September 2018

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


Naveena Bembry and Lisa Reedich led one of the Deeper Dive Discussion Workshops at ADVIS/MCRC's Cheryl Irving Cultural Competency Institute for Educators on Aug. 24 at Episcopal Academy. The session was entitled “Building an Inclusive Classroom for Younger Students.”

This summer, Rachel Dyer presented a webinar to a worldwide audience of Finalsite school clients, sharing how Penn Charter uses Blackbaud's On products with the Finalsite platform for effective digital marketing, parent and prospect engagement, fundraising and more.

Congratulations and special thanks to the PC colleagues who offered workshops during our opening meetings: Sarah Aguilar-Francis, Naveena Bembry, Karen Campbell, Shahidah Kalam Id-Din, Corey Kilbane, Nora Landon, Michael Moulton, Teodora Nedialkova and Tom Rickards.


Christy Cook married Alex Schwartz on Aug. 10.


News & Notes

Stacy Barnett, Liz Flemming, Jennifer Ketler, Beth Menzie and Pat Noonan attended a two-day Desmos conference at Hatboro-Horsham High School in June. The purpose of this conference was to learn better how to incorporate the online graphing and calculating tools from into the classroom. The mission of Desmos is to promote learning and the love of learning mathematics through engaging and dynamic activities.

Jeff Humble and Jim Pilkington attended the week-long “Science of Teaching and Learning School Leadership Academy” at St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Potomac, Md., in July.

Ed Marks attended a four-week NEH seminar at the University of Pennsylvania in July and August. The 23 participants, educators from all over the country, took a deep dive into the Mongols and the role they played in connecting the societies of Eurasia in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the echoes of those connections to the modern day.

Michael Moulton attended a National Science Foundation/National Security Agency class at Penn State Main Campus this August. The week-long class was on the fundamentals of cybersecurity and offered resources that Michael can bring back to the AP Computer Science Principles class to excite students about the field of cybersecurity.

This summer, Cory Moy completed the two-week UPenn Chinese Teacher Advancement Program. This enrichment program provided a STARTALK-approved training program for K-12 Chinese language teachers with networking opportunities, curriculum design enrichment, Chinese language teaching technology, and curriculum ideas involving the Silk Road and China's new mega-project, the "One Belt, One Road" initiative.

In July, Eva Kay Noone and Holly Silberman attended the Pennsylvania Educational Theatre Association conference in State College, focusing on stage management, body microphones and theater advocacy.

Kristen Ostendorf was selected to attend a Gilder Lehrman seminar on American Reconstruction with noted scholars Eric Foner and Martha Jones at Columbia University this summer. Her work included intensive reading and studying, curriculum writing and an archive visit in the Gilder Lehrman collection.

Michael Roche attended the Broadway Teachers Workshop in New York City this past summer. While in NYC, he had the opportunity to discuss ideas with drama teachers and Broadway professionals and also see a few performances.

In June, La Sripanawongsa attended a five-day workshop in Jamestown, RI., entitled “Trainer Prep Course for Experienced TPRS/CI Teachers." The workshop prepares teachers to become trainers and mentors to other language educators.

Melanie Wills participated in the National AACT-DOW teacher summit in Washington DC for a week in June. During the summit she worked with chemistry teachers from across the country to create resources for the AACT website. In addition, she engaged in several PD activities, including a session on the role of storytelling in science by Sam Kean, author of "The Disappearing Spoon," a session on utilizing teaching strategies that empower students to "do science," and visiting several Smithsonian museums.


Welcome to New Faces!

Click here for a directory of new faculty and staff.

Faculty and Staff Changes

Sharon Ahram is the Acting 11th/12th Grade Dean for the 2018-2019 school year.

Stephanie Ball is now the Associate Director of Development.

Jen Cubbin is the new administrative assistant to the Director of Middle and Upper School Admissions.

Clare Dolan has moved from first grade assistant teacher to first grade lead teacher.

John Estok is the new Health and Physical Education Department Chair.

Catherine Ezzo is the new Department Chair for Religious Studies and Philosophy.

Monica Freely has moved from Pre-K assistant teacher to lead teacher in our kindergarten program.

Erin Hughes is the Acting Director of Upper School for the 2018-2019 school year.

Travis Larrabee is our new Director of Strategic Initiatives.

Nicole Martz has been named Director of Engagement.

Marianne Master is the new 9th/10th Grade Dean.

Orit Netter has moved from first grade lead teacher to fourth grade lead teacher.

Josh Oberfield and Brooke Stratton will serve as Co-Department Chairs for Social Studies for the 2018-2019 school year.

Lee Payton is the Acting Assistant Director of Upper School for the 2018-2019 school year.

Tom Rickards is the new Coordinator of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability.

Marcy Sosa, in addition to Charlie Kaesshaefer, will serve as an Assistant Director of Lower School for the 2018-2019 school year. Marcy will assume the role in a full-time capacity in 2019-2020.

After one year as a Penn Charter intern, Shelby Tucker will be teaching one class of eighth grade Civics and one section of sixth grade Social Studies.  

Antonio Williams is our new Director of Diversity and Inclusion.


Opening Meetings

If you would like to review the slides from our PreK-12 opening meetings, they are linked here.


The Garden and the Track: Uncovering the Gift of Need

by Lisa Turner

I arrived at McGuire Field at 6:45 am on June 19, the day before I was due to make the annual summer pilgrimage to visit my family in Connecticut. A few years back I had established the tradition of delivering two things to my family each summer on this trip: my children, who would fill up on their “Nanny and Grampy time,” and the meal I would cook for my two favorite aunts and uncles—brothers number two and four in my father’s eight-child family. The year before, I had served sea bass with homemade peach salsa and salad greens that I had packed in from one of the Pennsylvania gardens I tend. (I have always used these prolific gardens as an extension of my own pantry. The arrangement keeps me motivated to plant what is most delicious.)

I had come to school to check on the two beds newly reinstalled right near the track. In the final months of school, Laura Valdmanis’ fourth graders had dutifully planted and labeled beans, basil, lettuce and Swiss chard; the greens were all thriving now and ready to be harvested. As I began snipping, I watched the people making their way around the track. The only person I recognized was the husband of a colleague; the rest I assumed to be neighbors making use of what Penn Charter offered up to the community. We were all there together—the greens, these people and me—earnest and as-yet-unwilted, at the track in the coolest hours of a summer morning.

I happened to have brought a cardboard box and also two grocery bags with me—a coincidence that locked into place my idea that the same people using the track might be the kind of people who would make salads later in the day. I had planned to collect some greens to share with my colleagues doing work on campus, but why not also these people? The only thing standing between us was the fact that none of us knew each other.

So I launched into the first semi-official Penn Charter Community Outreach Lettuce Campaign.

“Hello!” I said to a 60’s-ish woman walking in a baggy tank top and baseball hat. She was wearing earbuds, so I had to call out to her twice. When she figured out I was speaking to her, she smiled fully and made her way over to the garden beds.

“Can I offer you some lettuce to take home with you?” I asked, grinning maniacally.

“Wow! I … I was curious about these beds,” she said. “I live close by and use this track for walking. I wasn’t sure if that was OK or not, but this is where I come in the mornings … ”

We exchanged names and introductions, and I assured Patty that yes, it was OK for her to be there. I reiterated my lettuce offer, letting her know that I was heading out of town for four days and that this lettuce was at peak harvest, so she would actually be doing me a favor.

“Well, OK … yes! I’ll make a salad and share it with my husband,” she offered. We chatted a bit more after that about her daughter who lived in my neighborhood, and about some difficulties her daughter had been having. Then Patty left to continue her workout, her bag of greens packaged and waiting for her to take with her.

I sometimes imagine narratives for people—a practice with both benefits and pratfalls—and this is the story that I created around Patty: she did not appear to be “food insecure,” so to speak, but she might also not be in the habit of springing for fancy organic lettuce greens at the local co-op. I imagined the conversation she might have later with her husband—the recounting of something lucky and unexpected in her day—and felt glad in my little fantasy. They had been helping their daughter get back on her feet after her difficulties. In my California fashion, I felt convinced that fresh lettuce would somehow play a positive part in their story. Self-care, after all, is a gesture of peace.

Continued . . .

Wellness Professional Development on Perfectionism

Click here if you would like to view the slideshow from the presentation on perfectionism by Lynne Siqueland and Deborah Ledley.


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 this year (with at least four representatives from each division) that will meet the first Wednesday of every month to talk about environmental programming and share out eco happenings! Please be in contact with your divisional reps and we are happy to share and support your stewardship work!


    • Lower School Reps: Joel Eckel, Laura Valdmanis, Steve Wade, Orit Netter

    • Middle School Reps: Alice Bateman, Pete Shaifer, Eve Schwartz, Jennifer Chernak

    • Upper School Reps: Lisa Turner, David Nichols, Kevin Berkoff, Tom Rickards

  • All Trails Challenge: We would love for you join the PC Hikes team. This fun event encourages people to explore the Wissahickon Park and raises funds for Friend of the Wissahickon, from now until the end of November. You should create your own fundraising page and then click the orange button “Join Team.” Any amount you donate and any mileage gained will be added to our total team numbers! Last year we won the highest fundraising team with $1,532 and we tracked a total of 560 miles in the park. This year our goal is $2,000 and 1,000 miles!! Go big or go home, let’s do this!!

  • 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. We are so grateful for the many helping hands that have expanded our garden program. A special thanks to Lisa Turner for her tireless effort and patience with coordinating our Learning Gardens program. Please let us know if you want to be involved as the growing season is far from over!

  • New Recycled Paper: Through some good negotiations with local independent schools and Staples, we are now purchasing copier paper coming from recycled paper fibers. This clearly means fewer trees cut down, but see the chart for other environmental savings by using recycled paper. Let me know if you would like more information.




Notes from the TLC

by Ruth Aichenbaum 

Welcome back to school! Thanks for the answering the TLC Quia survey during opening meetings. US faculty received the survey via email this week. 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 TLC sessions include:

  • Back to School Night—Q & A Session for US and MS Teachers
  • Dynamic Lecturing
  • 10 Tech Tools in 10 Minutes to Try by Tuesday
  • PC Hub Help
  • You Asked Me to Take Notes But I Don't Know How: Notetaking in the Digital Age
  • One-to-One Mac Help
  • IdeaLab Open Hours
  • Tuesdays with TED: Listen and Discuss a great TED talk
  • Jefferson University, East Falls Campus weekly Talking Teaching and workshops!
  • And more to be scheduled!

Here is the link to take a look at descriptions of the offerings and sign up for a workshop. I’m still planning more 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.

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 will start on Sept. 12 and continue each Wednesday from 12:00-1:00 pm.  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. One upcoming workshop that might be of particular interest is the workshop "Serious Fun: Play and Learning" led by Chris Pastore PhD (former PC parent!), which is scheduled for Sept. 12 from 1:00-2:00pm in the Gutman Library. Here is the link to take a look at all of the upcoming Jefferson workshops.

Also this fall semester, Jefferson University has three reading groups in which we can have a participant:

  1. Diversity, Inclusivity and Social Justice, meeting every Friday from Sept. 14 to Nov. 30, 12:00-1:00pm

  2. Sandra McGuire's Teach Students How to LearnStrategies You Can Incorporate Into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation meeting every Tuesday from Sept. 11 to Nov. 27, 11:00am-12:00pm.

  3. Abrose et al.'s How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching meeting every Wednesday from Sept. 12 to Nov. 28, 11:00am-12:00pm.

To learn more about these reading groups and those offered in the spring about Cheating Lessons: Learning From Academic Dishonesty and Quiet: The Power of Introverts take a look at this link. If you’re interested in being part of one of these reading groups, please email me as soon as possible.

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 TLC sessions at the end of last year:

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. You can schedule an appointment on the front page of our TLC website, stop by the TLC, or send me an email. While you’re on the TLC website, I invite you to explore its many online resources.  Hope to see you at the TLC!


Professional Development News

Professional Development Funds

Penn Charter’s policy regarding the allocation of professional development monies is prioritized so that money will be awarded to those requests that present the greatest intersection of institutional, departmental and personal needs that focus on the professional growth of faculty members. Monies will be prioritized for projects that best meet the goals of the Strategic Vision, including excellence, innovation and collaboration. In general, requests for equipment (computer cords, iPads, charging cables, etc…) should be directed to department chairs. Such expenses are not eligible for professional development funds.

As in past years, each full-time faculty member is guaranteed (but not required to spend) $250 per year for professional development. If faculty find that they need funding beyond the annual $250, they may apply for additional monies. To apply for additional funding, faculty need to first obtain approval of their division head in the Lower School or their department chair in Middle and Upper School, and then contact the academic dean to see if funding is available. The academic dean must give final approval for additional funding. Please note that, starting in the 2018-2019 school year, the $250 annual amount allocated for each full-time faculty member can no longer be carried over to the next school year.

Please direct any questions regarding professional development to David Brightbill.

Professional Development Opportunities

Click here for more information on upcoming professional development opportunities. Please remember to fill out the Request for Professional Development Funds Form and attach it to your registration.

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