CONNECTION THROUGH CONVERSATION | GROWING ‘IN THE MIDDLE’ | MEETING THE MOMENT
SPECIAL EDITION: COVID RECOUNTED THE MAGAZINE OF FRANCIS PARKER SCHOOL
STUDENTS • PARENTS • ALUMNI • FACULTY AND STAFF • GRANDPARENTS • TRUSTEES • VOLUNTEERS • Our sincere thanks go to each and every member of the Parker community for your resilience, patience, and understanding during one of the most untraditional academic years in Francis Parker School history. This year showed us that TOGETHER we can do anything.
VOLUNTEERS • TRUSTEES • GRANDPARENTS • FACULTY AND STAFF • ALUMNI • PARENTS • STUDENTS
Head of School Message Thank you to our families and our alumni who continued to support Parker through this unprecedented time. I know it was not always easy, particularly with how quickly information became obsolete as we navigated the uncharted waters created by this global health crisis. We remain grateful for your steadfast support and ongoing partnership.
Head of School Kevin Yaley addresses the crowd during Commencement on June 5, 2021.
eflecting on this school year, one thing remains crystal clear: we made it through together.
Truly, our theme for this year, “Together,” was apropos for what was arguably the most unique and challenging period in the 109-year history of Francis Parker School. I could not be prouder of each and every member of the Parker community—we would not have succeeded without your kindness, grace, expertise, and flexibility.
you modeled perseverance in the face of unmeasurable difficulty. It is perhaps the most important lesson we can teach our students. Thank you Associate Teachers (ATs) and all those who joined our community solely for this school year. Your unwavering devotion to constantly shifting duties was vital to the success of our students and the health and safety of our School. The work you accomplished will forever be an integral part of the history of Parker.
As we head into the summer months and begin planning for what we hope is a much more traditional school year, I am filled with gratitude and pride for everything you have accomplished in the face of tremendous adversity since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to close our campuses.
Thank you to our health care professionals who made it their daily mission to do everything in their power to ensure the physical and mental health of all those who call Parker home. It cannot be overstated how important your work was and continues to be.
So to all of you, from the bottom of my heart, I say “THANK YOU.”
Thank you to our maintenance crews and all our service providers for your unshakable faithfulness to Parker during a time of great uncertainty. We could not have returned to campus without your expertise and commitment to excellence. Your loyalty and love of Parker have never been so evident.
Thank you, teachers, who daily supported on-campus and at-home students and maintained high academic expectations. Through care, dedication, and a good measure of vulnerability,
And, finally, thank you to our students. The resilience, patience, and eternal optimism you demonstrated during a year unlike anything we could have imagined was a testament to your character. And, thank you for reminding us what really matters: friends, family, and time spent together—even if we have to stand six feet apart. In this special issue of Parker Magazine, we highlight stories and images that exemplify some of the unique and important work done throughout this school year. Within these pages, you’ll learn about the development of wildly successful programs like Next-Level Lancer in Athletics and the Windows, Mirrors, and Coffee book club at Lower School. You will get a glimpse inside the minds of Mike Cain and Maggie West, the dynamic duo responsible for getting us back to campus safely. You will learn about some of the important work of our teachers, ATs, and an alumna from the Class of 1991. Finally, you will hear more reflections about the past year from myself and our heads of school, who sat down recently for a candid conversation about this distinctive time in Parker history. With gratitude,
Kevin Yaley, Ph.D. Head of School SPRING 2021 Parker Magazine
Parker parents engage in meaningful discussions of diverse experiences in the ‘Windows, Mirrors, and Coffee’ book club.
Building relationships in middle school leads to academic and social success during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Connection Through Conversation
Growing ‘in the Middle’
Teamwork and communication help this power duo craft a safe return to school experience.
Associate Teachers proved to be an indispensable constant in a school year marked by perpetual change.
The Mike and Maggie Show
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Francis Parker School
Kevin Yaley, Ph.D., Head of School
Departments 22 28
Lori Biggs ’94
The Next-Level Athlete
Students build strength despite lack of sports during the pandemic.
Meeting the Moment: Heads of School Roundtable
Roxanne Holmes, Karen Thygerson
Heads of School reflect on a historic year at Parker.
Alumni Q&A with Heather Bennett
Parker lifer focuses on humanitarian aid amid global pandemic.
Parker Gala 2021
Faculty and Staff Retirees and In Memoriam
Your super powers made our 39th annual (and second-ever virtual) gala was a huge success.
Matthew Piechalak, Courtney Ranaudo
Graphic Designer Karen Thygerson
Francis Parker School is an inclusive community where diversity is welcomed and celebrated. We seek talented students, families, faculty and staff from different backgrounds. The School does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability, creed or national origin in the administration of its admissions, tuition assistance, employment determination or other procedures or programs.
Inclusive Language Statement
2020-2021 Board of Trustees
Susan Lester, Board Chair Jeannette Aldous, M.D. Will Beamer ’89 Ayse Benker Jing Bourgeois Carin Canale-Theakston Diana Casey Ana Chapman Randall Clark Estela de Llanos Kristie Diamond Graeme Gabriel
Robert Gleason Robert Howard Ted Kim Noelle Khoury Ludwig ’91 Samir Singh ’96 Kate Deely Smith Meghan Spieker Traci Stuart Mary Taylor Sarah White Caroline Rentto Wohl ’86 Kevin Yaley, Ph.D.
Francis Parker School is committed to the use of inclusive language. This pledge extends to our communications. We practice the use of writing styles and language that are free from bias and sensitive to people’s abilities, disabilities, ethnic and racial designations, cultural differences, and gender identities. Parker Magazine is published three times each year by the Communications Office as a School community magazine. Address correspondence to: firstname.lastname@example.org
On the Cover
A Junior Kindergartner is escorted toward the open gates that lead into the Gooding Family Courtyard on the first day of the 2020-21 school year at Parker’s Mission Hills Campus.
The mission of Francis Parker School is to create and inspire a diverse community of independent thinkers whose academic excellence, global perspective, and strength of character prepare them to make a meaningful difference in the world. SPRING 2021 Parker Magazine
“Parker is one of just a handful of schools who initiated using this technology. It really has helped stop the spread of all disease.” Maggie West, School Nurse
“We were very visible because we were one of the only nonprofits that was able to address the huge need for personal protective equipment (PPE).” Heather Bennett ’91, Vice President of Partnerships and Philanthropy at Direct Relief p. 38
“WE STARTED THE BOOK CLUB AS A WAY TO CONNECT WITH LOWER SCHOOL PARENTS AND FAMILIES AROUND ISSUES OF DEIB AND ALSO NOURISH OUR COMMUNITY THROUGH POWERFUL STORIES AND CONVERSATIONS.” Rebecca Bellingham, Lower School Culturally Responsive Literacy Specialist p. 6
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“The Next-Level Lancer Program has really helped me strengthen every muscle in my body.”
“Establishing relationships with your students is crucial to making that space safe for everyone.” Marielle Decker, Middle School Science Teacher p. 10
Kory Berenson ’21 p. 22
“Without the care, dedication, and support that each team member gave on a daily basis, being on campus [this year] would not have been a possibility.” Erika Assadi, Director of Summer and Extended Day Programs p. 33
Parker Moment A Lower School student dressed as Wonder Woman gets in the superhero spirit during Superhero Day at Lower School on Monday, March 1, 2021. The dress-up day was held ahead of the Parker Super Heroes Virtual Gala.
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t’s a Wednesday evening in mid-November, and Parker parents are gathering online for the inaugural meeting of the “Windows, Mirrors, and Coffee" (WMC) book club. Established by Associate Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) at Lower School Veronica Scott and Lower School Culturally Responsive Literacy Specialist Rebecca Bellingham, the club aims to connect parents from diverse backgrounds through shared experiences and conversations.
Connection Through Conversation
‘Windows, Mirrors, and Coffee’ book club providing Parker parents space for important discussions
A quick glance at the virtual grid reveals both similarities and differences between the participants. By the end of the first meeting, all involved agree they have a deeper appreciation for both the commonalities they share and the differences that make them unique and beautiful. “Windows and Mirrors” is a phrase coined by educator Rudine Sims Bishops. It was chosen as the book club’s moniker with the belief that children—and their parents— need exposure to books that provide windows into the diverse experiences of other people, times, and places; as well as mirrors that honor and reflect their own lived experiences. “They are experiencing the power of children’s literature and understanding how to use it to begin big conversations on race and identity with their kids,” explains Rebecca.
Story and photos by Matthew Piechalak
The subject of the first gathering is Renée Watson’s “Way to Make Sunshine,” a children’s novel about middle-schooler Ryan Hart, an African American girl adjusting to life as an early adolescent. “We started the book club as a way to connect with Lower School parents and families around issues of DEIB and also nourish our community through powerful stories and conversations,” says Rebecca. “‘Ways to Make Sunshine’ was
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a standout book for me last summer—I read it aloud to my kids and it was such a special experience. It seemed like the perfect book to launch our WMC book club.” Club goals include providing Parker parents with the opportunity to learn ways to support their children’s reading lives, engage and connect with children through stories, and create a space for courageous conversations about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
To jump-start the conversation about “Ways to Make Sunshine,” Veronica asks participants to complete a simple exercise: write in the chat whether they saw the book as a window or a mirror. The answers come across quickly. Window. Mirror. Mirror. Window. Window. Everyone has an answer, and as the conversation starts, many of the club members begin to realize that the book actually serves a dual purpose as both a window and a mirror.
“We choose the books intentionally to reflect diverse stories and identities— and to reflect the growing body of work by contemporary authors who are writing about important issues and themes in our civic life, our national life, and even our global life,” Rebecca says.
“We would laugh out loud because there are so many moments between Ryan and her mother that were just like us,” says one mother who read the book with her daughter. “But it was also a window because we learned about the struggles she has with her hair.”
The opening meeting of the club begins with an icebreaker. Each club member introduces themselves by providing their preferred gender pronouns, who their children are at Parker, and their favorite comfort food. It’s a low-stakes opportunity for participants to find commonalities and also to share what makes them unique.
“For me, it was both,” says another parent. “I can relate to the family. We have so many things, as human beings, in common. I really enjoyed this book.” Parent Voltaire Sterling joined the book club because he believes it’s imperative that parents continue their own education on their culture— as well as that of others—so that humanity can continue important work
to eradicate systemic racism. “The club’s efforts align with my own in terms of lessons that I try to impart on my children every day—listen to, learn from, and share with others so that we may all grow and be better toward one another,” Voltaire says, adding that he thought the first meeting was phenomenal. “There was open, unguarded sharing,” Voltaire says.
“I’m amazed at the connection...We’ve created a really tight-knit community.” Associate Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) at Lower School Veronica Scott SPRING 2021 Parker Magazine
Connection Through Conversation
“There were new insights gleaned—from the hosts and from one other regarding our respective experiences.”
Throughout the 2020-21 school year, the club met bi-monthly and continued to grow its membership with each session.
“The first meeting was a total success,” says parent Julia Cain, who joined the book club to feel part of something bigger at Parker and to connect with other parents. “I am also personally working on opening myself to others’ life experiences and looking inward into mine,” Julia says. “The windows and mirrors theme was very enticing, and Veronica and Rebecca are a perfect team for intertwining DEIB and literature. Even over Zoom, we were able to have a lively conversation.”
Parker parent Elizabeth Yu recently joined to learn about book recommendations written by and featuring diverse protagonists for her daughter, a Grade 3 student.
Along with both open discussion and small group discussion (where participants were placed into “breakout rooms” on Zoom), the first meeting also featured a read aloud from Rebecca. She quickly pointed out that reading aloud benefits all readers, regardless of age.
“This is a wonderful addition to Parker,” Elizabeth says. “Rebecca and Veronica are so thoughtful in their moderation of the book club—from the discussion questions posed to the group activities—I have been so happy to participate in the rich discussion, share thoughts, and hear other perspectives.”
Next school year, WMC will officially invite parents of Middle and Upper School students to join the club. It will be the same concept, but content will be differentiated for parents of older “We started the book club students and include more pop culture [to] nourish our community and age-specific resources.
“The read aloud continues to nourish kids’ reading lives like nothing else,” through powerful stories she told the participants. “When we and conversations.” take away print work, it frees kids to focus on powerful thinking. I invite you Lower School Culturally Responsive to listen and pay attention to what you Literacy Specialist Rebecca Bellingham notice, feel, and wonder. Watch the ways that your mind and heart come alive.” She slowly reads a short section from the novel featuring a conversation between Ryan and her grandmother as the participants listen. “I love the notion of older people speaking life into kids,” Voltaire says as the discussion resumes following the read aloud. “I love this woman telling her granddaughter that you are beautiful and true beauty is a real thing.” The club holds special significance for parents who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), many of whom are seeing themselves represented in children’s literature for the first time, Veronica explains. “They have their own experiences that are really unique and reading themselves in a book for the first time is powerful,” she says. “I see the joy on their faces when they say, ‘this food feels like food I ate as a kid’ or ‘this verse reads like my language’.”
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“Parents of younger kids are still thinking about how they can support their kids in their reading lives, versus parents of older students who are looking to connect with their kids,” Rebecca says.
Reflecting back on its first year, both Veronica and Rebecca agree that WMC has been hugely successful. “We’ve learned so much from each other, which I have found to be really moving and meaningful,” Rebecca says. “I was impressed from Day One with the conversation flow,” Veronica says. “Now, we have to actually stop because we keep going over time. I’m amazed at the connection between everyone. We’ve created a really tight-knit community.” “It speaks to the power of story—these books are beautifully written and tell stories of peoples’ lives that are true, honest, and impactful. These books will help us ask better questions of ourselves as readers, parents, and members of a community.”
Parker Moment An Upper School Dance student performs the piece, “See No Stranger,” in the Social Justice Garden during the department’s Campus Dances event on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The show consisted of six original performances that took place at various locations around Parker’s Linda Vista Campus.
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Growing ‘in the Middle’ Relationship-building remains key to success amid a global pandemic Story and photos by Matthew Piechalak
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arielle Decker welcomes her Grade 6 Earth Science class into the room, and as the students settle into their sociallydistanced desks, she turns around to face them. “I would like to hear from somebody... who has had THE GREATEST success today,” the Middle School Science teacher says with unbridled enthusiasm. Akin to any middle school classroom, there are very few volunteers at first. Nervous eyes, peaking out above masked faces, search for a place to hide; a place to disappear. One student near the center of the room bravely raises his hand and shares a success he had in an early morning PE class. As he relays his story, Marielle holds eye contact from the front of the room, nodding in appreciation for her student’s participation in this icebreaker activity which will soon develop into an active class discussion— one where every student’s contribution is heard and valued. “I’m so proud of you for that!”
Marielle says after he finishes sharing. “Do you feel proud of yourself?” Slowly but surely, students’ hands begin to shoot up. With each passing share, the collective confidence in the room grows. One student describes how a hard night of studying led to a great test grade. Another shares her sense of pride after successfully cooking a homemade breakfast. Before long, more than half the class have shared. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and it all stems from the teacher at the front of the room.
A CORNERSTONE OF EDUCATION Ask any educator and they’ll likely agree that building relationships with students is paramount to both effective classroom management and academic success. First and foremost, students—particularly young adolescents—need to feel comfortable among their teachers and peers. “Establishing relationships with your students is crucial to making that space safe for everyone,” Marielle says. “You both know and trust in the reality that you are the child’s advocate, you are there to help, teach, and mentor that child. When a student truly understands this, that is where the best learning and the greatest adventures happen.” Learning happens best in an environment of trust and comfort, believes Middle School Social Studies teacher Maggie Blyth. “When students feel socially and emotionally safe and supported, they are much more willing to take academic risks,” Maggie says. “Building relationships, to me, is not a side aspect of teaching—it’s the foundation.”
Relationships are at the center of everything at Parker, says Assistant Head of School for JK-12 Strategic Initiatives and Head of Middle School Dan Lang. “In the classroom, on the stage, on the field, the quality of the relationship between the adult and the students in their care significantly affects the quality of student achievement,” Dan says. Middle school students, in particular, are broadly curious and are influenced by the enthusiasm their teachers have for learning, he says. “When students experience a sincere trust-based relationship with their teacher, they are more willing to accept the challenge of learning something new or deepening their current knowledge,” he says. “Stepping into learning means stepping into something we are not necessarily knowledgeable about or good at yet. A strong relationship allows students to embrace this novice status and overcome the fear of failing—it is where learning begins.” Establishing a personal relationship with someone creates a space where the individual is understood and heard, says Associate Head of Middle School Christi Cole ’86. “As a teacher and administrator, I’ve found that I can accomplish so much more to move a student ahead—both with curriculum and behavior—if I have taken the time to figure out who they are and what makes them tick. And that goes both ways; it also helps to share a part of myself with them,” Christi says.
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Growing ‘in the Middle’
WAYS TO CONNECT Building relationships with students is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Truly, effective ways to connect with students are as varied as the personalities of successful educators. What works for one teacher may not be a fit for another. Middle School Math teacher Maggie Miller believes it’s about balancing the seriousness of math with some silliness and fun. “As a whole class, we tell random stories, ask weird questions, and share math puns,” Maggie says. “We also celebrate mistakes, both mine and theirs, as learning opportunities. However, it is through working with students one-on-one that I feel the most connected to my students. Working together through problems allows students to see that I am there to support them and encourage them, even when things get challenging.” For Middle School Ceramics teacher Jess LaRotonda, everything boils down to one word: empathy. “The beautiful thing about ceramics is that we cannot do it on our own,” Jess says. “I work to model what it looks like to genuinely care about and support each other, and guide students toward engaging in caring behaviors.” Making art is a vulnerable endeavor, Jess believes, and establishing relationships is crucial to finding success. “It’s important for every student in the classroom to be invested in each other so that we can celebrate victories and failures together,” she says. “The only way to run a successful, cooperative art space is
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to form relationships grounded in trust, respect, and joyful collaboration.” In Mary Ong-Dean’s Middle School Social Studies class, students bond as a whole class through warm-up activities, including a question of the day, and also enjoy activity breaks together, where they often engage in sociallydistanced jumping jacks and planks that allow time for everyone to reset and refocus. In her advisory, Mary employs journaling activities that allow the students to share their thoughts with their advisor. “As our advisory culture develops, students will share out with their classmates, too,” Mary says. “Students are more engaged when they are comfortable [and] when they are more engaged, they find connections to curriculum, which makes learning more likely and long-lasting.” The Middle School advisory program at Parker is designed to develop relationships between advisors and students, as well as peer-to-peer connections, Christi says. “This is the place where most social-emotional learning takes place, and the place where students have an adult who advocates for them,” she says. “Advisory is probably one of the most important places where relationship building takes place.”
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITHIN A PANDEMIC Maggie Blyth walks slowly around the classroom, holding her laptop outward so that the at-home learners in her Grade 8 History class have a virtual view of the discussion. The students have just finished an immersive activity on what military life was like during the American Revolution. The students chose one of six different characters and were tasked with tracking their character’s experiences over the course of a series of events inspired by the war. Now, the students are in the reflection portion of the lesson.
“What is your main takeaway from this exercise?” Maggie asks her class. As volunteers share out their reflections, Maggie bridges the gap between individuals in the classroom and athome learners using her laptop view—the students at home can see, up close, their peers in the classroom and vice versa. Every aspect of teaching has been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic; relationship building is no different, yet it remains a crucial component of the educational experience. Within Parker Blended, the model established to cater to both in-person and at-home learners, teachers have had to find creative ways to adjust. “While my foundational beliefs and approaches to relationships have not changed at all, my day-today activities have changed dramatically,” Maggie says. “I have to be even more tuned-in to each individual student’s situation and emotional needs. Some kids need space right now, and others need increased validation.” Utilizing the video conferencing platform Zoom allows Parker teachers to remain connected to all of their students.
Working together through problems allows students to see that I am there to support them and encourage them, even when things get challenging. Middle School Math teacher Maggie Miller
“During class, I pop into breakout sessions to check in with small groups of students, and I use the ‘main room’ as a place where students get to ask questions and get more individual support,” says Maggie Miller. Zoom has allowed at-home learners to stay connected to the classroom experience, Mary Ong-Dean says. It has also made office hours more accessible for all students. “Office hours give students a chance to ask questions in a smaller setting and receive more personalized instruction,” Mary says. “We can also take time to chat about current events and popular culture or just to see how everyone is doing.” Despite everyone’s growing comfort with online instruction, it’s more challenging to build relationships on a virtual grid, says Christi. “I have to be more deliberate,” she explains. “Reaching out to students, and not letting them be silent online, has helped me get to know them. We’ve also made a point to set up meetings with advisory parent groups so that families can check in and ask questions in a smaller setting. This is something that may transcend the pandemic as it’s been enjoyable and informative for us.” Teachers and students alike continue to yearn for a time when it’s safe to return to field trips, live sporting events, and the multitude of experiences and activities held daily on both campuses. Until then, the Parker community continues to find success navigating both new and redefined ways of creating—and sustaining—human connections. “At Parker,” Mary says, “studentcentered curriculum is part of our pedagogical practice. When students participate openly and actively, learning outcomes improve for everyone.” SPRING 2021 Parker Magazine 13
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Parker Moment A Grade 4 student presents her Unsung Heroes project to peers in class—and at home—on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. In celebration of Black History Month, each student chose a figure from Black history, conducted research throughout the month, and then put together a unique presentation. SPRING 2021 Parker Magazine 15
ike?” Maggie West asks Mike Cain with a curious smile. “What do you call a pony with a cough?”
She pauses momentarily for dramatic effect, then answers. “A little hoarse!” She yells and begins to crack up at her health-related joke. Through the Zoom grid, Mike laughs back. Maggie is Parker’s credentialed School Nurse and Mike is Parker’s Director of Asset and Risk Management. Together, they create a dynamic duo responsible for overseeing the health and safety of the School community. Don’t let the humor fool you, though––they take their jobs seriously, and have been working tirelessly this year to keep Parker safe amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It’s Nov. 4, and the pair are about to lead another installment of what has come to be affectionately known as “The Mike and Maggie Show.” The moniker has been used—loosely—to refer to any health and safety meeting the two have led since the onset of the pandemic. Today, they are hosting a portion of a Grade 6-12 professional development session. The pair move seamlessly back and forth, fielding questions from Parker faculty and staff on health screenings, guidance for upcoming holiday travel, and a plethora of other concerns. With every query, they each know whether it’s in their wheelhouse, or if they should defer to the other. “We almost speak the same language, which can be a little scary,” says Maggie, when reflecting on her partnership with Mike. “But we understand what is going on.”
COMING TO PARKER Maggie, known around campus as “Nurse Maggie,” came to Parker in August 2012 after spending nearly 20 years as a school nurse in the Scottsdale Unified School District and also as a health educator at Scottsdale Healthcare Hospital in Arizona. Interestingly, and almost unbelievably, she is the first school nurse in Parker’s rich history. Previously, the job was the duty of division secretaries. “Prior to me, Parker, for about a hundred years, never had a registered nurse,” Maggie says. “So, when I came here, I got to create the job, which was really fun and a little scary.” Maggie’s daily responsibilities run the gamut of health-related tasks, from injury and illness care, making community referrals, calling parents, and conducting vision and hearing assessments, to teaching a multitude of classes across divisions. Annually, she teaches Lower School students lessons on disaster preparedness, nutrition, and safety; Middle School students life skills; and Upper School students human growth and development. Additionally, she teaches CPR and First Aid to faculty, staff, and students. “My job is to take care of the healthcare needs of the students, staff, and faculty, and to assist in their educational process,” Maggie says.
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Mike came to Parker 17 months later, in January 2014, as a certified facilities manager (CFM). His responsibilities for the School include safety, security, sustainability, and capital projects. His title, director of risk and asset management, really breaks down into two components, he says. “‘Risk management’ is the physical risk to people who work at and attend our school, and ‘assets’ are the physical assets of our campuses,” Mike explains. Prior to joining Parker, Mike worked in corporate real estate, construction management, and facilities management.
"ULTIMATELY, THE GOAL WAS TO FIND A FRAMEWORK THAT WOULD ALLOW FOR A SAFE RETURN TO SCHOOL."
Mike and Maggie Show STORY AND PHOTOS BY MATTHEW PIECHALAK
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The Mike and Maggie Show
A PROFESSIONAL SHIFT
Pre-pandemic, Mike and Maggie only met a couple of times per month. “We met about disaster preparedness and other things we had identified as a need for safety, but we never met with the frequency that we do now,” says Maggie. “Our work typically fell on the academic calendar with a lot of emphasis around conducting drills and following up on different initiatives within the Safety Committee,” Mike says.
The arrival of the pandemic did not come as a surprise to Mike or Maggie, both of whom had been carefully following research published in real-time as the novel coronavirus spread throughout Asia, Europe, and eventually found a foothold in Southern California. However, it did quickly shift the pair’s focus. Current initiatives were placed on hold, or as Mike describes, “everything was frozen in time.” “On March 17 when the stay-at-home order came, the School implemented it’s incident command,” Mike explains. “Under that, [Head of School] Kevin Yaley became incident commander, and on April 1, Kevin put me in charge of COVID-19 operations. I was put in charge of leading the effort to get us back to campus safely.” Mike’s first move was to call Maggie. “We knew that school nurses were going to be talking about this, and Maggie is a big influencer in the school nursing community at our state level,” Mike says. “I knew we had a winner in Maggie.”
In 2015, Mike and Maggie, along with School Psychologist Bridgett Besinger, undertook an intense review of all safety plans, a project that certainly helped in light of the pandemic, they say. “We were all fairly new to the School and just having those conversations helped,” Mike says. “There is magic that happens when you have somebody like myself that knows the physical space, and you cross that with someone who has a true understanding of health like Maggie, and you cross that with someone who understands mental health like Dr. B. We were very prepared for whatever emergency the School would have. Other employees should take comfort in knowing that there are people who are responsible for that and take it very seriously.”
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The two began talking to each other multiple times per day and sharing documents containing COVID-19 theories from scientific journals and other publications. “There was a big exchange of materials because we were on this huge learning curve and quite frankly, we still are,” Maggie says. “The nursing community went global. We networked a lot. It was an interesting learning experience and one I never thought I’d have in my career.” Of particular interest—and importance—to Mike and Maggie was the empirical data and approach of educational institutions like the Singapore American School. “They were six months ahead of us with the virus,” Mike says.
“I took their FAQ, which had 99 questions and answers, and we went through them all and decided how it would cross over to the US. They had tried to go back to school and failed. So we wanted to look at why they failed.” Ultimately, the goal was to find a framework that would allow for a safe return to school, which included finding safe and effective ways to mitigate the spread of germs by disinfecting the physical spaces on campus, as well as finding a method for individuals to self-monitor their own health. After exhaustive research, Mike was able to work to bring emocha to Parker. The application has allowed students, faculty, and staff to monitor their health through daily symptom and temperate checks. The data is used to help mitigate the potential spread of the virus on campus, Maggie says. “Parker is one of just a handful of schools who initiated using this technology,” Maggie says. “It really has helped stop the spread of all disease. This time last year, I was up to my eyeballs in influenza [cases]. Not this year because people are wearing face coverings, they are washing their hands, they’re physically distancing, and they are not coming to school sick.” “It’s fascinating,” she adds. “What we are doing, these universal precautions are working. They are evidence-based practices and they are what’s best for our community.”
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A TEAM EFFORT Despite a turbulent year, looking back, Mike and Maggie say their confidence level always remained high because of those around them on Parker’s Roadmap to Return to Campus Task Force. “I knew that if someone said they were going to do something, they would do it and they would do it until they got it to where it needed to be,” Maggie says. “It’s been a team effort.” “We can joke around about it, but this is not the ‘Mike and Maggie Show,’” says Mike. There are professions that, if done correctly, never find the limelight. Certainly, health and safety professionals fall into that category. Which explains why the pair are so quick to deflect credit for Parker’s approach to the pandemic. “We might be the two faces, but when you talk about Bridgett and [Clinical Counselor] Monique [Muther], when you talk about [Athletic Trainer] Niki Dehner, when you talk about Joseph [Castillo] and the security team, they are all about keeping the kids safe,” Mike says. “It cannot only be up to Maggie and me. It needs to happen with a lot of coordination, a lot of teamwork, a lot of communication. We have to give credit to a great many other people.”
FINDING PERSPECTIVE AMID THE CHAOS “I’m just Hydrogen Peroxide Man to you,” Mike jokingly tells Maggie, a reference to the mild disinfectant the School adopted and that Mike trained faculty and staff to implement prior to returning to campus this fall. “You’re Super Hydrogen Peroxide Man!” Maggie quips back. Spend a few minutes around them and you get a true sense of how vital their growing friendship and shared love of humor has been in mitigating the daily stressors of their professional lives leading Parker through uncharted territory. “I’m almost on the verge of tears because Maggie makes me laugh so hard and I also think it’s great because I can get so wrapped around the axle sometimes,” Mike says. “I’m really frustrated most of the time, and if that’s all it was, no one wants to be around that guy. What Maggie does is she unwinds me from that axle.” “I call him my little brother,” Maggie says. “We get along extraordinarily well. We seem to be on the same wavelength and we find humor in what we do occasionally. I think if you didn’t find humor in this, it would just be overwhelming.” The humor has created a shared perspective that has kept Mike and Maggie going during this difficult time, but the pair say they look forward to a time when they can continue to grow their friendship that has been fostered during a truly unprecedented time. “We’ve gotten to know each other really well,” Mike says. “I know what issues Maggie holds dear to her heart and vice versa. I could not have handpicked a better person to partner with.”
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Parker Moment An Upper School student wearing a face mask and protective goggles focuses on a measurement during a cell respiration lab on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020.
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Next-Level Athlete ‘Next-Level Lancer’ program offers holistic approach to training
Story and photos by Matthew Piechalak
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t’s a sunny fall afternoon on Lauer Field and Upper School studentathletes are hard at work in one of the final sessions of the NextLevel Lancer program for the first trimester. The students are alternating between relays and conditioning drills, careful to maintain a six-foot distance to adhere to the School’s health and safety protocols. Parker Athletic Trainer Niki Dehner is keeping time on a stopwatch while also shouting encouragement to the teenage athletes. “Go, go, go!” She yells across the field. “Move those arms.” She peers at a tablet on a stand to check in on those participating from home. “Good job, you guys rule!” She tells them with a smile. Next-Level Lancer is a training program established this school year for all Upper School students with a focus on fitness, form, flow, and leadership development. The students meet three hours per week after school—some in person and some online. The program, established as a lifetime fitness model, was developed during the summer by Niki, Parker Strength and Conditioning coach Jeff Rose, and PE teacher and coach Emily Lotkowictz. The intention was to fill the void created by the postponement of organized high school sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The overall goal of the program is to help increase the body awareness, strength, flexibility, and total fitness for all our athletes to push them to the next level by providing a solid, safe base to gain these qualities,” explains Niki.
“We are preparing our athletes for their sport and pushing them physically and mentally to become better,” Jeff says. The initial plan for Next-Level Lancer was to offer a holistic workout program to allow all Upper School students a chance to get stronger, faster, and more flexible, says Parker Athletic Director Anthony Thomas. “It was our
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The Next-Level Athlete
hope to develop something that would provide studentathletes with a better understanding of how their bodies work and what they need to do to get ultimate performance out of them,” Anthony says. “It also has given the kids a chance to be together and work out, so it has become a tool to support their social and emotional growth.” The program mixes principles of yoga, stretching, and strength and conditioning in an effort to better the whole athlete. “We’ve seen substantial growth in their understanding of how to take care of themselves,” Anthony says. “They have increased their stamina, strength, mobility, and overall body awareness,” says Niki. “They are continually showing up each day and getting better at all the exercises every day.”
“We are all Lancers in the end...this program has fostered the pride that makes Parker what it is.” Anthony Thomas
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The program has proven valuable among the studentathletes involved. “This program has challenged me to get back into working out consistently,” says Sheridan Crisafulli, Class of 2023, who plays varsity tennis. “I really enjoy how there are different coaches with different specialties that can help us in ways that others can’t.” Fellow tennis player Rachel Aylsworth, Class of 2022, says she enjoys how the program includes stretching, a workout, and yoga. “I also enjoy how it is offered online and in person so everyone can participate and attendance is flexible,” says Rachel. “It has helped me remember how important stretching both before and after a workout is to prevent injury.”
Parker golfer and member of the dance team Nyla Brown, Class of 2023, says she has found more focus and peace through the program. “I enjoy that it allows me to stay active and more positive in these circumstances,” Nyla says. “It has encouraged me to go out and focus on my sports and be more present.”
“The Next-Level Lancer Program has really helped me strengthen every muscle in my body,” says Parker baseball player Kory Berenson, Class of 2021. “The workouts emphasize strengthening the smaller muscles we may never think to workout, but that is very important. Strengthening the smaller muscles in my body has allowed me to be more explosive and faster on the field.”
A Welcomed Return
For 11 months, Parker Athletics followed constantly shifting health guidance, offered the Next Level Lancer program to student-athletes, and improvised training to align with Parker F.I.R.S.T. Health and Safety Protocols, all with the goal of being ready once they received the green light to return to play. “Return to play” meant one key thing for Parker Athletic Director Anthony Thomas: the opportunity to continue to make memories for kids. “It was important to get back to doing things they love because sports are such a balance to the academic rigor that we also love at Parker,” Anthony says. On Feb. 11, Parker Cross Country competed in a meet—the first athletic competition in San Diego since March 2019. “There was a greater appreciation when we got back; our kids were hungry.” This spring, 21 of Parker’s 24 athletic teams returned to play. It’s been a constant, albeit welcomed, juggling act. “I’m very proud of our coaching staff,” Anthony says. “Our kids are competing and having fun and working hard toward their team and individual goals.” There are silver linings in all negative situations, and Anthony believes this year has created a lot of growth for Parker student-athletes. “We tell our kids ‘when you lean into discomfort, that’s when a lot of growth happens.’ This year was uncomfortable and I think we are doing a great job coming out the other side.”
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The Next-Level Athlete
Parker tennis player Julian Ghosh, Class of 2021, says it’s Next-Level Lancer has taught him the importance of recovery. “Previously, I was used to just doing the high intensity part of the workout,” he says. “But, stretching before lessens my soreness all around and allows me to get more reps, and the yoga after is a great way to focus on controlling my breathing.” Aside from growing as athletes, the program has brought the students together, Anthony says. “We are all Lancers in the end...Whether we are student-athletes, guitar players, actors, artists...this program has fostered the pride that
Parker Strength and Conditioning Coach Jeff Rose observes a session of the Next-Level Lancer program.
makes Parker what it is. To see our kids engaged in the program and see the results is great. It is working for all levels of our Athletics program.”
Parker Athletic Trainer Niki Dehner instructs student-athletes during a Next-Level Lancer session.
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With the return of athletic seasons in February, Next-Level Lancer was put on the shelf. However, components of the program will be used in summer workouts. Ideally, the coaches would like to see the program used by all sports programs at Parker. “We would love to see the teams incorporate more preseason, in-season, and postseason training for injury prevention, maintenance, athletic ability, and body awareness,” Niki says.
Parker Moment A member of the Middle School Strings class performs during a live concert inside J. Crivello Hall on Thursday, April 29, 2021. The performance, which was limited to orchestra participants due to COVID-19 restrictions, was livestreamed for the Parker community on the School’s YouTube page. SPRING 2021 Parker Magazine 27
Kevin Yaley, Ph.D. Head of School
Shara Freeman Hoefel Assistant Head of School for External Relations
Meeting the Moment: Heads of School Roundtable Carrie Dilmore Interim Head of Upper School
The 2020-21 school year was truly unprecedented. It was a year of constantly shifting guidance, of new and reinvented learning styles, of social distancing, face masks, Zoom meetings, and daily concerns for the health and safety of loved ones. For the Parker community, it was also a year of unique growth, tremendous courage, and unmeasurable generosity. On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, Assistant Head of School for External Relations Shara Freeman Hoefel sat down inside J. Crivello Hall with Head of School Kevin Yaley, Interim Head of Upper School Carrie Dilmore, Head of Middle School and Assistant Head of School for JK-12 Strategic Initiatives Dan Lang, and the Dr. Robert Gillingham Head of Lower School Heather Gray to reflect on, arguably, the most historic year in Parker history. The following conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Dan Lang Assistant Head of School for JK-12 Strategic Initiatives and Head of Middle School
Heather Gray Dr. Robert Gillingham Head of Lower School
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SFH: On March 13, 2020, we made the collective decision to pause school and go online for four weeks. As leaders, what were you thinking at that point?
KY: We were thinking about how to manage the response. I’ve never been so wrong, so often, when telling people “it’s just going to be a few more weeks.” While that was a momentous day we had already made a couple of significant decisions including canceling the global trips. HG: At Lower School, we weren’t one-to-one, so we were trying to figure out technology and how we would distribute all the devices. There were a lot of emotions trying to sort everything out. CD: I was really grateful each department seemed to have a tech guru because I knew we were going to have to lean on those people. That helped get us up and running. DL: I was never more appreciative of our technology team who ended up writing somewhere between 30-50 pages of new content to lead families and faculty through this transition in clear, plain English. In no time, we were up-and-running in Parker Online.
PHOTOS BY MATTHEW PIECHALAK
SFH: What were some of the adaptations made that were critical to our continued success this year? KY: We became the students. One of the fundamental skills we want to teach our kids is the notion of iterative thought. We tell our kids it’s okay to make a mistake. I will be the first to say I made mistakes as part of that process, only to discover it wasn’t working and then found the right way. In so many ways, we modeled exactly what we asked of our kids this year and I know we are better for it. Shoutout to the faculty, to leadership, to everybody who stepped in and asked how they could help and gave ideas. DL: Some of the best adaptations we’ve made as the COVID-19 situation has improved is we’ve created more and more ways for students to connect. Our kids were learning, but they were missing human contact in the same way the adults were missing human contact. We had excellent guidance from our mental health professionals this year. Dr. Besinger and Monique Muther worked tirelessly to help us prepare. We knew our students were going to be experiencing some mental health trauma from being isolated and equipping our faculty to be able to do simple things like social check-ins. Even the littlest things were really important.
SFH: What have we learned from watching Parker students this year? HG: They adjusted very quickly. Masks didn’t seem to bother them. Hearing them laugh and play was what it was all about. DL: We learned that before we go back to what we were doing before, we should really bring a very intentional eye to what goes back into the curriculum. In many ways, we have the opportunity to make the curriculum better for our students from a wellness point of view. CD: In advisory, we allowed the students to put together presentations, which is a newer concept. They would help our teachers who may have had some challenges with the technology, but they would do so with such grace. It was a joy for them to feel they could help in that way. We learned so much together. KY: The kids showed their resiliency, patience, perseverance, and levity, but they also showed that we had to pay the most attention to their emotional and social fragility. Being away from their peers was affecting our kids deeply and profoundly. Coming out of the pandemic, we need to make sure that fragility is attended to and taken care.
CD: We started with the students in one room all day and the teachers rotated around. But we were able to grow throughout the year to where teachers were in their own spaces and the students got back to moving from classroom to classroom. Some of those simple changes that weren’t possible at the beginning of the year have made an enormous difference.
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Meeting the Moment: Heads of School Roundtable
SFH: What takeaways can you share that you will carry forward? HG: One of the things we had to do was reimagine events. What we have developed is so much more authentic and student-centered. They had ownership over planning these events. We were missing that collaboration. CD: Check-in before we dive-in because we all know if you’re not in a good mindspace, learning is difficult. We knew that before, but I think we took it for granted. Now it’s a really intentional moment that I think is going to stick with us for a long time.
DL: COVID-19 has driven us back deeply toward our values. If you are looking at a School like Parker or any of our peer schools, you’re going to have academic excellence. But all of the other things that became so important—social and emotional learning, character education, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging—all of that is why you choose a school like Parker. All of those things grew in prominence and as we get back to normal and the regular rhythm of the academic pressure comes back, we’ll really have to be intentional about holding onto the work we’ve done.
KY: Not only were we going to stay committed to our core values, we weren’t going to let a pandemic deter us from pushing through on what we knew were the most important initiatives for our kids, for our community, and for our world. While this was all going on, we are expanding our Office of DEIB, we’re putting out the Lancers for Equity & Justice Action Plan...we could have very easily have said “well, it’s a pandemic year, let’s push this off.” Not a single person did that. I take great pride in that.
Watch the conversation at www.francisparker.org/heads-roundtable 30 Parker Magazine SPRING 2021
SFH: Can each of you share a lasting memory from this year? HG: The first day of JK. The parents were nervous, but the kids just hopped out of the cars with their big ‘ol backpacks and their masks on. It could not have gone any better. CD: When the athletes got to come back that first day and they were all on the field. Though I couldn’t see the smiles, I could see the energy. It’s almost like their old selves were coming back. They needed that physical outlet. It was a big turning point for our students. DL: One of the best things was when we opened five days a week. One of our teachers came to my door and did a little happy dance that morning because she was so excited to see kids. That’s a forever memory right there. KY: I have more memories of this year than any other year. The things that keep coming to my mind are small things, but they are examples of the adults on campus doing something to try and create some sense of community and normalcy. Amani Walker made a commitment to have a different playlist every morning because he thought if he played music when the kids came to school, it would decrease their anxiety. That’s on him. Nobody said he had to play music. So many memories of people doing little things to say to the kids and adults that it’s going to be okay.
SFH: What is your hope for Parker post-pandemic? CD: I would love for our community to grow in its sense of belonging. If we can do that, this place would be nextlevel special. HG: I want us to hold on to how much we’ve supported one another. The parent community supporting the teachers and the teachers supporting one another and kids supporting kids. It’s been a remarkable year in that way and I hope we carry that forward. DL: We did some amazing, special stuff this year. I hope we can hold onto what we’ve discovered within ourselves as a community. KY: What I would hope for every single individual to do is reaffirm that this is their place. We are at our best when we all work together. We live our values and if you stick with us, the sky’s the limit. SFH: Thank you all for your time.
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Meeting the Moment:
Faculty and Staff
hired to support Parker’s Health and Safety Plan and the Parker Blended learning model
By the Numbers
and necessary cleaning supplies to make in-person learning safe included:
130 Air filtration units 215 single-seat desks 300 gallons of hydrogen peroxide 90 lunch delivery bags 500 spray bottles
provided through the COVID-19 Crisis Fund and increased assistance
(personal protective equipment) used during routine COVID-19 testing and interpersonal interaction included:
including changes to meet physical distancing requirements such as outdoor shading
pounds of food
donated to the San Diego Rescue Mission by Parker’s food services department upon our return to Campus resulting in approximately
meals served to San Diego families in need
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Upgrades to devices, software, connectivity, and remote learning
as·so·ci·ates (noun) /əˈsōSHēəts/ partners in teaching who create a special place within the Parker community Story and photos by Matthew Piechalak
Parker’s Associate Teachers (ATs) have been an indispensable constant in a school year marked by perpetual change. Consider them the unsung heroes of this strange year. “Without the care, dedication, and support that each team member gave on a daily basis, being on campus [this year] would not have been a possibility,” says Director of Summer and Extended Day Programs Erika Assadi. “Every AT came to Parker ready to support students and their fellow colleagues with love, patience, and understanding.” Prior to the 2020-21 school year, the Parker Leadership Team (PLT) and the Roadmap to Return to Campus Committee determined that additional hires would be needed to implement a safe return to campus. “To create a positive student experience with a primary focus on health and safety, crafting a team of Associate Teachers for both campuses was quickly determined to be a necessity,” Erika says. Originally, 78 pandemic-related support staff positions were approved for hire. The list included both ATs and bus monitors. As needs expanded throughout the school year, and health guidelines and directives from the State of California and San Diego County evolved, another dozen positions were added.
Extended Program Leadership sought a wide range of candidates, from individuals with traditional classroom experience to those who had previously worked with kids in other capacities, including day and summer camps. Upon hire, the ATs were divided into four categories: Mission Hills ATs, Linda Vista ATs, full-time substitutes, and floaters who worked across both campuses. All positions were hired with one-year contracts and full benefits. A walk through either of Parker’s campuses this year reveals one truth: the work of an AT is never done. Each day this school year, the ATs have undertaken a lengthy list of important tasks, including managing carline in the morning, conducting afternoon pickups, supervising study halls, subbing classes, and co-teaching lessons with faculty. Overall, the main job of the ATs was to keep the campus safe by reinforcing Parker F.I.R.S.T., says Associate Director of Summer and Extended Day Programs Suzanne Barrow, who managed the ATs working on the Linda Vista Campus. “The job had to create itself as we went along.”
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Associates “The biggest surprise for me is what happened within the community of ATs and the connections they made with each other,” Suzanne says. Twice per day, Suzanne would hold a group meeting with the ATs in the Student Life Center (SLC) to discuss their experiences—both good and bad. “We became really intentional so that instead of just sharing the ins and outs of their daily job, we started with what they love and dislike,” Suzanne explains. “We would take care of each other and it created teaching opportunities for them to use in the classroom. It’s so easy to help people have a better day by discussing those small things.” “I enjoyed how everyone supported each other throughout the year,” says Lower School AT Carlos Mejia, who provided assistance in Karishma Sinnott’s Grade 4 class, as well as for teachers with special classes. “I enjoyed getting to know my students individually and collectively and seeing them transform has been a joy to be a part of.” For Grade 1 AT Jennifer Kurtenbach, it was a joy to have her own classroom. Jennifer graduated with a BA in Elementary Education in May 2020. “I loved teaching and making connections with students,” she says. “I wanted my room to be a safe place that made them feel comfortable to learn and grow. I have learned countless things about teaching and am so thankful to have the experience and will treasure all the memories I have made being an AT to these wonderful first graders.” Regardless of role or placement site, all the ATs needed to remain flexible throughout the year, says Kelcey KitzmillerKral, who oversaw the ATs at Lower School. “The partner AT schedule was complex, fast-paced, and ever changing,” says Kelcey. “At the beginning of the year, there were daily changes, all of which the ATs gracefully embraced. Although changes have been less frequent now that the school year is almost over, the need for flexibility and consistency is still constant. Most importantly, they cultivated close and trusting relationships with their students and colleagues, who will remember and appreciate their work for years to come.” Ultimately, the ATs became their own special community within the broader Parker community, says Suzanne. “I think part of that is because they knew it wasn’t going to last, so they hung onto each other, and I know they are really proud of the job that they did. I feel confident that they are going to leave and feel like they had a home here for a year. Everyone grew and learned, and I learned from them, as well.”
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Supporting Faculty and Staff Families Throughout the school year, there were many unique acts of generosity focused on supporting Parker’s hardworking faculty and staff, including special treats like hot chocolate, acai bowls, and coffee carts for individuals working on campus. Perhaps nothing was more beneficial toward supporting the School’s teachers than the development and implementation of Parker Care. Parker Care was a temporary, one-year program created to provide school care for children of Parker employees who were not Parker students. Run by ATs Jeremy Vasquez and Kimmer Burgess, the program supported the AT cohort. At its height, 14 children from eight different schools utilized Parker Care. “They were able to do their online learning on our campus,” says Suzanne. “It’s been a really great program.” “Jeremy and I provided quiet environments during class times and plenty of fun squeezed in with some of the sweetest and most creative kids around,” says Kimmer. “The program was a gift from leadership to the Parker staff and their families.” “I’m not sure I would have been able to teach in-person if I didn’t have this program,” says Parker Director of Community Engagement Kevin Dunn, who had three children attend Parker Care. “It provided a great socialemotional benefit to our whole family.” All three of Kevin’s kids have grown and become more confident this school year, and it’s a testament to the work of Kimmer, Jeremy, and the rest of the ATs, he says. “They are the unsung heroes,” he says. “This School wouldn’t have functioned without them this year. They kept the campus safe and were professional, friendly, and kind. The importance of ATs cannot be understated in this chapter of our School’s history.” Upper School Science Teacher Jill Ann Duehr had two children attend Parker Care and was grateful for the program. “To know that my kids were on campus and close by and getting lots of personalized attention while they did online school gave me peace of mind,” Jill says. “It was a huge benefit.”
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Parker Moment A member of the Lower School Maintenance crew works to prune an Orchid tree in the Gillingham Family Courtyard on Parker’s Mission Hills Campus on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. SPRING 2021 Parker Magazine 37
WITH HEATHER BENNETT ’91
Parker lifer focuses on humanitarian aid amid global pandemic Interviewed by Matthew Piechalak When the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread throughout the country last March, Heather Bennett ’91 found herself in a unique position to help. Heather, a Parker lifer, is Vice President of Partnerships and Philanthropy at Direct Relief, a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit, nonpartisan aid organization. “Direct Relief is a humanitarian supply chain,” Heather says. “We get things from Point A to Point B and when the pandemic began, people needed things.” The nonprofit’s mission is to “improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergency situations by mobilizing and providing essential medical resources needed for their care." For the first time in the organization’s 72 year history, companies like Clorox and Charmin were running television ads with the Direct Relief logo.
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“We were very visible because we were one of the only nonprofits that was able to address the huge need for personal protective equipment (PPE),” says Heather, who has worked at Direct Relief for more than 11 years. “There was a huge global shortage of gloves, gowns, and masks, and we were in a really great position, not only because of our relationships with the pharmaceutical manufacturing healthcare companies to obtain those items, but we were also in an excellent position because we have this network of clinics, health centers, and hospitals around the world that we already had a supply chain with.”
How would you describe Direct Relief to those who have never heard of it?
How has the company’s focus changed because of the pandemic?
I get that question all the time! Direct Relief is a humanitarian nonprofit organization. We provide medicines and medical resources to community clinics and health centers in all 50 U.S. states and to hospitals in more than 100 countries around the world. We help facilities that serve the most vulnerable people in the world.
Prior to the pandemic, we did not work with hospitals in the United States. We only worked with facilities that served the poorest people in medically underserved areas. For the first time in our history, we started providing medicines and supplies to hospitals in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and some of the other hardest hit areas and that was a huge learning curve for us—for the first time, privately-run hospitals needed our help.
What is your role within the company? I am responsible for all of the fundraising and community engagement activities. Every day is different. I build relationships with corporations. A lot of our fundraising isn’t the traditional fundraising—we don’t ask people for money. We tell them about what we do and how they can be a part of it. A lot of our revenue comes from companies that donate medicines or that donate transportation, so there are a lot of opportunities to be involved with Direct Relief. Ultimately, it’s about asking the question, ‘How can we be a good partner for people who want to get involved and be a part of helping other people?’ How has that role changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s changed because of the sheer increase in the volume of participation that we have been seeing. In a way, when the pandemic started, we were doing exactly what we do every day. But we were doing more of it, we were doing it faster, and in more places, simultaneously, than ever before.
How can we be a good partner for people who want to get involved and be a part of helping other people?
We needed to adapt to help where the need was the greatest. We learned that our partners, the health centers we were supporting, were scrambling for resources. So many people were trying to make a profit off the pandemic and the prices of PPE were skyrocketing. We learned that if Direct Relief could be that bulk purchaser, the cost would come down and we were able to distribute PPE to the smaller clinics so they weren’t having to figure it out themselves. In essence, we had to switch our business model from receiving donations to purchasing items. We had to adapt because that’s what needed to be done.
We were getting bombarded with phone calls and emails from people asking how they could support us. It was a great problem to have and it was really inspirational to see so many people want to step up—it’s what kept me going.
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Student Stories Making Masks for Her Community to Aid Charities As the COVID-19 pandemic began ramping up last spring, Caylin Schnoor knew she needed to find a way to help, so she began making hand-crafted face masks to raise money for charities. “I knew I wanted to find a way to help as many people as possible during this troublesome time,” says Caylin, Class of 2021. “I had copious amounts of fabric that allowed me to do good, so how could I not take that opportunity?” In order to obtain a mask, Caylin asked interested individuals to donate $10 to a charity of their choice through her “One for One Charity.” “Face masks help prevent the spread and contraction of COVID-19, and the CDC recommends that you wear one anytime you are in public,” she wrote at the time. “At One for One Charity, we’re asking you to help us help others.” Caylin’s initial goal was to rally people to raise $1,000 for local and national charities. Overall, she ended up raising $1,752.
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Aside from the pandemic, it’s important to note that other catastrophic events continue to happen around the world, correct? Every. Day. There were two recent hurricanes that swept through Central America. Every day, there are shipments leaving our warehouse to facilities around the world. When there is a disaster, it’s usually localized in one place. I think that’s been the most challenging thing. Shortly after I started was the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and all the attention went to Haiti, which is where it needed to go, but it was one localized spot. With COVID-19, it’s a disaster and it’s happening everywhere. It’s hard to respond to a disaster when it’s everywhere. Aside from shifting its response tactics, how has the company retained its identity over the decades? We still have that same hallmark of helping people. We’ve focused on health as our organizing principle. It’s to help bring people out of poverty because if you’re poor, you get sick. When you’re sick, you get poor. It’s a cycle that doesn’t stop, and if there is a way for people to help, it’s still that foundation of what Direct Relief was built on 72 years ago. What attracted you to this line of work? I have worked for nonprofits all my career. Back in 2007, I was working in San Diego doing grant writing and program development for a network of health centers. That year, wildfires swept through San Diego County and my CEO got an email for the CEO of Direct Relief asking how they could help. So, I got introduced to Direct Relief on the flipside, being a member of a health center network supported by Direct Relief. I followed the nonprofit because I thought they were doing some cool stuff and two years later, I got a call asking me to move to Santa Barbara and join the team because Direct Relief was growing their program in the United States. What do you enjoy about aid work? The people. The mission. I cannot imagine myself anywhere else. It’s really inspiring to work with a group of people that are driven. They are some of the smartest and most passionate people I have ever met. To come home after a long day and feel good about what you have accomplished...being a small part in making a difference in another person’s life... is pretty rewarding.
Parker does such a
How can individuals within the Parker community get involved with Direct Relief?
good job of infusing a philanthropic mindset into youth. The kids are doing amazing things!
Spread the word, volunteer your time, even things as simple as sharing on social media. We don’t ask people to donate, but what we ask is for people to find a charity that aligns with their passions. Parker does such a good job of infusing a philanthropic mindset into youth. The kids are doing amazing things! The Parker community is so generous—not even in a financial sense—of wanting to plug into the world and play a bigger role outside themselves. How did your Parker education prepare you for where you are today? I was a part of the Excalibur Club. We did a lot of community service. I remember we had a blue cardigan sweater with white strips on it. More importantly, I remember distinctly my senior year taking a class taught by Sally Ramert. She was implementing a onesemester course of Anthropology. I had never even heard of Anthropology! I found it so fascinating to learn about other people’s cultures and I ended up going to UCLA as a double major in Anthropology and History. It shaped how I look at the world and of really looking through different lenses of culture and language. I think that’s helped me quite a bit in my role at a global humanitarian organization —to see things differently—and that started at Parker.
Student Stories ‘Quaranteened’ Connects Students During Pandemic Ellie Lewis wanted to find a way to educate and connect her peers stuck at home during the pandemic,, so the Parker Upper School student set out to create an outreach website for teens. “Quaranteened” serves as a resource that students can use to learn about COVID-19 and also as a support system, explains Ellie, Class of 2023. During the pandemic, Ellie was updating the site with news, a list of ideas for daily activities, ways to help out the community, a link to real-time statistics from around the world made by Johns Hopkins University, and a link to the World Health Organization fund for personal protective equipment. Ellie aspires to go into the medical field as an adult, and has been closely following the evolving scientific information around the novel coronavirus. “As I was doing research I noticed that there were very few resources out there that targeted teens and coming together as a community, so I decided to make my own,” she says. Overall, the goal of Quaranteened is to keep people connected, Ellie says. “In a time like this, students are losing so much and that’s really hard,” she says. “I want my website to be a resource for ideas and information, but also just an accessible place to reach out and share experiences.”
SPRING 2021 Parker Magazine 41
PARKER’S 39TH GALA
We did it! On Friday, March 5, 2021, we embarked on a special mission to raise funds for student financial assistance, and your super powers made it happen! Our 39th annual (and second-ever virtual) gala included "gala on-the-go nibbles," an auction, a senior salute, games, contests, and prizes... and of course, a celebration of super heroes. Thank you for being a part of the action and making this event a huge success.
35 SPONSORS 42 Parker Magazine SPRING 2021
Celebrating Parker's Superheroes
(and hopefully, the last!)
2sensational co-chairs: Julie Garrie and Michele Rogers
THANK YOU, SUPER SPONSORS! SUPERBAM
Sandra and Sassan Alavi * Lesli and Osman Kibar * Westpac Wealth Partners * anonymous
The Nguyen Family * PMS * anonymous
Peter Black and Haleh Partow * Carin Canale-Theakston and Hillary Theakston * The Cotton Family * Jennifer and John Crisafulli * John and Peggy Duncan * The Huggett Family/CBRE * Kimberly and benjamin Lee * Whitney and David Licavoli * Poseidon Restaurant * Heather Rosing and Scott Carr * Seraphina Therapeutics * Claudia and Marc Wornovitzky
Parkerspirit.com * anonymous
Shahnaz and Mazda Antia * Vandana and Mink Chawla * Vianca and Chris Hakim * Sarah and Chris Herr * Kelly and Jason Kent * Cindi Mishkin and Tracy Cline * Madeleine and Alexander Nawrocki * Unnati and Kuntal SampAT * Jonathan Schneeweiss and Tyson Passey / Schneeweiss Properties * Schor Vogelzang & Chung LLP * Southwest Strategies LLC * The Velasquez Family * Anonymous
SPRING 2021 Parker Magazine 43
Faculty and Staff RETIREES
TEACHER/PHOTOGRAPHY Mark Byrne has been Parker’s photography and cinema teacher for 32 years. He is a founding member and longtime advisor of the Parker Young Democrats Club and founding faculty advisor of the Parker Photo Club. As the School’s first regular photography teacher, he designed the current curriculum. “I’ll miss watching students grow intellectually, artistically, and emotionally,” says Mark.
BUS DRIVER/TRANSPORTATION Carol Steiner has been a bus driver at Parker for 43 years. She came to the School looking for part-time work and stayed because of the sense of community that made Parker unique. She proudly estimates that she has driven tens of thousands of miles without any traffic accidents. “I will miss the amazing, bright, funny children and my coworkers,” says Carol.
TEACHER/LOWER SCHOOL Kym Farkas has taught Grade 1, Junior and Senior Kindergarten for 21 years. Kym says she has loved every minute of her time at Parker and has grown so much as a teacher and a person. She will miss her Grade 1 team and the students. “I will miss the Parker experience and the family I have grown to love,” says Kym.
TEACHER/SOCIAL STUDIES Chuck Wineholt has been an Upper School Social Studies teacher for 26 years. During his career, Chuck coached lacrosse, soccer, and baseball. He was also an advisor, club sponsor, and faculty representative. “I’ll miss cheering for the kids, both in and out of the classroom, and I’ll miss my fellow faculty, who I respect deeply,” says Chuck.
IN MEMORIAM Fran Styles
Janet Smith ’51
Fran Styles was a pioneer for the advancement of girls’ athletics across San Diego. Fran, a former physical education teacher, coach, department chair, and athletic director at Parker, died on December 15, 2020. She was 93-years-old. “She was a very softspoken person and easy to get along with but she knew what needed to be done and if she had a vision for something, she would push for it,” says David Glassey. For the full story, visit francisparkerschoolnews.com.
Entering Alan Johnson’s art studio was a welcomed reprieve from the daily academic rigors experienced by all Parker students. The double doors were always wide open to a room both bright and welcoming. It was a space to find inspiration—to create. “The environment was so uplifting and positive,” says Parker alum Neal Johnson ’85, one of Alan’s two sons. Alan, who used art to connect with, and uplift, others throughout his life, died on March 17, 2021. Visit francisparkerschoolnews.com for the full story.
Janet Smith ’51 was a Parker alumna, former administrator, trustee, and parent of four alumni. She died on April 22, 2021. She graduated from Grade 9 at Parker (the highest grade at the time) and returned in 1968 as a member of the administrative team. She was instrumental in all facets of the School for almost three decades. To read more, visit francisparkerschoolnews.com.
SEPT. 1, 1927–DEC. 15, 2020
44 Parker Magazine SPRING 2021
DEC. 3, 1932–MARCH 17, 2021
JUNE 16, 1936–APRIL 21, 2021
YOUR GIFTS KEEP STUDENTS MOVING MAKE YOUR GIFT:
Despite all this past year brought to us, Parker kept moving forward. Your gifts support all aspects of the Parker Experience from academics to the arts, athletics, and more. Thank you for ensuring that Parker students reach “as far as the mind can see.” Make your gift to Parker and be a part of advancing Parker’s mission and the bright futures of our students.
NONPROFIT ORG. U.S. POSTAGE
PAID FRANCIS PARKER SCHOOL
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: e t a d e h t e Sav
, y a d r u t Sa 2 2 0 2 , 0 3 April a l a G r e k r a P
Parents Association 40th Annual Gala
Join us on Saturday, April 30, 2022 for our 40th annual Parents Association Gala: A Night Around the World. We’ll celebrate together, enjoy food and music from around the globe, and raise important funds for student financial assistance.
April 6501 LINDA VISTA ROAD SAN DIEGO, CA 92111
ate: Save the d a Parker Gal FRANCISPARKER.ORG