Doug Wortham (pictured top), French teacher, retires after an inspiring 43 years at Rowland Hall. Doug taught all levels of Upper School French, coaxing students to the highest levels of language mastery and fluency through his strong standards, hard work, and relationships built on trust, encouragement, and connection. He also led legendary Interim trips, mentored colleagues, and launched the school’s ombudsperson program. He is held in the highest esteem by the entire community and will long be remembered for his work ethic, nonstop energy, kindness, wisdom, and passion for teaching. “My life’s joys, triumphs, difficult moments, and even profound loss have all been framed by our community, by you,” reflected Doug. “I will always be grateful for all of you under one name, Rowland Hall.” Read alum Johanna Varner’s retirement tribute to Doug.
Paul Christensen, AB Calculus and algebra 2 teacher, retires after an impressive 37 years at Rowland Hall. A respected and beloved teacher, Mr. C was a mentor to legions of students, as well as to his adult colleagues. He will be remembered for his loyalty, wisdom, generosity, and kindness—and for his playful nature (his hilarious memes and jokes served as a bright light for many, particularly during the isolating early days of the pandemic). “Looking back now it all seems a blur, but a blur of rich and satisfying adventures, successes and failures, laughter, and tears,” said Paul. “I am grateful for the dedication, influence, and example of strong and stellar colleagues, present and past. You have challenged my thinking, deepened my emotions, and broadened my perspectives.” Read alum Mary Anne Wetzel’s retirement tribute to Paul.
Debbie Skidmore, nurse assistant, retires after 26 years at Rowland Hall. In addition to her most recent role in the McCarthey Campus nurse’s office, Debbie has also served the Lower School as a lunchroom monitor, recess monitor, and Extended Day support person. She has consistently and eagerly taken on new challenges, and her ability to provide TLC to students, communicate with parents and caregivers, and maintain a positive attitude have left an indelible impression on our community. She will be remembered by students and colleagues as one of the kindest, most thoughtful people they know. Read fourth-grade students Aria A. and Hannah H.’s retirement tribute to Debbie.
Javier Pinedo, chess teacher, retired in fall 2020 after almost 22 years at Rowland Hall. The leader of a nationally renowned chess program, Javier was an outstanding advocate for the benefits of chess as part of Rowland Hall’s curriculum—he not only taught first- through fifth-grade students how to play the game, but he helped them learn essential skills like predicting, problem solving, using empathy, taking risks, and learning from mistakes, which built their confidence (and, as a bonus, resulted in many city, state, and national championships). We sincerely miss him and wish him all the best in this new chapter of life.
I have loved working with all of you to build the community that we enjoy today.—Kathy Gundersen, director of admission
Kathy Gundersen, director of admission, retires after 20 years. Kathy joined Rowland Hall in 2001 as director of admission for the beginning and lower schools before taking on her current role in 2012. Known for her compassion and steadfast commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Kathy has built incredible relationships during her tenure at Rowland Hall. Every student who has joined our community during the past nine years has been welcomed and supported by Kathy and her team—there are few others in our school whose impact is as broadly felt as hers (read former Head of School Alan’s Sparrow’s memories of working with Kathy). While we will miss her, we are also excited for her to spend more time with her husband, Finn, and their two sons. “I have loved working with all of you to build the community that we enjoy today,” said Kathy.
Beverly Facklam, second-grade teacher, retires after 16 years at Rowland Hall. During her time here, Beverly’s enthusiasm, as well as her enjoyment of young learners, benefited her many students, while her colleagues reaped the benefits of her passion for growth and learning—and her excellent sense of humor. “What a pleasure it has been to be a part of the Rowland Hall community for the past 16 years,” said Beverly. Congratulations!
Sara Dacklin, third-grade teacher, retires after 15 years at Rowland Hall. Sara’s classroom has always been defined by a happy buzz of students, and her focus on relationships, her continual work to improve her teaching practice, and her personal values of respect, kindness, and fun will be missed tremendously in the Lower School. “It has been a privilege to be a part of such a unique community, and for that I am incredibly grateful,” said Sara. We wish her all the best.
Erika McCarthy, fourth-grade teacher, retires after 14 years at Rowland Hall. Erika will be remembered for her natural ability to connect with her students and colleagues. “The past 14 years at Rowland Hall have been absolutely wonderful,” Erika reflected. “I finally found a place where I was with like-minded people, the curriculum was incredibly interesting, and the community was so accepting.” We’ll miss you, Erika!
Chuck White, emotional support counselor, retires after 13 years at Rowland Hall. Since 2008, Chuck taught students in the beginning and lower schools to mindfully recognize and regulate their feelings, resolve conflict, solve problems, and fill friends’ buckets with respect and kindness. We will miss him and his deep care and support for our students. “I have considered it a great privilege to have been a part of this amazing community,” said Chuck.
It has been a privilege to be a part of such a unique community, and for that I am incredibly grateful.—Sara Dacklin, third-grade teacher
Doug Booher, Middle School athletic director and administrative assistant, left Rowland Hall in April 2021 after 12 years to spend more time with family. Our community benefited greatly from Doug's work as a coach, advisor, registrar, athletic director, and champion of kids. A quiet leader and constant advocate for the Middle School, he worked tirelessly behind the scenes to support all students. He is missed!
Allison Spehar, Middle School director of community programs and dance and wellness teacher, left Rowland Hall in January 2021 to become the administrative manager of equity, diversity, and inclusion for Salt Lake City Public Library. During her eight years at Rowland Hall, Allison inspired students in a wide range of disciplines and was instrumental in helping both students and adults enhance their self-awareness, regulation, empathy, and social skills. Many of our programs—including Middle School Advisory and the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee—benefited from Allison's interests, skills, knowledge, and passions.
Brian Birchler, math teacher, leaves Rowland Hall for a new professional opportunity after nearly eight years at the school. Brian taught a variety of subjects in mathematics—most recently geometry and his own Advanced Topics Statistics curriculum—to every grade in the Upper School, served as the Math Department chair, coached mountain biking, and took students to Southern Utah during Interim in previous years. He will be missed by his students and colleagues alike, and we wish him well on his next adventure.
Kait Abraham, lead 4PreK teacher, leaves Rowland Hall after seven years to spend time with her family. Kait joined the Beginning School faculty in 2015, where she first worked in—and dramatically improved—the enrichment program. She transitioned to 4PreK in 2018, where she’s built strong relationships with students (and their families) and supported their learning growth. Kait is exceptionally warm and has a gift for clear and direct communication cushioned with compassion. We will miss her!
Erika Palsson, executive assistant to the head of school and board liaison, will leave Rowland Hall in July 2021, after seven years of service. Whip-smart, funny, kind, considerate, and caring, Erika is a consummate professional who thinks strategically and always acts in the best interest of the school. We wish her all the best with her new adventures and thank her for everything she has done for Rowland Hall.
Alisa Poppen, biology and chemistry teacher, leaves Rowland Hall for a new opportunity. Alisa taught several levels of biology and chemistry, and, as department chair, was integral to shifting Rowland Hall’s Advanced Placement (AP) classes to Advanced Topics to emphasize lab skills and writing beyond what the AP curriculum allowed and to better prepare students for university-level science classes. Alisa also championed improved lab safety and a significant upgrade of lab equipment and helped kickstart the conversation about curricular and sequence shifts in the science department.
Nick Banyard, network manager, left Rowland Hall after six years in January 2021 to join SpaceX. During his time at the school, he did an incredible job learning the complexities of—as well as updating and streamlining—our networking systems. Nick oversaw large-scale projects, like migrating users to a single-sign-on system and virtualizing servers, as well as utilized his excellent customer service and top-notch technical support skills to help faculty and staff streamline workflows and classrooms.
Jij de Jesus, Lower School principal, leaves Rowland Hall after six years to become the associate head of school at Pluralistic School One in Santa Monica, California. Jij's skill and passion as an educator are undeniable, driven by a vision for what young learners could and should experience at school, along with a knowledge of how to support teachers to bring out the best in everyone. In the six years he led the Lower School, Jij developed student-centered programs like Maker Night and initiatives like Responsive Classroom, hired and coached exceptional faculty and staff, and helped guide the school's critical work in diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will greatly miss his humor, spirit, and intelligence.
Chaleh Thirkill, McCarthey Campus nurse, leaves Rowland Hall after six years. During her time at the school, Chaleh harnessed her experience as a pediatric nurse, as well as her active membership in the Utah School Nurse Association, to provide compassionate care to students, teachers, staff, and parents. A strong advocate for school nursing, Chaleh has positively touched the lives of many. We wish her the best.
Levi Todd, Technology Support Center manager, leaves Rowland Hall for an opportunity in the Jordan School District. During his six years at the school, Levi learned all of Rowland Hall’s technology systems and kept computers and iPads updated and repaired. Known for his excellent customer service skills, Levi greeted Technology Support Center visitors with a smile and was always willing to jump into a new project or task. He will be missed.
I have considered it a great privilege to have been a part of this amazing community.—Chuck White, emotional support counselor
Kelly Hermans, digital communications manager, left Rowland Hall in April 2021 after more than five years to join the Huntsman Cancer Foundation as marketing and communications specialist. Kelly put her signature touch on every project she worked on, applying a sharp, creative, and efficient approach that elevated the work of the Marketing Department. We are grateful to have benefited from her writing, editing, photography, graphic design, and problem-solving skills—not to mention her inside-out knowledge of The Chicago Manual of Style. Best wishes!
Darcy Marvin, McCarthey Campus physical education teacher, leaves Rowland Hall after five years to move with her family to Texas. Darcy taught third through fifth graders, sharing with them her passion for healthy habits, skill mastery, and the thrill of discovering a sport or activity that can be enjoyed for life. Her ability to collaborate with others to incorporate the best physical-education practices and activities for students, as well as her calm demeanor and thoughtfulness, will be missed. We wish her and her family the best in their upcoming adventure.
Courtney Castleton, accounts payable and accounting associate, left Rowland Hall in August 2021 after four years. Courtney played a key role in the Business Office, where she was responsible for processing check requests and invoices, reconciling credit card statements, and making payments to vendors. We wish her the very best!
Ray Szczepaniak, sixth-grade math teacher, retires from teaching after four years at Rowland Hall. Ray will be remembered as one of the kindest, most humble, and supportive members of the Middle School team. Incredibly thoughtful and generous with his time, Ray has always been willing to work with students to help them realize their mathematical potential, and he’s embraced the challenges of the pandemic by collaborating with his fellow teachers on a new, highly differentiated math program for students. “I came to Utah from Tennessee looking for an adventure at the end of my career, and I found it in the mountains and valleys and the awesome national parks. I expected that,” wrote Ray. “What I didn't expect was to find it in the hearts and minds and spirits of my amazing colleagues. You are adventurous in your curiosity, your openness, and the incredible way you've risen to the challenges of the pandemic. And you share your sense of adventure and wonder and love with your students. I'll always be grateful that you shared it with me as well.”
Graham Flinn, Rowmark head women's U19–21 coach and head conditioning coach, leaves Rowland Hall after three years to become head coach of the US Ski Team men's Development Team. A talented coach, Graham supports athletes, both physically and mentally, within an environment of respect, teamwork, and fun, which also allows his coaching team to gain experience, independence, and confidence. Congratulations to Graham on this new opportunity!
Dr. Mindy Vanderloo, Upper School social-emotional support counselor, left in August 2021 after three years. While at Rowland Hall, Mindy improved divisional and all-school policies and practices around student wellness and mental health, as well as taught skills for supporting students. From SafeUT to the student Mental Health Educators group, to a variety of faculty trainings like QPR and Mental Health First Aid, Mindy leaves a significant and visible legacy. She will be deeply missed.
Darryl Whitaker, Rowmark Junior coach, left Rowland Hall in fall 2020 after more than two years of service to become the program director of the Kirkwood Ski Team in California, a move that also allows him to be closer to family. Darryl was a key member of the Rowmark coaching staff and made a positive impact on the development of our student-athletes.
Bryan Bailey, director of transportation, leaves the school after two years to join Marathon Petroleum. With a strong background in safety, scheduling, and budget management, Bryan has done an outstanding job leading his department, including bringing a keen eye to policy and procedures. We wish him well!
Dr. Kaci Kuntz, chemistry teacher, leaves Rowland Hall after two years for a new opportunity. Kaci taught chemistry and Advanced Topics Chemistry in the Upper School, served as an advisor, and developed research science, a class that gives students an opportunity to work collaboratively in a laboratory to learn the research process and to gain experience in simulation environments, computer programming, data analysis, and a broad cross-section of scientific disciplines. Kaci will continue to partner with the Upper School to maintain this class next year.
Bri LeBreton, Upper School administrative professional and student activities coordinator, leaves the school after two years to become assistant director for diversity at Westminster College. During her time at Rowland Hall, Bri kept the Upper School’s operations, activities, and initiatives running smoothly, as well as worked closely with the Student Council and the student JEDI Committee. We wish her well!
Heather Ernst ’14, McCarthey Campus receptionist, leaves the school after one year. In addition to her most recent role as morning receptionist, Heather previously worked as a SummerWorks counselor and as a lunch/recess monitor. Her bright personality, excellent communication, and organization skills have benefited Rowland Hall during a challenging school year. We wish her the best!
Dave Wood ’05, support teacher, left Rowland Hall in late May 2021 to become the outdoor programs coordinator for Salt Lake County. He was an integral support to the school during the 2020–2021 year, where he filled in as chess teacher, substitute teacher, classroom teacher assistant, and Winter Sports facilitator. His many talents have served us well, and the Lower School is endlessly grateful for Dave’s support. Best of luck in your new role!