivered a speech chock-full of good advice for almost-grads at our annual Alumni Senior Breakfast, a school tradition since 1924.

Jared told his story in three acts: he waxed nostalgic about his time here; dissected his college life as a triple-major at the University of San Diego (USD); and recounted how he won an Emmy for Quiet Heroes, a documentary examining the Utah AIDS epidemic and the one doctor and her team that stepped up to treat thousands of critically ill, socially stigmatized patients.

The 30-year-old alumnus wove seven key insights into his talk.

Talented people usually hate their work. You have to finish it and show it to others anyway. Because standing behind imperfect work gives you the confidence to try it another time.

“Hate your work but show it anyway”

By the time Jared reached the Upper School, he knew he wanted to make movies, and he did. For the Distinction program—a now-defunct optional thesis project that, if successfully completed, resulted in graduation honors—he masterminded a feature-length teen thriller. But Jared procrastinated on his work, worrying his Distinction committee members. “I ended up not finishing the film until the night before the premiere,” he said. “And then I watched, beat for beat, in that crowded theater, and caught literal typos on screen, and saw that some of my non-actors’ performances weren’t made any better projected 20 feet high.”

Jared wryly confessed to seniors that the thriller, Sanctuary Disrupted, is not his best work. “But at that point in time, it was,” he added. “Talented people usually hate their work. You have to finish it and show it to others anyway. Because standing behind imperfect work gives you the confidence to try it another time with something else. And if you go through that process enough times, eventually you might land on something enough people like.”

As hard as it is for people you care about deeply to fall out of your life, the alternative—connecting only superficially—is so much worse.

“Connect deeply with others even when it’s temporary”

Jared and high school best friend Isabel Carpenter ’06 “weren’t the emotional types,” he said, but that changed with their pre-college goodbye that ended in a sob-filled hug. They still talk, only about once a year, but that’s OK: our lives are often transient, Jared posited, and roles such as friend, mentor, partner, etc., may be filled by different people at different times. “It doesn’t cheapen what you had with them in the moments your lives intersected,” he told seniors. “And it shouldn’t dissuade you from connecting deeply with the next round of candidates…Because as hard as it is for people you care about deeply to fall out of your life, the alternative—connecting only superficially—is so much worse.”

“Stick with your grit even when it’s hard”

Jared started college with a freshman roommate who wouldn’t talk to him, and mostly boring classes—“Rowland Hall had prepared me so well that I didn’t feel academically challenged until my junior year,” he said. But he trusted that circumstances would improve, and soon hit his stride academically, socially, and extracurricularly—through running the student TV station, participating in student government, and more. Jared earned his share of perfect grades at USD, but said the one he’s most proud of is a C+ in calculus, a required course that he kept dropping. In his last semester, he failed the midterm—but then poured his energy into acing the final. He passed the class and graduated magna cum laude from the honors program. “I didn’t transfer away from USD after a rocky start, and I didn’t drop calculus because I was hellbent on graduating as planned,” he said. “It wasn’t easy, but it went my way in the end because I committed to making it happen.”

“Accept the wisdom of life seasons” and “Recharge your souls”

Jared is now openly gay, but didn’t come out until early adulthood. By the time he started law school at 24, he still hadn’t been in a relationship. “While I was so precociously successful by so many other metrics, what I thought was the deepest, most human experience we can have had eluded me,” he said. So he dove into dating, even to the detriment of his usually high grades. “You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once,” Jared said. “Life has seasons for a reason.” Make time for the things that feed your soul, he advised. Pursuits such as relationships, hobbies, and volunteering are “just as important as the traditional metrics of success like degrees, accolades, money,” Jared said. “Success only actually feels good when you can celebrate it with others, and when it serves a greater purpose.”

The scourge of the AIDS crisis in the ’80s and ’90s is a crucial part of Queer history that we in younger generations must understand and appreciate.

On winning the Emmy: “Prefer life management over life planning” and “Pick a path and just do the work until it, with luck, catches fire”

Jared first heard the story of Dr. Kristen Ries and physician's assistant Maggie Snyder—the main subjects of Quiet Heroes, pictured with Jared, top—from one of his law professors. “I was deeply touched by what Kristen and Maggie had done, and embarrassed that as a politically active 26-year-old gay man who was born and raised Salt Lake City, I had never heard their story,” Jared said. “The scourge of the AIDS crisis in the ’80s and ’90s is a crucial part of Queer history that we in younger generations must understand and appreciate.”

So Jared’s professor connected him with the two women, and the emotionally draining—but highly rewarding—project began soon after. “Quiet Heroes was a difficult film to make,” Jared admitted. “For nearly a year of the film’s production lifecycle, I wanted to just throw in the towel and focus on something else that wouldn’t cause me so much heartburn.” Driven in part by Salt Lake City’s supportive LGBTQ community, Jared and his team charged forward and ultimately earned a spot at the Sundance Film Festival, then secured distribution deals. A subsequent TV showing qualified Quiet Heroes for a Daytime Emmy, and the documentary won in its category—even edging out an Oprah’s Book Club special. The filmmaking journey wasn’t easy, but it was character building, and it helped Jared get over his “analysis paralysis”: “Sometimes you have to just roll up your sleeves and start doing the work, without any expectation of its success,” he said. “Trusting your instincts will probably nudge you in the right direction.”

Jared closed by telling seniors that no one does anything worth doing without help, and he thanked everyone who aided him along the way. “I continue to be motivated and touched by your faith in me,” he said, “It’s the fuel inside that burns brighter every day.” Echoing his early advice, he encouraged students to be bold. “You’ll fail, probably publicly. You’ll love people who don’t love you back. You’ll say mean things you wish you hadn’t. And you’ll take for granted some of the most important ingredients to your health and success. But know that even though you won’t be perfect, you’re well positioned to make these choices. You have a solid foundation of skills and deep community support behind you.”

Alumni

Student leans on lockers in hallway.

Sophomore Katy Dark’s family immigrated to Salt Lake City from Argentina when she was a toddler, but the bilingual student still seamlessly slides into her first language on a dime—like when she greets her abuela visiting Rowland Hall for Grandparents Day, or when she volunteers for the after-school coding club she founded at Dual Immersion Academy (DIA).

In February, Katy won a President's Volunteer Service Award for her work at DIA, among other efforts. The sophomore earned the gold-level award for 2018, meaning she volunteered over 250 hours in one year. She’s the first Rowland Hall student to win this national award in over a decade, according to Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund.

Katy was surprised by the distinction but grateful to Rowland Hall—her invaluable experiences here inspired her to help DIA after they lost funding for computer science this school year. “Rowland Hall opened up a lot of possibilities for me,” Katy said, “and I know that coding can give DIA students new opportunities.”

Katy has accomplished much in the past few years, with help from the Rowland Hall community. That's part of why she’s now paying it forward to DIA students. “As a Latina, I don’t get all these opportunities normally,” she said. “I wanted to be able to even the playing field.”

Katy, a Patricia C. Brim Memorial Scholar who’s been here since sixth grade, has had an especially remarkable few years. In March, she won an Aspirations in Computing regional honorable mention. She’s only a sophomore, and she said she already has a scholarship offer from a local college. Also this year, she traveled to Costa Rica for interim and to Southern Utah, Nashville, and Portland for student diversity and leadership retreats. Last summer, she interned with the National Security Agency, and the summer before that she studied criminology and computer science at the University of Cambridge in England. She did all these things, she said, with help from the Rowland Hall community, which is part of why she’s now paying it forward to DIA students. “As a Latina, I don’t get all these opportunities normally,” Katy said. “I wanted to be able to even the playing field.” The DIA coding club has taken a lot of work, she said, but she’s invested in the community and up for the challenge.

The sophomore has remained fluent in Spanish thanks in part to attending DIA for elementary school. Her mom, Patricia Dark—one of DIA’s co-founders—enrolled Katy and older sister Elli (now a Rowland Hall senior) in the bilingual academy to keep their language skills sharp. When Katy left DIA she kept close ties, volunteering after school and on weekdays when Rowland Hall wasn’t in session.

DIA has about 500 students total in kindergarten through eighth grade, and they take classes in English and Spanish: the academy prepares students to become “bilingual, bi-literate, and bicultural while developing the tools to be successful in higher education, the workforce and in life,” according to their mission. It’s a Title One school where about 98% of students (compared to about 57% of Salt Lake City School District students) come from economically disadvantaged families and qualify for free or discounted school lunch.

After hearing about DIA’s funding cuts, Katy—a passionate computer science student who’s already laser-focused on pursuing a career in the field—sprang into action and started the coding club. She spends her weekends planning lessons, which she delivers Tuesdays from 3 to 5:30 pm—except in spring when she golfs for Rowland Hall and friend Alex Armknecht, a junior, subs for her. Katy has taught her 22 club members about programming basics using kid-friendly sources such as Hour of Code and Scratch. She’s also gotten to know the kids, tailored her approach based on their levels of comfort with the material, invited them to community coding events, helped them with non-computing schoolwork, and served as a mentor. “These kids are incredible,” Katy wrote in an essay about her volunteerism, “and they can do so much more than most people realize.” She said she hopes the club encourages DIA students to take computer science in high school, and ultimately, college.

Katy is self-motivated and didn’t necessarily expect recognition for her service, but teachers agree the national distinction is deserved. “Katy is incredibly dedicated to computer science,” said Ben Smith, her AP Computer Science teacher. The coding club was entirely her idea, he added. “I gave her some advice, but she really took off on her own.”

Katy also runs Rowland Hall’s Latinx affinity group, has volunteered with the Rotary Club, and has been “a tireless contributor to her community,” according to Ryan. “Katy sets a clear bar amongst her peers about the importance of giving back,” the ethical education director said, “and not waiting for an opportunity to arise, but instead creating those opportunities where she sees them.”

Volunteerism

Rowmark

AJ Oliver skiing in Timeless.

Rowland Hall and Rowmark Ski Academy alumnus A.J. Oliver ’07 and Marcus Caston—a Rowmark postgraduate skier from 2007 to 2009—grace the powdery screen in Timeless, the latest Warren Miller Entertainment movie getting skiers stoked for winter. 

Though Marcus has been in several Warren Miller movies, Timeless is A.J.’s first. Both Rowmark alums have turned skiing into their livelihoods and are backed by big-name sponsors such as Patagonia, Head, Helly Hansen, and POC. A.J. is currently a ski instructor at Big Sky Resort and an outdoor guide in the off-season—read his recent profile in the Ogden Standard-Examiner. And Marcus has a robust résumé that includes several magazine covers—read his 2017 Ski magazine profile.

A.J. and Marcus expect to be at the following local showings of Timeless. Catch them before or after the movie and tell them hi, from Rowland Hall and Rowmark. 

Jeanne Wagner Theatre, Salt Lake City
Thursday, October 24, at 7 pm
Friday, October 25, at 6 and 9 pm

Eccles Center, Park City
Saturday, October 26, at 6 pm

The duo also stopped by the Rowmark office October 23 for a Q&A with staff, including Rowmark Director Todd Brickson. Watch the video on the Rowmark Facebook page, or read the highlights below, edited for length and context.

A.J., how did Rowland Hall shape you?

A.J.: The education that you get here is second to none. It really prepares you for when you go to college. I remember sliding into freshman year pretty comfortably and not feeling like I was overwhelmed or underprepared. I went to Rocky Mountain College in Billings, and it was very natural moving to a small liberal arts school from Rowland Hall because the curriculum is similar.

And how did Rowmark shape both of you?

Marcus: When I was here as a PG I was just focused on skiing and that was my life. It teaches you how to buckle down, focus on one thing, and work hard.

A.J.: Rowland Hall prepares you in some of the same ways, but being in a program structured like Rowmark, you learn to hold yourself accountable and get out there and do the work, and that's the only way you're going to get where you want to go. And so that sticks with you moving forward—that sense of self-accountability.

What’s your favorite Rowmark memory?

Whenever we get back together there's definitely a sense of camaraderie and a bond that doesn't go away.—Rowmark/Rowland Hall alum A.J. Oliver ’07

A.J.: [Laughs] I might get Todd in trouble, but trust-falling off the top of the short bus at Bear Lake. Man, that's a fall—right off the top of the ski rack. That one sticks with me for sure.

Marcus: The people I got to ski with. You become family, you spend all your time together throughout the winter traveling, and you get to know one another. And that's something that at the time you take for granted, but you don't really have that in life—a group of people you go out and ski with and spend time with every day.

Do you keep up with people from your cohorts?

A.J.: Absolutely. This week in particular has been exciting. I’m looking forward to a few days at home and seeing old classmates and teammates. Whenever we get back together there's definitely a sense of camaraderie and a bond that doesn't go away.

What was it like to be in a Warren Miller production?

Marcus Caston skiing in Timeless

Marcus Caston skis in Timeless. (Photo by Cam McLeod)

Marcus: I went to Chamonix, and I’ve always wanted to go. It’s legendary in the ski world. If you’re a skier, you know Chamonix has the biggest and steepest mountains, so it’s known for its extreme skiing. I was pretty nervous going into it just because you build it up in your head, and the hype is real. It’s steep, and it’s icy, and it’s scary. But lucky for me, conditions weren’t in for the steep stuff, so I got to kind of ease my way in a little bit. And being in Europe is always great—it’s just a cool ski experience. Skiing is life over there—they’ve got it down: huts and good food up on the mountain.

A.J.: It was a blast. It was an all-new experience. It was super cool to call Marcus after growing up skiing together and kind of dreaming if this would ever happen. It’s cool to be on the big screen together. I got to go to the Monashee Range in British Columbia and ski with another PSA [Professional Ski Instructors of America] instructor, Brenna Kelleher, who is a sibling of another Rowmark alum, Keely Kelleher ’03. And then Glen Plake tagged along on our trip, so that was a blast. It was super fun to ski with a guy who’s such an industry icon and to learn from him and draw from his experience.

Tell us about Glen Plake.

A.J.: Glen Plake is the most famous mohawk in skiing.

Marcus: He was a mogul skier. He was in all the original Greg Stump films and a bunch of Warren Miller films. He’s the guy who kind of started what we do. He’s the man.

You grew up watching him. So what was it like to actually ski with him in a movie?

A.J.: It was everything I’d hoped it would be. He is everything that he exudes on camera—that’s not an act. He is just a to-the-core skier and he loves it.

Marcus: I was pretty jealous [laughter]; I didn’t ski with him. It’s funny—the director called me up and said, ‘We’re going up to Canada. Do you know A.J. Oliver?’ I was like, ‘No way. Yes. How do I get on this trip?’” I never did.

A.J.: You were thinking you might be able to be the tripod guy there for a minute.

Marcus: I was trying to go hold bags just so I could go hang out.

What were your favorite parts of filming Timeless?

I was with these two World Cup slalom skiers, they were skiing these big mountains for the first time, and that was really cool. I look up to them.—Marcus Caston, Rowmark PG 2007–2009

A.J.: Skiing with Glen was definitely a takeaway. Just being able to be around him and draw from that experience. It’s super cool to hear his stories and all the places he’s been. The Monashees are cool, though. It was some new terrain and that’s always fun. It’s a blast getting to do stuff you haven’t done before. It was fun to explore the Monashees, because those are the Rocky Mountains. They know how to do it in Canada.

Marcus: I got to film with Erin Mielzynski, who races World Cup for Canada, and Mattias Hargin, who is a Swedish World Cup slalom skier—he won the Kitzbuehel slalom and just recently retired. This was their first film shoot, too. So I was with these two World Cup slalom skiers, they were skiing these big mountains for the first time, and that was really cool. I look up to them. Mattias is a good freeskier. Erin grew up in eastern Canada ski racing on this little hill. She never goes freeskiing, so it was really cool to see somebody who, skiing is their entire life, and they get to experience the sport in a different way. So that was the highlight of my trip for me, was to watch Erin experience a different side of skiing.

Why should people see this movie?

Marcus: It’s the kickoff to winter. Some people have been coming out every year for 50 years—it’s tradition. There’s something for everybody. It’s a great adventure, there’s amazing cinematography, and it’s just fun.

A.J.: Seeing a Warren Miller film really embodies the community that is our industry. Any time that we can have a nice social gathering around skiing, that’s always a good thing.

What are your future skiing goals and plans?

That’s one of the great things about this sport. If you do it for life you get addicted to that pursuit of always getting better.—A.J. Oliver ’07

A.J.: That’s always a tough one to answer because it’s the ever-changing answer. Things are always evolving. But in five to 10 years, hopefully I’m still teaching skiing and trying to get better. That’s one of the great things about this sport. If you do it for life you get addicted to that pursuit of always getting better. So my goals for five to 10 years from now are to still be learning and growing, and hopefully spending as many days on snow as I can.

Marcus: I’m down with short-term goals.

A.J.: Like, what am I going to eat for breakfast? [Laughs]

Marcus: If you’re like, ‘In five years I’m going to be right here,’ then you might have an opportunity that you miss. Whereas if you’re living in the moment, you may take more in.

A.J.: Goal-setting with Marcus and A.J.

What do you do in the off-season for training and for fun?

A.J.: I try to wrap my training and my fun up in the same activity. I’ve been trying to stay in shape and not have to go to the gym. In the off-season I do a lot of mountain biking. I ride my horse a fair amount, which isn’t the most aerobic thing in the world. But when you’re hiking around the woods and running around the backcountry all summer, that usually keeps you in shape.

Marcus: Horseback riding is good for your legs, though, right?

A.J.: Yeah, it is a lot of lower-body strength. I also do a little bit of rock climbing when this guy will drag me.

Hiking and climbing are also really good mentally. Skiing can be scary, so if you can scare yourself every once in awhile in the summer, it’s not so scary when you get back on skis.—Marcus Caston

Marcus: I do a lot of hiking and climbing. It’s nice to stay outside and in the mountains. Hiking and climbing are also really good mentally. Skiing can be scary, so if you can scare yourself every once in awhile in the summer, it’s not so scary when you get back on skis.

What advice do you have for Rowmarkers and other young skiers who want to do what you do?

A.J.: The biggest thing is just staying in it—having the resolve to be in skiing and the industry and not have anything else be an option. If you’re in it for long enough, people decide to do other stuff and they fall away. But if you’re committed to it, things are going to happen for you. It’s definitely a small and welcoming industry if you have the drive to be part of it.

Marcus: Love skiing and love whatever it is you do. Making movies is not easy. It’s hard and it’s cold. Sometimes it gets really tough—you can be sitting there waiting for the light for two hours. I was in Norway a couple of years ago and we were on top of this mountain and the clouds came in. We had to build an igloo, and we sat in this little igloo, freezing for six hours because we couldn’t see anything. You just have to remind yourself why you’re there: because you love skiing and everything that comes with it—the traveling and all the people. And that’s not just for skiing, that’s everything. Just love what you do. And advice to Rowmarkers would be enjoy it now because life gets harder...It’s still fun, but not as fun.

A.J.: Don’t take it too seriously now because you’ll have plenty of time to be serious when you get older. Have fun.


Top: A.J. Oliver skis in Timeless. (Photo by SkyScope)

Rowmark

Three Rowmark Alumnae Named to 2018-2019 Alpine Team

We are thrilled to announce three Rowmark Ski Academy alumnae have been named to the 2018–2019 US Ski & Snowboard Alpine Team. Named to the A Team are Breezy Johnson '13 and postgraduate Alice McKennis '08. Katie Hensien '18 has been named to the C Team. This is Breezy's fourth year on the team, Alice's seventh year, and Katie's second year.

According to Rowmark Academy Program Director Todd Brickson, "Alice, Breezy, and Katie were all model Rowmarkers and we couldn't be more proud to have them represent Rowmark as members of the US Ski Team. Most importantly, all three athletes are kind, humble, and incredibly hard working and have earned everything that has come their way. To kick off the season, Katie starts in her third World Cup SL race in Killington, Vermont, next week as one of the youngest members of the US Team and we look forward to cheering her on."

Selection criteria for the US Alpine Team is based on results and rankings from the 2017–2018 season. To read the full alpine team roster announcement, visit the US Ski Team webpage.

Read more about these Rowmark athletes:

Charismatic Katie Hensien Transitions to National Team, Keeps Adding to Career Highlights

Rowmark Ski Academy Announces Its Own as One of the Newest Member to the US Alpine Ski Team

Breezy Johnson's Unparalleled Work Ethic Takes Her All the Way to PyeongChang

Extraordinary Athletes: How Rowmark Ski Academy Develops Future Olympians


Team Member Photo Credit: US Ski & Snowboard Team

Rowmark

Rowmark Junior Program Director Troy Price Crowned National Development Coach of the Year

Troy Price, Rowmark Ski Academy's beloved junior program director since 2010, in May added national accolades to his already long list of accomplishments. US Ski and Snowboard named him the 2018 Development Coach of the Year, one of only two top coaching awards they bestow annually.

US Ski and Snowboard initially selected Troy as the 2018 Alpine Domestic Coach of the Year, one of 14 silver-level coaching awards for various disciplines, including snowboarding, cross country, and ski jumping. From that group of 14 winners, only one is picked to receive the gold-level, cross-discipline honor of Development Coach of the Year.

Neither Troy nor Rowmark Director Todd Brickson knew Intermountain Division (IMD) Director Carma Burnett had nominated Troy for the initial award. Appropriately enough, Troy learned he'd won that title while he was at Canada's Whistler Cup overseeing the Western Region's U14 team—a team that existed thanks in part to his vision. With his award, Troy joins a list of past winners whom he considers legends within the sport. "It's a little humbling to be on there," he said.

Not everyone's as modest: Rowmark Director Todd Brickson said Troy was "so deserving" of the recognition. Troy loves what he does, cares deeply, and is intelligent and well-organized, Todd said. "Not only is he directing our junior program and driving really sound athlete development within Rowmark," Todd said, "but Troy is reaching out beyond our program to make our division better. It therefore makes our program better. And now he's also creating regional projects and philosophies that make the whole West better." That big-picture scope is rare, Todd said, and ultimately benefits skiing at the national level too.

US Ski and Snowboard summarized Troy's efforts in a news release: "He established the division's development committee nine years ago and has served as committee chair since its inception, playing a key role in managing development projects, running the Tri-Divisional Championships," and fielding the regional team for the Whistler Cup. And in her nomination letter, Carma wrote that "Troy IS Development in the IMD Alpine Division." Read her letter here.

"I hope I have been able to convey how passionate and amazing Troy Price is when it comes to developing athletes," Carma concluded her letter. "He pays as much attention to the 'elite' athletes as he does to the 'last pick.' IMD is fortunate to have his energy and input."

Rowmark and Rowland Hall alumna Sofia Yubero '17 has known Troy since she was seven years old, and as a seventh grader started at Rowmark Junior under his direction. Some of the IMD events she and her peers got to compete in wouldn't have existed without Troy, she explained. And of course, he goes above and beyond in his leadership roles: "Even if he's running the race, he's cycling the chairlift and bringing food and drinks to all the other volunteers," she said. "He's extremely organized and knows how to achieve his agenda. No one works harder for what they want than Troy, and he's a true role model."

Troy Price and his Rowmark Junior crew.

Immediately above: Troy Price (far left, bottom) with his Rowmark Junior crew in March.
Top of page: Troy Price, right, with US Ski and Snowboard Chairman Dexter Paine during the Chairman's Awards Dinner in Park City May 3.

At Rowmark, Troy focuses on the athlete as a whole, from ski racing to good sportsmanship to academics. One career highlight, for instance, came when rising sophomore Tommy Hoffman, as a seventh grader, won the region's first U14 event—an event Troy had proposed. "To have a Rowmark kid win it, that was awesome," he said. But what was so memorable about the event was how Tommy took the initiative to shake the hands of the other top-10 finishers before stepping onto his podium. "He showed respect to his competitors," Troy said. "That sportsmanship was a true reflection of our program."

Troy's positive, inclusive coaching style and inimitable work ethic has absolutely benefitted Rowmark, Todd said. "When Troy first took the job, our junior program wasn't really a feeder program," the director said. "We would gain zero to one or two kids moving into our junior program for the academy and had to recruit most of our skiers from all over the country and internationally." But as a result of Troy's work, the junior program has become a primary feeder for the academy, and skiers coming from the junior program are well-prepared to meet the demands of the Rowmark/Rowland Hall lifestyle.

Troy doesn't mince words: he's put in long days to achieve his myriad goals. It helps that he's eerily organized—he holds an accounting degree from Weber State University and worked in that field before leaving to pursue his coaching passion. Though he switched careers, accounting strategies stuck with him: "There are a few coaches out there who nicknamed me Mr. Spreadsheet," Troy joked. But even the spreadsheets hold deeper meaning for Troy. Once he's formed a relationship with a Rowmarker or any IMD skier, he keeps an eye on their careers. "It's exciting when I'm creating a ranking sheet and I see an athlete succeed or make a championship event, and I know I may have had a small impact in that."

And it's just that: at the root of it all, Troy is an amazing coach who knows how to motivate his skiers. "During each of the last three years in a row, Troy's U14 athletes have qualified for the U16 Nationals," Carma wrote in her letter. "More so they continue to have success as they advance their ski-racing journey."

Sofia can vouch for Troy's impactfulness. She took a postgraduate year and is currently recovering from injuries, but hopes to ski for Middlebury College, where she'll be a freshman in the fall. "I definitely wouldn't be the person or athlete I am today if it weren't for Troy," she said. "He's been in my life for so long, and we've spent so much time together that he's essentially like a second father to me. But besides our close, personal connection, as a coach, he taught me about the value of work ethic and the importance of goal setting. There's nothing like grueling workouts in the summer and fall heat, but somehow Troy always made us excited to work towards our in-season goals that were months away."

And through his coaching style and his talent, Troy simply inspires a love for the sport, Sofia said. She still remembers sprinting against him during physical testing when she was younger: "Following him on a powder day around Snowbasin is one of the best things because he knows the mountain so well," she said. "Plus, he's an insane skier. I loved skiing behind him and trying to mimic his every move." Troy cultivated a fun atmosphere, Sofia explained, because he knows the competition aspect of the sport eventually comes to an end. Rather, he focuses on the promise that "if our love of skiing is strong enough, we—his athletes—will continue to ski for the rest of our lives."

Rowmark

Charismatic Katie Hensien Transitions to National Team, Keeps Adding to Career Highlights

Katie Hensien started her Rowmark Ski Academy career strong with a U16 slalom national championship in Sugarloaf, Maine, back in 2015. Rowmark Director Todd Brickson still remembers the middle of Katie's second run, when she suddenly and precariously skied on one foot as the other flew into the air.

"She didn't fall, but picture one ski on the ground and one ski near her head," Todd said, crediting Katie's flexibility. "It all happens in one moment and then she regains her balance and keeps going."

Katie, now a senior, laughed knowingly at Todd's memory. "I did that in Davos too," she said, referencing her fourth-place slalom finish January 31 at the World Junior Championships in Switzerland.

Katie's incredible recovery to win that U16 title epitomizes her style, Todd said. "She goes all out, she attacks, but she's also a smart skier," he explained. Rowmarkers and their families know all too well that ski racing isn't a judged sport—it's simply about clocking the fastest time. "It doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't have to be pretty, and Katie gets that," Todd said.

Katie modestly paints her past year in ski racing as one of ups and downs. But her career has generally followed an upward trajectory, and she's performed in increasingly competitive races:

  • She had a spectacular 2016–2017 season with her first NorAm top 10, plus four International Ski Federation victories in slalom and giant slalom.
  • In May, the US Ski Team named Katie an alpine C-Team member—the youngest American to qualify.
  • This winter, she earned her first two World Cup slalom starts, one of which also entailed her first European competition.
  • In Davos, her first World Juniors, she finished as the top American and fourth overall, a mere 0.71 seconds shy of a podium spot.

US Ski & Snowboard Alpine Development Director Chip Knight told Ski Racing Media Katie had a great day in Davos and skied well in a heavily stacked event. "She more than held her own," he said, adding she finished third in her second run, and in both runs she was very fast on the bottom of the course.


Katie's World Juniors outcome is even more impressive given an unprecedented blow in her personal life: less than two weeks beforehand, she learned her grandfather, Gil Hensien, had passed away. The 18-year-old had never before lost a family member. "It was hard to deal with that and keep moving forward," she said. "He was kind of an idol of mine." Gil had always supported her racing—even if he didn't entirely understand it—but never got a chance to see her in action. So in Davos, she penned "♥ G. Hensien" on a piece of tape and stuck it on her helmet, front and center. With that dedication, he joined her in spirit on the slope. "Now that he got to watch me, I'm happy," she said.

 

This one was for you grandpa! 💙G.Hensien 1/20/18

A post shared by {KT HENSIEN} (@katiehensien) on


The positive Davos result initially left Katie "speechless," she said with a smile. But beneath the surface, the new career highlight stoked her motivation. "When I can put two solid runs together, nothing is impossible," she reasoned, "just more hard work."

Her determination and ability to learn from past races paid off February 16 in Whiteface, New York. She landed second in the slalom and secured her first NorAm podium, achieving a primary goal for the season.

"It feels great as we head into NorAm finals to recognize that I have the speed needed to challenge for the top of the podium," she wrote on her blog.

She certainly has the speed, and she also has the support. Katie's devoted parents moved their family to Park City from Seattle so she could attend Rowmark. She looked at a few other ski academies, but one chat with Todd and she was hooked.

"I knew right away that was what I wanted," Katie said of meeting Todd and hearing about Rowmark in person. "He's really confident in his athletes and he's determined to make them as successful as possible in school and skiing."

So her folks made it happen, and now they love Utah just as much as their daughter does. The Hensiens, naturally, are known for their optimism. "Katie's parents are the two most positive people I think I've ever met, and she has that same personality trait," Todd said. "It just helps her in so many ways."

Katie said her down-to-earth mom sparked her love of athletics and always told her she could play any sport she wanted, as long as she enjoyed it. Accordingly, Katie still makes time for mountain biking and hiking with her new German Shepherd, Jess. Her passion for skiing, appropriately enough, started with a family trip to Whistler, British Columbia. As reported in the Park Record, the Hensiens put three-year-old Katie in ski school for the day: "When they dropped her off, she cried because she didn't want to ski," reporter Ben Ramsey wrote. "But by the end of the day, she cried because she didn't want to leave."

As a senior set to graduate in June, Katie will soon leave Rowland Hall—but not without happy memories and lifelong friends, many of whom are Rowmarkers. Though she applied to college, Katie is keeping her options open for next year. Dreams of competing in the Olympics occupy the back of her mind, but she's taking a zen approach to it all. "I'll keep striving for it," she said. "But wherever my path takes me, I'm just going to go with it."

Rowmark

After her Wrongful Arrest, Alex Wubbels '94 Spurs Movement to Protect Nurses, Patients

The Rowmarker and two-time Olympian on how Rowland Hall shaped her, and how she's turned a traumatizing and widely covered incident into a rallying cry for her community

In February of her Rowmark Ski Academy postgraduate year—which skiers often use as a stepping stone to national or college teams—Alex Shaffer '94 competed in exactly zero races. She took a month off in the middle of racing season.

"People thought I was crazy," Alex said. Some peers and national coaches saw her hiatus as a big mistake. But a race-free month was hardly the death knell of the 19-year-old's career.

The respite (from competing, not practicing) was part of a post-knee-injury plan hatched by Alex and Rowmark co-founder Olle Larsson. "It gave my body and my mind a chance to find that fire again," Alex said. Come spring, a string of successful races qualified her to the US Ski Team. By her 2004 retirement from the sport, she'd earned two national championships and competed in two Olympics, cementing her legacy as one of our notable Rowmark alumni.

1995 Rowmark Edge featuring Alex Shaffer

The September 1995 Rowmark Edge announcing Alex's spot on the US Ski Team.


Rowmarkers like Alex thrived because they were independent thinkers, Olle said, and weren't deterred by occasionally unconventional training plans. "It's difficult with a young teenager to sit down in the fall, and lay out a whole program for the winter, and stick to it," he said. "Alex had that ability because she could see there could be higher gratification in the end."

Alex Shaffer—now Alex Wubbels—honed that kind of mental fortitude at Rowmark. In true Rowland Hall tradition, her sixth-grade biographers documented that evolution in 1994: "Alex is a person who has grown more self-reliant, independent, and has increased her self-esteem over the past four years," wrote then-sixth-graders Kaebah Orme '99 and Myndi McCloskey. "The person who has most influenced her life would probably be her coach, Olle Larsson, who taught her about life, rules, and learning. He taught her to understand herself and depend more on herself."

Olle's lessons stuck. Now a critical care nurse, Alex proved her enduring conviction on the University of Utah Hospital floor.


On July 26 last year, during a mind-boggling incident recorded on a body camera, Salt Lake City Police Department Detective Jeff Payne wrongfully arrested Alex when she refused to allow him to take a blood sample from an unconscious patient who'd been in an automobile accident. Per hospital policy—which Alex calmly relayed multiple times—Payne needed a warrant or patient consent, or the patient needed to be under arrest. Payne lacked any prerequisites. Alex adhered to the policy and refused to yield.

After a half-hour of bullying by the detective, she could have given in. Maybe it wasn't worth it.

But for Alex—who sees it as a privilege to help patients and keep them safe when they're unable to do so themselves—the issue transcended worth.

You can't just come in and take something that isn't yours. If there's anything more proprietary and more personal than your blood, I don't know what it is.—Alex Wubbels, Class of 1994

"You can't just come in and take something that isn't yours," she said. "If there's anything more proprietary and more personal than your blood, I don't know what it is."

So she did her job and protected her patient, even though it entailed being grabbed, dragged from the ER floor while yelling for help, handcuffed, and put in the back of a police car.

"My heart was pounding," Alex said. "I was scared to death." She's still coping with post-traumatic stress from the arrest, but even in the chaos of it all, she knew she was doing the right thing.

"In moments of duress, our guts tell us a lot about right and wrong," she said. "I learned to trust my gut that day, I think, more than I probably have in a while."

Alex's story went viral in September, after she and her lawyer released bodycam footage from the arrest. The video sparked international outrage over the aggressive arrest and mistreatment of a nurse doing her job.

"Alex Wubbels did everything correct," Utah Nurses Association (UNA) President Aimee McLean told the American Nurses Association (ANA). "She stepped away from her patient's unit, she deescalated, she followed hospital policy and procedure. This never should have happened." ANA called Alex "a hero to her patient, to her hospital and to nurses across the country."

During the wave of media attention, Alex told reporters she hoped her actions were enough to invoke change. They certainly were.

Alex reached a $500,000 settlement from the city and university—she donated some money to the UNA, and set up a fund to help others obtain police bodycam footage. Relevant hospital and police policies were updated. Payne was fired and his watch commander was demoted, though news media have reported they're both appealing. The Utah House and Senate have passed a bill that aims to prevent this from happening again, and now it awaits the governor's signature.

The Rowmark Effect

Alex's Rowmark years with Olle primed her to go against the grain when needed. "Talk about the principles of standing up against bullies—that's pretty much what he taught us from the very beginning," Alex said of Olle. The duo has maintained their friendship. "He is one of those people that I am just so grateful to have in my life."

When he heard about the arrest, Larsson wasn't surprised that Alex stood her ground that day. He cited her independence, thick skin, and broad life experience as an elite athlete competing internationally. "She could be calm-minded skiing at 70 miles per hour," he said.

Like so many skiing prodigies, Alex started young. She and her brother, Pete Shaffer '96, also a Rowmarker, grew up on a ranch in Aspen, Colorado. "We didn't have babysitters," she said. "You either skied till the mountain closed and got the bus home, or you skied till your parents got off work and you caught a ride with them. So you just skied—that's just what you did."

Alex joined her local ski club one year younger than normally allowed, climbed in the rankings as a middle schooler, and attracted the attention of recruiters, including Larsson. She committed to Rowmark due to the selling point of a Rowland Hall education—her parents knew skiing wouldn't sustain her forever, and they wanted her to attend a challenging school.

So Alex and Pete moved to Salt Lake City and lived with host families while their parents stayed in Aspen. During Alex's senior year, the Shaffer siblings happily landed with Middle School math teacher Nancy Robinson, now a popular tutor. After Alex's second of two knee injuries, Nancy remembers the skier's dogged determination to heal. The teacher, who's now like a sister to Alex, even begrudgingly joined the senior for some early morning physical therapy—a 6 am aqua-jogging class at the Steiner Aquatic Center. "We spent a lot of time running back and forth in the pool," Nancy laughed.

"Alex's big goal was to go to the Olympics, and despite her various setbacks and challenges, she made it," Nancy said, adding Alex acknowledged her challenges and found a way through them. "Whatever she's going to do, she's going to do it as well as she can."

Learning How to Learn

Rowland Hall delivered on the challenging education Alex's parents sought for her—it was, in fact, probably more challenging than Alex would've liked at the time. "I remember being so focused on skiing, literally nothing else mattered," she joked.

More than anything, the curiosity that I have for medicine and for nursing came directly out of Rowland Hall. If you're curious about something, learning is easy. I got that from Rowland Hall in a way that I could have never imagined.—Alex Wubbels

But in retrospect, she's grateful that Rowland Hall helped her hone her learning skills. Her junior year, for example, she'd just had knee surgery and needed to write an essay for Carol Kranes' English class. She perfunctorily completed it in her hospital bed, and in a suggestion that seemed novel to Alex, Ms. Kranes later encouraged the Rowmarker to resculpt the essay into something better, and turn it in for a new grade. "I was like, 'huh,'" Alex said quizzically, imitating her teenage self. Through interactions like that one, Alex said, Rowland Hall dispelled her misconceptions about school. It was about learning how to learn, staying curious, and gaining a deeper understanding of subjects, not rote memorization or completing an assignment for the sake of completion.

"I was a blob when I showed up. I was actually a figure of someone when I left," the alumna said. Her teachers and coaches, she explained, helped to shape her into an effective citizen, and a good person who strives to be the best version of herself.

This set her up for success in her nursing career—a job that shes says keeps her on her toes, and in a state of perpetual learning. She even spends 20 hours every two weeks as an educator in the burn unit. "More than anything, the curiosity that I have for medicine and for nursing came directly out of Rowland Hall," she said. "If you're curious about something, learning is easy. I got that from Rowland Hall in a way that I could have never imagined."

"Nurses are closing their ranks around Alex Wubbels"

Alex's desire to understand and educate steered her actions after the arrest: "This happened, it should never have happened, and it will never happen again," she said. "In that light, what can I do to inform people."

Friend Nancy Robinson confirmed that after the incident, Alex felt a responsibility to raise awareness and help nurses and others who perhaps had similar experiences but didn't receive media coverage. "She's very conscious that this is not just her experience, she just happens to be in the limelight because there is video footage," Nancy said.

Indeed, the incident was isolated, Alex said, only in the sense that it was filmed. "Without the bodycam my story would've gone nowhere," she said. "It made it really easy for anyone to watch that footage and feel like it was them, or someone that they loved."

According to the ANA, one in four nurses has been assaulted at work. In addition to new legislation here in Utah, Alex's arrest sparked an ANA-led movement to #EndNurseAbuse, including a pledge with 13,000 signatures and counting. On a personal level, the response to the incident reinforced her commitment to nursing. In the same blog post where the UNA president defended Alex's actions, the national organization doubled down in a heartening way. "Nurses are closing their ranks around Alex Wubbels," the post reads. "ANA has your back." She received an outpouring of supportive letters and emails from nurses across the world. "We're not just here for people that need help—we're here for each other," Alex said. "I couldn't have done what I did if I wasn't a nurse."

One of the most important things Alex learned as a ski racer was how to recover. You can set the goal of a perfect run, she explained, but it's not realistic. "If you're always aiming for perfection, the little bumps are going to throw you off so much so that you won't ever recover," she said. "I realized that it wasn't about the perfect run. It was about who can recover the fastest from the mistakes." As in ski racing, so in life: "There are bumps and bruises, and that's to be expected," she said. "It's how you recover and how you pick yourself back up and move forward that determines what happens." Through no fault of her own, Alex hit a major bump. But she's moved forward admirably by fighting for what's right and defending herself, and her community.

Alumni

Extraordinary Athletes: How Rowmark Ski Academy Develops Future Olympians

Rowmark Ski Academy has never been for the faint of heart. The physical and mental demands of ski racing, coupled with the academic pressures of attending a college-preparatory school like Rowland Hall, push young athletes to their limits. The payoff is worth it, though—Rowmark alumni benefit from their intense schedule and training far into the future, whether or not they continue skiing in college. They excel at time management, are more resilient than many of their college peers, and embrace a growth mindset in all endeavors, not just those related to athletics.

Of course for some alumni, Rowmark is just the beginning of their competitive skiing careers. In the 35 years since its founding, 16 Rowmark alumni have been named to the US Ski Team, including current Rowland Hall senior Katie Hensien. Others have represented their home countries on national teams for Japan, Canada, and Spain. Kristi (Terzian) Cumming '85, Alex (Shaffer) Wubbels '94, Keely Kelleher '03, and postgraduate* Alice McKennis '08 all have national championships under their belts, and alumni continue to collect international podium finishes almost every year. But perhaps what's most impressive to both the casual and die-hard ski-racing fans is the number of Olympic qualifiers and winners that Rowmark has developed:

  • Hilary Lindh '87 and Picabo Street both won silver medals in women's downhill skiing, in 1992 and 1994, respectively. (Picabo attended Rowland Hall and Rowmark her freshman year, 1985–1986, and is considered an honorary alumna by the school.)
  • Picabo Street also won a gold medal in 1998 in the women's super-G.
  • Alex Wubbels skied for the US Olympic team in the 1998 and 2002 games.
  • Postgraduate* Erik Fisher '04 represented the US in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
  • Ovidio Garcia '86 skied for Spain in two Winter Olympics, as Gota Miura '88 did for Japan.
  • Chirine Njeim '03 competed for Lebanon in skiing at three Winter Olympics and in the women's marathon in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
  • Levi Leipheimer '92 represented the US in cycling at two Summer Olympics, winning a bronze in the men's individual time trial in 2008.

Rowmark also boasts two graduates in the 2018 Games in PyeongChang: Alice McKennis—who also skied in the 2010 Olympics—and Breezy Johnson '13, pictured together below.

Head Women's Coach Jim Tschabrun believes a combination of periodized training and the development of self-coaching techniques helps our athletes succeed at the highest level. Since our high-school skiers are accountable for the academic requirements of Rowland Hall—which are far above those of most other ski academies—they can't train quite as much. As a result, their training must be more efficient, which teaches them to focus completely on the task at hand, and ultimately keeps our athletes fresher.

Along with honing their focus on the slopes, they learn how to advocate for themselves and how to communicate their needs to their coaches. "We really work to help athletes grow into their own best coaches," Mr. Tschabrun said. For the skiers that go on to join the national team and compete internationally, those self-management practices are essential. "The World Cup circuit and the Olympics are filled with stressors, time demands and distractions," he said. "Breezy, Alice, and others learned how to manage and thrive with a higher level of stress than their peers, and I believe that capacity continues to serve all of the Rowmarkers now."

The international success of Rowmark athletes is not really a surprise to co-founder and former director Olle Larsson. He described many of his former students as "contrarian thinkers," meaning they did not simply follow what others were doing but learned to listen to their own voices—much like becoming their own coaches. Olle also believes that the athletes who learned the value of delayed gratification were more likely to achieve their personal and professional goals.

And it doesn't hurt that Rowmark Ski Academy is located at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, providing young skiers with some of the best training ground in the country. "Salt Lake City is really the ultimate location for a program like this," Olle said.

Indeed, Salt Lake City's ideal positioning for winter sports is what helped secure the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and what many local leaders hope will make the city a strong candidate to host again. Alumna Alex Wubbels, for one, said she'll never forget how surreal it was to walk in the opening ceremonies here. "You're representing not just yourself but your country, and everyone that makes us who we are as a nation," she said. "It's an amazing gift to be given." Alex earned that gift twice. In her first Olympics, Nagano's 1998 Games, she didn't necessarily have to live up to any performance expectations. Still, competing in the Games drove her to do her best, and she placed an impressive ninth in the women's combined. "I went in thinking, 'I'm going to show my art to the world,'" she said. "There's just something that elevates everybody at the Olympics—spectators and athletes alike."

As Breezy Johnson prepared to compete in South Korea this month, she didn't hesitate to look back and credit Rowmark with helping her get to the Olympics. "The resourcefulness, time management, and ability to think outside the box helped me continue to grow after my time at Rowmark, and enabled me to develop the many different aspects—besides skiing fast— required of a professional athlete," she said. "I am forever thankful."

 

*Rowmark Ski Academy postgraduates, as defined by Director Todd Brickson: A ski academy postgraduate (or PG) year is typically for a high school graduate who's close to making a national or college team, or earning a scholarship position on a college team. They take another year or two to more narrowly focus on ski training, racing, and conditioning, all without the pressure of school. Some PGs may take a college-level class or get a job or internship during their PG years. The two PGs mentioned in this article aren't Rowland Hall alumni, but they are Rowmark alumni—meaning they trained with Rowmark for at least a year.


Top photo, from left: Hilary Lindh '87 gets silver in the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics, and two-time Olympian Alex (Shaffer) Wubbels '94 skis in Park City in 1995.

rowmark

Breezy Johnson's Unparalleled Work Ethic Takes Her All the Way to PyeongChang

Updated February 20: Rowmark alumnae Breezy Johnson '13 and Alice McKennis '08 placed 14th and 16th, respectively, in the Olympic women's super-G February 16. Breezy finished as the second US skier, just 1.03 seconds out from the winner, while Alice barely trailed at 1.09 seconds out. It only got better from there: in the women's downhill February 20, Alice placed 5th at 1.02 seconds out from the winner, and Breezy 7th at 1.12 seconds out. Along with bronze medalist Lindsey Vonn, they're part of an impressive downhill trifecta: never before has the US had three skiers in the top 10 of this event, NBC analyst Dan Hicks said during the live broadcast.


Jim Tschabrun, the head women's coach for Rowmark Ski Academy, has no shortage of praise for alumna Breezy Johnson '13. He recalled the exceptional work ethic and focus she brought to every task, whether it was conditioning, reviewing video, or inspecting equipment. "I often 'caught her' doing something extra," he said. "She outworked everyone, not only at Rowmark but at any elite club or academy." Breezy's talent and dedication yielded impressive results as a teenager—she medaled in three U18 National Championships—and now she's competing at the highest level: this month, Breezy will represent the United States at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, along with fellow Rowmark alum Alice McKennis '08.

Breezy's ascent in ski racing stems from the work ethic Jim identified, along with a "willingness to dissect her own attributes to determine strengths and weaknesses," which made her unique among athletes he's coached. While at Rowmark, Breezy took it upon herself to supplement her ski training with gymnastics classes and soccer drills that targeted specific skills she wanted to improve. Both Jim and Rowmark Academy Director Todd Brickson commented on her resilience and psychological fortitude as well. In particular, they recounted how years ago, after a horrific crash off a jump at the top of the Super-G course at Mammoth Mountain, Breezy came back the next day to race the same course and win her age group. "She's truly remarkable," Todd said. "I have a feeling this [Olympics] is just the tip of the iceberg."

As much as she impressed her coaches, Breezy called her time at Rowmark the hardest thing she ever did. She credited the academy and Rowland Hall with helping her develop resourcefulness and critical-thinking skills and said that she's continued to grow as a professional athlete because of how she trained in high school. Breezy has affection and gratitude for her former coaches. "They provided humor and comfort on the tough days, a smiling face on the good days, and the harsh truth when necessary too."

Breezy is among the youngest members of the US Olympic Alpine Ski Team, and with a recent fourth-place finish in the Garmisch World Cup Downhill, a podium finish at her first Olympics is not out of reach. Regardless of what happens in the downhill races—tune in 7 pm (MST) Tuesday, February 20, to find out—Breezy understands the significance of being an Olympian. She offered the following advice to aspiring athletes: "Remember that to valiantly try at something so difficult is more than most people will ever attempt, and that true attempt to risk failing at something you love so much is triumph in itself."

Rowland Hall and Rowmark Ski Academy couldn't ask for a better ambassador.


Top photo by Jonathan Selkowitz, courtesy of Darigold.

Rowmark

Celebrating the Sesquicentennial

Generations of Community Members Unite to Lionize Rowland Hall's 150th Year

Spontaneously breaking out into a 1955 school song on the old Avenues Campus. Overhearing Rowmark Ski Academy co-founder Olle Larsson's distinctive guffaw and listening to one of his epic yarns. Dancing the night away on the McCarthey Campus, first in a flashmob, and later on stage with the headlining band. A record-breaking 1,200 community members attended Rowland Hall's Sesquicentennial Kickoff Weekend September 8–9 to celebrate—and make—school history through a series of unforgettable, hilarious, and heartwarming moments spread over six events.

The weekend opened with a victorious girls varsity soccer game followed by the Alumni All-Class Reunion Friday night. Over 200 alums came from near and far—as far as Rome, in one case—to attend the reunion. Classmates seamlessly rekindled old friendships like it was only yesterday they raced down slopes for Rowmark, led peers down the chapel aisle as crucifers, or squeezed together for mom's photo of their matching Rowland Hall-St. Mark's uniform sweatshirts.

↓ Alumni All-Class Reunion guests (from left) Tasha Woolley '08 and Sarah Snedaker '08 don vintage-style RHSM sweatshirts reincarnated for the sesquicentennial.

 

Loving the vintage sweatshirts at the alumni reunion! #rh150 #rhsm

A post shared by Rowland Hall (@rowlandhall150) on


"The old friendships are just ones that we step into so naturally after we haven't seen each other for a while" Sally Adams Prinster '60 said of her close-knit graduating class. "There's something reassuring about that, and something that's timeless."

Saturday morning at the old Avenues Campus, Sally's classmates—including sesquicentennial co-chair Nancy Borgenicht '60—formed an impromptu chorus to sing "Fair and True," a school song written in 1955 by the class of '56 for Rowland Hall's 75th anniversary. Later on, the '60 squad processed up and down the chapel aisle behind Sally, the former school crucifer, to reenact daily morning chapel services.

↓ Video: From left, Mimi MacKinnon Kingsbury '60, sesquicentennial co-chair Nancy Borgenicht '60, Penny Ray Vernet '61, and Peggy Rosen Feder '61 sing "Fair and True."


Lifer Rudi Riet '91 had a similarly memorable bonding experience with fellow skiers from the classes of '90, '91, and '92 at the Rowmark barbecue Saturday afternoon. "We've somehow survived all these years and still are able to talk and laugh as if we hadn't skipped a day," he said. "We're older and have a lot more perspective than we had before, which is a good thing, but we're friends for life."

↓ Rudi Riet '91 (back row, center) with fellow Rowmarkers.

 

Rowmark classes of '90, '91 & '92 indahouse. #Rowmark35 #RH150

A post shared by Rudi Riet (@therandomduck) on


Olle was in fine form over the weekend, according to Rudi. "He hasn't changed a bit," Rudi said. "He still is able to tell a rambling yarn that has so many 'one more things' that it puts Steve Jobs to shame."

↓ From left, Rowmarkers Kitty Northrup Friedman '91, Katie Poinier '91, co-founder Olle Larsson, and Rudi Riet '91.

 

Kitty, Katie, and the guru Olle. @rowmark_ski_academy #Rowmark35 #RH150 #everydayisagift

A post shared by Rudi Riet (@therandomduck) on


Accordingly, a highlight for many guests involved connecting with old coaches and teachers.

Sesquicentennial Planning Committee member Erica Keil—mom of fifth-grader Owen and ninth-grader Maddie—praised the inclusivity of the flagship celebration Saturday night. She loved seeing faculty mingle with students from all different generations, she said, citing the wave of former Winged Lions who approached French Teacher Doug Wortham.

"It's a small community here, but you don't always see these people all the time. So it was really great to reconnect, talk to teachers and parents, and see all the kids—the little kids—really enjoy it," Erica said. She relished a casual conversation over tacos with Maddie's fourth-grade teacher, Erika McCarthy. They chatted "not even about school—just, 'How are you?' and summer, and grandkids...it was really nice."

Rudi caught up with Bob Liget—his physical education teacher in Lower School and American history teacher in Upper School—and even the mother of one of his fellow skiers. Kristy Northrup McCoy, mom of Kitty Northrup Friedman '91, cheered at races alongside Rudi's parents. "With Rowmark, the parents were kind of like the little backbone that nobody spoke about but everybody recognized," Rudi said. Seeing Kristy prompted a "big old bear hug" and surfaced lots of good memories, he recalled.

Sally enjoyed facetime with the three daughters—Patricia "Patsy" Pearson Johnston '51, Ann Pearson Hutton '53, and Frances "Fannie" Pearson Crosier '56—of Henrietta "Aunt Henri" Pearson '25, who ran the boarding school. "She was my second mother. I loved her, and her three daughters were wonderful," said Sally, one of about 30 boarders at that time. "That was really fun for me."

Pre-2003 alumni who hadn't yet caught a glimpse of the completed McCarthey Campus savored the chance to explore Rowland Hall's new home. "From an aesthetic standpoint, that McCarthey and Steiner Campus land is a gem," Rudi said. "The view looking west over the city and that sunset on Saturday night—it was like, ok, this works."

↓ McCarthey Campus sunset, by Sesquicentennial Planning Committee member Molly Jones '07.

 

The best view in town during the @rowlandhall150 celebration! @metromusicclub KILLED IT as always 🎶 #rowlandhall #rh150

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Sally agreed: "I was just so impressed" with the campus architecture and landscaping, she said. And she heralded the beauty of the Wasatch Range, even when she and her husband drove from equally remarkable Grand Junction, Colorado. The alumna grew up in a ranching family in that neighboring state, where she initially went to a one-room school. Thanks to some careful family budgeting, Sally made the move to Salt Lake and attended our school for six years. "To be able to go to Rowland Hall and have the friendships that I had and the education that I had was a gift from my family," she said.

↓ Sally Adams Prinster '60, center, stands in her old boarding room during the Avenues Campus tour.

Sally Adams Prinster

Sally added she was so pleased to see how Rowland Hall had evolved over the years. "It contributes so much to the community and provides such a wonderful education," she said. "I'm sorry that my children and grandchildren haven't lived there to be able to go school at Rowland Hall."

If her kids had been Utahns, she said, they'd be there in a heartbeat. "I'd be like Nancy," she joked about her classmate, the sesquicentennial co-chair whose kids and grandkids are Winged Lions. "They'd all have to go there, no question, because of what it gave to me."

Rudi said the weekend showed Rowland Hall has a bright future, informed by its past. "You see so many multi-generational Rowland Hall families now," he said. "That, to me, is quite telling."

If Maddie and Owen Keil land in Salt Lake as adults, mom Erica hopes they'd one day send their kids to Rowland Hall. But if life brings the Keil kids elsewhere, Erica hopes they return to their alma mater. "It obviously means a lot—to a lot of different people and a lot of different generations," she said. "And I hope that as my kids go forward, it'll always hold a place in their hearts. I know it will. But I'll look forward to hearing them say, 'I'm going to my 20th reunion.'"

Upcoming Sesquicentennial Events

  • December 8 at 7 pm: Candle and Carol at St. Mark's Cathedral. Read more here.
  • May 4: 150th Day of School. For the 150 Challenge, we invite our entire community to do, practice, or create something 150 times to symbolize each year of the school's history. If we get 150 submissions by the 150th day of school, daredevil Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus will climb the McCarthey Campus flagpole.
  • May 19: Sesquicentennial Jubilee on the McCarthey Campus. A gala for everyone! Details will be shared at rowlandhall.org/150.

Sesquicentennial

Alumni

AJ Oliver skiing in Timeless.

Rowland Hall and Rowmark Ski Academy alumnus A.J. Oliver ’07 and Marcus Caston—a Rowmark postgraduate skier from 2007 to 2009—grace the powdery screen in Timeless, the latest Warren Miller Entertainment movie getting skiers stoked for winter. 

Though Marcus has been in several Warren Miller movies, Timeless is A.J.’s first. Both Rowmark alums have turned skiing into their livelihoods and are backed by big-name sponsors such as Patagonia, Head, Helly Hansen, and POC. A.J. is currently a ski instructor at Big Sky Resort and an outdoor guide in the off-season—read his recent profile in the Ogden Standard-Examiner. And Marcus has a robust résumé that includes several magazine covers—read his 2017 Ski magazine profile.

A.J. and Marcus expect to be at the following local showings of Timeless. Catch them before or after the movie and tell them hi, from Rowland Hall and Rowmark. 

Jeanne Wagner Theatre, Salt Lake City
Thursday, October 24, at 7 pm
Friday, October 25, at 6 and 9 pm

Eccles Center, Park City
Saturday, October 26, at 6 pm

The duo also stopped by the Rowmark office October 23 for a Q&A with staff, including Rowmark Director Todd Brickson. Watch the video on the Rowmark Facebook page, or read the highlights below, edited for length and context.

A.J., how did Rowland Hall shape you?

A.J.: The education that you get here is second to none. It really prepares you for when you go to college. I remember sliding into freshman year pretty comfortably and not feeling like I was overwhelmed or underprepared. I went to Rocky Mountain College in Billings, and it was very natural moving to a small liberal arts school from Rowland Hall because the curriculum is similar.

And how did Rowmark shape both of you?

Marcus: When I was here as a PG I was just focused on skiing and that was my life. It teaches you how to buckle down, focus on one thing, and work hard.

A.J.: Rowland Hall prepares you in some of the same ways, but being in a program structured like Rowmark, you learn to hold yourself accountable and get out there and do the work, and that's the only way you're going to get where you want to go. And so that sticks with you moving forward—that sense of self-accountability.

What’s your favorite Rowmark memory?

Whenever we get back together there's definitely a sense of camaraderie and a bond that doesn't go away.—Rowmark/Rowland Hall alum A.J. Oliver ’07

A.J.: [Laughs] I might get Todd in trouble, but trust-falling off the top of the short bus at Bear Lake. Man, that's a fall—right off the top of the ski rack. That one sticks with me for sure.

Marcus: The people I got to ski with. You become family, you spend all your time together throughout the winter traveling, and you get to know one another. And that's something that at the time you take for granted, but you don't really have that in life—a group of people you go out and ski with and spend time with every day.

Do you keep up with people from your cohorts?

A.J.: Absolutely. This week in particular has been exciting. I’m looking forward to a few days at home and seeing old classmates and teammates. Whenever we get back together there's definitely a sense of camaraderie and a bond that doesn't go away.

What was it like to be in a Warren Miller production?

Marcus Caston skiing in Timeless

Marcus Caston skis in Timeless. (Photo by Cam McLeod)

Marcus: I went to Chamonix, and I’ve always wanted to go. It’s legendary in the ski world. If you’re a skier, you know Chamonix has the biggest and steepest mountains, so it’s known for its extreme skiing. I was pretty nervous going into it just because you build it up in your head, and the hype is real. It’s steep, and it’s icy, and it’s scary. But lucky for me, conditions weren’t in for the steep stuff, so I got to kind of ease my way in a little bit. And being in Europe is always great—it’s just a cool ski experience. Skiing is life over there—they’ve got it down: huts and good food up on the mountain.

A.J.: It was a blast. It was an all-new experience. It was super cool to call Marcus after growing up skiing together and kind of dreaming if this would ever happen. It’s cool to be on the big screen together. I got to go to the Monashee Range in British Columbia and ski with another PSA [Professional Ski Instructors of America] instructor, Brenna Kelleher, who is a sibling of another Rowmark alum, Keely Kelleher ’03. And then Glen Plake tagged along on our trip, so that was a blast. It was super fun to ski with a guy who’s such an industry icon and to learn from him and draw from his experience.

Tell us about Glen Plake.

A.J.: Glen Plake is the most famous mohawk in skiing.

Marcus: He was a mogul skier. He was in all the original Greg Stump films and a bunch of Warren Miller films. He’s the guy who kind of started what we do. He’s the man.

You grew up watching him. So what was it like to actually ski with him in a movie?

A.J.: It was everything I’d hoped it would be. He is everything that he exudes on camera—that’s not an act. He is just a to-the-core skier and he loves it.

Marcus: I was pretty jealous [laughter]; I didn’t ski with him. It’s funny—the director called me up and said, ‘We’re going up to Canada. Do you know A.J. Oliver?’ I was like, ‘No way. Yes. How do I get on this trip?’” I never did.

A.J.: You were thinking you might be able to be the tripod guy there for a minute.

Marcus: I was trying to go hold bags just so I could go hang out.

What were your favorite parts of filming Timeless?

I was with these two World Cup slalom skiers, they were skiing these big mountains for the first time, and that was really cool. I look up to them.—Marcus Caston, Rowmark PG 2007–2009

A.J.: Skiing with Glen was definitely a takeaway. Just being able to be around him and draw from that experience. It’s super cool to hear his stories and all the places he’s been. The Monashees are cool, though. It was some new terrain and that’s always fun. It’s a blast getting to do stuff you haven’t done before. It was fun to explore the Monashees, because those are the Rocky Mountains. They know how to do it in Canada.

Marcus: I got to film with Erin Mielzynski, who races World Cup for Canada, and Mattias Hargin, who is a Swedish World Cup slalom skier—he won the Kitzbuehel slalom and just recently retired. This was their first film shoot, too. So I was with these two World Cup slalom skiers, they were skiing these big mountains for the first time, and that was really cool. I look up to them. Mattias is a good freeskier. Erin grew up in eastern Canada ski racing on this little hill. She never goes freeskiing, so it was really cool to see somebody who, skiing is their entire life, and they get to experience the sport in a different way. So that was the highlight of my trip for me, was to watch Erin experience a different side of skiing.

Why should people see this movie?

Marcus: It’s the kickoff to winter. Some people have been coming out every year for 50 years—it’s tradition. There’s something for everybody. It’s a great adventure, there’s amazing cinematography, and it’s just fun.

A.J.: Seeing a Warren Miller film really embodies the community that is our industry. Any time that we can have a nice social gathering around skiing, that’s always a good thing.

What are your future skiing goals and plans?

That’s one of the great things about this sport. If you do it for life you get addicted to that pursuit of always getting better.—A.J. Oliver ’07

A.J.: That’s always a tough one to answer because it’s the ever-changing answer. Things are always evolving. But in five to 10 years, hopefully I’m still teaching skiing and trying to get better. That’s one of the great things about this sport. If you do it for life you get addicted to that pursuit of always getting better. So my goals for five to 10 years from now are to still be learning and growing, and hopefully spending as many days on snow as I can.

Marcus: I’m down with short-term goals.

A.J.: Like, what am I going to eat for breakfast? [Laughs]

Marcus: If you’re like, ‘In five years I’m going to be right here,’ then you might have an opportunity that you miss. Whereas if you’re living in the moment, you may take more in.

A.J.: Goal-setting with Marcus and A.J.

What do you do in the off-season for training and for fun?

A.J.: I try to wrap my training and my fun up in the same activity. I’ve been trying to stay in shape and not have to go to the gym. In the off-season I do a lot of mountain biking. I ride my horse a fair amount, which isn’t the most aerobic thing in the world. But when you’re hiking around the woods and running around the backcountry all summer, that usually keeps you in shape.

Marcus: Horseback riding is good for your legs, though, right?

A.J.: Yeah, it is a lot of lower-body strength. I also do a little bit of rock climbing when this guy will drag me.

Hiking and climbing are also really good mentally. Skiing can be scary, so if you can scare yourself every once in awhile in the summer, it’s not so scary when you get back on skis.—Marcus Caston

Marcus: I do a lot of hiking and climbing. It’s nice to stay outside and in the mountains. Hiking and climbing are also really good mentally. Skiing can be scary, so if you can scare yourself every once in awhile in the summer, it’s not so scary when you get back on skis.

What advice do you have for Rowmarkers and other young skiers who want to do what you do?

A.J.: The biggest thing is just staying in it—having the resolve to be in skiing and the industry and not have anything else be an option. If you’re in it for long enough, people decide to do other stuff and they fall away. But if you’re committed to it, things are going to happen for you. It’s definitely a small and welcoming industry if you have the drive to be part of it.

Marcus: Love skiing and love whatever it is you do. Making movies is not easy. It’s hard and it’s cold. Sometimes it gets really tough—you can be sitting there waiting for the light for two hours. I was in Norway a couple of years ago and we were on top of this mountain and the clouds came in. We had to build an igloo, and we sat in this little igloo, freezing for six hours because we couldn’t see anything. You just have to remind yourself why you’re there: because you love skiing and everything that comes with it—the traveling and all the people. And that’s not just for skiing, that’s everything. Just love what you do. And advice to Rowmarkers would be enjoy it now because life gets harder...It’s still fun, but not as fun.

A.J.: Don’t take it too seriously now because you’ll have plenty of time to be serious when you get older. Have fun.


Top: A.J. Oliver skis in Timeless. (Photo by SkyScope)

Rowmark

Sara Matsumura playing volleyball.

Haverford College senior Sara Matsumura ’16 added to her impressive list of achievements on September 9, when she was awarded the Centennial Conference’s Player of the Week after being named Most Valuable Player of the Ford Invitational only two days earlier. Then, on September 16, the NCAA announced that Sara was ranked third in Division III in total digs and seventh in service aces.

“I am over-the-moon ecstatic,” Sara said about the start of her senior season.

Despite the recent attention she has personally received, the Haverford volleyball co-captain remained focused on her team. “It is amazing to see all of our hard work coming to fruition and so motivating to see everyone reaching and playing at their full potential,” she said. “I feel a lot of appreciation for the group of girls I get to play with."

I am over-the-moon ecstatic. It is amazing to see all of our hard work coming to fruition and so motivating to see everyone reaching and playing at their full potential.—Sara Matsumura, Class of 2016

Kendra Tomsic, Sara’s former coach and Rowland Hall’s director of athletics, was not surprised to learn of Sara’s focus on teamwork. “Sara never cared about individual stats or accolades—she loved her teammates and celebrated their accomplishments as if they were her own,” she said of Sara’s time playing for the Winged Lions. “Her unmatched work ethic, positive attitude, fiery spirit, enthusiasm, heart, and passion for the game were an inspiration to her teammates and coaches.”
 
Kendra also praised Sara’s athletic prowess. “Sara is undoubtedly one of the most talented volleyball players to come out of our program. Her stats were tops in nearly every category, and she was instrumental to our winning several consecutive region titles,” she said. “I am so very proud and excited, but definitely not surprised, that Sara has continued to excel and has made such an amazing impact on her Haverford College team.”
 
Sara credited Rowland Hall for preparing her for success at the college level, both on the court and in the classroom. “The endless support I received from Rowland Hall’s coaching staff gave me the confidence I needed to gain an I-own-the-court mentality. As a back-row player, that is essential and has definitely been tested when facing strong teams,” she said. “Rowland Hall also prepared me to balance school and volleyball, as academics is our top priority at Haverford too.”
 
These balancing skills, first gained at Rowland Hall and then strengthened at Haverford, are essential to Sara’s success. When she isn’t excelling on the court, the chemistry major is researching microplastics and bioplastics for her senior thesis. After graduation, she plans on taking a gap year to work at an environmentally focused company, then earning a PhD in environmental engineering or chemistry. Armed with an arsenal of skills she has gathered as a student-athlete, we have no doubt she’ll continue to do great things, and we can’t wait to see them.

Update November 12, 2019: Sara was selected for a first-team spot for the 2019 All-Centennial Conference volleyball teams; this is the third consecutive season Sara has been named to an All-Centennial squad. She was also named to the Centennial Conference All-Sportsmanship team for the fourth consecutive season, becoming the first player in program history to earn that distinction four times since the introduction of the plaudit to the conference's postseason awards in 2009. Read the news release.

Update November 14, 2019: Sara was selected to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III All-Mid Atlantic Region team. She is the first Haverford player to garner all-region honors since 2015. Read the news release.

Update November 19, 2019: Sara was named an All-America Honorable Mention. She is the first Haverford player to be included on the list since 2015 and the tenth in program history. Read the news release.

Congratulations, Sara!


Top of page: Sara Matsumura playing in a Haverford College volleyball game. (Photo courtesy David Sinclair)

Alumni

Claire Wang in front of US Capitol
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


In her daily fight against climate change, Claire Wang’s weapons of choice include her bicycle, travel utensils, and reusable water bottle.

But the 21-year-old’s real arsenal is her character: her empathy, intellect, and contagious optimism that she wields to mobilize peers, negotiate with institutions, and drive environmental progress locally and nationally. Now, Rowland Hall’s first Rhodes Scholar graduates to the global stage.

There’s no choice but to be hopeful. We have a collective obligation to keep working towards a better future. Giving up would be a selfish act.—Claire Wang ’15

In Claire, the daunting problem of climate change finds a formidable opponent: the former nationally ranked Rowland Hall debater loves what she does and refuses to be discouraged. “There’s no choice but to be hopeful,” she said. “We have a collective obligation to keep working towards a better future. Giving up would be a selfish act.”

Claire was always interested in science and environmentalism; after coming to Rowland Hall in seventh grade, relevant curriculum furthered her interest in climate advocacy, while debate turned her into a policy wonk. In high school, she started volunteering for Utah Clean Energy through a school connection. “That was the moment I realized that I love this work and I want to do it for a living,” Claire said. “Rowland Hall was really supportive of that.” As a senior, she co-organized a press conference—held at the McCarthey Campus and covered by local news outlets—advocating against new fees on solar panels. And just before she finished high school, the Sierra Club asked her to help plan a national youth-led movement for renewable energy.

Claire Wang speaks with a broadcast news reporter at a 2015 press conference on solar panels, held at Rowland Hall.

Claire graduated as valedictorian and accepted a full ride to Duke University, where she majored in environmental science and policy. As a freshman, she worked with college administrators to secure Duke’s official support for renewable-energy policy reform. Then, Duke Energy—a large utility company unaffiliated with the university—announced plans to build a natural-gas plant on the university’s campus. It was the first of eight small-scale gas plants planned for the Carolinas. Claire spent two years fighting the campus plant proposal, and the university suspended the plans in spring 2018. Since then, none of the other North Carolina plants have entered the planning process. “Turning the tide early with the first plant ended up being really impactful,” Claire said.

Claire thrived in community campaigns at Duke and beyond—she even won prestigious Truman and Udall Scholarships in recognition of her work—and envisioned a career in national policy. But a 2018 study-abroad program on climate change and the politics of food, water, and energy spurred a shift. She visited a hydroelectric dam in Vietnam, and an ethnic-minority community displaced because of that dam. She also learned about how extreme weather impacts farmers, from drought in Bolivia to hail in Morocco. Now, Claire wants to reduce financing for fossil-fuel infrastructure, especially in developing countries. “We're not going to be able to achieve a livable climate future without cutting those back,” she said.

Eschew the conventional belief that salaries define successful careers. “Instead, focus on the impact you have on the world,” Claire said. “What you do with your life is not just a job—it’s a legacy.”

That global perspective drove Claire to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship—the oldest award for international study, covering graduate school at England’s University of Oxford. When she learned she’d been selected, Claire was elated, but incredulous. “It was a mix of nervousness, excitement, pride, and a general sense of, ‘Wait, did this actually happen?’”

Claire will be at Oxford for two years, starting with a one-year master’s in environmental change and management. She expects to land in policy, perhaps working for the government or an international group. Regardless, she’ll be doing work that’s meaningful to her, and she encourages other young people to follow suit: eschew the conventional belief that salaries define successful careers. “Instead, focus on the impact you have on the world,” she said. “What you do with your life is not just a job—it’s a legacy.”


Top photo: Claire in front of the United States Capitol. Over the summer, Claire interned with the Natural Resources Defense Council as part of the Truman Scholars' Summer Institute.

Alumni

Phinehas Bynum performs in Candide
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


Phinehas Bynum makes “whizbangs and gizmos” to automate mundane things in his Minneapolis house. A motion sensor on his washing machine messages him when the washer stops. Between loads, he composes and plays music in his DIY home-recording studio. It’s a delightful showcase of his two biggest passions.

Phinehas—Phin, for short—holds a music and computer science degree from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. By day, he works for software company Jamf on a technical-implementation team that teaches and trains clients. But the renaissance man has also been a lifelong singer—performing with the likes of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as a fourth grader, the renowned St. Olaf Choir as a college student, and operas around Minneapolis, including the Minnesota Opera (MNOp), since college.

You can make someone's day better by fixing their computer, or by singing them a song. And both of these involve compassion, creativity, logic, and technique.—Phinehas Bynum ’08

“I was just about born singing,” said Phin, whose parents prophetically gave him a name that means, among other interpretations, mouth of brass. “Every time you say ‘Phinehas’ a trumpet gets its wings,” the alum quipped. Naturally, young Phin also dabbled in reverse engineering. “Mama and Papa stepped on clock springs and screws on the daily because I took everything apart to see how it worked,” he said. “Computer science was an extension of tinkering for me because you could change how something worked just by telling it to change, no take-apart required.” 

Phin has deftly balanced singing and computing, which he said similarly fulfill him. “You can make someone's day better by fixing their computer, or by singing them a song,” he said. “And both of these involve compassion, creativity, logic, and technique.” And he continues the balancing act, in part, because of Rowland Hall. “I was always encouraged to spend time doing what I was passionate about, and that goal has stuck with me,” he said. “Ultimate frisbee, robotics club, cross country, choir, jazz band—most of the things I am doing now, I was also doing in some form in high school.”

Actors on stage in front of orchestra.

Phinehas Bynum, second from left, stars in VocalEssence and Theater Latté Da’s March 2019 production of Candide. (Photos by Bruce Silcox, courtesy of VocalEssence)

Now, Phin’s arts life is expanding. The singer made his theatrical debut in March to rave reviews. Two Minneapolis arts organizations collaborated to present Candide, a reimagining of the Leonard Bernstein operetta. Phin landed the titular role. Tickets to the five-night, 505-seat show in the heart of downtown sold out early, so the final dress rehearsal became a sixth production. Phin called the performance—his largest to date—transformative. He described his character as an optimist whose misadventures make him wiser instead of bitter. “I'd consider myself a stubborn, but quiet optimist,” Phin said. “It was core-shaking to inhabit a character who lives his optimism completely on the outside, and it challenged me to let the rest of the world, the audience, see that element of me.” His months of practice paid off. In the Star Tribune, critic Terry Blain praised Phin’s performance: “Bynum cut a convincingly boyish figure, his light tenor imparting a touchingly artless quality to songs.”

Since Candide wrapped, Phin has spent more time making his own music—an exploration of jazz, pop, and electronic. He’s recording an album, a longtime dream that combines his musical and technical pursuits. He’s also excited to sing with MNOp again. “I get to sit in a room of wonderfully passionate and diverse folks and bring feelings and ideas and notes and rhythms off a piece of paper and into reality,” he said. “It's the best.” 

Phin credited Rowland Hall for a solid foundation, and expressed gratitude to teachers and administrators—particularly the late Linda Hampton, a beloved Upper School staffer who attended nearly all of his performances. “Linda called herself my ‘biggest fan,’” Phin said. “I’m blessed that my musical endeavors have always been supported by my family and friends, but Linda will always have a special place in my heart.”

Alumni

Jared Ruga '06 at whiteboard during writing session
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


Rowland Hall lifer Jared Ruga grew up directing friends in eccentric homemade movies, including a “sci-fi space opera retelling” of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar for freshman English. The young auteur was self-taught, though he did glean inspiration from attending the Sundance Film Festival every year since age 16. One decade and three advanced degrees later, he founded Vavani Productions. And in 2018, Vavani’s first film debuted at Sundance—it was chaos.

Jared and his team crafted a stirring documentary in Quiet Heroes. It tells the story of Dr. Kristen Ries and physician assistant Maggie Snyder, the only Utahns treating HIV/AIDS patients at the peak of that crisis. Vavani submitted a rough cut to Sundance expecting a rejection, so when it got in, they scrambled to finish it. Then came the thrilling-but-exhausting process of shepherding the film through the festival—Jared delivered his second Q&A with a 103-degree fever. He looks back on the madness and laughs, noting he’ll know to handle it if there’s a next time: “Maybe have the film totally done by the time you submit.”

Jared's time at Rowland Hall taught him that focus and commitment yield long-term rewards, even if it takes some short-term pain.

Still, Vavani’s bold moves paid off. Quiet Heroes secured three distribution deals. A TV showing qualified it for a Daytime Emmy, and in May, the doc won in its category—even edging out an Oprah special. Quiet Heroes was a challenging film to make over three years, Jared said, but his time at Rowland Hall taught him that focus and commitment yield long-term rewards, even if it takes some short-term pain. Plus, he knew the narrative deserved attention, and he was fueled by Salt Lake City’s supportive LGBTQ+ community. 

Three people standing together, around an Emmy award.

Jared Ruga holds his Emmy for Quiet Heroes, flanked by documentary subjects Dr. Kristen Ries and physician assistant Maggie Snyder. The trio visited Rowland Hall in May 2019 for Jared's speech during our annual Alumni Senior Breakfast—read that story.

Jared learned about Kristen and Maggie while earning his JD, MBA, and film MFA from the University of Utah (he credits Rowland Hall for sparking his interdisciplinary curiosity). As a gay man from Salt Lake, he was embarrassed he’d never before heard of the duo. “The scourge of the AIDS crisis in the ’80s and ’90s is a crucial part of Queer history that we in younger generations must understand and appreciate,” Jared said. So he shared the story, and it moved local audiences to tears: people who’d lost family to the epidemic told Jared the film was a beautiful, meaningful portrayal of that struggle. Plus, the movie’s message extends beyond that crisis: it’s about standing up for your community amidst adversity, and creating a sense of family for people who are otherwise ostracized. 

There’s a sense of duty that you need to pay it forward. Twenty years down the road, I hope that I’ve created an ecosystem for change.—Jared Ruga ’06

And that’s why Jared got into filmmaking. Upon founding Vavani, he wrote an ethos to tell compelling, socially conscious stories from underrepresented perspectives. The philosophy reflects his Rowland Hall roots: “Teachers were focused on making sure we weren’t just learning facts, we were learning how to be good stewards of our society,” he said. “There’s a sense of duty that you need to pay it forward.” Jared and his team have already released another documentary, and eventually hope to have a few films out every year. They’re also exploring “impact campaigns,” which could involve sending movies on tour, creating survivor-support networks, and more—part of Jared’s greater goal of advancing the conversation. “Twenty years down the road, I hope that I’ve created an ecosystem for change.”


Top: Jared in a Vavani Productions writing session for narrative TV series Graduates, one of several projects in development.

Alumni

Sarah Day near fence with Montana mountains in background
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


Sarah Day loved her bucolic childhood spent mostly on a 3,000-acre cattle ranch just outside of Bozeman, Montana. Her family ran a calf-cow operation with 350 cattle and a supporting cast of horses, dogs, and barn cats. “Every day revolved around stewarding the land and the animals,” she said, explaining she took notice as adults around her fixed fences, moved cows, and farmed the land. “I carried that with me.”

Rowland Hall taught me to think about how I can give back and how to take action.—Sarah Day ’06

Her family sold the ranch in 2001, and since then, it’s been rezoned for residential development and broken up into smaller parcels. That change—plus Bozeman’s location in one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties—means housing may be in the former ranch’s future. “It's a little heartbreaking,” Sarah said. “It wasn’t the intention when we sold it.” But Sarah’s not one to sit on the sidelines. The alumna said her nine years at Rowland Hall encouraged her to prioritize community involvement. “Rowland Hall taught me to think about how I can give back,” she said, “and how to take action.” So she asked herself what she could do to protect Bozeman’s open lands—maybe even her family’s former ranch—in the future.

Sarah has been a sales associate for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Montana Properties just since June 2018. She earned a bachelor’s in economics from Connecticut College and a master’s in accounting from Montana State University, then worked in accounting and fundraising. She sought a career shift after a continuing-education accounting class on conservation easements struck a chord with her. The Montana Association of Land Trusts (MALT) hosted the class for accountants, lawyers, real estate agents—anyone who might work on conservation easements, voluntary legal agreements that protect landowners’ properties from future development. Thanks in part to MALT and its member organizations championing such easements, Montana is a leader in open-space preservation. 

MALT’s class heightened Sarah’s interest in becoming a real estate agent—a career her beloved late father introduced her to—but only if she could leverage her city’s economic success to advocate land protection. She knew of a local firm donating a profit percentage to animal shelters, and figured she could do that with conservation. “It just started to click,” she said. So Sarah made the career jump, and now gives 10% of her commissions to local land trusts. It felt amazing to write her first donation check in early 2019, she said. And she’s not only giving cash to the cause—she’s also giving time, as a member of Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s NextGen Advisory Board, a group of young professionals fostering advocacy among their peers.

Sarah gives 10% of her commissions to local land trusts. She’s also giving time as a member of Gallatin Valley Land Trust’s NextGen Advisory Board, a group of young professionals fostering advocacy among their peers.

In the long term, Sarah hopes to work with clients interested in contributing to conservation. For now, she’s content to grow her business and promote Bozeman’s outdoors via her volunteerism, philanthropy, and simple gestures such as handing out trail maps at open houses. Naturally, she and husband Ian Kirby also take advantage of the town’s 80-mile trail system. They favor one loop on Drinking Horse Mountain, shaded by trees and overlooking the valley. It’s gorgeous, Sarah said, and at the trail’s bottom, their Border Collie and Corgi mix, Gear—so named after Ian’s job as a mechanic—likes to splash around in a creek. “Outdoor therapy is a real thing,” she said. “It puts everything in perspective.” And Sarah is working to ensure Bozemanites will always be able to get that perspective from their own backyards.


Top: Sarah Day ’06 on Peet’s Hill, one of her favorite Bozeman trails. (Photo by Troy Meikle)

Alumni

Tyler Ruggles giving a tour of the CMS Collaboration at CERN
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


Two decades ago, now-retired eighth-grade science teacher Nancy Petersen set Tyler Ruggles’ physics interest in motion with word problems about trains traveling from one station to another. Tyler, a Rowland Hall lifer, enjoyed visualizing those reality-based questions. He still leans on that visual aptitude, but he’s since graduated from trains to particles colliding at nearly the speed of light, and from solving for velocity to working with fellow physicists to better understand the equations that govern the universe.

As a University of Wisconsin-Madison physics PhD student and postdoctoral researcher, Tyler spent over five years working for the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Collaboration at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN. Four of those years, he worked on site near Geneva, Switzerland, where the Large Hadron Collider sits in an underground tunnel with a 17-mile circumference.

In layman’s terms, the CMS experiment involves colliding particles and measuring the results. “The CMS detector is essentially a gigantic camera taking photos of what's showering outwards from the middle of these collisions,” Tyler explained. “From that, we can reconstruct what happened at the very center of a collision.” Tyler’s work and that of the collaboration has helped confirm characteristics of the Higgs boson, a particle originally theorized in the 1960s. This sort of testing is a critical part of the scientific method.

physicist in control room

Tyler Ruggles looks at a visualization of a collision between protons on a monitor in the CMS control room. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Ruggles)

Tyler said it was exciting to put even a tiny dent in helping to decode the cosmos, and working at CERN—alongside some of the smartest physicists alive—deepened his own understanding of the field. “I could have envisioned myself staying at CERN for my whole life,” he said. Eventually, though, he gravitated back to what he called the more pressing issue of climate change—a problem he first tackled at Colorado College. His senior year, one of Tyler’s roommates volunteered their dilapidated house for an energy audit from a campus group. The friends learned they could insulate their attic and quickly recoup the cost through lower bills, so they rented a machine to spray the insulation themselves. “One of my friend's rooms never recovered—there was some insulation stuck to the floor for the rest of the year,” Tyler laughed. 

Messy as it was, the project gave Tyler clear takeaways: he loved the confluence of thermodynamics, community-oriented work, and fighting climate change through energy efficiency. “I saw all three of those come together in that moment,” he said. He joined that campus group the next day, and eventually became a group leader. After that, he worked in the rural Colorado mountains, educating energy customers about efficiency and developing a workforce to make energy upgrades to buildings. He valued those roles, but missed digging into the science. “I headed back to do what I loved from eighth grade,” he said. So he earned a PhD, and now he’s combining his three work passions.

Tyler is now doing energy-system and electric-grid modeling, and determining how society can progress toward a grid without carbon emissions. He and his colleagues hope to publish in academic journals, steer future research, and influence those with political clout.

In June, Tyler started as a postdoctoral researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science on the Stanford University campus. There, he’s doing energy-system and electric-grid modeling, and determining how society can progress toward a grid without carbon emissions. Along the way, he and his colleagues hope to publish in academic journals, steer future research, and influence those with political clout.

Tyler is also exploring uncharted territory in his own personal universe: fatherhood. In 2018, Tyler and his wife, Caroline, welcomed their first child. Neither Rowland Hall nor graduate school could have prepared him for this work, Tyler joked. But he does find himself channeling chapel sessions, where students are taught to value each other: “You can value a crying baby from time to time,” he laughed. “You realize that you're going to help grow a healthy, helpful, kind human, and that makes it worthwhile.”


Top photo: Tyler, far left, gives American tech entrepreneur William Hurley and associates a tour of the CMS Collaboration at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 5, 2018. (Photo courtesy of CERN)

Alumni

Jeanna Tachiki Ryan demonstrates PreOv
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


Jeanna Tachiki Ryan is a force of nature with a colorful Google calendar anchoring her bustling life. She’s working in her dream job as the first physician assistant (PA) in the University of Utah Allergy and Immunology Clinic—one of two clinics in Utah and the surrounding area to offer an oral-immunotherapy program addressing life-threatening food allergies. She’s mom to three daughters—her oldest, first-grader Sabrina, has a peanut allergy, which amplified Jeanna’s passion for that field. And the alumna is the co-founder of an award-winning startup: she’s chief technology officer (CTO) of PreOv, a user-friendly fertility monitor aimed at helping women conceive.

Jeanna and two friends entered the U’s 2018 Bench to Bedside competition for medical innovations with the concept of PreOv, and took home the $50,000 grand prize. “It felt surreal,” Jeanna said. Following that validation, PreOv obtained seed-round funding—in addition to cash prizes from two other U competitions—and is now finalizing a working prototype. The company plans to start a series A round of funding in 2020. “I hope PreOv will empower women with knowledge about their body, menstrual cycle, and health without sacrificing time and energy,” she said. “Women deserve better tools.”

Competition winners accepting giant check.

Jeanna Tachiki Ryan, center, and her team accept their initial $50,000 Bench to Bedside award for PreOv. (Photo courtesy of the University of Utah Center for Medical Innovation)

PreOv provides automated fertility monitoring via an intravaginal ring and Bluetooth app. Jeanna speaks compellingly about its value, and candidly about her own difficulties getting pregnant—common but often unspoken experiences. During one pitch competition, she publicly shared her story for the first time, something she hesitated to do since she now has three kids. “Our outcome doesn’t even compare to the pain others have experienced,” she said. But she opened up, and shed light on a complex topic.

Before starting PA school, Jeanna and husband John knew they wanted another child, so she painstakingly tracked her fertility indicators. “It was a ton of work, but we got pregnant,” she said. Tragically, she had a miscarriage. “On top of the heartache and grief, all of that work and time trying to get pregnant was gone.” The process shouldn’t be so tortuous: “The disappointment of a negative pregnancy test month after month is hopeless enough.”

Jeanna is advocating for her future female users and raising the bar for women’s health, a field too often neglected. She gives Rowland Hall credit for her inclusive, service-driven foundation.

Now, as CTO of a women-led, women-centric company, she’s advocating for her future female users and raising the bar for women’s health. That field is too often neglected, Jeanna said, but she’s faced such challenges head on in her career—from her work as a dietitian in Boston and Chicago helping disenfranchised populations, to her PA stint. And she gives Rowland Hall credit for her inclusive, service-driven foundation. “I was in the minority growing up in Utah being Japanese American and Buddhist,” she said. But her school made her feel accepted, and taught her to value diversity. “Because of this, I enjoy learning about other cultures,” she said, “and have gravitated towards serving the underserved.”

That passion has propelled Jeanna through the trials and tribulations of PreOv. She cited a quote from Jordan Hewson, daughter of U2 singer Bono, that compares starting a business to sprinting a marathon in a ghoul-filled labyrinth—sans David Bowie. “That’s what it’s like,” Jeanna joked. But her experience gives her an edge: in addition to her PA master's from the U, she has a bachelor's and master's in nutrition and a master's in computer information systems from Boston University. The latter helps her bridge the gap between IT and healthcare delivery—a pillar of PreOv. Another advantage: Jeanna’s leadership skills, initially forged as a Rowland Hall volleyball and softball captain. Pitcher Jeanna said her softball team’s regular losses sharpened her resilience. “With every loss, I had to pick myself up and get back on the mound.” As in softball, so in life: Jeanna will keep pitching, and perfecting, the 21st-century family-planning tool women deserve.


Top photo: Jeanna shows off a PreOv prototype at downtown Salt Lake City business incubator Church and State, where her team uses the public space and conference rooms for meetings.

Alumni

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