Custom Class: post-landing-hero

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!

People

Fond Farewells 2021

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!

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