Gaynor Gazette, Winter 2017

Page 1







Henrietta Jones Pellegrini, President Scott Mager, Vice President




Jay Kramer, Esq., Treasurer Jillian Neubauer, Secretary Kristine Baxter *Susan Wine Bender, President of Parents’ Association Hillary Blumberg Patterson Chiweshe Grant Duers



Carol Feinberg Dr. Mary Fitzpatrick *Dr. Scott Gaynor, Head of School Oscar Gil Vollmer









Kass Lazerow Ericka Leslie Horan *Dr. Mimi Michael, Co-Founder Elizabeth Mily *Yvette Siegel Herzog, Co-Founder and Director of Education Hamburg Tang *Ex officio members


Jo Ann Gaynor Dr. Gordon Gaynor GAYNOR COUNCIL

Andrew Bast Benjamin Hamilton Steven Kobre Traci Lester Gail Ross, Ph.D. Jeff Tarr Josh Wiener Rachel Winter

Editor: Deanna Ferrante Assistant Editor: Kristen Browning Design: Di Vision Creative Group, New York Cover Illustration: Miguel Gallardo Photography: Adam Gaynor, Kristen Browning, and Deanna Ferrante Printing: Western Commercial Printing

If you are receiving duplicate copies of the Gaynor Gazette or would like additional copies, please contact the Development Office at 212.787.7070, x1118 The Gaynor Gazette is printed on recycled stock using soy inks

Stay Connected to Gaynor! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. © 2017 Stephen Gaynor School, All Rights Reserved

























Throughout this publication of the

engagement is essential to a child’s

Gaynor Gazette you will find more

success in school. Studies in this area


show that family engagement improves

at Gaynor and how our teachers bring

student achievement including higher

this approach to life.

test scores and grades. This is welcome

the approach is hinged on mastering

news as Gaynor parents are very active

the methodology and delivering it in a




The success of

in our community. Parent involvement can be seen in the

dynamic and engaging way.

You will also read tips from

high attendance at Parents’ Association meetings and school

our speech-language pathologists on strategies to support

events, frequent communications with our faculty, and

language development at home. Additionally, the chair of

involvement at parent/teacher conferences.

our psychology department, Dr. Clare Cosentino, provides advice on positive parenting strategies and the science

What has impressed me recently is the overwhelming

of happiness.

interest in our two-day Orton-Gillingham training program

morning Coffee Talks is further evidence of Gaynor parent

for parents.


Our first program this past October was

The weekly attendance at Dr. Cosentino’s

oversubscribed and we have a waiting list for when we offer it again this spring. Gaynor is the only school in New York

We are committed to building a strong relationship between

City to be accredited by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham

school and home. Having well-informed families helps in

Practitioners and Educators and many of our teachers have

developing goals for each child and individualizing our

received classroom certification, a distinction that takes

curriculum to help unlock each student’s potential. We are

two to three years of training and supervision to achieve.

excited to offer these opportunities and fortunate to have

Our two-day parent program is an intensive workshop

parents who are enthusiastic and engaged in learning more

that teaches the participants about this language-based,

about our program.

multisensory approach to teaching reading, spelling and writing.

Gaynor parents want to learn our methodologies

in order to better understand their child’s learning style, participate more actively in conferences, and support their child when needed. Of course they respect our policy of parents not helping with homework.


DR. SCOTT GAYNOR Head of School

A. T. Henderson & K. L. Mapp. (Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2002. Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017










Gaynor Welcomes New Board Members Stephen Gaynor School could not be a leader in special education without our committed and passionate Board of Trustees, all of whom are dedicated to ensuring our school remains true to its mission while providing an excellent individualized education for each student. With heartfelt gratitude, we are saying goodbye to Megan Wiese and Jennifer Rich. We are filled with deep appreciation for their guidance over the years. As we bid adieu, we are delighted to welcome new members Hillary Blumberg, Oscar Gil Vollmer, and Grant Duers to the Board of Trustees.

Hillary Blumberg A graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, Hillary Blumberg began her two-decade career as an industrial designer at Swid Powell, where she developed tabletop lines for such iconic architects as Richard Meier and Frank Gehry, and later helped launch Calvin Klein’s home collection. In the late 90s Hillary joined Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia as a founding member of the team that created the Martha Stewart Everyday line, and rose to Senior Vice President of Design before leaving the industrial design business.

Oscar Gil Vollmer, Hillary Blumberg, Grant Duers

Since leaving industrial design, Hillary has contributed her public-sphere energies to educational and children’s causes in the New York area. She serves on the board of Columbia Doctors Children Health and on the capital campaign committee and the major gifts committee of Stephen Gaynor School and Village Community School, respectively. She is also actively involved with both the Children’s Museum of Art and with CASA NYC. Hillary is the mother of Liv Ginsburg in the Yellow Cluster.

Oscar Gil Vollmer Oscar is a founder and CFO/COO of Appomattox Advisory, Inc. The firm, founded in 2005, is today a $1.3 billion investment management firm that addresses the need institutional investors and family offices for unbiased, independent investment management services. In this capacity, Oscar is a member of the firm’s investment committee and is jointly responsible for firm management. Oscar oversees portfolio management and fund operational due diligence, as well as managing the firm’s financial and legal affairs.


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Prior to co-founding Appomattox, Oscar was a director and managing member at First Atlas Capital, and a management consultant with McKinsey & Company. He received a BS from the Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas, Venezuela, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Oscar is a founding trustee of the Park Children’s Days School (formerly Park Avenue Christian Church Day School), and a director of the Vollmer Foundation, Inc. Oscar is originally from Venezuela, and lived in New York, Austria and London before coming back to settle to New York City, where he now lives with Cinthia, his wife, and three daughters. His daughter Cristina is in the Red Cluster.

Grant Duers Grant is a veteran of the tech industry and Vice President in charge of Tech and New Media for Gundell and Company. He joined in 2006, after 12 years with the Microsoft Corporation, where he led several international teams in sales, marketing, operations and product development. Prior to Microsoft, Grant spent nine years at RR Donnelley & Sons (‘the world’s largest printer’) in various sales, marketing and product development capacities. Grant holds an MBA from the University of South Carolina and an MPA from Columbia University, New York. Prior to joining the Board of Trustees, Grant had already devoted many hours of service to Gaynor. In 2012, he and his wife Jane completed a comprehensive ‘Positioning Study’ to help the school better understand how Gaynor was perceived by its various constituents. He has also served as a classroom parent and an Annual Fund Ambassador. Grant and Jane are the parents of Anna in the Purple Cluster and PJ in the Green Cluster.









Introducing the Gaynor Council Throughout its history, Gaynor has been fortunate to have parents and community members who have generously given their time and expertise to help move the school forward. Until recently, this arrangement has been informal and more behind the scenes. Beginning this fall, that has changed with the creation of the Gaynor Council. The new group has been established to provide the Board of Trustees and Head of School with guidance, advice, and support for advancing the school’s mission. The inaugural council is comprised of experts in the fields of finance, education, construction, and marketing, with additional members to be added as future needs arise. By creating the Gaynor Council, the hope is that it will be easier for parents and community members to contribute special expertise to the school. Additionally, it provides a more formal way to recognize the group members and their many contributions. The inaugural Gaynor Council includes: Andrew Bast Benjamin Hamilton Steven Kobre Traci Lester Gail Ross, Ph.D. Jeff Tarr Josh Wiener Rachel Winter Gaynor Trustee Grant Duers was instrumental in organizing this new advisory body. “It is my hope that the Gaynor Council will provide parents and community members with an additional avenue to share their professional expertise with the school.”

Andrew Bast Andy is the Senior Principal at Zubatkin Owner Representation LLC. Over his twenty-year career, he has overseen projects for some of the most iconic museums, cultural institutions, membership institutions, independent schools and religious organizations in the United States. He is father to Arman Bast in the Orange Cluster. Benjamin Hamilton Ben has worked as a Principal at Sargent Advisors and also at Credit Suisse First Boston and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. He is father to Connor Hamilton in the Pink Cluster. Steven Kobre Steven is Co-Founder of Kobre & Kim. He is an experienced trial lawyer who has served as lead counsel in numerous high-value disputes. He routinely represents clients in U.S., Europe, Asia and South America responding to government investigations. Steven is father to Sam in the Pink Cluster. Traci Lester Traci started as the Executive Director of National Dance Institute (NDI) in September 2016. She is a former education, nonprofit, and human resources executive with her last role as chief executive officer of Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service (LSA). She is mother to Hailey Lester in the Orange Cluster. Gail Ross, Ph.D. Dr. Ross has clinical experience with diagnostic testing for learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, autism and other psychological disorders. She is involved in research in developmental follow-up studies, learning disabilities, and attention in infants and children. Jeff Tarr Jeff is the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Junction. He has worked at Apple, Giga Information Group and founded and ran for 15 years Tarr Tech, a smart home technology integration firm which was sold in 2014. He is father to Gigi Tarr in the Orange Cluster. Josh Wiener Josh is Founder and President of Silver Linings Interiors, one of New York’s most trusted and respected general contracting firms. Projects include apartments, townhouses, and rooftop additions in Manhattan as well as private homes in Westchester, Greenwich, and Long Island. Josh is father to Aden Wiener, Class of 2013. Rachel Winter Rachel is an independent feature film and television producer whose credits include the Academy Award-nominated film Dallas Buyers Club. She is also a Partner at Rain Maker where she has also worked on Brooklyn Rules, Wayward Son, Bury Me in the Kern County and The Lather Effect. She is currently working on a Lebron James biopic, Krystal and just finished producing the indie drama Stealing Cars. She is mother to Maximilian (Max) in the Yellow Cluster.

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Middle School Implements

Key Changes In 2016-2017, several changes were made to the curriculum of the Middle School to improve student experience and better prepare students for transition from Gaynor. This fall, the school implemented a longstanding plan to create a third Middle School Cluster. The Gold Cluster joined the Green and Blue Clusters, giving students the chance to continue working on core academic skills while building the foundational skills of Middle School students. Kate Sullivan returned to Gaynor as the Director of the Gold Cluster in addition to her role as Co-Director of the Lower School. Several changes were made to the Blue Cluster curriculum to allow the school to meet the specific needs of Middle School students as they prepare for life after Gaynor. The Blue Cluster now features a double block referred to as English, which includes both literature and writing. Writing has always been one of the hallmark strengths for Gaynor graduates. The structure of the school’s writing program builds routines for planning, outlining, writing, revising and editing. These routines, and transferring them to a new learning environment, are critical to student success.

This fall, science instruction for Blue Cluster students was increased to four days per week to allow students to improve these skills and build an understanding of key scientific principles. This change also allows for more in-depth lab work. Allocating more time for science instruction will best prepare students for a wide range of schools and ensure that they have a solid scientific foundation. To further tailor the program for each student and emphasize appropriate skills, the Blue Cluster implemented an advisory system starting in September. The advisory period is led by head teachers from the Blue Cluster. Each advisor meets with students twice a day, in the mornings and afternoons. During morning advisory, students receive assistance in preparing and organizing for the academic day. Afternoon advisory is a time to organize assignments and materials to ensure that daily and long-term projects are appropriately planned. Student advocacy skills are taught with the advisory group on “Real World Wednesday.” The advisor also acts as the student’s advocate and the main point of contact for parents. As a way to enhance both teachers’ and students’ experiences in the content areas of

Math, English, and History, each head teacher in the Blue Cluster now specializes in one content area. This allows teachers to gain a deeper mastery of their subject area, and ensures that students get the most from their coursework, as teachers are further able to differentiate instruction. This is more in keeping with a traditional Middle School instruction model. Introducing the “Real World Wednesday” schedule was a tremendous success last year. The Middle School continues to have Writing Electives, Clubs, Project Based Learning, and Student Advocacy. This course work offers students dynamic, experiential learning opportunities that capitalize on personal interest and choice. The changes to the Middle School curriculum have been well received. As always, the school’s ultimate goal is to ensure the most enriching and engaging academic experience for all students.

Transition: Graduating Students Prepare for Next Steps


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In order to best prepare students to transition to life beyond Gaynor, a new class was introduced this fall for graduating Blue Cluster students called Transition. Taught once a week on Real World Wednesdays during the fall semester by creators Mr. Beich, Mr. Meyer, and Ms. Python with the assistance of Ms. Heider, Ms. Jupiter, and Ms. Rattigan, the purpose of this class is for students to have time to focus on and take ownership of their own transition process.

to help students organize their thoughts about each school. Teachers make a point to ensure students understand that each prospective school is going to be different and that they will have a different experience at each school. Transition and placement is about finding the best-fit school for each student, so what may be perfect for one student may not be the right fit for another. Following school visits, teachers facilitate a group discussion to help students debrief about their experience.

The key components of the class include researching prospective schools and preparing for interviews. Students are given introspective assignments designed to generate conversation around interview-like topics and application questions. For example, mock interview questions are provided along with handouts

The end goal is for students to choose a school where they will be successful and happy. The admissions process can be stressful and confusing, but through the skills taught in Self Advocacy and now Transition, students are set up to have as easy a transition as possible.


SCIENCE TAKES A STAND By Cristina Fabricant, Chair of Science Department Science at Stephen Gaynor School is always evolving, and to meet our growing needs we have several exciting adaptations to share. This year the science department welcomed three new faculty members, and our first intern! Lindsey Marx has taken the lead on science with the Pink, Red, and Orange Clusters. She shares the Yellow Cluster with Jacqueline Smith who is also teaching Silver, and the new Gold Cluster. The Green and Blue Clusters are taught by Andrew Prasarn. Jessica Ressler is our first assistant teacher devoted exclusively to science, and she is supporting the Blue Cluster. We’re very excited to have Lena Robinson, a Gaynor alumna, working as an intern supporting Middle School science. All these new faces are helping to refine the dynamic, exciting, and rigorous science curriculum. By expanding the department we are now able to devote more time to science. As a result, the Blue Cluster now has science four times a week, and the Green Cluster has science three times a week. This is in line with the science instruction typically scheduled for 5th-8th grade students, and will help better prepare our Middle School students for life after Gaynor. This year we have also added new instructional space, the Science Deck on the 6th floor of the South Building. This fall, science classes used the space for engineering projects, testing of anemometers (tools to measure wind speed), and modeling effusive and explosive volcanic eruptions using Diet Coke and Mentos. This additional space allows for more messy chemistry experiments, more space for building projects, and an ideal spot for viewing weather phenomena.

Designing and implementing experiments is another key skill incorporated throughout the curriculum. Through units on magnets, rocks and minerals, animal adaptations, and plate tectonics, the Pink, Orange, Gold and Blue Clusters have each focused on different aspects of experimental design. We have also been reaching out to the wider community by posting weekly Fun Fact Friday segments on Facebook. Topics ranged from stalactites to blubber – check out some of the posts on this page, and visit Gaynor’s Facebook page for the full collection.

New faculty and new spaces mean we have more time to devote to new and exciting lessons designed to help our students gain fundamental scientific skills. The curriculum for each cluster is designed carefully to focus on specific skills appropriate for their age and based in content that will be engaging. For example, applying science through engineering is a common theme. Engineering was incorporated into the Red, Yellow, Silver, and Green Clusters this fall through a variety of topics ranging from simple machines to skyscraper design. Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017



Individuality in Lower School Art



Ms. Hochman’s art class is a favorite of many Lower School students. Creativity abounds in Room 402 where students are provided with a safe space to sort out their ideas, use their imaginations, take risks and create masterpieces that best reflect their personal interests. Some highlights from the fall include the Pink Cluster art-science collaboration using magnets and trays. After learning all about magnets in science class, students placed a piece of paper with a dollop of paint and magnetic marble on a plastic tray. They then used a magnetic wand underneath the tray to attract and move the magnet as if it were a paintbrush across the paper, spreading the paint to create magnetic marble paintings! Red Cluster students studied abstract art (art that isn’t easily recognizable and provokes thought) and the artist Kandinsky. Students learned that they each have different opinions and interpretations of the world around them. They were then tasked with creating abstract art on a folded piece of paper using colors that reflected feelings of excitement and happiness on one side and feelings of calm and relaxation on the other. The contrast was incredible. Ms. Vareles/Smith’s class took it one step further and acted as curators to decide where to display their artwork in the hallway. Older clusters worked on independent projects based on each student’s strengths, interests, and available materials. Ms. Hochman is always impressed by their creativity. She says, “It’s important to focus on the concept that there is no wrong answer in the art room, we can fix our mistakes. This freedom to express themselves helps our students build confidence.”


This confidence is most abundantly clear when looking at the work of a new student. At first, new students are more rigid, coloring within the lines trying to create what one might think art should be, but once they realize that Gaynor truly celebrates individuals with their own skill sets, the true artists begin to emerge. One of Ms. Hochman’s favorite examples of this is a student who started out by drawing, but after he got comfortable in class he created a 3D baseball stadium.


Beyond the imagination and creativity that takes place, the best part of art class is that students practice being open minded, respectful, and appreciative of one another’s talents. One of the key components of the class is the willingness to take a risk. Lower School student Scarlett Neubauer said it best when she reflected, “It’s not art unless you make mistakes.” SAMANTHA HOFFMAN


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Blue Cluster Student Portfolios Four graduating students in the Blue Cluster spent the fall semester culminating two years of hard work creating their portfolios in Ms. Rachlin’s art class. For Rehannah Baksh, Ming Robinson, Kaia Miller, and Izzy Veyssi, art is a fundamental part of their lives. They each plan to pursue their passion for art in their next school, so creating a portfolio to showcase their talents when applying to prospective schools had become a priority. The girls would work on them in the mornings before school in addition to their scheduled art class. The final products are phenomenal and include photography, paintings, drawings, and multi-media art. Ms. Rachlin could not be any prouder of these four students. “When you’re given the freedom and time to sort out your own ideas, your true expressions come out,” she said. Beyond the Blue Cluster, Ms. Rachlin feels strongly about the importance of art for all of her students. “Gaynor employs a multidisciplinary approach across the school and encourages students to use their strengths, which in many cases are in the arts, so art is incorporated into the ‘traditional’ classroom as well. It’s not reserved just for art class,” she said. “Art is visual communication which makes it the perfect outlet for students who struggle with expressive language.”




IZZY VEYSSI Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017



The Art of

Portraits This fall, Blue Cluster students in Mr. Gaynor’s photography class created phenomenal portraits of their classmates that were displayed in the halls of the South Building. Students explored and discovered exciting ways to manipulate light in addition to learning how to control light using state-of-the-art studio lighting equipment. They used electronic strobe lights (flash units), soft boxes to diffuse the light and soften the shadows, as well as controlled the exposure by changing the camera’s aperture and speed shutter.



Students were challenged with different lighting situations and re-created various portraits of one another, as well as fashion, sports, advertising and still photos. They mixed up their shoots using various professional backdrops and floor drops, experimented with studio lighting techniques, and implemented all kinds of posing props.




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GATORS GLEAM IN FALL SEASON SPORTS Green Squad Soccer While soccer has been called the most popular sport in the world for some time now, it has now become the most popular sport at Gaynor with 56 studentathletes participating on a total of three squads. Composed of a mix of veteran players and some fresh faces, the Gators looked to build from last year’s success as the defending AIPSL Division champions and were dedicated from the start. The Green Squad competed in the AIPSL and had a strong start, winning their first three games by a large margin. However, the group faced some adversity throughout the middle of the season with some tough losses, which only helped the team to come together and finish as they started. The Gators completed the regular season with a 6-2 record in league

play and won their semifinal game against Winston Prep, earning a spot in the AIPSL Championship game. Playing a tough opponent in Manhattan Country, the team battled back and forth all game but walked away with a 5-3 loss. “Looking at the score and the disappointment on some of the players’ faces during the final whistle, some may have been upset with the overall outcome. However, I focused on the many developments we had as a team and the progress each player made over the course of the season. Friendships were made, players pushed themselves and each other, all while doing an amazing job of representing Stephen Gaynor School in the community and I could not be prouder to coach our players,” said Coach James Melillo.

White and Grey Squad Soccer The White and Grey Squads continued to improve their skills and understanding of the game throughout their seasons. Winning games against The Child School, The School at Columbia and Speyer Legacy, the younger squads demonstrated that the future of the program is very bright, as they will compete in the AIPSL in the years to come. The Grey Squad also hosted a few futsal soccer games in our unique field house, which is a very popular and fast paced indoor style of soccer. It was great to see the players adjust their strategies while playing in the field house as they competed against schools in the community.

Volleyball Returning players and coaches helped recruit a fantastic group of 14 girls that came together for an amazing season. The season began with a few scrimmages that helped the players begin to develop the skills needed to play the game, and they seemed to keep getting better every day. It was clear to see that the players were putting in the time and effort away from practice to try and improve, and every game showed the coaches how much the team was improving. While the girls came in with a wide range of experience playing volleyball, during the final home game the team appeared as if they had been playing together for years. Their energy and enthusiasm for the game was clear to see, and the communication and execution on the

Reflecting on the season, Coach Lena Litvak said, “After weeks filled with wins and losses, tears and laughter, and most of all teamwork, the soccer season has sadly come to an end. In my first year as a Stephen Gaynor School soccer coach, I had the opportunity to experience how the students support one another through exciting victories and difficult losses. The players amazed me with their competitiveness, focus, and commitment throughout the soccer season. I loved watching the players work to overcome obstacles, learn from their losses, and push hard to gain their wins, all while demonstrating great sportsmanship.”

court was really impressive by the end of the season. While the team was unable to secure a spot in the AIPSL playoffs, their development and improvements throughout the season left us with great hope for the future. Coach James Melillo reflected on the season and said, “While the season was in doubt early in September with a few players signed up, I found myself trying to schedule more games during the final weeks and didn’t want the season to end. Players who were new to the game now appeared as if they had been playing for years and it was amazing to see. We chose to end the season with a fun coaches vs. players game, with players winning both games as a true demonstration of how farGaynor they had come!” Gazette I WINTER 2017 9


Gaynor and Orton-Gillingham:

A Unique Approach This article also appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of AOGPE’s “Academy News”

Stephen Gaynor School was founded in 1962, when the field of special education was still in its infancy. Gaynor’s founders were pioneers who realized a need to establish a school for bright children who learned differently. Dr. Miriam Michael, a psychologist, and Yvette Siegel-Herzog, an educator, created a school where students could thrive, pioneering an individualized, multi-sensory teaching approach still used today.

out to Ann Edwards to begin a school-wide initiative to sharpen teachers’ skills, build their toolbox, and deepen their understanding of the Orton-Gillingham approach and the layers and complexity of the English language. Ms. Edwards is a Fellow of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators (AOGPE), a Licensed Reading Specialist, Founder of Literacy for Life, Inc. and author of “bumpybooks.”

“In the 60s, there were children in classrooms called lazy, underachievers, no-goodniks,” said Ms. Siegel-Herzog. “But I knew that these were clever children. I was amazed at the difference we saw in the very first year of our school.”

In 2016, Gaynor’s Orton-Gillingham Instructional Program was officially accredited by the AOGPE. As such, the school is an Organizational Member of the Academy and a member of the Academy’s Council of Accredited Programs, one of only two schools in the New York metropolitan area to be so certified.

According to Ms. Siegel-Herzog, the school has used components of the Orton-Gillingham approach since its founding. “I was taught OG at Columbia, and I then taught OG to children. We incorporated the elements of OG along with other multisensory approaches from the very beginning, though our execution was more eclectic back in those days.” The school currently enrolls approximately 375 students and operates across a two-building campus totaling nearly 80,000 square feet. Gaynor is known for attracting outstanding faculty and practitioners and for training and mentoring special education teachers of exceptional caliber. Head of School Scott Gaynor explained, “The combination of the research-based effectiveness of the OG approach, coupled with the energy and enthusiasm of our teachers’ instruction is a winning combination.” The best teachers are lifelong learners, and are always striving to hone their craft. With that in mind, Stephen Gaynor School reached 10

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“Gaynor is proud to have received the accreditation of our reading program from AOGPE,” said Dr. Gaynor. “It confirms the expertise and care with which we deliver the OG approach.” At Gaynor, the OG approach is integrated throughout the curriculum and community. One of the ways in which the school can ensure this community-wide approach is through intensive teacher training and mentoring. Lower School Head Teacher Kristen Kurre thought the school’s in-depth teacher training was well worth the effort. “The training was extremely helpful because you learn tricks about the language that make you look at reading completely differently.” Ms. Kurre, who has taught at Gaynor for three years, said, “I actually went to two OG courses again the following summer after teaching OG for a year and that really solidified many of the rules for me. The repetition is helpful for everyone.

Top: Ann Edwards instructing parents. Above: Gaynor teacher Michelle Fox doing a card drill.


Even as an adult I find myself using the strategies. The students are motivated by the approach too, because with the repetition they finally start to feel successful in an area that is really challenging for them.” Ms. Kurre gets creative with her use of OG in the classroom. “I like to have my students get up and move around when learning different phonetic elements and the OG approach. For example, I love to play vowel team baseball.” She explains, “Each base is a different vowel team. The students are split into two teams. I read a word and one at a time students have to run to the base for which vowel team is in the word. You can even play this with multisyllabic words!” At Gaynor, the OG approach is not only used as part of the classroom reading curriculum. Ms. Edwards noted, “as I travel from class to class, I am constantly being stopped in the hallways by content area teachers telling me how empowering it is to be able to connect with students through literacy.” Andrew Prasarn, who teaches science in Gaynor’s Middle School, uses what he has learned in the teacher training as part of the science curriculum. Mr. Prasarn said, “I actually find myself using OG a lot more than I was expecting. When we decode science terms that the students have never seen before, we decode the word using OG principles. One

example was the word ‘compression’ (used in structural engineering). We broke it down into the prefix ‘con’ which students have been trained to identify as ‘with or together.’ Then we focused on the word ‘press’ in the middle, and then the suffix ‘ion’ which turns a verb into a noun. So all together, ‘compression’ is ‘the act of pressing together.’” Mr. Prasarn, for one, is appreciative of the amount of training Gaynor faculty are given with regard to the OG approach. “I think some people would roll their eyes at being forced to sit in a week of training, but I really ate it up.” He continued, “I found it very interesting, and it felt good to learn something new outside of my field of science. I think part of the reason I use it so much is because I learned how it works and I can see how it can be effective when used consistently in our science classes. Everyone benefits: The students see that OG works beyond reading or writing class, and at the same time the tools and methods they use help me teach them new science concepts more easily.” The community aspect of the OG initiative extends beyond the school’s walls. Ms. Edwards, along with Reading Department Chair Sloan Shapiro, recently conducted a two-day intensive OG training for parents. Said Ms. Shapiro, “Clearly our students were

Kristen Kurre doing rapid exchange.

going home talking about what they were doing in school and excited about what they were learning. Each conference day, parents sat down with me amazed at what they were hearing from their children and asking question after question about what had so captured their child’s interest. A parent course seemed like a natural next step and based on the response, I think we were correct.” The seminar was filled within hours of its announcement, and the instructors are planning a spring session to accommodate the overwhelming demand from parents. “Gaynor parents are committed to helping their students succeed, and learning about the OG approach is an important tool in this process,” continued Ms. Shapiro. “We didn’t just teach the parents about the elements of the OG approach, but also had them participate in the same drills their students do every day!” Stephen Gaynor School is now a leader in the field of special education. But the school’s success was not foreordained. Ms. SiegelHerzog remembered, “Back in the early 60s, I didn’t know for sure that we could do what we set out to do. The then isn’t the now. But our teachers are a testament to the power of the relationship between the material and the approach, and their creativity of instruction. The approach comes alive in the classroom.” Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017



SHOUT OUTS! Shout out to Navah Goldblum, Blue Cluster student, who testified in front of a crammed courtroom at City Hall in October to support the passing of a bill that would prohibit the display or exhibition of any wild or exotic animals, with exceptions for accredited zoos, research facilities, religious ceremonies or celebrations, and educational or conservationrelated programs or presentations. Way to go!


Congratulations to Ryan Sachs, Blue Cluster student, who was selected by the New York Islanders for the Islanders Quebec Hockey Team, an elite group of players who will compete in the 58th Annual Quebec International Peewee Hockey Tournament. Players selected to the team have demonstrated exceptional skill as

well as a great deal of dedication both on the ice and in the classroom. We’re so proud! Kudos to cancer survivor and alumna Caroline Watters ’13 for singing the national anthem prior to the New York Rangers for Hockey Fights Cancer Night game at Madison Square Garden.

Be Together, Not The Same By Sue Sortino, Director of Student Life and Director of After School

Sometimes, things just come together the way they are supposed to, simply and easily. Ironically, one thing that came together, simply and easily, was our theme for this year, which happens to be, “Be Together, Not the Same,” a slogan inspired by an Android campaign. Last year our theme was “How to be an Ally.” We emphasized the importance of supporting others in many different situations. Rainbow colored “Safe Zone, I am an Ally” stickers appeared all over the school, and the Gaynor community came together in many different ways, with age-appropriate lessons and discussions on how to be a supportive ally. Every class in the school worked on the Activist Quilt, which was proudly displayed in the North Lobby this past spring, culminating our Year of the Ally.


WINTER 2017 I Gaynor Gazette


This year, we wanted to build on the theme of being an ally and we came up with the word inclusion, knowing that Derrick Gay, who is an international consultant on inclusion and diversity issues, would be working with us this year. And so, “Be Together, Not the Same” as our theme for the year was born. As Dr. Gaynor said, the “Be Together” part of our theme is, “embedded into our curriculum. Our community values vision statement recognizes our responsibility to create an inclusive environment that

supports and celebrates each individual in our school community.” Additionally, as stated by Dr. Gaynor, “The second part of this year’s theme ‘Not the Same’ is at the core of our student advocacy program. We teach our students that we all have strengths and weaknesses that make us unique.” The Gaynor Community Values Committee is looking forward to working with the faculty, administration and parents to come up with exciting activities to promote this year’s theme. To kick off the initiative, once again, brightly colored stickers have appeared all over the school. This time, the colors represent all of the cluster colors, united as one under a heart, but all different. It is what we here at Stephen Gaynor School celebrate.


THE POWER OF ROUTINES By Rebecca Jurow, Director of Early Childhood We all appreciate the benefits of routines, though most adults don’t realize how heavily we rely on them. The structure and familiarity of routines make us feel secure and confident, as we know what to expect and what is expected of us throughout the day. In school, teachers use routines not only to build those feelings, but also to foster independence in our students. When provided with a routine for daily classroom activities such as unpacking and packing back packs, transitioning between classes, and lunch time, students are able to rely on themselves rather than on a grown up. For many children, learning routines requires a breakdown of the steps for that activity, which makes internalizing those constructive habits easier. As tasks are broken into smaller components, reasonable expectations are maintained (by the teacher), and students feel successful because they have met a challenge; this work and subsequent feeling of accomplishment supports the development of grit and resilience, especially if the task was perceived as difficult. Adherence to routines also helps eliminate some power struggles, because once tasks are part of every day, they no longer require any sort of negotiation between the child and parent or teacher. Although it seems counterintuitive, the predictability that comes with use of and adherence to routines leads to greater flexibility, both within routine activities and during those that are not routine.

We develop expectations based on what a child is capable of doing, whether independently or with some level of support. By the time students are in the EC, they should have had plenty of practice with activities of daily living, such as dressing, hand washing, and eating. Although many routine tasks are easier for parents and children if parents simply do the task, that hinders skill development. Children need to practice routine activities to increase independence and proficiency.

it may not be obvious, there is a structure or routine inherent in nearly every part of the day. We have bright, motivated, and talented students enrolled in the EC at Gaynor. Our goal is to foster their growth, both academically and socially. Through the use of structured routines we have found students have an increased sense of satisfaction with their day-to-day tasks and build self-confidence. We hope that these positive growth indicators apply to all aspects of their lives, both in and out of school.

The help foster independence with routine activities, we start by understanding the smaller components of tasks, and break down the steps or language of larger tasks so children understand them and are able to complete steps. We provide support (i.e., hand over hand, shortened directives, verbal reminders, visual cues) as needed. Often the toughest part about developing routines is maintaining consistent expectations, and then knowing how to decrease support as independence develops. Routine activities at home need to be relevant to the child and functional to the family community. Young children are often delighted to have a particular job for which they are responsible—we certainly see that in school and home is no different. A great chore to start with is setting the dinner table. Not only is it an easy large task to break down into clear, smaller components, but the child will feel he is doing something important for the family. Although Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017



The Language of


By Jennifer Cohen, Head of Speech-Language Pathology Department Parents frequently ask me what they can do to work on language goals with their young children at home. My response is always the same, “Read!” There are countless ways that reading with your child can help target both receptive (comprehension) and expressive language. Here are some tips to make reading stories a more rewarding and beneficial experience: What to do Point to each word as you read. Why it works This helps make the connection that the words on the page are meaningful and connected to what you are saying. It also teaches that text goes from left to right and top to bottom. What to do Read repetitive and rhyming books. Why it works Repetitive books typically have a phrase or pattern that repeats throughout the story. This encourages your child to participate while you are reading. Repetitive books also make it easier for your child to understand the story. In addition, being able to identify and produce words that rhyme is an important pre-reading skill. What to do Talk about new words, label pictures, and have your child point to objects and actions. Why it works This will help increase your child’s receptive and expressive vocabulary.


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What to do Ask questions (e.g., “Who is jumping in the water?” “Where is the dinosaur?” “What is the Mommy doing?”) Why it works Asking questions helps your child understand what is going on and gives you a way to tell if they are following the story. Asking questions also targets comprehension of a variety of Wh- questions (who, what, when, where, why) which are often tricky for children with language learning differences. What to do Read books over and over again. Why it works Children (and adults) learn more when they are exposed to information several times. This will help solidify new vocabulary, concepts, and grammar. What to do Ask thinking questions (“What do you think will happen next?” “Why does the little girl look sad?” “What can they do to solve their problem?”) Why it works These types of questions encourage and develop abstract and higher level thinking skills (e.g., predicting, inferencing, problem solving).

Most importantly, reading should be an enjoyable time for both you and your child. It should never be a chore. Let them choose the story and try and take your child’s lead. These are just a very limited list of suggestions… REPETITIVE BOOKS Eric Carle Books Jump Frog Jump by Robert Kalan Pete the Cat series If You Give a Mouse… series Napping House by Audrey Wood Is Your Mama a Llama by Deborah Guarino RHYMING BOOKS Dr. Seuss books The Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman Llama Red Pajama series by Anna Dewdney Giraffes Can Dance by Giles Andreae Nursery Rhymes Good Books for Making Inference, Predictions: I Went Walking by Sue Williams Elmer Rose by David McKee Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes The Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? By Steve Jenkins


GAMES that Support

Reasoning and Expressive and Receptive Language Skills

By Emily Jupiter, Speech-Language Pathologist Parents of lower and middle school children are always asking what they can do at home. Since many of my students learn well through experiences, it’s often educational to sightsee, go to concerts or plays, visit museums, or to watch documentary films. Sometimes though, it’s hard to have family-bonding time while music is blaring and fans are screaming. A quiet game night is perfect for those days when there is a sensory overload and everyone wants to relax. Here are some educational, language-building games that are perfect for those evenings or rainy days. Carrying over language-based skills can be a challenge. For children who have language-based learning difficulties, games can reinforce skills while having fun. I SPY How to play: Players describe an item they see. Why it works: This game helps to reinforce: • Describing • Word-retrieval strategies • Listening skills • All while still having a stress-free, enjoyable time! HEADS UP AND TABOO How to play: Taboo is a board game, while Heads Up is both an app and a board game. In Heads Up, a player has a word on his or her head, and other players describe it. The players continue to describe the word until it is guessed correctly. Taboo is similar. However, when it’s his/her turn, a player takes a card and describes a term to the other players. The other players have to guess the word on the card.

Why it works: This game helps to reinforce: • Describing, which helps children express their ideas in a specific, clear and effective way o Word retrieval skills o Listening skills o Gathering and synthesizing information • Extra language twist: o Encourage players to ask wh-questions to get more information about the object o Limit the objects to certain categories to target categorical thinking o For added structure, remind your child to describe by category, how you use it, what it looks like and where you find it TWISTER How to play: This classic board game has a large “game board” with different colored spots. A player spins the spinner and depending on the color it lands on, each player has to put a hand or foot on the designated color. Why it works: This game helps to reinforce: • Following directions • Listening skills • Extra Language Twist: Writing words or categories on the colored dots targets: o Sight words o Vocabulary o Articulation sounds o Categories o Describing LAST WORD AND SCATTERGORIES (for upper-elementary and middle-school aged kids) How to play: These two games are very similar. In both, players choose a “Category Card.” For Scattergories, you set a timer for 2-3 minutes and write down as many categorically-related objects as possible. If you write down the same ones, they don’t count, so try to get creative! For Last Word, you have to say the categorically-related objects aloud, without repeating!

Why it works: These games help to reinforce: • Word retrieval • Rapid naming • Brainstorming related ideas • Last Word supports working memory o Removes the graphomotor component o Adds in a workout for your working memory, since there is no writing involved • Both games are entertaining when you see the unique items on each other’s lists! APPLES TO APPLES (and Apples to Apples Jr.) How to play: Each player receives 5 cards with nouns and verbs on them. Players take turns being “judge.” The judge chooses an adjective card from the pile. The rest of the players choose a noun or a verb from their hand that best fits with the adjective card. The judge chooses a card that they think best fits and explains their reasoning. To make it more interesting and to target expressive language, I often add in a debate. The players must explain why their card is the best fit. You can have rounds that are silly, rounds that are serious, and often times the round ends in laughter and light-hearted debate. Why it works: This game helps to reinforce: • Comparisons • Describing • Grammar (parts of speech) • Vocabulary • Synonyms • Problem solving and reasoning skills • And a whole host more!

Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017



Winter Concert: Spotlight on the Stage Spread over two nights, the Winter Concert is a Gaynor tradition that celebrates both the season and the end of the semester. Spearheaded by Music Teachers Ms. Shuppy and Ms. Patti, with help from Drama Teacher Ms. Akins, the students put on a spectacular evening for all! On opening night, Yellow and Silver Cluster students captivated the audience with their performance. An array of songs flowed from their harmonious voices, including “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “All You Need is Love,” and “Imagine” by The Beatles, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder, and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” by Jackie DeShannon. Pink, Red, and Orange Cluster students put on a superb encore the second night for a full house. Students belted out “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” in addition to new tunes “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” by The New Seekers, “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars, and “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. Ms. Akins’ drama students entertained with mini-skits between each song. It was a joyous event to close out 2016 with the Gaynor Community!


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EC Students Dazzle in Winter Showcase Not to be outdone by the Winter Concert, the Purple Cluster students held their own Winter Showcase for their parents on December 16, 2016, in the South Building Cafeteria. The students rehearsed for six weeks with Ms. Patti to get ready and impressed the audience with renditions of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” by Randy Newman, “Let It Snow,” and Ms. Pappas’ very own original EC song. Ms. Patti said, “It was such an honor to put on a performance with the EC students. These young musicians are truly an inspiration. I am so proud of their hard work!”

Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017



Blue Cluster Holiday Party By Stephanie Mayer, Director of Alumni Relations and PA Liaison Blue Cluster students created decorations including cut out snowflakes, stars, and a banner that transformed the gym into a Winter Wonderland this past December for their holiday party. Students arrived festively dressed for their evening of fun, sponsored by the Parents’ Association. Student Council members worked closely with Laurie Giddins, PA’s Middle School Chair, to plan the evening. Lavish entertainment included a festive photo booth with props, roulette, Texas hold ‘em, Pop-A-Shot basketball and a DJ who spun tunes for students who danced the night away. Students feasted on sushi, pizza, cookies, and a hot chocolate frappe station – the highlight for many. Thank you to the Parents’ Association for bringing joyous holiday cheer to this exciting evening!

Stay Connected! Visit the recently-updated Stephen Gaynor School website, featuring easy access to the Parent Portal, school event calendar, and campus news. Follow us on social media to get the full scoop on all things Gaynor!


Twitter: @SGaynorSchool #gaynorgators

Instagram: sgaynorschool

LinkedIn: stephengaynorschool


Serious Fun: After School Program Reinforces Skill Development By Sue Sortino, Director of Student Life and Director of After School After School, a program started by Middle School Educational Director John Beich, has been a vibrant part of student life at Gaynor for ten years. It began with about 20 classes and 100 students and has grown over the years into a program enrolling approximately 300 students and 40 different classes. Student Life and After School Director Sue Sortino, along with Associate After School Director Danny Yellin, currently oversee the After School Program, providing Gaynor students with exciting classes covering a variety of subjects, activities and interests. Each class is designed to be fun, educational, motivating and enhancing of a student’s interests and abilities. On any given Monday through Thursday afternoon, you will find After School students enthusiastically gathering in the North Building Cafeteria, Library or EC Kitchen for snack. Each area is bustling with excitement as the children chat, choose their snacks, and then are picked up for their various classes, proud of knowing the routine and then heading off to their exciting After School adventures. The classes are categorized under three main areas entitled, “Sports,” “Brainteasers,” and “Arts and Crafts,” and run the gamut from basketball, lacrosse, floor hockey, karate, and flag football through cooking, ceramics, drawing and painting, and fashion. There are even classes on super heroes, scientific wonder, robotics and coding, virtual reality gaming, chess, singing, guitar, yoga and zumba, just to mention a few.

The After School Program takes advantage of the many and varied talents of our fantastic Gaynor faculty, in addition to a select few outside providers who have been with the After School Program for years, furnishing us with wonderful cooking, karate, and chess instructors. In addition, members of the faculty always assist in the classes where there are outside instructors. Additionally, After School provides Gaynor students with the opportunity to join a small group of students in Study Hall for one hour, led by Gaynor teachers so students can stay one step ahead of nightly homework and longterm assignments. Gaynor Study Hall teachers are available to the students to clarify and reinforce learned skills and concepts while also helping with time management, organization and self-advocacy. Parents can choose to enroll students in Study Hall on a semester basis or as a “drop in” depending on need. Current parents interested in the After School Program can visit the Parent Portal at for class descriptions and registration information.

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from Mr. G


Parents’ Association

The number-one goal of the Parents’ Association is to strengthen our growing and diverse Gaynor family by focusing on relevant topics that matter to our community. We kicked off the year with New York Times bestselling author Andrew Solomon, who told stories of parents who not only learned to deal with their exceptional children but also found profound meaning in doing so. He set the tone for the year.

e Highlights from th de: clu in r te es m se st fir Families arty in the Park for •P lor Co of with Children rence hy Learning Diffe •W t, featuring ren ffe Di are Schools s Rebecca Educational Director Kate e, gu Jurow, Donna Lo ich Be n Joh Sullivan and endent • Diversity in Indep nel & Video Pa est Gu Schools: can Outtake from Ameri ry nta me Promise, a docu

This spring, the PA will feature: • Sex Ed at Stephen Gaynor School with Dr. Logan Levkoff, PA Meeting guest speaker, Friday, January 6 • Skate Night at Wollman Rink in Central Park, February 7, 7:00 pm • Stereotype Threats, Bullying & Micro Aggression with Dr. Derald Wing Sue, PA Meeting guest speaker, February 10, 8:30 am, North Building Cafeteria • Teacher Appreciation Week, May 1 – May 6 • Family Fair with “Together But Not the Same” theme, May 7 •B ook Fair, May 19


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By Susan Bender, Parents’ Association President

These are just a few of the many things the PA has planned for this year. For a full listing, click on EVENTS on the Stephen Gaynor School website. Finally, volunteering is a great way to get involved in the Gaynor community. It’s a way to get to know people outside your child’s class and to see what’s coming around the corner. Parents of older children tell parents of younger children what to look for in the years ahead. We build upon the strong sense of inclusion and community that co-founders Yvette Siegel-Herzog and Dr. Miriam Michael started 54 years ago. We urge you to join us.



Teaching Comprehension at Stephen Gaynor School By Jill Thompson, Assistant Head of School

As a new faculty member to Stephen Gaynor School, I’ve been engrossed with the learning experiences across the academic environment and beyond the school walls. As I get to know the students, I’ve been simultaneously participating in dialogues with, and observations of, the education team. Not surprising to discover is the substantial focus Stephen Gaynor School places on developing students’ decoding, fluency, and comprehension skills. Our approach scaffolds the foundations of these skills from the simple to the more complex by teaching to understand the meaning of a word, to comprehension at the sentence level, to higher order comprehension of text. From the language-rich EC program to the comprehensive Middle School, Stephen Gaynor School integrates comprehension development across curricular content. Examples of this include: asking different types of questions about the big ideas of a story; brain calisthenics focused on analytic and synthetic processing of oral and written language; using graphic organizers to organize and synthesize text; teaching the structure of words and their relationship to other words through morphology exercises; and embedding metacognitive skills such as previewing text, monitoring understanding, and summarizing.

to comprehend and interpret oral and written language. We are also increasing our use of audio sources, such as E-books and podcasts, across subject areas to develop listening comprehension. And lastly, students in some clusters are learning Cornell note-taking skills to learn how to determine text importance and synthesize text. All of these practices are meant to develop in our students lifelong strategies and a love of written and oral language that extends beyond their time at Stephen Gaynor School. My role is to support the development of curriculum to build on these authentic strategies as we continuously evolve and connect the neuroscientific research about comprehension to students’ learning experiences.

Furthermore, this year Gaynor has implemented new initiatives to develop students’ comprehension skills. The reading specialists have begun to pilot visualizing strategies to build schema development and utilize imagery

Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017



On a Musical Path with

Matthew Wang ’09

Tell us about your life after Gaynor After graduating from Gaynor in 2009, I went to York Prep and then enrolled in New York University’s Music Technology program. I then transferred to the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music within NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. I’ve been having an incredible time learning about what it means to be a music entrepreneur. The program focuses on teaching music business, production, songwriting, music technology, journalism, and more so I can be a well-rounded, well-educated individual in the ever-evolving music industry. Right now, I work as a guitar teacher, music technician/live sound guy who has worked as a tech for the Foo Fighters at an Irving Plaza show in NY; I am a writer for audio magazine SonicScoop; and I am a YouTuber who started a channel in high school that now has over one million views. 22

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How has your involvement in performing arts helped you be successful or given you confidence in other areas? I used to be a very shy person and music really helped me gain confidence in talking to others. A lot of my social skills have come through my involvement in music and funny enough I learned a lot about meeting people by emailing guitar companies I wanted to be an endorsed artist for. Music has also taught me about how to take on good work habits, stay organized, and have fun doing what I want to do. Even now in college, I write a lot about music for psychology and English classes. In my toughest class during my freshman year, Writing The Essay, I wrote my final essay on Guns N’ Roses and got an A. In the near future I might be interning for a member of the band!

Why did you get involved in performing arts? My parents had tried giving me piano lessons and violin lessons, but I actually didn’t particularly enjoy either at the time. I remember my first passion was actually in cooking and then later, when I was at Gaynor, photography. I think my musical path was set one Christmas morning when I was 11 and my brother and I were taking turns playing the newly opened Guitar Hero III video game. I fell in love with the music in that game and started listening to bands like Guns N’ Roses, Foghat, The Scorpions, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, and Aerosmith. I saw the point when my brother was much better at the game than me so I said to myself “I’ll show him!” and asked my mom to bring her closet guitar out of retirement. My mom taught me my first couple of chords and for that I will be eternally grateful.


How did Stephen Gaynor School support your passion in the arts? I still remember taking photography classes with Mr. Gaynor. I remember the music teacher at Gaynor at the time teaching us about Jimi Hendrix and Woodstock. I even remember the excitement of building my own video game in one of the after school classes. All of these things contributed to my growth as an artist. What about involvement in performing arts would you say is particularly important for people with learning disabilities? Music for me is part expression part community. You need to learn how to express yourself in at least one medium whether it’s drawing, playing an instrument, rapping, singing, videography, comedy, or whatever. When you find someone else who works in a similar artistic medium, you want to work together and encourage each other to grow.

Sometimes when you know you have a LD, it can be discouraging to do homework that seems harder for you than others and then sometimes you might question the homework itself and wonder, why do I even need to be in school? Music made me feel like I was part of a larger community. Who inspires or inspired you? As I’ve grown older, I appreciate my parents more and more. I owe them everything for their support and love. Musically my biggest inspirations right now are: • Vlad Holiday from the band Born Cages • Mark Foster from Foster The People • Phil X who now plays guitar in Bon Jovi but I followed him years before when he was a “YouTube Guitarist” • Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters • The Chainsmokers

What advice would you give to current Gaynor students about following their passion for music or drama? If you love it, do it. I think back at all the hours spent practicing guitar. A light estimate would be that I played guitar at least 2 hours a day from age 1218 which means from that time I’d played/ practiced 5,000+ hours. 5,000 hours is also equivalent to 208 days in a row. If you don’t love what you’re doing, that would be torturous amount of time “wasted.” I’m actually really grateful for all those hours of work now. The point is, you can make a career out of what you like doing. My other bit of advice is to always be curious and always ask questions. Mr. Beich would tell you that I didn’t like asking questions when I was at Gaynor because I felt like it would show that I was stupid because I didn’t know something. One big piece of advice I can give you is that I’ve found that knowledge isn’t knowing everything, but rather it’s knowing what you don’t know.

STEPHEN GAYNOR SCHOOL presents the 2017 Spring Musical

Seussical Jr. May 11 & 12, 2017 | Gaynor Gymnasium

Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017



Strategic Planning Process Looks Toward Gaynor’s


In November, a group of more than 35 Gaynor trustees, parents, faculty and staff launched the school’s strategic planning process for 2017-2021. According to Dr. Scott Gaynor, members of the strategic planning committee have “a unique opportunity to help set the future path of our school and further advance Yvette Siegel-Herzog and Dr. Miriam Michael’s vision to unlock each student’s potential.” Dr. Gaynor and Board Chair Henrietta Jones-Pellegrini appointed Trustee Grant Duers and Director of Communications Deanna Ferrante to co-chair the initiative. Mr. Duers stated, “The strategic planning process is an opportunity to reflect on the school as it is today, and to imagine the Gaynor of the future.” The plan will focus on four guiding principles:

• • • •

reating and maintaining a leading-edge curriculum, c attracting and retaining qualified faculty and staff, supporting and promoting the school’s core community values, and ensuring that the school has the resources it needs to bring the plan’s goals to fruition.

Four committees have been formed to work on initiatives to support each of the guiding principles, and will complete their work by June, 2017. Asked about the timing of the plan, Dr. Gaynor stated, “I feel it is the ideal time to evaluate our recent successes, identify areas for growth and establish future initiatives.” Strategic Plan (2017-2021) Steering Committee: Grant Duers, Co-Chair, Board of Trustees* Deanna Ferrante, Co-Chair, Director of Communications* Scott Gaynor, Head of School* Henrietta Jones-Pellegrini, Chair of the Board of Trustees* Jill Thompson, Assistant Head of School* Kristy Baxter, Board of Trustees Susan Bender, President of the Parents’ Association Michelle Fox, Head Teacher, Yellow Cluster Jay Kramer, Board of Trustees Kass Lazerow, Board of Trustees Sue Sortino, Director of Student Life Bianca Wright, Chief Financial Officer *Executive Steering Committee members


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Engage, Empower, Excite

By Michelle Fox, Yellow Cluster Head Teacher While planning my reading lessons, I constantly keep these three E’s floating on the surface of my mind. How can I create learning experiences that guarantee my students will be engaged, empowered and excited? Another core component of my planning process is to get in my students’ “shoes” and brainstorm innovative learning opportunities that will be the most meaningful for them. This process leads to extracting my students’ ideas and interests and intertwining them with Orton-Gillingham reading instruction and spelling rules. To get the ball rolling, I meet my students where they are in spontaneous conversation and connect it with reading content. For example, during Halloween, our class was abuzz with talk about super heroes. While teaching the “1,2,3 Drop The E” spelling rule, I prompted each student to pick their favorite super hero. Suddenly, my reading students became “Super Spelling Heroes!” My reading group soon discovered that they could teach others about the tricky spelling rules, too. As a class, we brainstormed a script while sequencing a story that encompasses this spelling rule. A passion for reading was naturally ignited from within. My students worked on their decoding fluency in addition to reinforcement of the spelling rules. Prior to recording, students created costumes, signs and other props to make the spelling rules come to life. While filming, students read and acted out the entire script adding in their

own creativity in the moment, which further elaborated on their overall understanding of the spelling rules. The kinesthetic component of these videos provided an outlet for students to carry out physical meaning of the content. After filming, students watched themselves share their talents on the screen while making each spelling rule truly come to life. Not only did this process reinforce the spelling rule, it boosted their self-esteem and self-confidence. Many of my students come into school as struggling readers feeling poorly about their abilities. Through implementation of these videos, they began to feel success, truly unlock their full potential and for the first time, they wanted to share their creations and reading abilities with others. I found that my role in creating these films with my students was simply to be the facilitator. While facilitating, my students took control of their various learning style strengths to increase acquisition of information. Ultimately, this process brings multi-sensory learning to a new level where my students use many different channels to best learn, understand and retain new information. Keeping in mind those three powerful words, engage, empower and excite, led me to observe my students taking ownership of their strengths and weaknesses while also having fun and unpacking their innovative, beautiful gifts.

Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017




Positive Parenting Strategies: The Science of Happiness Clare Cosentino, Ph.D., Director of Psychological Services Research related to the science of happiness provides ample evidence that the path to human fulfillment is not paved with the GPA’s, SAT’s, salaries, or acquisitions that people view as benchmarks of success. Rather, engaging in meaningful and satisfying activities, staying connected to others, and feeling deep gratitude for what one has are the primary factors that are most related to happiness and fulfillment. What is the relevance of positive psychology to parenting? How can parents instill a sense of optimism and personal mastery in children? The positive psychology movement is based on the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. It emphasizes finding what is right in a person rather than solely ameliorating what is wrong. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead fulfilling lives to cultivate what is best within them and enhance their experience of work and play. Dr. Martin Seligman is director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and past president of the American Psychological Association. He is known colloquially as the “father of positive psychology.” His early research on theories of learned helplessness and depression led to later studies on optimism and pessimism, resilience, perseverance, and grit. How can parents use the findings of positive psychology to help children become more resilient and, ultimately, find happiness?


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(Conceptualized by Tamar Chansky, Ph.D.): • Refocus on what is working for your child. • Shine the light on your child’s strengths and unique abilities. • Once strengths have been identified they become infinitely portable—able to be mobilized in times of distress. • Children can utilize their strengths to create a satisfying life for themselves and for sharing their gifts with the world.

Strategy 1 Building and Broadening the Strength Vocabulary • As emphasized by noted psychologist Dr. Robert Brooks, every child possesses islands of competence that can be identified, articulated, and highlighted at home and at school. • Help children to recognize the positive and unique constellation of abilities that they bring to their day. • Broaden children’s perspectives (and vocabulary) on what constitutes a strength—to deepen their appreciation of self and other. • Identify and make a list of their most remarkable character strengths (with your child). Develop a profile of character strengths to aspire to.

Strategy 2 Identify the Behind the Scenes Strengths • We can also start the search for our children’s strengths by taking their accomplishments (‘what they’ve done’) and then rewinding and identifying the intangibles that went into them (‘how they’ve done it’). • Did they persevere? • Were they flexible? • Were they courageous in asking for help? • Did they appreciate the beauty of the activity? • Were they compassionate or empathetic? • Did they release themselves into the flow of the activity, without worrying about making it perfect?


• We want to highlight/articulate the steps the child took to take on a challenge and the character strengths they manifested.

Strategy 3 All in the Family: Finding the Strengths of the Home Team • One way to tap into the unique qualities of your children is to ask each family member to playfully imagine for a moment that the family is actually a business and then to assign titles to each family member for what departments they would run— spotlighting what each member does best. • Using the list of job titles, create a family organizational chart—with articulated strengths for each family member. • Another dinner table activity—Ask each family member to write down (on index card) his or her favorite or most admired qualities about each other person in the family. Mix them up and read aloud and see who can guess which person the card is describing.

Strategy 4 Separating Enduring Strengths from Temporary Struggles • On one side of a sheet of paper, write down the first ten things you enjoy about your child. Think about proud moments and what qualities/characteristics went into making them happen. • On the other side, write down your child’s struggles. • From this activity you can gain perspective on the struggles and see them as temporary ripples set against the lasting qualities of your child.

Strategy 5 Cultivate Optimism • The Optimistic child isolates problems and though not pleased about them, narrows their scope and broadens the array of solutions. • The Pessimistic child broadens and deepens the problem, adding all sorts of unrelated factors and narrowing the scope for solution. Instead of being a slip, a stumble, or a small misstep, the negative

event becomes a magnet, drawing all other possible misfortunes and disappointments. • Pessimistic children/adults tend to see the adversities of life as: • Permanent (unchanging, unfixable) • Pervasive (everything in life) • Personal (my fault) • It is important for children and their parents to understand that their strengths are often shown through adversity or significant challenge. • Children working through learning, emotional regulation, or mood challenges need help to understand that they are heroic, strong, and actively creating new neurological pathways.

Strategy 6 Minding Your Mindset • Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, differentiates between a fixed mindset (believing that your qualities are carved in stone) and a growth mindset (believing your basic abilities are things you can cultivate through your efforts). • Mindset do’s and don’ts: • Don’t emphasize your child’s potential (it can make them feel their current accomplishments are not valued). • Don’t focus solely on outcome. • Do focus on process. • Do focus on effort and perseverance. • Do focus on learning. • Quell your own anxiety about your child’s future.

Strategy 7 Effort Behind the Scenes • “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” (Thomas Edison) • Parents can show their seams. Tell your children how a project is not working out, how you’re re-thinking it. • Tell them when you didn’t get the opportunity you were looking for and analyze whether the reason it fell through was ‘about me’ or ‘about them.’ • Invite them into the process of ‘trial and error’ through activities that are process oriented.

Strategy 8 Global Failure or Specific Glitch? • Children and their parents may use global labels, rather than viewing themselves as essentially whole but struggling with one or two specifics (reading, math, etc.). • Help your child step out of the big box of trouble and find the smaller more accurate areas that he can work on.

Strategy 9 To Be of Use: Practicing Strengths, Playing to Strengths • Give your children opportunities to experience the sense that they are contributing members of their world. • Encourage children’s input and participation, from soliciting suggestions for dinner menus, to meal preparation, ideas for holiday planning, chores, etc.— such tasks give them a real role to play in the family. • Find reasonable opportunities—from the mundane to the exotic—to let children know that their say counts.

Strategy 10 Resilience: Out of Struggle Comes Strength • Having received a balanced diet of exposure and protection, a child will be more likely to develop the skills and the confidence in her abilities to tackle the inevitable hurdles in life. • The challenge of encouraging resilience is having the courage as a parent to let a child struggle—not excessively or uncompassionately but bearing witness to the pain and sharing the load.

References: • Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking by Tamar Chansky (2008) • Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman (2002) •N urturing Resilience in Our Children: Answers to the Most Important Parenting Questions by Robert Brooks & Sam Goldstein (2002)

Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017


mer Camp!

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City area. Open p in the New York p is like no other cam cam r me r Early Childhood ou sum in l’s oo p allows students cam r Stephen Gaynor Sch me sum r ou reading s, nt Gaynor familie intaining important exclusively to curre activities while ma r me sum students of or ty yn rie to enjoy a va nt. Incoming Ga and Lower School enjoyable environme t bu ing EC ed om tur inc uc d str an a c skills in ision is for current and other academi Yellow available. The EC Div d is an , ce ge spa an if Or te d, ipa rtic ntly in the Pink, Re rre are welcome to pa cu nts de stu for Junior Division is students, and the Clusters. n area with an w York metropolita y of only camp in the Ne the is p ited by the Academ cam red r acc me lly Gaynor’s sum t has been officia ool tha Sch m or yn gra Ga Pro al en on ph Instructi ailable only to Ste av is it d Orton-Gillingham an rs, ato uc Practitioners and Ed athletics. Orton-Gillingham science, fine arts, or in lize cia spe can at Gaynor. families! Campers youngest learners but especially to the , ren ild nuing ch l nti oo co d sch for incoming an challenge to all ial activities. Summer presents a unique opportunities ers rriculum and fun soc off cu c m mi gra de Pro aca mp ht lig Ca of er n mm tio Su ina EC mb k co Our six-wee to reinforce ial skills through a ies at Summer Camp their learning and soc d enjoyable activit an al on students to maintain trained faculty, ati uc am ed gh of ipate in a number ing our Orton-Gillin iliz rtic Ut pa . l ies oo ivit Sch r act up r we our Lo pers have small gro a variety of summe Gaynor students in Each morning, cam ile having fun doing ar. wh ye c , lls, mi ski ion de c rat mi aca plo de d crafts, science ex lls learned during the and further their aca ing: sports, arts an nce the reading ski lud va inc ad d ies an ivit ain act int riety of fun children will ma , followed by a va d New York City. reading instruction ekly field trips aroun we e tak ers Orton-Gillingham mp Ca For complete play. five, or six weeks. cooking, and water available for four, is n music and drama, tio tra gis Re ste . w. 17 rent Portal at ww Pa through July 28, 20 the 19 e to in Jun g m gin fro s run web page by log Summer camp 2017 it the Summer Camp register, please vis to d an on ati orm inf

GAYNOR GEAR! Best Selling Sparkle Sweatshirts are in stock, and many items are marked down, so get in Gaynor style while supplies last! To purchase, log in to the Parent Portal at and click on the button for Gaynor Gear 28

WINTER 2017 I Gaynor Gazette


Announcing the Gaynor Alumni Network The Gaynor Alumni Network was launched this fall as a way to connect the Gaynor community with all of the incredible alumni who have attended Gaynor over its 50+ years of existence.

By Stephanie Mayer, Director of Alumni Relations and PA Liaison

Being a part of the Gaynor Alumni Network means that no matter how many years students spent at Gaynor, they are a part of a community of over 2,500 alumni. As Stephen Gaynor School continues into its fifth decade of providing transformative education, the school aims to reconnect with all alumni who have helped shape Stephen Gaynor School into what it is today. Gaynor alumni have inspiring stories to tell, and the school wants to share them. Over the past few months, alumni have been coming back to campus to tour the new facilities and are amazed by what has changed (a field house for sports) and what is still the same (Yvette Siegel-Herzog’s friendly face greeting them). The stories and updates of these Gaynor alumni will be frequently featured on the Gaynor Alumni Network Facebook page, posted on the Alumni Wall by the South Building entrance, and featured in the Gazette. As the Gaynor Alumni Network grows, the school will be hosting events, panels and other engagement opportunities for Gaynor alumni and the Gaynor community. If you are a Gaynor alum or know Gaynor alumni, please email, and send an update. Whether you are a parent, student or alum— you can get involved with the Gaynor Alumni Network.

• Like the Gaynor Alumni Network Facebook Page for alumni updates and throwback photos: • Visit the Alumni Wall in the South Building entrance to see some of our great alumni • Alumni can submit updated contact info and updates at or • Alumni are always welcome to visit the school for a tour of the updated facilities • Attend alumni events and engagement opportunities

Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017





WINTER 2017 I Gaynor Gazette

Steven Binder ’74 Steven is the author of Your Recruiting Playbook – a book that teaches parents and kids how to get into the world of college athletics. The book is based on his own years of experience as a basketball player at Curry College and founder of Binderhoops – a high school basketball showcase that provides players with the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of college coaches in hopes of earning scholarships and acceptance into college. When he is not touring and doing speaking engagements, Steven is the CMO at Taxslayer and cheering on his two college athlete daughters.

Lukas Horn ’75 Lukas is the owner and director of Camp Greylock, a sports summer camp for boys in the Berkshires. Lukas had been involved at the camp as a counselor and department head since 1980, but in 1994 decided to make his role permanent, joining another Gaynor alumnus, Michael Marcus, in running the camp. Lukas is also a graduate of Skidmore College.

Rick Vecchio ’76 Rick became a reporter and earned his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University. He went on to work as a beat reporter for newspapers in NY, NJ, and MA. In 1996, Rick went to Peru, ostensibly to learn a little Spanish, and ended up staying. He worked as the Peru correspondent for The Associated Press before he met his wife, Siduith, and started their family business, Fertur Peru Travel. They have three wonderful children.

Todd Feltman ’86 Todd is currently an Assistant Principal in the South Bronx. Todd says that his time at Gaynor inspired him to pursue education, become a teacher and later earn his Ph.D. in Urban Education and Leadership. Todd is also the author of “The Elementary and Middle School Student-Friendly Handbook to Navigating Success.”



Nick Kenner ’90 Nick is the Founder & CEO of Just Salad – a New York City-based eco-friendly salad brand committed to serving healthy food in a fast, fun, responsible and affordable way. Since its inception, Just Salad has launched 22 locations throughout NYC, Chicago, Hong Kong and Dubai. After attending Columbia Prep and Colgate, Nick worked for a while in hedge funds before pursuing his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Nick lives in NYC with his wife and two young daughters.

Jon Levine ’00 Jon graduated from NYU with degrees in Journalism & Political Science and then Columbia University with his Masters in International Relations in 2010. He worked in China from 2011 - 2015 as a lecturer of American Studies at Tsinghua University and later worked as an editor and journalist at China Central TV with additional freelance credits at the New York Times, CNN, Atlantic, and Chronicle of Higher Education. Since returning to New York City in 2015, Jon was a reporter at and is currently communications manager at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Murphy Bright ’01 Murphy attended Indian Hill and Salisbury School before attending college at Gettysburg. Murphy always knew that he wanted to join the military, and after college served as a Captain in the US Marine Corps for four years of active duty and is now in the reserve. Murphy, a current MBA candidate at Syracuse, also started his dream job as a Channel Sales Manager at Neverware, a tech startup that puts new software in old computers. He is also busy planning his upcoming wedding.

Samantha Kafka ’08 Samantha graduated from the University of Florida (forever a Gator!) with honors in April with a degree in advertising. She is now working at a large advertising agency in Fort Lauderdale called Zimmerman Advertising as an Assistant Digital Media Planner. She plans to move back to New York or another big city to continue her career in the center of the industry. She also plans to develop a mobile application and continue her education with graduate school.

Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017



Meet the Advancement Team By Emily Barnes, Assistant Director of Advancement The Advancement Office is responsible for fundraising/development, alumni relations, and as a liaison for the Parents’ Association. Over the summer, the office has seen some exciting changes by welcoming three new staff members and streamlining roles in order to best serve the school.

Sari Nadler Perrino is in her second year as the Director of Advancement. In her role, she drives the strategic goals for the development and alumni programs at the school, manages special fundraising initiatives and campaigns, and works with the Gaynor Board of Trustees. Emily Barnes joined the office as the Assistant Director of Advancement. Her role at Gaynor is to manage the Annual Fund (formerly known as the Gaynor Fund) and the volunteer Annual Fund Ambassadors. The Annual Fund is the philanthropic priority of the school. It supports the day-to-day activities and all operating expenses of the school, the largest of which goes to the compensation and benefits of our stellar faculty and administrators. Stephanie Mayer was named the Director of Alumni Relations & Parents’ Association Liaison. She will be focusing on building the Gaynor Alumni Network, which will allow the school to celebrate all the wonderful students who have attended Gaynor (see page 29). Stephanie also serves as the PA Liaison by supporting the Parents’ Association throughout the year. Shaqua Randle is the Database Manager. Shaqua processes all donations to the school, maintains the donor database and keeps the Advancement Office running smoothly. Shaqua most recently served as Database Administrator at an educational arts nonprofit in New York City. The Advancement Office’s priorities are to help to connect philanthropic interests with the needs of the school and to keep the Gaynor community connected and engaged. The office has plans to celebrate the community with engagement opportunities throughout the year. Please feel free to reach out to the Advancement Office with questions, concerns, or ideas.


WINTER 2017 I Gaynor Gazette

CONTACT US: Sari Nadler Perrino Director of Institutional Advancement 212-787-7070 ext. 1118 Emily Barnes Assistant Director of Advancement 212-787-7070 ext. 1126 Stephanie Mayer Director of Alumni Relations and PA Liaison 212.787.7070 ext. 1115 Shaqua Randle Database Manager 212.787.7070 ext. 1125




11 2




FT Teachers

A pioneer in special education, Stephen Gaynor School is an independent Pre-K, Lower, and Middle School for bright students with learning differences. Founded in 1962, Stephen Gaynor School provides a highly individualized educational program in a rich, rigorous, and nurturing environment in which students gain the skills and confidence necessary to learn, grow, and reach their full potential.

Early Childhood (ages 3-6) 33 Students

374 Students

1 4






WeatherBug Weather Station

Season Rooftop Field House

EC Garden

blocks away from Central Park

Lower School (ages 5-11) 187 Students

179 Student Athletes Class of 2016 High School Matriculation List Birch Wathen Lenox School The Churchill School Dwight School Forman School Little Red Elisabeth Irwin Mary McDowell Friends School The Summit School United Nations International School (UNIS) Vermont Academy Winston Preparatory School York Preparatory School

In-House Specialists in: Speech-Language Pathology Reading Math Occupational Therapy



Middle School (ages 10-14) 154 Students

6 Interscholastic Athletic Teams


SQ.FT. between

2 buildings connected by a sky bridge


33 Lead Class Teachers


Unlocking Each Student’s Potential

Gaynor Gazette I WINTER 2017






TO PA R E N TS O F A LU MN A E / I : If this issue is addressed to your child who no longer maintains a permanent address at your home, please notify the Development Office at 212.787.7070 ext. 1118 or with the correct mailing address. Thank you.

At Stephen Gaynor School, Students… Grow. Learn. Reach Their Full Potential. An investment in the Annual Fund is an investment in unlocking each student’s potential. Please make your Annual Fund gift today at

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