December 2019-January 2020

Published monthly by William Penn Charter School in the interest of our faculty and staff.


Ed Foley has been elected the Inter-Academic League's representative on the PAISAA Executive Board. In this role he will represent the league as the state association explores expansion, tournament play and a review of the association's by-laws and procedures. 

Oscar Guzmán presented on the topic of "Relatable Cinema and Literature for the Heritage Learner Classroom" with Nancy Dominguez-Fret of the University of Illinois at Chicago at the the ACTFL conference in Washington, DC.

Julia Morelli, the Lower School music assistant, is now a Grammy nominated recording artist for her work playing in Vince Mendoza album, Constant Renaissance.  

Antonio Williams presented a workshop entitled "Invoking INVICTUS: Dealing with White Faces in Black Spaces" at the 32nd Annual NAIS People of Color Conference .

Congratulations and special thanks to the many PC colleagues who shared their expertise by leading November and December TLC workshops and offering one-to-one mentor help: Sharon Ahram, Kevin Berkoff, Eileen Bossone, Anne Coleman, Sonia Duprez, John Estok, Jane Evans, Wilson Felter, Liz Flemming, Aly Goodner, Julian Guindon, Judith Hill, Nora Landon, Joy Lai, Amanda Lelli, Corey Kilbane, Marianne Master,  Ruth McGee, Sara Moses, Michael Moulton, Kristen Ostendorf, Lee Payton, Lisa Reedich, Tom Rickards, Christy Schwartz, Pam Shannon, Brooke Stratton, Lori Swartz, Melanie Wills and Nina Wojtowicz.

News & Notes

The Penn Charter Holiday Party is coming!
     Friday, Jan. 10, 2020
     5 to 8 pm
     Yards Brewing Company
     500 Spring Garden Street
     Philadelphia 19123

Spouses and significant others are most welcome.

Free parking is available in the 5th Street lot behind the brewery, and there is free as well as metered parking on surrounding streets. Directions from Penn Charter.  Penn Charter also will offer bus transportation: The bus will leave campus at 4:30 pm and depart Yards at 7:30 pm for the return trip.

In addition, Yards will offer two tours of the brewery. The first tour will begin approximately at 5:30 pm and the second will begin at 6:30 pm. The tours are typically 30-40 minutes and can accommodate up to 30 guests per tour. The tours are first-come, first-served, and you will have the opportunity to sign up below.

RSVP for this event by December 20, 2019.

Marianna Allen and Oscar Guzmán recently attended this year's ACTFL conference in Washington D.C. Both were inspired by the information shared by fellow language teachers.

Sandy Portnoy attended the National Conference of the Anti-Defamation League as part of her work with the student group Club Shalom. The major focus of the conference was anti-Semitism and other issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion.


DEI Corner

By Antonio Williams

December marked the 32nd Annual NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC). The theme for this year's conference was "1619 Before — Beyond 2019. Amplifying Our Intelligence to Liberate, Co-Create and Thrive." The conference was designed by and for people of color within independent schools. The sole purpose of the conference each year is to rejuvenate, validate and re-energize faculty, staff and administrators of color. This year over 7,000 people attended PoCC in Seattle.

Many Penn Charter faculty members and students attended the conference. Here are remarks from some of the PC participants:

"In exploration to find ways to thrive in spaces where I may not be expected to survive, the PoCC and SDLC conferences used the settings in downtown Seattle to acknowledge that my experiences around inequality are represented in a broader set of schools and educational institutions. Too often, students and faculty of color are underrepresented and underserved, which can lead to the loss or ignoring of aspects of our multicultural selves. My time at PoCC was an opportunity to heal. A way that allowed me, my students, and my colleagues to embrace all of their intersectional identities, both within and beyond Penn Charter. "
-Bhelly Bagbonon

"It brings joy to watch the students grow. They grew as leaders, becoming thoughtful and deeply reflective."
-Paul Blackwood

"This particular year, I was moved not only by the unparalleled and poignant keynote speakers but also by the meaningful workshops. The experiences had by our Upper School students and (future) leaders reminds me of hope, nourishes me and fuels me for the days ahead. Our Upper School students had the opportunity to examine their own identities and explore what that looks like and means for them in 2019. Many students also mentioned the power of their individual stories and their collective voices as it relates to institutional change, social reform and justice."
-Monique Durso

"The People of Color Conference connected me to other independent school faculty of color at a time when I was the only faculty of color in my school. At that time, the school community did not engage in conversations about equity and inclusion. At PoCC, my experience was validated. I was visible! Those wonderful, frank conversations continue today and sustain me."
-Jackie Hamilton 

"My time at PoCC was extremely productive and valuable. I felt emotions and discomfort within safe and accepting spaces that allowed me to grow as an educator, citizen and ally. I am bringing home a deeper understanding of myself, Penn Charter and the work that needs to be done."
-Holly Silberman


Technology Tips 

by Paul Blackwood


According to, Cybersecurity is the protection of internet-connected systems, including hardware, software and data from cyberattacks. Security comprises cybersecurity and physical security; both are used to protect against unauthorized access to computers and other computerized systems. The goal of cybersecurity is to limit risk and protect IT assets from attackers with malicious intent. 

Cybersecurity challenges

Cybersecurity is continually challenged by hackers and changing cybersecurity strategies. Nothing currently indicates that cyberattacks will decrease. Moreover, with an increased number of entry points for attacks, more strategies for securing digital assets are needed to protect networks and devices.

One of the most problematic elements of cybersecurity is the continually evolving nature of security risks and the habits of users. As new technologies emerge and existing technology is used in new or different ways, new avenues for attacks are developed. Keeping up with these continual changes and advances in attacks, and updating practices to protect against them, can be challenging. 

There is the possibility of an employee accidentally bringing a virus into a workplace on their work computer, laptop or smartphone. This infected device then becomes a threat and the gateway for a hacker to execute a cyber attack against the entire organization. End-user education, good internet practices and clear policies are keys to the mitigation of cybersecurity attacks.


MBE Corner: Neuroplasticity

by Anne Coleman

Albert Einstein is credited with having said, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” While the idea of differentiating our measurements of success is a good one, this pithy quotation perpetuates a very problematic conceptualization of the brain.

We’ve all known children who believe that they will simply never be good at certain subjects. Research on the role of one’s mindset in learning and studies on neuroplasticity both make the case that fixed ideas of one’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses are incorrect and can be self-fulfilling.

So, how do you teach students to have a more flexible mindset regarding their perceived weaknesses? The work of author and preventive psychologist JoAnn Deak suggests we promote flexible mindsets when we teach young people to understand neuroplasticity.

One way she suggests explaining neuroplasticity in learning is to compare each processing area of the brain to an elastic band. At first, an elastic band will only stretch a little bit before snapping back into place. The more you stretch it, the farther it will “learn” to stretch. Practicing and making mistakes is the same for the brain as stretching the elastic band, only to have it snap back. The elastic band looks and feels like it has returned to its original shape, but each stretch has laid the groundwork for increased future elasticity.

For parents and educators working with elementary-aged children, Deak has written an excellent children’s book entitled Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It. For an emerging adolescent audience, she’s written The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain, which uses the idea of learning how to drive to explain the value of increased metacognitive attention and control. 


The Eco Corner

by Tom Rickards

As we inch closer to winter break, I wish everyone a festive and warm holiday season. I hope that you will welcome 2020 with a renewed sense of hope and activism for our collective future! Here are a few environmental reflections and plans as we move into the second half of the school year:

  • E-Waste Drive: As I write this, we are collecting materials for our winter e-waste drive. I hope to share numbers when this is completed. Please know that if you miss this one, we will hold our spring e-waste drive during Earth Week April 20-24. I also wanted to share that our e-waste company supports many returning citizens, and please see this link to know about the double good they do. 

  • Outdoor Adventure Programs: We are excited to be offering a Rock Climbing and Outdoor Adventure Camp this summer. As we start to formulate spring/summer plans, please let me know if you are interested in being part of opportunities that get our students outside. We look forward to learning more from our seventh Grade Signature Trip this May about ways we can prepare and build upon our students' experiences in the natural world.

  • Stay Informed: As we enter 2020, you can let me know if you would like to be added to our weekly email listserv: PC Eco Weekly News. You can follow happenings on Twitter and Instagram at Penn Charter Green. 



Notes from the TLC

by Ruth Aichenbaum 

In the coming months, the Teaching & Learning Center is offering both old favorites, new workshops and affinity groups with the hopes of meeting your teaching and learning interests and goals. Offerings include:


  • Using Video to Teach Higher Level Thinking Skills to All Readers 
  • PowerPoint Punch List
  • Newsela Virtual Session about Inquiry
  • Brainstorm and Develop VITAL Summer Grant Ideas
  • Tuesdays with TED-Ed Talks
  • Using Metacognition and Digital Portfolios: Spotlight on Melanie Wills’s Use of the Digital Portfolio Platform   SeeSaw

Mind, Brain, Education Research

  • Creating Lifelong Learners Group
  • Meaningfully Using Homework to Promote Learning Group
  • Project-Based Learning Group: for this session, we invite you to bring PBL ideas for current or new units so we can grow ideas together. 
  • Talking Teaching Sessions at Jefferson University

Understanding Students ... Our School...Ourselves...and the World

  • Communicating with Parents: Strategies to Build Positive Relationships
  • Spotlight on Lighting and the Environment
  • Professional Development 101
  • Thanks for the Feedback
  • PC Book Group Discussion of the novel The Dutch House by Anne Patchett
  • #BARWE: Building Anti-Racist White Educators
  • America 4:0  a Collaborative Exploration of the National, Social, Political, and Cultural Tensions that Have Surfaced 
  • Girls’ Social/Emotional and Educational Empowerment Group
  • Support Group for Parents of Kids Three Years and Younger


  • Newsela Virtual Session about Inquiry 
  • One-to-One Computer Help
  • Using Metacognition and Digital Portfolios
  • PowerPoint Punch List

The Arts

  • The $120,000 Banana: Visual Arts Controversy
  • Sew What? 
  • Get Your Knitting TLC
  • PC Cultural Event: a ticket to Riverdance at the Merriam Theater (All tickets taken, but please contact me to be put on the waiting list. For all of the past cultural events, people on the waiting list were able to get a ticket.) 


  • Commit to 1% Mindfulness
  • Learn About Hands-Only CPR 
  • Mindful Yoga
  • Morning Fitness Class

PC parents have their Parent-to-Parent version of a TLC up and running again this year, and faculty and staff are invited to attend sessions. You can check out their offerings and signup using this link.

Here are some resources from last month’s workshops that you can explore:

Once again here is the link to sign up for a workshop. If there’s a session you’d like to attend, but the timing doesn’t work, please email me (, and I can set up a one-to-one session. 

As always, I am happy to meet with you to discuss specific workshops you’d like to attend or teach. I’m also available to facilitate a Critical Friends Group, to arrange a classroom visit, and/or arrange a one-to-one session with a mentor on a topic of your choice. Hope to see you at the TLC!

What’s on your professional development bucket list? VITAL might just be the opportunity you need to make it happen! VITAL proposals are due on Monday, Feb. 10.  Take a look at our VITAL TLC page to read about past VITAL projects. On this page, you’ll also find a link to the application and the criteria the VITAL Selection Committee uses to evaluate proposals. On Wednesday, Jan. 8 there’s a VITAL Brainstorming /Informational session over lunch in the TLC. Really any day can be a day to learn more about VITAL and discuss your ideas! Just contact  VITAL selection committee co-clerks, Ruth Aichenbaum or David Brightbill to discuss your ideas and ask questions.