The Packer Magazine — Winter 2017

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WI N T ER 2017


Making Math Meaningful Packer Responds to the Presidential Election Founder’s Day Speaker Emily Lamia ’02 Parallel Careers: Will Kuntz ’02 and Jesse Perl ’02 WINTER 2016 | 3



Editor Karin Storm Wood

Head of School Bruce L. Dennis

Writing Karin Storm Wood Tori Gibbs Contributors as noted

Director of Communications Karin Storm Wood

Photography Karin Storm Wood Tori Gibbs Contributors as noted Design Karin Storm Wood Class Notes Dona Metcalf Laughlin Tori Gibbs

The Packer Magazine is published twice a year by The Packer Collegiate Institute, 170 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Nothing herein may be reprinted wholly or in part without the written permission of Packer’s Development Office. The Packer Collegiate Institute © 2017 Packer is a member of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

Communications Associate Tori Gibbs Director of Development Sara Shulman Director of Alumni Dona Metcalf Laughlin Director of Annual Giving Susan Moore Manager of Development Services Aaron Heflich Shapiro Development Associate Shriya Bhargava-Sears

Communications (718) 250-0264 Alumni

(718) 250-0229


(718) 250-0263


(718) 250-0200

Board of Trustees Leadership 2016-17 Chair Deborah Juantorena P’19 Vice Chair Anne Giddings Kimball ’55 IVAc Treasurer Karen Snow P’21, P’25 Secretary Karen Tayeh P’09, P’17

Alumni Association Leadership 2016-17 President Geoffrey Brewer ’82, P’26 Vice President Sasha Baumrind ’00 Secretary Jeremy Schiffres ’07 Director Emeritus Ellin Rosenzweig ’52




WINTER 2017 3 From the Head of School 4 On Campus 10 Beyond Classroom Walls 12 Backstage 14 Champions

16 Lower Schoolers experience their first “sleepaway” class trip in the Fourth Grade, when they spend three days at the Ashokan Center in the Catskills. There they try wood splitting, cider pressing, and other skills of colonial settlers. Venturing beyond the classroom is increasingly part of everyday learning at Packer. See class trip photos from all three divisions on page 10.

Discovering Math

Packer’s math program increasingly puts student inquiry at the fore. In a roundtable conversation, math teachers in all three divisions share how this approach helps students make math discoveries for themselves. Also: Math art in the Shen Gallery.

28 Parent Association News 30 Alumni News The Road Taken Emily Lamia ’02, Packer’s 2016 Founder’s Day Speaker Bonding Over “The Beautiful Game” Will Kuntz ’02 and Jesse Perl ’02 36 Class Notes 51 In Memoriam

On the cover: Seniors in Multivariable Calculus debate the math concepts on display in “Technically Beautiful,” a fall 2016 exhibit in the Carol Shen Gallery. Students at every grade level engaged with the show, which featured the math-inspired work of six artists and was curated by art teacher Liz Titone and math teachers Brendan Kinnell and Sam Shah. Read more on page 27.


From the Head of School

Across Packer’s entire academic program, students are asked to investigate and make sense of complex problems. These students in Dr. Sarah Strauss’s Constitutional Law class study thorny cases before the Supreme Court — then, assuming the role of the Justices, reach decisions that they explain and defend to each other with remarkable nuance. Here, senior Hage Primus ’17 questions the bench in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., a case currently before the Court concerning the rights of a transgender student.



any years before I came to Packer, a senior colleague of mine once said, “School is a place where young people go to watch old people work.” What he meant, of course, was that for too many children, school is a passive setting, where the teacher stands at the front of the classroom doing most of the talking and the students are mere containers into which the adult’s wisdom is poured. While adult wisdom abounds at Packer, our teaching model could not be more different. Pontificating from the front of the room is simply “not a thing” here. Our teachers place students at the center of their own learning. Packer classes have become increasingly student-focused and project-based, and the teaching role is not only one of sharing knowledge and expertise but also orchestrating instruction so that students learn by doing. Designing a lesson that allows students to make their own discoveries paradoxically creates more work for the teacher rather than less. And the complexity of this approach is perhaps less than obvious to the casual observer. In fact, a hallmark of student-centered teaching is often what the adults don’t do: they don’t necessarily talk more than the students do, they don’t answer more questions than they pose, and they don’t simply expound on what they know. Packer has explicitly embraced studentcentered learning in many ways. In every discipline, from math and science to history and art, our faculty work hard to give their students the opportunity to make their own discoveries and be active participants in their own learning. We have notably expanded into inquiry-based work, where ideas emerge not from faculty exposition but from problems, puzzles, and complex

questions that students solve through handson experimentation and investigation. Inquiry-based learning also emphasizes collaboration among students, placing value on the knowledge, perspectives, and opinions of one’s peers. This enriches the texture and dimension of class discussion and expands our students’ appreciation for the diversity of problem-solving strategies available to them. This issue of The Packer Magazine shines a light on our math program, which has increasingly adopted an inquiry-based approach over the years. In a roundtable discussion, several members of the math department explain how they ask students not only to learn math facts but to apply those facts to solve new and bigger problems. They explain why inquiry — while occasionally messy — is so effective at building students’ skills, confidence, and independence. As you explore our math teachers’ commitment to providing their students with the richest possible learning experiences, I know you will share the pride I feel in their successes and in those of their students.

bruce l. dennis

WINTER 2017 | 3

On Campus


Presidential Election Prompts Student Debate and Activism


hatever one’s political convic- Abramowitz ’17 and Jordan Tayeh tions, the consensus at Packer ’17 articulated the Democratic and was that the contentious 2016 Republican platforms respectively [2]. election brought about countless valuable conversations within the school. Director of Diversity and Equity From the youngest Lower Schoolers Semeka Smith-Williams led a structo Twelfth Graders, to faculty and tured conversation among several staff, the community responded to hundred Upper School students. Some the election results in meaningful and shed tears as they expressed concerns productive ways. for themselves, their peers, and the country. After, handwritten notes of On November 9, Middle School solidarity appeared in stairwells, the students wrote postcards to Donald student center, and in the main hall [3]. Trump to share their hopes for the first 100 days of his presidency [1]. A few Guardian columnist and former execuchose to reach out to Secretary Clinton tive editor of the New York Times Jill instead (inset). Abramson spoke to Upper School students about the role that the media A week before the election, students played in the 2016 election [4]. in George Snook’s Advanced Topics Over lunch, she met with student in American Government class held leaders from The Prism, Feminst a mock presidential debate, part Alliance, Fifth Wave, GSA, and of the national V.O.T.E.S. project Spectrum clubs. Ellie Story ’17, co-edithat Mr. Snook has spearheaded at tor of the Upper School newspaper The Packer for over two decades. Michelle Prism, reflected: “What Ms. Abramson


said about facts and the importance of telling the truth stood out to me. Some major newspapers [predicted] this election wrong, but it is now our job to reinstate people’s trust in the press. And the only way to do that is to write the facts and also provide a viewpoint that represents as many people as possible.” In the Lower School, many classes talked about the importance of exercising the right to vote. The Kindergarten students of Erica Jaconi and Deborah MacDermott voiced their opinions on a critical issue that mattered to them: whether to have an afternoon dance party or extra recess [5]. They cast their ballots, and extra recess won.



5 The Prism, Packer’s Upper School newspaper, invited readers to share reflections on the election. This piece by a senior was one of several published that reflected the diverse and far from unanimous perspectives in our community. t h a n k s g i v i n g i s a t i m e when we celebrate, give thanks, and spend cherished time with family. In my post-election mourning, I have been thankful to be a part of communities that celebrate diversity. At Packer, we have great conversations about how we are made stronger by embracing our differences. But much of what we celebrate falls on the liberal side of

the spectrum; sometimes we forget how much difference exists on other parts of the spectrum. My annual Thanksgiving trip to the family farm in red-state Ohio brought me face-to-face with those different kinds of differences. During the drive from the airport, I was incredibly anxious that my liberal views would be met with I told you so’s about Trump’s victory. How was I going to celebrate gratitude when I feel such grief? Visual homogeneity aside, my family lands all over the liberalconservative spectrum. My anxiety about this holiday is a small example of my anxiety for the next four years.


How do we come together if we are so divided? Instead of fearing the difference of my family, I chose to empathize. These are people I love whose lives are very different from my own. They are hunters, ministers, people who have lost their jobs, people working three jobs; their needs from the government are different from my own, and I started to understand that. This election shook me to my core; it felt as if someone had died. It is good to protest and have your voice heard. But it is just as important to listen and try to empathize with others. — Lucy Simon ’17

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Celebrating Diversity: “No Words” to Describe the Experience


n December, an unprecedented number of Packer students, faculty, and administrators — sixteen in all — attended the 2016 National Association of Independent Schools’ People of Color and Student Diversity Leadership Conferences in Atlanta, GA. In a tumultuous political year, the group was deeply moved and motivated by the event. Two students — a first-time attendee and a returning participant — shared their reflections. to describe the Student Diversity Leadership Conference other than the most revolutionary and effective learning experience I have ever been a part of. I left Atlanta with a new and more aware understanding of how these defining identifiers are dividers in our society, and I learned to a greater extent the true meaning of diversity. I was also able to comprehend and dig deeper into the true meaning of being an ally and a more tactful person. Diversity cannot be ignored. I plan to bring my experiences back to Packer by expressing my opinion on the importance of diversity education every day.

t h e r e a r e n o wo r d s

— Andres Antonio ’19 was a first-time attendee at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC). 6 | THE PACKER MAGAZINE

to put into words the love and security I felt at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference. I think that the most important thing my time there taught me was to recognize our shared humanity and the obligation we have to love and respect one another. There is no way that we will be able to understand one another unless we take the time to listen to each other’s stories and try to empathize with one another. I think that sometimes people are too afraid of doing the wrong thing so they don’t say anything at all, but I want people to realize that the only way to grow is to be uncomfortable. One remark that really stuck with me is that it is our duty to “make the disturbed, comfortable, and the comfortable, disturbed.” In order to make change, we have to accept the responsibility that we have for one another and make sure that we are not denying anybody their rightful “seat at the table.” At this conference, I found that I could not only be myself, but that I could be proud of every single part of me. Bryan Stevenson, an American lawyer and social justice activist whom I had the privilege of hearing speak at the opening ceremonies, helped me come to terms with the broken pieces t h e r e i s n o way

that I can no longer deny are a part of me. But he also helped me see the solution: to get close to the people who need me, and continue my work on shifting the narrative, empathizing with others, and finding ways to make people feel uncomfortable in ways that are productive. The experience left me feeling more inspired, passionate, and determined than ever to make an impact, and I look forward to bringing that same drive to the rest of my beloved peers.” — Tasnia Khan ’ 17 attended SDLC in 2014 and 2016. She will be attending Yale University in the fall.

Packer’s 2016 Delegation included students, faculty from every division, and staff: [Above, front row] Head of Upper School José de Jesús; Development Associate Shriya Bhargava-Sears; Middle School History Teacher Vidya Misra; Lower School Associate Teacher Jim Search; Upper School Spanish Teacher Dallas Rico; Director of Global Outreach, Service, and Sustainability Tené Howard ’97, Lower School Associate Teacher Kaleem Jones ’10; Director of Auxiliary & AfterSchool Programs Chuck Nwoke; Upper School Dean and Spanish Teacher Rashad Randolph (front row) [back row] Director of Diversity and Equity Semeka Smith-Williams; Andres Antonio ’19, Ayinde Castro ’17, Ellie Ovalle ’17, Stephanie Laporte ’17, Nate Antoine ’17, Tasnia Khan ’17

Understanding the Experiences of Refugees


ovember’s Middle School Equity Simulation examined the international refugee crisis that dominated headlines in 2016. Designed to help students understand the causes of the crisis and build empathy for displaced families through role play, the event also provided resources on how to take action on these issues. “When the status of refugees is being debated all over our country, we think it is particularly important to engage students in learning about the experience of refugees and actions that they can take” as young people, said Bessie Oster, Middle School Dean of Student Life.

Led by Eighth Graders, students were grouped in families and issued identity papers from one of four countries in conflict (Honduras, Afghanistan, South Sudan, or Syria). They traced the refugees’ journey: being forced from their homes, traveling by boat or by foot, living in refugee camps, and encountering UN immigration. Following the role-play exercise, alumna and parent Tati Nguyen ’84, P’25, herself a former refugee from Vietnam, joined representatives from Doctors without Borders and International Rescue Committee for a panel offering first-hand accounts of refugee experiences and relief work.

In the simulation exercise, students were issued identity papers that either helped or hindered their passage onto a boat fleeing their home country.

student responses:

“People don’t know how hard it is [for refugees] to drop everything and leave everything behind.” “One of the best things we can do as kids is to help people who are already in this country.”

a p a c k er tr a d iti o n Alumni celebrating their 50th Reunion can always look forward to Valentine’s Day! Through a program established over 20 years ago by Jacque Jones P’07, P’09, longtime member of the Development Office, students across the School create personalized valentines and write letters to alumni, often asking questions about Packer of the past. “Our alumni are charmed by our students’ endearing drawings and notes — and sometimes an incredible amount of glitter!” says Director of Alumni Dona Laughlin, who runs the program today with Development Associate Shriya Bhargava-Sears. “Being connected in this way is great for both alumni and students. For some pairs, the correspondence continues for years!” “My favorite grades in Packer were 2nd and 3rd. What were yours?... In gym class, we got rid of the dreaded ropes... Did you enjoy climbing them?... In 6th Grade we do the May Pole. What grade did you do it in?” — From a current Seventh Grader’s 2016 valentine WINTER 2017 | 7

“Our Own Special Time”: Mindfulness in the Classroom


indfulness has been shown to foster empathy, cognitive awareness, focus, relaxation, and social-emotional learning. It also enhances metacognition and helps students transfer classroom learning into their daily lives outside of school. Through the K-12 health program as well as student and teacher interest, mindful awareness is an increasingly common practice at Packer. Some classes actively pursue mindfulness while others may simply begin with a quiet moment of intentional breathing as a counterpoint to a busy school day. The Third Grade is one place where mindfulness has taken root outside

the health curriculum. According to Joanna Stern, a Third Grade teacher and Grade-Level Coordinator, the goal for eight- and nine-year olds is to be able to create their own “safe space” to practice mindfulness independently, and “to teach, share, and inspire their knowledge of mindfulness with their community.” “Our students absolutely love having sacred time carved out to learn different strategies to relax, clear their head, and refocus,” says Ms. Stern. “We ask a lot of our kids academically, and it is important to be empathetic to their needs by pausing the day to turn off the lights, listen to soothing music,

and find peace. We practice in a variety of ways — visual, aural, kinesthetic, etc. — and by the end of the year, the students themselves lead mindfulness to inspire and teach others their methods. We often reflect as a class on ways that mindfulness has enhanced their day, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.” One of Ms. Stern’s students recently reflected, “I don’t know what I would do without mindfulness. It is like our own special time to calm down, especially after [recess in the] Garden. I am thankful I am learning how to do this, and I often do mindfulness outside of school.”

Not one but two 1000 -pointers! Seniors Brittany Boyce ’17 and Blake Martin ’17 were honored during the 2016-17 basketball season for a tremendous achievement: scoring 1000 points on their respective varsity teams. In at-home remarks before big crowds, Coach Russell Tombline and Coach George Boutis praised not only the athleticism but also the character of two consummate team players.


Brittany scored her 1000th point in a home game against Berkeley-Carroll and was joined on court by her parents for a mid-game ceremony [left]. Blake scored his 1000th point at Dalton; he was joined by his mother and sister for a ceremony held at Packer a few days later [above].

eclectic electives

Math teacher June Alpert leads a popular Seventh and Eighth Grade elective in knitting.

Gaga for games? Staggered by the stage? Nutty for knitting? If so, you would have been a happy Seventh or Eighth Grader this year. Thanks to the more flexible seven-day schedule instituted in 2015, students in these grades now choose from among nearly a dozen special electives that engage their interests in the arts, the Packer community, academic pursuits, and athletics. “Despite the breadth and depth of our academic program, Middle School students have had little say in their daily schedules, beyond language choice,” said division head Noah Reinhardt. “These electives are fun and interesting, and provide a moment in the course of a long, busy day for students to relax, unwind, and engage in a different kind of activity at school.”

f a c u l t y a n d s t a f f new s


illustration to communicate personal knowledge about one’s local environment. The hands-on workshop culminates in a book, created “by students for students” all over the world and provides tangible proof to young people that they have something important to say, and that their messages have a global audience. Three years ago, members of Packer’s Class of 2018 participated in the program, creating the book This Is Ours: Brooklyn Heights. To date, Liz and Elizabeth’s eight-book series includes the perspectives of students from Kenya, Guyana, and across the United States. In July 2016, Allison Bishop, Upper School Dean of Student Life and Leadership, welcomed Roxy Lee [middle]. In July 2016 Copy Center Coordinator (and occasional Packer Magazine photographer) Raoul Brown was married to Makeda Culley in a ceremony in Vermont [lower right].


Chair of Health Education Karen Brandt was selected to participate in the December 2016 Academy for Teachers master class with food journalist and activist Mark Bittman. Director of Auxiliary and After-School Programs Chuck Nwoke’s short fiction piece, “Natives,” was published in Streetlight Magazine and recorded by an actor for the magazine’s podcast. Instrumental music teacher Jeremy Udden has two new albums being released on Sunnyside Records in 2017. III, recorded with the co-lead collective ensemble Hush Point, will be released in January. In March, his band Plainville will release their third album, Westminster EP. In October 2016, Lower School art teacher Liz Titone and Middle and Upper School art teacher Elizabeth Eagle presented their enrichment program This Is Ours at the See The Girl Summit in Jacksonville, FL [top right]. The program combines digital photography, storytelling, and

WINTER 2017 | 9

BEYOND CLASSROOM WALLS Opportunities to visit cultural and historical institutions around the city are a regular part of the Packer curriculum at every grade level — in addition to yearly overnight trips starting in Seventh Grade.

To develop their observational drawing skills, Fourth Graders have traveled to Chinatown, the Brooklyn Promenade, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine [below]. “It helps children to be careful observers of the world around them, noticing details that they might not have seen before,” said art teacher Risa Glickman.

Second graders visited the Queens Museum, where they admired its famous scale model of New York City [above]. They also built their own city blocks, representing “different aspects of our unique city,” said Stella Liberman, Associate Teacher. “Some made streets with lots of tall buildings, or a deli, while others [created] parks and waterfronts.”

Kindergarteners visited the Heritage Farm at Snug Harbor to learn about food being grown in New York City. They toured the plots, met the farmers, sorted compost, and prepared and ate their own snacks from fresh local produce. Art teacher (and sister of the farm’s founder) Liz Titone led an on-site art project, followed by extensions into the Kindergarten science and health curricula. 10 | THE PACKER MAGAZINE

The Sixth Grade visited “The Art of Arab Lands” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Students looked at folios from the Shanameh and compared them with earlier Baghdad School illustrations. They also looked for pieces relating to their Silk Road project research.

During their study of Walt Whitman, Tenth Graders recited some of the poet’s many Brooklyn-centric works on the steps of Borough Hall [below].

George Snook’s History of New York City class took several trips, including a tour of Lower Manhattan focused on late 19th-century immigration, with stops in the Bowery [above], Five Points, Little Italy, and Chinatown. Paul Riggio and Dr. Dennis accompanied the group.

Anne Danforth’s Advanced Math Applications class visited Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library to see Newton’s Principia, Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius, the Babylonian tablet “Plimpton 322” and medieval editions of Euclid’s Elements in Chinese, Arabic, Latin, and English.

The Fourth Grade visited a recreated Lenape village at Waterloo near Stanhope, NJ, where they learned how the native tribe cooked, hunted, fished and cured sickness; used traditional tools for starting fires and grinding corn; and toured a replica long house [above].

As part of their study of ancient Egypt, the Fifth Grade visited the Brooklyn Museum. They especially enjoyed the Mummy Chamber, which explores the rituals related to mummification and the belief that eternal life required the body’s preservation. Here two students examine wall reliefs from the tomb of the vizier Nespeqashuty (664-610 B.C.E.). WINTER 2017 | 11

BACKSTAGE “Welcome to this gallery of rehearsal work! The hours of unseen process are as worthy of admiration as the final product, and where the greatest learning — and often the most fun — happen.” — Ali Boag, Interim Chair of the Arts Department

Patricia Runcie-Rice and students rehearse a scene from the Middle School musical, “My Son Pinocchio: Geppetto’s Musical Tale.”

Fran Onne-Fong leads Kindergarteners in a joyous musical game.

Esther Harris leads the Packer Chorus in rehearsal. 12 | THE PACKER MAGAZINE

During their Winter Sing rehearsal, Fourth Graders practice “swooshing” with Pam Agius for a sledding-themed song.

Paul Riggio conducts the Upper School Wind Symphony’s rendition of J.S. Bach’s “Bourée II.”

Mandy Stallings watches Upper School dancers rehearse a piece for the Dance Concert, which she directs with Alicia White.

Lucas Maia prepares Middle School strings players for their January 22 concert at Carnegie Hall.

The Middle School Jazz Band improvises with Jeremy Udden. WINTER 2017 | 13

CHAMPIONS Five varsity and junior varsity teams reached the playoffs last fall. One team was on TV!


Winners, Rain or Shine

League Leaders

The BOYS VARSITY SOCCER team held a strong season record of 7-2-1. Head Coach Ivan Perez Markovic singled out several season highlights: beating powerhouse Poly Prep, 3-1; Cameron Oliver’s “screamer” from 25 feet with just a few seconds left in the game against Long Island Lutheran Academy; and the leadership of the team’s eight members of the Class of 2017: Caleb Apple, Blake Boadi, Max Buri, Lucas Kimball, Dino Mastroprietro, Henry Morgan, Dylan Paige, and Cal Seitz. At the ACIS finals against Friends Seminary — which took place on a bitterly cold and rainy night [above]— the team rallied after being down 1-0. “We were losing against the team that had defeated us earlier in the season. The boys looked a bit angry at halftime, but the moment the referee blew the whistle for the second half, they started playing their game, which is creative, fast and dynamic,” said Coach Markovic. “We scored a great goal to tie the game and then with around ten minutes to go, we went up 2-1. The other team managed to take us to overtime. [Our] guys knew in that second half that they were the team to beat.” While they ultimately fell to Friends, the players were proud to have fought with such grit despite extremely challenging conditions.

The BOYS JUNIOR VARSITY SOCCER team won the ACIS league and tournament championship with an outstanding season record of 8-3-2. Head Coach Ricardo Joseph singled out the leadership of captains Alex Borinstein ’18 and Christof Inderbitzin ’19, as well as Jack Beaumont ’19, William Zygmuntowicz ’19, Dante Mastropietro ’20, Evan Myers ’20, and Gunnar Carroll ’18, who was the team’s leading scorer. “We had some great individual goals during the season,” said Coach Joseph, “with shots by both Jack and Christof as contenders for goal of the year.”


Local News Spotlight The VARSITY GIRLS SOCCER team had a great year, with a 13-2-3 record. The team went 6-0 in the ACIS Conference and 7-1-2 in the AAIS Conference. After losing six seniors last year, this season might have been a challenging one, but the team had “new talented freshmen who brought speed and skill to our team,” said Head Coach John Keaveny. “That, along with three great seniors leading us and amazing play from juniors Natasha Brecht ’18 and Abby Wade ’18, made this season one to remember!”


At the NYSAIS tournament, the team prevailed with a 4-2 win against Poly Prep in the first round. Despite falling to Horace Mann in the next round, Packer’s dogged defense, anchored by goalkeeper Olivia Chinitz ’19, made local television!

Running Strong With the addition of new teammates to the co-ed CROSS COUNTRY team, the Pelicans were on a roll with excellent performances from all. “Everyone set new personal records in nearly every meet, a testament to the hard work they put in through the summer break.” Head Coach Tony Watson called the team “grounded, injury-free, and healthy.” He was joined for the season by Assistant Coach Stephen Manternach ’13 and Assistant Coach (and Lower School Associate Teacher) Karina Copeland. Highlights included first-place finishes in nearly all of the ACIS meets by Graham Rainsby ’17 and first-place finishes for Eleanor Story ’17 in the second ACIS meet and Audrey Aberg ’18 in the third. In addition, Graham Rainsby ’17, Justin Hurley ’17, and Lucy Shotts ’18 set new personal records at the Brown Invitational in Rhode Island, with Graham coming in third in his division.


League Champions After winning the ACIS league championship with a 14-3 season record, the GIRLS JUNIOR VARSITY VOLLEYBALL team was the number-four seed going into the ACIS tournament semi-finals. The season saw breakout performances by sophomores Ava Horn ’19, Ashley Hernandez ’19, and Christina Leonard ’19. The starting line-up featured several talented new players, including three Ninth Graders and two Eighth Graders. Head Coach Ashley Greene was inspired by the team’s dedication to their sport. Before a game against Spence’s traditionally strong team, captain Ava Horn ’19 “rallied the girls up and sent them on the court with high momentum,” said Coach Greene. “During the first set it was a battle. Every play was bump, set, spike, and when a ball was returned and we thought the play was over, someone dove to recover it or brought it back into play. At one point we were down by eight points, only to come back and win that set. This was the moment I knew I had a team willing to do whatever we needed to succeed and who deep in their hearts knew what it meant to be really great volleyball players.”

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An inquiry-based approach puts students in the position of mathematicians — where they make discoveries themselves.

Making Math Meaningful 16 | THE PACKER MAGAZINE


t Packer, an inquiry-based math

lesson is easily identified: students are clustered in small groups, talking openly as they work

through various challenges together. The teacher moves constantly among them, listening to their conversations, offering feedback, and posing further questions. Around the room, each group’s progress is audible — a sigh signals a false start; a whoop signals success. This is the best of learning — authentic, lively, and occasionally loud. from the pre and lower school through the Upper School, Packer’s math teachers emphasize inquiry-based learning — that is, they present their students with rich, investigative problems that can be approached through multiple strategies. Students work collaboratively to solve these problems, experimenting and building on one another’s ideas. They challenge and question one another’s thinking. Through this process — and the profound “aha moments” that it leads to — students deepen their understanding of math. But practically speaking, how does inquiry-based math really work? Several members of the faculty gathered at the invitation of the Packer Magazine to share their experiences, insights, and convictions about the benefits of this approach. That conversation follows, with stops along the way in four math classrooms, from Third Grade through Twelfth Grade.

WINTER 2017 | 17


hat are the essential features of inquiry-based learning? Amy Hand, Math Department Chair : If we’re offering

bullet points, I would say, Starting with interesting questions.

Paul McElfresh, Middle School Math Teacher : For me a really important piece is setting up a classroom community and a set of expectations about what math class looks like. That involves students taking risks and asking questions. Very early in the year, you have to disabuse kids of the notion that there’s always going to be one right answer and one right way to solve a problem. Stella Liberman, Second Grade Associate Teacher : I would say that time for students to explore concepts is the most important part. When we talk about inquiry in the Lower School, what especially comes to mind are manipulatives: physical objects that represent non-physical ideas. Ally Rohrbach, Middle School Math Teacher : To build

on what Paul said, I think that the questions we pose need to allow students to solve problems in different ways, so they know that there’s not just one approach to the problem. Lessons need to be structured so that students have opportunities to discuss their thinking with their partner, group, or whole class, to make connections between different strategies and techniques. When students are able to make these connections and consider the relative efficiency of their strategies, their mathematical understanding and flexibility are deepened. Sam Shah, Upper School Math Teacher : Right. Implicit

in what everyone is saying is that kids are doing the heavy lifting in the classroom. The teacher is not the sole authority or “the sage on the stage.” The kids can see each other as resources. A lot of [what makes 18 | THE PACKER MAGAZINE

inquiry work] is that kids are working to discover things with each other. Maria Stutt, Upper School Math Teacher : Often my biggest challenge is keeping my mouth shut — staying out of it and letting them go. There’s a tendency to want to jump in, but a few moments of silence is almost always rewarded with an outpouring of enthusiastic sharing. I am often amazed by how much I learn — what my students are thinking and why, or new ways to explain concepts and reach more students. Sometimes I even learn new approaches to solving a problem! Chris Natale, K-6 Math Coach and Coordinator : Right — and when I do open my mouth, it’s more about asking questions than it is giving information. As Amy and Ally said, it’s a lot about asking the right questions. Ian Rumsey, Upper School Math Teacher : There’s a moment for most students in my class when they go beyond the question I pose by posing their own question. When they begin to take that additional step, it starts to click. Brendan Kinnell, Upper School Math Teacher : Having enough time is another key component of inquiry. You need to devote substantial time to let the ideas simmer, marinate, and develop for the kids. It’s a big investment. Our new schedule helps. The 90-minute block [which occurs once each seven-day cycle] gives students enough time to fully understand an engaging problem, wrestle with different approaches, and implement more involved problem-solving plans. Elisha Li, Third Grade Head Teacher : This is true at all grade levels. It’s essential to allow time for ideas to linger, grow and change. It doesn’t happen in one lesson! As the facilitator of learning in the classroom, I feel it’s also key to observe students’ thinking in order to craft the next learning experience. Even with an established

In Elisha Li and Jennifer McConnell’s Third Grade class, students develop multiplication skills through handson investigation. In “the windowwasher problem,” they must figure out the number of window panes that need cleaning — but the windows are obscured. Students solve the problem using a range of techniques. Ms. Li calls on students to share their methods and together the class explores each approach. Then students pair up at desks and on the floor to play a multiplication game in which they race to fill a 10x10 array with combinations of smaller arrays.

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Dawn Knight’s Sixth Grade students are learning how to divide a number by a fraction. Rather than introduce the algorithm that will unlock this mystery for them, she presents increasingly challenging scenarios — from splitting a half-pound bag of nuts among four people to measuring 3½ cups of flour using a -cup measure. In pairs, the students try different ideas and tools to solve these problems. They draw diagrams, subdivide them, and count the sections. Eventually they spot a relationship among the numbers that suggests an algorithm for dividing by a fraction. By the end of class, everyone has had the “aha moment” that helps lay the foundation for deep understanding. 20 | THE PACKER MAGAZINE

The whole time that we allot for sharing in math, the kids talk about their approaches: “What strategy did you use?” “Was that efficient?” “Oh, that wasn’t really super efficient, but I liked that you tried that.” And that’s Second Graders talking to each other! — Stella Liberman curriculum, it’s ultimately up to the teacher to decide how to frame each lesson so that it fits with the class’s development of mathematical ideas. It’s very engaging for students when their ideas are front and center, and each lesson builds off of them.

How do you help create an “environment of inquiry” for your students? Chris Natale : Some problems don’t have a single right answer, but in fact plenty of problems do. So we need to help kids be increasingly comfortable with being wrong, or with not knowing. As a student, if your expectation is that you’re always going to be right, you’re never going to take those risks to stretch into new territory. Generally speaking, kids don’t want to be seen as wrong, or not smart, and may hold back on things about which they’re unsure. What we do to make kids comfortable with inquiry in Kindergarten through Sixth Grade is really the seed that grows for them in Middle and Upper Schools. Ian Rumsey : Inquiry involves some risk and some personal vulnerability that kids are not necessarily comfortable with, initially. As a teacher, I think it’s important to sublimate your ego, to get rid of your own personal attachment to being right, to be able to say to a student “I don’t know, but I’d love to find out!” Modeling that willingness is really important. Kids pick up on it and become more comfortable saying, “I don’t know — let’s find out!” Elisha Li, Third Grade Head Teacher : Something I do is model my own curiosity as a learner. I’ll think aloud about how I’m thinking about problem, or I’ll make mistakes and try out different answers. Another way is to create a culture of growing. I have a motto for myself as a teacher and for my students: Progress, not perfection. We have a class expectation in my Third Grade this year: “Try hard things and be okay making tweaks!” This has really helped create a culture of learning, trying, and even making mistakes. Some educators call this the “growth mindset.” It’s hard to make mistakes at first, but we try to normalize it as a part of learning. When we solve a problem like 8x5, I will often say, “Seems like many students got the answer of 40. Now, let’s get to the interesting part: How did you find the answer?”

Brendan Kinnell : As teachers, when we engage in inquiry ourselves, we are thinking mathematically “in the wild.” We don’t know which tools we’ll need to use or which representations might be best. In these moments we are acting as we hope our students will act: creating, trying, adapting, etc. It reminds us first-hand of the value in that process. For instance, [Math Chair] Amy Hand recently walked into the Upper School math office and said, “Have you guys heard this incredible problem?”* At first we [all thought], “I don’t have time to solve that!” But in the back of our minds we knew we would become obsessed with it. Conversations about the problem started, then they started to trickle to the Computer Science department, and then one person found the solution — and another, and another. Sameer Shah : And everyone’s path to the solution was different! Brendan Kinnell : Exactly. As professionals who are committed to trying to understand a problem deeply, we really appreciate when a student takes a wrong path but learns something. Ally Rohrbach : Just today a few of us in the Middle School were talk-

ing about putting on our “student thinking caps” and trying to solve problems in the different ways our students might. Even though we know how to solve a simple Seventh Grade math problem, thinking about it deeply and searching for other ways to approach it allows us to connect that problem to their prior knowledge and build upon it. Sam Shah : When we’re designing lessons, especially collaboratively, one of the most interesting things is what happens when we go to the top-most view and ask, “What’s important? What’s the macro-level question we want kids to understand?” Planning our units, we start at

* Amy Hand’s problem was as follows: Imagine a row of ten waiters, each holding a platter, standing along a wall facing outward. Each waiter can hold his platter to his right, his left, or out in front of him, but adjacent waiters may not hold their platters towards one another. How many different ways can the ten waiters hold their trays? Generalize for n waiters. WINTER 2017 | 21

I always try to credit the kid who has the idea: That’s Max’s idea or That’s Destin’s idea. No one is handing them the discovery. They make the discovery themselves. — Sam Shah that top level. Ian and I started to see all the ideas in one combinatorics unit emerging from a single organizing principle. Even after a math degree and a decade in the classroom, my own perspective on combinatorics completely changed! I was in awe of the framework we uncovered when we looked for “the big picture.” And because of that feeling, I was totally psyched to see how kids would interact with this material in the ways we were thinking about. I couldn’t wait to see them make the same discoveries we did! Paul McElfresh : Something we talk about in Middle School curriculum design is breaking problems down into parts: not just the solution, but the approach, the process, the reflection. We work at giving our students the vocabulary of, “When I went into this problem, here’s what I was considering.” Or, “Here are some possible strategies.” Another important part of inquiry, as Ian mentioned, is what lies beyond the solution: “How can I take what I did here and apply it so that I can further deepen my understanding?” Stella Liberman : The whole time we allot for sharing in math, the kids talk about their approaches: “What strategy did you use?” “Was that efficient?” “Oh, that wasn’t really super efficient, but I liked that you tried that.” And that’s Second Graders talking to each other! So we don’t teach solutions as much as we teach the process of thinking about the numbers. We focus on how you got there. It seems as if that’s our main focus in our math curriculum: the strategy to an answer, not solely the answer itself.

In an inquiry-based approach to math, why is student collaboration so essential? Chris Natale : I think collaboration is basically the essence of learning. Whether it’s math or anything else, learning is social. The way we learn and process things is through communicating with them. Whether we write words, or draw symbols, or create diagrams, we’re refining our thinking when we do that. Amy Hand : There are different stages of inquiry, and not all of them

must be collaborative to work well. We certainly allow kids to think deeply on their own when it’s appropriate — for instance, before they start collaborating with each other. But I would second what Chris just said. Many of us have has some version of this exchange with students: “Do you understand this?” 22 | THE PACKER MAGAZINE

“Yes!” “Can you explain it?” “I understand it, but I can’t explain it.” Well, if they can’t explain it to somebody, they probably don’t really understand it. And so requiring students to work together in small groups is a way, as Chris said, for them not just to share their understanding, but to further cement and develop their understanding. A lot us read Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets last summer; she writes about the importance of figuring out how to convince a skeptic. [What we regularly ask] kids is, “How would you put together a tight, convincing mathematical argument for what you know to be true?” Elisha Li : Student collaboration also trains students to listen to each other. Listening is actually very hard. When students talk, listen, and compare ideas, they are matching up their own idea to another’s and then making a cognitive choice to either incorporate it into their thinking or not. They are allowed to disagree with another’s idea, but it’s actually not possible to disagree unless you listen first! At the same time, I try to allow for variations in our partner work to suit students’ work styles. I know I wouldn’t want to talk the entire time in a math class. I benefit from thinking in my mind first, while other people benefit from talking out their process and figuring out what to do together. Ian Rumsey : I think of it as one’s radius of influence as you’re working on a problem: How many people are watching what I’m doing and paying attention to what I am doing? As teachers it’s very easy for us to project our radius of influence. Maria touched on this. What’s hard is letting that go and allowing the students to bring people into their orbit. Let’s say one student has an insight and he or she start to share it with another student. Then as they’re working on it, somebody else comes and says, “I don’t see how you got that.” The more the first student has to defend an idea to the rest of his or her group and refine it through really concise exposition, the more that collaboration leads to deep understanding. Without people around you to draw into your radius, you don’t have that opportunity [to refine through explanation] and your understanding isn’t as strong. Sam Shah : That happened recently in my Eleventh Grade PreCalculus classes. I asked kids to write an equation to represent a sequence of numbers that follow a particular rule. Their approach was much better than the way I had been thinking of it, so much more efficient and so much more elegant! The idea propagated independently

Brendan Kinnell presents a challenge to his Ninth Grade Geometry Advanced students: find the center of rotation between two points, using translucent slips of paper and a compass. For several minutes, no one succeeds, but the playful process of tinkering with these tools sits comfortably with them. Mr. Kinnell circulates among the groups, asking if they have a theory. “We did, and we were collectively incorrect,” chuckles one student, undiscouraged. Then one group finds one center of rotation. Another thinks they have found three. Then the breakthrough: “There are infinite centers of rotation, and they’re all on the perpendicular bisector!” WINTER 2017 | 23

In Sam Shah’s Multivariable Calculus class — the equivalent of a second-year college course — eight seniors make the challenging leap to working with figures in three and four dimensions. Mr. Shah asks them to relate a topographical map to the level curves of . They debate: Does the equation describe “the top half of a grapefruit” or merely “the skin of the top half — if the skin were infinitessimally thin”? [Answer: the latter, a dome.] In pairs, the students then calculate the figure’s level curves based on different values of z. Several times a month, their inquiries into advanced calculus extend beyond pure math: the students also lead discussions about thought-provoking books such as The Calculus of Friendship and A Mathematician’s Apology. 24 | THE PACKER MAGAZINE

I looked at the solution and said, “That can’t possibly be right.” And the whole class rallied around him, saying, “But it works!” And then together they investigated why it worked and proceeded to prove this theorem that I had never seen before... It was brilliant! — Ian Rumsey in both of my classes. And I always try to credit the kid who has the idea: That’s Max’s idea or That’s Destin’s idea. No one is handing them the discovery: they make the discovery themselves. They have ownership of it and are proud that other students end up using and citing it. And in terms of the sense of risk we were talking about before, I think student collaboration actually lowers the risk of being wrong. The people [in their small groups] are their peers. They’re not speaking publicly in a big, scary space. It’s comfortable. It’s more social. It’s a lot more fun to be talking about things with people. It’s true that ideas build off each other. Someone might say: ”Wait — yes! Then we can do this!” It’s cool when that happens. Another thing that’s really great about inquiry is that each group gets to move at its own pace. It’s not, “Now let’s all do problem 7. Now everyone move to on problem 8.” They get to take more time on the things they need more time with. As a teacher, you facilitate that on a class-wide scale.

For students who struggle in math, does an inquiry-based approach make learning harder? Amy Hand : I would argue any day that inquiry-based learning is even

more critical for students who struggle. Stronger students have the ability to make connections themselves, no matter the manner in which they’re taught. With other students, it’s especially critical that they’re able to attach the mathematical ideas being introduced to their intuition, and then exploit their mathematical intuition — to attach meaning to a context that they’re familiar with — and have the math emerge from there. You [have to] start with a question that’s accessible. It connects to something they’ve already learned or an experience they’ve had, from which they can build on their own understanding. I think the best inquiry-based learning does that really well. Ian Rumsey : I’ve found in some cases students who have struggled historically actually do better with an inquiry-based approach than students who are used to success. There’s a struggle and frustration inherent in inquiry — running up against the wall repeatedly — and some students are more accustomed to having to persevere through

a lack of understanding. They are often quicker to adjust to inquirybased learning, whereas students who are super capable and rarely experience that struggle find that the adjustment to not knowing is unfamiliar and initially uncomfortable.

What are some of your greatest moments teaching math with an inquiry-based approach? Amy Hand : Last year in Sixth Grade, we implemented a fantastic new

curriculum called Connected Math. And one student, as he was leaving my classroom one day, spontaneously said, “I like this class because we don’t learn about math, we do math.” That was the best thing I had ever heard about a class. Ian Rumsey : My personal favorite moment was being totally wrong about something. I had asked my class to find the line tangent to a conic section, and one student presented a vector-based solution that — well, I don’t know where it came from! He played with it and he tinkered with it until he realized, “Oh, if I make these two things vectors, the whole thing falls into place.” I looked at the solution and said, “That can’t possibly be right.” And the whole class rallied around him, saying, “But it works!” And then together they investigated why it worked and proceeded to prove this theorem that I had never seen before. I don’t think I have ever seen it again. It was brilliant! It was so creative — and it all began with my being wrong. They were practicing that skepticism Amy was talking about — towards me. It was amazing. Paul McElfresh : Early this year, we had a project where students had to come up with all the possible rectangular prisms that would meet a set of criteria. They approached the problem in all these different ways and made posters to share their solutions. At first, they were so focused on their own solutions and which one was “the best.” But through the process of sharing their strategies, the students realized that by borrowing from one another’s ideas, they could begin to piece them together and actually create the solution, “Transformer”-style. [Laughter.] So they collectively realized, “There is some benefit to listening to one another and not just saying our own ideas.” That was great. WINTER 2017 | 25

I can throw any kind of math problem at them now — even ones that I know they don’t yet have the tools to solve. And they’re trained. They look at it. They figure out what they can figure out. They start playing around. — Amy Hand

Stella Liberman : We do this one unit called Parcels and Presents that

even kids who aren’t very “math happy” get so excited about. They create their own number stories based on images they’ve made. And they do them during choice time, which in the Lower School is their unstructured playtime. It’s great seeing how much they want to do it, and it has nothing to do with me! I just want to make sure their math is correct, and I get them to ask another student. It’s perfect! Sam Shah : The year before last, there was one unit in Geometry — the cross-chord theorem for circles — that was so boring. In general we try not to give the kids too much, but in this case we sort of led the kids to the conclusion. And we weren’t happy with it because it didn’t feel like natural discovery. Last year we completely revised the lesson so that the students would discover this theorem themselves. We didn’t want anyone to look it up, so we created a mathematical creature called a Blermion. It was just a circle with a quadrilateral inscribed in it, and from there you can actually come up with the theorem. At the end of the year, we wanted to test their habits of mind so we gave them Merblions, where you have a circle and you have to put a quadrilateral outside of it, touching all four sides. I just let them loose for two class periods to discover everything they could about the Merblion. They made little Google presentations that they were really excited about. One group would present a problem and another group would come up with a solution. It was just really cool.

Does inquiry-based math make better thinkers across disciplines? Chris Natale : I do feel that our teaching in math somehow transcends

all the content; it goes back to those habits of mind again. So being persistent, or coming up with a cogent, clear argument about why you believe what you believe — those are things you do in math and they transcend to other subjects. So the idea of geometry and number work — that stuff is all important but it’s not the only thing. Stella Liberman : I just think that math helps students see patterns and also helps them explain their thinking. In Second Grade, those things often are relatively easy to do in math, but not in other disciplines. But 26 | THE PACKER MAGAZINE

the skills translate: if the kids are not understanding another concept, or are confused about something in reading or writing, they can ask questions, which is something they do naturally in inquiry-based math. Paul McElfresh : By engaging in this practice of tinkering and thinking critically, young people start to become creators of things, not just consumers. As they get older, they’re going to have to identify problems and come up with solutions. Inquiry prepares them for this. In the inquiry process, they learn to explore a situation and all of its components. They have to communicate and collaborate with one another. They have to come up with possible ideas, and then tweak and evaluate, and then arrive at a solution and test it. They’ll need these skills more and more in terms of addressing whatever personal, professional, academic, or socialemotional dilemmas they’re going to come across. I think that we’re giving them the tools to be patient and resilient in that process and to participate actively in it. Elisha Li : The ultimate goal is to help students understand their learning process and motivate them to learn more. I see so many parallels in learning, no matter the subject. Ultimately, when students are curious and motivated, they tend to ask questions, or wonder about the world around them, or research to learn more, or try out different ideas and solutions. This is true in math as much as it is in reading and writing. Amy Hand : I see inquiry-based learning generally manifest in the confi-

dence that kids have approaching unfamiliar problems. It’s impossible for me to imagine that their confidence in approaching new challenges doesn’t translate across disciplines. I can throw any kind of math problem at them now — even ones that I know they don’t yet have the tools to solve. And they’re trained. They look at it. They figure out what they can figure out. They start playing around. They draw a picture if they can. They use numerical examples if they can. They look for a pattern if it’s appropriate. They have such confidence approaching new tough work, and I think that comes from the approach we’ve used the last few years.

Conversation moderated, edited, and condensed by Karin Storm Wood.

Making Math Visible

The Carol Shen Gallery exhibit Technically Beautiful: The Intersection of Math & Art was designed in part to deepen our aesthetic appreciation of math.

the visual structures that emerge from mathematics are both analytically satisfying and aesthetically arresting. And it is precisely at the intersection of analytic thinking and aesthetic pleasure where we situated Technically Beautiful: The Intersection of Math & Art. With this show, we wanted to combat misconceptions about mathematics. Math isn’t black and white, but vibrant and nuanced. We feel mathematics: we experience the elation of discovery and see how creativity has a huge role in problem solving. We see mathematics: we peer deep into the structures that undergird mathematical reality and declare them beautiful. We become personally intertwined in mathematics: curiosity pulls us in.

Technically Beautiful was designed to engage students in every division. First Graders built collaborative sculptures in paper after studying Ryan and Trevor Oakes’s “Matchstick Dome” [top]. The artists themselves, known as the Oakes Twins, visited Packer for a day of inquiry and discussion with Upper School students, who learned about the math and physics behind the artists’ matchstick structures and concave drawings [above].

With this interdisciplinary exhibit, we created an environment to bridge that gap and help people of all ages see that creative work and analytic work are not mutually exclusive. Indeed they often are one and the same. We hoped to show students with a love of the arts that mathematics can be one way to inform their own artistic expressions, while we hoped to show students with a love of mathematics that their work can have an aesthetic component if they are willing to look for it and shape it. — Adapted from the exhibit’s introduction, written by its three faculty curators: art teacher Liz Titone and math teachers Brendan Kinnell and Sam Shah WINTER 2017 | 27

Parent Association News

Family Fun The PA’s annual Pumpkin Patch festival brought hundreds of families to Joralemon Street for carnival games, spooky stories, and frighteningly delicious treats. Packer thanks all of our incredible parent volunteers and Pumpkin Patch Chair Alexa Eccles P’28 for her leadership of this beloved community celebration.


Serving Others


The Community Service Committee held numerous events this fall, including a playground clean-up, a holiday visit to a local senior center, a coat drive for refugees, and a 15,000-meal food-packaging event at Packer [pictured].

Creating Connections In October the Diversity Committee held a “Gender 101” parent workshop led by Director of Diversity and Equity Semeka Smith-Williams P’22, P’24 and Health Department Chair Karen Brandt. In November, the PADC held “Post-Election Healing,” led by Ms. Smith-Williams and attended by over 30 parents, faculty, and staff [pictured].

m a r k y o u r c a l en d a r s Celebrate Morocco! The PA Diversity Committee invites families to attend a carnival celebrating the arts, culture, sports, and food of Morocco on Sunday, February 12, from 1 to 4 p.m. in the 2nd Floor Gym. Miami Beach at The Royal Palms Grab your panama hat and espadrilles and get ready to jet off to Miami Beach at the 2017 Packer Gala on Friday, March 10, at 7 p.m. at the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club. Funds raised will benefit Packer professional development. Learn more, buy tickets, or underwrite the event at

Book Fair Browse the annual Packer PA Book Fair from Wednesday, May 3, through Friday, May 5, in the 2nd Floor Gym. (The May Day Festival is on May 5!) Spring Community Service Day On Saturday, May 13, from 12 to 3 p.m., the PA Community Service Committee will host families from Little Flower, a non-profit organization that provides foster care and adoption services, and our neighbors from the Arab-American Family Support Center, which provides tools for new immigrants to become active members of the community, for a fun-filled day of games, arts and crafts, food, entertainment, and community in the Packer Garden.

WINTER 2017 | 29

Alumni News

Emily at the top of Mount Pilatus outside of Lucerne, Switzerland.

The Road Taken Emily Lamia ’02, Packer’s 105th Founder’s Day speaker, reflects on the intersection of her passion and her career — and the journey she made to reach it. by Tori Gibbs


he first time Emily Lamia ’02 set off on a journey of her own was at age 24. She found herself in between campaign jobs after the 2008 election and decided to travel to Belize. The trip was revelatory — not only because she made life-long friends and got to see a new part of the world, but because she discovered how independent and capable traveling solo made her feel. Nearly a decade later, during a walk in Prospect Park, Lamia found herself thinking that that was going to be the year when she “needed to make a pivotal move” in her life. She set off on a new path and founded Pivot Journeys, a company that offers structured getaways for professionals who want time to reflect and focus on career development.


Today, Lamia says that her road to entrepreurship began at Packer when she entered in the 9th Grade. In the Upper School, she was a self-proclaimed “theater nerd,” singing and acting in the plays and musicals. Her passions allowed her to travel internationally to Italy with the Packer Chorus and France and London with her theater class. She cites the lasting influence of her teachers — George Snook and former faculty Ann Diederich, Judy Kemlitz, Sean Mullin, and Debbie Pressman — who gave her “all the tools in the toolbox” to be successful through college and each phase of her professional career. Lasting relationships with her Packer classmates have enriched her life and career through the decades. She singles

out a tight circle of friends going back to her days in the Upper School: a “lifelong teacher,” “a waitress-turned-published-author,” an “art-seller-turned-insurance-saleswoman,” and “an arts-nonprofit founder,” who all share business advice and lend moral support. “I have built a lot of the work I do with Pivot Journeys because of people I met at Packer,” she says. After graduation in 2002, Lamia moved to Massachusetts to attend Mount Holyoke College. She pursued her new passion for progressive politics through on-the-ground internships with aspiring Democratic politicians in the Northeast, including presidential candidate Howard Dean. Election campaign work was intense; Lamia remembers “holding up a four-by-eight-foot [campaign] sign at 4 a.m. on the side of the highway... in -10 degree weather” in hopes of electing officials who would bring positive change to the country. Fortunately, the campaign election cycle left Lamia between jobs for months at a time when she would travel abroad — creating the pivot around which her life began to cycle. “Little did I know those periods of unemployment would be the basis of the idea behind launching Pivot Journeys years later.” Lamia discovered her true passion while working at Democratic GAIN in Washington, DC, which provides career development resources for political professsionals. When her supervisor stepped down, she assumed the role of director at age 26. The unexpected leadership role gave her the “opportunity to test out being an entrepreneur for the first time and trying to build an organization.” “I started my career in politics because I thought that in order to make a difference in the world, change needed to happen from the top down.” But after working directly for political organizations, she “realized that the impact I wanted to make was [centered] around individuals, instead of...larger systems.” Fast forward to the walk through Prospect Park in 2015, when Lamia “decided to make the leap,” and Pivot Journeys was born. Lamia is passionate about the power of travel to change one’s perspective — a claim she eagerly backs with research. “Travel increases neuroplasticity, which is the ability for your brain to create new connections and pathways. When you’re in a new space and things are different, your brain is stimulated to create connections that you don’t have when you’re sitting at your desk and everything is the same.” As CEO, being solely responsibile for the success of her business is daunting, but “knowing that you built something that is making a difference in people’s lives is incredibly rewarding,” she says. Her advice for those who are wanting to embark on their own pivot journey? “There are so many different ways people are affecting change today. There’s no one recipe or path to go down in order to do this work. Find what you’re good at and what you love doing, and change the world by doing that.”

Emily was the keynote speaker at Packer’s 105th Founders Day on October 26, 2016. Read excerpts of her speech below: It’s very common for people to have a chapter of their life that doesn’t really connect, or that they’re not proud of. So get ready... because you’re going to try different things and test out your interests. And it might not always go the way you planned. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee it’s not going to. If you are an entrepreneur, you might be testing out a new product. It might do great. It might be okay. And if you’re not an entrepreneur, you’re still going to find yourself in one chapter of your career thinking about what you want the next one to be, and how you’re going to get there. All of these are decisions that you are making [in high school are] as the entrepreneur of your own life. And if it all feels a little overwhelming, try to get used to it and embrace it. That’s another thing adults don’t always tell you – that you kind of have to get used to feeling like you’re always figuring it out. That doesn’t stop. [...] But you all are so lucky to be at Packer because being here is setting you up to navigate [your careers] and be as successful as possible. [...] How many of you play Angry Birds on your phones? Did you know that the three guys who started that created 51 different

games before they came up with Angry Birds? None of the games were very popular, but something pushed them to make one more. That was Angry Birds. What was that something in them that told them to keep going, after fifty-one of them were not popular?

“You all are so lucky to be at Packer because being here is setting you up to navigate [your careers] and be as successful as possible.” Perseverance. You can’t easily measure that on an SAT score. And some of you might have skills and talents like that that you don’t even know about yet. There is no secret map, recipe, or plan to follow when it comes to your career these days, and you will find yourself faced with a lot of decisions and writing many different chapters[...] Some are going to be really difficult and you’re going to feel like you failed. And some are going to be awesome and you’re going to feel great about life. Having a career and being an entrepreneur — they’re one and the same in so many ways. You have already begun to be entrepreneurs, getting to test out what your unique talents are and where your passions lie. So best of luck to all of you on this journey that you’re just starting to embark on.

Learn more about Emily’s company at WINTER 2017 | 31

Bonding Over “The Beautiful Game” Two alumni turn their love for soccer into a job description. by Karin Storm Wood


aped to the wall of a tiny midtown coffee shop sold you those tickets!” says Jesse), he had spent plenty of is a signed snapshot of two high school-aged boys. time hanging out and talking soccer with Jesse and his MLS Now men in their thirties, they are greeted like celebcolleagues after games. When MLS’s director of player relarities when they stop in on their way to their offices upstairs. tions left to become the general manager in Toronto, Will Friends since they started at Packer as First Graders in 1989, decided to apply. He has held that position since 2013. Jesse Perl ’02 and Will Kuntz ’02 have also, for the past four Work-life balance was also a factor in his career move. years, been colleagues at Major League Soccer, which over“Baseball is a lot of hours. They play 162 games a year,” Will sees all the professional men’s teams in the U.S. and Canada. says. When he made the move to MLS, his friends saw Fluent in Spanish after a stint in Argentina, Jesse [him] “more in those first four months than they had in the started at MLS as an intern, focusing on international previous four years!” communications. (He was hired by Ben Spencer ‘01, who Though only Jesse played soccer at Packer (Will — who is was then working in MLS’s international communications six foot five, played basketball), the two have in common a department.) From there Jesse moved into fan development, life-long love for “the beautiful game.” partnership marketing, and brand and creative marketing, “At Packer, we were among a minority of people talking which he now leads. about soccer during lunch,” says Will. “During free periods, Will’s career in sports began during college, when he Jesse and I would run to my house, watch Champions interned at the New York Yankees. After graduating, he was League on TV, then run back to Packer for practice.” hired to the Yankees’ pro scouting department. A few years Somewhat sheepishly, they admit that they followed only and a law degree later, he was running the department. European teams back then. Will moved from baseball to soccer for a variety of In a fortuitous turn, their first direct exposure to Major reasons. A New York Red Bulls season-ticket holder (“I League Soccer was through Packer.


This photo of Jesse and Will from their Packer days hangs in the coffee shop below Major League Soccer’s midtown offices.

“The first MLS game I ever went to was with [then soccer coach] George Boutis. He took us and a bunch of other guys to see — was it the Metrostars?” “Yup, now the Red Bulls. They were playing in Giants Stadium,” says Will. “With football lines on the field. In an cavernous 80,000seat stadium,” continues Jesse. “With fewer than 10,000 people watching!” “You could sit wherever you wanted. And we’d never heard of anyone on the field except one Bolivian player on the other team, and we didn’t even know how we knew him.” Just as readily as they finish each other sentences, the two are quick to point out that Major League Soccer has grown enormously in size and popularity since then. Today the Red Bulls play in a state-of-the-art stadium dedicated to soccer. Jesse calls it “one of the best in the world.” “Our team in Seattle sells out all their home games now,” says Will. Jesse adds Orlando and Portland to that list. “And we just had a playoff game at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal and sold out 60,000 seats,” he cites. “We’re getting past the NBA in terms of average attendance.” Notably, a major factor in soccer’s growing popularity in the U.S. is a video game. “EA Sports FIFA is a huge, huge driver,” says Jesse. “A big reason why Will and I are the best buds that we are and are [both at MLS] are all the hours in our friendship that we’ve spent sitting around playing the video game.” They have seen this growth in interest in soccer even at Packer. A few years back, Upper School English Teacher Eric Weisberg invited Will to sit in on a student debate on different sports models. “I was shocked by their command of the soccer world — MLS rules, European rules,” he says. “They were so beyond where we were at the time. Soccer is more of a common language today, and there’s more awareness that it’s the most popular sport in the world.” They see the challenges and rewards of working for America’s “sports underdog” as two sides of the same coin. Jesse’s responsibility at MLS is to increase the size of the fan base, both in attendance and in television audience.

“That’s a tall order in a league office,” he says. “It’s different from, How do we increase the fans of an individual club?” Honing MLS’s marketing strategy has been critical. “We are more disciplined in having a focus, and resisting the temptation to go after [too many different demographics]. We’re about being a multicultural millennial brand. That’s what we consider our target.” Will, who oversees players’ contracts and negotiations, also enjoys the international dimensions of his work. “Working on the collective bargaining agreement with our players’ union, dealing with international legal issues that pop up, signing and transferring players internationally — it’s a really interesting and welcome additional piece.” Acknowledging the glaring difference between the money-is-no-object Yankees and the leaner MLS outfit, Will points out “surprising overlaps.” “What makes the Yankees so competitive is their obsession with efficiency. They spend at huge levels, but they’re just as focused on who their 25th man is — the second left-handed reliever, a guy you only use in an emergency — as they are [in their top players]. At MLS we’re exponentially increasing that same drive to efficiency.” “Our league isn’t even the top league in the world,” Will continues. “That speaks to the amount of interest and money in global soccer: you never really know what the best league or the best team is. In any given year, the Spanish league might be way up, or the German league. There is so much player movement and money in Europe. As a 20-yearold company, we don’t try to compete with them, but we do try to learn from what they’ve done over the past 100 years. And we’re really starting to get to that point [of acceleration] in the curve.” sitting in the Belle Alenick Baier Atrium — a space that was merely the air above an outdoor basketball court when they were students — Jesse and Will address the expansion that Packer has undergone since 2002. “During our time here, the secret wasn’t out. Sure, Packer was always a selective prep school in Brooklyn, but we were kind of small and kept to ourselves. An element that is WINTER 2017 | 33

Will was the senior speaker for his graduating class. In his speech, he described the Class of 2002 as being “strong willed” but also reminded the audience of its strength and character. He recalled that the senior class assisted faculty members on the morning of September 11, 2001, and that students who could not return safely home were welcomed into the homes of families who lived nearby.

different now is that Packer isn’t so small any more,” Will says, gesturing behind him to the Student Center and the Middle School, which opened in 2003. “Every time I come back,” he continues, “I run into Mr. Weisberg, Mr. Boutis, or Mr. Riggio. The soul of Packer is still here, even if the [size] is a little different. It’s that nurturing atmosphere and the freedom to speak your mind about different topics without being castigated for it. [Those values] are as important now as ever.” Will reports seeing Packer more regularly on the resumes of MLS job candidates. He even hired a fellow Pelican, Matthew Ratajczak ’09, to his department at MLS last year. “There’s no doubt things — brass band like Will, that Packer is a market quality, and not or theater stuff like some of “The soul of Packer is still here, just quality of work ethic but quality of our friends,” says Jesse. “There’s person and quality of thought. That’s a kind of emotional and inteleven if the [size] is a little what Packer is about, and I think it’s still lectual maturity that Packer very much the same.” different. It’s that nurturing kids had, and probably still Jesse agrees that Packer leaves a valuhave, being a little bit more atmosphere and the freedom to able mark on its graduates. “I really felt mature than some kids your like, Kids here are nice. There was kindage. You’d get to college, and speak your mind about different ness and empathy. We got along. That’s a between having a social life topics without being castigated credit to the culture of the school. That’s and getting your work done, how I came to see the Packer community there’s an importance balance for it. [Those values] are as and what I liked about Packer.” that Packer prepared us for.” important now as ever.” How did Packer crystallize who they “When I think about us and are today? our friends, Packer was kind “I went through so much more change of the center of gravity of the at Packer [than in college]. You’re exposed to so much here, universe. It pulled you in closer towards those values and so much diversity of thought. I was a much more finished norms that Packer embodied. After Packer, we evolved product after Packer,” says Will. “At college, I saw people more as individuals, but being there created a sense of going through difficult issues and conversations — all stability. Packer has this way of pulling you all together things that we’d been exposed to since First Grade, the early toward the center.” Nineties. We did things like looking at Keith Haring draw“I’m not sure that gravitational pull has really dissipated,” ings and talking about AIDS awareness. At college I realized counters Will. After attending an event at BAM recently, that that was the first time these other kids — and many of he walked a few blocks to The Prospect, the Fort Greene them were from elite schools — were exposed to these frank, restaurant owned by classmate Alan Cooper ’02. dynamic conversations. To me, they were old hat.” Whom did he run into there but Jesse, who was catching “At Packer you’re able to become a pretty well-rounded up with Lincoln Restler ’02. person. You felt nurtured and confident, able to pursue Will concludes: “We’re still crashing into each other.”


a ti m e ly d e b u t f o r t h e a l u m ni o f c o l o r / s t u d ent o f c o l o r m ent o rin g p r o g r a m The result of a lively planning session by alumni and students in the Spring, the Alumni Association hosted the debut gathering of the Alumni of Color/Student of Color Mentoring Program on November 7, 2016, the eve of the presidential election. The evening’s conversation was facilitated by Tené Howard ’97, Director of Global Outreach, Service and Sustainability, Semeka Smith-Williams, Director of Diversity and Equity, and Paul Forbes ’91, Director of the NYC Department of Education’s Expanded Success Initiative.

The evening’s focus was a discussion of the presidential election campaign, the misrepresentation of people of color, and how alumni and students can be supportive of each other, as the country recovers from this election cycle. The wisdom and perspectives shared between participants was reassuring and created a sense of hope at the start of an eventful week. If you would like to be a part of the Alumni of Color Mentor Group, please contact Dona Laughlin, Director of Alumni, at (718) 250-0229 or

Co-facilitator Paul Forbes ’91 reconnected with a familiar figure during his visit: History Chair Erland Zygmuntowicz.

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Thank you to all the members of the Classes of ’13, ’14, ’15, and ’16 who visited with seniors and faculty in early January. Look out for our annual July event for young alumni! [1] Joelle Wellington ’16, Instrumental Music Coordinator Paul Riggio, Ruby Laufer ’16, and Manny Farmer ’16 [2] Ben Leitner ’14, Upper School Dean Loryn Evanoff, and Ellie Firestein ’14 [3] Ymhani Goin-Cloird ’16, Sofia Riggio ’16, Alex Young ’16, Tasnia Khan ’17, and Joelle Wellington ’16 [4] Ashley Jack ’12, Brynna Downey ’12, Mac Schumer ’13, Laura Balcerak ’13, College Counselor Nila Fortune, Jonathan Mohan ’15, Loryn Evanoff, Shane Rothman ’16, and Lily Carruthers ’15

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A LL A LUMNI A RE I NV I TE D to join the Reunion Classes

of the 2’s and 7’s at Packer this April. On Friday, visit classes and stay for cocktails. On Saturday, take a tour, attend a student panel and performance, go to Chapel, enjoy a terrific lunch, and finish with a basketball game between Alumni/ae and students! For the full schedule and more, please visit