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Jeanne Zeigler, Lower School teacher, retires after 38 years of dedicated service. She began her Rowland Hall career in 1981 as a kindergarten aide who also oversaw the Extended Day Program. Since then, she’s taught in first, second, and third grade; implemented and worked as the lead mentor in a teacher-mentoring program; served as an ombudsperson; and won the Sumner Award (1994) and the Jones Award (2009). During her tenure, Jeanne was a caring teacher to countless students; a rich, knowledgeable resource for Lower School families; and a dependable friend to her colleagues. She’ll remain connected to Rowland Hall, serving our school and lending her lens as a member of Rowland Hall’s Board of Trustees. “I am so fortunate to have had an occupation that has made me feel so fulfilled,” Jeanne said. “Not everyone is this lucky, and I'm very grateful for it.” Read Jeanne’s retirement story.

Carol Frymire, assistant to the director of technology, retires after three decades and myriad titles at Rowland Hall. In addition to her last role here, she has previously worked as a receptionist, assistant to the head of school, owner’s representative for the McCarthey Campus construction project, alumni director, student-billing manager, auction director and assistant, and database manager. Countless Rowland Hall community members have appreciated and benefitted from Carol’s customer-service skills and her desire to always go the extra mile. Carol and husband David will be relocating to St. George, where they plan to golf, hike, and enjoy the warm weather, but we expect to see her from time to time when she returns to Salt Lake City to visit her family. Read Carol’s retirement story.

Ethanne Waldo, administrative assistant for the admission and college counseling departments, retired in December 2018 after 28 years of service to Rowland Hall. In her nearly three decades here, she wrote and proofread countless letters, maintained databases and produced reports, and tracked the many steps of the application process for both incoming Rowland Hall students and seniors preparing for college. Ethanne’s positive attitude and strong work ethic are just two of her traits that Director of Admission Kathy Gundersen most appreciates. "She has an observant eye and a sharp sense of humor," Kathy said, "and in her quiet voice, she has been known to drop the most astonishing commentary." We’ll miss Ethanne dearly and wish her a wonderful retirement. Read Ethanne’s retirement story.

The way this community works together so students can achieve their athletic and academic goals is inspiring.—Sarah Getzelman

Sarah Getzelman, Rowmark Ski Academy team manager, leaves Rowland Hall this summer after an action-packed 12 years. Sarah's skill, compassion, teamwork, and relationship building within Rowmark and the Rowland Hall community has been second to none, Rowmark Director Todd Brickson said. Sarah has been an unwavering, stabilizing force holding the often-hectic ski program together—she is leaving Rowmark a much better place. Sarah said she looks forward to our program’s continued success on and off the hill. “The way this community works together so students can achieve their athletic and academic goals is inspiring,” she added. We’re excited for her and will keep in touch as she climbs new mountains and skis down the other side.

Kristin Takahashi, middle and upper school librarian, left in summer 2018 after 12 years of service in order to start a new career as a paralegal. Kristin was instrumental in transforming the Lincoln Street Campus library into a 21st-century learning center. She was an early advocate for digital books and resources and played a key role in developing proper research techniques for our students. She was also an outstanding resource for faculty, and displayed remarkable attention to detail and thoroughness in her work for Rowland Hall. “It has been a privilege to work in such a caring community,” Kristin said. We wish Kristin the best in her new career.

Cindy Feinman, kindergarten assistant teacher, is moving back to the East Coast after 11 years at the Beginning School. Since 2008, Cindy has supported five kindergarten teachers, contributing her wisdom, even-keeled sensible approach, and caring attention to the interior lives of young children and adults. In 2015, Cindy won the Sumner Award, and now-retired principal Carol Blackwell described her this way: “Cindy starts each day with a smile, warm hug, or word of encouragement for students and parents. Her positive comments reassure parents that their child is in confident hands. She delights in the relationships she establishes each year, and she cares deeply for the children and their families.” Cindy has also served as a divisional ombudsperson and on the Faculty Budget Committee. We’ll dearly miss her warmth, wry humor, and insight about the emotional lives of kindergarteners, and wish her the best.

Our nine years here have been among the most stimulating and rewarding of my life, professionally and personally. The Upper School is a dynamic group of professionals whose collaborative spirit has helped me learn so much about what we all do.—Dr. Fiona Halloran, pictured top

Dr. Fiona Halloran, beloved Upper School history teacher and department chair, is relocating to San Diego with her family after nine years at Rowland Hall. She wore many hats here: mentor, collaborator, storyteller, quilter, lunch host, Interim innovator, member of the disciplinary committee and many hiring committees, prolific writer of rec letters, tireless advocate for students and faculty, and more. Fiona engaged, captivated, and inspired in her classroom, while striving to uphold a culture of care, accountability, and professionalism schoolwide. Dr. Halloran said she heads to California with a profound sense of gratitude for the warmth and generosity of the Rowland Hall community. “Our nine years here have been among the most stimulating and rewarding of my life, professionally and personally,” said Fiona, also mom to Iain, who has grown up in our beginning and lower schools. “The Upper School is a dynamic group of professionals whose collaborative spirit has helped me learn so much about what we all do.”

Shannon Casson, Middle School athletics director and physical education (PE) teacher, relocated to British Columbia with her husband in summer 2018 after five years at Rowland Hall. Our school benefited from Shannon's expertise and dedication to the PE program on both the McCarthey and Lincoln Street campuses. She excelled in bringing new curriculum and standards to the departments and ​ensured our Middle School athletics program ran smoothly, all while coaching multiple teams herself. While we’ll miss Shannon, her enthusiasm for wellness and the outdoors makes her an excellent match for British Columbia, and we wish her the best as she settles there.

Mark Davenport, ninth-grade history teacher affectionately known to students as “Dav,” leaves Rowland Hall after five years to pursue new challenges. Mark helped freshmen develop their academic and research skills and—through his eastern civilizations and Latin America courses—encouraged students to engage in complex narratives about the past. He also helped ninth graders challenge themselves via annual outdoor-learning adventures in the Uinta Mountains. Mark taught popular seminars, served on admissions and hiring committees, and created and nurtured a classroom environment that is supportive and engaging, as well as appropriately challenging. We’ll miss Mark’s patience, humor, thoughtfulness, and love of learning, and wish him the best.

Gina Kiechle, 4PreK assistant teacher, is relocating to the San Diego area with her family after five years of service to the Beginning School. During Gina’s time here, she shared her passions for music, yoga, stories, and sustainability with students and grownups alike. She also served as a liaison between the Beginning School and the Sustainability Committee, and in that role helped division faculty and staff hold themselves to a higher standard for water use, composting, recycling, and more. While we’ll miss Gina's beautiful singing voice and her talent for animated storytelling, we’re excited for her to embark on her next adventure—living the surf life with her husband in California. Gina said that Rowland Hall has been an important part of her life, both as an employee and as a parent of graduate Laura ’05. “The ideals to which this school strives are exemplary,” she wrote. “It has been a dream job!”

Elizabeth Rodriguez, 4PreK assistant teacher, leaves the Beginning School after five years of impactful work. During her time here, she built rich relationships with students, families, faculty, and staff. She'll be missed for her kind and patient way with children, her keen insights and comforting presence with families, and her willingness to chip in and share the workload with her teammates. Happily, we'll still get to see plenty of Elizabeth as a Rowland Hall parent next year, as her eldest will be in 4PreK. We wish Elizabeth all the best in her new professional adventure teaching high school Spanish to native speakers.

Dave Samson, Upper School assistant principal, leaves after four years to head the Upper School at the Brookwood School in Massachusetts. “Dave has been a peerless and fearless partner in leading the Upper School,” Principal Ingrid Gustavson said. He gracefully juggled the daily trials and tribulations of school life while developing meaningful programming and policies that will endure for years to come, Ingrid added. Dave championed balance, wellness, student voices, and restorative practices in the Upper School. Most importantly, he valued building relationships over time, and with empathy as a core vehicle for success—whether in working through a disciplinary situation, helping students choose their courses, or managing parent expectations. While we’ll miss Dave, we’re happy that he gets to move back closer to extended family, and grow as a leader in this next chapter of his career.

Jill Chesley-McGinnis, 4PreK lead teacher, is leaving the Beginning School after two years to focus on teaching early childhood education at the University of Utah. Jill has a seemingly endless wealth of kindness, patience, and profound love for young children and their families. This year, she has served as a facilitator of the self-study group for social-emotional learning—a deeply important and complex component of a Rowland Hall education. We’ll miss Jill's warmth, cheer, and deep knowledge of young children's development, but we’re pleased that she'll continue her impactful work on their behalf in her role at the University of Utah.

Marcus Milling, Upper School chemistry teacher, is leaving Rowland Hall after two years. Marcus brought inquiry-based, lab-intensive practices to the chemistry curriculum, led his colleagues in sharing lab experiences, and advocated for time, resources, and collaboration to grow a strong lab-based program across scientific disciplines. We’ll miss his initiative and passion for science. The high number of students signed up for Advanced Topics (AT) Chemistry are a testament to his teaching. Students in tenth-grade and AT chemistry courses now spend more than half their class time collecting data, analyzing the results, and coming to their own conclusions about how the physical world operates, thanks in part to Marcus’ work.

Linda Quinn, Beginning School administrative assistant, leaves Rowland Hall after two years of work. Linda was instrumental in supporting a smooth transition for her division after former principal Carol Blackwell retired. She’ll be missed for her warmth with students, families, and teachers; her wry sense of humor; and her hard work on behalf of our community. We wish her all the best in her next adventures.

Melissa Sharp, seventh-grade science teacher and advisor, is moving to Los Angeles to teach high school science after two years at our Middle School. Melissa is a passionate science educator who will be greatly missed by her students and colleagues. In addition to the dynamic lessons she created in her classroom, she was a strong advocate for her students here. We wish Melissa all the best in California.

Liz VanLeeuwen, part-time library media assistant, left in November 2018 after two years of service to the McCarthey Campus. We wish her the best.

People

Fond Farewells 2019

Jeanne Zeigler, Lower School teacher, retires after 38 years of dedicated service. She began her Rowland Hall career in 1981 as a kindergarten aide who also oversaw the Extended Day Program. Since then, she’s taught in first, second, and third grade; implemented and worked as the lead mentor in a teacher-mentoring program; served as an ombudsperson; and won the Sumner Award (1994) and the Jones Award (2009). During her tenure, Jeanne was a caring teacher to countless students; a rich, knowledgeable resource for Lower School families; and a dependable friend to her colleagues. She’ll remain connected to Rowland Hall, serving our school and lending her lens as a member of Rowland Hall’s Board of Trustees. “I am so fortunate to have had an occupation that has made me feel so fulfilled,” Jeanne said. “Not everyone is this lucky, and I'm very grateful for it.” Read Jeanne’s retirement story.

Carol Frymire, assistant to the director of technology, retires after three decades and myriad titles at Rowland Hall. In addition to her last role here, she has previously worked as a receptionist, assistant to the head of school, owner’s representative for the McCarthey Campus construction project, alumni director, student-billing manager, auction director and assistant, and database manager. Countless Rowland Hall community members have appreciated and benefitted from Carol’s customer-service skills and her desire to always go the extra mile. Carol and husband David will be relocating to St. George, where they plan to golf, hike, and enjoy the warm weather, but we expect to see her from time to time when she returns to Salt Lake City to visit her family. Read Carol’s retirement story.

Ethanne Waldo, administrative assistant for the admission and college counseling departments, retired in December 2018 after 28 years of service to Rowland Hall. In her nearly three decades here, she wrote and proofread countless letters, maintained databases and produced reports, and tracked the many steps of the application process for both incoming Rowland Hall students and seniors preparing for college. Ethanne’s positive attitude and strong work ethic are just two of her traits that Director of Admission Kathy Gundersen most appreciates. "She has an observant eye and a sharp sense of humor," Kathy said, "and in her quiet voice, she has been known to drop the most astonishing commentary." We’ll miss Ethanne dearly and wish her a wonderful retirement. Read Ethanne’s retirement story.

The way this community works together so students can achieve their athletic and academic goals is inspiring.—Sarah Getzelman

Sarah Getzelman, Rowmark Ski Academy team manager, leaves Rowland Hall this summer after an action-packed 12 years. Sarah's skill, compassion, teamwork, and relationship building within Rowmark and the Rowland Hall community has been second to none, Rowmark Director Todd Brickson said. Sarah has been an unwavering, stabilizing force holding the often-hectic ski program together—she is leaving Rowmark a much better place. Sarah said she looks forward to our program’s continued success on and off the hill. “The way this community works together so students can achieve their athletic and academic goals is inspiring,” she added. We’re excited for her and will keep in touch as she climbs new mountains and skis down the other side.

Kristin Takahashi, middle and upper school librarian, left in summer 2018 after 12 years of service in order to start a new career as a paralegal. Kristin was instrumental in transforming the Lincoln Street Campus library into a 21st-century learning center. She was an early advocate for digital books and resources and played a key role in developing proper research techniques for our students. She was also an outstanding resource for faculty, and displayed remarkable attention to detail and thoroughness in her work for Rowland Hall. “It has been a privilege to work in such a caring community,” Kristin said. We wish Kristin the best in her new career.

Cindy Feinman, kindergarten assistant teacher, is moving back to the East Coast after 11 years at the Beginning School. Since 2008, Cindy has supported five kindergarten teachers, contributing her wisdom, even-keeled sensible approach, and caring attention to the interior lives of young children and adults. In 2015, Cindy won the Sumner Award, and now-retired principal Carol Blackwell described her this way: “Cindy starts each day with a smile, warm hug, or word of encouragement for students and parents. Her positive comments reassure parents that their child is in confident hands. She delights in the relationships she establishes each year, and she cares deeply for the children and their families.” Cindy has also served as a divisional ombudsperson and on the Faculty Budget Committee. We’ll dearly miss her warmth, wry humor, and insight about the emotional lives of kindergarteners, and wish her the best.

Our nine years here have been among the most stimulating and rewarding of my life, professionally and personally. The Upper School is a dynamic group of professionals whose collaborative spirit has helped me learn so much about what we all do.—Dr. Fiona Halloran, pictured top

Dr. Fiona Halloran, beloved Upper School history teacher and department chair, is relocating to San Diego with her family after nine years at Rowland Hall. She wore many hats here: mentor, collaborator, storyteller, quilter, lunch host, Interim innovator, member of the disciplinary committee and many hiring committees, prolific writer of rec letters, tireless advocate for students and faculty, and more. Fiona engaged, captivated, and inspired in her classroom, while striving to uphold a culture of care, accountability, and professionalism schoolwide. Dr. Halloran said she heads to California with a profound sense of gratitude for the warmth and generosity of the Rowland Hall community. “Our nine years here have been among the most stimulating and rewarding of my life, professionally and personally,” said Fiona, also mom to Iain, who has grown up in our beginning and lower schools. “The Upper School is a dynamic group of professionals whose collaborative spirit has helped me learn so much about what we all do.”

Shannon Casson, Middle School athletics director and physical education (PE) teacher, relocated to British Columbia with her husband in summer 2018 after five years at Rowland Hall. Our school benefited from Shannon's expertise and dedication to the PE program on both the McCarthey and Lincoln Street campuses. She excelled in bringing new curriculum and standards to the departments and ​ensured our Middle School athletics program ran smoothly, all while coaching multiple teams herself. While we’ll miss Shannon, her enthusiasm for wellness and the outdoors makes her an excellent match for British Columbia, and we wish her the best as she settles there.

Mark Davenport, ninth-grade history teacher affectionately known to students as “Dav,” leaves Rowland Hall after five years to pursue new challenges. Mark helped freshmen develop their academic and research skills and—through his eastern civilizations and Latin America courses—encouraged students to engage in complex narratives about the past. He also helped ninth graders challenge themselves via annual outdoor-learning adventures in the Uinta Mountains. Mark taught popular seminars, served on admissions and hiring committees, and created and nurtured a classroom environment that is supportive and engaging, as well as appropriately challenging. We’ll miss Mark’s patience, humor, thoughtfulness, and love of learning, and wish him the best.

Gina Kiechle, 4PreK assistant teacher, is relocating to the San Diego area with her family after five years of service to the Beginning School. During Gina’s time here, she shared her passions for music, yoga, stories, and sustainability with students and grownups alike. She also served as a liaison between the Beginning School and the Sustainability Committee, and in that role helped division faculty and staff hold themselves to a higher standard for water use, composting, recycling, and more. While we’ll miss Gina's beautiful singing voice and her talent for animated storytelling, we’re excited for her to embark on her next adventure—living the surf life with her husband in California. Gina said that Rowland Hall has been an important part of her life, both as an employee and as a parent of graduate Laura ’05. “The ideals to which this school strives are exemplary,” she wrote. “It has been a dream job!”

Elizabeth Rodriguez, 4PreK assistant teacher, leaves the Beginning School after five years of impactful work. During her time here, she built rich relationships with students, families, faculty, and staff. She'll be missed for her kind and patient way with children, her keen insights and comforting presence with families, and her willingness to chip in and share the workload with her teammates. Happily, we'll still get to see plenty of Elizabeth as a Rowland Hall parent next year, as her eldest will be in 4PreK. We wish Elizabeth all the best in her new professional adventure teaching high school Spanish to native speakers.

Dave Samson, Upper School assistant principal, leaves after four years to head the Upper School at the Brookwood School in Massachusetts. “Dave has been a peerless and fearless partner in leading the Upper School,” Principal Ingrid Gustavson said. He gracefully juggled the daily trials and tribulations of school life while developing meaningful programming and policies that will endure for years to come, Ingrid added. Dave championed balance, wellness, student voices, and restorative practices in the Upper School. Most importantly, he valued building relationships over time, and with empathy as a core vehicle for success—whether in working through a disciplinary situation, helping students choose their courses, or managing parent expectations. While we’ll miss Dave, we’re happy that he gets to move back closer to extended family, and grow as a leader in this next chapter of his career.

Jill Chesley-McGinnis, 4PreK lead teacher, is leaving the Beginning School after two years to focus on teaching early childhood education at the University of Utah. Jill has a seemingly endless wealth of kindness, patience, and profound love for young children and their families. This year, she has served as a facilitator of the self-study group for social-emotional learning—a deeply important and complex component of a Rowland Hall education. We’ll miss Jill's warmth, cheer, and deep knowledge of young children's development, but we’re pleased that she'll continue her impactful work on their behalf in her role at the University of Utah.

Marcus Milling, Upper School chemistry teacher, is leaving Rowland Hall after two years. Marcus brought inquiry-based, lab-intensive practices to the chemistry curriculum, led his colleagues in sharing lab experiences, and advocated for time, resources, and collaboration to grow a strong lab-based program across scientific disciplines. We’ll miss his initiative and passion for science. The high number of students signed up for Advanced Topics (AT) Chemistry are a testament to his teaching. Students in tenth-grade and AT chemistry courses now spend more than half their class time collecting data, analyzing the results, and coming to their own conclusions about how the physical world operates, thanks in part to Marcus’ work.

Linda Quinn, Beginning School administrative assistant, leaves Rowland Hall after two years of work. Linda was instrumental in supporting a smooth transition for her division after former principal Carol Blackwell retired. She’ll be missed for her warmth with students, families, and teachers; her wry sense of humor; and her hard work on behalf of our community. We wish her all the best in her next adventures.

Melissa Sharp, seventh-grade science teacher and advisor, is moving to Los Angeles to teach high school science after two years at our Middle School. Melissa is a passionate science educator who will be greatly missed by her students and colleagues. In addition to the dynamic lessons she created in her classroom, she was a strong advocate for her students here. We wish Melissa all the best in California.

Liz VanLeeuwen, part-time library media assistant, left in November 2018 after two years of service to the McCarthey Campus. We wish her the best.

People

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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 credits 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.
 
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.”
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

Just as Jeff credited Rowland Hall for sparking his interest in a life of service to others, Mr. Hoglund credits Jeff for setting an example of genuine student leadership at the school. And, to the student leaders today, Jeff sends 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

Smiling debaters bite their award medals.

The debate season is the longest of any activity in high school—for some Rowland Hall debaters, it didn’t end until late last month. After another fine regular season winning local and regional tournaments, a variety of exceptional debaters set a new standard for competitive excellence in our three postseason tournaments.

State

Rowland Hall “plays up” a division into the 3A classification. Ria Agarwal ’20 won the title in the solo event, known as a Lincoln-Douglas debate. Additionally, two duos—Jacque Park ’21 and Auden Bown ’21; and Ty Lunde ’21 and Maddy Frech ’21—closed out the final round of policy debate, making them co-champions.

National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) Nationals

The NSDA is the largest speech and debate association in the country. The qualifying tournament for Nationals is a special double-elimination competition where everyone in the district (from Logan to Lone Peak) debates each other until only two entries remain. Those two entries qualify to Nationals in June. This year, Peter Chase ’20 and Steven Dotorman ’20 along with Ben Amiel ’20 and Justin Peng ’20 outlasted the competition to control the two Nationals qualifications in policy debate. Cas Mulford ’19 and Zoey Shienberg ’20 qualified in public-forum debate. The outstanding placements, along with other wins from younger debaters, resulted in a district championship for the school.

Debaters stand with third-place trophy at Tournament of Champions.

From left, Sydney Young ’19 and Adrian Gushin ’20 with their third-place trophy at TOC.

The Tournament of Champions (TOC)

The TOC is considered the most prestigious debate tournament, especially for students interested in debating in college. The tournament is held every year in Lexington, Kentucky, and university representatives from around the country attend to scout and recruit talent. Only the top 68 teams in the country are invited to participate. To be eligible, debaters must have placed in at least two different national tournaments during the regular season. This year, six of our students qualified: Celia Davis ’19, Steven Doctorman ’20, Adrian Gushin ’20, Ben McGraw ’19, Sydney Young ’19, and Robin Zeng ’19. This is the second-highest number of students Rowland Hall has ever sent to the TOC. Building on that momentum, students had tremendous success at the tournament. Only six Rowland Hall teams have ever made it to the elimination rounds of the TOC, and all of them lost in the quarter-finals. Sydney and Adrian broke the “quarters curse” and made it to the semifinals, finishing in third place overall. “This performance is legendary,” praised Mike Shackelford, our debate coach since 2007. “It’s the best finish in Rowland Hall history.”

Over their seven-month season, these debaters heard judges give them over 500 decisions, both for and against us. But one decision was unanimous: the Rowland Hall Debate program had another incredible season, thanks to our hardworking students the sage leadership of Coach Shackelford.

Debate

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

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