Head of School Welcome and Installation Ceremony
On October 20, 2017, we celebrated the official installation of new Head of School Tori Jueds. Tori was introduced by Jon Evans ’73, Clerk of the Board of Trustees, and by her longtime friend and mentor Russell Weatherspoon, who gave a laudatory speech and even sang a few lines from Damn Yankees. After inspirational words (and a song!) from Tori, representatives from the student body, alumni, and parents presented Tori with gift books. After the ceremony, a reception was held in the Science Center. You can watch the Installation Ceremony here and see photos of the event here. The Daily Local newspaper ran a story about Tori taking the helm, which you can read here.
Thanks to all who came out for a fun day of music, food, games, hayrides, and more at FallFest 2017. Thanks, also, to event planner Megan Schlickmann and all the volunteers who made the celebration possible. With over 900 folks in attendance (up from about 700 last year), it was our best FallFest yet! Please click on this link to enjoy the gallery of photos that includes images from the Alumni/Community soccer game.
For the annual Thanksgiving dinner, our amazing kitchen staff and students cooked and served 28 turkeys, 100 lbs. of potatoes, 60 pies, and roasted chestnuts from the trees planted by Peter Lane '57 several years ago. Check out the time-lapse video to get a behind-the-scenes look!
Westtown in the News
The Philadelphia Inquirer featured Westtown School in a recent article about the use of virtual reality in the classroom. As part of research for her story, Inquirer reporter Kathy Boccella observed Teacher Lisa Cromley's 6th grade class and interviewed both Lisa and Alicia Zeoli, Technology Integrationist. Teachers Lisa and Alicia have built a curriculum around the book A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park, about a Sudanese refugee. This book is part of the Global Read Aloud in which hundreds of kids across the world read the book simultaneously and collaborate with one another. Part of studying this book and the experience of refugees includes the use of virtual reality goggles that give students the experience of touring pre- and post-war Aleppo, Syria, exploring the largest refugee camp in the world in Kenya, and more. Click here to read the Inquirer Article.
Independent School Multicultural Conference and College Fair
On October 21st, Westtown School hosted its seventh Independent School Multicultural Conference and College Fair. Susan Tree, Co-Director of College Counseling and one of the organizers of this signature event, reports, “Every other year since 2005, Westtown has hosted the Independent School Multicultural Conference and College Fair. Originally a Friends school initiative, the program is now supported by over sixty schools and access organizations from Baltimore to New York City. A faculty/staff committee and dozens of volunteers from Westtown’s Families for Multicultural Community (FMC) supply the labor and enthusiasm needed to carry out an event of this magnitude.
“The daylong program attracted over 700 students and parents from diverse backgrounds for a morning of workshops on the college search and admission process led by college admission professionals from colleges and universities across the country. An assembly led by Dr. Terry Nance, Associate Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at Villanova University, featured a panel discussion with admission directors from Wesleyan University, the University of Virginia, Boston College, and Washington and Lee University. Topics ranged from the future of affirmative action to campus safety.
“The afternoon College Fair in the Field House brought together students, parents, and admission representatives from over 100 colleges to discuss what the colleges have to offer and answer students’ questions.”
We extend our thanks to all of the student, parent, and community volunteers for their support. Special thanks go to Susan Tree, Jay Farrow ’75, and Marion Henderson (parent of ’17, ’20) for their commitment to this event which has furthered Westtown’s reputation as a leader and innovator in the world of college admission.
“A training workshop with all Upper School student leaders was held at the start of school on how to be good facilitators. Often times student leaders are called on to help when a conflict arises between individuals or when a topic ignites the US student community, and smaller break-out conversations are needed to help students share their voices and understand different perspectives. To help allow conversations to be more productive and create space for empathy, I worked with student leaders during orientation on how to be good facilitators. We practiced different scenarios and students leaders learned methods to help when conversations get heated and listening to another point of view is challenging. Students learned some ways to conduct a healthy dialogue including mirroring, fishbowls, and chalk talks.
“In Middle School we continue affinity group work that was started last year. Plans to have the first affinity groups session will happen later this month during Meeting for Worship time. Affinity space was well loved last year and the plan is to find ways to offer some groups the opportunity to continue to meet throughout the year. When students have the opportunity to meet across affinity groups it strengthens their own identity and allows them to have more empathy and understanding for those who are of a different affinity group. When we better understand ourselves and feel supported for who we are, we have greater capacity to understand and support others.
“We had a successful parent evening with local author and speaker Hilary Beard. Hilary spoke to faculty and Upper School students in the spring and came back to talk with parents on parenting and in particular the effects of stereotype threat and how African American boys in particular are affected by this. She spoke to a captivated audience of 60 for almost two and a half hours. Her book, Promises Kept, outlines most of what she shared; it is the companion book to the film American Promise which chronicles the lives of two African American boys from ages 4 to 18 who attend independent schools. The film and book are in our school library.”
The Arts, Past and Present
By Will Addis
The performing arts came late to our campus and music, theater, and dance were not a part of early Westtown life in a curricular or programmed manner. One of my favorite images from Westtown's past is a picture, taken circa 1913, of what looked like the school orchestra. Closer inspection revealed that they were actually a "fake" orchestra - playing pretend instruments to protest a school ban on music. Westtown students have always been vocal changemakers, it seems.
Beginning with recitations and historical reenactments, drama and music crept in rather slowly over the course of the 20th century and by the 1950s the arts were becoming as integrated in the lives of students as they are today. Shakespeare in the Greenwood and music in the South Room gave way to the creation of a theater in the area that is now the Main Hall link apartments, and then eventually the Art Center (officially known as the Center for the Living Arts - so 60s!). Today, the performing arts touch the lives of all of our students and community members.
The new display of photos in the Barton-Test Theater lobby covers a range of performances in all three divisions, including hallmark programs like the Middle School Shakespeare Festival, African dance, Lower School class plays, scenic arts design, and various music and dance concerts and theater productions. Many of the images celebrate the work we create today and you will see familiar faces throughout. We have also included images from the Archives. They are just a small sampling of the incredible work our students and faculty have created.
I encourage you to visit the theater and take in the images. While you look at these young men and women, remember that this is just a small portion of the thousands of students who have performed on our campus. For a few, that captured moment reflects the work they will do the rest of their lives. For most, though, it was one of the many aspects of Westtown life that helped shape their futures. Please join me in celebrating all of those students.
Bill Monahan and Sue Gold, 6th grade science and social studies teachers, have embarked on a novel experiment this year. They are helping students see the many intersections of their respective disciplines and ways in which scientists and historians work together.
Elsewhere, most combined courses in middle and upper schools are language arts/social studies or math/science pairings. But Bill and Sue saw a natural juncture in their disciplines. For example, the 6th graders have just finished their archaeology dig at an approximately 150-year-old trash pit on the Westtown campus, and they came away with questions about the artifacts they found that aren't easily pigeon-holed into a single academic subject: What kind of metal is this? Why is this glass bottle all twisted up? Why does the glaze on this shard of white china have little brown cracks all over it? Why is this piece of glass iridescent? So in addition to seeking information in the Archives and online about why there are so many pieces of white ironstone to be found in Westtown's trash middens (answer: it had been purchased for reasons of simplicity and durability) or what a tiny vial might have held (most likely a homeopathic medicine), students will take their metal concretions to the science lab for analysis, and they will examine the kind of bacteria that has invaded the crackled glaze of the ironstone.
The classes also visited two sites in Philadelphia: Independence National Park, where they saw artifacts from the James Dexter home, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. In the social studies classroom, students had read primary documents relating to Dexter, a former slave who purchased his freedom and then became a coachman in the 1790s for a prominent Quaker. They also learned that as the National Constitution Center was being built, members of Philadelphia's African-American community pressed for the excavation of Dexter's home, which now lies under the bus drop-off for the Center. But the documents came alive when students saw artifacts found at Dexter's home: wig curlers, which would have been a necessary accessory for his livery as a coachman; oyster shells, oysters having been a common and affordable food at the time; and iron nails, an indicator of wealth, since in the late 18th century most were still imported from England. And at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, 6th graders learned how "Things Fall Apart" in an exhibit about how different materials break down over time.
Sue and Bill are keenly aware that knowledge isn't "neat" in the world for which they're preparing their students. They help Westtown 6th graders to ask probing questions, and then to consider where they can find the answers. The students are coming to realize that traditional textbooks may not be their best resource. Instead, they may need to consult primary sources, head to a science lab, or seek out experts in other fields with whom they can collaborate. Coming up in the spring is an exciting interdisciplinary project on climate change. Students will build on prior knowledge and conduct independent research (including interviewing scientists, social scientists and end-users) to design and present solutions for mitigating the effects of climate change on the Westtown campus.
According to Sue and Bill, the best thing about the multidisciplinary approach is that it's real-life and engages students in purposeful problem-solving with end results that have meaning for them. Not only that, it's mission-driven. These students will be inspired and prepared to be stewards and leaders of a better world.
Guerster House Retreat 2017
By Ted Freeman
Whenever a new group of boys moves into Guerster House at the beginning of the school year I am eager to tell them that they are joining a great legacy. Since 1917 (100 years!) this building has seen generations of students pass through its halls.The young men who have lived here have a very special bond with one another that continues throughout their experience at Westtown, and into their adult lives. Rene Guerster, class of ’56, shared this experience when he was a resident of this dorm. It is through Mr. Guerster’s generosity that our retreat is made possible. The aim of this retreat is to provide a catalyst for building fellowship and community among the residents of Guerster House.
Our group consisted of twenty-three residents and four adult chaperones: Teachers Tim Mountz and Omar Otero (both of whom are Guerster House dorm parents), and Teacher Larry Dech (a former Guerster House dorm parent). Our first adventure was to go on the 900-foot-long zip line that was on-site at the rafting company. One of the most important elements of this retreat is for the group to support one another in stretching our limits. Wearing harness and helmet, each of us climbed the ladder to clip onto the line rather tentatively. There were facilitators who also encouraged us and helped us take that step into the abyss. It was completely thrilling. The trip only lasted a few seconds, but it made a profound impact. As each student arrived at the bottom, the group was there to celebrate him. It was wonderful to see our trip begin with such positive energy.
We boarded a bus that took us to our put-in site for rafting on the river. Within each raft was a wide range of paddling experience. In some rafts a leader quickly took charge and organized how the group would function. In other rafts it was a different story. In order for a raft to go where you want, the four paddlers need to be working as a team. Students had to lean into this difficulty to figure out how best to work together. One of the highlights of the trip was watching a group of young men who had begun with great difficulty, but by the end they were working together smoothly. Whether they knew it or not, they were practicing the same type of problem-solving that we often need to do in our dormitory.
Rafting was tremendous fun. As groups became more adept at directing their rafts, the foreseeable horseplay ensued. Each raft was equipped with a bail bucket which doubled as a weapon used to douse your neighbor. Suffice to say, everyone got pretty wet! The proctors coordinated a very impressive ambush for the teachers!
The next morning, after packing up the tents and camping gear, we took a stroll down to Lake Mauch Chunk, where we settled into Meeting for Worship. As we took in the quiet, idyllic setting, several students shared wonderful ministry. Some students expressed gratitude for the opportunity to be on the trip; some spoke of their appreciation for the friendships they were making; others recounted a memorable moment of the trip. It was the perfect capstone to a great trip.
My hope is that the impact of our retreat will continue to resound throughout the school year. In the days following I have seen tighter bonds among the kids and a more collaborative mentality about our life in the dormitory. I want to thank Rene Guerster for his generosity in making the trip possible. I hope it is in line with his vision of what it should be. I am grateful to Tim Mountz, Omar Otero, and Larry Dech, who gave up their weekend to join us on this adventure. I want to acknowledge the parents of our students who have been incredibly supportive of this journey; I know it can be a bit scary to see your child go on a trip like this and not be there with them. And lastly I want to express my deep gratitude to the students of Guerster House. They fully realized our greater goals and made this an experience that each one of us will treasure forever.
Westtown's Campus Kitchen club sponsored "Turkeypalooza" to collect turkey donations for our community partners, West Chester Senior Center and CityTeam in Chester. Students in Service Network delivered 15 turkeys to the West Chester Senior Center just before Thanksgiving break, and faculty advisor Mitch Bernstein says that eight turkeys will be delivered to CityTeam at Christmas. Thank you to all community members who donated turkeys!
Fourth Graders Live Like Lenape
When the annual fourth grade trip to Cape Henlopen, Delaware was sidetracked because of rough waters resulting from remnants of a hurricane, Teachers Shelagh Wilson and Hillary Simons, pivoted quickly and decided to take students to Westtown’s lake for an overnight - and to dive deeper into their unit on the Lenape Native American tribe. Students had a naming ceremony in the Greenwood, built shelters and structures in the woods, played games of the Lenape, cooked a harvest vegetable stew, and went canoeing on the lake.
Young Hero Award
Congratulations to senior KC Miller, a recipient of The National Liberty Museum’s Young Heroes Award. KC founded the non-profit organization Keystone Coalition for the Advancement of Sex Education, an organization that advocates comprehensive, inclusive sex education in Pennsylvania schools. The National Liberty Museum recognized KC’s work and honored him and other Young Heroes in a ceremony earlier this year. As KC says in this piece in Broadly Vice, "Change will only come if we work together and collectively strengthen each other's missions because injustice is intersectional and interconnected."
Festival of the Arts
The Performing and Visual Arts Department decided to turn the traditional sit-in-your-seat concert experience on its head this year. On November 12th, concert goers gathered in the theater where they were divided into small groups that traveled around campus to see various groups perform in a variety of locations: singing in Main Hall, Jazz Ensemble on the theater stage, and the Elements Dance troupe danced in the Art Gallery among works created especially by the drawing class for this festival, for a few examples. This moving feast of music, song, dance, and art was a novel approach conceived by Will Addis, Chair of Performing Arts at Westtown, who wanted to a more interactive way to showcase various disciplines. To get a sense of this unique and beautiful evening visit the gallery of photos here.
Here are just a few highlights from the fall athletics season:
- The girls soccer team who won their first-ever Friends Schools League Championship, and advanced to the State Semifinals for the third consecutive year!
- The Cross Country team had a strong season with the boys team finishing in second place in the FSL, and the girls in team in third.
- The Field Hockey team made the FSL playoffs.
Photo courtesy of Ralph Oswald
- 23 Westtown athletes were FSL All-League selections.
- Sara Oswald '19 broke the school's all-time soccer scoring record with 68 goals...in her junior year!
- Collin Cunane '20 was named a USA Gymnastics Scholastic All American
- Cruz Buitron '19 was named a USA Swimming Scholastic All American.
- Anabel Barnett '19 (and her horse Rockafella) was one of 175 qualified junior riders from around the country to compete in the National Maclay Medal Finals.
Anabel Barnett '19
Celeste Payne Earns NASA Certificate
Congratulations to Upper School science teacher Celeste Payne, who has graduated from NASA's Space Academy for Educators! The US Space and Rocket Center's press release says, "Payne was part of a program that is designed for teachers who want advanced education in the STEM fields. Payne experienced astronaut simulators and took a virtual tour to space to save the International Space Station. Trainees also followed lesson plans based on NASA content, which is correlated to the National Science Education Standards, and received content and knowledge to pass on to their students in the classroom."
Our faculty have been busy writing, sharing their professional development experiences, and offering tips for parents on our blogs. Settle in for some reading here (and consider subscribing!):
Homework - Tips for Helping Your Middle Schooler Succeed by Nancy van Arkel, Middle School Principal
Tips on Managing the Teen Mood Swing by Linda McGuire, Dean of Students
Blu Seeds: Explorations and Reflections from the Adirondacks, Summer 2017, by Jeff Waring, Lower School Art Teacher
2017 NAIS Equity Design Lab: Culturally Responsive Teaching: A Teacher’s Experience, by Jeanne Watson-Smith, Lower School Art Teacher
Tuesday, May 22
Applebrook Golf Club & Westtown's Stadium Courts
*Beautiful walking course with the finest caddies
*Tennis Round Robin at Westtown's Stadium Courts
*Exquisite culinary delights
*Cocktails, dinner, and auction
The last two years we sold out weeks in advance - it's not too early to register.
Online registration is now open!
Outing proceeds benefit all Westtown students. If you have any questions or want to learn more about the Outing, contact Megan Schlickmann via email or call (610) 399-7858.
Daryl Shore '99 is a manager in the Impact Investments Group at Prudential, where he is responsible for sourcing, underwriting, and managing investments. Prior to joining Prudential in 2016, Daryl was a vice president in Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase and was a core member of the team that structured JPMorgan's $100 million investment in Detroit. He is also an active board member for a number of civic and nonprofit organizations -- National Housing Council, National Housing Institute, Gesu School, Westtown School, and Harlem Grown. He is a "man for others" who chooses to give back both in his professional work and in his personal commitments.