Kohls joins Student Council

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Kohls poses at her desk.

By Tanisha Gunby ’21

English teacher Sidney Kohls is the new co-advisor for Student Council.

Her role involves working with the Director of Student Affairs and co-advisor of Student Council, Keith Jordan, to help the senators reach goals they make for themselves in leadership class. Student Council also hosts events such as Coffee House and the Ninth Grade Dance.

Kohls said she is excited to collaborate with students and get to know them better.

“I [am pleased to get] the chance to get to connect with the students more one-on-one and see a less academic side of them. Helping them accomplish their non-academic goals would be a really cool opportunity and way to connect with the community in a bigger way,” Kohls said.

She said that she thinks this role is a good fit for her because of her experience with Student Council.

“I used to do Student Council in middle school and high school, so I can connect with it,” Kohls said.

Jordan said that he is happy to be working with Kohls and the new Student Council this year.”

Last year, when we started booking for a new co-advisor for the Student Council, [Head of Middle School Jon] Wimbish actually suggested Ms. Kohls as somebody that would be really good for the position because she is energetic and a lot of fun. I thought that she would be perfect for the position, and I was so happy that she accepted it,” Jordan said.

Student council members said they are excited to have her on Student Council.

“I think Ms. Kohls is bringing a fresh perspective because we haven’t had her as a teacher yet, so it’s going to be a really exciting year with her,” Student Council member Jade Stanford ’22 said.

 

Westlake Archive Staircase officially opens

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Director of Admissions Elizabeth Riordan speaks at the opening ceremony, which celebrates the inception of the Westlake Archive Staircase.

By Katharine Steers ’22

The Westlake Staircase officially opened at the start of the school year.

The staircase features artifacts from Westlake School prior to merging with Harvard School in 1991. The majority of the objects included in the staircase had been kept in the school archives. However, in the case of the dress worn by Shirley Temple ’45, it was acquired by the school from its owner.

The staircase includes pictures of old uniforms, catalogs and an electronic interactive device that features the timeline and history of Westlake. It also contains documents such as a transcript of Temple’s grades.

“I think the women will really appreciate and really love what we did with the staircase. It’s a way to honor their contributions to the school, and the history of Westlake School,” school archivist Eric Yin said.

The old Westlake building used to be where the Sprague Field is today.  According to Yin, when the school tore it down, it was almost as if the last of Westlake was gone, so the staircase is a sentimental tribute to Westlake school.

“When current Harvard-Westlake students travel through the staircase, they’ll get to see a glimpse into the history of the school,” Yin said.

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Individuals at the ceremony cut the string, officializing the opening of the Westlake Staircase.

 

Westlake alumnae as well as Harvard-Westlake staff gathered for the ribbon cutting on Sept.18.

“I am very excited to see it and that they have done something to incorporate a bit of the old Westlake into Harvard Westlake,” Allison Demoff Jacoby ’89, P’22, said.

Jo Ann Schaaf Ganz ’47, P ‘71, ’74, one of the contributors to the staircase project, spoke of why it was important to her.

“One reason I wanted to contribute was because I went here when it was Westlake School for Girls, and I’ve always felt that probably the majority of students that go here don’t realize it was once a very fine girls’ school. I was anxious to have the history reestablished in a way that I hope the students and others will realize,” Ganz said.

 

Parents attend Back to School Day

By Caroline Jacoby ’22

Parents attending Back-to-School Day followed their children’s schedules in order to meet the teachers on Sept. 16.

The day began with a reception where parents could chat, eat or meet deans and other faculty and staff members. At 9:20 a.m., parents visited their children’s first period class. Like a normal school schedule, there was a five minute passing period, except each class was 10 minutes long. Classes were dismissed at 11:30 a.m, at which time parents met the deans or advisors for their children’s grade.

Many parents and faculty members said that Back-to-School Day is about more than following a schedule and sitting in students’ classes all day.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for the community as a whole to have a function that’s outside of a school thing […] and I think Back-to-School Day is just perfect,” Middle School Attendance and Health Coordinator Brenda Simon said.

Simon organized the event’s student volunteers and said she thinks that the event is an important opportunity for parents to see what their children do at school. She also explained how the 50 students volunteering have a chance to collaborate with the parents and teachers, and that it is nice for parents to see children helping on campus.

Several parents expressed appreciation for the event as well.

“[I’ve] already heard some really funny stories that our son has told us about his new teachers, so [I] want to talk to them and get to know them really well,” Christopher Mesa P ’23 said.

Kincaid showcases art at assembly

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By Hannah Han ’21

Visual artist Basil Kincaid spoke about his artwork on Sept. 18 during a Monday special assembly in the Saperstein Theatre. Later, he talked to visual arts students about his work process and answered questions about his installments during third and fourth period. An exhibition of his work was set up in the Arlene Schnitzer Gallery for students to view.

Kincaid is an African American artist from St. Louis, Missouri whose work addresses ideas of identity, freedom, family and culture.

“Freedom is my main thing. Don’t try to box me in. Don’t try to tell me what to do. I want to be me,” Kincaid said during the assembly.

Kincaid quilts, collages, draws, paints, takes photographs and builds installations, although he said he is currently most interested in working with fabric. Most of his art is made of donated or used materials, a nod to African Americans in the past who had to make a living working with scraps.

“I started walking around outside, and picking things off of the street, and making art with things I found. […] You look at the history of black people in America. We’ve had to do everything with scraps, and we’ve made amazing things with other people’s leftovers,” Kincaid said.

Kincaid said that as a child, he was bullied because of his race. He said that the only time he felt comfortable was when he was drawing and art helped carry him through all of the difficult times in his life.

“I have scars from where people would do different things to me. Throughout time, art was my refuge, and it was the place where I could belong, and my place where nobody could touch me,” Kincaid said.

Kincaid ended his speech by encouraging students to follow their dreams and never give up.

“If the only thing holding us back is the fact that we are afraid to believe in ourselves, then whatever it is you love to do, you need to do it, and you need to make a living doing it,” Kincaid said.

Middle School Visual Arts Department Head Katie Palmer ’98 originally invited the visual artist to speak at the school. Palmer and Kincaid first met at an art show in St. Louis; the Middle School Visual Arts Department Head had submitted her work to the show, and Kincaid happened to be the juror.

“I saw his [Kincaid’s] website, and it was such good work. […] He works in so many media, and I thought he would be a good fit [as a guest speaker for the community],” Palmer said.

Students said they found his speech to be inspiring.

“I really appreciated his honesty about his past experiences and his passion about his work,” Giulia Germano ’21 said.

Platt serves in Alumni Relations

 

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Platt poses for a picture in the student bookstore

By Kathryn Lin ’22

Hannah Platt ’08 returned to campus to serve in Alumni Relations.  Platt works on alumni events as well as the school’s alumni Instagram and Facebook pages and newsletters for the school.

Platt spoke of why she decided to come back to work at the Middle School.

“I really wanted to be back in a school environment.  I love being around kids, and what better place to come back than Harvard-Westlake,” Platt said.

After Platt graduated, she worked for a summer camp called Camp Ramah in California, which is a Jewish summer camp founded by Rabbi Joe Menashe.  Some activities Platt said she likes to do are exercising, going to classes, singing and being around her family.

Director of Alumni Relations David Lee ’89 spoke of what it is like working with Platt.

“She’s been a wonderful addition to the Alumni Relations team.  She’s a wonderful presence, she is picking up the job really quickly, and it’s great to have her on the team,” Lee said.

 

Keith joins admissions office

 

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Melody Tang ’22

Robin Keith (P ‘15, 16)  joined the Admission office as an admission intern.

Keith worked at Curtis School for nine years before moving to John Thomas Dye School last year. There, she worked with John Amato, the former Harvard-Westlake Vice President.

Keith studied at UCLA before moving on to work in marketing and communications.

Keith said that she is very interested in the admissions process.

“I love working in education, and I think that it is sacred work. Playing a role in providing an education to young people who will be the future leaders of our world is very exciting,” Keith said.

Keith said that she has great respect for the faculty and staff as a part of the community.

“It was wonderful to work in partnership with the school in raising my children. I developed strong relationships with many of the teachers, deans and administrators, and that is something that I really treasured, I’m thrilled to be playing a different role here,” Keith said.

In her spare time, Keith said she loves going to see musicals and films. Recently, she was able to go and see the musicals “Hamilton” and “Dear Evan Hansen.”

“Both of those performances were amazing, and I love them,” Keith said.

Keith said that she is excited and looking forward to meeting the new applicants and go through the cycle of the upcoming admission season.

Colleagues say they are grateful to have her as a part of the admissions team.

“She is a real team player and is always willing to help,” Senior Associate Director of Admissions Michelle Hung ’91 said.

 

Goddard becomes interim seventh grade dean

 

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Interim seventh grade dean Vicki Goddard.

By Celine Park ’21

Former Community and Work Service Coordinator Vicki Goddard ‘60 has returned to the Middle School in order to serve as an interim seventh grade dean. The school asked her last spring to return after retiring a year ago to temporarily replace dean Kate Benton as she is currently undergoing medical treatment. Goddard’s office is located in the same place as Benton’s in the seventh grade lounge, and she is on campus every Thursday and Friday.

Goddard said that part of her job working as a dean is to help the new seventh graders adjust to life at school.

“A lot of what I do is help the kids navigate through a big new world: helping them unlock their lockers, answering their questions and meeting with their parents – things of that sort,” Goddard said.

In her retirement, Goddard has been working at the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry and taking classes at the OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute for seniors.

Benton said that she is beyond happy that Goddard was chosen to be the interim dean.

“There is no one better to help indoctrinate the new seventh graders than Ms. Goddard. She not only graduated from the Westlake School, she’s taught here for more than 37 years. She understands the traditions and expectations of the school – she’s perfect!” Benton said.

Seventh grade dean Jon Carroll also said that he is very happy about the work that Goddard has done so far.

“It is an amazing gift for the seventh grade class to have Ms. Goddard as a dean. She brings so much experience and is really good about helping kids understand how community service works here in particular,” Carroll said.

Goddard is expected to work on and off at the school alongside Carroll until the end of first quarter and will be attending the yearly retreat.

 

Steinmetz joins history department

 

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Steinmetz teaches a history class

By Ben Webber ’22

Laura Steinmetz joined the history department this year and is teaching seventh grade U.S. History and Government and eighth grade World Civilizations. Before coming to the Middle School, Steinmetz taught many different history classes for students between sixth and 12th grade at both Westchester Secondary Charter School and Student Empowerment Academy. This is her fifth year teaching.

Steinmetz spoke of why she loves history.

“I love the subject, and I love teaching so it just blends two of my passions together into the perfect career,” Steinmetz said.

Steinmetz grew up in Los Angeles. She said her favorite subject besides history is English, and her favorite time period is Ancient Rome. Steinmetz said without a doubt that her favorite president is Theodore Roosevelt.

Steinmetz’s colleagues said they enjoy working with her, and they enjoy being with her in the History office.

“She is a great colleague, she is fun to be around, and I am so glad she is working with me,” history teacher John Corsello said.

Students seem to really enjoy having Steinmetz as their teacher, as well.

“Mrs. Steinmetz is a very enthusiastic teacher. She is great at teaching and lecturing,” Julian Andreone ’22 said.

 

Brown joins as learning specialist

 

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By Ruoshan Dong ’21

Grace Brown joined the school community as the first ever learning specialist. As learning specialist, Brown works with students who have learning differences and provides them with tips and strategies on how to work efficiently and effectively. She divides her time between both campuses, spending two days a week at the Middle School and three days at the Upper School.

“My job is to work at the Middle and Upper School to support students academically…. I work with any student who wants a little help in class or with study strategies [and] organization,” Brown said.

Brown previously worked at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut.  According to her, having a learning specialist is very important to student well-being.

“I’ve been trained to understand how the brain learns, so I can offer that as a resource to

the community, and it’s just one more perspective on learning and support for students,” Brown said.

Learning specialists not only help those with learning difficulties, but they can also help with general study tips.  Brown provided some examples of strategies she would recommend.

“Know how your brain works and experiment with strategies for memorization, note taking, writing.  Get help when something feels difficult,” she said.

Brown also offered a word of advice for students struggling with their workload.

“[Create] a schedule and [make] sure that you are putting in things that you want to do, not just homework. Make sure you have balance, and schedule time to do what you need to do… and have it all in one place,” Brown said.

Brown seems to be enjoying her time at the school so far.

“Everyone I’ve met is so friendly, and the students are really driven and want to do well… it’s a great environment to be working in… the faculty here are very helpful and caring, and want to take care of the students,” Brown said.

According to faculty and staff, Brown is proving to be a useful asset to the school community.

“We all could use a little more Grace Brown in our lives,”  school psychologist Kelly Decker joked.

 

 

Pease becomes choir teacher

 

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Pease sits at his desk near the choral room.

By Joy Ho ’21

Jeremy Pease has stepped into the role of choral director at the Middle School this year. Before coming to the campus, Pease taught middle school chorus at Westside Neighborhood School and spent some time in a Manhattan school district. Prior to that, Pease also taught at Middle and High schools in Bloomington, Illinois.

“A friend of mine is an alumnus of the choir program here. He had [former choral director Nina] Burtchaell throughout his time at Harvard-Westlake, and he turned out to be an incredible musician and composer, and he told me about the open position. After attending the holiday choral concert last year, it was clear that this was an incredible place to make music,” Pease said.

Pease directs the Seventh grade Boys and Girls’ Choruses, Vocal Ensemble, Wolverine Chorus and Madrigals. He said he hopes that all of his students continue to develop a passion for singing, both as soloists and as ensembles, and that they all grow musically throughout the school year.

“I’m loving [the school]. The faculty and staff from the first days of meetings greeted me warmly from the beginning. And the students are so fun to work with and open to all kinds of ideas in class. It’s a wonderful community to be a part of,” Pease said.

He also said that the students and faculty have been very helpful, and it has been easy to adjust to the Middle School.

Pease said his favorite aspects of teaching choir are the moments in class when his students accomplish and create something beautiful with the music and how their eyes light up once they realize how exciting it is. Outside of the classroom, Pease also enjoys exercising, playing board and card games, eating food with friends and watching movies.

Students also seem to like being in Pease’s choirs.

“I really like being in his class. He’s a really good teacher because he doesn’t just teach us songs, but also music theory so we can understand more. Mr. Pease is also very light-hearted and very caring. He also makes the classes really fun and makes a lot of jokes,” Vocal Ensemble singer Rhea Madhogarhia “22 said.