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Welcome, Grandparents!

Grandparents of our students are valued members of our community, and we hope you'll enjoy a rewarding association with the school. As a Rowland Hall grandparent, you'll be invited to community events, you'll have opportunities to volunteer, and you'll be able to connect with other wonderful families!

Resources & Important Links

You're Invited…

We look forward to seeing you at school events when on-campus gatherings resume! Keep an eye on your inboxes and mailboxes.

Grandparent Chairs

Steven and Brenda Lowe
Parents of Mitch ’96 and grandparents to Lower School students Sabina and Sasha.

Staff Contact

Lindsay Young
Director of the Annual Fund and Major Gifts
801-924-2983
get to know lindsay

School Stories from Fine Print Magazine

2021 Sumner Award winner Sara Yoon.

Each year at division commencement ceremonies, Rowland Hall proudly honors faculty who have demonstrated exceptional teaching and mentoring.

Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award 2021

The Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award is presented to Rowland Hall faculty members who demonstrate excellence in teaching, serve as mentors to others, and contribute to the Rowland Hall community. This award was established through an anonymous gift to the school in honor of Mr. Jones' dedication to the faculty when he was the chair of the Board of Trustees.

2021 Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award winners Mary Jo Marker and Chelsea Vasquez.

Though traditionally given to one faculty member each year, this year’s Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award has been awarded to two: Mary Jo Marker, eighth-grade American studies teacher, and Chelsea Vasquez, eighth-grade English teacher. Dedicated to teamwork, Mary Jo and Chelsea are a dynamic duo in the Middle School, where they have redefined and re-energized their grade-level programs, creating English and American Studies curricula that are challenging and relevant, that set up students for success in Upper School, and that help students become creative, critical thinkers. Mary Jo and Chelsea have also greatly contributed to the school community as colleagues, whether by participating in the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee, leading a Critical Friends Group, mentoring or coaching faculty, covering classes, or helping to organize eighth-grade graduation events. And in a year where time was an incredibly precious resource, they have dedicated a great deal of it to meeting with Upper School teachers to support the transition to ninth grade, continuing to strengthen curriculum alignment between the Middle School and Upper School.

For their dedication to teamwork, particularly in ways that define the values at Rowland Hall—especially relationships matter, welcome everyone, and learn for life—Rowland Hall proudly honors Mary Jo Marker and Chelsea Vasquez with the 2021 Cary Jones Faculty Mentor Award.

Sumner Family Excellence in Teaching Awards

The Sumner Family Excellence in Teaching Award is given each year to an outstanding faculty member in each division who has demonstrated a love for teaching and excellence in their field. The award symbolizes the Sumner family's high regard for Rowland Hall's faculty. Congratulations to the following recipients.

Beginning School: Isabelle Buhler, 4PreK lead teacher

Isabelle Buhler, winner of the 2021 Sumner Family Faculty Award.

Isabelle Buhler exhibits total commitment to her teaching, colleagues, and school—a fact that is no less true today than it was 18 years ago. Her love of her work is infectious. She cherishes each of her students, thoughtfully adjusting her pedagogy, communication style, and curriculum to meet their needs, and delights in building classroom communities of mutual respect, unending curiosity, and collective responsibility. Though she is an accomplished, highly effective educator, Isabelle epitomizes a growth mindset, actively seeking opportunities to improve her work and committing to generously offering kind, clear, and actionable feedback to colleagues. She also serves the wider Rowland Hall community in myriad ways: on committees, as a mentor, as an ombudsperson, and more. During this especially challenging and wild school year, her meaningful contributions and support have kept teammates and families afloat

Lower School: Abby Bacon, Spanish teacher

Abby Bacon, winner of the 2021 Sumner Family Faculty Award.

Since 2008, Abby Bacon has created a classroom environment of respect and positive rapport, where she keeps students motivated, excited, and engaged, and where they know their feedback and opinions are valued. In addition to teaching Spanish to several Lower School grade levels over the years, Abby has served as yearbook coordinator, co-chaired the Lower School Caring Committee, and acted as one of the fifth-grade advisors for the 2020–2021 school year. She’s also an incredible colleague and collaborator who shares her organization skills, energy, and magnetic personality in caring and dynamic ways, including partnering with colleagues as co-coordinator for the school’s Northwest Association of Independent Schools accreditation self-study and harnessing her passion for inclusivity as co-chair of the faculty and staff JEDI Committee for the past two years.

Middle School: Sarah Yoon, orchestra director

Sara Yoon, winner of the 2021 Sumner Family Faculty Award.

Sarah Yoon is a highly respected and beloved teacher within the Middle School community.  Full of energy and positivity, she sets the bar high for herself and her students, while also building trust in the classroom, on the basketball and volleyball courts, and on the stage. She has single-handedly built an award-winning orchestra program at Rowland Hall, where she regularly brings in guest performers and, this year, helped to organize a very successful and popular Zoom presentation for the eighth grade. She also goes above and beyond in supporting her students, whether that means visiting one of her advisee’s homes if they fall behind with their school work, cooking with students over Zoom, or cheering for student-athletes on the slopes or the sidelines.

Upper School: Doug Wortham, French teacher

Doug Wortham, winner of the 2021 Sumner Family Faculty Award.

Doug Wortham epitomizes what is best about Rowland Hall teachers: a tireless dedication to coaching students to actively engage with their learning and to grow beyond what they thought possible. He has taught all levels of Upper School French, guiding students to mastery and fluency with high standards, hard work, and relationships built on trust and encouragement. Even more than 40 years into his Rowland Hall adventure, Doug possesses a work ethic and nonstop energy that are truly impressive. When the pandemic hit and scrambled teachers’ plans, he continued to learn and adapt, engaging in new ways. In addition to his educator role, Doug is a coach and mentor to colleagues, serving as a sounding board and a wise, impartial mentor, and he is held in the highest esteem by the entire community.

People

Valedictorian Zach Benton speaks at Rowland Hall's 2021 senior graduation.

At this year's fifth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade graduation ceremonies, student speakers shared funny, reflective, and inspiring stories.

Seniors Maddy Frech and Zach Benton (pictured above), as well as Senior Celebration speaker Chiara Kim, expressed their gratitude for the positive ways the Rowland Hall community shaped their lives. Eighth graders Tessa Bartlett, Jojo Park, and Ainsley Moore reflected on the importance of friendship through their middle-school years, and several fifth-grade students thanked their teachers, family, and friends for creating a supportive and engaging learning environment in the Lower School—especially during a pandemic.

We have posted their speeches here for you to enjoy.

Student Voices

Class of 2021 Cap Toss GIF Banner

Though the pandemic affected their plans for events, summer internships, study abroad opportunities, and athletic competitions, these students still found ways to learn, to connect, and to share joy.

The class of 2021 is a diverse and talented group of young adults. During their time at Rowland Hall, they have grown academically and personally by embracing challenges, pursuing their passions, and committing to productive, responsible, and thoughtful lives. They’ve also shown impressive resilience, particularly during their junior and senior years, which were greatly altered by COVID-19. Though the pandemic affected their plans for events, summer internships, study abroad opportunities, and athletic competitions, these students still found ways to learn, to connect, and to share joy.

Members of this class took opportunities to expand their learning. They explored careers through internships—both in person and virtually—at organizations like Better Days 2020, McNeill Von Maack, the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office, the University of Utah, and Utah Spine Medicine. They attended programs at The School of the New York Times and the National Security Agency, studied abroad in England and Ireland, and immersed themselves in languages and cultures in China and the Dominican Republic. They expanded their studies at the college level, enrolling in courses like numbers theory, 1700s American civilization, and introduction to architecture, and they partnered with Rowland Hall teachers to craft independent study courses when COVID-19 canceled classes. The class of 2021 also includes several students recognized for their academic prowess. The group boasts several top-tier debaters, including six individual state champions, three national qualifiers, two Academic All-Americans, and the captains who led the team to its first overall 3A State title in school history. Multiple young women in this class received Aspirations in Computing awards from the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Another took home first prize in the Federal Bar Association’s 2020 civics essay contest.

This class has no shortage of artists bringing beauty to the world.

This class has no shortage of artists bringing beauty to the world. Its musicians include a winner of the American Protégé International Competition of Romantic Music, a principal violinist for the Utah All-State Orchestra and the Utah Youth Orchestra, and a pianist who earned several superior rankings from the National Federation of Music Clubs. One actor is a member of University of Utah Youth Theatre’s Conservatory, and one dancer attends Ballet West Academy. A promising writer honed her skills at a Brown University creative nonfiction writing program, while others wrote editorials on topics like homelessness reform, the importance of grieving lives lost to coronavirus, and the number of women in leadership, all of which were published in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Winged Lion seniors led our athletics program to top-five finishes in the Deseret News’ 2A All-Sports Awards each year of their Upper School careers. They captured 28 Region and nine State titles as teams, and four individual Region and State championships. Five seniors were named All-State, with one awarded 3A Swimmer of the Year; four earned All-Region honors; and one was selected to play in a postseason All-Star game. Fifteen Academic All-State and 25 Academic All-Region honorees led their teams to top-three GPA rankings among 2A schools over the past four years. All three seniors in Rowmark Ski Academy finished this season with career-best performances, including 10 Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) top-20 and two FIS top-10 finishes. In addition to school sports, this group pursued diverse athletics interests: they participated in rowing, figure skating, and club soccer. One is a national-championship-winning equestrian. Two are ski mountaineers, one of whom competed with the US National Team at the World Championships and Youth Olympic Games, and another who is a member of the Canadian National Ski Mountaineering Team.

This class has left their mark on Rowland Hall: they founded clubs like Mental Health Educators, created safe spaces for peers including the LatinX affinity group and the Queer-Straight Alliance, and helped drive necessary conversations via the student Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee.

This class has left their mark on Rowland Hall: they founded clubs like Mental Health Educators, created safe spaces for peers including the LatinX affinity group and the Queer-Straight Alliance, and helped drive necessary conversations via the student Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee. They’ve devoted countless hours to the larger community, supporting causes like Black Lives Matter and March for Our Lives, and volunteering for organizations including Circles Salt Lake, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Mission Math, the National Charity League, People's Health Clinic, Salt Lake Peer Court, the Sunnyvale Community Center, YouthCity Government, and YWCA Utah.

Many students held down jobs while in school, working as servers, referees, lifeguards, swim instructors, and babysitters; a couple entrepreneurs even started their own companies. And while balancing school, service, and work, these students spent time on passion projects, whether that meant joining the American Regions Mathematics League, examining area histories and geology with the National Outdoor Leadership School, earning a private pilot's license, or giving a TED Talk on microplastics for TEDxParkCity.

The future is bright for the 65 seniors in this graduating class. Our graduates earned admission to 131 different colleges and universities, and 74% of them received at least one merit scholarship to attend college. A few have chosen to take a gap year to work or pursue personal interests. Whatever their next steps, we know these experiences will serve as stepping stones on their journeys to living lives of purpose and impact.

Congratulations to the class of 2021. You have achieved many great things, and we are eager to watch you continue to change the world for the better.

Students

Retiring French teacher Doug Wortham with students.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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