October 2019

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


Depaul House is honoring Penn Charter’s Center for Public Purpose at its gala, Feels Like Home, on Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. at the Germantown Cricket Club. Depaul House is recognizing Penn Charter for its partnership and work in gardening, harvesting and supporting the community.  The mission of Depaul USA is to end homelessness and change the lives of those affected by it. 

Congratulations to Colleen Magarity and Conor Kelly, a Boston native, who will celebrate their wedding on Saturday, Oct. 12, in Charleston, SC, at Wild Dunes Resort. 

News & Notes

Remember that on Oct. 11, all Penn Charter faculty have been registered to attend the MCRC 2019 DEI Conference at the Tower Hill School.  There will also be eight Penn Charter faculty who will present. Here is more information about the event.  

Upper School Fall Play: Charles Dickens' Ghost Stories
SAVE THE DATE: Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 16, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. 
Directed by Eva Kay Noone
Written by David John Preece

The Upper School play boasts a cast of 19, so chances are you might have an advisee or teach a student who will be gracing the Ball Theater stage this fall. Please come out and support the students who are working hard to bring you a full theatrical experience. Here is a little about the play and the author of its content: 

Beguiled in early childhood by his nursemaid's grim and ghoulish stories, Charles Dickens harbored all through his life a fascination with ghosts, apparitions and chilling coincidence. This play is a collection of eerie tales, told in story-theater style, from the greatest storyteller of all. The stories are a lively mixture of comedy, pathos and the supernatural, and include: "The Signal-man," "The Bagman's Uncle," "The Letter from Afar," "Trial for Murder," "The Queer Chair," "Sisters from Perth," "The Portrait Painter" and "The Lawyer and the Ghost." Look for an email in early November about how to obtain your complimentary ticket. The cast and crew look forward to seeing you there!

Marianna Allen attended the AATF annual fall conference titled: La Face B de Paris led by Julien Suaudeau, author and professor at Bryn Mawr College. Suaudeau discussed urban growth in both pre- and post-Haussmannian Paris. He also explored the dichotomy of the allure of the city center and the difficulties that exist in the outlying suburbs by looking specifically at street art and graffiti after yellow vest (gilet jaune) protests.

Melanie Wills participated in a webinar session titled Lessons learned from the 2019 AP Chemistry Test, given by the head AP Chemistry reader and sponsored by the American Association of Chemistry Teachers.

Congratulations and special thanks to the many PC colleagues who shared their expertise by teaching TLC workshops and/or mentoring faculty during September: Sarah Aguilar-Francis, Eileen Bossone, John Estok, Beth Glascott, Doug Gorham, Julian Guindon, Julia Judson-Rea, Corey Kilbane, Nora Landon, Marianne Master, Michael Moulton, Teodora Nedialkova, Lisa Reedich, Emma Rowan, Lori Swartz and Melanie Wills.



New! DEI Corner

By Antonio Williams

I am extremely pleased to announce that 24 faculty members are participating in SEED. The National SEED ProjectSM is a peer-led professional development program that creates conversational communities to drive personal, organizational and societal change toward greater equity and diversity. In addition to SEED, 34 of our educators have committed to BARWE (Building Anti-Racist White Educators). These teachers will also meet on a monthly basis to establish a set of tools for learning, introspection and having conversations about issues of racism in schools, classrooms and communities.

I am extremely proud of their courage and willingness to be vulnerable and open. Our community will grow because of their efforts. More importantly, our students will reap the benefits of their efforts. Marcus Garvey said, ”Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”


Technology Tips 

by Paul Blackwood

What Is a Cyber Attack?
A cyber attack is an intentional exploitation of computer systems, networks and technology-dependent enterprises. These attacks use malicious code to modify computer code, data or logic, culminating in destructive consequences that can compromise your data and aid in identity theft. 

Phishing is a common type of cybersecurity attack. A phishing attack happens when someone tries to trick you into sharing personal information online.

Avoid phishing 
Phishing is usually done through email, ads or by sites that look similar to sites you already use. For example, someone who is phishing might send you an email that looks like it's from your bank so that you'll give them information about your bank account.

Phishing emails or sites might ask for:

  • Usernames and passwords, including password changes
  • Social Security numbers
  • Bank account numbers
  • PINs (Personal Identification Numbers)
  • Credit card numbers
  • Your mother’s maiden name
  • Your birthday

Important: Google or Gmail will never ask you to provide this type of information in an email.

Report phishing emails
When Google identifies that an email may be phishing or suspicious, you may see a warning to move the email to Spam. 

Note: When you manually move an email into your Spam folder, Google will receive a copy of the email and may analyze it to help protect other users from spam and abuse.

Avoid phishing attacks
Be careful any time you get an email from a site asking for personal information. If you get this type of email:

  1. Don’t click any links or provide personal information until you've confirmed the email is real.

  2. If the sender has a Gmail address, report the Gmail abuse to Google.

When you get an email that looks suspicious, here are a few things to check for:

  • Check that the email address and the sender name match.

  • Hover over any links before you click on them. If the URL of the link doesn't match the description of the link, it might be leading you to a phishing site.

The Best Email Security: Use strong passwords that are unique
There is no getting away from the fact that weak passwords are never going to protect you from data theft or hacking. You need to take a look at all the passwords and phrases you are using right now. You then need to improve them based on the tips mentioned below.

A secure password is almost impossible to guess without some insight. The only way a hacker will break into your system is if they use specialist password-guessing software that will run through millions of combinations. The more complex the password, the more time it takes for the software to figure it out. 

Essentials for a strong password:

  • Use upper and lower case letters.
  • Use numbers and special characters.
  • Use random numbers and letters rather than words.
  • Never use your birthday, hometown, school, university or brand name.
  • Avoid common letter-number substitutions.
  • Think in terms of phrases rather than words.

"Avoid and Report Phishing Emails." Gmail Help, Google, 2019, Accessed 1 Oct. 2019.


The Eco Corner

by Tom Rickards

Recently, I was asked to write a short report to Overseers about developments in environmental stewardship over recent school years. I found myself reflecting on the increase and power of student voices and engagement. From participation in climate strikes to better management of single use plastics on campus, our students are leading the way! I also recognize that this has come from the care and pedagogy of the good work of you, my colleagues. I love this picture of a seventh grade student holding this tiny frog during their recent trip to the Pocono Environmental Education Center. If our students can continue to reflect and care for the fragile diversity of life on this planet, maybe we have reason to hope. 

  • Garden Fall Jobs: As I write this we are in the process of topping off our garden beds with soil and harvesting fall crops. We are also looking to set up our grow lamps and produce seedlings in the winter, so the abundance will not end! Please let Lisa Turner or me know of interest and connections to garden work both on and off campus.

  • Spotted Lantern Fly Talk: There will be a TLC session on the invasive lantern fly from Michelle Niedermeier from the PA Integrated Pest Management Program on Oct. 15. To sign up and get more details, please see the TLC link We will learn the impact and what to do (and not to do) to control this new arrival. Also let Ruth Aichenbaum or Lee Payton know if you are interested in connecting themes of climate justice and/or environmental racism to the America 4.0 series (see TLC link).

  • Green Team: meets Wednesday, Oct 13, at 7:15, in room 135. This is a sharing of environmental programming across divisions and all are welcome!

  • E-Bikes, Trains and More: We are looking to host another bike train to school in November, so please stay tuned for details, and please mark Oct. 30 down as there will be a showcase/TLC session on electric bikes. See Michael Moulton, Kevin Berkoff or Aly Goodner for details. 

  • Outdoor Classroom Day will be Nov. 7. This is a global movement that we are hoping to participate in this year. Please let us know if you need help with lesson plans, but please think about getting your students into the sunlight and fresh air even for a short period of time on Nov 7.

Thanks for all you do!


Notes from the TLC

by Ruth Aichenbaum 

PC Summer Reading Book Swap
The Committee on Teaching and Learning would like to help make it easy for you to read other PC Professional Summer Reading Books that interest you. To this end, we’ve set up a shelf in the TLC where you can drop off your summer reading book and take another book of your choice. 

Teaching & Learning Center News and Notes
Happy October! October is jam-packed with activities, including meetings of the various groups listed below that meet monthly. If you’re interested in participating in any of these groups, you can sign up using our TLC SignUp Genius Link. I’m also reaching out to those of you who noted your interest in the August TLC survey.  Groups include:

  • America 4.0


  • Commit to 1% Mindfulness Group

  • Creating Lifelong Learners

  • Girls Social/Emotional Needs and Educational Empowerment 

  • Learning about Mind, Brain, Education Research and Implications for Teaching

  • Learning through the Visual Arts

  • Project-Based Learning Group

  • Quakerism: Sharing Our Takeaways from SPARC

  • Support Group for Parents of Children Under Three

  • Tuesdays with TED

  • Using Homework Meaningfully to Promote Learning

  • Using Metacognition and Digital portfolios to Promote Deep Learning

  • And more in the works!

If you’d like to start another type of group, please let me know. Also, if you never got around to filling out the TLC survey, it's not too late. Here's the link to the TLC survey.  Your feedback is appreciated!

Other TLC upcoming sessions include:

  • E-Bike Showcase
  • The Spotted Lantern Fly: Learn All About it and its Impact
  • Personalized and Powerful Feedback Using Video Grading
  • PC Cultural Events Series Activity: A Small Fire at the Philadelphia Theater Company (All tickets are now taken, but email me if you’d like to be put on the waiting list.)
  • PC Cultural Events Series Activity: An Evening with Poet Laureate Joy Harjo
  • PC Faculty/Staff Book Club
  • Get Your Knitting TLC
  • Understanding White Privilege
  • Upper School Comment Writing
  • Brainstorm and Develop VITAL Summer Grant Ideas
  • One-to-One Computer Help
  • Morning Fitness Class
  • Mindfulness Meditation 
  • Mindful Yoga
  • Jefferson Mindfulness Workshops
  • Jefferson Talking Teaching

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.

Here are a few resources from last month’s workshops and groups:

As always, I am happy to meet with you to discuss specific workshops that 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. You can schedule an appointment on the front page of our TLC website or just send me an email. Hope to see you at the TLC!

It’s not too early to start planning for your ideal VITAL summer project! For those of you unfamiliar with VITAL, VITAL (Valuing Innovative Teaching and Learning) is an exciting professional development model that provides teachers time during the summer for the transformation of their craft through research, collaboration and innovation. Projects, lasting one to four weeks, are funded at median faculty salary. There will be a session about VITAL and the application process during lunch on Thursday, October 31 where you can brainstorm and develop ideas for your ideal VITAL project. If October 31 isn’t a good time to meet, please email me to find a convenient time. You can also learn more about VITAL and the past funded projects by visiting this page on the TLC Google Site. The application form (deadline in February) and the rubric that the VITAL Selection Committee uses to review applications are also available on this page. 


MBE Book Corner: How We Learn

by Alice Bateman

Making Classrooms Better: 50 Practical
Applications of Mind, Brain, and Education Science 

By Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa 


Author Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa wrote this book to provide a practical overview of teaching from a Mind Brain Education (MBE) perspective through an understanding of the intersection of the fields of neuroscience, psychology and pedagogy. In it, she shares 50 evidence-based classroom “best practices” that have a proven and positive impact on student learning outcomes and explains why they work. In her writings, she focuses on the importance of Mind Brain Education as a field that sharpens the educator’s approach to be more effective. That is the goal of teaching, right? Tokuhama-Espinosa asserts, “To be an MBE educator, we must adopt a mindset that applies scientific rigor while appreciating the complex, individual nature of our students. Teachers, like doctors, must learn to review the evidence, diagnose with care, treat with empathy, and reassess. Also, like a doctor, a teacher must do this routine dozens of times a day, each time learning from the last case” (xxiv). In order to make better choices in classroom design, teachers need to know not only what works, but also why things work. With teaching fads, games, and trends, Tokuhama-Espinosa warns that educators can get enthusiastically carried away without using evidence to back pedagogical approaches. I knew this was going to be a book that I would connect with when it opens with one of my favorite quotes: “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” -Albert Einstein

A Focus on Instruction:

  1. Good learning environments are made, not found.

  2. Good lessons take into account both sense (logical order) and meaning (personal relevance).

  3. Teaching with an understanding of different memory systems improves recall.

  4. Well-managed classes take advantage of natural human attention spans.

  5. Good classroom activities take advantage of the social nature of learning.

  6. Good teachers understand the mind-body connection (sleep, nutrition, attention).

  7. Good teachers understand how to manage different students (orchestrated immersion).

  8. Skills are retained better when learned through active processes.

  9. Explicit teaching of metacognitive skills aids higher-order thinking across subjects.

  10. Learning can and does take place across the lifespan.  (Toukahana-Espinoza 206)

In reading books on learning and the brain, I am interested in the subject, but I am most interested in the takeaways that I can apply. While at times mired in the science of learning and the brain, Making Classrooms Better does provide clear and practical information for teachers. Below are some mined gems I found in these pages. Although these are simple concepts, they remind me about the importance of the foundational learning principles. 

The gems:
All brains are different. The search for meaning is innate. The brain is constantly connecting new information with old. The brain seeks patterns as well as novelty. Emotions are critical to detecting patterns, to making decisions, to learning. Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat. Learning involves conscious and unconscious processes. The brain remembers best when facts and skills are embedded in contexts that are authentic to the learner. The single greatest impact on student learning is teacher quality. And lastly, a teacher’s belief in his/her students’ ability to learn is essential... students have a keen sense when the teacher believes in them.  

I hope that by distilling books by the leaders in MBE research, we can more easily apply these approaches and key concepts. Have a book suggestion? Let me know!