Faculty (Volume 2: Summer 2013)

Fond goodbyes to departing faculty: We wish a fond goodbye to each of our faculty members who will be heading off to new adventures in the U.S. and around the world. In many different ways, each of them have contributed so much to the vibrant program that Sturgis offers. Moving on from Sturgis West will be: Wes Baden, Bret Miles, and Antonio Hernandez, and from both West and East will be Claire Merrill. Moving on from Sturgis East will be: Jim Buckheit, Morgan Derby, Bev Fogg, June Miles, and Alicia Watts. We wish all of these faculty members good fortune as they embrace new endeavors in their lives.

Notes and Accolades includes information on workshops attended and special events hosted by faculty. Faculty members were invited by the Sturgis Board of Trustees to highlight some of their best activities/memories from their interactions with students this year. The entries for those who responded are enclosed in quotes.

Robert Albis – Latin East

“A highlight this year came in the fall when members of the Latin Department took a number of students to Classics Day at Boston University, an event sponsored by the Massachusetts Junior Classical League. Among other activities, students could attend seminars run by Boston area college faculty. I accompanied a number of Sturgis students to a seminar run by Emma Dench, a Harvard professor. I was truly impressed by how confident our students were in speaking up in this strange setting, answering Prof. Dench’s questions in a room packed with students they had never met. Not only were they confident, but they made intelligent and articulate contributions to the seminar. This was true not only of students who regularly participate very actively at Sturgis, but even of the ones who are rather reticent on a daily basis. This seminar was an encouraging indication of how our students are likely to fare when they reach college.”

Cape Cod 5 Mini Grants

Several Sturgis Teachers Who Won Cape Cod 5 Mini Grants
Robin Singer, Elisabeth Moore, Claire Shea, Gina Kelly and Lindsay Scott

Sturgis received a total of 7 mini grants from Cape Cod 5 this year. We greatly appreciate their support!

Eric Hillebrand, Tonja Weimer, Pete Richenberg and Elie Rabinowitz – Sturgis West – Mock Archeological Dig

Student-directed paths of inquiry, including authentic experiences like dating and placing artifacts, will teach the complexity of the dig process and how it intersects with other academic areas.

Gina Kelly – Science West – Ecosystem Project

While collaborating with the MA Audubon Society’s Long Pond pasture Sanctuary, students will gather data and conduct investigations in a variety of Cape Cod habitats.

Diane Klaiber – Library East – Stress Reduction Outside of the Classroom

To provide supportive materials focused on students’ feelings, body image and understanding intellectual, physical and emotional balance. Materials will be used to create an after school Healthy Start Club.

Elizabeth Moore – Music West – Ukuleles in the Classroom: Making Music Education Accessible for Everyone

Ukuleles will help students gain appreciation for creating, composing and listening to music while broadening performance opportunities where they do not currently exist.

Community GardensLindsay Scott – Science West – and Kristie Kapp – Sturgis West Parent – Sturgis Garden Project   Students will create a raised bed garden on school grounds to be used as a laboratory that will facilitate a hands-on ecosystens approach to conceptualizing what students are learning in the classroom.

Robin SingerClaire Shea – Spanish East – Writing to Spain: Creating Connections through Common Language

Students will participate in an international pen pal project. Students will write in Spanish to their pen pals in Cordoba, Spain and students will receive responses in English.

Robin Singer – Math East – Mathematical Relationships in Ohm’s Law

Students will gain a hands-on understanding of one of the most basic laws used in the study of electricity and electronics through batteries, resistors, voltmeters and breadboards.

Cristina Alvarez – Spanish East

“I think the most meaningful experience this year came from a unit I did on ‘Mileuristas’ with my HL1- Spanish classes. ‘Mileuristas’ are people between the ages of 25 and 34, with a university degree, who speak foreign languages, have post-graduate degrees and make less than 1000 euros a month. Through this unit my students were able to further understand some of the concerns facing the youth in Spain.

Many Spaniards find themselves leaving Spain to pursue opportunities abroad due to the high unemployment rate and shrinking labor market in Spain. For one of the assignments in this unit, I had my students ask a series of questions to my friend David, a friend who left Madrid around the same time I did to pursue an MBA in Australia. The questions were videotaped and sent to David in Australia who then replied via video.

It was a great experience for my students who had to come up with questions while getting to hear first-hand why many youth are leaving Spain during this economic crisis.

My friend David discussed that having a command of several languages can give an individual a competitive advantage, as companies increasingly desire individuals with highly developed linguistic and intercultural skills. Currently those individuals who are mastering more languages are presented with a wider range of job opportunities and experience the benefits of multilingualism.

I also hosted a “tapeo” with Srta Shea. HL/SL1 students were able to experience Spanish tapas prepared by Srta Shea and myself.”

Pam Burke – Guidance West

“One of my most recent positive experiences this year was de-briefing with three freshmen students after they returned from a START (Students Taking Active Responsibility Today) conference that we arranged for them to attend (5/31, 6/1 & 6/2).  They said the other students and staff were fantastic, it was action packed, they were challenged to form opinions, attended workshops regarding including others, communicating, labeling, etc.  They also were very moved by the inspirational speakers.

Right after I met with them, I received an e-mail from the conference leader who said our students received ambassador awards because of their involvement in the program and for helping engage others.

It’s wonderful to hear great things about our students, but it’s also very exciting to see the future leaders of our school come back energized, enthusiastic and ready to bring what they learned to the Sturgis West community.”

Andrea Fleckles – Special Ed East

“Every year around May 1st, I proctor the IB Exams for students on IEP’s.  I continue to be impressed with the wealth of knowledge that seniors can put into writing on an IB exam.  I see them come to Sturgis as freshmen who struggle to put thoughts down on paper to seniors that could write for hours!  I am proud to be a part of a school where we believe “IB for All”

Shelia Gilligan – Science East

“Meaningful experiences with students happen each day, in the unplanned, in-the-moment exchange of ideas.  Science East teachers, Divya Johar and Sheila Gilligan, coordinated a multi-grade, multi-science group of students working on a local water-monitoring project this year.  Most meaningful to us were several lunch-time meetings where project work led to discussion of creative experimental ideas.  East science teachers, Kathy Mullin and Pete Sampou, who shared time with the project group this semester, were as excitable as our students about new experiment possibilities (it’s indescribable, although we all know this, how teachers’ interest in student work – especially outside of class – impacts student motivation, confidence and accomplishment).”

Alanna Hernandez – Wellness East

“In my first year of teaching, everything has been meaningful in its own way. Some memorable moments:
-The respectful and kind way that students treated each other. This allowed us to do some fun partner and team exercises. Also, some of the freshmen were inspired to teach their peers some of the activities that they do on their own–things like tai chi and karate that complimented the yoga we did.
-Seeing students commit to meditation–it’s not easy to put away your phone and forget about grades even for a few minutes–and then hearing from them that it made them feel better.
-Watching students challenge and surprise themselves with difficult postures like headstands and arm balances.”

Eric Hieser – Executive Director

SONY DSC“Following an in-depth self assessment and athorough evaluation by a visiting team representing the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), Sturgis was recognized for achieving the renewal of its charter at a Charter Renewal Ceremony on June 7 at Foxborough Regional Charter School.The photo above shows Sturgis Executive Director, Eric Hieser, receiving the Charter Renewal Certificate from Mitchell Chester, MA Commissioner of Education, and F. Jay Barrows, MA House of Representatives for Foxborough.
Charter schools go through a rigorous evaluation every five years as a means for ensuring that they continue to offer high quality programs that
result in academic and personal success for their students. Sturgis was awarded charter renewal without conditions, an indication that the MA DESE did not have any recommendations for improvements in the learning experience offered at Sturgis.”

Mr. Hieser visited Bronx Early College Academy February 28-29. He is serving as IB Consultant for two schools preparing for authorization to offer the International Baccalaureate Programme:

  • Bronx Early College Academy in New York
  • Cathedral High School in Springfield, MA

Eric Hieser is listed in “People to Watch in 2013: The individuals who are making a distinctive mark on Cape Cod in compelling ways:” View the Cape Cod Magazine article. Cape Cod Magazine, January 2013.

Mr. Hieser is also featured in the March/April 2013 issue of Cape Cod View:

Conversation with Eric Hieser, Executive Director, Sturgis Charter Public School”, Cape Cod View, March/April 2013: p.16-17.

Denise Hyer – Admin Assistant East

“Ballroom Dance Group: It was a wonderful experience to be the Ballroom Dance Workshop advisor during 2 six week sessions this year. For many of those students who participated it was an exploration of an activity well beyond their comfort zone. However, the smiles on their faces and the excitement in their voices as they learned a new pattern or switched dance partners was evidence that they were enjoying themselves while gaining new skills, building confidence in a social situation, and discovering a fun way to exercise their bodies and minds.

Senior Class Trip and Gift: The reward for being the senior class trip/gift advisor was the sincere expressions of thanks received from many students and also from parents.  Though I was unable to attend the trip this year, I heard from every faculty chaperon that the seniors and they had a wonderful day and all went smoothly.

It requires time and commitment to plan and organize this event and the fundraising to help off-set the cost a little as well as to purchase the class gift to the school. It’s been my pleasure to work with the class of 2013 to help them bring to fruition a final fun event with most of their classmates to celebrate their years together at Sturgis and to guide them with their purchase of 15 flags from around the world which will hang in the library as well as two time zone clocks representing Israel and France. They will be displayed along with 4 clocks from the 2012 Class which currently hang above the main office.”

Divya Johar – Science East

“Sophomores worked on an egg drop project in their Physics class. Their goal was to construct a case that can save an egg from breaking if dropped from a height of 10 feet. This project required knowledge of some important physics concepts. They all did an amazing job by working as a team and using their knowledge to succeed as a group.”

Enough Abuse Campaign of Cape Cod and the Islands (www.enoughabuse.org) teamed up with our Guidance Department to offer a seminar for interested staff on March 21.  In our roles as educators, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends, we are all in some way touched by the epidemic of sexual abuse.  4 in 10 girls and 6 in 10 boys are abused by someone they know, love and trust. We can and must change this reality and eliminate the cycle of abuse.

Susan Lacombe- Voigt, Special Education Coordinator – East

Alfonso Garcia Willimans from Colegio Willimas de Cuernavaca in Mexico, Jayne Plester-Dent Curriculum Manager for Inclusive Education International Baccalaureate Organization, ,IB Global Centre, The Hague, Kristel Solomon-Saleem from the Hong Kong Academy,   Sara Mayo from The International School of The Hague in the Netherlands, Susan LaCombe-Voigt from Sturgis Charter Public School in the USA,  Anindita Mukherjee from Oberoi International School in Mumbai, Kala Parasuram Assessment Access and Inclusion Manager at the International Baccalaureate, Cardiff, and Alan Andrew from the Community School in the UK

(L-R) Alfonso Garcia Willimans from Colegio Williams de Cuernavaca in Mexico; Jayne Plester-Dent, Curriculum Manager for Inclusive Education International Baccalaureate Organization, IB Global Centre, The Hague; Kristel Solomon-Saleem from the Hong Kong Academy; Sara Mayo from The International School of The Hague; Susan LaCombe-Voigt from Sturgis;  Anindita Mukherjee from Oberoi International School in Mumbai; Kala Parasuram, Assessment Access and Inclusion Manager at the International Baccalaureate, Cardiff; and Alan Andrew from the Community School in the UK

Susan was invited to join an Inclusive Education team that met in June at the International Baccalaureate (IB) headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. The goal of the team was to develop guidelines to help IB World Schools inquire, act and reflect on inclusive education. This new initiative of the International Baccalaureate Programme is the first time the IB has convened a group of experienced educators to focus on inclusion.

Like Advanced Placement (AP) programs, the IB curriculum has traditionally been offered only to high achievers selected to participate. Sturgis is one of the first schools to introduce an inclusive “IB for All” philosophy that promotes the belief that students selected through a public lottery can succeed in this challenging curriculum regardless of past academic records or individual challenges.

Six special education inclusion specialists from around the world were invited to participate in the 3-day meeting at The Hague. Other members of the taskforce included: Alan Andrew from the International Community School in London; Alfonso Garcia Willimans from Colegio Williams de Cuernavaca in Morelos, Mexico; Sara Mayo from The International School of The Hague, Netherlands; Anindita Mukherjee from Oberoi International School in Mumbai, India; and Kristel Solomon-Saleem from Hong Kong Academy.

The team created Guidelines for Inclusive Education, a discussion document designed to provoke inquiry and reflection in IB programs. IB standards and practices, the IB Learner Profile and ‘four principles of good practice’ are reflected in the guidelines. The goal of the guidelines and review questions are to be user friendly to help support and empower schools on their inclusion journey.

Caroline Lee – Latin West

“Mrs. Lee and thirteen students from Sturgis West attended Junior Classical League’s annual “Classics Day” at Boston University on Thursday, December 6. 700 Latin students from around the state were there, and students attended seminars led by Boston area professors and graduate students.

The Sturgis West students won 2nd place in the skit contest with their rendition of “Pygmalion,” the story of an ancient man who sculpts the perfect woman out of ivory.”

Laptops for KidZ

Adam Menges and Eric Hieser

Adam Menges and Eric Hieser

Adam Menges, volunteer for the Masonic Angel Foundation, delivered their 600th computer to Eric Hieser. Sturgis has received a total of seven computers this year. We greatly appreciates the generous support of the Masonic Angel Foundation in providing laptops for students who do not have access to a computer outside of school hours. By refurbishing computers donated by local businesses and distributing them to local schools, Laptop for KidZ helps to level the playing field for students who do not have computers at home. We were honored to be part of the milestone when the 600th laptop was delivered! For more information about Laptops for Kids, see: http://www.laptopsforkidz.org/

Matt Lee – History West

“On Tuesday, June 11th, the sophomore class at Sturgis West concluded a two week archaeology simulation with a presentation to the school.  Several students had an opportunity to present their research, including John Russell, Alex Cassell, Pat Thut, and Claire Gilliland.  Their presentations were followed by a panel discussion, which included Sara Booth, Olivia LaBarge, Abby Dimmick, Liz Mahoney, and John LeRoy, in which students, faculty, and parents had the opportunity to ask questions about the dig.  The conference was concluded with remarks by Mr. Steedman and Mr. Hillebrand, who helped piece the story and relevant artifacts together for the students.

Studying the 1920s in U.S. History II, my sophomore history classes recently studied the highly controversial trial of Sacco and Vanzetti.  This case lends itself particularly well to IB-style learning because there are so many different interpretations on how it happened; some historians believe that there was incontrovertible evidence of their guilt in the murder of a local paymaster, others believe that it was merely the political and social intolerance of Americans at the time that resulted in their condemnation, while still others believe that Sacco was guilty while Vanzetti was not.  We examined several documents pertaining to this case before having a mock trial of our own using sock puppets.  Some students portrayed specific characters in the trial (including Nicola Sacco with the bow tie, played by Maddie Williams, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti with the fantastic mustache, played by Ariel Sampou), while others played the part of socialist sympathizers (clad in red) or Nativist Americans (clad in white).  We, like so many historians who have dedicated their lives to solving the mystery of this trial, failed to reach any conclusions on this trial.

Both of these were great experiences because it gave the students to apply to skills we have learned in class to do some genuine learning.”

Library East

“Our library’s theme for February was “Love is in the Air”.  Mrs. Dunigan- Atlee and Mrs. Klaiber focused on sharing great fiction on love, relationships and families in several English classes.  Approximately fifty books were checked out by students along with some great sharing of good reads.

Valentines for VetsWe also sponsored the “Valentine for Veterans” program in advisories before Valentine’s Day.  This is a national program sponsored by the Veteran Affairs.  Each year, schools and organizations across the country make valentines for veterans in hospitals to thank them for their service.   Sturgis students put their creative talents on paper and made over 350 valentines.  Some were sent to the Providence Veteran’s Hospital where Cape Cod veteran’s doctor and the rest were given to the Cape Cod Veteran’s Services Department in Hyannis.  This Department was sharing the valentines in the checks they send to veterans along with sharing them in their offices both in Hyannis and Harwich.  Our students did a wonderful job and the Veteran’s Department greatly appreciated their efforts!”

Jessica Lynch – Special Ed West

“This year I was able to take the juniors at West who have an Individualized Education Plans over to Cape Cod Community College to participate in a presentation on college resources for students with special needs.  The students who went had varying experiences with college attendance in their families, and some have been reluctant to explore the idea of college. The presentation had teachers from the college and a panel of students with special needs who were currently attending the college. Pam Burke and I went with the students.

The most meaningful part for me as teacher was the debriefing session that we did after the presentation.  The students asked very insightful questions and demonstrated that they had been listening closely to the presenters.  They also wanted to have a clearer understanding of their own individual strengths and weaknesses as well as the current accommodations on their educational plans so that they could be better self-advocates.  It was remarkable to see the transformation from wanting to go to the presentation just so that they could get out of school and miss a class to seeing that the experience was valuable, personally meaningful, and useful in terms of planning their own futures.  They all ended that day feeling that college was a real possibility for each of them, and knowing some of the tools specifically needed by students with special needs that they would need to develop in order to be successful in college.”

Paul MarblePrincipal East

Paul Marble led an IB Workshop entitled “Creating Inclusive Classrooms: Access for all Students in the Diploma Program” at Rice University’s Center for College Readiness in Houston, TX February 25-27 and in Portland, Oregon April 5-7. The IB Workshop Course List provides the following description: “Internationally minded schools celebrate diversity, but how do IB World Schools provide an inclusive learning environment ensuring student differences are seen as a means to enrich learning for all? This workshop enables participants to extend their knowledge, skills and understanding of how to provide access and support for all students, focusing on student strengths, capabilities and challenges. Participants will have the opportunity to reflect on classroom practices and explore models of collaborative teams that facilitate support for all learners, and will create an action plan to develop school policy documents that support access and inclusion for all students consistently. Mr. Marble has made numerous presentations about the IB Diploma Programme and its implementation, and is an experienced IB Workshop Leader, helping experienced IB teachers from across the nation support diverse learners in their classrooms.”

June Miles – English East

“We managed to trudge through E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View with great success!  Colleagues questioned whether such a novel would merit any attention from the male gender, but somehow, it became a favorite with the most unlikely of boys!  Of course, after reading two war novels, the few girls in these three sections of literature clearly smiled throughout the Edwardian tale of Lucy Honeychurch with her challenge of which man would win her heart.  However, the pleasant surprise came when at least half the classes chose to use the novel for their Internal Oral Presentation–this means speaking before the class on such merits as love, romance, travel, rivalry, and drawing-room drama.  Yes, they were listening when I prefaced the novel with: “read closely and you will see, boys, how to win the affections of a woman when presented with two very different suitors.”  They listened and now they know!”

Elisabeth Moore – Music West

“Two of the most meaningful experiences of the year for me were the December 11th concert and the May 11th Arts Festival. I work all year with these students to get them to feel comfortable singing and performing in front of large groups of people and this year they met my challenge with absolute success. I saw students stand in front of an entire room of peers, parents, and teachers without fear. Between the two concerts, just a few short months, I saw many of them come into their own identity as musicians and performers and the exponential musical growth between the two concerts was obvious. Sturgis West is starting to build its own identity as a supporting and loving school environment, something many of our students have not experienced before, and events like these build up the cooperative atmosphere we are trying to manifest as teachers.

Because I’m greedy and love my music program, another amazing moment for me this year was the Rock Band Performance day with my sophomores. I asked these students (some with no prior knowledge of instruments or playing) to learn a rock song and play it for their peers. The performance day was an absolute joy and success because I got to see how supportive everyone was of each other, not passing judgment or being negative in any way; we really took a big step in the right direction.

Over and over these students continually renewed my passion for music and started to discover their own. I am really looking forward to seeing how the music program at Sturgis West grows over the next few years because there is so much momentum already, I know they will absolutely blossom in the future.”

Maxanne Most – Science West

“This is my first year teaching high school. I really don’t have one single instance to write about, just how positive the whole year has been working with these students. I was thrilled at how enthusiastic students have been about the experiments we have done – who knew making some gases go pop or playing with dry ice would be so exciting. Even just learning to light Bunsen burners was a thrill. They actually recorded some of our labs on their phones and put them on Facebook! And playing Jeopardy with these kids – OMG and holy cow – do they get into that – talk about competitive!!

I get hugs, high fives and most gratifying of all has been the fantastic response to chemistry – I have 34 – 36 students signed up for IB Chemistry next year! It been an incredible year (even with all the stress of new job, new school, new coworkers, etc.) and the reason it has been so great is the students and the faculty at both schools.”

Patrick O’Kane – Athletics East

“As Athletic Director, I will remember how our students managed to balance athletics with the IB….something I witnessed first-hand as the assistant IB coordinator.  With a full diploma course load, many of our students left the classroom at 3:10, traveled to a distant field, practiced or competed for 2 hours, and then returned home (again, often quite a distance) to tackle another few hours of study.  To do this all without complaint (outside of the normal teenager allowance for complaining!), is truly remarkable.”

Rachel Ollagnon – Theater East

Rachel Ollagnon wrote an article entitled “The Minefield Exercise” which was published in the March, 2012-13 Scene, a quarterly journal of the International Schools Theatre Association (ISTA). Click here to link to article: Minefield Exercise by Rachel Ollagnon

As the GSA adviser,  Rachel Ollagnon applied for and was awarded a grant from the GALE fund of the Cape Cod Foundation. The grant is for  for purchasing books and resources for the school library that address LGBT, anti-bullying and tolerance issues. Rachel was presented with the check at the GALE fund annual event in May and looks forward to using these resources to improve and enhance our school community.

Relay for Life

2013 Relay for LifeFor the first year ever Sturgis had two teams at the Mid-Cape Relay For Life on Friday June 14 and Saturday June 15: a student-run East and West team of 23 students called “I.B. for a Cure” and an alumni/teacher/Sturgis community team called “Friends of Sturgis.” The two teams camped out together at D-Y and shared walking duties for the 24-hour event.

I.B. For a Cure achieved “Bronze” status, raising over $2500 for American Cancer Society. They placed second for youth teams. The team, led by Class of 2013 co-captains Mary Pawlusiak and Jessica Bowse, had been fundraising since September, requiring monthly dues of $10 to help team members raise their quota of $100 by the event. Those who came up short facilitated fundraisers at the event: “survivor bracelets” made by Joann Johnson’s (of East) pre-Sturgis son (still a few available for sale!), snow-cones made on site, and a gently-used Kindle and leather case donated by a friend of Sturgis raffled (and won by Marion Weeks of East!). Lily Haselton raised money by face-painting (and also won the “Imagination” recognition for a Luminaria she decorated in honor of her survivor-mother) and Krupa Patel raised money by painting Henna tattoos. Per tradition, Devin Low was the last student standing, having walked, for the second year in a row, the length of a marathon! For his contribution, he won a $25 gift certificate to buy a new pair of shoes.

Relay for Life2Friends of Sturgis raised over $1000 for the cause and ranked “Rising Star” status. The team consisted of three teachers/alumni (Alicia Fenney of East, class of 2003, Anna Botsford, class of 2002, and Jenna Arledge, class of 2004), three members of the class of 2012 (Emily Morin, Jack Enos, and Kyra Dauwalder), and one former chaperone, survivor, and father of Emily Morin. Jack also placed in the Mz. Relay contest, a cross-dressing feat that also helped the team raise a few bucks! This was his second year placing. Emily Morin was the last one standing, having walked seventeen miles.

The event was attended by lots of members of the Sturgis community, including several alumni, teachers, parents, and current students not participating on the Sturgis teams. Anyone interested in joining next year’s team should contact Will Matthews and Jesse Sawyer (at East, who will be taking over the advising role from Ms Fenney), or Anna Botsford and Jenna Arledge (at West).

Abby Rhoads English – West

I have had a great year with my students. The most meaningful class-moments that stick out in my mind are the times when we have been discussing a piece of literature and the students have had beautiful “ah-ha” moments connecting the literature we are reading with motifs we have studied from Thomas Foster’s book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor.  These moments have been epically sweet for me because whenever we take out the Professor books the students moan and groan, they pretend like they don’t like the book,   but I know that they are getting great insight through Foster’s book, and that that they are excited about all of the connections that they are able to make in literature.  It is such a sweet reward to hear a student say, “Oh my gosh, I get it” or to hear them drawing their own comparisons between works without me even cluing them.

Claire Shea – Spanish East

“I wrapped up SL Spanish with a dance unit that got students moving: they learned salsa, merengue, bachata and sevillanas (a type of flamenco) for a week. Several students exclaimed (in Spanish), “We should have learned this before prom!” It was the highlight of the year for me and for the juniors. Her Spanish II sophomores ended the year by receiving their last pen pal letters from 17 and 18 year olds from Córdoba, Spain.”

Jennifer Walts – English West

Jenn Kirk, CAS Coordinator, Sturgis West (r) Welcomes Families to CAS Showcase

Jenn Kirk, CAS Coordinator, Sturgis West (r) Welcomes Families to CAS Showcase

“This year’s C.A.S. Showcase was quite the experience. It was so meaningful and rewarding to observe our students verbally reflecting about their most prized involvement in C.A.S. activities.  The amount of student aid that went into this evening was remarkable.  Students performed throughout the evening, showcasing their greatest talents and newly developed skills of ballroom dancing, playing guitar, singing, and even playing ukulele. Individual C.A.S. portfolios and student clubs from Sturgis East and West presented in our nautical colored hallways here at West. Parents of current and incoming students perused the halls in awe at our students’ achievements, challenges, and future hopes.  It was a wonderful evening of valuable reflection, and most students found it to be a powerful experience that they’d like to involve themselves in next year.

Also, a huge thank you from the Walts advisory for your support and donations toward the MSPCA (Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and NESAA (New England Society for Abandoned Animals) item collection. We were able to supply plenty of bed blankets, toys, and food to two wonderful organizations.”  Organization sites if you want to learn more: http://www.nesaa.org/, http://www.mspca.org/

Alicia Watts – English East

“In January, Ms. Watts’s sophomores took their poetry into the community, performing at the local venue Rendezvous on Main Street. For the month of December, the sophomores studied poetry from a variety of angles: contemporary female poetry, allusions, season and vampiric personas in poetry, poetry commentary, Slam and poetry performance (including Poetry Out Loud preparation). They wrote two original poems and had the option to perform one at an in-class “coffeehouse.” When Ms Watts learned that the local cafe was interested in hosting student events, she reached out to see if the venue could facilitate a classroom activity. Dylan Jordan, owner, was enthusiastic about letting two groups come during their long blocks for an early-morning poetry performance event. For $6 a person, he provided breakfast sandwiches, bagels, toast, and fruit, plus bottomless coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. The event was a huge success and a lot of fun.”

Rich Weida – Math West

“I’m one of the advisors for GSA at West and many of the student members eat lunch in my classroom.  In an effort to develop the habit of positive thinking we created a “drop bucket”.  (Thanks go to Pam Burke for the idea.)   Each day we would each try to put a note in the bucket that said something positive about ourselves or somebody else in the group.  After a few weeks we took the notes out of the bucket and shared them with each other.  We created two posters, one serious and the other kind of goofy.  These posters are hanging in the hall outside my room.  This was a fun activity that helped create better self-esteem for everyone in the group.”

Tonja Weimer – Science West

“Highlights of the year for Biology West:

– Horseshoe crab dissection and fieldtrip

– Student’s DNA project presentations

Highlights for Athletics:

-Shannon Hart’s first goal ever in soccer

-Having the girls play soccer around a porta potty at practice at Simpkins due to the setting up of the Seaside Festival

– Almost come back against East in the last lax game, we were down 7-0 at half and the game ended and we lost by 2.

-Lax practice indoors

-First varsity lax win


-World Challenge departs for Ecuador for a 15 day expedition this coming Wednesday. Pre departure gathering with family and friends at West will be Tuesday evening.  Bus leaves for NY airport at 1am.”

Marsha Yalden – Theater East

“I think the highlight of my year was when the SL1/HL1 Theatre class’ one-act play advanced on to the semi-final round of the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild’s one act festival.  We competed against 8 other schools and 3 of the 8 would advance to the next round.  Most of the other plays were high budget productions put on by large drama clubs who had had the luxury of picking and choosing members of the cast from a large array of performers.  Our show included all the 16 members of our class in a play with 17 characters – I just took what I had to work with and cast them accordingly…Our only set piece was a large tree (built by a parent volunteer).  After our performance the kids knew they had done a good job but didn’t think they stood a chance next to the other incredible shows we had just seen.  When our name was called as being a winner, the kids went crazy!! Geronimo Kelley jumped out of his seat and ran over to hug me as the rest of them swarmed around jumping up and down and screaming, “We did it!” That was the highlight of my year and a moment I will never forget.”

Visitors to Sturgis

Boston College Researches School Culture

Sturgis has had many students, parents, and visitors remark in the past that the school has a physically, emotionally, and intellectually safe environment for learning. In order to gain some data and outside perspective on our school culture at West and East, the school has arranged to have researchers from Boston College assess our school culture with the hope of identifying those aspects that are contributing to the positive school culture.

Following the research, Sturgis hopes to share these best practices for creating and developing a vibrant school culture with other schools.

Composer Brett Arana Visits West

Composer Brett Abigaña Visits West

Composer Brett Abigaña, Boston University School of Music

Elisabeth Moore, Sturgis West Music Teacher, invited Composer Brett Abigaña to visit her IB Music class on April 2 to talk about composition and “what it’s really like to be a composer.” Mr. Abigaña was commissioned by Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra to create Passing Acquaintance, a new piece after a work by Handel that demonstrates how an old form like the passacaglia can be a framework for new ideas. The World Premier of Passing Acquaintance was performed by Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra on April 6, 2013. Mr. Abigaña completed his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees at The Juilliard School and received his Doctorate of Musical Arts from Boston University. He is currently a Lecturer on Composition and Theory at BU’s School of Music. He reviewed compositions by Sturgis West students and offered suggestions. Mr. Abigaña told the students that “music is a product of the composer’s environment that expresses something about you and something about now.” He told them “the scariest part of composing music is getting started.” He usually works on a new piece of music in his head for 1½ months before writing it down.

Dr. Colin Crowder

Dr. Colin Crowder

Dr. Colin Crowder, Durham University

Dr. Colin Crowder of Durham University, England visited Sturgis on April 25 and presented a guest lecture in Sheila Gilligan’s TOK class.  All juniors were invited to attend.   Dr. Crowder holds numerous administrative responsibilities at the university including undergraduate admissions.  He is also Director of Combined Honours in Arts and Sciences and a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Theology and Religion.  He is well acquainted with the IB Programme and the TOK course and generously offered to present a guest lecture during his visit to Sturgis.

Dr. Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Dr. Jal Mehta and his research assistant, Sarah Fine, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education spent a day at Sturgis recently as they are involved in a nationwide research project focusing on schools that provide “deeper learning” experiences for all of their students, including and especially students with learning differences. The researchers had learned of the Sturgis IB for All experience from school leaders at another IB school, Josiah Quincy Upper School in Boston, as Sturgis school leaders presented workshops, hosted school visits, and consulted regarding the school’s application for IB authorization. Following their visit, the researchers expressed interest in returning to Sturgis for a few more days to gather additional data regarding how Sturgis supports all students with “deeper learning.”

Group PhotoVisitors 014International School of Boston

Journalist Ozgur Bolat

Sturgis East is hosting Turkish journalist and university professor, Ozgur Bolat, in the coming weeks as he is researching some of the schools across the U.S. that have received national ranking by several organizations that review the best U.S. high schools. Dr. Bolat will be meeting with school leaders, observing classes, and meeting with students. He plans to write a profile of Sturgis for the largest English language newspaper in Turkey, the Hurriyet.

Santa Clarita Valley (CA) International Charter School

Leaders from Santa Clarita Valley (CA) International Charter School visited Sturgis on Friday, March 1.  Dawn Evenson, Executive Director: Jenny Williams, Facilitator: Amber Raskin, Business Development and Operations; and Elsa Williamson, IB Coordinator, attended meetings with administrators and observed classes throughout the day.  Santa Clarita Valley International Charter School is seeking to become an “IB for All” school. The school joins a growing list of schools that have come to observe Sturgis from near and far: British Columbia, California, China, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont.

Senator Dan Wolf

Dan Wolf

Dan Wolf

Dan Wolf Visits with West Students

Senator Wolf Visits with West Students

Sturgis West recently hosted a visit from Senator Dan Wolf as he was interested in learning more about the Sturgis initiative to replicate its IB for All program and vibrant school culture at the new Sturgis West campus. Senator Wolf was a member of the Sturgis Board of Trustees during the early years of Sturgis and he expressed his strong support for the excellent educational experiences that Sturgis and other charter schools are providing to students.

Victory Over Violence

 Victory Over Violence 001On March 4, the Sturgis East Multicultural Club hosted a special exhibit called Victory over Violence (VOV) in the library.   The VOV campaign was launched in 1999 by the youth of the Soka Gakkai International-USA Buddhist Association (SGI-USA) in response to growing concerns over youth-related violence such as the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado.  The message of the exhibit is simple and profound. The exhibit inspired a thoughtful conversation in our school community. A PDF of the VOV exhibit is available here:

The VOV exhibition poses the question – what can each of us do to end the violence in our homes, communities, country and world?  Bringing the exhibition to Sturgis helped stimulate dialogue, heighten awareness, and inspire creative thinking about the root causes of violence and possible solutions that can be put into practice.

The exhibit was viewed by over 300 students and faculty. Many staff integrated the messages from the panels into classroom discussions and Multicultural Club members generated questions for discussion in classes and advisory groups.

For more information see: VictoryOverViolence-Web-Dec07






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