All posts by Kate Snyder

Convocation Opens Williston’s 176th Academic Year

On a warm late-summer evening, the 2016 Convocation ceremony officially opened the 176th academic year at the Williston Northampton School during an event held on the Quadrangle on September 16.

Class President Natalie Aquadro '17 addressed the Convocation audience.
Class President Natalie Aquadro ’17 addressed the Convocation audience.

Class President Natalie Aquadro ’17 spoke about the “Williston magic” that will shape the year ahead. Her full speech is here.

Head of School Robert W. Hill welcomed those assembled and introduced keynote speaker Austin Sarat. Read a transcript of his speech here.

Professor Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College, gave the keynote address. Read his remarks here.

Peter Valine presented chairs to three members of the faculty. The text of his remarks is here. At an assembly that morning, Valine awarded instructorships to four teachers. His introductions are here.

Following the event, students shared a special dinner with their classes. They then attended a party in the Athletic Center.

Photographs of the event are on Flickr (here). The link to video is here.

Austin Sarat to Address Convocation Ceremony

austin-sarat-2Williston Northampton School is proud to welcome to campus for the school’s Convocation Austin D. Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Amherst College.

Sarat will address the school community during the opening-of-school event on the Quadrangle on the evening of September 16. The Convocation ushers in Williston’s 176th year.

Sarat has written, co-written, or edited more than 50 books in the fields of law and political science. He received a BA from Providence College in 1969, an MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in 1970 and 1973, respectively. He also received a JD from Yale Law School in 1988.

Class dinners follow the event.

Eclectic Group Makes Up 2016 Writers’ Workshop Series

The four professionals that make up the 2016 Williston Writers’ Workshop Series arrive with divergent backgrounds but share two common threads: an intimate connection to the written word and a successful relationship with the creative process.

This is the 19th year Williston Northampton School has hosted the popular series—conceived by authors Madeleine Blais P ’00, ’04 and Elinor Lipman P ’00—in which writers and creative professionals give a talk during a public forum, then teach a master class to students who have prepared for the visit by studying the presenter’s work. The forums begin at 7 p.m. and are held at various locations on campus.

Photo of Keri Smith by Jefferson Pitcher
Photo of Keri Smith by Jefferson Pitcher

The series kicks off on Oct. 3 with Keri Smith, a bestselling author, illustrator, and thinker. Her books include Wreck This Journal, This is Not a Book, How to Be an Explorer of the World, Mess, Finish This Book, The Pocket Scavenger, Wreck This Journal Everywhere, Everything Is Connected, The Imaginary World of… as well as Wreck This App, This is Not an App, and the Pocket Scavenger app. She recently was featured in a TIME magazine article titled, “Meet the Woman Trying to Save Your Kids from Their Screens.” This forum will be held in the Whitaker-Bement Center Assembly Room.

Laura Tillman
Laura Tillman

Laura Tillman joins us on Oct. 10 in the Dodge Room of Reed Campus Center. Tillman is an award-winning journalist and author whose work has appeared in The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalThe Nation, and Pacific Standard, among other publications. Originally from Maplewood, N.J., she began her career at The Brownsville Herald in South Texas. The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, an investigation into three horrendous murders in Brownsville—and a meditation on the human forces that drove them—is her first book.

Steve Bloom
Steve Bloom

On Nov. 7, Steve Bloom speaks at the Williston Theatre. A screenwriter for television and movies for more than 30 years, Bloom attended Brown University and the graduate film production program at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Among his produced credits are the films The Sure Thing, Tall Tale, and James and the Giant Peach. The Stand-In, due in bookstores Oct. 1, is his first novel.

Andy Ward
Andy Ward

Closing out the series on Jan. 23 is Andy Ward, editor in chief at Random House, whose booklist includes Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham and the recent New York Times Bestseller, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Before coming to the world of books in 2009, he spent almost 15 years as an editor in magazines, first at Esquire, then at GQ. Ward’s talk will be held in the Dodge Room of the Reed Campus Center.

English Teacher Lori Pelliccia coordinates the series and leads the Writers’ Workshop honors-level English class that examines the work of the visiting presenters.

“Last year, the students in Writers’ Workshop referred back to the advice they received from the visiting authors time and time again,” she said. “I know this year will be no different. Each speaker’s unique experiences and talents will surely inspire our student writers as they explore and develop their craft.” 


Welcoming New and Returning Faculty to Campus

Emily McDowell (right) with a student
Emily McDowell (right) began a new master’s program in teacher leadership.

Few Williston faculty members take the summer off in the true sense. Most delve into professional development at institutions across the country. Lori and Chris Pelliccia are no exceptions.

Lori, who teaches English, this summer completed an M.F.A. in writing for children and young adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. She attended her fifth and final 10-day residency at the school, gave a lecture based on a critical paper she wrote, and held a reading of her creative work. She participated in a 12-session workshop group and attended lectures and readings given by faculty members and other graduating students. Lori began the program in 2012 and completed one semester of writing each school year. 

Her husband, Chris, a science teacher, began a Master of Science in science education through Montana State University. This summer, he completed two classes at Montana State in Bozeman, “Animal Biodiversity of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem” and “Project Microbe,” and two classes online, “Environmental Chemistry” and “Current Topics in Science Education.” He will continue taking online classes this school year and then will return to Bozeman in the summer of 2017. The graduate program usually takes 2.5 years to complete.

Lori and Chris weren’t the only faculty members notching accomplishments this summer:

  • Track coach and math teacher Martha McCullagh went to the Olympic Track and Field Trials in Oregon where she volunteered and connected with Gabby Thomas ’15 who was participating in the event. 
  • College counselor Emily McDowell, French teacher Sue Michalski, and history and global studies teacher Andrew Syfu began a master of arts in Teacher Leadership that Williston has developed in a partnership with Mount Holyoke.  See more about the new program here.
  • Kyle Hanford and Jacob Rivers of the English Department participated in a Bard Institute of Writing and Thinking program.
  • Michael Doubleday in the History Department participated in a Gilder Lehrman Institute program in Texas.

New Faculty Arrive on Campus

As the first day of classes approaches, new faculty members are joining returning teachers on campus, and all are setting up classrooms and preparing lesson plans. We’re excited to welcome the following teachers to our team of skilled and committed faculty:

Tom Beaton (College Counseling and Athletics) joins the Williston faculty from Tufts University where he has been coaching football. He is a Bates graduate with a degree in American studies. Tom will be a college counselor and athletics liaison who will work closely with the post-graduates. He is the head football coach as Williston joins the Erickson League this year, and will also coach basketball and baseball. Tom is already familiar with Williston as his brother Pat was a postgraduate last year.

Steven Berlanga (Visual and Performing Arts) joins Williston as the director of choirs and will teach all the choral music classes and advise the Teller Chorus. He is currently a doctoral student at Indiana University and earned a master’s degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Cincinnati and a B.A. in Music from California State Long Beach. He will coach volleyball and supervise arts intensive.

Katy Briedis (Mathematics) joins the Williston faculty from Cushing Academy where she taught math and was a coach and a dorm parent. As a Cushing graduate she knows independent boarding schools. She will coach lacrosse and work in the athletic performance program. Katy has a B.A. in Mathematics from SUNY Potsdam and an M.B.A. from Averett University.

Rachel Currie-Rubin ’01 (Academic Support Coordinator) returns to her alma mater to run the Academic Support program. Rachel has worked as a teacher, researcher, and education specialist. Most recently she worked for an educational research and development organization as a research scientist and instructional designer. Rachel has a B.S. from Ithaca College in teaching students with speech and language disabilities, a master’s in education in language and literacy from the Harvard School of Education, and a Ed.D. degree from Harvard in human development and education. Rachel will also coach ice hockey at Williston.

Erin Davey (Assistant Dean of Students) returns to Williston after working for a year at Pomfret School as an admission officer. In her role as assistant dean of students, Erin’s responsibilities include the director of student activities, the director of inclusion, and 10th grade class dean. She graduated from Connecticut College with a B.A. in sociology and has a master’s degree in sports management from Southern New Hampshire University. Erin will coach ice hockey and softball.

Kara DeMichiel (College Counseling) most recently served as a senior assistant director in the office of admission at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.  Her travel territory included the New England region and she coordinated the Student Ambassador program as well as enrollment event planning at St. Lawrence.  A graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology, Kara spent her undergraduate years working in the office of admission followed by three more years at RIT on the admissions staff.

Ben Farmer (Admissions) is an admissions officer and will serve as head coach of the boy’s varsity basketball team as well as coaching in the football program. He is a graduate of Marist College with a degree in communications, and recently completed a Master of Education program at the University of Hartford. Before joining Williston, Ben served as an assistant coach at the University of Hartford and Wesleyan University.

Lee Greener ’06 (Director of Financial Aid) is a 2006 graduate of Williston who returns to campus after most recently serving as associate director of admissions at Miss Hall’s School. She earned a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina and a M.S. in higher education from Bay Path University. She will work in the afternoon program coaching ultimate frisbee.

Duncan Laird (Director of Psychological Counseling Services) is a clinical social worker who has had a private practice in the Pioneer Valley for more than 20 years. He has been the director of psychological counseling at the Bement School for 16 years and also worked as a psychological and organizational consultant for the Academy at Charlemont. He earned a B.S. in social work from Western Michigan and an M.S.W. from Smith College.

Matt Liebowitz (English) is an experienced English teacher who has taught in several independent schools and who has also worked as a journalist. He graduated from Skidmore College with a B.A. in English and he earned an M.A. in English from Boston University. He will serve as the school’s sports information director, and serve as the faculty advisor to The Willistonian.

Katie Loomis (Language) is headed back to New England after working last year at the Darlington School in Georgia. Katie is an alum of Kingswood-Oxford School and has been on the Williston campus as a competitor in several sports. She graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A in modern languages and literatures, and earned an M.S. in education from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to her year at Darlington, Katie worked at Culver Academy and St. Pauls School. She will teach Spanish and coach cross country, swimming, and track and field.

Elibet Moore (English) knows independent schools well from growing up on the Lawrence Academy campus. She joins the Williston faculty after three years teaching English at Rumsey Hall School. She also has five years of experience working with adolescents at Wolfeboro in the summer boarding school program. Ellie graduated from Bowdoin College with a B.A. in sociology. She will teach English, coach soccer and lacrosse, and serve as a dorm parent at Williston.

Colleen Norgang (Athletic Training) will be the head athletic trainer at Williston after serving in that role for six years at Kents Hill School in Maine. Colleen’s work at Kents Hill also involved teaching and running a dormitory. She earned a B.S. in athletic training from the University of Maine-Orono. Colleen knows independent schools having graduated from KUA.

Rita Plouffe (Language) will be teaching Chinese at Williston after working most recently at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. In addition to teaching Rita will be involved in the afternoon program. She has a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature from Asia University in Taiwan and a master’s degree in secondary education in Chinese from Brandeis University.

Matthew Porter (Science) joins the Williston faculty as a teaching intern in psychology and as a three season coach. Matt graduated this spring from Trinity College (CT) with a B.S. in psychology. He is familiar with independent boarding schools having completed a post-graduate year at Choate Rosemary Hall. Matt coaches varsity football, track and field, and athletic performance.

Mia Smith (Mathematics) graduated from Williams College this spring with a B.A. in mathematics. She has been very involved in math communities both at Williams and beyond. She was a member of the Math Student Advisory Board at Williams, and her work also included MathCamps, a summer boarding program for exceptional math scholars around the world. At Williston, Mia will teach math, coach cross country and lacrosse, and serve as a dorm parent.

Jill Stern (Advancement) is our new Director of Alumni Engagement. Jill is already well-known to many within the Williston community, as a parent of recent graduate Maddy ’14 and rising 10th grader Caleb ’19. She joins us from the Advancement office of her alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, where she had been since 2008. During her tenure, Jill directed their $10 million Annual Fund, coordinated advancement communications, and worked closely with their alumnae association. She has extensive experience in volunteer management, communications, marketing, and fund-raising. Prior to her work at the College, Jill was the co-founder and executive director of an equine ambulance organization, and has also worked as a freelance writer and editor.

Dave Werner (Advancement) is a new Leadership Gifts Officer. Dave joins us with three decades of experience at the Westminster School, most recently as their Director of Alumni Relations. In addition to a dozen years of alumni relations and major gifts experience in their Advancement Office, he has a depth of experience in school life as a teacher, director of college counseling, varsity coach, dorm parent, and admissions officer. He graduated from Westminster, earned his B.A. from the University of Vermont, and M.A.L.S. from Wesleyan University. In his new role at Williston, Dave will cultivate relationships with alumni and parents around the country to raise major gifts in support of the school.

Welcome, new faculty, and to those returning, welcome back!

New Cross-Country Course Approaches Finish Line

XC bridge from above editedThe finish line is in sight on a project more than five years in the making, as Williston’s Physical Plant staff puts the final touches on a new 3.1-mile cross-country running course this summer. Crews with a large crane installed a short span over a small stream in early August, representing the project’s most intense engineering work.

The new route, which will be composed almost entirely of grass and dirt, will replace a mostly-paved course that has been used by Williston cross-country runners since 2003, according to Girls Cross-Country Coach Greg Tuleja. “Our current course can seem more like a road race than a cross country race, although the runners love it because of the fast times,” he said. The majority of that course passed through property belonging to the City of Easthampton’s Nonotuck Park. This occasionally posed conflicts with events hosted by the city in space the course occupied. Automobile traffic in the park was also a concern.

bridge edited“The new course will be spectator-friendly and great for parents and our vast legion of fans,” Tuleja said, adding that, while the new course will take longer to traverse because of its surface, “it will be more of a pure cross-country course than our current one.”

Now that the bridge is in place, work remains to clear the path. The trail has been plotted on a map, and on a recent day, Jeffrey Tannatt, director of Physical Plant, was in the woods with a clipboard and schematics, on what will soon become the course.

On the wooded portion of the path, crews will clear a trail 6-feet to 8-feet wide, then cover any exposed tree roots with 3/4″ crushed stone, followed by wood chips for a level surface, according to Joe Zewinski, grounds manager. On the sides of the bridge, workers will install railings or a bumper to keep runners safe, he added.

Charles McCullagh, Williston’s chief financial officer, said he hopes to have the new course completed as soon as possible, and said he believes it will be ready for the annual Shaler Invitational, a big meet Williston hosts in late October.

“It will be nice for the school be able to say, ‘This is our course,’” said McCullagh. “At least it’s all on our property now.”

The new course will cover trails in woods behind Galbraith Fields, and on fields around the school’s 8-lane track, tennis courts, and soccer fields.

“When it’s done it’s going to be one of the nicer courses that students will see in the course of a season,” McCullagh added.

The new course is one of a number of athletic facility improvements the school included in its campus master plan, which is being updated. Other projects in the updated plan include expanding the weight room in the school’s Athletic Center and making renovations to Lossone Rink and Galbraith Fields.

Communications Intern Nate Gordon ’16 contributed to this story.