Reaching an Understanding Together
A big part of our mission at George Stevens Academy is to prepare graduates “for a purposeful life in a changing world.” We do this by teaching the content knowledge and practical skills our students will need in the future, by engaging them creatively and intellectually, by connecting them with the community.
We also introduce them to different ways of understanding.
One of my heroes, Socrates, lived 2,500 years ago. A model of humility, morality, and clear thinking, this Greek philosopher showed his followers the importance of finding the truth together through discussion.
Socrates’ method of asking questions and probing the responses inspired his followers then, and it inspires teachers like Erin Wenal today. In her AP English class, Erin teaches her students to think critically, construct good arguments, listen respectfully, and engage in thoughtful dialogue so they might understand a subject better. (See p. 4.)
For French teacher Maria Razi, understanding others is one of the rewards of learning a foreign language. Every one of Maria’s students this semester learned to introduce themselves in French so they can start a conversation from which mutual understanding and friendship may grow. (See p. 5.)
As we challenge our students academically in classes like Erin’s and Maria’s, it is vital that we not tell them what to think. Instead, we teach them how to think, how to listen, and how to understand what others have to say.Timothy J. Seeley Head of School Azaiah Nanson ’23 speaks during a Socratic seminar. With him are teammates Nora Spratt ’23 and Brocket Muir ’23.
On Dec. 6, Board Chair Sally Mills sent the message below to the GSA community in response to Tim Seeley’s decision to step down as Head of School.
Dear GSA Community,
You will have seen the email from Tim Seeley informing you of his decision to step down as Head of School, effective June 30, 2023.
Please join me in thanking Tim for his years of dedicated service. Under Tim’s leadership, we have addressed many complicated issues concerning the school, not least securing much-needed supplemental tuition from the sending towns. Tim’s leadership was particularly effective throughout the difficult pandemic years. He is thoughtful and passionate about GSA. It has been my pleasure to work with him. I will especially miss his presence and wisdom at our committee and board meetings.
The Board is already in the process of convening a search committee ultimately tasked with recommending a candidate to serve as our next Head of School. We will update you throughout this process.
Tim, we wish you the best of luck for your future endeavors. I look forward to working with you over the next seven months as we transition to new leadership.Sally Mills ’85, Board Chair
Socratic Seminar Sharpens Critical Thinking
Socrates. The name is familiar to many, but what do you know about him? You may recall that this fifth-century philosopher lived in Athens, Greece, or that he died from drinking hemlock.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Socratic method, which helps develop critical thinking skills. The technique involves a teacher asking students a question, then another question based on the first response, and so on. Gradually, the teacher helps students question their beliefs and achieve deeper understanding.
This fall, teacher Erin Wenal has engaged her AP English Language & Comp students in a similar exercise “designed to ignite critical thinking and help students articulate and defend their positions on a specific topic,” she said.
The topic of the first seminar was “Nuclear energy is the best clean energy option for the United States.” To be ready to talk about that claim, four teams of students spent days doing research and developing arguments. That preparation was key, said senior Hailey Matson of Surry, “because you really had to understand [the topic] to have a stance.”
On the day of the seminar, when each team presented their arguments, asked and answered clarifying questions, defended their ideas, and refuted the other teams’ arguments, speed was of the essence.
“When it came to answering and asking questions,” Hailey said, “you had to be quick before someone else asked or before the topic moved on.”
All that hard work paid off. “It was one of the most interactive and smoothflowing” seminars she has experienced, Hailey said. “I enjoyed the way everyone voiced their opinions because I was able to see how similar our stances on the topic were.”
Longrie Christiansen ’23 spent ISIP working on projects ranging from trail maintenance to donor analysis for the Blue Hill Heritage Trust. Mentor Chrissy Beardsley Allen ’98, BHHT’s Development Director, said “Longrie was really such a delight to have here. He was reliable, worked hard, was extremely competent, and always asked questions if he did not understand something.”
Thanks, Erin, for helping your students strengthen their critical thinking skills.
French Presentations Build Language, Friendship Skills
With these three words, the students of Maria Razi’s French III Honors class, pictured above, began their self-introductions in early October.
These presentations are an important step on the long journey of learning a foreign language, but every step is worth it. “Speaking another language,” said Maria, “opens so many doors, broadens our horizons, our knowledge, our understanding of others, of other cultures, that it enriches us tremendously.”
To help students unlock those doors, Maria guided them through the preparation and oral presentation of a self-introduction, in which they shared information about themselves, their studies, their families, preferences, and more.
Maria said her classes are very fortunate that there are two students from France in GSA’s boarding program this year. One goal of the assignment, she said, is for all her students to be able to “begin a conversation with them, introduce themselves, ask them a few questions, and perhaps, hopefully, begin a friendship with them.”
“I am very proud of how hard my students have been working and the extraordinary progress they have made since the beginning of the school year,” the teacher said.
“Je me presente.”
One of those students is Ansel Tenney, who got a lot out of the assignment. “I enjoyed it,” the 10th-grader from Sedgwick said in an interview. “I think the way she designed the assignment was very individual. We each got to learn about things we’d like to be able to talk about, which I think was cool. We don’t all want to have conversations about the same thing, I don’t think.”
The teacher’s techniques, Ansel said, worked well for him. “The way she works with broad memorizing is effective, I think. It’s essential for [learning a] language to memorize it.”
“She went one by one to each student and had us recite to her and then correct our individual presentations.”
Ansel struggled at first with pronunciation. “Sometimes when I read a word, I couldn’t pronounce it,” he said. But he created his own helpful guide. “I wrote out the way it was supposed to be pronounced but with a different spelling, emphasizing each syllable.”
This extra effort should help Ansel bring his French proficiency closer to where he’d like it to be. “Outside of the classroom, I don’t know how well I’d do right now, but my hope is to be close to fluent and be able to have a conversation with someone.”
By itself, this is a worthy goal, but Ansel has something bigger in mind. “One of my hopes is to go to college or university [in France] when I graduate from GSA.”
But first, he should visit France. “One idea I have is to create an ISIP project that I can do there and do a college hunting trip at the same time.” Best of luck, Ansel, and many thanks to you, Maria Razi, for challenging your students and helping them to grow as language learners and people.
Learning to make a presentation in French, a language with many sounds that are very different from those heard in English, is really challenging. Thank you, Anna Snow, Aiden Young, and Charlotte Griffith, for letting me record your presentations to share here.
Maine Youth Leadership Day
Ten students from GSA joined hundreds of aspiring leaders from schools across the state for Maine Youth Leadership Day at the Hyde School in Bath in early November.
The conference, said Levko Fedorak ’24 of Kyiv, Ukraine, “was an opportunity to talk with people your age who want to change something for the better in their schools.”
Mya Schildroth ’25 of Blue Hill added, “It was a way of engaging with leaders from other schools and different school cultures.”
Shawn Gorman, executive chairman of the board of L.L. Bean, opened the event with an address about what it takes to lead with empathy, persistence, and determination. Hearing about one person’s experience as a leader and all that entails “was really cool,” Levko said.
Afterwards, students attended group workshops.
In her favorite workshop, Mya learned an important lesson. “When you think of the word ‘leader,’ you think of the president, the CEO of a company, or someone high up, but an everyday person can be a leader.”
When Levko attended a workshop in which students talked about problems in their schools, such as being on their phones all the time, misbehavior in bathrooms, and substance abuse, he realized that regardless of geography, “the problems are the same” as what he experienced “when I was in Poland and when I was in Ukraine.”
“It was a really great experience, and we had a really fun time.” — Mya Schildroth ’25
From left, Amelia Jackson ’25, Reed Pambianco ’25, Fred Coit ’25, Aubrey King ’25, Ansel Tenney ’25, Mya Schildroth ’25, Maddie Damon ’25, Patrick Dagan ’24, Kaiya Loukes ’25, and Levko Fedorak ’24 at Maine Youth Leadership Day at the Hyde School in Bath.
As for her future as a leader, Mya said with a chuckle, “I really like being the boss of everyone.” But the day taught her that good leadership isn’t about being the boss. Good leadership is about listening, including people with different sets of skills when facing a problem, and not telling people what to do but encouraging them to do the right thing, she said.
Regarding his future as a leader, Levko said, “I hope to do something connected with leadership. But I have zero clue what I will do further in my life. I would really like to, but sadly it doesn’t depend only on my will and from what I am doing. It also depends on what is happening in the world.”
When asked if they had anything to add, Mya and Levko said they were impressed when Maddie Damon agreed to represent GSA on stage even though they think it can be difficult to speak in front of a large group. The sophomore from Blue Hill joined other school representatives to answer a question about leadership. Her question: Who inspires you to be a leader? Maddie’s reply: her parents.
Thank you, Athletic Director Billie L’Heureux, for taking our aspiring leaders to the event, and thanks to the Hyde School for hosting.
To learn more about Hyde School’s Maine State Leadership Alliance, visit https://www.hyde.edu/community/maine-state-leadership-alliance.
UMaine Field & Forest Day
Students in Megan Flenniken’s Maine Environment and Marine Ecology classes took part in a fall field day at the UMaine Forest in October. They were introduced to the topics covered in the spring Maine Envirothon natural resource problem-solving competition: aquatics, wildlife biology, orienteering, soil science, and forest biology. The goals of the trip, Megan said, were to learn, connect with other students and natural resource professionals, and see if there is interest in creating a competition team. “Students really enjoyed the day,” she said.
GSA students at the Maine Envirothon included, top left, L-R, Gabriel Segovia ’23, Riley Astbury ’23, Oliver Lardner ’23, Lael Clapp ’23; top right, Ana Scheff ’23; left, Jack Brooks ’23, John Crosby ’23, and Audria Morris-Nevells ’24.
Thank you for the photos, Megan Flenniken.
With a public mission to serve ALL high school students from seven sending towns — Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine, Penobscot, Sedgwick, and Surry — GSA offers 140+ courses and programs to support their diverse interests and ambitions.
The GSA Fund helps close the gap between what tuition dollars can cover and the full cost of educating students.
Upcoming GSA Reunions
Class of 2012!
An on-campus reunion of the Class of 2012 is set for May 20, 2023.
Kara van Emmerik, Adam Hatch, and Nicole Bakeman are planning the event, which will include a jam session in the Esther Wood Music Room. Save the date! We’ll share more details once we have them.
The Classes of 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1984 will reunite next summer.
Margie Gray ‘81, Craig Berry ’83 and Tina Stephens ‘84 are organizing the event, which will take place under the tents at Hinckley House. A date has not yet been set. Stay tuned for details!
A Five Year Reunion?
Melanie Hipsky, left, and Hannah Peasley, right, join pianist Yvonne Rogers after Yvonne’s headliner debut at the Stonington Opera House in November. All three are 2017 GSA graduates.
Yvonne performed with R.J. Miller on drums and Asa MeyerWaldo on bass.
“She was terrific,” said Steve Orlofsky, who shared this photo. Thanks, Steve!
Seniors Selected for All-State Jazz Fest
Left to right, Austin Chandler, Andy Hipsky, and Tony Esposito.
Three GSA seniors are among the best high school jazz musicians in the state and will participate in the Maine All-State Jazz Festival in January.
“Congratulations to these fine musicians,” said music director Phelan Gallagher ’02. “GSA continues a tradition of excellence at the festival this year with your acceptance to the top jazz ensembles in the state.”
Austin Chandler of Surry placed first in the state on bass and will perform in the premier jazz combo. Andy Hipsky of Blue Hill placed second on guitar and will perform in the honors jazz band. Tony Esposito of Surry placed third in drums and will perform with the jazz band.
To earn their place at the festival, all three learned George Gershwin’s “Summertime” for their auditions and practiced a lot.
“You play the same song over and over again,” Tony said, “and by the end, it’s like, a lot, but it is cool hearing it take shape.”
But practice alone won’t get you to the All-State Festival. It takes years of experience (all three started in elementary school) and a love of performance, something all three have.
“I play music because it’s fun, and it sounds good, and I’m passionate about it,” Andy said.
Austin plays for the same reasons. “I don’t know why I like it, but I really do, and it makes me happy.”
And, Tony said, “it’s cool being in a group and having that connection, playing music together. That’s one of the things I like.”
Their success thus far is also due to help over the years from family members and music teachers.
“I’d like to thank Mr. Gallagher,” Andy said, “for helping us out” with the audition process.
Austin thanked Mr. O, retired GSA music director Steve Orlofsky, “because he really, like, built the foundation.”
Tony agreed. “He was the one who kind of pushed us to put ourselves out there and try out for the first year,” he said, “…and we kept trying out, got feedback from the festival, and were able to use that to get better and make it.”
And make it, they have.
The Maine Music Educators Association’s Jazz All-State Festival will take place at Bangor High School in mid-January.
To find out why Andy, Austin, and Tony play the instruments they do, what they’re looking forward to about the festival, and what advice they have for younger musicians, visit George Stevens Academy’s YouTube channel.
Winter Concert Entertains Hundreds
Above, L-R, Phoebe Carter ’26, Anna Snow ’24, and Phillip Ciampa ’23. Right, Thea McKechnie ’24 and Tilly Sorich ’25.
Bottom left, Tony Rolfe, Anna, Thea, and Erin McCormick ’00.
Bottom right, Phillip, Klaus Jacobsen ’26, Oliver Lardner ’23, Thea, Tommy Norgang ’23, and Robbie Bennett ’23.
The Thespians of GSA, directed by Erin McCormick ’00, performed Arthur Miller’s suspenseful drama based on the Salem Witch Trials in October. The action took place in five outdoor settings behind GSA’s Hinckley House. Congratulations on a great show!
XC Boys Bring Home State Title
Congratulations to the GSA boys’ cross-country team on winning the Maine Class C State Championship!
With 61 points, the team finished at the head of the 12-team pack. Senior Andy Hipsky was GSA’s top finisher at No. 10, but the team victory came from a strong group of seniors finishing in the top 20. State Sen. Nicole Grohoski gave
the team an official proclamation of “congratulations and best wishes” from the legislature and people of Maine in November.
Congratulations also to senior Thea Crowley on finishing No. 3 in the state in Class C and being named to the Maine All-State team; to Isaac Vaccaro for being named PVC Cross Country Coach of the Year; and to all the Cross Country All-Stars: Ira Buchholz ’23, Micah Bryan ’23, Austin Chandler ’23, Thea Crowley ’23, Andy Hipsky ’23, Sol Lorio ’23, Tommy Norgang ’23, Arianna Stiles-Martin ’25, and Bailey
Fall Sports Honors
All-Academic (seniors): Robbie Bennett, Jack Brooks, Dani Callaghan, Austin Chandler, Thea Crowley, Dell Davis-Batt, Jillian Eldridge, Andy Hipsky, Alyssa Ladd, Regan Libby, Sol Lorio, Ellie McMillan, Brockett Muir, Azaiah Nanson, Tommy Norgang, Sebastian Petrak, Layla Pickering, Nora Spratt.
All-Region: Aubrey King ’25 and Oliver Lardner ’23.
All-Conference: Riley Astbury ’23, Robbie Bennett ’23, Patrick Dagan ’24, Aubrey King ’25, Oliver Lardner ’23.
Regan Libby ’23 played at the Volleyball Senior Showcase at Hampden Academy.
Jack Sullivan ’23, who played football at EHS, made first team all conference.
Laela Heino ’24 medaled at the Maine Class C Golf Championship, finishing No. 9.
Laela Heino ’24
GSA’s 2022-2023 Trustees
Sally Mills ‘85, Chair, Brooksville Terry Moulton, Treasurer, Blue Hill Bill Case, Clerk, Blue Hill
Sara Becton Ardrey, Blue Hill Amy Baker, Blue Hill Alden Blodgett ‘78, Penobscot Rachel Grivois, Brewer Kenelm “K.” Guinness, Blue Hill Prudy Heilner, Blue Hill Mark Hurvitt, Blue Hill Tyler Knowles, Blue Hill Sue Loomis, Castine Robyn Sealander, Brooklin Zoë Tenney ‘93, Sedgwick
George Stevens Academy is governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees dedicated to supporting the academy, its mission, and its vision.
Our mission, shared below, says broadly who we are and what we do. Our vision, from which our trustees and head of school will soon create a working plan, sets our bold goals for the future. Read it online HERE.
Our mission and vision were approved by the board on April 25, 2019.
George Stevens Academy is a town academy on the coast of Maine. Founded in 1852, we are the high school for nearly all students from the seven towns in our rural community. We also enroll private-pay day and boarding students from around the world. Our students’ interests, talents, and aspirations reflect the diversity of the communities from which they come.
GSA provides a comprehensive and challenging education for all students, for those who will build futures in surrounding communities and for those who will make lives elsewhere in the world. Our many academic and experiential programs foster a love of knowledge, inspire creativity, instill self-confidence, encourage good character, and prepare each graduate for a purposeful life in a changing world.
Matters is a publication of the GSA Advancement Office.
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