Gaynor Gazette, Summer 2017

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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



Kass Lazerow







Oscar Gil Vollmer










Dr. Gordon Gaynor






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

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

Editor: Deanna Ferrante Assistant Editor: Kathryn Greene Design: Di Vision Creative Group, New York Photography: Deanna Ferrante, Adam Gaynor, and Kathryn Greene 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

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About the Cover: As part of a study on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. titled “From Skin Color to Civil Rights,” students in the Early Childhood Program created self-portraits. Read more about the lesson on page 8.


I came to school one morning to find this note on my door. On first glance, I thought it was a simple “to do” list, but after further review, I see that these three tasks are essential elements to success in school. Clearly, the first two (waking up and coming to school) are necessary for the third (having a good day) to occur. I can even make the argument that having a good day at school makes the first two on the list possible. Gaynor’s goal to unlock each child’s potential supports this positive cycle.

Within Gaynor’s academic curriculum children face numerous

allowing students an opportunity to perform on stage. Since

challenges as they work to strengthen their foundational skills

the fall, students memorized lines, practiced songs and

in reading, writing, math, social studies, and science. Behind

learned dance moves in preparation for the fun and uplifting

the instructional methodologies of programs like Orton-

musical Seussical Jr. I was inspired by the message of

Gillingham, Singapore Math and Basic Writing is ensuring

friendship, loyalty and realizing one’s potential — a perfect

that we provide content that is challenging yet accessible by

fit for this year’s community values initiative of, “Be together

each student. You can read more about this in the article

not the same.” Our students put on a magical performance

about Universal Design for Learning on page 14. Providing

that brought our entire school community together.

the correct support and structure during the school day enables students to be successful and independent at home.

Having a great day at Gaynor is not left to chance or a simple

When students receive the positive feedback of completing

checklist. We believe that it is at the core of what we do to

an assignment independently they internalize the success

support each child. It makes waking up and coming to school

and build their self-confidence and enjoyment of learning.

a joy instead of a task.

Having a good day at school also entails opportunities to experience co-curricular programming in the arts and athletics. We feel having a strong co-curricular program builds confidence, engagement, and passion for learning. Our spring musical (see page 16) highlights the value of

DR. SCOTT GAYNOR Head of School

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Henrietta Jones-Pellegrini Bids Farewell to Role As President After serving as president of Gaynor’s Board of Trustees for six years, Henrietta JonesPellegrini has completed her term but left a lasting legacy. Under her leadership, the board and the school have grown and flourished. Jones-Pellegrini assumed the role in the fall of 2011, succeeding Gordon Gaynor who had previously served as president of the Board of Trustees from 1986 to 2011. When Jones-Pellegrini became president, the Claremont Stables and Carriage House had been purchased the prior year. At the time, the school had 180 students occupying the North Building, and in a very short period of time, the school expanded to a student body of 385, opened the field house, created an Early Childhood program, and built a brand-new Middle School space including science labs and a SMART Lab. With this rapid expansion also came the need to organize the board to best support this new reality. This is where JonesPellegrini’s prior work experience as a fashion industry executive and her strong leadership served the school so well. The last piece of the South Building puzzle is one of the school’s most exciting projects, with construction beginning this summer on a nearly 300-seat performing arts center. “The performing arts center is her closure, her swan song,” said Yvette Siegel-Herzog, Gaynor’s co-founder and a champion of the arts at Gaynor. While the theater may have been part of Siegel-Herzog’s vision, it was Jones-Pellegrini who brought it to fruition. Construction is scheduled to take place over the next two summers, with the center slated to open in fall 2018. Jones-Pellegrini’s legacy to the board and Gaynor is represented not only with physical projects but also in more intangible ways. Among those who served alongside her on the board — including fellow Trustees Carol


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Feinberg and Scott Mager, and Head of School Dr. Scott Gaynor and Gaynor CoFounder Yvette Siegel-Herzog — one of her most consistently recognized accomplishments is how she re-structured the board. Jones-Pellegrini was integral in its reorganization, and enhancing and expanding the committee structure, which allowed it to function more efficiently and ensure that the board was fulfilling Gaynor’s mission. “Henrietta took the board to an institutional level of professionalism,” said Mager, who was selected by Jones-Pellegrini to serve as her vice president for six years. “Significant of Henrietta’s tenure was not an obvious show of power, but rather the way she distributed her vision among all of us and put the structure in place for growth,” said Yvette Siegel-Herzog. Jones-Pellegrini “set goals for not only the board, but also the head of school, and Gaynor as a whole.”

“ Behind Henrietta’s many tangible accomplishments is a deep love, admiration, and respect for what the teachers accomplish every day.” — Dr. Scott Gaynor

Her sensitivity toward teachers and the work they do every day at Gaynor was undoubtedly instilled and strengthened via her daughter, Zoe, who attended Gaynor for seven years and graduated in 2011. It was important to JonesPellegrini to reward teachers who stayed at Gaynor with proper compensation and to retain top talent. During her tenure, the assistant head of school was established, and an endowment created to support professional development. Carol Feinberg was instrumental in the school’s purchase of the former Claremont Stables and has remained committed to seeing this project through completion. Feinberg said, “Henrietta was an amazing board president. We are very proud of the work that the Stephen Gaynor School board has accomplished since the acquisition of the South Building and what this additional space has allowed us to achieve programmatically.” Jones-Pellegrini might be stepping down from the role of president, but she’s not going very far. She will stay on at Gaynor, serving as a member of the board of trustees. “We have profound gratitude for her leadership and partnership in setting a bright future for the school,” said Dr. Gaynor. Yvette SiegelHerzog concurred, saying, “We will personally miss her in that role.” Gaynor extends a deep thank you and great appreciation for her vision and service over the last six years.


Get to Know Gaynor’s New Board of Trustees Co-Presidents In June 2017, Gaynor’s Board of Trustees voted Grant Duers and Ericka Leslie Horan as co-presidents of the board following the sixyear tenure of President Henrietta JonesPellegrini. They will be the first board copresidents in the school’s history. Grant Duers joined the board in the fall of 2016, after devoting many hours of service to Gaynor in a variety of roles. 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, and he has also served as a classroom parent and an Annual Fund Ambassador. Duers has been instrumental in leading the strategic planning process, which will result in a report to be published this fall. Duers 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, Duers spent nine years at RR Donnelley & Sons in various sales, marketing, and product development capacities. Duers holds an MBA from the University of South Carolina and an MPA from Columbia University. He and Jane are the parents of Gaynor students Anna and PJ. Ericka Leslie Horan has been a member of the board since 2015 and serves on the board’s Finance and Investment Committees. During her tenure on the board, Leslie Horan has been instrumental in helping the school financially plan for the future of Gaynor. Her prudent

advice and collaboration with members of these committees has allowed Gaynor to purposefully look toward the future while always remaining focused on the school’s mission. Leslie Horan serves as Global Head of Regulatory Operations, Derivatives and Clearing Operations at Goldman Sachs. Leslie Horan joined Goldman Sachs in 1996, during which time she has held several roles in Finance, Risk Management and Operations. She is responsible for implementing operational strategy and maintaining regulatory compliance across Goldman’s securities businesses for all asset classes. She is also responsible for implementing operational flows for new products and markets. Leslie Horan was named Managing Director in 2006 and Partner in 2012. Prior to her current role, Leslie Horan was the lead architect of the risk management framework deployed in Goldman’s Operations Division. Before joining Operations, she had responsibility for the technology supporting Goldman’s FX trading, sales, and e-dealing activities. Leslie Horan received her undergraduate degree in Accounting from the State University of New York at Albany in 1993 and is also a New York State Certified Public Accountant. Leslie Horan has a son, William, who attends Gaynor, and a daughter, Emily. Duers and Leslie Horan will share leadership of the board’s Executive Committee. Duers will have primary responsibility for governance and facilities. Leslie Horan will take the lead in the areas of development and fundraising, finance, investment, and audit.

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hat is Early Intervention and why is it so important? Nationally, Early Intervention (EI) is a system of services that helps children birth to age three who are at risk for developmental delay. EI support services can include special educators, speechlanguage pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and counselors, and targets areas of deficit, to remediate or support proper development of skills. Research has found that children who participate in EI services demonstrate improvement in cognition, language, communication, physical and socialemotional development. Once children are older than three, the idea of early intervention takes on a different meaning, and that is the focus of the Early Childhood division of Stephen Gaynor School.

speed for each child and where each child is developmentally.

The Early Childhood (EC) division has been a unique and innovative model of educational early intervention for students aged three and a half to six since it was first opened in 2012. EC classroom teams include teachers, a speech-language pathologist and occupational therapist; therapists are dedicated to each classroom for fifty percent of each school day. The EC combines traditional early childhood experiences with the most effective learning strategies, helping students make great strides in their education, social, physical, and emotional development and puts them on the path to sustained academic success. Highquality early intervention services have the potential to change a child’s developmental trajectory and improve educational outcomes for our students.

During early childhood, educators, therapists and physicians use developmental checklists to track growth and learning. There are developmental milestones each child should meet as they grow. “Milestones are milestones for important reasons,” says Jurow. “If a child doesn’t hit them, there may be ramifications later in development. Maybe you won’t see it right away, but you’ll likely see it down the road.” For example, if a child is struggling with bilateral skills (both hands working together) and upper body strength, educators and therapists wonder if the young child crawled before walking, because crawling helps develop bilateral integration and strengthens hands, arms, and shoulder girdles. EC teachers and therapists are watching bilateral coordination, crossing of midline and posture as indicators of a child’s ability to sit for the duration of activities, develop functional handwriting and use two hands simultaneously to write and stabilize the paper, among many other skills. Milestones are important building blocks; they are foundational for later development of skills.

“The first years, developmentally, are years of tremendous growth,” says Rebecca Jurow, Director of Early Childhood at Gaynor. “From birth to age eight, the brain is programmed to learn so much. It is a critical period in the development of foundational skills, across all areas of development.” In EC, the development of foundational skills is the focus, and the fullteam approach is invaluable to the detection of challenges and teaching, or unlearning and re-teaching, of skills. Development unfolds unevenly in each child, and among children. In EC, teachers and therapists are watching to make sure that development and learning are progressing at a steady rate, regardless of

It often seems there are particular milestones that are more important or significant than others — major achievements like walking and talking as infants, or reading a little later in early childhood. But these skills and other milestones often emerge because of the development of foundational skills on which they are built. Teachers and therapists in EC are monitoring, teaching, and supporting development and learning across all areas of development. For example, classroom and reading teachers watch for and work on a child’s understanding of the alphabetic principle — that is, the systematic and predictable relationships between written letters and spoken sounds. Letters and letter

patterns represent the sounds of spoken language. Explicit, isolated instruction on the letter-sound relationship is early intervention for students who are at risk for reading difficulties. Teachers are watching and working on developing phonemic awareness — that is, awareness that spoken words are made up of individual sounds (phonemes), to notice and work with the sounds in words. This may come easily to some, but may be more difficult for others. Not surprisingly, teachers and therapists in the EC are watching a variety of skills to monitor language development. Pragmatic language or social language use (what we say, how we say it, and sharing opinions and ideas appropriately for the situation) in play and conversations, give teachers and therapists opportunities to hear and see how effective and functional skills are for students and the people with whom they are engaged, and help determine what interventions are needed. There are a number of skills in the areas of working memory, cognitive self-control and attention that support learning and are monitored and taught in the EC classrooms. Teachers and therapists work to support the development of conscious problem solving, execution of multi-step plans, ability to successfully and meaningfully shift attention, and inhibition of responses, among many other executive functions in early childhood because these skills are important for future success as learners. “Our goal is to create a community where students feel comfortable and safe to learn and grow. Through our EC program, we can clearly see the myriad benefits of an early start at Gaynor,” said Jurow.

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No Fear: Middle School Students Take On Shakespeare And The Odyssey Barbara Kider, Learning Specialist at Gaynor, recently made a list of the most common books read as part of curricula in New York City schools. She discovered that nearly every school in New York City (public or private) taught Shakespeare, except for Gaynor – until this year, that is. According to Kider, for the first time in Gaynor’s history, students in the Middle School read a work by Shakespeare, as well as Homer’s Odyssey.

Instead of finding a book to fit students based on their level, the goal was to take higher levels of text and differentiate them in order to make them accessible to every student, allowing the students to be able to read and understand the literature regardless of their decoding skills.

Green Cluster students read The Odyssey, and Blue Cluster students read Midsummer Night’s Dream. Blue Cluster students used No Fear Shakespeare, a book that includes the original Shakespeare text side-by-side with a facingpage translation into modern English. In addition to No Fear Shakespeare, every class was given a character chart that illustrated all of the interrelationships in the text and used Learning Ally, an audiobook app that allows students to listen to a book while reading it to increase comprehension. Learning in each class across the cluster was tailored to students’ needs using a combination of the No Fear Shakespeare book, Learning Ally, and the character chart. Some teachers did summaries before the reading while others did not. Some classes read both Shakespeare’s original work and the modern English translation while others only read one side. “The curriculum worked like a charm,” said Ms. Kider. “It was magical. Some students have even asked to watch the movie at home. There is a sense of pride in being able to say, ‘I read Shakespeare.’ We want to prepare our students with the skills and common experiences they will need after they transition from Gaynor. Seeing what was previously thought of as inaccessible literature, being made accessible to our students was incredible. Teachers did a spectacular job of differentiating for our students. It was amazing to not only watch the different approaches teachers took but how much the students liked learning it and reading it.” By reading Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Odyssey, differentiated to fit each student’s specific needs, it was just another reminder of this year’s community values theme, “Be together, not the same.” Even though students were on different levels, they were able to read and enjoy the same literary classics.


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Learning to be Global Citizens in the Lower School After studying human migration, Jensen Paterson’s Yellow Cluster students began an investigation into what it means to be a global citizen. In Room 403, students defined a global citizen as “someone who cares about our planet and the people on it, and who does everything he or she can to make it a better place for everyone.” Then, three of the most pressing concerns worldwide were identified — healthcare, clean water, and education. The students set out to learn more about how to help and educate others about these important issues. On World Health Day on April 7 — a fitting day to discuss Global Citizenship — students presented their findings. Each project identified a problem and key facts to support it, before suggesting at least three organizations that work to combat this problem and how others can volunteer their time or money to get involved and make a change. “The scholarship and skillful level of presentation embodied in this project were quite impressive,” said Donna Logue, CoDirector of the Lower School. “The suggested action steps were particularly well-researched and the students’ passionate presentations inspired me to personally donate money to several of the recommended organizations.” The inspiring presentations were also well received by fellow Gators. After the clean water group presented, fellow Yellow Cluster classmate Jonah Lichtman had a comment to share about the organizations they offered as a solution, “That is so nice because they’re helping a lot of people who don’t have water in this crisis.”


These organizations were presented by Yellow Cluster students as those working toward a solution and making effective change for each of the global problems identified.

HEALTHCARE UNICEF – Focuses on equality for all childre n and works hard to provide good healthcare for all. World Health Organization – Works in 150 countries and strives to cure sicknesses to make people healthier. Doctors Without Borders – DWB helps peopl e around the world who are in need of healthcare.


Water for South Sudan – Has made 282 wells and raised over a million dollars to bring clean water to people. www.waterforsou Three Avocados – Makes and sells coffee in order to raise money to bring clean water to people around the world. www.threeavocad Water is Life – An organization that works to bring clean water to people around the world. Charity Water – Raises money to give to countries that don’t have clean water for tools like wells and biosand filters. www.charit

EDUCATION Pack for a Purpose – A website about donati ng supplies to 500 different education programs around the world as you travel and explor e new places. Books for Africa – Has donated millions of books and dollars, plus hundreds of computers, to the children of Africa. www.bookf International Rescue Committee – Respo nds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people all around the world whose lives have been shattered by disasters or conflicts. In 2016, they helped bring 1.5 million children better schooling opportunities. Kids in Need Foundation – In 2016, KINF distributed school supplies to 5.4 million kids and in its 20 years as a foundation, has given over $800 million worth of supplies.

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I HAVE A DREAM: EC STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT AND MARCH FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE Kathryn Homlish, a Purple Cluster teacher said, “We knew that our goal was for the students to not only understand who Martin Luther King Jr. was, but also understand what he did and why it was so important. From there, we worked backward to decide what important concepts and vocabulary they would need to know to understand his legacy. That determined what we would need to teach.”

Students in the Early Childhood program, which serves children ages three and a half to six, do everything from drawing pictures to listening quietly during story time. But what about learning about complex subjects like social justice, racism, segregation and the life and significance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? This spring, students in the Purple Cluster learned about those topics through a series of unique, multi-sensory lessons.

The foundation of the lesson began with students learning and defining what comprises “inside” and “outside” characteristics. Inside characteristics were defined as actions, choices, feelings, and treatment of others. Outside characteristics were defined as hair, skin, eyes, and height. Over the course of January, students were taught multi-sensory lessons that included drawing, reading, singing, reflecting, writing, speaking, and listening that were incorporated into the main themes. Students read books like The Skin You Live In, and The Colors of Us; listened to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and learned a song called “Freedom, Freedom, Let it Ring,” which was sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. The lesson culminated with Purple Cluster students making signs with some of Dr. King’s “big words” that they had learned. They then got special permission and marched peacefully around campus. “Watching our school’s youngest parade with signs through the hallway on a peaceful march while singing about Dr. King filled me with such pride and joy,” said Gavi Young, a Purple Cluster teacher. “My hope is that these students will continue to use their ‘big words’ to help work toward making the world a more fair place throughout their education and lives. Our school knows well that kinesthetic movements greatly improve memory, and these students used their bodies to understand why Martin Luther King Jr. was so important and how they can work to keep his memory alive.”


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April On a cool, misty April morning, students ventured out armed with Canon cameras to fulfill their photography assignment. They were to capture April’s moody atmosphere on Columbus Avenue and Broadway. The images are part of a photography exhibition from Jensen Paterson, Randi Sander, and Lindsay Friedman’s classes.




After School Junior Photography Students were able to explore and photograph various types of fish and critters at Petco. They then edited their images on the computer using Photoshop to adjust the tones.



JACOB DEUTSCH Gaynor Gazette I SUMMER 2017



Finding Common Ground Through

Lining the walls and stacked on the shelves of room 402 in the North Building are student art projects. At surface level they are expressive, but many of them have deeper meanings beyond what immediately meets the eyes. Across clusters in the Lower School, students in Andrea Hochman’s art classes have been connecting their art with what they have learned in other classes and even exploring conflict. “In a creative and constructive manner, the Silver Cluster students had the chance to discuss some of the more difficult topics facing our world,” said Ms. Hochman. “Focusing on conflicts, we put ourselves in the shoes of those on each side, exploring and understanding both arguments.


Then, we made two original art pieces voicing both opinions. Displaying these pieces in a three-dimensional style allowed us to physically see both sides of our conflict as well as the problem in its totality.” Students created two original pieces of art each illustrating a different side of an argument for topics like zoos and deforestation. Each artwork was cut into strips and then placed in an alternating 3D pattern. When viewed from one perspective, one picture and side of the conflict is visible, and when the viewed from a different position, the other perspective is visible. Students in other clusters also created art that dealt with other serious topics such as New York’s shared resources.

Yellow Cluster students participated in the NYC Water Resources Art and Poetry Contest, creating original works of art that helped spread awareness about the NYC water system, and the importance of both recycling and water conservation. Students used a variety of recycled materials to depict these important messages. “I like getting my hands messy in art,” said Samantha Norman. “This project was really fun and I learned that we have one of the best water sources in the world.” Josh Racz also chimed in, “I like helping people who don’t have enough water and it was a great experience creating signs that helped spread our message. More people need help getting clean water!”

I M A G I N AT I O N AT W O R K Red Cluster students used their imaginations to write creative stories about everything from a Cyclops to a day in the life at Gaynor and created their own hardcover books. They even drew illustrations to go along with them. “I liked building the book ourselves and coming up with our own ideas for the story and drawing our own pictures. We also painted our own background for the cover,” said Elena Cho.


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Pink Cluster students incorporated what they had been learning in science class into their art, creating Eric Carle-style textured paper collages of birds they studied with accurate features like their habitats. “From owls to orioles, the students brought the birds to life in these vibrant mixed-media paintings,” said Ms. Hochman.


GATORS SPRING INTO SPORTS AND THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME Boys Basketball The Boys Green Squad coaches had mixed expectations going into the season, as the team had lost the championship game last year and graduated many players. Led by David Mager in his fourth year, the team was full of younger players still learning the game and it became clear there was a lot of work to do. The team worked hard through adversity to make it all the way to the American International Private School League (AIPSL) championship game, ultimately clinching the title for the first time in Gaynor’s history. While the team had multiple winning streaks throughout the season, it was fitting that the championship game was intense, with the Gators emerging victorious in overtime.

The Boys White Squad was an energetic group that quickly developed a reputation for strong team defense. “One of the greatest joys in coaching comes from watching a group of individuals with many differences come together to achieve a common goal, and this year was one of the most enjoyable in my time at Gaynor,” said Coach James Melillo. “Winning is always great, but it was how the players handled losing and overcame adversity that will really stick with me. The team grew closer throughout the season and really enjoyed spending time together. While the season had to end, hopefully the lessons learned and friendships created will last much, much longer.”

Girls Basketball Since the inception of the girls basketball program in 2012, the Girls Green Squad has improved tremendously with back-to-back appearances in the league playoffs. With only a few returning players, they worked hard during practice to develop individual skills and team skills. The girls team finished second place overall and lost a very close game in the semifinals to the Mandell School. “Each player improved by leaps and bounds from the start of the season,” said Coach Danny Yellin. “It was amazing to watch the girls grow individually as basketball players and jell as a team with each passing game.” “The Girls White Squad this season persevered through close

Gaynor Softball

Gaynor Track

The Gaynor softball team continued its tradition of success, finishing second overall for the fourth consecutive year. The team lost a hard-fought battle to Abraham Joshua Heschel School in the AIPSL Finals 7-2. Although they came up short of the championship, they finished with a final record of 9-2, the best in Gaynor history.

Whether it was running the hills in Riverside Park or completing the 1.6 mile endurance runs around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park, hard work paid off for the students. The track team competed in two meets, the Child School Invitational and the AIPSL League meets. During the championship, the team earned various medals, including one silver in the boys 4x200 meter, one silver in the boys 200m, and one silver in the girls 400m.

games, difficult losses, and tough calls,” said Coach Lena Litvak. “Made up of a range of levels and experience, the girls came together to support one another, continuing their growth as team players. It is due to their perseverance and energy that the girls finished the season with many exciting wins.”

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READING WITH TOMMY THE DOG This year, students working with Reading Specialist Lauren Bookin participated in the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) children’s literacy support program. This program is dedicated to improving the reading skills of children using registered therapy dog teams as literacy mentors. The Gaynor students were chosen to pilot this unique program within the school. Gaynor students read with Tommy, a therapy dog from New York Therapy Animals. Tommy and his handler underwent reading education training in addition to extensive classes and workshop training to do animal-assisted therapy. Reading with animals is a unique experience, and for students with learning differences, it is an opportunity to read aloud with a partner who is patient, listens attentively, and does not notice any hesitations or stumbles. According

to Ms. Bookin, “The excitement of reading to Tommy allows them to relax, while still feeling confident enough to take risks when reading.” Bookin continued, “As a reading specialist, it has been a joy to facilitate this special experience and watch how it positively impacts my students’ reading and fluency. They absolutely love reading with Tommy and prepare by diligently practicing reading stories in anticipation of his visit. It has been so helpful to build their fluency through repeated readings.” The students also expressed their appreciation for reading with Tommy. Hudson Ripley said, “It’s calming,” and Lexi Klein added, “It is fun!” Peyton Vega and Zachary Canavan agreed, saying, “Reading with Tommy is special — it is fun to read with animals,” and, “It is awesome to read with Tommy!”

Project Cicero Book Drive In the spring, students collected approximately 1,200 books – or 26 boxes worth – for the Project Cicero Book Drive. Project Cicero is a not-for-profit partnership of more than 100 New York City independent, parochial, and public schools. It is named in honor of the Roman writer, statesman, orator, and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero, who created extensive libraries in the first century, B.C. He shared his love of literature and learning, just as Project Cicero seeks to do. The books that were collected were then distributed to underserved pre-school through high school students in New York City public schools across the metropolitan area. To date, Project Cicero has placed more than 3 million new and gently used books in classrooms.


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Gaynor’s 2017 Reading Challenge had the theme, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” based on the book by Dr. Seuss. In the North Building lobby, a hand-painted map was displayed that represented all of the places students’ imaginations can take them with a good book, such as “fiction island” or “mystery mountain.” In honor of the Reading Challenge, several faculty members shared where their favorite books have taken them.

ian, y, Gaynor’s librar Dionne De Lanc Time e orite books is Th said one of her fav velers Tra e Tim I read the Travelers. “When th 18 to e tim in vel back series, I get to tra such ve ha rs cte ara ch The century London. for and the only way a great adventure is ry ntu ce to the 21st them to get back ich wh , ine ch ma time to get back into the ntury ce th 18 in ing cit ex was stolen. It’s so m to ost don’t want the London that I alm soon.” get back home too

Gaynor’s Head Coach, James Mel illo, likes to read a book that doesn’t take him to a faraway place but instead keep s him close to home: On the Field with Derek Jeter by Matt Christopher. Melillo said, “I remember going to Yankee Stadium and seeing my favorite player, Derek Jeter , play. It reminds me that if you work hard and you’re dedicated that your drea ms are possible.”

Co-authors Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver Visit Gaynor The Yellow and Orange Clusters had a very special visit from actor Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver, co-authors of the Hank Zipzer series of children’s books. The original series follows the everyday adventures of a bright boy with learning challenges, and the “Here’s Hank” books introduce Hank as a second grader. Mr. Winkler read from the just-published ninth book in the series, Always Watch Out for the Flying Potato Salad! Each student received a signed copy of the book. Mr. Winkler is probably best known for his acting role as The Fonz in the television series “Happy Days.” He has dyslexia, just like the main character of his books. Lin Oliver is a writer and producer of movies, books, and television series for children and families. The students listened attentively during the authors’ talk and asked very insightful questions during the Q&A period. Mr. Winkler told the students, “Everyone in this room has greatness inside them. Your job is to figure out what that greatness is. Work really hard at what you’re great at, and then give that gift to the world.” This inspiring event was made possible through the efforts of the Parents’ Association. Gaynor Gazette I SUMMER 2017



Universal Design for Learning and What it Means at Gaynor When it comes to students’ needs, Gaynor has made it a mission to recognize the uniqueness of each student and that every child learns in a different way. Executing an individualized curriculum with multi-sensory techniques customized for each student is in large part made possible by the concept of universal design for learning, or UDL. The goal of UDL is to remove barriers in an academic curriculum while deliberately building learning expertise and engaging all learners. As such, it is an excellent tool to assist children with learning differences because it caters to different levels, allowing access to the same content across the board. First articulated by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) in the 1990s, UDL is an approach to teaching, learning, curriculum development,

and assessment that uses new technologies to respond to a variety of individual learner differences. “Gaynor is building a tool chest for students to have better access to and more comprehension of content,” said Matt LeWinter, Director of Technology for Gaynor. Gaynor has been informed by UDL principles for years but new evidenced-based programs are added when they are determined to be a good fit for students as recommended by CAST. Implemented this past year were Learning Ally and Whizzimo, both of which have multisensory components to assist students in reading. Through these programs, Gaynor is able to support each student individually as well as the curriculum as a whole. “Learning Ally is a great opportunity for students to access literature that is on their interest and intellect level but beyond their decoding abilities,” says Sloan Shapiro, Gaynor’s Reading Department Chair. “We are hoping it will inspire the love of literature that makes someone a lifelong reader for pleasure.” Whizzimo is used in rapid exchange during Orton-Gillingham lessons. Whizzimo rapidly changes letter tiles to make nonsense words using the different phonetic elements, syllable types or syllable division patterns.

Courtesy of CAST / Sam Johnston


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“It helps train students’ eyes and brains to quickly scan the patterns and then apply the structure and rules of the language they are learning to their reading,” says Shapiro. “We do this with nonsense words so that we know they are not recognizing words by sight, but using their skills to decode the words. I think we are only barely tapping its potential.” To read about UDL in action, turn to page 6 to read about how Learning Ally was integrated into the Middle School curriculum this year.


What Is Executive Function and Why Is It Important? By the Occupational Therapy Department Beth Davidoff, Jennifer Eisenberg, Simona Fertel, Anna Friedman, Rebecca Lipton, Ariela Weisenberg

Tommy, age 6, enters the classroom in the morning and stops in the middle of the room. He looks around at the other students carrying out the steps of the morning routine, but doesn’t seem to know what to do first. After several months of the same routine, it is still not automatic for him.

Academic literature reflects varying definitions of the skills involved in executive functioning. Amanda Morin, a parent advocate, former teacher, and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education, outlines eight key executive functions that can affect a child’s day-to-day life:

Ms. Dunn, a teacher of 9 year-old students, gives a three-step direction for a homework assignment. “Take out your homework folder, write down the assignment, and put the folder in your cubby.” Todd takes out his homework folder, but cannot execute the other two steps.

1. I mpulse Control– helps your child think before acting.

Carrie, age 8, enters the cafeteria for lunch. Precariously holding her coat, her favorite Lego model and her lunchbox, she approaches the line at the microwave to heat up her food. While trying to open her lunchbox, everything falls to the floor including her prized Lego model, which breaks apart.

2. Emotional Control– helps your child keep his/her feelings in check. 3. F lexible Thinking– allows your child to adjust to the unexpected. 4. Working Memory– helps your child keep relevant and key information in mind. 5. Self-Monitoring– allows your child to evaluate how he/she is doing.

As the class lines up to go to the yard for recess, it starts pouring outside. Although understandably disappointed, most of the students can be redirected to playing indoor games. Joe is not comforted by that option and proceeds to cry. Despite the teacher’s efforts to have him participate with his friends, he refuses to join the play, and chooses to sit by himself for the remainder of recess.

6. Planning and Prioritizing– helps your child decide on a goal and formulate a plan to meet it.


As occupational therapists, our primary role with students is to promote function and independence as they engage in activities throughout the school day.

he scenarios mentioned highlight some of the difficulties children face when there is a problem with one or more aspects of executive functioning. Simply put, executive functions help you effectively manage all the life tasks that you need to accomplish and allow you to plan, organize, and execute these tasks. Executive function isn’t just for kids; it is as relevant to a young child as it is to an adult.

7. Task Initiation– helps your child take action and get started on a task. 8. Organization– allows your child to keep track of things, both physically and mentally.

In collaboration with teacher feedback and our own classroom observations, we help teachers incorporate self-regulation strategies, which are essential for effective executive functioning.

To facilitate focusing and staying on task, we often incorporate breathing exercises, movement breaks, and provide physical tools such as seat cushions, fidgets, and weighted animals. A large focus of our work with students is to help them break down tasks into as many manageable steps as they need. Previews, schedules, checklists and visual charts and timers are often used to help achieve success. For example, during individual sessions, we often set visual timers to help students keep track of the time, as well as to make them aware of what activity choices are possible within a certain time frame. Structured play, whether on the OT gym equipment or using board games, reinforces rules, turn-taking and social interaction, while modeling good sportsmanship, both for those who win and for those who do not. Supporting a student’s organizational skills in the classroom includes maintaining folders/ binders, cubbies/lockers, backpacks and desks, and incorporates several of the executive functions. Planning obstacle courses, with few or many steps, can either be planned totally by the therapist and executed by the student, planned and executed independently by the student, or a combination of both. Gaining skill in executive functioning will not only help students have more successful classroom experiences, it will impact life beyond the school’s walls. Parents can take inspiration from the way we work with students in occupational therapy and devise their own strategies to help their students at home.

Gaynor Gazette I SUMMER 2017



Oh, The Thinks You Can Think! Middle School Students Star in Seussical, Jr.

The spring musical is one of Gaynor’s most anticipated events leading up to graduation, and this year’s production did not disappoint. Middle School thespians starred in Seussical, Jr., a story of classic Dr. Seuss characters including Horton the Elephant, The Cat in the Hat, Thing 1, Thing 2, and the Grinch. The Cat in the Hat narrates the story of Horton the Elephant, who discovered a speck of dust containing tiny people called the Whos. Horton is tasked with protecting the Whos and must also guard an abandoned egg that was left in his care by Mayzie La Bird. The show debuted to a full house on May 11, followed by an all-school afternoon performance on May 12 and a final performance later in the evening. The play was co-directed by Meredith Akins, Abby Shuppy, and Brendan Stackhouse along with stage manager Andrea Patti. “We are so proud of the cast and crew of Seussical,” said Ms. Patti. “We were lucky to have the opportunity to join these students on a memorable journey that brought this production to life. The hard work, dedication, and passion that went into this show were truly remarkable. Congratulations to all of the students involved in this process.”


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CAST LIST Cat in the Hat Horton JoJo Gertrude McFuzz Mayzie LaBird Sour Kangaroo Bird Girl

Ava Kimmel, Avery Meer Zach Eisenman Morgan Reichberg Ophelie Zolidis Elena Giddins Aly Ferdinand Frances Jarvela, Navah Goldblum, Stella Hirsch

Wickersham Mr. Mayor

Darmia Elliot, Aaron Kuper, Jake Sklar Tyler Tang

Mrs. Mayor Small Kangaroo

Izzy Pines

Thing 1 Thing 2

Ronan Sennott Zach Singer

Marshal Vlad Vladikoff

Aidan Schwartz

Yertle the Turtle Doctor Dake Talk Show Host

Eliza Bromberger

Sofia Nossel Madeline Clark William Caro Madeline Clark

Louis Armstrong

Jake Sklar


Madeline Clark

The Grinch Circus Barker

Hayden Gere Lilyblue Prince-Ramus Izzy Pines


Citizens of Whoville Eliza Bromberger, Grace

deMenocal, Maaya deMenocal, Hayden Gere, Emma Omura, Lilyblue PrinceRamus, Morgan Reichberg, Aidan Schwartz, Charlotte Shapiro, Zach Singer, Tyler Tang, Emily Zaretsky Jungle Citizens Madeline Clark, Zach Eisenman, Sophia Farrell, Aly Ferdinand, Elena Giddins, Navah Goldbl um, Stella Hirsch, Frances Jarvela, Aaron Kuper, Lauren Magnus, Sofia Nossel, Izzy Pines, Jake

Emelia Trerotola-Mahon, Ophelie Zolidis


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“Hands-on experience is the best way to learn about all the interdisciplinary aspects of robotics.” Rodney Brooks, Robotics Entrepreneur Robotics and Coding was a popular course offered this spring in Gaynor’s After School Program. During the school year, the After School Program provides a broad variety of activities, from sports and scientific exploration to community service and cooking. This year, over 300 students were enrolled in the 40 After School classes offered. Gaynor’s program enables students to learn, have fun, and most importantly build self-esteem, self-control, and responsibility. In Robotics and Coding, led by teachers Brian Russ and Andrew Presarn, students experienced modern technologies through multi-sensory exploration. Building robots strengthened their hands-on construction skills, while coding robots to accomplish tasks required logical thinking and beginner computer programming skills. According to instructor Anastasia Kalona, “In Robotics and Coding, our student engineers explored problem-solving and critical thinking skills throughout the design and process of building their robots. The robots came in a kit that needed to be fully assembled from scratch. Our student engineers worked in teams as they collaborated to assemble them.” Despite following the instruction manual, the teams did encounter challenges with their 18

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robots. Some of them had robots that were not able to maneuver through a testing course. Some had robots that did not move as planned. In many instances, student engineers needed to go back to the drawing board to reassess and evaluate what went wrong, pinpoint the problem and make adjustments to their bots. The course ended with a fun competition in which each team’s robot had set goals to accomplish more quickly and accurately than the competition.


Implementing The Design Cycle at Gaynor By Matt LeWinter, Director of Technology If you attended Relatives and Special Friends Day this spring, you had a chance to hear Dr. Gaynor speak about the concept of the design cycle, and how Gaynor faculty use it to encourage resilience and flexibility. Gaynor faculty focus on problem solving in order to promote students’ reading, writing, and research skills. While this has long been utilized as a method in the sciences, over the last few years Gaynor has adopted this approach across all subjects. The teachers have done so by incorporating the design cycle into projects that correspond with their current lessons. To understand how this works, first you need a little background on the design cycle. One definition of design is “a roadmap or a strategic approach for someone to achieve a unique expectation.” The design cycle is a methodological representation of this that takes you on a journey. First, you begin by identifying a problem through a process that can either end in a desired result or potentially bring you back to the drawing board to rethink your approach. This process was made prevalent at universities like MIT, and is represented in the graphic to the right. The faculty have modified the cycle to fit the needs of Gaynor students, but the intentions and mindset are just as effective. The students go through four main steps:

INVESTIGATE DESIGN CREATE EVALUATE When students are in the evaluation process, they decide if they have reached the result they desired. If not, they take their results, return to one of the previous steps, and perhaps start over again. One important lesson to impart is that it is okay to fail or not get that desired result, and that students should use what they learned to make improvements and go through the process again. As counterintuitive as it may

The Design Cycle in Action Silver Cluster students worked together in their math classes to design a board game, moving through all four steps in the design cycle. First, they decided on a theme: The Mystery of Roanoke. For the academic component of the game, fractions were used: simplifying fractions, equivalent fractions, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.

Explain design cycle How the design cycle applies to our project

seem, it is this exposure to failure that makes our students more resilient. Many Gaynor teachers across subject areas have implemented Project Based Learning (PBL) as a way to bring their lessons — using the design cycle ­— to life. It is in these projects that some great examples of the adaptation of the design cycle at Gaynor have emerged. One good example is a project completed in Suzy Geller’s Orange Cluster class when the students were studying the Lenape Tribe. Ms. Geller planned a hands-on project that engaged the students in research, writing, and creativity to display what they learned in the lesson. The project revolved around the tools the Lenape used in their society. The students researched the tools the Lenape used, part of which included a trip to the Museum of Natural History to view some examples. Once the trip was complete, each student was assigned a tool. They were each asked to identify a problem the tribe had, how they solved the problem using their assigned tool, to create the tool, and finally to evaluate any challenges and reflect on what they could do differently next time. They then held a small fair in the classroom for their peers to review the results. Through this process the children were engaged and excited to share their experiences with their fellow students. The ultimate goal in using the design cycle across the curriculum is to have the students ask important problemsolving questions and work through a process that teaches them about the problem and how it can potentially be solved. In the coming school years, the design cycle concept will be further integrated across academic and co-curricular subjects at Gaynor.

Analysis and play testing of pre-existing games Game idea and concept designed First prototype created Prototype evaluated and changes made

Noah Braun said, “This was a good way to learn because it shows you how you can do math and have fun at the same time!” Maxwell Haller added, “I liked this game project because it is a good way to learn fractions and social studies. If you combine them together it’s awesome!”

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Rube Goldberg Machines Yellow Cluster students built a Rube Goldberg machine, which is a comical, complicated machine that accomplishes a simple task. Continuing the engineering theme that prefaced the unit, the students constructed one large-scale machine per class. From turning lights on and off to adding a marble to their class’ marble jar, each Rube Goldberg machine completed a task that sought to help out Stephen Gaynor School in some way. The students were able to apply their knowledge of simple machines (such as levers and inclined planes) in order to successfully complete their machines. Not only did this unit enable students to assume the role of engineers, it prompted them to problem-solve and work together in order to achieve a goal in a supportive environment.

Blue Cluster Through a series of lessons, students in the Blue Cluster were taught about Malcolm X, including a timeline of his life. After learning about him, they attended a show at the New Victory Theatre called “X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation.” Prior to the show, educators from the New Victory Theater came to Gaynor and did a workshop with students about Malcolm X and previewed the multiple perspectives in the play. “X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation” explores the life and assassination of Malcolm X and was written by Marcus Gardley. The play uses William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as a point of comparison to help deepen the viewers’ understanding of Malcolm X and explore the tumultuous landscape of ideology and activism in the 1960s.



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Pink Cluster Postcards Pink Cluster students in Jamie Rothbart and Marcie Hartman’s classes completed a unit about the post office, which in turn inspired them to create postcards and mail them home. “The students learned that postcards represent a visual shortcut of where we live or where we have visited,” said art teacher Andrea Hochman. “We worked to create unique postcards that the students felt represented Stephen Gaynor School. Each student designed postcards and wrote a personal note on the back. We mailed them out to friends and relatives. The students had a great time making the cards, and I’m sure the recipients loved finding them in their mailboxes!”

Tug of War Silver Cluster students played a cluster-wide game of Tug of War to kick off their study in literacy and the French and Indian War. The tug of war game simulated the battle between the British, French, and Native Americans. Teachers helped students to recreate battle situations, such as blockades and adding in military forces, in order for students to determine what advantages and disadvantages each side had in the French and Indian War. Students then went back with their individual classes to reflect on their experiences in this activity and further discuss the details of the war.


SHOUT OUTS! Over Spring Break, Orange Cluster student Graham Lindsay attended a movie making camp. His movie, “The Race,” was accepted into the TriBeCa Film Festival for young emerging filmmakers. His film debuted at the Battery Park Regal Cinema on April 23 and he even walked the red carpet!


Philip Winter, Blue Cluster student, was awarded a national Gold Medal in the fashion category of the 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for his historically accurate replica of the Stevens Corps of Artillery Drummer uniform. National Medalists represent less than 1% of submissions. This year, students submitted more than 330,000 works of art and writing. About 18,800 submissions received Gold Keys — the top honor at the regional level. Only 2,740 were honored at the national level.


Kaia Miller had a showing of her art work at The Elizabeth Houston Gallery on May 17. Shout out to Meg Rauenhorst and Scarlett Neubauer for devoting numerous play dates to running lemonade stands to raise money for endangered animals and refugees.


Julian Chiweshe made the Mites C team of the North Jersey Avalanche ice hockey team. Congratulations from the Hudson Room teachers (Ms. Saad, Ms. Pappas, Ms. Davidoff, and Ms. Zaretsky)


Diego Moyano, Joey Haller, and Harlan Diamond were selected as winners for this year’s NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s 31st Annual Water Resources Art and Poetry Contest for their collaborative art piece. More than 1,700 watershed and New York City students participated in the contest. Check out the Art Update on page 10 to learn more about the project and prompt.


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Parents’ Association

L E T T E R F R O M T H E PA R E N T S ’ A S S O C I AT I O N P R E S I D E N T, S U S A N W I N E B E N D E R

Dear Stephen Gaynor School Community, It has been a pleasure serving you for the last two years as president of the Parents’ Association. Being a part of the community that Dr. Miriam Michael and Yvette Siegel-Herzog founded 54 years ago has been an honor. Special thanks goes to Dr. Scott Gaynor whose open-door policy and support of the PA has been invaluable. I also want to thank the PA Leadership Team whose hard work and commitment launched new programs that made a difference and will endure for years to come. Examples include the Diversity Committee, the High School Placement Fair, Teacher Appreciation Week and Life Cycles Liaison. Special thanks to: • Adina Haller, Vice President and Gaynor Gala Co-Chair 2016 • Traci Lester, Diversity Chair • Tamara Hoover, Secretary • Conni Langan, Treasurer • Jo Christine Miles, Class Rep Liaison • Laurie Giddins, Middle School Liaison • Judy Minor, Teacher Appreciation Week Chair • Karen Kennedy, Life Cycles Liaison & Spirit Gear Chair • Simma Levine and Tirzah Schwarz, New Families Co-Chairs • Aly Organek, Gaynor Gala Co-Chair 2016 and Spring Carnival Chair 2017 • Jordana Manzano, Officer at Large • Marcy Sakhai and Jennifer Hamilton, Volunteers Chairs I now leave you in the very capable hands of Adina Haller, our new president of the Parents’ Association. Adina was the vice president of the PA for this past school year and has co-chaired two successful Gaynor Galas, in 2015 and in 2016. She has two children at Gaynor, 10-year-old Max, and 9-year-old Joey.


The last two years have been a privilege, and I’m excited that my family and I will continue to be a part of this wonderful community. Susan

“In her two years as PA president, Susan has brought a passion and professionalism to the leadership of the Parents’ Association. She has increased the number and quality of PA sponsored events and has strengthened the Gaynor community. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work with such a thoughtful and dedicated volunteer.” –Dr. Scott Gaynor


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Planting the Seeds of Togetherness

The Gaynor Garden If someone asked you to finish the sentence, “I am unique because…” how would you respond? This semester, Gaynor challenged students to do exactly that. For the past year, Gaynor’s community values theme has been “Be together, not the same” which has been incorporated into events and projects school-wide. To visually manifest this theme, Gaynor built a community display in the North Lobby entitled The Gaynor Garden. Students finished the phrase, ‘I am unique because…’ and wrote their answer on a leaf, stem or another part of the garden. With the help of the art department, everything was assembled into flowers, colored based on cluster. The Gaynor Garden exemplifies Gaynor’s close-knit community, one that respects everyone’s differences. Sue Sortino, Gaynor’s community director, said “My reaction when I saw the Gaynor Garden was to smile, because it touched my heart, as so many things do around Gaynor. Yes, it was a project that represented our theme of the year, but the Gaynor Garden is another example of the Gaynor community pulling together to accomplish a goal. The theme is representative of our values; the Gaynor Garden itself is the end product of groups of different members of our community, pulling together to create something that makes people smile.”

Diversity Initiatives Throughout the year, The Parents’ Association Diversity Committee has continued its work promoting and advocating for increased diversity and sensitivity to differences within the Gaynor school community. This spring, Dr. Derald Wing Sue, professor of counseling psychology at Columbia University and author of several books, gave a presentation titled, “Bullying, Stereotype Threats, and Microaggressions,” which was followed with discussion and conversation with the audience. Other committee activities included Parties in the Park for families of color and friends, and workshops on adoptive families and learning differences in a cultural context in conjunction with Gaynor’s Director of Psychological Services Dr. Clare Cosentino. Traci Lester, Chair of the Diversity Committee, said “I have been chairing the PA Diversity Committee for two years and have enjoyed working with Gaynor parents, faculty, and administrative staff to strengthen the school’s efforts around diversity and inclusion within the Gaynor community. Working with a core group of parent volunteers, the Diversity Committee’s goal has been to share information and offer tools and strategies to support each child’s social and emotional development.”

Gaynor Gazette I SUMMER 2017




Grant Svarre ’11

Tara is the Editor in Chief of, listed in Forbes as one of the top ten early-stage start-ups. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times and Mashable. After Gaynor, Tara went to Dwight and then Clark University and Columbia University. She previously worked at the UN and Amnesty international. She lives in Rhinebeck, NY, and has three children.

Grant is a sophomore at Landmark College in Vermont where he is studying business and plays both lacrosse and squash. His hobbies include photography and painting. Grant attended Eagle Hill for high school.

Mara Felman ’04


Mara came to Gaynor as a skilled mathematician, and thanks Joseph Kaufman for teaching her more than the classroom could offer. After Gaynor, Mara went to The Kildonan School and then the University of Puget Sound, where she studied art and business. She is currently working for a tech education company that adds learning components to video games.

Standish Hicks ’05


Standish is a graduate of York Prep and Denison University in Ohio. Inspired by her experience at Gaynor, Standish has gone into the field of education and is currently an Assistant Nursery Teacher at St. Hilda’s.

Rebecca Buchwald ’09


Rebecca is a senior at Syracuse University and will graduate with a degree in elementary and special education. She spent this past semester in New York, doing student teaching in classrooms in Brooklyn and on the Lower East Side.

Sarah Braverman ’09




Sarah is finishing up her senior year at Mt. Holyoke College where she is getting a degree in Environmental Policy. When she is not studying, she works with advocacy groups like Environment Massachusetts and the nonprofit, Blueprint Earth. Sarah spent her entire junior year studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has visited over 21 countries!

Lucy Guzzardo ’12 Lucy is a busy pre-med freshman at Hamilton College. Before heading off to Hamilton, Lucy was the valedictorian at Bay Ridge Prep. She has written a one-act play and received honorable mention in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for her poetry.



Tara Shafer ’82

Caroline Watters ’13

Caroline appeared on an episode of Girls alongside the show’s creator and star Lena Dunham. Caroline is a York Prep student and also recently performed the national anthem at a New York Rangers game.

Tigist Smith ’15

Tigist is currently a sophomore at Hudson Valley P-TECH. In December, Tigist was invited to address the superintendents and principals of the Rockland County School District at their annual holiday dinner. The large group of over 60 educators and administrators listened attentively as Tigist read a speech that she had spent weeks preparing. Tigist shared with the crowd her personal experience as a student with learning differences and highlighted the help she received at Gaynor. She stressed the importance for alternative schools in the suburbs for kids like her.


Thank You Letters to Alumni Gaynor alumni came in to speak with the Blue Cluster to talk to students at their alma mater about how they have used the self-advocacy skills that they learned at Gaynor in their paths to where they are now. The classes were joined by: • Cassidy Kahn ’01 – Went to Churchill and Indiana University where she was a competitive diver • Lukas Horn ’75 – Director at Camp Greylock • Abraham Axler ’08 – Graduating from the University of Virginia this May, and pursuing studies in the UK through a prestigious Marshall Scholarship this fall

Sincerely, Talia

• Matthew Chatzinoff ’12 – Graduating from York Prep this year and heading to Duke University • Max Nusbaum ’12 – Graduating from York Prep this year and heading to UCLA • Sarah Braverman ’09 – Graduating from the College of the Holy Cross and working for an environmental non-profit in New York

Thank you for coming in! I loved your stories and motivational words. I thought that it was very interesting that on a test you failed, when you took it orally you got an A. I learned how lucky I am to be at Gaynor and experience a different learning style.

Thank you so much for coming in to speak about your experience and what you learned at Gaynor. I personally feel more comfortable with the process and my future after hearing your stories from experience. I found it interesting when you talked about your friend in the Marine Corps, you can really achieve anything you want to if you put your mind to it. My uncle was actually in the Marine Corps as a sergeant! I loved how you talked to us like an adult instead of looking at us, or possibly pitying us. We’re all in the same boat! Thank you once again for speaking with us and sharing your amazing journey to find where you are today. Sincerely, Mia

Thank you for coming and telling us your experience at Gaynor. I also have dyslexia and it is hard for me to read. Now I feel motivated to accomplish anything. Sincerely, Max

Thank you for taking time out of your busy life to come and talk to us. I found it really interesting to listen to a Gaynor alum. I love how you are with kids and you talk to us like adults and kids. From, Jack

Thank you for coming to spea classmates. I was very motivat k to me and my so optimistic about having ed by the way you were took a lot from the conversa learning difference. I about transitioning out and ation you shared with us your strengths from Gaynor how you applied some of if you set your mind to somlater in life. I agree that connect to you in the sens ething it can happen. I interests that I would like e that I have many different hope you enjoyed speaking toto pursue later in life. I us as much as I enjoyed listening! Thank you! Eliza

Hi, it’s that kid from Camp Mah-Kee-Nac. Thank you so much for coming to Gaynor to tell us about your life like when you were in politics. Also I loved when you gave us a motivational speech about you can always be better than others even if you have a learning difference and this speech motivated me to do better in everyday life. One question I had about you was why did you choose to become a camp director at Greylock . From, Ryan

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come talk to us today. Your story inspired me because you taught me that I can do anything even if I have a learning difference. I thought it was interesting how you explained to us that even though you struggled in math it was your favorite class. Also how you acknowledged that you are lucky to have had the opportunity to be at Gaynor. Lastly you showed me that if I work hard anything is possible. Thank you, Remy Gaynor Gazette I SUMMER 2017



Finding a Path to Success with Seth Kramer ’95 learned, “Not everyone has the same path — you have to find your own path.” Seth’s own path took him to Gaynor and led him far beyond the classroom. After graduating in 1995, Seth went on to study at Friends Seminary and later graduated from The University of Pennsylvania in 2005. Seth is now an associate on the Real Estate Strategy team in the Services Division of Goldman Sachs, a job he loves because he can “see a tangible outcome of my work and I am constantly moving and using a variety of skills.”

Seth Kramer ‘95 remembers his time at Gaynor as a turning point in his life. He always knew that he had an inquisitive mind, but it wasn’t until he was surrounded by the nurturing teachers and specialists at Gaynor that he felt like he was at a place where he could truly learn. “I felt that my best interest was everybody’s best interest,” said Seth, reminiscing about his time at Gaynor. With favorite teachers like Douglas O’Hare, Seth recalls that he was able to gain the building blocks to address his challenges and create a stable educational foundation for himself. He


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It was at Goldman Sachs that Seth became more involved with the organization INCLUDEnyc. INCLUDEnyc supports more than 5,000 youth with disabilities, their parents, and other professionals through a variety of rich workshops and programming. Seth founded the organization’s Junior Board in 2013, with hopes to engage the next generation of leaders and advocates of disability rights. At INCLUDEnyc’s 2016 gala, Seth and his sister, Haya, were honored for the work that they do to strengthen the organization’s mission and provide greater access and inspiration to individuals with disabilities. Seth’s advice to Gaynor students is to “accept your path — it may not be the most standard, but don’t allow that to hold you back. Be an advocate for yourself. Raise your hand and ask for help. And most importantly, be positive.” Starting in fall 2017, Kramer will join the Gaynor Advisory Council.


Abraham Axler ’08 Awarded Prestigious Marshall Scholarship Abraham Axler ’08, a fourth-year student at the University of Virginia, was awarded the prestigious Marshall Scholarship to pursue his graduate studies in the United Kingdom. Marshall Scholarships finance American students studying in the United Kingdom, covering university fees, cost-ofliving expenses, annual book grants, thesis grants, research and daily travel grants as well as fares to and from the United States. Abraham will be using this opportunity to attain his Master of Science degree in social policy and an M.S.C. in political communication from the London School of Economics, and will be focusing his studies on social and housing policy. When he started at Gaynor, he struggled greatly with writing and reading. Thanks to incredible teachers like Donna Logue, Abraham was pushed to develop his own learning strategies, or as he put it, “Learning how to learn.” He remembers playing games of Scrabble with Douglas O’Hare and learning the “message” method of circling words you don’t know, a process he still uses today when reading for school. Abraham’s interest in social policy began during his time at Gaynor. He saw how broken the system is for children with learning differences. He felt fortunate to have parents who saw that he needed more than what was being provided in mainstream schools, but also saw how difficult it was for them to gain access to the assistance he required. After Gaynor, Abraham began 8th grade at Brooklyn Friends. He furthered his interest in policy by joining Model UN and student government. He also says that the Friends education gave him the framework of Quakerism — “recognizing the humanity of

each person” — and the belief that the policies and procedures of our country should serve this belief. Abraham was awarded the Jefferson Scholarship at the University of Virginia, which provided him with a full scholarship and the opportunity to continue learning about government systems. At UVA, Abraham was the president of the Student Council, Class of 2017 president, an Echols Scholar and William H.P. Young Jefferson Scholar, a Meriwether Lewis Fellow, and a recipient of a Harrison Undergraduate Research award and a Jefferson Trust Grant. Last summer, Abraham worked in New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s Office for People with Disabilities under Commissioner Victor Calise, writing memos about how to increase access throughout the city.

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SUMMER 2017 I Gaynor Gazette


Honorees 50+ Years Dr. Miriam Michael Yvette Siegel-Herzog

On Friday, May 5, Gaynor hosted an event in conjunction with the Gaynor Alumni Network to honor legacy faculty and staff who have served 10, 15, 20, and 50 or more years. Dozens of alumni from a range of class years returned to campus to connect with each other, their former teachers, and celebrate the honorees. Dr. Scott Gaynor made the first remarks of the evening, welcoming staff, faculty, and alumni to the celebration. “Gaynor is a very special place to work, and just among the people we are honoring tonight, we have over 400 years of collective experience,” said Dr. Gaynor. “Each one of you carries the torch forward every day to carry on the traditions of Stephen Gaynor School,” from the original location on West 74th Street to the current facility. Dr. Gaynor then presented gifts to those celebrating 10 and 15 years of service or more milestones. Jill Thompson, Assistant Head of School, went on to recognize those who have served 20 or more years at Gaynor.

Honored with the highest milestone of the evening, a remarkable number of more than 50 years were Gaynor’s co-founders, Dr. Miriam Michael and Yvette Siegel-Herzog. Recognizing Yvette Siegel-Herzog with a speech was Henrietta Jones-Pellegrini, President of Gaynor’s Board of Trustees. “I have the distinct pleasure of honoring Yvette Siegel-Herzog. Her vision and her life’s work has impacted all of us in this room, and it goes without saying that none of us would be standing here without Yvette and Dr. Miriam Michael, who unfortunately could not be here today. Yvette’s enthusiasm and her love for the 2,500 students that she has helped educate in the past 54 years has changed the lives of all of them, and it has changed the lives of all of us in this room.” With the heartfelt speeches, the celebration, and the combined number of years that so many have chosen to serve Gaynor, it became clear that the community shared the same sentiment: Gaynor is a special place to be and it is so because of the incredible people who work here.

20 Years or More Joseph Kaufman Debra Adams Ellen Simon Dr. Scott Gaynor Yosefa Kizelnik Ruth Rachlin Mindy Stern Sloan Shapiro 15 Years or More Chris Meyer Anna Friedman Donna Logue Anne Cudjoe Carlvin Delfish Ariela Weisenberg Roberta Hirsch 10 Years or More John Beich Joan Persky Lauren Bookin Adam Gaynor Wendy Peters Kate Adlin

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Clare’s Corner

Talking to Your Children About Their Learning Differences Talking to children about their learning differences can be enormously beneficial. Productive and empowering conversations can foster children’s self-awareness and self-acceptance and enhance their self-esteem. Children with learning differences need to develop a healthy sense of self-confidence so that over time, they come to understand what they need to learn best and how to effectively ask for it. Selfawareness enhances resilience and enables students to become effective selfadvocates in both the short- and long-term. Children with learning differences often have fragile self-esteem. Their struggle to acquire basic academic skills can lead to significant misunderstanding about their intelligence and their overall capability. They may have experienced failure in school and perhaps received criticism from teachers and parents before their learning issues were diagnosed or understood. Children with learning differences often compare themselves to their non-LD siblings or peers and their motivation may become compromised due to their struggles. Common reactions among students with learning differences include: avoidance, denial, withdrawal, shame, anxiety, sadness, and moodiness. It is critically important that parents understand their child’s learning differences and a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation is the first step in demystifying their struggles. Knowledge is empowering as it can enable parents and students to understand and appreciate their strengths and provides an explanatory framework for areas of challenge.


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By Clare Cosentino, Ph.D., Director of Psychological Services

What does a good neuropsychological evaluation provide? • Outlines a deeper understanding of areas of strength and challenge. • Highlights and celebrates areas of aptitude and capability. • Identifies specific intervention approaches that mobilize areas of strength and remediate areas of challenge. • Creates a roadmap to support your child at school and at home. Why is feedback from a neuropsychological evaluation so important? • Parent feedback is the first step in becoming your child’s best advocate. • Child feedback is the first step in children becoming their own best advocates. • While it is not appropriate for children to read a neuropsychological evaluation, they deserve feedback, which enables them to begin to understand how they learn best. • This makes an ongoing dialogue possible between you and your child – strengths are identified and challenges provide opportunities for collaborative problem solving and compassionate understanding. • Developmentally appropriate feedback to your child demystifies their learning differences. It should provide optimistic, positive, and reassuring information.


How is a Learning Difference defined? • By definition, individuals with LD have average to well above average intelligence. • LD is an umbrella construct for neurologically-based challenges in the brain’s ability to receive, process, and respond to information. • LD’s impact academic skill acquisition in reading, writing, and/or math. • There is usually a significant discrepancy between intellectual ability and skill levels in reading, writing, or math. How do I start a conversation about LD with my child? • Terms like ‘disorder’ or ‘learning disability’ should generally not be used in initial conversations. • Initial conversations with children should emphasize and highlight areas of strength and provide simple explanations for areas of challenge. • As children get older, they will need to understand that they have a diagnosis that entitles them to receive certain accommodations. • They should come to understand the accommodations and services that they are entitled to receive. • They will also need to understand that there is a science around how to best remediate their learning challenges. • They need reassurance that with appropriate help and perseverance, things will become easier.

“Your challenges have to do with the way your brain processes information and these difficulties are totally unrelated to your intelligence.” • “Here’s what you can do…” (Begin to identify strategies that your child can utilize, based on the findings of the neuropsychological evaluation.) • Highlight character strengths such as perseverance, dedication, or grit. How do I describe Stephen Gaynor School? • Children should be prepared to provide simple explanations to siblings and family members, non-Gaynor families and friends, if they chose to do so. • Gaynor is a school for bright children who learn differently. • Teachers get extra training and specialized education to understand how each student learns best. • Teachers have special ways of teaching that emphasize strengths which makes learning easier. • It is a privilege to have such special attention.

How can I explain LD to my child? • Highlight family characteristics among biological relatives, if possible. • This can naturally lead into a discussion about special help and/or remediation, which activates areas of the brain that will lead to more efficient processing and academic output. • Help your child to understand that when they persevere, they actually make new and lasting brain connections (i.e., their brain ‘grows’).

Why does Stephen Gaynor School have a Student Advocacy Program? • The Student Advocacy Program helps students to understand their learning differences, their strengths and developing skills, and to increase their self-awareness. These skills prepare them to effectively selfadvocate throughout their lives. • The program was developed by Erica Kasindorf, a Middle School teacher and now coordinator of the Student Advocacy Program. It is provided for all of our Middle School students. • Discussions about learning differences are also initiated in the Lower School, primarily through literature and teacher-initiated conversation.

How do I continue to talk with my child about their challenges? • Partner with your neuropsychologist to provide developmentally appropriate information. • Ask your child what they think they do “best” as a learner. • Keep it simple and positive. For example, “You have an amazing mind.” • Emphasize strengths/highlight intellectual capability.

How can I help my child develop a resilient mindset? • Maintain optimism. • Cultivate islands of competence that develop your child’s innate talents and abilities. • Engage in collaborative problem solving. • View mistakes as challenges. • Have empathy and compassion. • Create structure and routines. • Seek assistance when needed.

Resources for Parents and Children •T hinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities by David Fink • Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco • Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level by Sally Shaywitz, M.D. • Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child by Edward Hallowell, M.D. • Succeeding with LD: True Stories About Real People With LD by Jill Lauren, M.A. •T hat’s Like Me! Stories About Amazing People With Learning Differences by Jill Lauren, M.A. Gaynor Gazette I SUMMER 2017



Class of 2017 On Friday, June 16, the thirty members of the graduating class of 2017, their friends and family, faculty, and staff gathered in the Gaynor Gymnasium for graduation. Though this year’s community values theme, “Be together, not the same,” is representative of daily life at Gaynor, it was also embodied in the speeches given during the ceremony by class representatives, members of the Board of Trustees, and Dr. Scott Gaynor. Henrietta Jones-Pellegrini, outgoing president of the board, welcomed everyone. “I look forward to this day each year. It is time to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates and it is wonderful to have the opportunity to wish them well as they move on.” David Mager, class representative and a member of the graduating class, shared with a smile, “All of the students that are sitting here with me today have so many amazing stories about the many challenges and obstacles that they have had to overcome just like I did. And, the most important single factor that helped all of us get to this milestone today is our parents and our families. My peers and I can relate to what it’s like having the gift of a learning difference and we have all worked them out together. I have learned that by our differences 32

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we are really not all that different at all, we just have to work a little harder.”

challenges. Guess what? Those are exactly the skills you need to be successful.”

Scott Mager, parent to David and outgoing vice president of the Board of Trustees, was grateful in his delivery. “You have learned [at Gaynor] that your learning difference, your neuro-diversity, doesn’t have to be a detriment but can often be an asset, a creative gift for success.”

Jack Hillyer, member of the graduating class, added, “This school has given me so much academically and personally. I have learned about the power of writing for someone like me who sometimes gets nervous speaking and articulating complex thoughts. I have been encouraged to channel my enthusiasm for animation and drawing to tell stories and demonstrate my understanding of content to engage others.”

Dr. Gaynor made a touching speech that spoke to the importance of differences: immigrants and the power that comes when people work together. He even reflected on one “real world Wednesday” experience students had this year, when Gaynor parent and president of the International Rescue Committee, David Milliband, spoke at Gaynor. “In each of our graduates, I see future David Milliband’s, Yvette Siegel-Herzog’s, and Albert Einstein’s of the world. I am inspired by what our graduates have accomplished at Gaynor and the great potential that lies ahead of them.” Nick Kenner ’90, CEO and founder of Just Salad, remarked, “Many of you are full of energy, love to multi-task, have become more organized than you were naturally wired for and have worked extra hard to overcome

Congratulations to all of the graduates!

2017 Award Winners


President’s Education Award: Rehannah Baksh Ophelie Zolidis Community Service Award: Jack Hillyer Hali Bernstein Helen Rosenthal City Council Award: Ming Robinson Ben Warshavsky Gordon Gaynor Award: Isabel Veyssi Philip Winter

Check out the schools Gators will be attending in the fall! Bay Ridge Prep The Beacon School Birch Wathen Lenox School The Churchill School The Clinton School Dwight School Dwight-Englewood School Eagle Hill School Forman School Grace Church School Hastings High School LREI Professional Children’s School The Victor Hugo School York Preparatory School

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Relatives and Special Friends Day

Author Visits

In April, Gaynor opened its doors to family and friends of current students for a special visit to learn all about what makes Gaynor great. Head of School Dr. Scott Gaynor welcomed visitors with opening remarks in the gym, followed by a preview performance from the Spring Musical, Seussical Jr. (Read more on pages 16 and 17.) Guests then headed to classrooms where they were able to see what students have been studying, watch presentations, and in some cases, even make crafts with the student they were visiting. Students were delighted to show their loved ones all about their school!

Several authors visited Gaynor in the spring including Steve Metzger, Henry Winkler, and HN Kowitt. HN Kowitt read to the Silver and Yellow Cluster students. She has authored more than 50 children’s books and one of her most notable series is The Loser List.

Skate Night Underneath the towering skyscrapers and twinkling lights, students went ice-skating in Central Park for the Parents’ Association Skate Night on March 7.


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PI Day, 3.14 There’s no sweeter way to celebrate Pi Day than with a slice of the stuff. Students brought in homemade pies in flavors like apple, chocolate, and Oreo and then faculty members did a taste test and scored their favorites. Everyone got to have some pie, so everyone was a winner!

Alumni vs. Faculty Basketball Game

Lower School Reading Challenge Students who won the reading challenge were rewarded with a visit from Mister Softee.

For the first time in Gaynor history, faculty and alumni faced off in the first ever Alumni vs. Faculty basketball game. Although the faculty may have barely squeaked by with a win, the good news is that both alumni and faculty have all year to practice for next year’s game. Go Gators!

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Bounce Houses in the Field House? Must be

G aynor’s ! l a v i n r a C Spring On Sunday, May 7, nearly 800 members of the Gaynor community entered a school completely transformed into a Spring Carnival. The first hint that something new was afoot were the two huge balloon towers and 12-foot tall ringmaster on stilts greeting people at the front entrance. Once inside, students, siblings, parents, friends, and faculty and staff could choose from a host of activities, from photo booths to virtual reality games, bounce houses, carnival games, and face-painting. When participants needed a break from the action, they headed to the Gaynor-themed snack bar. During the event, over 500 hotdogs, 350 pretzels and endless popcorn and water were served to hungry carnival goers. The kids were even able to custom decorate their own sugar cookies – some specifically chose Gaynor’s colors of green and gold. The first-ever event of this magnitude was a terrific opportunity for parents and students to enjoy having fun with one another at school, and to get a chance to show their school with pride to siblings and friends. Kids of all ages enjoyed the activities – we even spied a few parents “testing out” the games.


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Gaynor Gazette I SUMMER 2017






TO PA R E N TS O F A LU M N 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. 1115 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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