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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 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

New Basketball Coach Sets High Expectations, Winged Lions Rise to the Occasion

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 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

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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

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

Achievements of the Class of 2019

The graduates in Rowland Hall’s class of 2019 are a diverse and talented group of young people ready to make their mark on the world. During their years at our school, they excelled in the classrooms and laboratories, on the playing field and stage, in service to each other and our greater community, and by living with authenticity, courage, and hope.

This class includes several top-tier debate students, including two winners of the National Speech and Debate Association’s Academic All-American Award and one student who, with her partner, finished third in this year’s Tournament of Champions—the most successful finish in Rowland Hall debate history.

Seniors in this class pushed themselves academically through rigorous coursework during the year supplemented by summer learning at institutions including the University of Utah, Oxford University, Indiana University, and Stanford University. They completed internships with Wasatch Advisors, McNeill Von Maack, Avenues Pet Clinic, and Alliance for a Better Utah, among others, and continued their learning through independent study in subjects including Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and engineering. This class includes several top-tier debate students, including two winners of the National Speech and Debate Association’s Academic All-American Award and one student who, with her partner, finished third in this year’s Tournament of Champions—the most successful finish in Rowland Hall debate history.

The class of 2019 has no shortage of artists, ranging from dancers and musicians to poets and painters. Beyond performing in Rowland Hall productions, they have graced the stage with the University of Utah’s Youth Theatre Conservatory, the Utah Youth Philharmonic, the Salt Lake Dance Company, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Several seniors in our Advanced Chamber Ensemble earned superior ratings year after year in state competitions, and one was named concertmaster for the Utah Music Educators Association All-State Orchestra this past winter. These young artists continued their creative studies during the summer at the Interlochen Center for the Arts and at Carnegie Mellon University, and one recently traveled to Australia to perform with Dance and the Child International. One talented young writer won the Jewish Community Center’s Annual Holocaust Poetry Competition, and another teaches poetry classes to children at the Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center.

Six Academic All-State and nine Academic All-Region honorees led seven of our athletic teams to earn the Top 2A Team GPA award for their sport this year, as designated by the Utah Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. Of the five seniors in Rowmark Ski Academy, all competed in the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) Western Region Junior Championships, and two competed in the U.S. Junior National Championships and U.S. National Championships.

Our seniors led our athletics program to top-five finishes in the Deseret News 2A All-Sports Awards each year of their high school careers. They captured 27 Region and nine State titles as teams. Eight of our seniors were named All-State, nine earned All-Region honors, and five were selected to play in the postseason All-Star games of their respective sports this year. Six Academic All-State and nine Academic All-Region honorees led seven of our athletic teams to earn the Top 2A Team GPA award for their sport this year, as designated by the Utah Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. Of the five seniors in Rowmark Ski Academy, all competed in the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) Western Region Junior Championships, and two competed in the U.S. Junior National Championships and U.S. National Championships. Their ski-racing successes include seven race wins the past two seasons, including a first-place in slalom in the FIS Western Region Junior Championship, nine total FIS podium finishes and a third place in the Intermountain Division Cup overall downhill standings. Outside of school, members of the class of 2019 pursued diverse athletics interests: two are avid sailors, one is a competitive CrossFit athlete, one is the winningest wrestler in the history of West High School, and another won the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award for his aptitude and performance as a baseball player.

Every graduating class includes students who have devoted countless hours volunteering throughout the community, and the people and organizations touched by our current students include: the National Ability Center, Women of the World, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Angel Flight West, the Road Home book club, Intermountain Healthcare, Girl Up, the Utah Pride Center, and the International Rescue Committee. These seniors also embraced leadership roles on campus, whether tutoring Middle School students, serving as college counseling ambassadors, or advocating for the work of our Queer-Straight Alliance. One attended the People of Color Conference and subsequently formed a thriving affinity group at Rowland Hall, another has been an active leader in the Salt Lake City chapter of B’nai B’rith Youth International since eighth grade, and two were instrumental in organizing last spring’s local March for Our Lives. 

During their years at our school, they excelled in the classrooms and laboratories, on the playing field and stage, in service to each other and our greater community, and by living with authenticity, courage, and hope.

A significant number of these students have also held down jobs while in school, ranging from hostessing at restaurants to working as mechanics to supporting the office management for their family businesses. Balancing school, service, and work has still not deterred them from passion projects, whether that means backpacking across Wyoming, producing music, or creating and managing a sports website with a staff of 12 writers. 

The 71 seniors in Rowland Hall’s graduating class earned admission to 114 different colleges and universities, and will matriculate to 44 institutions across the United States and Canada this fall. Over half the senior class was offered at least one merit scholarship to attend college. Yet college is far from the destination for these young adults. Rather, it is merely a stepping stone on their journeys to living lives of purpose and impact. 

Congratulations to the class of 2019: you have already achieved many great things in your young lives, and we know the best is yet to come.

Students

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 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

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