September 2019

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


Maria Adamson appeared in an article in Education Week about the Gilder Lehrman history seminar she attended this summer. Check it out here.

Daniel Evans, director of College Counseling, gave a presentation at this summer's Clambake Institute on "Taking A Stand," which looked at the pressure points of our work. He was joined by the dean of Admission at Hamilton College and the associate head for Student Life at St. Georges School. Now in its 13th year, the Clambake Institute is a gathering of college counselors, admission deans and school administrators from across the country and around the globe.

Lindsay Franklin and Cory Moy completed SEED training over the summer. The National SEED Project is a peer-led professional development program that creates conversational communities to drive personal, organizational and societal change toward greater equity and diversity.

In August, Beth Menzie presented a workshop entitled "Exploration, Discovery and Analysis through Rich Tasks"  at the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of Mathematics (PCTM) Annual Conference in Harrisburg.

Kristen Ostendorf completed "Spanish for Educators" through the Central Intermediate Unit 10, which was a graduate level course. 

Lisa Turner wrote an article for Dartmouth's alumni magazine about Callie Brownson's visit to Penn Charter. Check it out here.

Tom Rickards received his “Instructor of Kayak Touring” through the American Canoe Association (ACA) this August. If you are interested in getting involved in paddling and kayaking please see him for fun on the water! 

Congratulations to David and Katie Tidey who welcomed baby boy, Callum Charles, on August 15.


News & Notes

Here is the link to the slideshow from opening faculty and staff meetings

This summer, Ruth Aichenbaum, Naveena Bembry, Paul Blackwood, Malcolm Ford, Douglas Gorham, Julian Guindon, Brian Hecker, Kellyn Zeuner, Kristen Ostendorf, Daniel Stahl, David Tidey, Lisa Turner and Melanie Wills attended the 2019 ISTE Educational Technology Conference, the number one global edtech conference.

In August, Karen Campbell, Aly Goodner, Shahidah Kalam Id-Din, Kate McCallum, Ruth McGee, Rebecca Miller, Lee Payton, Marcy Sosa, Antonio Williams and Upper School students from the American Studies course attended the Racial Literacy Institute, facilitated by Howard Stevenson P ‘23 and his Lion Story team. The institute provided participants the opportunity to use stories, role plays and mindfulness to understand and process racial and identity-related stress.

This summer, Joy Lai participated in the VAST (Visual Arts as Sources for Teaching) conference at the Philadelphia Museum of Art entitled “Insider | Outsider: Building Inclusive Classrooms, Museums, and Cultures.” Participants learned how to experiment with object-based teaching strategies for building a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion in the classroom and beyond.

Joy Lai and Cory Moy recently attended the Seventh Annual Teaching Social Activism Conference held at the Museum of the City of New York.

Congratulations and special thanks to the PC colleagues who offered workshops during our opening meetings and who led our Summer Professional Reading Groups: Sharon Ahram, Stacy Barnett, Alice Bateman, Sarah Black, Karen Campbell, Rachel Dyer, Brooke Giles, Doug Gorham, Megan Kafer, Joy Lai, Michael Moulton, Teodora Nedialkova, Eva Kay Noone, Kristen Ostendorf, Tom Rickards, Christy Schwartz, Brooke Stratton, Jody Sweeney, Lisa Turner, Josie Wallmuth, Melanie Wills and Antonio Williams. 


Meet the New Faculty

Click here for a directory of new faculty and staff.


Faculty & Staff Changes

Yvonne Farrell is the new afternoon receptionist.

TJ Ferrick will assist with Admissions in addition to continuing to teach English in the Upper School.

Brad Ford and Debbie Kaesshaefer are Performing Arts Department Co-Chairs.

Malcolm Ford and Jeff Humble are Interim Science Department Co-Chairs.

Tatiana Koltsova is now Day Camp and Security Supports Coordinator. 

Shannon Makhija is the Director of Advancement Services.

Nicole Martz is the Director of Engagement and Development Operations.

Eva Tierno is the new Executive Assistant to the Head of School.

Tom Rickards is Interim Religious Studies and Philosophy Department Chair.

Blanca Womack now has the title of Development Assistant.


The Eco Corner

by Tom Rickards

Welcome to a new year and a chance for lots of new experiences for you and our students to explore ways to heal our planet! If you have projects and things to share, please let me know, but here are a few highlights:

  • PC Green Team: I am very grateful to have a team of faculty and staff each year (with representatives from each division) to help move our environmental programs forward. We will meet the second Wednesday of every month at 7:15 am in room 135. We touch base about divisional environmental programming and share out our eco happenings! Free coffee and all are invited!!
  • All Trails Challenge: We ended the All Trails Challenge this summer with raising $752.81 from our school team PC Hikes. If you are looking to get into the Wissahickon more often, please pay attention to events posted on PC Green Events and remember that if you take students out on hikes, make sure you have a second adult, first aid kit and your Magnus App is updated. See me with other questions about getting outdoors more often (

  • Gardens: “Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”—May Sarton. Now from the equally wise Lisa Turner, “Depaul Community Harvest Days will happen 10:00-12:30 each Sunday. Join in the fun and reflection that happens each week at Depaul's 25-bed growing space (5725 Sprague Street). Meet Germantown neighbors, maintain the garden, and share in the harvest/block party. All ages are welcome — kids are invited to explore and contribute in age-appropriate ways. Participation is not limited to Penn Charter folks ... invite your friends and neighbors to fill or extend the spirit of Sunday worship through service-in-action! Email Lisa Turner with questions or to be added to a notification text list ... or just show up!”

  • School Strike 4 Climate: The next global school strike is scheduled for Sept 20. This student-led movement is motivated by Greta Thunberg and please check out her TED Talk if you have not seen it. We are exploring our own involvement and I’d welcome your input on ways we can involve our students. 


Notes from the TLC

by Ruth Aichenbaum 

Welcome back to school! Thanks for answering the TLC Quia survey during divisional meetings. If for some reason you didn’t have a chance to fill out the survey, here’s the link. I look forward to using your feedback and collaborating with you to develop workshops and programming to help you reach your goals as learners and teachers. 

Upcoming September TLC sessions include:

  • Back-to-School Night- Q & A Session for MS and US Teachers

  • BARWE 

  • Commit to 1% Mindfulness Group

  • Fall Mindful Yoga 

  • Grace Fund, Great Day, and Giving...Oh My! 

  • Learn About Wakelet

  • Making Learning Last for Your Students and Yourself

  • Meaningfully Using Homework to Promote Learning Group

  • Mindfulness Meditation

  • PC Hub Help

  • One-to-One Mac Help

  • Idea Lab Safety Training

  • Tuesdays with TED: Listen and Discuss a great TED Ed talk

  • Jefferson University, East Falls Campus weekly Talking Teaching and workshops! 

  • Support Group: Parents of Children Three Years Old and Under

  • What Can You and Your Students Do in the IdeaLab?

  • And more to be scheduled!

Here is the Signup Genius to take a look at the workshop descriptions and to sign up. I’m still planning more September and October sessions and will let you know about them in the weekly divisional weekend emails and in the Coming Attraction Posters that I hang in the division mailrooms. If you see 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. Also please let me know if you’d like to me to create a specific session to meet your needs.

If you’d like to read another of the books from this summer’s PD Reading, you’re welcome to swap your book for another. I have a shelf in the TLC where you can donate your book and pick up another one to read. 

Once again this year we are invited to participate in professional development workshops at Jefferson University—East Falls Campus, as they are invited to ours. Their weekly Talking Teaching sessions run each Wednesday from noon to one.  I’ll post the weekly educational topic being discussed on our SignUp Genius a few days before the talk. The discussions are rich, and conversations have led to exciting partnerships between our schools.  

Again this year, I’ll share resources from the prior month’s workshops so that you can learn about the topics even if you weren’t able to attend a session. Below are some links to Presentations / Resources from our Opening Meeting TLC sessions:

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, arrange a classroom visit, and/or arrange a one-to-one session with a mentor on a topic of your choice. The TLC is ours to grow together! Please let me know if you have ideas for new ways to provide meaningful PD, wellness opportunities and other ways to enrich our community. You can schedule an appointment on the front page of our TLC website, stop by the TLC or send me an email. Hope to see you at the TLC!


MBE Book Corner: How We Learn

by Alice Bateman

Mind Brain Education (MBE). Educational Neuroscience. Brain-based research. There are many ways to describe this field of learning and the brain. What is clear is that the growing research about the brain is impacting the way we teach. Many PC teachers have already attended Learning and the Brain conferences and the St. Andrew’s Transformative Teaching program. The message that is echoed in these trainings is that educators are in a position to be brain changers, and exceptional teachers know how the brain learns. The MBE Book Corner is a feature where one book will be highlighted each month. The hope is that teachers will be able to read a quick summary of a book that connects to learning and the brain and use some of the classroom takeaways. Our first MBE Book Corner explores Benedict Carey’s How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens.

This book is heavy on the research of learning and the brain. Author Benedict Carey gathers recent research in psychology, neuroscience and learning theory to offer teachers a view of how humans learn. He notes how learning happens all the time, across the span of a life, not just when we are trying to learn something. Ideally then, learning should not be seen as a chore nor come structured as a cram session, but instead viewed as something that’s a part of everyday living.

Carey’s research highlights that learning happens best when driven by wonder and curiosity (this does not sound new). The true goals in schools should be to challenge students to make learning a bigger part of their daily lives and to cultivate a deeper habit of curiosity, not thinking of it in terms of completing isolated tasks. (Read: curiosity is better than fear or stress.)

When exploring how humans learn, our memory plays a major role. Yet, we have seen students with radically varying memory skills. Carey explains that every memory has two dimensions: storage strength and retrieval strength. I was a bit skeptical when I read that no memory is ever lost; many just have a low retrieval strength. Can I blame misplacing my car keys on low retrieval strength? Are all of the strange childhood memories deep in there, too? According to Carey’s research, yes, and through practice, our memory strength can be significantly strengthened. Carey also strongly suggests that teachers understand “desirable difficulty”; the harder you work to retrieve a memory, the greater the storage and retrieval strength. When a teacher adds a desirable difficulty to a task, students will remember it longer. In contrast, many students do poorly at tasks due to the “fluency illusion,” the belief that because facts or formulas or arguments are easy to remember right now, they’ll remain that way tomorrow or the next day.

The book gets very specific about how sleep cycles, time and repetition impact learning, and Carey uses anecdotal stories to support his research. This book is very specific when explaining the research methodology behind the findings, which might be of interest to those who love the behind-the-scenes science of it all. What was most interesting to me was the big idea that how we teach impacts how students learn, and students deserve teachers who have an understanding of how learning happens in the brain.

Some classroom takeaways from How We Learn:

  • Share and use the secret ratio to memory: Students should spend ⅓ of the time memorizing and ⅔ reciting from memory. Think about how students study now… they rarely practice retrieval until the test!

  • Encourage students to test themselves. Self-exams improved final score in Carey’s research. The idea is that self-test is studying.

  • Beware of false fluency: this leads to lower test scores. Students often think they understand information and do not even know that there are gaps in their understandings. Quick formative assessments can identify where students do not fully understand the material.

  • “Forget to learn” theory: learning, forgetting, then retrieving = stronger memory. Provide opportunities for students to forget and then remember information. This leads to stronger retention.