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Spring 2017

From our spring musical Anything Goes!

IN THIS ISSUE The Power of Vulnerability Alum Profile: Deron Simmons G’02, ’06 Imagine! A Progressive View on Teaching Math

By Alexandra S. Thurstone G’80, ’84, Head of School

The word “integrity” comes from the Latin adjective “to remain whole and complete.” Brown’s definition of integrity particularly resonated with me: choosing courage over comfort; choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, and easy; and practicing our values, not just professing them. Wyvern Report

At the beginning of March, Suzanne Gorman, Jennifer Griffith, Shelly Jones, Síofra Rucker, and I all traveled to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference in Baltimore. My favorite speaker there was Dr. Brené Brown, author of Rising Strong, Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. She is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Her 2010 TEDx Houston talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” is one of the top five most-viewed TED talks in the world, with over 25 million views. This is no doubt partly due to the engaging and humorous speaker she is! Dr. Brown is an excellent storyteller - self-effacing, wildly funny, and completely relatable. Through personal stories ranging from teaching at the University of Houston in the days after Hurricane Ike to swimming across a lake with her husband while he was having a panic attack, she covered definitions of and connections between vulnerability, courage, worthiness, shame, and empathy, topics she has spent the last 15 years studying. Although these topics may not immediately seem to be as relevant to a school or a classroom, as I listened to her and laughed with her, I found them to be so. Some of the points I found most relevant to our work here at St. Francis: 1. Teaching courage by valuing vulnerability: She says that vulnerability is the foundation of courage, and that we can develop courage in students and adults by valuing vulnerability. Being vulnerable is hard for everyone; for teachers, it can be particularly hard because vulnerability seems antithetical to being a leader in a classroom. When facing a challenging situation or person, our natural reaction is to “armor up.” What Brown suggests instead is to acknowledge our vulnerability, and this will lead us to courage. If our culture and schools framed vulnerability as courage, kids would be better able to speak up when things are wrong rather than meekly going along with


the crowd. She believes that the most resilient and courageous men and women have one thing in common: they understand that the story they are telling themselves may not be the story others are telling/hearing. Therefore, in the face of embarrassment, rejection, and shame, they persevere, continue on, and ask the hard questions, even if they think they will experience pain in hearing the answer, because they know that their reality may not be what the other is experiencing or hearing. 2. Teaching hope: As parents, we all want, and even expect, that our children are hopeful as they leave home and go to college. However, Brown noted that levels of hope are declining in college freshmen and sophomores. A growing body of research finds that students with high levels of hope get better grades and graduate at higher rates than those with lower levels. Her research indicates that hope is born of struggle: no adversity, no hope. At the same time, students have to develop the confidence to set a path, make detours as needed, and achieve their goals. And there is a line between adversity and trauma; adversity is not making the cast of the play, failing a project, etc., and is something we need to let our children struggle with rather than intervening when it occurs. 3. Teaching integrity: The word “integrity” comes from the Latin adjective “to remain whole and complete.” Brown’s definition of integrity particularly resonated

with me: choosing courage over comfort; choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, and easy; and practicing our values, not just professing them. Integrity is a choice and it’s not always an easy one, but we can help children develop this as a skill by asking them what they think about issues in the world today, or situations in books or movies, and helping them sort through the choices people make in these situations and whether they demonstrate integrity. 4. Teaching gratitude: Gratitude can also be taught. Brown first points out the difference between privilege and entitlement: Privilege = I have access to things that I have not earned; Entitlement = I deserve everything I get/I have the expectation of access. There are two things that mitigate the difference between a feeling of privilege and a feeling of entitlement and they are gratitude for and a full understanding of one’s privilege. Kids who are most entitled have no gratitude and they feel scarcity - that even with all they have it is not enough, and they must have more. 5. Teaching innovation: The overarching theme of the NAIS conference was innovation. We can’t have innovation and creativity if we don’t give our students space for vulnerability and risk-taking. Vulnerability is in itself a type of uncertainty; if our students and teachers stay in the safe shores of certainty, they will never become innovators. So much of what Brown had to say was impactful, and her ideas are important ones for each of us to consider as teachers, educators, parents, and students. I highly recommend her TEDx talk and would welcome further discussions on these topics and how we can best help our students to grow to be courageous, hopeful, and grateful young adults.


The “Heart” of the By Síofra Rucker G’84, Director of Advancement

Every home has a “heart.” For some of us it’s the kitchen; for others, it’s the den or family room. Schools are no different. There are certain areas that simply feel like the heart of the school.

For our Goshen Campus, that “heart” is the Main Amp. For those of us who are alumni from the 1970s - 1990s, you’ll remember that’s where we ate lunch, sprawled on the amphitheater’s carpeted steps, eating from the mint green trays. For more recent alumni and current students, it is where we gather for assemblies, listen to the young voices of our Lower School Choir and KMEA singers, and watch the Plays and Talent Shows - from an earnest Lower Schooler hula-hooping to a talented Middle Schooler bringing down the house on the piano. For our new families and visitors, the Main Amp is what they see when they first walk in, looking across it and through the windows to the open green fields. This “heart,” our Main Amp, is where the national award-winning St. Francis Drama Program began under the direction of the inimitable Ed Gupton and continues, decades later, under the direction of Reed Gabhart. For student and alumni actors, singers, stagehands, and crew, the Main Amp is where you found your place on the stage and perhaps found your voice. For parents and grandparents, it is where you saw your children or grandchildren transformed as they brought forth the words of Shakespeare or the ballads of Cole Porter. Each May, the Main Amp is where the 8th Graders and their families come together for Class Day, to celebrate each student and the class as a whole. For alumni parents, it is where you laughed and cried as photos of your child’s time

Wyvern Report


e Goshen Campus

Why I Give: Gammon Wood G’94

at the Goshen Campus scrolled by you and where you watched as your child hugged classmates at the end of the ceremony. In fact, many Mays ago, the steps outside the Main Amp were also home to the 8th Grade Graduation. Because of the importance of the Main Amp to each and every student on the Goshen Campus, our Board of Trustees has determined that its renovation will be our next major capital building project. The project will encompass a new main entrance, lobby area, and performing arts spaces. The new main entrance will form a more open and welcoming focus point within the existing school, architecturally opening up the building to the landscape and community beyond. Theater/performing arts areas will be dramatically improved by increasing the size of the stage/wing area, adding a backstage, creating a set/prop storage and building area, providing extensive sound and lighting enhancements, and providing space and functionality for indoor/ outdoor performances. As you can see from these drawings, it will be gorgeous! This spring, our Facilities Committee is working with Lake|Flato Architects to move from the schematic drawings seen here to construction drawings. Lake|Flato Architects, the 2004 AIA Firm of the Year, is a national leader in the design of Independent School environments, having collaborated with schools on the programming, planning, fundraising, design, and cost control process for a dozen campuses and over 50 new and renovated buildings, including our recently completed High School expansion at 233 W. Broadway. In parallel, our Capital Campaign Committee has begun an ambitious round of fundraising, with several major gifts already secured. As with each project of the campaign, it will take many major gifts and many more modest gifts. It is our hope that each of you will be a part of making this project happen. Keep an ear out for more details on this project as together we plan for and fundraise for the renovation of the “heart” of our Goshen Campus.

I give to St. Francis because I love the School and I want my children, along with the other children who attend the School, to have the best education possible. My brother and I attended the School and it enabled us to have experiences that might not have been possible had it not been for everyone’s gifts. Annual giving allows the School to offer more and better opportunities and choices for the students, as well as fills the gap between tuition and the School’s expenses. St. Francis offers the children time to spend with the animals, outdoor education, and so many other opportunities that it is hard to list all of them. My family gives because we want the best for St. Francis and our children. We always give to the Annual Fund – it might not be the biggest gift, but we do what we can because of how important it is. It is not “what” we give but “whether” we give, and don’t forget - it is tax deductible.


Deron Simmons

Briefly describe your path after leaving St. Francis. After leaving St. Francis, I joined the school that the wonderful Kit Llewellyn recommended I visit as a junior in high school: Mercer University. I declared my major in computer engineering, and on the second day of my freshman year, a professor said “Look to your left, then look to your right. Two-thirds of your classmates won’t be here next year.” There were 375 people in that classroom that day. On graduation day, there were only four of us (including St. Francis’ own Brad Green G’02, ’06). Looking back at your time at St. Francis, what stands out? On the Goshen Campus I remember thinking, “Wow, there aren’t many people here who look like me,” but people didn’t believe in me any less and I didn’t achieve any less. I’ve received a lot of awards in my lifetime and they’re all in drawers - except for those Eagle Cards. They’re on a wall at home. I promise you that. On the Downtown Campus, I recollect on how much extra school work and homework we had compared to our peers at other institutions. I’m thankful for that because my first two years of undergrad were a breeze.

I live 1,800 miles away from Louisville, but I want to do more for my city. If I can’t be there in person, then I can make an investment. If I can’t make a financial investment, then I can open up my network. If my network is unavailable, then I can advocate.

Wyvern Report

Do you recall a specific teacher or friend that influenced you in some way? Parents, students, and friends of St. Francis, if you don’t read anything else in this blurb, read this: St. Francis School has the best faculty, staff, administrators, coaches, and educators in all of Greater Louisville. Any success that I have, I don’t see it as my own. I see it as ours because so many people made an investment in my education with nothing to ask in return. How was your experience at St. Francis a factor in determining your career path? I wasn’t very artistic, nor was I the best musician. I wasn’t a great historian, a great mathematician, or a great scientist. I was far from the strongest athlete and I struggled with my languages, but I have a thriving career because of the skills I was taught at St. Francis. I learned how to collaborate, problem solve, accept challenges, and exercise my mind. I discovered how to be a servant leader and to pursue excellence even though it may never be obtained. I mastered customer orientation, how to deal with ambiguity, and how to adapt to change. I absorbed how to be an effective coach by watching effective coaches. I acquired how to listen so that I might understand, how to give unconditionally, and how to influence others through love.


baby wyverns

G’02, ’06

What are the highlights of your career thus far? I can talk about the awards, the acquisitions I helped integrate, the technologies I created, and my many inventions, but all of those fail in comparison to the work I’ve done for others for free. I enjoy volunteering. I especially enjoy a particular type of volunteering. I don’t mind feeding the hungry or painting a temporary housing shelter for the homeless, but when I can give my expert training and professional skills to an organization for free, it’s empowering. It’s humbling! Tens of thousands of dollars they would have paid an agency are saved to be reinvested in the community. Building products for people to use those products for purposeful work is the ultimate highlight of my career. How do you define success? If the amount of positive influence one has on others in his/her lifetime is greater than the opposite, then he/she is successful. The real question is how does one contribute to that success? Befriend a stranger. Sponsor someone. Handwrite a card of encouragement and mail it to the address of someone you don’t know. Do a chore for your neighbor. Forgive - even if it’s not your fault. Hug somebody and then hug another. Make a personal sacrifice so that someone else might benefit. Laugh because it’s contagious. Smile as wide as you can, then do it all again. What’s next for you? I live 1,800 miles away from Louisville, but I want to do more for my city. If I can’t be there in person, then I can make an investment. If I can’t make a financial investment, then I can open up my network. If my network is unavailable, then I can advocate. Anything I can do to progress the home of which I’m most proud, please let me know.

Leomaris Becket Pitzer

Mari Kathryn Felton

Henry Roswell Dayton

Samuel Ruiz Tyler

Silas Randall Harmon

Rob Kemp G’85, ’89 and his wife, Stephanie Klose, welcomed baby Virginia Linda Kemp on December 16th, 2016. Kimberly Levin ’91 and her husband, Kurt Pitzer, welcomed baby Leomaris Becket Pitzer on September 6th, 2016. Kimberly wrote and directed the film Runoff in 2014. The film was shot entirely in Kentucky and played theatrically across the country. It has been well received by critics. You can watch the film on Amazon, iTunes, and other platforms. For more information, visit Davis Tyler ’91 and his wife, Marquenia, welcomed baby Samuel Ruiz Tyler on September 18th, 2016. Samuel weighed 7 lbs. 5 oz. and was 19 ½ inches long. Davis is living in Louisville and has his own law firm that specializes in immigration and criminal law. Bill Blackburn Felton G’96, ’00 and his husband, Cameron Felton, welcomed baby Mari Kathryn Felton on January 26th, 2017. Julie (Brayton) Dayton G’01 and her husband, Chris, welcomed baby Henry Roswell Dayton on February 3rd, 2017. Tedd Pollard G’01, ’05 and Brittany Rickman welcomed baby Libby Rose Pollard on February 17th, 2016. Jenna (Peake) Harmon ’10 and her husband, Joe, welcomed baby Silas Randall Harmon on January 31st, 2017.


Jeff O’Koon ’87

Susan Hershberg ’81

Stephanie LaGrave French ’88

Torbitt “Little Shalimar” Schwartz ’92

Susan Hershberg ’81, owner of Wiltshire Pantry in Louisville, took a group of her employees to Washington, D.C. in January to protest the inauguration and join the Women’s March on Washington. Susan says, “I remember as a student at St. Francis making my first signs to take to a protest march against a nuclear power plant. We cut out mushroom clouds from the stock report pages of the newspaper and attached them to our poster boards… that experience 40 years ago is still very clear in my mind.” She feels a tremendous responsibility to expand the horizons, minds, and experiences of her employees. She jokes that many companies offer corporate retreats for team-building exercises. At Wilshire Pantry, they march on Washington! Joanna Hay G’79, ’83 is a musician and filmmaker in Lexington. She produced and directed the documentary, “Kentucky Bourbon Tales: Distilling the Family Business,” which introduces viewers to some of the important figures in the Bourbon industry in Kentucky. It was recently added to the American Folklife Collection at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Joanna Hay G’79, ’83

Lisa Cummings Penn ’86 is married to Allan Penn, “a super fun and creative photographer/publisher.” They commute between NYC and Wenham, MA. Lisa has worked for The Estée Lauder Companies in NYC for almost 17 years, the past six doing technology strategy for their global brands. When not working, she spends most of her time enjoying their family and traveling. Jeff O’Koon ’87 is a clinical psychologist at O’Koon Psychology Group, which specializes in evaluations for children. He and his wife live in Evanston, IL. St. Francis had a major impact on Jeff. He and his wife have decided to send their three children to schools with similar philosophies. Their 14-year-old and 9-year-old attend the Baker Demonstration School and their 17-year-old attends the Beacon Academy.

Lisa Cummings Penn ’86

save the date The annual Alumni Crawfish Boil will be Tuesday, April 18th at the home of Summer Auerbach ’00 and Brandon Coan. All alumni are invited!

Wyvern Report

Stephanie LaGrave French ’88 works in communications, public relations, and marketing with clients in the fields of higher education and healthcare. She has a B.A. in Communication from Jacksonville University and an M.A. in Communication from U of L. Stephanie and her husband, Dan, will celebrate their 23rd anniversary this summer. They have two children: Ally will be graduating from Ball State this spring and Andrew is attending JCTC with plans to transfer to U of L this fall. Stephanie recently joined Bourbon Women which is run by a former science teacher at St. Francis, Susan Reigler! If you are not receiving emails from the school, update your contact information by emailing Alissa Shoemaker, Alumni Coordinator, at


Hillary (Stotts) Denham ’05

Amelia (Nordmann) Wantland ’05

Saskia (Warren) Leeds ’06

Kareem Bunton ’90 starred with his son in a recent New York Knicks commercial ( He also played Bo Diddley in the Martin Scorsese show Vinyl on HBO. Torbitt “Little Shalimar” ’92 and Wilder “Zoby” ’98 Schwartz co-produced their third album “RTJ3” with New York rap duo Run the Jewels. This album has earned critical acclaim from magazines such as Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. Run the Jewels will be performing at Forecastle this summer. Lenore (Spransy) Labar ’04 and her husband, Danny, live in Chapel Hill, NC. They were married last April in Kure Beach, NC. Lenore is the Director of Client Relations for Home Instead Senior Care.

Mary Boatwright ’08

Alex Masterson ’09

Alex Masterson ’09 is living with her boyfriend in San Francisco and working at Charlotte Russe as a buyer in the Outwear department. Much of her job involves numbercrunching, but she is also able to help with product development - picking fabrics and checking the fit of new items. In her spare time, she enjoys backpacking, hiking, beach clean-ups, and photography. She also enjoys spending time with her sister Laura who lives nearby with her family.

marriages & engagements

Hillary (Stotts) Denham ’05 and her husband Jake are selling their home this summer and plan to travel the world with their three children (Addie, Aria, and Emery) for 12 months. Hillary owns an online business, Wunderkin Co., where she sells handmade bows for children. You can visit her website at Amelia (Nordmann) Wantland ’05 married Marc Wantland in 2015. She is on track to finish her residency in Family Medicine at the University of Louisville this summer. Saskia (Warren) Leeds ’06 spent her honeymoon volunteering in South Africa. She recently relaunched her shop, Words Calligraphy & Creations, where she creates everything from wedding invitations to jewelry and protest postcards. Check out her website at Mary Boatwright ’08 was recently accepted to graduate school at Kent State University where she is pursuing a master’s degree in Environmental Geographic Information Science. Upon graduation, she hopes to work in the field of geospatial analysis of wildlife populations. Mary is currently living in Steamboat Springs, CO, with her partner, Justin, and their two dogs, Zeus and Kimber.

Collin Smith G’96, ’00

Eleni Fischer G’02

Emily Bennett G’95, ’99 married Doug Kochelek on November 12th, 2016 at the Newberry Library in Chicago, IL. Alexander Smith ’98 married Franny Powers on November 12th, 2016 at the Eden Spring Farmstead in Simpsonville, KY. Collin Smith G’96, ’00 is engaged to Aja Pecknold. They are planning a wedding on June 3rd in Washington, D.C., which is Aja’s hometown. They currently live in Brooklyn, NY with their bulldog, Lola. Eleni Fischer G’02 married Cody Stark, a college classmate from Georgetown, in October 2016. Eleni recently moved to Brooklyn after living in Washington, D.C. for eight years. She works for a food systems consultancy firm.


Holiday Party at the Silver Dollar Over 20 alums ranging from the young to, ahem, the more mature, joined together at the Silver Dollar the Friday after Thanksgiving for conversation, a drink, and the Silver Dollar’s famous fried pickles. This casual event is a great way to fit in a little Wyvern time in the midst of a family holiday weekend. Bagels & Coffee in the new High School space The Saturday after Thanksgiving, 25 alums gathered for bagels, doughnuts, coffee, and a few games of pool and ping pong in the beautiful new High School spaces. With cries of “Kids these days!” and “Students now are so lucky,” alums walked through the expansion oohing and ahhing over the new entrance on Broadway, the Commons Room, the Wyvern Store, the student kitchen with its 10 (!) microwaves, the Space for Thought, and the Workshop (MakerSpace), complete with its 3D printer. Wyverns in NYC Wyverns in the New York area gathered together at the Brooklyn home of Adam Sachs ’88 on December 12th. We had a great turnout, with 30 alums from the Class of 1984 through the Class of 2016. A big thank-you to Adam and his co-hosts Bill Schreiber G’84, ’88, Devin Emke G’84, ’88,

Rob Kemp G’85, ’89, and Kareem Bunton ’90, who have organized this event for the last 11 years. We look forward to many more Wyverns in NYC parties! Wyverns in Chicago Wherever there are Wyverns, we will come and throw a party! Well, okay, maybe not everywhere; that’s an exaggeration. But we have the Wyverns in NYC and Wyverns in DC events, and now we have one for Wyverns in Chicago. On a wintery evening in January, a group of hearty souls gathered for conversation, libations, and reminiscing in Chicago. What we heard again and again was how profoundly St. Francis had impacted each alum’s life. We love to visit with our alums, so if you are interested in a Wyverns in [Your Town] event, let Alissa Shoemaker in the Alumni Office know at Attendees of Wyverns in Chicago included Alexandra Thurstone G’80, ’84, Síofra Rucker G’84, Karin (Bensinger) Appelbaum ’90, Jonah Goodman ’16, Nicholas Laughlin G’94, Cassandra Finger ’04, Alison McDaniel ’03, Tim Hudson ’92, Kalina Griffin-Jakymec ’04, and Kip McCabe ’90.

in memoriam James “Jim” Stodghill G’80, ’84 passed away on December 31st, 2016. Jim had a love of the outdoors and photography. He was a wonderful husband and father and was a huge supporter of his children’s sports teams.

Wyvern Report

Joshua Brian “Luca” Lerman G’97, ’01 passed away on November 18th, 2016. Josh had a huge heart and outgoing personality. He often volunteered to help those less fortunate than himself and brought a smile to all who met him.

The St. Francis community mourns these losses and sends Jim’s and Josh’s family and friends well wishes.


By Kim Hales, Director of Development

+ scholarship fundraiser

The Imagine! Art Auction + Scholarship Fundraiser was held on Saturday, February 25th at the Tim Faulkner Gallery in Portland. As in past years, Imagine! welcomed guests from curators to collectors to philanthropists to teachers to artists to new parents to alums. The evening was an immersive art experience, including works for sale by locally and nationally recognized painters, sculptors, photographers, glass, and jewelry artists, as well as interactive art stations and performance art. 100% of the funds earned at Imagine! go to support the School’s scholarship fund, which includes the New American (for immigrants or children of immigrants) and Talented Minority Youth scholarship programs. In 201617 the School awarded $2.9 million in need-based aid, of which $485,000 is to Talented Minority Youth scholarships and $291,000 to New American Scholarships. Event Chair Julie Kay said, “Our youth are our most important asset and it’s critical that we put our resources towards educating them. The Imagine! Art Auction + Scholarship Fundraiser is a wonderful opportunity to support the arts and, at the same time, support the next generation of artists, scientists, writers, engineers, and critical thinkers.” Participating artists are not donating their work, but rather receive half of whatever their pieces sell for, and therefore benefit from the auction as well. Three local galleries had pop-up galleries at the event: Revelry Boutique Gallery, The Tim Faulkner Gallery, and Makers’ Crucible. This year’s Chair Julie Kay together with the art procurement committee, event committee, and many, many volunteers, created an incredible event and one that raised ​ over $70,000 for scholarships​for our students!


By Cia White, High School English

This past December, former St. Francis High School teacher Stu Cipinko was living in Tucson – newly moved from Phoenix with his wife Anne Reeves – when he had a heart attack and died at 69. The heart attack came during a morning run, Stu’s and Anne’s regimen in every station of their 31-year life together: in Stuttgart; in England; in Belgium and the Netherlands; in Casablanca, Louisville, Dresden, Ankara, Mexico; and finally in Arizona. In the years Stu and I were colleagues at 233 West Broadway – he taught sophomore history and I, sophomore English – to see the two of them running into Cherokee Park was a welcome familiar sight. He and Anne cooked many terrific dinners for me and my partner; we listened to new Bob Dylan releases together. (I once even dragged him to the track, an excursion which, to his surprise, he loved.) Stu’s international teaching “career” – I imagine his grimace at the inadequate, narrow term – included two stints at the High School, spanning the years 1997-2006. He served as the first Dean of Faculty; taught sophomore Civ, AP European History, and many senior electives; he was primarily responsible for the inauguration of the Senior Project. His death provoked a long passionate thread of Facebook posts by his former students. One example: “Reading The Battle for God and class discussions about fundamentalism were life-changing for me...All of those experiences engaging in debates in class with Stu moderating and challenging us. Little did we know we were cultivating an essential skill - to struggle with ideas and knowledge and sit still with the complexity of beliefs, and humanness, to eventually take those skills for struggle out into the world.” – Amanda Fair (Horton) Parmenter ’01

At the December memorial, former students remembered him for his insistence on the “life of the mind” - a mission too easily decried as coldly academic, elitist, politically disengaged.”

Wyvern Report

At a gathering at the High School on December 27th, about 30 alums shared memories of the fascinating, intense adult figure he appeared to them as teenagers. His bench-pressing prowess. His singing “Forever Young” to them at Graduation in 2006. His simply x-ing out an entire page of a paper with the margin note, “No.” His swivelling his chair to face the class, smiling with mischievous (and mysterious) amusement. They remembered, too, his lack of surprise at adolescent hijinks, and his sympathy: in a Staff Handbook advice-to-teachers section, Stu solicited adult composure in consideration of the “inevitably thin-skinned sensitivities of adolescents.” As he wrote in his blog (“Ich bin Edukator”), he thought to treat students “like sentient beings rather than self-absorbed infants”: “Discipline is a word fraught with contradictions, … colonized by those for whom the unruliness of students is often both a danger and an affront. Thus it has come to mean zero-tolerance of everything from weaponry to body piercing, from insolence to low-rider trousers, in the evident hope that … by treating young adults as irresponsible, their sense of responsibility will be sharpened. And … the really important discipline that only the school can model is not only ignored, but largely forgotten. That discipline is intellectual, … the gift that school can provide its captive audience, and prepare them for the freedom to which they are entitled.”


Stu’s belief in intellectual “discipline” made him a teacher with high expectations. His students happily celebrated middling grades. But he was not an authoritarian “hardass.” His expectations for himself were higher, warmer. “When I did my Senior Project, he was charged, I suppose, with saying some kind words about me. They were touching words, words I’m struggling to remember, but what I do remember is that it was one of the first times an ‘adult’ seemed to understand me.” – Rebecca Bryant G’98, ’02 Stu was allergic to stupidity but distinguished it from ignorance. Again from his blog: “Everyone is ignorant of many things. … That is the first purpose of education, to dispel ignorance, or at least to provide the intellectual means by which it might be addressed. Stupidity is something else entirely, neither a disposition nor a state of being, but a quality of mind that delights in error, the more egregious the better … [S]tupidity is learned.” Stu set himself, among other things, to the un-learning of stupidity. In faculty meetings, for example, when he occasionally began to sally forth against what he saw as a pernicious “mystification,” grown-up breaths were held. He was articulately skeptical about shibboleths in secondary education: “diversity,” “differentiated learning,” “research.” As a wide reader of sociology and psychology – among many fields – he resisted cant; none of his positions were put forth carelessly. He was an atheist who taught Islam and Christianity without cynicism, a left-winger who (on his blog signature) called himself “a Marxist of the Groucho variety.”

At the December memorial, former students remembered him for his insistence on the “life of the mind” – a mission too easily decried as coldly academic, elitist, politically disengaged. In Stu’s recourse to the phrase, I never heard it that way: I saw him live it and equip others to live it. Again from his blog: “As teachers become more and more cogs in the machine of cultural reproduction, programmed in the classroom by the pettifogging demands of corporate-engineered learning modules and … test-based accountability, so their students will learn the lessons of compliance and ritualism so crucial to the mystification of reality. It is certainly true that the liberal arts are no certain protection against the soft fascism that is the American social formation, but their steady denigration and eventual elimination will guarantee its instantiation, and, I fear, its invisibility. I now realize how lucky I was to have been introduced to high school teaching by people who respected themselves, not as ‘professionals,’ a word so blithely misused by too many, but as exemplars of a perspective from which the worthwhile could be distinguished from the wistful, and the true extracted from the trivial.” In quoting Stu on having worked with people in high-school teaching who tried to do what he would have had them do – distinguish the worthwhile from the wistful and the true from the trivial – I in no way mean to count myself among those he meant to cite. But I revere his rubric. We were lucky to have had Stu pass by here on his pilgrim trail. There are cruel disappointments in not hearing from him in these days. He was the smartest person I’ve known. “Smart,” though, like “intellectual,” can be read as one-dimensional adjectives. Stu was whole and gallant – in his thinking, his work, as a person.

cipinko humanities scholarship In honor of Stu’s dedication to the highest level of intellectual rigor in the Humanities areas of history and English, we have decided to honor his memory by designating as the Cipinko Humanities Scholarship the incoming 9th grade humanities scholarship. We have received many requests to honor his memory with a gift. All memorial gifts will go towards funding this scholarship in his honor. Anne Reeves (Stu’s widow) has compiled a book, composed of a number of his short essays about secondary education and other

writings. We will send a copy of it as a thank-you for all gifts to the Cipinko Humanities Scholarship Fund at the Abacus Level ($250+) and above. If you’d like to be in touch with Anne directly, her email address is If you would like to contribute to the Cipinko Humanities Scholarship Fund, please contact Síofra Rucker G’84 at SRucker@ or go to the “Giving Back” page on our website to make a gift. (Please indicate Cipinko Humanities Scholarship in the memo line.)


interview with brian ray

Nate Hillberg, Middle School Math

Rebecca Jones, High School Math

By Síofra Rucker G’84, Director of Advancement

Pattie Koth, Middle School Math

Seth Miller, High School Math

AP on T Sarah Wallace, Middle School Math

This school year, St. Francis moved to a math curriculum called College Preparatory Mathematics (CPM), for 6th grade through Algebra II. CPM is a teacher-written, research-based curriculum designed to engage all students in learning mathematics through problem-solving, reasoning, and communication. The decision to make this move was spearheaded by High School Math Teacher and Dean of Faculty, Brian Ray. Brian was motivated to find a curriculum that allows for the level of differentiation essential to providing our students a truly Progressive math education. Brian Ray Dean of Faculty, High School Math Teacher, High School M.S. Ed. Northwestern University B.S. Xavier University

Brian was motivated to find a curriculum that allows for the level of differentiation essential to providing our students a truly Progressive math education. Wyvern Report

To explain CPM’s approach, it is important to understand that we consider and treat math as a language. As a young child acquires language, she will see examples in the real world: a table, an apple, a bowl, for example. After seeing the object, touching it, and understanding its function, the child then learns the label or the name for it - “table,” “apple,” “bowl.” In a traditional math curriculum, this order is reversed, with students being told a definition and asked to understand it, and then being shown examples. CPM follows the natural path of acquiring language: students start with concepts, work to understanding, and then attach labels and vocabulary. I interviewed Brian to hear more about why we made the move and what he sees happening in our math classes. How does this curriculum fit with our Progressive education model? Math is one of the last subject areas of curriculum to become experientialbased. The core of the Progressive model of education as laid out by John Dewey is experiential learning. Our math classes are now hands-on to the fullest extent. There is demonstrably higher content and skill retention when students are creating their own conceptual understanding. In all other areas of the curriculum, student-led conceptual understanding is active and present. For example, in history, students read primary texts and debate


Progressive View Teaching Math each other. In English, students again read primary texts, and write essays, short stories, poetry and more. In science, students design and do their own labs. This level of experiential learning has almost always been absent in math class. What are the basics about CPM that parents should know? The three main components of CPM are: 1. It is a problem-based curriculum - students develop their own conceptual understanding instead of being spoon-fed. 2. It uses group-based learning - students actively work with peers, using discussion to develop and identify potential solutions. 3. The work is mixed, spaced practice. Instead of a student doing 20 problems on one topic in one night, with this curriculum, a student will practice four problems from that day’s class, in addition to various review problems ranging from what they have learned recently to material from a longer-ago class. Mixed, spaced practice allows students to not only recall earlier content and skills but also to draw connection between those earlier concepts and current content.

How is the implementation of this new curriculum going? In order to fully implement CPM, the teachers from 6th Grade Math through Algebra II completed training during the summer of 2016. In fall 2016, we received a $12,000 training grant allowing our teachers to be paired with an instructional coach, Pam Argabrite. Pam is a retired teacher from Brown School and has used CPM for over a decade. All the math teachers meet together as a whole with her, and she conducts classroom observations, assists in writing lesson plans, and gives feedback. She is wonderful - she is helping accelerate our learning as teaching to best serve our students. Given how different this methodology is than earlier methods, with this coaching, the teachers are finding it easier to implement aspects of the program outside of our habitual way. What is math like now for our students? As students work in groups to discover solutions, they will find multiple ways to solve a given math problem. We teach multiple ways rather than teaching that one is better than other. A good math student will be able to understand one solution and use it to solve most problems. A really strong math student will understand three ways to solve a given problem and know which one works best in a given situation. After coming up with their solution, students explain or prove their answer or method, and this strengthens their own understanding.

about brian ray When did you become a math geek? I always loved math from a young age. I knew I would be a math major in college; I just loved it. What is your favorite aspect of math? My passion in college was in abstract algebra, where numbers make a rare appearance. I love being able to connect what students are learning in their high school math class to more advanced math classes so students can see where the material is headed. You moved from Chicago a few years ago; how do you like it here? I love how much easier it is to live in the Louisville area. I don’t miss the traffic or the lack of daylight in the winter time.

You and your family have a small farm. Tell us about that. We have a 26 acre farm in Harrison County, Indiana. I can’t claim we are doing too much with it now, but it does provide us with infinite dreams for the future. What’s it like teaching math to your young daughter? Does it come up day-to-day for you as her dad? Having spent so long thinking about how high schoolers internalize more advanced math, it is fun to think about how my daughter is beginning to make sense of numbers in relation to the world she is discovering.


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IN THIS ISSUE The Power of Vulnerability Alum Profile: Deron Simmons G’02, ’06 Imagine! A Progressive View on Teaching Math

Wyvern Report Spring 2017  
Wyvern Report Spring 2017