Celebrating Service

“…let them be sure that every little deed counts, that every word has power, and that we can—everyone—do our share to redeem the world…”       

-20th century prophet Rabbi Heschel

 

Spring swept in a celebration of service as St. Luke’s students were recognized for truly outstanding volunteer work…

Senior Peter Leventhal was named Stamford’s Youth Volunteer of the Year by the United Way for his work with the children at Inspirica (a homeless shelter in Stamford).

 

 

Senior Bree Wilkes was honored by The Open Door shelter as their Luminary Volunteer. Bree lit the way for others with steadfast commitment and six years of service at The Open Door in Norwalk.

 

 

Another senior, Jake Dobbin, received special recognition for his work with the New Canaan Community Foundation and their Young Philanthropists Program.

 

 

Finally, junior John Krill received the Greenwich YMCA Volunteer of the Year Award for teaching water polo to 5-7 year olds every week for the past 2 years.

 

 

 

The celebration of service continued at St. Luke’s as our Upper School Awards Ceremony recognized students for the hundreds of hours dedicated to service to the community:

Senior Quentin Andersen received the Community Service Award recognizing over 800 hours of volunteer work at Ambler Farm.

 

 

Senior Mary Zech received the Service Award for her work with sustainability and developing hydroponic and vertical gardens, working with Mr. Havens and Kids Helping Kids.

 

 

Junior Elizabeth Laub received the St. Lawrence Book Award for academics and service. She dedicated 900+ hours, most as an EMT in New Canaan Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

 

 

At St. Luke’s, contributing to the greater good is central to what we do and who we are. These accolades are highlights—so many St. Luke’s student do so much important work. Beginning in fifth grade, our students learn that our lives have most meaning when we take what we love doing and figure out how it can help the world.

If you are, or know of,  a St. Luke’s student doing outstanding service, please let me know.

Kate Parker Burgard
Director of Character Education
parkerk@stlukesct.org

 

St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit us!

Alumna Megan Evershed: The Commitment to Serve

When St. Luke’s World Language Chair Jon Shee discovered alumna Megan Evershed ‘15 was teaching French to refugees—in France—he spread the word.  The following interview with Megan gives insight into a young woman already making a difference in the world.

 

St. Luke’s: Where and what are you studying?

ME: I’m in France studying for a dual bachelor’s degree between Sciences Po University and Columbia University. The Sciences Po campus is in Reims in the Champagne region of France. It’s about a 45-minute train ride outside of Paris. This is my last semester in Reims. I spend two years in France before going to New York for my final two years.

Megan in France

 

 

St. Luke’s: You’ve been teaching French to Syrian refugees. How did that come about?

ME: I’m part of an organization called Interagir that works with refugees on my campus. Interagir essentially translates to “interact.” The whole ethos behind the organization is to engage with refugees and welcome them to Reims. One of the programs we run is a French language education course, which began in November. So, basically, a partner and I have been working with a Syrian refugee family, teaching them beginner’s level French to help them integrate into their new environment.

The organization is a Sciences Po Reims organization, so it’s run through the school. We’re in partnership with l’Armée du Salut, which is the French version of the Salvation Army.

St. Luke’s: Can you describe your experience?  

ME: The experience has been deeply gratifying. It’s heart-warming to watch my family grow, not only in their language skills but also in their confidence. Despite the difficulty we have in communicating with each other (we don’t share a common language, their native language being Arabic and mine being English), I’ve still learnt so much about them and their experiences. Having even the smallest positive effect on their life is an honor.

I teach a family made up of two parents and two children. The children are aged two and four, so we’ve only done very basic things with them (counting and greetings), and we focus largely on the parents. My partner and I have become very attached to the family and really look forward to going to see them every week. Recently we ended up staying at their apartment for four hours, speaking a mash-up of three different languages, and they invited us to stay for dinner. It was the first Syrian dinner I had ever eaten and it was such a lovely moment to share food and stories with them. In truth, they’re teaching me just as much as I’m teaching them.

Megan’s Syrian Family

St. Luke’s: Any other thoughts to share with your St. Luke’s community back home?

ME: In this current climate, with xenophobia and Islamophobia rearing its ugly head in Western countries like the United States and France, it’s so important to keep a positive attitude and be active. It’s easy to slip into indifference if the circumstances don’t affect us. It’s easy to slip into despondency if we fill discouraged by the status quo. Working with my refugee family has really inspired me to remain optimistic for the future because they themselves are so positive, and if they can still be so happy after all they have suffered and lost, then we should all strive to be so too.

St. Luke’s celebrates Megan for living the mission with her love of learning, strong moral compass, commitment to serve, and confidence to lead.

 

St. Luke’s is a private independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12.  St. Luke’s mission: an exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit!

Why Coding is Art – By Jack Briggs ’21 & Liam Patty ’21

 

Coding Art by Briggs & Patty

Eighth graders, Jack Briggs and Liam Patty recently approached their art teacher Haley Wulfman to make a case. The two asserted that coding is art, and therefore, they should be able to use time during art class to code. Wulfman said “Prove it.” She challenged the boys to write a persuasive argument. What follows is that piece:

Why Coding is Art

By Jack Briggs ’21 and Liam Patty ’21

“The internet is like a blank canvas, just waiting to be painted.”Anonymous

Coding is a form of art for many reasons. Coding has many benefits to the brain, as well as giving an area for people to create and design artwork as a website or program. People can look at a website, and just like art, can see many things that the creator has done well, as well as things that have not been done to satisfaction. People take courses, and some teach themselves, as both coding and art needs time and knowledge to perfect. Art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.” Another reason why coding is art is because it applies imagination; how it does this is you decide to design your website or game you are coding. We are coding a website which requires imagination and creativity to design it. Art helps you because it teaches you to look closely at things, because one small error, could make the whole artwork look different. This is the same with coding because if you have even small error, the code will not run correctly. Over the ages, many forms of art have been introduced. This is the modern age, and now coding is being introduced as the latest form of art.

Liam Patty

The internet is art because it was blank until people began to use it and add sites, therefore making it a collaborative art piece for coders and people all over the world. Craigslist is art because it is part of the internet, and contributes to the overall art piece, which is the internet. Another reason why Craigslist is art is because if you think of it as an art piece, it has photos, text, titles, and white space on it, which all contribute to the overall piece.

Jack Briggs

Update from Ms. Wulfman:

I love when students push against traditional definitions of the visual arts. When they enter the constantly evolving—and often uncomfortable—territory of defining visual arts for themselves, I know they’re thinking critically about the discipline. 

The boys have begun a series of code-based artworks (see sample above), which is quite exciting because through the process of making them, they’re actively investigating the question of what constitutes a code-based art piece, and how they define it.

St. Luke’s is a private independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: an exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.  Come visit!

Forever Changed: The Island School

Dr. John Higgins, Biology Teacher

Dr. John Higgins, Biology Teacher

We work in a community of opportunity, challenges, and unconditional support up here on the Hilltop. From the FGR process to the seemingly unlimited variety of potential professional development options, at SLS one can only grow as an educator, a leader, and a person. Three years ago I began to hear quiet mutterings about a study abroad opportunity for students on an island. Other whispered conversations about this unique marine experience began to pique my interest and yet I still simply passed by the information table that sporadically popped-up each year for a single lunch period.

Eventually, I learned that this seemingly clandestine location was known as The Island School on Eleuthera Island, Bahamas. So, going into my third year at SLS, with a solid few professional development experiences under my belt, I found myself being drawn back to that enigmatic natural juxtaposition where a cool, blue, mysterious ocean intentionally shapes a smooth, fluid, and sandpapery shore. This time, when I stopped at the information table, I walked away with an application for the Teacher Workshop at The Island School for the summer of 2016. Head of the Upper School, Liz Perry, immediately and enthusiastically accepted my proposal to attend.

On August 7th, 2016 with a crisp new passport in hand, I headed to The Island School. My expectations and hopes were simple: come back with some great new ideas to incorporate into my Marine Science class. My experience, however, was drastically different!

The vision of The Island School is simple yet powerful:

Leadership effecting change

The Vision of the Island School is simple yet powerful: Leadership effecting change. In my head I couldn’t help but view this as a natural extension of our own school motto, “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve”, where our students step forward from the Hilltop fully equipped as leaders ready to effect change. Three keystones are built into The Island School Mission so that all participants will embody the vision:

(1) Developing an intimate sense of place in students through immersion experiences in the natural and cultural environment

(2) Modeling sustainability of individual lifestyles, larger communities, and the systems that support them

(3) Creating an intentional community whose members are cognizant of their abilities, limitations, and effect on others.

 

Let me be clear, this was not a teacher’s conference, this turned out to be the most important and pivotal professional development I have ever done in my decade-long career as a teacher.

This all sounded great, but again, I was just looking for some fresh ideas for my Marine Science class and what better way to get those creative tides turning than to spend a week on Eleuthera Island at a Teacher’s Conference. Let me be clear, this was not a teacher’s conference, this turned out to be the most important and pivotal professional development I have ever done in my decade-long career as a teacher.

Each day began with Circle around the flagpole where our caciques would lay out the plan for the day, rejuvenate any tired eyes, and support our group of 23 teachers from around the nation and globe. A cacique, by definition, was a leader of an indigenous group, derived from the Taíno for the pre-Columbian chiefs or leaders of tribes in the Bahamas, Greater Antilles and the northern Lesser Antilles. At The Island School, caciques were the chosen leaders based on their character and commitment to the ethos of the community. Unbeknownst to all us teachers, each participant would, at one point, become a cacique for the day!

Me (left) preparing for morning workout.

Mornings included a group workout and whether it was a 2 mile run, a run/swim, floating the cut, water polo, snorkel exploration, or a bike/run, all of us teachers (me the only upper school science teacher) willingly braved the 90 degree heat and 90% humidity. This was particularly interesting for me on the first day because I had no change of clothes since my luggage had not yet landed on Eleuthera!

While potentially beneficial physically, it wasn’t the workouts that transformed me. Rather, it was each second in which I was wholly engaged, captivated, lulled, molded, and built by an immersive and experiential life-improving event. We had Harkness discussions, cultural immersions, and were stretched well beyond our comfort zones. Character education, leadership skills, and social emotional learning were expertly interwoven like a rope that helped each of us pull ourselves up and into a new growth mindset as educators. Essentially it was as if this place, this Island School, had taken everything that I had been hearing about on the Hilltop over these past three years and morphed it into an experience that allowed me apply what I had learned here at SLS and develop new skills and ideas that I could bring back and contribute to our ethos that is the Hilltop.

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Bonding with Island colleagues

My last night at the Island School culminated with a “Talent Show” into which all teachers were entered. Below is what I shared as my “talent”:

THIS PLACE

Many roads have led to this place.
Some were winding; a meandering wanderlust.
Some were uphill, wise, and marked by holes and cracks of experience.
Some were still under construction
with the intended path very much on the horizon.
Though diverse and unique, these roads had a shared destination…THIS PLACE.

Here we are. Here. WE ARE THIS PLACE.
We have created an ethos where we are each other’s querencia; We are each other’s home, each other’s support.

We are the ooids, formed by the same foundational components; shaped, molded, forged and joined together in time.

We are the lives forever changed, the shared permanent nostalgia with infinite endurance.

We are the spiritual fusion and emotional empathy that weave together these shared immersive experiences.

We are the community rhizome – a collective horizontal leadership acting as many keystones, holding each other up and shouldering each other on all sides.

We are Eleuthera. We are freedom bound by nothing.
Our bag of possibilities forever open, never truly filled but shared together wherever our roads may lead us, forward from this place.

Many roads lead from this place, all yet to built, destinations unknown. No matter what lies ahead we need only reflect back over our shoulder where we can meet on the road to this place.

While you may not understand what an ooid is or fully grasp what querencia or community rhizome means, upon reflection, it has occurred to me that “THIS PLACE” that I refer to above, for me anyway, also refers to St. Luke’s.

I am forever changed and improved from my time at The Island School and I will return, not just once, but many times I hope. I have been enlightened to the fact that my career as a science teacher will always be fulfilling but that my career as a student and teacher of character education has only just begun.

Hear more about John’s leadership experience: Meditation by John Higgins

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Channelling My Inner Julie Lythcott-Haims

Adapted from Liz Perry’s Upper School Parents’ Night Remarks

Liz Perry, Head of Upper School

Liz Perry, Head of Upper School

On September 14, we were honored to host author and speaker Julie Lythcott-Haims at St. Luke’s. About 170 parents came to hear her talk—if you missed it, you can watch it here.  

We invited Julie to St. Luke’s because she represents our goal of partnership with parents. I don’t have to tell you that raising teenagers is hard work. If we do it right, it’s also joyful and deeply rewarding. And as Julie reminded us, we need one another to do it well. She challenged us to be more interested in long term outcomes of independence than in manufactured short-term gains for our children. She asked us to widen our view of colleges, and to see our children not as manicured bonsai trees but as wildflowers. (One of our class deans added, “Okay, they’re wildflowers. . . but in dress code, right?”)

Last week, we took a step in this direction—focusing on long term outcomes of independence—by placing students at the center of the advisor conference. We asked them to reflect on their learning, share their concerns, and set goals for themselves. A 9th grader’s conference was different than a 12th grader’s, but all put the student at the center of learning and reflection. Julie Lythcott-Haims told memorable stories about her time as the Dean of Freshmen at Stanford, working with some students who were highly accomplished but did not seem to have a sense of self. I want all St. Luke’s graduates to get to college and find themselves experienced at talking with adults about what matters to them. Their questions, their interests, their needs.

We took another step in the direction Julie pointed us when we shifted this fall from writing APRs about students—to writing those reports to students. For new families, an “APR” is  an Academic Progress Report teachers send by email to comment on student progress.

How Should I Respond to an APR? 

I started thinking about APRs last year when a St. Luke’s parent asked me for advice: “How should I respond to an APR?”

I laughed, but it’s a serious question. I can picture a parent sitting at her desk, checking something on his phone, and suddenly that email subject line pops up: US Academic Progress Report.

Sometimes it’s news a parent is excited about. And sometimes it’s news that causes concern. In the moment when you receive an APR, especially one that concerns you, you have a decision to make. How do I respond?

When I asked students, “What happens when your parents see an APR?” here are some of the things I heard:

They freak out.

My dad emails the teacher before I’ve even seen the APR.

My phone starts buzzing with texts from my mom. Sometimes this happens when I’m in class.

But here’s the thing—those responses were understandable because in the past, we sent the APRs to parents. They said things like, “Please have Suzy come see me.” So Suzy’s mom is texting Suzy—“go see your teacher!”

This year, we’ve made that small change in how we write the APRs, and we hope it will have a big impact. Parents still get them, but they’re addressed to students: “Suzy, please come see me so we can go over your quiz.”

We want our students to remember that for this project called learning to be successful, they need to be the drivers.

So, to return to that question: “How should I respond to an APR?”

I’m channelling my inner Julie Lythcott-Haims, and I’m going to suggest something that may sound a bit radical: do nothing. Or at least, let a little time pass. Maybe bring it up that evening, using that voice parents use when they’re trying to sound all casual: Hey, I saw the APR from Ms. Perry—how are you planning to handle that? And depending on your child, you might ask: Do you need help making a plan?

A Much Needed Reality Check

The faculty is making changes, too. We cheer our students on and love and root for them so much that sometimes we end up encouraging them to take on more electives and activities and leadership roles than perhaps is reasonable. One of our most important jobs is guiding our students and advisees to stretch for that special goal or challenge. . . without overloading themselves.

To make this easier, last year, we used a new system for registering students for their courses in the Upper School. Under Director of Studies Jim Yavenditti’s leadership, we created a fancy color-coded Excel spreadsheet (see below) to= helps students understand the time commitment connected to their choices. We pre-populate the form with 56 hours of sleep, that’s 8 hours a night. Students have to fill in the rest of their time commitments. And they cannot go over 168 hours—because that’s all the hours there are in a week! AP Bio is going to have about 12 hours of homework, and Field Hockey is about 16 hours of practices and games. How much time do you spend commuting to and from school? How much family time do you expect to have? Let’s add it all up.

Time Predictor/Reality Check

Time Predictor/Reality Check

This simple process helps students understand what they are signing up for. We’re thinking of calling this form The Reality Check.  In talking to students, we have shifted to the language of commitment. You’re not signing up for AP Bio; you’re making a commitment to AP Bio. You’re making a commitment to Field Hockey. You’re making a commitment to sleep. We want to help our students make commitments they can keep.

It’s a challenge, a journey, a million laughs, and most of all, a privilege to know your children and partner with you in the project of raising them, gradually gradually, into adults.