Fall 2020

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


PC Class of 2038? Congratulations to Richard DeSalvo, Christy Cook-Schwartz, Lisa Howard and Alan Vandergrift on welcoming new babies since the last P.C.P.D. issue!

Congratulations also to the many educators across all three divisions who are now Google-certified teachers, and to those who earned certificates from Global Online Academy for professional development in Designing for Online Learning.

Felicitations and special thanks to the many PC colleagues who shared their expertise by teaching TLC workshops and /or mentoring faculty in July, August and September: Maria Adamson, Sarah Aguilar-Francis, Jenny Baer, Naveena Bembry, Kevin Berkoff, Sara Black, David Brightbill, Karen Campbell, Anne Coleman, Megan Evans, Wilson Felter, Jim Fiorile, Monica Freely, Aly Goodner, Doug Gorham, Julian Guindon, Brian Hecker, Judith Hill, Elizabeth Hitschler, Liz Jones, Charlie Kaeshaeffer, Shahidah Kalam Id-Din, Nora Landon, Travis Larrabee, Marianne Master, Beth Menzie,Vicki Miles, Sara Moses, Cory Moy, Michael Moulton, Eva Kay Noone, Josh Oberfield, Linda O’Malley, Lee Payton, Lisa Reedich, Tom Rickards, Dan Stahl, Brooke Stratton, Dave Tidey, Lisa Turner, Doug Uhlmann, Melanie Wills and Nina Wojtowicz.

Do you have kudos to give, or news and notes? Submit them any time throughout the year for inclusion in the next P.C.P.D.! Have you read a great book or study recently? The P.C.P.D. is looking for columnists! Consider offering a one-time or recurring column in the P.C.P.D. so your colleagues can learn from your experience.

News & Notes

Melanie Wills had an article, "Mole of Reaction: Application in Limiting Reactants," published in the September issue of Chemistry Solutions, the periodical for the American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT).

James A. Bolden, Jr. graduated from Saint Joseph's University on May 16, 2020, with his master of science in educational leadership.

Gillian Diffenderfer completed a master of arts in Spanish language and literature from Middlebury College in August. She didn't get to go to Buenos Aires like she planned, but she spent many lovely hours on Zoom learning about the groundbreaking gender-inclusive movement in the Spanish-speaking world and widening her knowledge about authors and their works, current events and grammar.

Michael Roche worked over the summer on test shoots for the upcoming "Angels in America" starring Glenn Close. It's an all-star digital performance of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play benefiting the Foundation for AIDS Research's (amFAR) covid-19 relief fund.

Lucia Herrmann will have two works, "Continental Park Kids" and "Sweet at Swensen's," published in an upcoming book titled Waterproof: An Anthology of Remembrances About Miami from Jai-Alai Books. The elegies, to a park and to an ice cream parlor, explore childhood reverie, family and maturing in a city at the nexus of loss and misfit belonging. 

Are you interested in finding ways to give back this holiday season?

  • The City of Philadelphia encourages you to support local businesses, with this guide for safe holiday shopping: How to Safely Support Local Business This Holiday Season
  • Many of us are accustomed to volunteering and contributing to food drives around the holiday season. While this year may be different in many ways, there are still safe ways to donate food through organizations such as Philabundance and Manna
  • Did you get involved with making masks this past spring? Small local health providers may still be in need of PPE. Consider contacting your local nursing home or continuing care community to find out what they need. Individual organizations have different policies, so please be sure to adhere to all safety measures. 


Faculty and Staff 

With the many new hires who have joined the PC community this year, the P.C.P.D. will be focusing on introducing you to a few new hires at a time. First, please join us in welcoming several of the new hires in the Upper School. If you are interested in being featured in the next P.C.P.D. issue, please reach out to

Emily Brennan is teaching Geometry and coaching diving. She comes to Penn Charter after 13 years at the Agnes Irwin School. She studied math education at the University of Delaware, where she was also on the varsity diving team, and has a master of science in mathematics learning and teaching from Drexel University. Emily spends her summers coaching diving at the Martin's Dam Club and appreciates being outside after spending so much of the school year in a classroom!  She has two boys, James (4) and Connor (2) who keep her busy, but she loves hiking, puzzles and board games in her free time.  

Colin Brown teaches three sections of Algebra II and one section of AP Statistics, as well as coaching football. He spent last year coaching on the UPenn football staff and subbed long term at La Salle College High School. Prior to his move to Philadelphia, he taught algebra, geometry, precalculus and statistics at Millbrook School, a boarding school in New York. In 2016, Colin graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts, where he majored in economics. Colin has a love for all things sports and has spent time playing and coaching football, basketball, baseball and lacrosse in his career. 

Lucia Herrmann is an Urban Teaching Fellow and is assistant teaching ninth grade and 10th grade English. She graduated from Haverford College in 2017 with an English degree and concentration in Latinx studies. She then worked at Haverford College's Admission Office as a counselor and coordinator of access and diversity initiatives. Most recently, she was an educator at the Franklin Institute. Lucia is a poet, performer and editor for a local literary publication. She hopes to be involved with theater and creative writing opportunities at PC. She originally hails from the Cuban-American community in Miami.

Kristen Kelly is teaching ninth and 11th grade English, and serving as a coach for the cross country team. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where she double majored in English and Urban Studies, with a minor in Asian American Studies. After graduation, Kristen moved to Beijing, China, where she received a master's degree in history and archeology from Peking University. She taught English literature for two years in an international high school program affiliated with Germantown Academy. During non-pandemic times, Kristen enjoyed living abroad and traveling to visit family and friends. (Last summer, she visited Chernobyl!) For the time being, she’s glad to be back at home in Philadelphia. 

Janet Kobosky, with more than 30 years experience in college admissions and college counseling, joined the team for the 2020-2021 school year. Janet began her career in college counseling in 1997 and was director of college counseling for 17 of the 20 years she served in Shipley's college counseling office. Janet earned her bachelor's degree from Chatham College and her master's from the University of Pennsylvania. Janet started her work this summer with rising seniors and their families. 

Michael LoStracco is the Religious Studies and Philosophy department chair, teaching Quaker Principles and Practice, Comparative Religions and Theory of Knowledge. He graduated from Arcadia University and earned a master's degree in education from Saint Joseph's University. Michael comes to Penn Charter from George School, where he taught World Religions, Theory of Knowledge and World Literature in the International Baccalaureate program. At George School, Michael also supported students in service learning, student council, live music performances and mindfulness meditation.  Michael is a musician and published poet and recently completed an artist residency in New Mexico. His three-year-old son, Matteo, and mischievous rabbit, Wave, keep Michael and his spouse, Julianna, busy.

Catherine Murray teaches two sections of AP U.S. History and two sections of 10th grade Global History. She completed her undergraduate work at Ursinus College and then went on to earn a master's in history from Temple University. After graduating, she taught for 13 years at Harriton High School in Lower Merion School District. Catherine completed her PhD in history from Temple University in 2019. Catherine lives near PC with her husband and two sons, Aidan and Cole, and she is looking forward to commuting this very short distance with her son Cole (Furtek), who is a new student in sixth grade.

Edna Ramírez teaches Spanish 2, 3 and 4. She is interested in participating in language or diversity clubs, service, music or theater performances or perhaps creating a dominoes club.  She graduated from the Instituto Tecnológico de Celaya in México, her home country and then came to the University of California in Davis to earn a PhD in food biochemistry. Edna has been teaching Spanish in the Philadelphia suburbs for the last 16 years, first at Ancillae-Assumpta Academy and most recently at Holy Ghost Preparatory School at all different levels (pre-K to AP). Edna has two bilingual children, Manya and Albert, both students at the University of Pennsylvania. Edna and her husband, David, love to travel internationally. In fact, this is the first summer in many years that she didn't travel to another country for pleasure or as chaperone to the Dominican Republic for a service trip.

Allen Van joined the Upper School Physical Education and Health team this fall teaching in 10th, 11th and 12th grades. He will also have responsibilities as an assistant strength coach. He received his degree in athletic training from Temple University. Allen comes to PC with a range of experience as an athletic trainer. He has served as head athletic trainer at GFS for 3 years, as well as Interned with New York Jets on their sports medicine team prior to that. Allen hopes to use his passion for movement and understanding of the body to help students live active and healthy lifestyles.


MBE Corner : The Multitasking Myth 

by Anne Coleman

Those who have read Neuroteach are well-acquainted with the lesson that multitasking is a myth, but what does this really mean for our students (and ourselves)?  A 2017 study from the journal Teaching and Teacher Education, titled “The myths of the digital native and the multitasker,” suggests the greatest implications are for classroom technology use, where administering learning through new platforms may look like it involves successful multitasking, but students are really engaging in a far less-effective form of task switching.

Study authors Paul A. Kirschner and Pedro De Bruyckere argue that the evidence not only supports the conclusion that multitasking is a myth, but also argue that our assumptions that students of a particular generation are “digital natives” is erroneous. Rather, they cite, “...that much professional commentary, popular writing and PowerPoint presentations overestimates the impact of ICTs on the young, and that the ubiquitous presence of technology in their lives has not resulted in improved information retrieval, information seeking or evaluation skills.”

For those of us who have had to provide on-the-fly technology orientations to tools we thought were familiar to our pupils, this will come as no surprise. Nonetheless, as our methods and media shift online in response to covid-19, many educators have been forced to increasingly depend on a digital proficiency and task focus which students may lack. As the study authors assert, “the negative effects of multitasking do not mean that technology should be abolished from education. It is all about using the right tool at the correct time for the correct goal within a given context, with a crucial role for the teacher to decide what is used and when.”

If you’ve been weighing the question of whether or not it is the right time to add a new program or tool to your class, you may well be helping your students by holding off. Consider the cognitive load, both for your students and yourself, and remember that sometimes less is more!

For more information or to read the study, contact

___________________________________________________________What We're Reading (in Education)

For your listening pleasure


Building Your PLN

Did you know that Twitter is a great resource for building your professional learning network? Publications such as Education Week, EduTopia, We Are Teachers, The New York Times Learning Network, and many more maintain an active presence on Twitter, sharing articles and new ideas in education, but the real hidden gem of Twitter is its ability to connect you directly with other teachers. To get started, here are a few popular education twitter accounts you might explore:

  • Vicki Davis, host of the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast: @CoolCatTeacher
  • Jackie Gerstein, EdD, author of the User Generated Education Blog: @JackieGerstein
  • Will Richardson, co-founder of the Big Questions Institute: @WillRich45
  • Glenn Whitman, co-author of Neuroteach: @GWhitmanCTTL
  • Tom Whitby, #EdChat founder: @TomWhitby
  • Shelly Sanchez Terrell, STEM teacher and co-founder of #EdChat: @ShellTerrell
  • Pedro Noguera, Dean of USC’s Rossier School of Education: @PedroANoguera

Do you follow any great education twitter accounts or podcasts? Email your recommendations to for inclusion in the next PCPD!


Notes from the TLC

by Ruth Aichenbaum 

Thank you for all the extraordinary work that you’ve been doing to meet the needs of our students, whether you’ve been teaching in person, online, or both! Please know that the TLC is here to support you during this challenging year. I’ve been using your feedback from the Teaching & Learning Center survey to create learning opportunities, PLCs, a peer collaborators group, wellness sessions, community-building sessions and more. As always, I'm excited to collaborate with you to make your ideas a reality, and I’m happy to speak with you individually to discuss specific workshops that you’d like to attend or teach. Just email me and we can find a convenient time to talk over Google Meet.

To see details of upcoming workshops and sign up for sessions, please use this SignUp Genius link.  Most sessions during this time of covid-19 will be held online, but when we are teaching on campus we can also schedule concurrent sessions (when some faculty are online and others are in a classroom) when that makes sense. Upcoming sessions include:


  • Upper School Lesson Sharing about Concurrent Teaching: Translating What We’ve Been Learning about the Concurrent Classroom into Practical Strategies for Our Teaching
  • Mind, Brain, Education Research and Implication for Teaching Group
  • Meaningfully Using Homework Group
  • Quakerism in Lower School: Faith and Play Stories
  • Quakerism in Lower School: Purpose, Practice, Presence
  • Roundtable about the Responsive Classroom for New Lower School Teachers: Exploring Scenarios
  • Talking Teaching Sessions at Jefferson University

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

  • Student Environmental Certificate Program Presentations
  • Inclusive Community 
  • PC Book Group Discussion of the novel The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim
  • The Growing Edge Collaborative
  • Faculty/Staff Meeting for Worship: Equity and Empathy
  • Third Space with Jen Cort
  • Tuesday with TED: The Art of Stillness - Pico Iyer


  • One-to-One Computer Help
  • Upper School Lesson Sharing about Concurrent Teaching
  • Peer Collaboration Group


  • Support Group for Teachers/Staff Working Remotely
  • Support Group for Parents of Young Children and Babies
  • PC Faculty/Staff Group: Dealing With Mental Health Concerns
  • Spiritual Wellness
  • PAISBOA offerings from Mindfulness to Cooking

And More when you contact me to let me know what you’d like to offer or see offered!

Follow this LINK for the following resources from past workshops/groups this year: 

Again here’s the SignUp Genius Link to sign up for a TLC 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 or work to offer the session again. 

Hope to see you at the TLC!


For the forest, the shared purpose is life itself, existence; everything extraneous stripped away by its necessity. Perhaps the goal of the spiritual life is to strip away everything frivolous as well, to pare it all back to the necessity of connection with the other. "


- James H. Wood,

The Ecology of

Quaker Meeting