Custom Class: post-landing-hero

By Mary Anne Wetzel ’01

Expert trip chaperone. Winged Lion sports fan. Pumpkin carving enthusiast. Steady voice of wisdom. Activity leader. Unwavering good sport. Mentor. Student advocate. Respected colleague. Spreader of humor. Friend.

Paul Christensen, or Mr. C, as he is affectionately referred to by his students, is all of these things, in addition to being an amazing math teacher. Over his 37 years of teaching at Rowland Hall, Mr. C has helped hundreds of students master equations, functions, derivatives, and integrals. But he also excelled at many of the “other duties as assigned” that took him outside the classroom and wedged him firmly in our hearts.

Perhaps one of the biggest testaments to Mr. C’s greatness is that, as a former student who always struggled in math, I consider him a favorite teacher. I first met Mr. C in 1997 as an extremely nervous 14-year-old prospective student visiting Rowland Hall. I attended his class and remember thinking he seemed like the kind of teacher I wouldn’t be afraid to approach and ask questions. Later, as a Rowland Hall student in his precalculus class, I appreciated the fact that he genuinely wanted all of us to learn and understand the material. Didn’t get the homework answers right? That’s OK. Instead of getting a dismal score on your homework without anything to show for it, you could do the problems again and learn from your mistakes. I know that hundreds of students have benefitted from this philosophy.

Mr. C cares about his students and sees each of them as whole human beings to be supported and celebrated.

Mr. C has an infectious smile, appreciates the importance of fun, and wants those around him to be happy. How many teachers buy dozens and dozens of pumpkins for students to carve as a special treat around Halloween? Not enough…but Mr. C did. Oh, and did you have a sports game or a performance last night? You can bet that Mr. C was there in the stands or in the audience cheering you on, or clapping at curtain call. And the next day, he would make a point of finding you in the hall to tell you what a great job you did. He cares about his students and sees each of them as whole human beings to be supported and celebrated.

Math teacher Paul Christensen with students in Moab during Interim 2021.

Paul Christensen (second from left, standing) with students during an Interim trip to Moab in spring 2001. Photo courtesy Mary Anne Wetzel.

He has also achieved black belt chaperone status. Dances, class trips, Interims, field trips…you name it, he’s done it, he’s seen it, and he has the stories to prove it. He’s unflappable, even-keeled, and never panics under pressure. Believe me, there’s no one you would rather have by your side if you sprain your ankle in the middle of the desert and have to go to the Moab ER. I know this because it happened to me. Mr. C was the teacher and responsible adult every student needs in moments like those. I felt safe and taken care of, and we even shared a few jokes as I was getting x-rays. Then he took me to McDonald’s because the man knows about the healing power of french fries and fountain Coke.

In addition to appreciating Mr. C as a teacher, I have also had the privilege of knowing him as a colleague. He joined the Rowland Hall faculty in 1984, so he has mentored countless new folks who have joined our community over the years. I came back to Rowland Hall in 2006 and was able to observe him in a new light. Paul is a veteran faculty member who might not be the first to speak during faculty meeting, but when he does, people listen. He often brings institutional knowledge, context, or deeper considerations to important conversations. It is evident that working together as a team and valuing the ideas and opinions of others are important to him—while always keeping in mind the common goal of doing what is best for students. Paul is flexible and adaptable and can handle any curveball thrown his way, seemingly without skipping a beat. He also cares for the adults at Rowland Hall with the same passion and kindness he gives his students. And I probably should have guessed this, but it turns out being on a class trip with Mr. C as a fellow chaperone might be even more fun than being on a trip with him as a student. He is in his element leading kids on hikes, pitching in to make meals or clean up dishes, and teaching everyone some really fun games while sitting around the fire. Even when the group is tired at the end of the trip, Mr. C’s positive attitude and humor brings the mood up every time.

Thank you for seeing the potential and believing in young people and all they are capable of.

It’s hard to imagine the Upper School without Mr. C, but we are so excited for him to spend time doing the other things he enjoys—being a husband to Pat, a father to his three adult children, a grandfather, a sports fan, a lover of the outdoors, and a seeker of new adventures. Thank you, Paul—Mr. C.—for your dedication to teaching in all its forms. Thank you for forming important relationships with colleagues, parents, and students. Thank you for seeing the potential and believing in young people and all they are capable of. And most of all, thanks for the wonderful memories you have created with all of us at Rowland Hall.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been unable to celebrate our departing colleagues as we customarily would. We are planning an on-campus gathering on Saturday, August 28, to honor those who worked at Rowland Hall for 20 or more years and left the school in 2020 or 2021.


Banner photo: Paul, far right, ziplining with students at Interim 2021.

People

A Teacher Every Student Needs: After 37 Years at Rowland Hall, Beloved Math Educator Paul Christensen Retires

By Mary Anne Wetzel ’01

Expert trip chaperone. Winged Lion sports fan. Pumpkin carving enthusiast. Steady voice of wisdom. Activity leader. Unwavering good sport. Mentor. Student advocate. Respected colleague. Spreader of humor. Friend.

Paul Christensen, or Mr. C, as he is affectionately referred to by his students, is all of these things, in addition to being an amazing math teacher. Over his 37 years of teaching at Rowland Hall, Mr. C has helped hundreds of students master equations, functions, derivatives, and integrals. But he also excelled at many of the “other duties as assigned” that took him outside the classroom and wedged him firmly in our hearts.

Perhaps one of the biggest testaments to Mr. C’s greatness is that, as a former student who always struggled in math, I consider him a favorite teacher. I first met Mr. C in 1997 as an extremely nervous 14-year-old prospective student visiting Rowland Hall. I attended his class and remember thinking he seemed like the kind of teacher I wouldn’t be afraid to approach and ask questions. Later, as a Rowland Hall student in his precalculus class, I appreciated the fact that he genuinely wanted all of us to learn and understand the material. Didn’t get the homework answers right? That’s OK. Instead of getting a dismal score on your homework without anything to show for it, you could do the problems again and learn from your mistakes. I know that hundreds of students have benefitted from this philosophy.

Mr. C cares about his students and sees each of them as whole human beings to be supported and celebrated.

Mr. C has an infectious smile, appreciates the importance of fun, and wants those around him to be happy. How many teachers buy dozens and dozens of pumpkins for students to carve as a special treat around Halloween? Not enough…but Mr. C did. Oh, and did you have a sports game or a performance last night? You can bet that Mr. C was there in the stands or in the audience cheering you on, or clapping at curtain call. And the next day, he would make a point of finding you in the hall to tell you what a great job you did. He cares about his students and sees each of them as whole human beings to be supported and celebrated.

Math teacher Paul Christensen with students in Moab during Interim 2021.

Paul Christensen (second from left, standing) with students during an Interim trip to Moab in spring 2001. Photo courtesy Mary Anne Wetzel.

He has also achieved black belt chaperone status. Dances, class trips, Interims, field trips…you name it, he’s done it, he’s seen it, and he has the stories to prove it. He’s unflappable, even-keeled, and never panics under pressure. Believe me, there’s no one you would rather have by your side if you sprain your ankle in the middle of the desert and have to go to the Moab ER. I know this because it happened to me. Mr. C was the teacher and responsible adult every student needs in moments like those. I felt safe and taken care of, and we even shared a few jokes as I was getting x-rays. Then he took me to McDonald’s because the man knows about the healing power of french fries and fountain Coke.

In addition to appreciating Mr. C as a teacher, I have also had the privilege of knowing him as a colleague. He joined the Rowland Hall faculty in 1984, so he has mentored countless new folks who have joined our community over the years. I came back to Rowland Hall in 2006 and was able to observe him in a new light. Paul is a veteran faculty member who might not be the first to speak during faculty meeting, but when he does, people listen. He often brings institutional knowledge, context, or deeper considerations to important conversations. It is evident that working together as a team and valuing the ideas and opinions of others are important to him—while always keeping in mind the common goal of doing what is best for students. Paul is flexible and adaptable and can handle any curveball thrown his way, seemingly without skipping a beat. He also cares for the adults at Rowland Hall with the same passion and kindness he gives his students. And I probably should have guessed this, but it turns out being on a class trip with Mr. C as a fellow chaperone might be even more fun than being on a trip with him as a student. He is in his element leading kids on hikes, pitching in to make meals or clean up dishes, and teaching everyone some really fun games while sitting around the fire. Even when the group is tired at the end of the trip, Mr. C’s positive attitude and humor brings the mood up every time.

Thank you for seeing the potential and believing in young people and all they are capable of.

It’s hard to imagine the Upper School without Mr. C, but we are so excited for him to spend time doing the other things he enjoys—being a husband to Pat, a father to his three adult children, a grandfather, a sports fan, a lover of the outdoors, and a seeker of new adventures. Thank you, Paul—Mr. C.—for your dedication to teaching in all its forms. Thank you for forming important relationships with colleagues, parents, and students. Thank you for seeing the potential and believing in young people and all they are capable of. And most of all, thanks for the wonderful memories you have created with all of us at Rowland Hall.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been unable to celebrate our departing colleagues as we customarily would. We are planning an on-campus gathering on Saturday, August 28, to honor those who worked at Rowland Hall for 20 or more years and left the school in 2020 or 2021.


Banner photo: Paul, far right, ziplining with students at Interim 2021.

People

Explore More People Stories

Rowland Hall health and wellness teacher Lauren Carpenter teaching on the Salt Lake City, Utah, Lincoln Street Campus.

When it comes to communication with kids, Rowland Hall Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund’s top piece of advice for parents and caregivers is simple.

“Always assure them that they can come talk to you with any questions, concerns, or experiences,” he said. “And when they do, ensure that your reaction is one of partnership and not judgment.”

At times, this advice can be easy to follow: many adults feel equipped to answer, and even welcome, questions about their children’s friendship woes, school worries, or nighttime fears. But when it comes to tougher conversations, like those around sex and sexuality, many caregivers get nervous—especially if they didn’t grow up having honest conversations about sex, or if they were raised to view sex as shameful or negative.

When [health educator Shafia Zaloom] visited our school, she mentioned how impressed she was with our approach to talking to students about healthy relationships in a matter-of-fact, non-judgmental, and caring manner.—Ryan Hoglund, director of ethical education

A fear of talking to kids about sex is common, and for a recent article for USA TODAY, reporter Alia Dastagir set out to answer why. As part of her reporting, she spoke to Ryan, as well as to Rowland Hall Upper School health and wellness teacher Lauren Carpenter, on the recommendation of health educator Shafia Zaloom, who was also interviewed for the article. Shafia got to know the Rowland Hall community last September when she held virtual workshops on healthy relationships for middle and upper school students and for parents and caregivers—an experience that influenced her decision to recommend our educators as sources to the national publication.

“When Shafia visited our school, she mentioned how impressed she was with our approach to talking to students about healthy relationships in a matter-of-fact, non-judgmental, and caring manner,” said Ryan. “As someone who travels the country talking at schools and colleges, she expressed that she does not always see such a comprehensive wellness model.”

And this kind of model is important, the USA TODAY article stresses, because kids need accurate, honest information about sex more than ever before. In the piece, published September 8 and titled “Why Adults Are So Afraid to Talk to Kids about Sex,” Ryan, Lauren, and Shafia debunk the belief that comprehensive sex education encourages teens to have sex, or even promotes promiscuity. In fact, Lauren pointed out, the opposite is true: accurate, comprehensive information about sex actually protects teens’ health and lives—and this is especially important, added Ryan, because today’s kids live in a sex-saturated media environment that exposes them to sexual messages earlier than ever.

“Talking to your kids about sex and sharing your family’s values with them in an open and curious forum does not mean that you condone them engaging in sexual activity—when we talk to kids about drugs, we don't expect that they'll want to use them because we had that conversation,” said Lauren. “If anything, I think it helps your kids see you as an advocate and strengthens their support system.”

To help get adults comfortable with conversations around sex and sexuality, the educators recommend that they work through personal worries, fears, or hesitations, as well as examine their own sex educations for sources of discomfort. It’s necessary to get comfortable with the subject, they said, because talking to kids about healthy sexuality can’t be accomplished in one big talk: it needs to happen often, and it needs to begin when children are young, as part of an overall approach to helping them feel safe coming to their guardians with any questions. As Ryan shared with USA TODAY, "If you're not having that conversation, the conversation's happening somewhere else—peers, the Internet, or in your first relationship where you're negotiating a power dynamic of one person who knows and the other one who doesn't.”

“Developing all kinds of relationships is part of the natural progression of human life. But navigating those relationships in a positive and responsible way is not innate,” Lauren added. “For adolescents to learn how to navigate the many facets of sexuality and how to make positive, self-affirming choices, it's important to have a parent or guardian's voice leading in an understanding and supportive way.”

It’s okay to not have all the answers, or to return to a conversation later, or to ask your kids for feedback on how they want to approach a subject. It’s also okay to plan what you want to say ahead of time and to lean on resources, including other adults your kids trust.

The educators also offered USA TODAY readers a variety of tips, from teaching kids about consent, empathy, and privacy early, to reminding parents that they don’t have to be perfect when it comes to talking about sex and sexuality: it’s okay to not have all the answers, or to return to a conversation later, or to ask your kids for feedback on how they want to approach a subject. It’s also okay, they said, to plan what you want to say ahead of time and to lean on available resources, including other adults your kids know and trust (see below for a list of Ryan and Lauren’s top resource recommendations). The educators are hopeful that these tips will inspire more honest, trust-building conversations in homes across America.

“I was so happy to see the topic discussed in a national forum, and I appreciated the opportunity to add to the conversation,” said Lauren. “Normalizing the conversation regarding teen sexuality might begin to help diminish cultural stigmas related to it and allow more open conversation—ultimately leading to healthier relationships for teens.”

Resources

There are many resources available to help families navigate conversations about sex and sexuality. Below are some of Ryan and Lauren’s top recommendations.

  • Your child's pediatrician. Not only is your pediatrician a wonderful resource for you, said Ryan, but they’re also a great resource for your child. “Make sure they have a trusting relationship, and that your child has their own set of questions they can ask at annual well-child visits,” he said.

  • Books. Lauren recommends Shafia Zaloom’s Sex, Teens, and Everything in Between, Michael Kimmel’s Guyland, and Al Vernacchio’s For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way We Talk to Teens about Sexuality, Values, and Health.

  • School counselors and health teachers. Reach out to your child’s school to learn who can support you. For Rowland Hall families, Ryan said, “Leslie Czerwinski and Lauren Carpenter are amazing educators who are so respected in wellness circles for their years of service and expertise. Any opportunity to join them in an important conversation I am going to take, because I know I am going to learn something as a parent and colleague.”

  • Local nonprofits. “My top resources are Planned Parenthood, YWCA Utah, the Rape Recovery Center, UCASA [the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault], and the Utah Pride Center,” said Lauren.

  • Utah Department of Health. The state’s website includes information on a wide variety of topics.


Check out the full USA TODAY article here. (Subscription required.)

People

Rowland Hall Student Body President Samantha Lehman speaking at Convocation.

At the start of each new school year, Rowland Hall holds a Convocation ceremony. The 2021 event, held on Friday, August 27, centered around the theme (and school value) Relationships Matter.

Every year, Rowland Hall’s student body president is invited to address the group of students, faculty and staff, trustees, alumni, and families gathered for Convocation. (Check out the 2020 speech here.) This year’s president, Samantha Lehman—who recently wrote a reflection for Fine Print about appearing on the Utah House of Representatives podcast to discuss the toll the pandemic is taking on students' mental well-being—used the event to inspire students to find ways to tap into their own superpowers, even amidst personal and global challenges, to achieve their goals. Her speech—lightly edited here for style and context—appears below.


By Samantha Lehman, student body president

Most people would describe me as a nerd.

You may think the term nerd has a negative connotation, but I take it as a compliment. And part of what makes me a nerd is that I am a very avid reader. If someone gave me a book for my birthday, I would actually read it. If I tell my parents I’m going for a hike, I’m probably just going to Barnes and Noble in my workout clothes. However, when I got to high school, work and extracurriculars just sort of piled up. I didn’t have time to read anymore, so I preferred watching a show to reading because it was easier.

But my New Year’s resolution last year was to read 20 minutes of a non-school book a day, and I’ve ended up getting back into reading as a result. Now, I don’t mean reading Shakespeare, War and Peace, or Grapes of Wrath. I mean traditional, fun, not-really-brain-intensive young adult fantasy. Think Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Shadow and Bone, etc. I read these types of books because they allowed me to escape from my daily life into an epic fantasy world filled with dragons, and knights, and magic, and demigods.

Rowland Hall Student Body President Samantha Lehman speaking at Convocation 2021.


And as I read more and more of these types of books, I realized that most of them follow a general formula for how they’re constructed. It goes as follows:



  1. Main character is facing some struggle at home.

  2. Main character finds out they have magical powers.

  3. Main character goes to a special place for people with magical powers.

  4. Main character is involved in a conflict, but ends up defeating the villain, usually with the help of teammates.


There I was, struggling to deal with real life, thinking about this formula and wishing that some big dude with an umbrella would bust down my door and tell me that I was actually a wizard and offer me an escape from reality ... and I would feel sad and disappointed that that probably wasn’t going to happen. So I decided to change my mindset. I started to compare this formula to my everyday life, and—while I know this might sound a little crazy—I realized that they’re not so different.

I thought back to first grade, when I didn't really like school and was struggling to find my place. It wasn’t until my teacher, Susanna, told us about a story-writing project that I discovered my love for writing and storytelling. Writing was my magical power, and it was just my luck that I was in a special place that fostered that power: school. Writing helped me slay the first-grade dragon, and has helped me ever since, by serving as a stress reliever, a way to express my voice, and a way to connect with others.

I thought back to Middle School, when I was unsure whether or not I could be a scientist. It wasn’t until I earned my first exceeding on a science test that I realized, “Hey, I could actually do this stuff.” Realizing that I could do anything I set my mind to, including science, was a magical power.

Find your superpower, support your friends and teammates, beat the odds together, achieve your goals, and do it again. Use school as a place where you can strengthen your powers, and find ways outside of school to continue to grow.—Samantha Lehman, class of 2022

I thought back to all the instances when I found new abilities through trying new things—and the times when I’d failed and fallen. And I’m still here. I defeated all of those challenges, I’ve grown, and I did it with the help of new friends, teammates, and abilities I didn’t even know I possessed.

These past two years have been tough. We’ve lost friends, family, and time. We’ve been alone, limited, and angry at the world. But you are all still here. You’ve made it through years of hardship and school. You’ve climbed barriers, faced the odds, suffered through ERBs—and yet you’re still standing.

So this year, I challenge each of you to live your life like you are in a young adult fantasy book. Find your superpower, support your friends and teammates, beat the odds together, achieve your goals, and do it again. Use school as a place where you can strengthen your powers, and find ways outside of school to continue to grow. You are warriors, and knights, and scientists, and writers, and historians, and mathematicians, and debaters, and artists, and athletes, and computer geniuses. You are strong, smart, and unique. So use those powers to live your own fantasy, because even though the real world is no magical school, summer camp, or palace, you are brave enough to face it.

Thank you.


Banner photo: Members of the class of 2022 wave to this year's first graders in a COVID-adjusted version of the high-fives usually given at Convocation.

Student Voices

High school students wave to the camera on the first day of school

Welcome, Winged Lions!

Rowland Hall was excited to welcome students to our two campuses this week as we kicked off the 2021–2022 school year on Wednesday, August 25. As they arrived, students and families were greeted by a golden sunrise, old and new friends, a peppy group of faculty and staff, and an overall air of excitement. (Some even met Roary, our trusty school mascot, as they made their way to classrooms.) Below, please enjoy some of the images captured on the first day of school.

We look forward to a wonderful year together filled with deep learning, joy, and new memories.

First Day Photo Gallery: McCarthey Campus (PreK through Fifth Grades)

First Day Photo Gallery: Lincoln Street Campus (Sixth through Twelfth Grades)

Community

Student Samantha Lehman at the Utah state capitol.


At the beginning of June, rising Rowland Hall senior Samantha Lehman began an internship for the Utah House of Representatives majority staff. She spent two weeks sitting in on appropriations and caucus meetings, communicating important information through social media, and researching everything from local procedures for foreign diplomats visiting Utah to water and transportation policy (did you know that 32,933,228,764 miles were driven on Utah roads in 2019? Neither did Samantha!).

While working at the capitol, Samantha was approached by Harry Hansen, communications manager and podcast host, who asked to interview her for the Utah House of Representatives podcast about her experience attending high school during a pandemic. She said yes, and when Harry asked if there was anything specific she wanted to talk about, Samantha immediately answered, “Mental health.” Below, Samantha, a Rowland Hall mental health educator and this year’s student body president, reflects on why she chose to focus that discussion on the toll the pandemic is taking on students' mental well-being.

Mental Health and the Pandemic: A High Schooler’s Perspective

By Samantha Lehman, Class of 2022

The movies don’t lie when they say that high school is tough.

I, and many other students, found it hard to stay motivated and to care about things we were previously interested in. I felt alone, helpless, burned out, and like I was a failure for not being more engaged. It was as if Earth’s gravity had suddenly increased: everything looked the same, but it was harder to lift myself up.

Homework, studying, and the epic highs and lows of extracurriculars are enormously stressful, so a balance between friends and work can help make school manageable. However, the pandemic meant students were isolated in their rooms, unable to be around their friends, making school feel more strenuous and boring. Additionally, in-person class is hard to replicate on Zoom. There’s just not the same energy, and focusing is near impossible when a) you have been staring at a screen for hours at a time, and b) the world of the internet is at your fingertips (I’ll be fully transparent here: I definitely watched The Office instead of paying attention in class more than a couple of times). As the year went on, many students found it harder and harder to keep up with work and make themselves pay attention to what they were supposed to be learning, even if they were able to be in person at school some of the time. I, and many other students, found it hard to stay motivated and to care about things we were previously interested in. I felt alone, helpless, burned out, and like I was a failure for not being more engaged. It was as if Earth’s gravity had suddenly increased: everything looked the same, but it was harder to lift myself up.

Another problem with school during a pandemic is repetitive thoughts. When you’re stuck at home all day in front of a computer with nothing but your brain to keep you company, repetitive thoughts become a real problem. My brain kept telling me, “You should be doing better at school,” or, “You’re a horrible student and don’t deserve to be here,” and, “You’re a failure.” After hearing those things again and again, I started to believe them. Unfortunately, many of my classmates had this experience as well, and they struggled with school and their mental health as a result.

For some students, having their routine dramatically switched up by the pandemic was a huge challenge. For others, they enjoyed being online for school, perhaps because they are uncomfortable in many social situations, so going back in person towards the end of the year was a hard adjustment. Maybe a student lost a relative or a friend during or to the pandemic and didn’t get the community support they needed. Regardless of the reason, the pandemic impacted every student’s mental health in some way, and that may have long-lasting effects, even if this school year looks a little more normal.

I think it’s important to realize that mental health is not a reason a person isn’t strong. You can be strong and still struggle with your mental health.

I think it’s important to realize that struggling with mental health is not a reason a person isn’t strong. You can be strong and still struggle with your mental health. Take Simone Biles, for example. She has 31 Olympic and World Championship medals and pulled out of the Olympic team competition to prioritize her mental health. That’s strength if I’ve ever seen it. A person also doesn’t have to be diagnosed with something like anxiety, OCD, or depression to need to take time to prioritize their mental health. Brains are weird and life is hard.

As we continue to navigate the pandemic, the advice I’d give to parents and guardians is to remember it’s important to realize that kids need time to recharge and get their heads on straight to succeed. It’s OK for kids to feel tired and want to take breaks from work, and caregivers should encourage them to prioritize their mental health as well as support their kids in times of struggle. My parents support me by reminding me that they are there for me and by never judging or criticizing me for struggling with mental health.

Additionally, as students, we need to remember to support each other. There is never a bad time to tell a friend that they are doing great and that you are there for them. As a community, we need to continue to uplift each other and give each other the space to put mental health first.

Student Voices

You Belong at Rowland Hall