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The Ridge

January 2013

Sharing the excitement of online education The nice thing about holidays for me is that I get a chance to catch up on the professional development reading that doesn’t always make it into my daily routine during the quick pace of the school day. Online learning and new thinking and methods in that arena intrigues me, so I’ve done a little research on what’s out there in addition to some things happening here on campus — always with the desire to balance trends with traditionally sound pedagogy. Two articles caught my attention: “Why I Changed My Mind About Teaching Online” by Glenn Hartz in The Chronicle of Higher Education and “The Rise of the Tech-Powered Teacher” by Salman Khan in Education Week. Back in 1998, Ohio State University professor Glenn Hartz wrote a rather uncomplimentary article about online education, characterizing it as trivial. Granted, he was probably in the majority back then, but Hartz apparently has changed his mind. He now sees that electronic media has become a standard form of communication [just text or Facebook your daughter and ask her] and lectures and classes become more exciting with sound tracks, visuals and other opportunities to engage the learner. In addition, and most importantly, he found that the lack of personal contact inherent in online study did not diminish the educational experience for him or the student. In fact, he feels he has substantive exchanges now with online students that parallel or surpass those he has in person. For Hartz, he sees trust developing with his online student relationships, the key component for any teacher in a classroom setting. He ends by saying “So, do I like online courses?” he asks. “My answer is that it doesn’t matter. The students like them, and we have to adjust to their demands.” The second article came from online course guru Salman Khan of the well-regarded Khan Academies. The most salient point of his article addresses the concern one often hears about online

learning: Will the teacher become extinct? Will computer-based instruction replace face-to-face teaching? “I think this idea is absolutely wrong,” says Khan. “Technology will never replace teachers; in fact, it will make teachers even more important. Technology will give teachers valuable real-time data to diagnose students’ weak points and design appropriate interventions. It will enable teachers to more quickly gauge students’ comprehension of new topics so they can adjust their lesson plans on the spot.” Two articles, two observations. Here at Forest Ridge we have faculty members in both the middle school and the high school who experiment with “flipped classroom” sessions (in which students, for example, watch lectures as homework and work on math problems in class the following day) and other ways to engage students in the course material. The International Baccalaureate Organization now offers classes online, and we are exploring what options we have to engage more actively with the Online School for Girls. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic. Have a great start to 2013, and, as always, thank you for your support of Forest Ridge and especially our most valuable resource — our faculty and staff. Mark Pierotti Head of School


Guided by Mission

Connor Geraghty High School Faculty

In addition to my teaching duties at Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, I am currently serving a yearlong internship in educational administration under Dr. Wittmann in the high school. This is my final year of course work at Seattle University, and I am on track to earn my principal’s certificate this spring. The internship requires that I complete 540 hours of administrative work related to six Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards for educational leadership. My aspirations for school administration are a natural result of the rewarding leadership opportunities I have experienced in my nine years at Forest Ridge. I am certainly fortunate to conduct my internship here, and I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute to the leadership of our high school. My work as IB Coordinator for the past four years has allowed me to develop my instructional leadership skills, and the internship asks me to build on those skills by conducting a wide range of projects related to a principal’s broad scope of responsibilities as outlined in the ISLLC standards.

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The alignment between my administrative work at Forest Ridge, my course work at Seattle U and the ISLLC standards challenges me to develop my competencies as an educational leader and highlights for me our school’s clear commitment to provide an excellent education for each student. The first of the ISLLC standards states that an educational leader “promotes the success of each student” through “leading the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning” shared by the school community. Upon first exploring this standard, I immediately connected it, of course, to our deep commitment to the Goals and Criteria for Sacred Heart Schools in the United States, which defines our vision of learning. I also drew an instant parallel to St. Madeleine Sophie Barat’s commitment “for the sake of one child,” which captures our mission as a Sacred Heart school and guides all of our work with students. As an administrative intern, I have recently practiced this mission-centered principle of viewing school leadership through the lens of what is best for each child in the course of one-to-one meetings with 10th-grade students and families. In collaboration with our academic dean, Audrey Threlkeld, we hold these meetings to provide information about the 11th- and 12-grade curriculum offerings so students can make informed decisions based on their own academic interests and learning styles. I honor this model of transparent communication between administration and families because it invites each student to choose her curricular focus based on what is right for her as a learner. Thus, from a leadership perspective, I am incredibly motivated to contribute to the vision of promoting the success of each child during my internship and beyond. A guiding theme throughout my course work and internship experiences has been the necessity of making leadership decisions around a shared mission of teaching and learning. Through many research projects and interviews with administrators at Forest Ridge, I have developed a new awareness and appreciation of how our mission directly informs our leadership decisions. Our mission of educating each student inspired our administrative leadership to create the learning specialist position in the high school. As our learning specialist, Debbie McLaughlin lives the mission through her dedication to enabling the academic success of students with cognitive differences. Additionally, our administration’s support of the Women as Global Leaders program allows us to live our mission by empowering each student to develop and use her voice in response to a variety of global themes. I am very fortunate to help lead the Peace and Reconciliation: Jerusalem class this year; in this program students learn about the many sides in the conflict between Israel and Palestine and then travel to the region to engage in transformative conversations with individuals on both sides of the Separation Wall. Through these examples, I have come to believe that an educational leader must truly become a keeper of the school’s mission by creating and supporting programs designed to articulate that mission. As I approach the halfway point of my administrative internship, I feel truly blessed to work in a community with such a strong dedication to the success of all students and so committed to living our mission as a Sacred Heart school on a daily basis.

Teaching Mathematics for a Grow th Mindset

Last summer, fellow middle school math teachers Jennifer Nicol, Christine Witcher and I attended a four-day conference at Stanford University, Teaching Mathematics for a Growth Mindset, thanks to the professional development fund endowed by Genevieve Albers ’27. I read Carol Dweck’s book (Mindset: A New Psychology of Success) several years ago, and I believe in the importance of helping students develop a growth mindset around learning mathematics. I hoped to learn at the conference specific ways to teach a growth mindset to students, that is, an understanding that hard work and persistence can result in growth and better performance in math. The experience was rejuvenating professionally. Attending the conference with two of my colleagues gave us the opportunity to discuss what we were learning and what we hoped to incorporate in our classrooms this year. I left with three significant takeaway ideas. First, students who are successful in higher-level math tend to have good number sense. At the conference we were taught a method for helping build number sense. Number Talks ask students to perform mental calculations and then share their thinking aloud. Performing mental calculations often requires the ability to deconstruct and reconstruct numbers. A simple example is adding 99 and 78. I can take 1 from the 78, add it to the 99 to make 100 and then add 100 and 77 to get the answer of 177. Here is what Ms. Nicol had to say about Number Talks she had with her sixth-grade math class: I just did Number Talks all period in my sixth-grade math class, and I am now even more in love with them! For homework, the girls are defending their approaches — in both words and picture —- on a discussion we had in class about subtracting. My second takeaway was the importance of collaborating on problem solving. My seventh- grade students love working together on the Problem of the Week! They gather around one sheet of paper and build on one another’s thinking. They know that they must all be able to explain their thinking to me when they show me their group’s answer. In the process, they practice making sense of their answer and come to understand that there are often multiple ways to think about and represent their work. At left,

students work together on a Problem of the Week; below, the visual representation of their thought process.

Palie Cantu Middle School Faculty

The third and biggest takeaway is the importance of the messages I send to help students develop a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. My experience teaching middle school math has shown me that many of our girls have a fixed mindset when it comes to learning math. Here are two examples of a fixed mindset written by middle school students: I think a talented mathematician is someone who is really good at math and gets high grades in every math assignment. I know that someone’s good at math when mostly everything is easy for them math wise. I view myself as not a very good mathematician, because I don’t really like math, and sometimes it’s really hard for me. I think that some people are born with a talent at math… You can know that someone is good at math if they can do hard problems really fast in their brain. These students have gotten the message that someone is good at math only if she gets good grades and most math is easy for her. They believe that some people are just born with talent at math. In conferences, students are often surprised when I tell them they are good or great math students even when their grades in math are not in the 90s. It is their hard work and perseverance that make them great math students! I try to convey to my students that they have the ability to grow as mathematicians if they challenge themselves and practice perseverance. This year, I posted messages on the walls in each of my math classrooms to try to counter fixed mindset messages with growth mindset messages. A few of the messages are:

• Th  ere are many different ways to be smart; no one is good at all of them, and EVERYONE is good at some of them. • FAILURE = Opportunity to LEARN • HARD WORK + EFFORT = GROWTH

The most important thing families can do at home to help foster a growth mindset in math is to praise the effort and hard work you witness. Math confidence is built not by high grades and easy quiz questions, but by success after a struggle. Let your daughter know you value the growth you see, not just the final grade. This, more than anything else, will boost her confidence and inspire her to continue to challenge herself.

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Educating students to live with

the belief in their power

to effect change

Regina Mooney, Ph.D. Director of Institutional Advancement Although I don’t have much to do with the boarding program here at Forest Ridge, I recently found myself speaking at the annual conference for The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) because of my experience consulting with boarding schools and colleges on honor codes. In my speech, Honor Codes Aren’t Just About Truth Telling, I hoped to convey the power of honor codes as character development tools and to teach a method for incorporating an honor code into an independent school’s community life. Many people [including educators] narrowly define an honor as an authoritative maxim that places responsibility on students for telling the truth and refraining from cheating on tests, projects, homework and papers and tolerating anyone who does. But what if we were to view the concept of honor historically and recognize that it is about growing in virtue and acting independently from a foundation of those virtues. I asked TABS participants to assemble a list of virtues that we might want to possess in today’s world, and they came up with 25. (They could have come up with many more if that had been the focus of our exercise.) What became clear to the group was that becoming intentional about virtues like courage, compassion, trust, forthrightness, forgiveness, patience, diligence and acceptance brings a fullness to the idea of honor not captured by any single virtue. The principles of 13th-century theologian, psychologist and saint Thomas Aquinas (often referred to as the patron saint of schools) set the standard for the teaching of ethics for centuries. St. Thomas wrote extensively on virtues. He believed that a person could acquire a multiplicity of virtues, no matter one’s circumstances, if one simply focused on a single virtue at a time and sought to live that virtue constantly for a specific period of time. Contemporary psychologists suggest a 30-day cycle for creating change that can last. I tried this with a class I once taught, instructing students to compile

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a list of virtues and select five they would work on, concentrating on a different one each month of the spring term. They chose partners with whom to practice and discuss their chosen virtue; then they created a general plan for integrating that virtue into each day. The results were astonishing, but not in the ways I thought they would be. When I asked the class the extent to which the virtues had been developed in their own consciences, the responses varied from “new awareness” to “no noticeable difference.” Not the tour de force results I had hoped for or expected! But as students expanded on their experiences working on individual virtues, it became clear to me that one important thing had occurred for each of them. They all said they felt better about themselves for having tried! Something happened that made them feel like they had their moral feet more on the ground and with that a new confidence they could make better choices. How does this apply to Forest Ridge? Think about it. We have the five Goals and Criteria shared by Sacred Heart schools in the U.S. As we live them and incorporate them into our lives together, we are practicing virtues that will live in us, in varying degrees, forever. Faith, intellectual curiosity, social action, community commitment and growing through the wise freedom give each student so many of the virtues that Thomas Aquinas discussed and that are available to everyone if we only intentionally concentrate on them. Our whole curriculum is a lesson in virtue development, which means we are raising not just smart, accomplished young women ready to take their places in the world as leaders. Equally important, we are educating students to become honorable citizens with the self esteem and moral compass to, yes, tell the truth, but more importantly to live with the belief in their power to effect change in a world that really needs them.

To Stay or Not:

That is the Question

Julie Lundgren Director of Alumnae Relations

For many middle schoolers and their parents, the decision to attend high school at Forest Ridge or to go elsewhere is easy. For others, the decision is more difficult. Do most truly transformative experiences — those that imbue intellectual curiosity, critical thinking and self-confidence — occur during middle school or during high school? It depends on the individual, of course, but anecdotes abound. One of them is the story of Garrett Okrasinski ’07. Many high school alumnae share a similar story, and it begins in middle school.

Garrett acknowledges that her personal transformation occurred in high school at Forest Ridge. She credits world history as taught by Will Segall and Sue Turner with exposing her to global issues. She recalls their passion and energy, their Socratic method of encouraging class discussion. Garrett’s mother, Moira Scully, remembers when global affairs took a seat at the family dinner table. Reflecting on her job as a program analyst, Garrett says, “I am very proud that, for only having recently graduated, I was given a lot of responsibility.” Now she’s looking to go abroad again and work directly with people in the global health arena. Her memories of living in Uganda and Egypt continue to inspire her. “I love learning about new cultures and taking my time living in a place to get a feel for how a local might live and their daily routine. It has also helped me closer examine my life and the culture I live in.” Garrett on the docks where she lived on a sailboat, December 2012.

Garrett was a typical middle schooler, carefree but also a bit shy. She chose to stay at Forest Ridge for high school because she enjoyed her friends, her teachers and the volleyball team. But sometime during high school she developed an interest in global issues. This led to her participation in several schoolsponsored trips to Uganda, where she gained a new perspective: “In the United States, misrepresentations of other cultures and people are rampant, yet one would never know until they implanted themselves in another place,” Garrett recalls. Garrett went on to study Arabic in college and to spend a semester in Egypt and travel to Palestine. She graduated from the University of San Francisco in 2011 with a degree in international studies. She lived on a sailboat at Pier 39 in San Francisco Bay. And in no time at all she landed a job as a program analyst for the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH).

Forest Ridge High School is not for everyone, but for the right girl, the experience can be transformative. Garrett advises current students to “explore any opportunities that push your comfort level. Don’t settle for what is easy or safe.”

Garrett Okrasinski ’07 with her aunt on a 2010 visit to Egypt.

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There is much to look forward to in 2013 for

Women as Global Leaders If you are reading this, it means the Mayan prophecy did not come to pass as doomsayers around the world predicted. Our world still spins on its axis, the sun still rises and sets, and we are fortunate to be able give thanks for our essential blessings like shelter, warmth, friendship and food. There is much to look forward to in this Chinese zodiac year of the snake, and Women as Global Leaders at Forest Ridge is excited to be moving forward in the community. Kisha Palmer Director, Women As Global Leaders

In January we welcome three dynamic speakers to our campus. In honor of a special “People Who Make a Difference” prayer service, we welcomed Princess Lucaj and Claire Anastas to our campus. Princess is a Gwich’in Athabascan Native from Arctic Village, Alaska. As Princess Lucaj executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee she works to build awareness of life of the Arctic Circle. Princess and her community in Arctic Village will welcome Forest Ridge students from the new Resources and Sustainability program in June of this year, when we make our first journey to Alaska and the Arctic Circle in exploration of issues that face Alaska, its people and our planet. Claire Anastas is a Palestinian Christian who resides in Bethlehem with her family. We have become close friends with Claire and her family through our travels to Israel and the West Bank, and every year for the past three years we have stayed in her home and shared meals and stories with her family. Both of these women will share Claire Anastas their stories and their passions with our students in our assembly on January 16. Julie Metzger, adolescent health specialist, will speak to Forest Ridge fathers about raising daughters. Join us on January 17 at 7:00 a.m. in the Ackerley Conference Rooms for what promises to be a frank and humorous discussion about the nuances of relationship and communication between fathers and daughters. If you are a father of a Forest Ridge daughter or know a father who may enjoy this talk, please rsvp to kishapa@ And on March 8, in honor of International Women’s Day, we are excited to present TEDx-Forest Ridge-Innovate!, a celebration of innovation, failure and persistence. The program is scheduled to run from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with students in grades 7-12 in attendance. Watch for the complete lineup and schedule of talks on the Women as Global Leaders page on the Forest Ridge website at the end of this month.

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Happy New Year and all the best for a busy 2013 Ann Rillera and Luann Desautel Parent Association Co-Presidents Happy New Year, and welcome back to campus! We hope that you and your families enjoyed a peaceful and relaxing holiday break. In December, the Parent Association had the pleasure at the annual Faculty-Staff Appreciation Luncheon of celebrating the many members of the Forest Ridge community who work to support our daughters every day. The Commons was transformed into an elegant and festive dining hall! Chef Ron, Chef Gary and the amazing FRidge staff prepared a delicious prime rib lunch with all the fixings. We greatly appreciated the work of the many volunteers — cookie bakers and cookie packers and parents who made appetizers, donated beverages and decorated the Commons — and everyone who helped bring all the details of the day together. Thank you for your time and effort. We were very grateful for your energy and enthusiasm.

As we begin the 2013 calendar year, the Parent Association is looking forward to the High School Father-Daughter Event in February. For the young women in grades nine through 12, this is an evening not to be missed! Late-night laser tag on campus is fun for all daughters and fathers or father figures. It is sure to be an exciting evening! Please refer to the weekly PostIT newsletter for details on how to buy tickets. The Forest Ridge HS and MS Ski Buses are up and running — Thursday nights for HS and Friday nights for MS. There’s plenty of snow in the mountains, so we are off to a great start this season! Ski Bus is a wonderful opportunity for the girls to get outside, enjoy the snow and spend time with their friends. Whether your daughter is a beginner or an advanced skier, she is welcome. More details are available in PostIT or the Forest Ridge website.

We wish you all the best during this month of transition as we say goodbye to the old and ring in the new. Happy 2013!

Seeking PA Board Nominations The Forest Ridge Parent Association Nominating Committee is currently seeking nominations for the 2013–2014 school year. If you or another Forest Ridge parent you know is interested in one of the positions listed below, please contact Susan Meier, PA Vice President and chair of the Nominating Committee at or (425) 985-1002. The Executive Board positions for the 2013–2014 academic year are as follows: • President (1-year term) or Co-Presidents

• Middle School Coordinator

• Vice President

• High School Coordinator

• Secretary

• Technology Coordinator

• Volunteer Coordinator

• Social Clubs Coordinator

• Communication Coordinator

The PA maintains a strong collaborative relationship with Forest Ridge administration, faculty and students in order to keep parents informed about educational and extracurricular activities. Serving on the Executive Board is an excellent opportunity to become a partner in your child’s educational experience, in school governance and in a supportive volunteer network. If you would like additional information about one of these positions, you can view the Job Descriptions on the Forest Ridge website under the Parent Association page or contact Susan Meier at

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Save the Date: March 16, 2013 Forest Ridge Auction Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue

January 2013 Ridge Report  
January 2013 Ridge Report  

The monthly parent newsletter from Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bellevue, WA.