Williston Model UN Team Heads to MIT

Guest Blog Post by Josh Calianos ’18

A delegation of 12 Williston students will join hundreds of students from across the globe to participate in a Model United Nations simulation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the weekend of February 10-12. At Model UN, students represent delegates from United Nation member countries and debate international issues.

The MIT conference is a three-day event where students will spend most of their time (8 hours a day) in various committees discussing and debating the most pressing international issues. The ultimate goal is to create consensus in the form of a resolution, or a proposal for how the UN should address the issue. Read more about the conference at our student-run Model UN blog.

Williston Northampton delegation:

UNSC France: Sophie Little
IAEA DPRK: Josh Calianos
WTO Czech Republic: Sydney Kim
WHO Singapore: Brooke Smith
Futuristic Uganda: Reilly Gluz
ASEAN Vanuatu: Francois Kaeppelin
ECOSOC Peru: Vishnu Sekar
IMF Greece: Simon Kim
Historical Horatio Gates: Alexander Foster
DISEC Colombia: Eleanor (Ellie) Scott
EU Vatican City: Sofia Flores
UNECLC ROK: Eleanor (Ellie) Wolfe

State Champ We the People Team Heads to D.C.

The We the People team on the floor of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston

Williston’s We the People team members for the second year in a row out-maneuvered their competition with their superior knowledge and application of civics concepts, securing the state championship. They will head to the national competition in the Washington, D.C., area this April to face teams from across the country.

The team studied and practiced doggedly this trimester, and the hard work paid off when the group met with success in Boston on January 28. Their advisor, AP US Government teacher Peter Gunn, praised the cohesiveness of the team, likening it to a troupe of actors who bond as they practice for a play, or a sports team. “It’s a formidable challenge, both intellectually and interpersonally,” he said. Continue reading

AP French Students Explore ‘Charlie Archive’ in Boston

AP French students explore Harvard University’s ‘Charlie Archive’ in Boston.

Susan Michalski’s AP French class took a field trip Friday to the exposition of Harvard University’s “Charlie Archive” at the French Cultural Center in Boston. Students spent the day immersed entirely in French.

The exposition contained 50+ framed artworks inspired by the January 2015 attacks of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper office in Paris. In addition, there was a collection of iPads each filled with thousands of digital images of “Je suis Charlie” tributes of all kind, from social media to poetry to street art from around the world. Historians, French and American, spoke on video of the larger importance of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Continue reading

Classics Day Immerses Wildcats in Ancient Cultures

Rob Champigny '18 with another great leader, Augustus
Rob Champigny ’18 with another great leader, Augustus

Classics Day brings together students of Latin from around the Pioneer Valley who, for one day, immerse themselves in the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome. The annual event is organized and hosted by the Pioneer Valley Classics Association and held at Mount Holyoke College in nearby South Hadley, Massachusetts.

On January 20, Williston students were among 341 attendees at the event. Classics Day spurred student imaginations and inspired Wildcats to spend hours working on projects that were rewarded with 10 prizes. A remarkable example: One student, Gabe Moon ’18, taught himself metal working so he could create a prize-winning replica of a Roman helmet. Continue reading

Williston Wildcat Robotics Team Battles to Victory

Williston Wildcat Robotics Club battle to victory.
Williston Wildcat Robotics battled to victory.

Nine members of the robotics club journeyed to Boston University Academy recently to participate in a VEX Competition Qualifier for the Southern New England Regional Tournament. They returned with a trophy, sharing the win with an allied team.

The tournament is played on a 12-foot by 12-foot field. Two alliances — one red and one blue — composed of two teams each, compete in matches consisting of a 15-second autonomous period followed by one minute and 45 seconds of driver-controlled play. The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing alliance by placing game pieces in your zones and by hanging robots on your hanging bar. Continue reading

Split Decisions in Three Eighth-Grade Mock Trails

Deliberating in the Middle School
Deliberating in the Middle School

Three eighth-grade juries came to different verdicts in mock trials that centered around a case where a customer was burned by coffee served by a fictitious coffee shop, and sued for damages. After hearing from witnesses in the case, the juries had to decide who was at fault, the plaintiff (Lee Cavanaugh, the coffee drinker) or the defendant (Cup of Joe, the business who sold the beverage).

According to Middle School History and Global Studies Teacher Andrew Syfu, jurors were tasked with deciding if the defendant was negligent from a legal perspective, and if the shop was strictly liable for the injuries sustained by Mr. Cavanaugh. Continue reading

Three Faculty Members Inducted into Cum Laude Society

Cum Laude inductees Beatrice Cody, Thomas Johnson, and Sarah Sawyer
Cum Laude inductees Beatrice Cody, Thomas Johnson, and Sarah Sawyer

Three faculty members were inducted into the Cum Laude Society during a recent ceremony at Williston. They are Beatrice Cody, head of the Language Department; Thomas Johnson, history and global studies teacher; and Sarah Sawyer, head of the English Department.

Dean of Faculty Peter Valine welcomed the three into the society and gave the following speech: “The Cum Laude Society is a fellowship of scholars whose purpose is to recognize excellence in academic work. We appreciate and applaud your efforts in inspiring students and striving for excellence in the craft of teaching. For your contributions to scholarship and learning in our community the Cum Laude Committee has selected you for induction into the Williston Northampton Chapter of the Cum Laude Society. As members of this society we look forward to your support of both students and peers in their quests for growth and knowledge.”

Advice for Seniors: Exercise the Mind to Prepare for College

Students react to Mr. Sarat’s engaging talk.

“To prepare for college, you need move beyond just spitting out what you’ve memorized or read,” Amherst College professor Austin Sarat told seniors the morning of October 14 in Assembly. “You need to actually think. And then you need to take it one step farther and think against your idea.” Sarat, who is the William Nelson Cromwell professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, described this process as a form of resistance training that is essential for reasoning and thinking independently in college. “When your teachers here question what you are writing or saying, they are the equivalent of your strength and training coaches,” he said.

Sarat asked the audience of seniors and a panel, which included Head of School Robert W. Hill, Theater Director Emily Ditkovski, and Math Teacher Carey Baldwin, to come up with arguments and counter-arguments for a number of hypothetical scenarios. For example, if a student steals a book from the library, but minutes later learns it was “Take any book you like from the library day,” should the student be punished for his actions? Was a rule actually broken?

As various answers were debated, Sarat reinforced the importance of listening carefully, actively thinking versus waiting for a classmate or teacher to reveal “the answer,” and cultivating these habits now to prepare for the rigors of college classes.

Sarat similarly urged thoroughness when offering seniors a collection of his rules for reading and writing in college. “Reading is mental exercise. Some of it will be easy and fun. Some of it will be hard and no fun. The harder the reading, the more valuable it is to your intellectual development,” he said. “Reading something once and fast is merely ‘horizontal eye exercise,’” he added, asking students to think of reading the way they think of fitness, acting, or other pursuits. “You don’t just practice your lines for the play once, right?” he said. “The same is true of reading well.”

Sarat closed by reminding seniors of the importance of daily practice. “Writing, reading, thinking…practice these habits every day here at Williston,” he said. “Don’t skip a day. They will prepare you for college.”




Three Williston Faculty Awarded Chairs

Ed. note: Dean of Faculty Peter Valine presented four instructorships during Convocation on September 16. Here is the text of his remarks:

The Henry M. Zachs and Judith Zachs Faculty Chair was established in 1999 by Henry M. Zach, Class of 1952 and Judith Zachs.

The Zach’s Chair recipient is starting her 16th year at Williston and during this time she has made a significant contribution to the academic life of the school. Perhaps the most important of these many contributions has been her innovative and energetic efforts to advance the craft of writing in our school community. Her commitment to the goal of developing Williston students as effective writers has been forwarded along three fronts: the classroom, her leadership of Janus, and the creation of the Williston Writing Center.

Sarah Sawyer
Sarah Sawyer receiving the Zach’s Chair

In the classroom she understands that relationship building is the first step to creating the atmosphere of trust between a teacher and her students. Her enjoyment of teenagers is evident—she loves their sophomoric nature and she possesses the knack to get them to open their hearts and souls in both conversation and prose. She has discovered the secret of how to get her students to recognize the importance and seriousness of their study while not stifling the pure, unbridled joy of reading and learning with others. Her student feedback often references the richness of her class discussions as the key to unlocking the deeper meanings of a piece of literature. In this regard the students praise her ability to ask just the right probing questions that challenge them to reassess their understandings and to appreciate other perspectives. When asked on the student feedback form what are the three words that best describe this class, one of her students wrote: Makes Me Think.

The Zach’s Chair recipient also served for many years as the faculty advisor to Janus Williston’s literary magazine. In this role she has encouraged our students to submit and share their written and artistic expressions. She has recruited these writers and artists to be risk-takers and to air their work in public as a way gaining feedback and of building confidence and a sense of pride in their work. This past summer she had an opportunity to hone her own craft when she was invited to join a session at an Arkansas Writer’s Colony.

Perhaps her most visible role on campus is serving as the Director of Williston’s Writing Center which opened in 2005. From its inception she has effectively designed, staffed, and marketed this academic resource and it has become an integral part of the support services that Williston offers its students. The opportunity to learn from one-on-one instruction for enhancing basic writing skills has filled a significant need for students as judged by the number of visits that seem to be exponentially increasing each year. A recent Williston graduate recently mentioned in a school blog that she got in the habit of using the writing center at Williston and that habit assisted a smooth transition to utilizing the Writing Center at her college which has been a boon to her studies.

This year we are eager to watch her apply her energy, creativity, and collegiality in her new role as English Department Head.

I am pleased to announce that the Henry and Judith Zachs Faculty Chair is awarded to Sarah Sawyer.

The Prigmore Faculty Chair is given by G. Daniel Prigmore, Class of 1961 and Kristin J. Prigmore, Class of 1988 in memory of his parents and her grandparents William H. Prigmore and Dr. Mildred J. Hausmann. This Chair is to be given to a member of the History Department selected by the Head of School who is considered most able to teach history with a perspective that encourages students to seek out all the contributors leading up to the events history has recorded.  

The new recipient of the Prigmore Chair joined the Williston faculty in 2012 and has quickly become a stalwart in the History and Global Studies department. His dedication to the art of teaching is evident in his careful and deliberate lesson planning, his thoughtful and strongly held beliefs on how students learn best, and his rich collaboration with colleagues in the department.

Michael Doubleday receiving the Prigmore Chair

His effectiveness as a teacher starts with his clearly articulated expectations of his students. He takes the time to explain his rationale for class protocols and he invites the students to partner with him in the exploration of historical themes and events. He is extremely well organized as he presents his students with an agenda with learning goals for each day and he excels in keeping his eyes on the prize and staying true to his priorities.

His students enjoy their experiences in his classroom for several reasons. First, his passion for the subject is unquestioned. He is an avid reader, and he continues to push himself as an historian by frequently participating in professional development opportunities. This summer, for example, he traveled to Texas after his acceptance into a selective program for history teachers hosted by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. He clearly has a hungry heart for history. Second, he devotes the necessary time to support his students. He possesses the discipline to provide timely and substantive feedback on formative assessments which guide students toward richer understandings. His students know that he is always willing to help. “He never turns you down,” one student recently wrote.

Like most successful teachers he varies his teaching methods. While he does use lectures to introduce new material, he enlivens the class through the use of video clips, historical songs, and group discussions. His students quickly become more adept at analyzing primary source documents and contextualizing historical movements and events. They appreciate his openness to their questions and his acceptance of new interpretations. One of the favorite activities of his students is the debate format. They note that he always challenges our understandings by making us explain our points.

I think a student summed up the case for the Prigmore Chair selection best when he or she wrote on the feedback survey last spring that “Mr. Doubleday is one of the teachers who is most invested in our education and who really wants us to learn.”

I am happy to announce that The Prigmore Faculty Chair is awarded to Michael Doubleday.

The David H. ’35 and Edward J. Goodman ’37 Science Chair was established in 2001 by a bequest of David Goodman to honor a member of the Science Department.

The Goodman Science Chair recipient joined the Williston faculty in 2011 bringing with him a wealth of boarding school experience in all areas of school life. He is being recognized not only as a master teacher, but as an academic leader who has both supported his colleagues and facilitated a significant curricular reform in the Science Department.

Bill Berghoff received the
Bill Berghoff receiving the Goodman Science Chair

In the classroom he is a dynamic instructor who delivers even the most complex concepts in advanced Chemistry in a clear and concise manner. His complete mastery of the material allows him to devote much of his time to experimenting with the best teaching methods to promote student learning. Though his students often struggle as they wrestle with the advanced concepts, they appreciate his ever supportive and encouraging attitude. While he provides frequent extra help sessions and is patient and thorough in answering their questions, he believes that learning is deepest when it springs from the student. By empowering his students to embrace the learning process and to develop their critical thinking through problem-solving exercises-he teaches them the values of perseverance and resilience. His students also gain reinforcement from his well-constructed labs that complement their study and bring the chemistry concepts to life.

The last five years have been incredibly busy years as he has led the Science Department through a curriculum review, contributed to the emergence of Williston’s Strategic Plan, assisted with the Science Department segment of the NEASC Reaccreditation process, and provided important input for the design and construction of the new science building. The curriculum review process led to a complete revision of the science curriculum with the adoption of a Physics First philosophy in the Upper School science program. He also shepherded the launch of the Williston Scholars Science program and used his networks at the Five Colleges to connect our budding scientists with experts in the field of their research.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly he has served as a passionate role model for our students and a dedicated mentor to the members of the Science Department over the past five years.

I am pleased to announce that the Goodman Science Chair is awarded to Bill Berghoff.