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P.C.P.D. May 2017

Penn Charter Professional Development

May 2017

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


News to Know


Thought & Practice: Where Vision and Possibility Meet

Penn Charter's teacher blog features Sonia Duprez writing on emergent curriculum and Philadelphia-as-classroom. Link to read the latest post. 



Ruth Aichenbaum, Ruth McGee and Marianne Master have been accepted into the 2017-2019 cohort of the SPARC (Spirited Practice And Renewed Courage) program sponsored by Friends Council on Education. 

Michelle Dowd is writing and illustrating a coloring book for children about Philadelphia's rich cultural heritage. The project is sponsored by The Global Philadelphia Association and The World Heritage Organization. The coloring book will be promoted by Welcome America, Inc., in Philadelphia from June 27 through July 4, 2017

Naveena BembryJill BrotmanMichelle DowdMegan KaferMargaret LeaLisa ReedichJessica Stusnick, Laura ValdmanisMonique DursoBrooke Giles and Alyson Goodner; Joel Eckel and Clancy Philbrick; Tim ClarkeJohn EstokEve Schwartz and Alec Tressler have been awarded a VITAL grants for summer work that advances our Strategic Vision. Details on the four grants.

Congratulations and special thanks to the many PC colleagues who shared their expertise by teaching workshops and/or mentoring faculty during April: Alice Bateman, Kevin Berkoff, Paul Blackwood, David Brightbill, Karen Campbell, Monica Freely, Julian Guindon, Judith Hill, Corey Kilbane, Nora Landon, Sara Moses, Lisa Reedich, Tom Rickards, Michael Roche, Marvin Shelton, Lee Payton and Doug Uhlmann.


Sarah and Jeff Humble welcomed a son, Cole Davis, on April 30.


Foreign Language Department Goes for the Gold 

The Foreign Language Department has received a PSMLA Exemplary Program (PEP) 2017 Golden Globe award.

The PEP award is presented on an annual basis to identify, showcase and publicly recognize excellent foreign language programs across the state. In order to apply for the award, the department had to meet certain criteria on a rubric developed by the Pennsylvania State Modern Language Association.

Through the application process, Penn Charter showed that 94.5 percent of our Upper School students are enrolled in a foreign language; we have 98 percent retention from level 1 to levels 4 and 5; more than 90 percent of our Upper School teachers have completed foreign-language-specific professional development in the last two years; and 100 percent of our teachers are members of foreign-language-specific professional organizations.

In addition, 100 percent of our modern language teachers show instruction in line with the Four Key Instructional Practices: use the target language in a comprehensible way 90 percent or more of most class periods; engage students in pair and small group communicative practice in the target language at least 3-5 times per week; encourage/require students to express their own meanings in the target language daily; and integrate culture into daily language instruction.


News and Notes

Orit Netter, Tom Rickards and Steven Wade attended FEEN (Friends Environmental Educators Network) at Buckingham Friends School on April 6-7. Information was shared about solar energy for Friends Schools and different environmental curricula. The group also took a closer look at the FEEN statement of purpose, which included the following, "Friends Schools have a special obligation to include environmental education in their programs in order to promote a sustainable future for all life."

In March, Laura Valdmanis attended a weeklong master class training for The World Peace Game. She also took part in a monthlong course entitled "Building Philadelphia: Architecture, History and Politics," with the Philadelphia Center for Architecture. She is training to be a tour guide for the center.

Melanie Wills virtually attended a series of webinars from the AACT (American Association of Chemistry Teachers) on how to prepare students for the AP chemistry exam and on standards-based grading.


Faculty and Staff Changes

Sarah Black, who taught fifth grade language arts this year, has decided not to return to Penn Charter next year so that she can spend more time with her family. A search to fill the position is currently underway.

Darci Borski has decided to step down as associate athletic director. She will remain at PC and become a full-time member of the Health and Physical Education department, and she will continue to coach soccer. The search for a replacement is currently underway.

Lisa Haskell has been hired as an assistant teacher in the pre-K.

Laura Mansfield has been hired to teach math in the Upper School. She is replacing Bruce MacCullough, who is retiring at the end of this school year.

Cory Moy will teach Chinese in the Upper School beginning in the 2017-2018 school year.

Pat Noonan will be running the Math Center on a part-time basis next year.

Daniel Stahl has been hired as the new Lower School Technology Coordinator.

Penn Charter will post all current available positions on this page on the school website. 



This year the VITAL Selection Committee has awarded four VITAL grants for summer work. Read on to learn more about these exciting projects!

Monique Durso, Brooke Giles and Alyson Goodner will collaborate on "A Pop-Up Book for Children about Quaker Spices" to be read by children, families and the larger Quaker community. The pop-up book will be a modern resource and focus on the essential Quaker belief that "there is that of God in everyone," as well as the common Quaker testimonies, or SPICES: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship/Service. This project will be focused on the first goal from the Strategic Plan, Quakerism. While the pop-up book is the end product, in addition, Monique and Alyson plan and reflect on a collaborative, cross-divisional course on Quaker studies for second and 10th graders. This course will focus on the students' side-by-side exploration of the Quaker testimonies as well as key skills and competencies connected to the Penn Charter vision to educate students to live lives that make a difference, such as empathy, active listening, problem solving and collaboration.

Joel Eckel and Clancy Philbrick’s VITAL project "Talking Community Peace Kites" is a STEAM project that promotes the values of peace, respect, tolerance and community. Talking Peace Kites was originally founded by Adi Yekuteili, a teacher/artist who developed the project to promote peace between Israel and Palestine. Already this year, the second and fifth grades are creating Peace Kites with personal messages of peace on them. The VITAL project will expand on this work. This project, which will engage US and LS students, will involve studying and testing different materials for fabricating functional kites and various methods for visually communicating messages on the kites. The iterative process will involve investigating the physics and math behind the design and flight of each kite, an exploration of physical materials, and a study of analogue and digital methods for creating visually engaging messages and aesthetics. The team also intends to dedicate time for community outreach in hopes of finding a partner school or organization to engage in conversation.

Lisa Reedich, Naveena Bembry, Jill Brotman, Michelle Dowd, Megan Kafer, Margaret Lea, Jessica Stusnick and Laura Valdmanis were awarded a VITAL grant for the project "Teaching Children to Care: Responsive Classroom Training, Planning and Practice." This group will attend Responsive Classroom training in July 2017. Responsive Classroom is an evidence-based approach to elementary and middle school teaching that focuses on the strong link between academic success and social-emotional learning. The Responsive Classroom approach involves competencies in four interrelated domains: (1) engaging academics, (2) positive community, (3) effective management, and (4) developmentally responsive teaching. After attending the workshop, participants will gather to discuss what they have learned. They will plan implementation of Responsive Classroom strategies and share ideas and feedback. They will offer each other ongoing support as they use the Responsive Classroom approach throughout the year, as well as offer their expertise to others in the Penn Charter community.

Tim Clarke, John Estok, Eve Schwartz and Alec Tressler were awarded a VITAL grant for their project "Technology, Science and the Connection to Movement." They will be using Catapult, an athlete monitoring system that tracks a multitude of metrics to paint the picture of the workload on the student’s body. Tracking these metrics can help build more time and energy efficient practice plans to utilize our student’s time more efficiently. It will be used to create new co-curricular topics that will be implemented into the current science curriculum, to monitor current athletic practice techniques to identify ways to make practices more efficient, to monitor student athletic performance during academic-testing intensive periods, and to empower students to take a hands-on approach to learning. This will be the first time a school will be using this cutting-edge technology outside the athletic domain, exploring its use as an innovative part of the science curriculum. This VITAL group plans to develop a cross-divisional, interdisciplinary plan that not only redefines classroom learning but also reimagines our student’s usage of time and energy.

The VITAL Selection Committee hopes that reading about these VITAL projects starts you dreaming about your ideal VITAL project. Applications will be due in mid-February, 2018.


Green Corner
by Tom Rickards

Earth Week
We had a pretty successful Earth Week April 24-28. It started with a small group of us participating in the March for Science on Earth Day, April 22 (photo below). While I do not have official numbers of pounds of E-Waste, just about every day our bins were overflowing. We had a successful set of daily eco-challenges where kids responded to TED Talks, had zero-waste lunches and spent time outdoors. I tried this year to build more incentives with points and prizes for Upper and Middle School students. Our attempts to reduce or eliminate plastic water bottles did not go as well, and I would welcome feedback and ideas on how to get our community off our addiction to single-use plastics. I am looking at Tuesday, May 9, from 3:30 to 5:00, as an open Stewardship meeting to talk about Earth Week programming and any other environmental ideas and goals for next year. Please email me if you are interested, and location and details will be announced.


Waste Streams
A reminder about our locations and waste streams. Terracycle bins for chip bags, energy bar wrappers, writing instruments and dental products can be found in the lobby of every division (Upper School: our chip bags and energy bar wrappers are right downstairs on either side of the dining hall). Each lobby also has bins for used batteries, and bins for used ink cartridges can be found in the copy/mail room for each division. If you have questions about where items are going, or suggestions, please let me know.

Summer Outings
Please let Lisa Turner or me know if you would like to help with Campus Gardens over the summer. Friends of the Wissahickon also has regularly scheduled hikes and service opportunities: FOW Calendar. I would also be interested in seeing if there is a group that is interested in sharing summer outings and nature adventures in the months to come. I sent out weekly Eco News events this school year (please let me know if you want on that email listserv), and would be happy to explore ongoing communication with folks over the summer. If interested, please let me know.  


Overseers Dinner

The annual Overseers Dinner will be on Tuesday, May 9, at 6:00 pm in the tent outside Timmons. Click here for a list of faculty and staff who will be honored for their service to Penn Charter.


Notes from the TLC

by Ruth Aichenbaum 

There are  many varied learning opportunities in the next month including:

  • How Trauma, Our Brains and Trust Impact Students’ Learning and How to Help, led by Laura Dimery, founding principal of St. James School
  • Positive Teacher and Student Conversations from Both Perspectives, led by Marianna Allen and student Haley Joyce
  • Curriculum Interventions to Mitigate Solo Status and Stereotype Threat, led by Marvin Shelton
  • World Peace Game, led by Laura Valdmanis
  • Environmental/Sustainability Certificate Initiative, led by Tom Rickards, Aly Goodner and Sharon Ahram
  • Pop Lunch Lecture - Black Greeks: Tradition and Community, given by Imana Legette and Antonio Williams
  • Affinity Group to Discuss Creating Cultures of Thinking, group led by Brooke Stratton
  • Meaningful Homework Group
  • Open Laser Cutting, led by Corey Kilbane
  • One-to-One Mac Help, with Julian Guindon
  • Securing Your Google Email, with Paul Blackwood and Julian Guindon
  • Open Laser Cutting, led by Corey Kilbane

Since May is a busy month for all of us, the TLC will also offer a number of fun sessions/activities, many over lunch, with hopes of providing some time to unwind, smile and enjoy each other's company! Some of the offerings include:

  • What to Watch on TV, led by Lee Payton
  • Game-a-palooza!: Come Play Board Games During Lunch, led by Sarah Aguilar-Francis and Claire Scribner
  • Latvian Slipper Knitting, led by Laura Valdmanis
  • Sew What? led by Monica Freely
  • Sharing Ideas for Summer Pleasure Reading and Listening, led by Judith Hill and Ruth Aichenbaum
  • Staycation Sharing: Share Your Favorite Local Travel and Fun Activity Destinations, led by Doug Uhlmann
  • Learn How to Row on the Erg, led by Michael Moulton
  • Café y Español, offered by Orit Netter
  • Free Climb Friday, offered by Tom Rickards
  • Mindful Meditation, offered by Lisa Reedich
  • Morning Swim, offered by Kevin Berkoff
  • Your Idea! Have an idea for a fun session you’d like to offer? Let me know and we’ll make it happen!

Here is the SignUp Genius link to sign up for a workshop. As always, if there’s a TLC session you’d like to attend, but the timing doesn’t work, please email me (, and I’ll set up a one-to-one session.

Hope to see you at the TLC!


Professional Development News

The Global Exploration for Educators Organization is offering a World Heritage Sites and Cities Tour of India and Nepal in August. Click here for more information.

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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What I try to tell young people is that if you come together with a mission, and it's grounded with love and a sense of community, you can make the impossible possible.

—John Lewis









Penn Charter

A Friends School for Girls and Boys, Pre-K to 12

3000 West School House Lane Philadelphia, PA 19144 215.844.3460
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