Peck News Fall/Winter 2024

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E xploring Upper School

ABOUT THE COVER I THINK WE DOODLE TO ACCESS THAT CREATIVE PART IN OURSELVES. Upper School English Teacher Sarah Chan explains it well: the art of doodling— spontaneous drawing while one’s attention is otherwise occupied; a phenomenon so common to humanity that it’s unremarkable—is a window into subconscious imagination. Many a Peck Upper Schooler’s notebook or homework folder is covered in doodles by the end of the year—and many a Peck teacher’s notepad, too! In fact, research shows that doodling improves memory, relieves stress, and increases focus. This isn’t necessarily a habit of distraction; rather, it’s a habit of engagement. The cover of this issue of Peck News represents this iconic habit often seen at the edges of students’ notes, papers, binders, and even scrap paper! Hidden in the design are doodles from several Upper School teachers, too. Can you find them all? (Hints at the back!)

DEAR PECK COMMUNITY, A S A N E D U C AT O R , I LOV E working with middle school students. I find them fun, introspective, endearing, and challenging in all the right ways— middle schoolers force educators (and parents!) to bring their “A” game. Knowing that middle schoolers are experiencing the same ups and downs, the same vulnerabilities, and the same insecurities many of us experienced during our middle school years requires our empathy and reflection on what we needed as middle schoolers that we may

If given a choice to return to the past, would I choose to revisit my middle school years? Absolutely not. But that’s part of our motivation today. How do we make Peck’s middle school experience enriching and enjoyable despite the difficulty of adolescence? It starts with experienced, caring educators and a community and culture that values and celebrates all things middle school— or, in Peck’s case, the Upper School. Everything we do at Peck is intentional;

not have received.

we work hard to craft an experience that

Peck middle schoolers need to know

care, and prepares them to soar.

they’re valued and seen; they need to

honors our students, demonstrates we We also invite you to interact with this

know they’re appreciated even as they

In this issue, you will read about

navigate some of the most awkward years

our strategic approach to teaching

of their lives; they need to know they are

middle schoolers. You’ll read about

competent and trusted; they need skilled

you to doodle throughout the issue, and

our intentional integration of student

educators and caring parents. They need

find the hidden pictures in Scott Beil’s

reflection in the kindergarten through

these things to be successful.

intricate Peck-inspired doodle on the last

eighth-grade curriculum to develop

page of this magazine.

Perhaps like yours, my middle school

lifelong learners and risk-takers. You’ll

experience was a mixed bag, and over my past 10 years at Peck, I’ve frequently wished I could have had this middle

have the chance to take a remixed version of Sarah Chan’s infamous Comma Test,

issue! You may remember doodling on your notebooks in class. We encourage

Enjoy this issue highlighting the Peck middle-school experience. Go Pride!

hear stories from Peck faculty about their

school experience! I remember all too

own middle school experiences, and enjoy

vividly my own desperate attempts to fit

a visual take on the 16 best things about

in—whether through the clothes I was

Peck’s middle school. You’ll also learn

wearing or the friends I was keeping—as

of the accomplishments of Kobby Adu-

well as my academic insecurities and

Diawuo ’09, who began his Peck journey

my growing awareness of how I stacked

in middle school and is now thriving

up against others. I also remember

in the finance sector working as Vice

the teachers who built me up and the

President of Investments at HarbourView

magnitude of their impact.

Equity Partners.


Andrew C. Delinsky Head of School



UPPER SCHOOL | UNLOCKED Middle school is a time of exponential growth: physical, academic, and social-emotional. It’s also a time for duality—the paradigmatic push-and-pull between child and teenage identities. And making sure to foster both sides of this coin, so to speak, is what Peck’s Upper School program does best.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: 8 14 24 26 28

16 Great Things About Upper School at Peck


Decades of Connections: Enduring Bonds at the Peck Alumni Happy Hour in NYC


(From the Cover) Hidden Doodle Key: Who’s Behind the Art?

Middle School Memories 13 Must-Read Middle-Grade Books Adventuring Beyond the Classroom Meet Pat Houlihan, Peck’s Director of Athletics

DEPARTMENTS 22 32 34 36 44

Campus News Arts Update Athletics Update Faculty News Class Notes



Risk-taking in middle school plays a pivotal role in shaping a student’s character and development.

12 UPON FURTHER REFLECTION: How Peck Bakes in Research-Informed Practices of Reflection to Foster Independence and Lifelong Learning From their earliest days in kindergarten to their final moments on campus at Commencement, Peck students hone their reflection skills and, in so doing, power their pursuit of lifelong learning.

Peck News FALL / WINTER 2024

A twice-yearly publication for families, faculty, and alumni of The Peck School in Morristown, New Jersey HEAD OF SCHOOL Andrew C. Delinsky


EDITORIAL STAFF Director of Strategic Communications & Marketing Heather Burchfield


Associate Director of Visual Brand Strategy Jen Cleary Digital Marketing Specialist Melissa Webber

What’s wrong with this title? Read about Sarah Chan’s infamous Comma Test to find out!

Advancement Office Sarah Quinn Clausen Blair Pack Taylor (Worthington) Williams ‘03 Seabury Consulting Dale Seabury WRITERS/CONTRIBUTORS Guest Writers: Taylor (Worthington) Williams ‘03 Features & Departments: Heather Burchfield, Jen Cleary, Melissa Webber Class Notes & In Memoriam: Advancement Office PHOTOGRAPHY At-Home Studios (, Peck Faculty, The Peck School, The Peck School Archives


PRINTING Bolger, Inc.

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: KOBBY ADU-DIAWUO ‘09 A leader in the financial industry, Kobby shares his story with Alumni Associate Taylor Williams ‘03.

ART DIRECTOR Bruce Hanson The Peck School 247 South Street Morristown, NJ 07960 (973) 539-8660 Northern New Jersey’s timeless and transformative co-ed independent elementary and middle school education for grades K-8. The Peck School does not discriminate in the admission process, its scholarship programs, or in the administration of its other programs or policies on the basis of characteristics or conditions, such as creed, race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.

Exploring the Middle School Years at Peck TA K E A S T R O L L T H R O U G H

Pithers continues, “These kids are

campus at Upper School recess and

tweens going into teens, and they want

you’ll see dozens of pre-teens on the

to be spoken to like young adults rather

swings, shooting hoops, climbing the

than children. But at the same time,

ropes, and playing soccer. You’ll hear

they are still children who are dealing

talking, laughing, and connecting

with complex emotions, who still need

over stories at the picnic tables or in

to play, and who will make mistakes.”

common spaces.

Making sure to foster both sides of the

You might find four friends huddled

coin, so to speak, is what Peck’s Upper

around a Chess board, talking about

School program does.

their weekend plans while strategically moving their rook to capture the queen. You’ll take in the scene of five friends sprawled on couches, laughing together as photos from their time at Peck scroll on the TV behind them. Or two

“We give them both support and independence, teaching them advocacy but also acknowledging they have struggles and may need role models or coaching,” explains Pithers.

friends tossing a lacrosse ball back and

“For example, you can’t just say, ‘Well,

forth, while discussing their upcoming

why don’t you ask your teacher?’ but instead,

semi-final matchup.

start the conversation with ‘How can we

Middle school is a time of exponen-

break down the steps, and acknowledging

tial growth: physical, academic, and social-emotional. It’s also a time for duality—the paradigmatic push-and-pull between child and teenage identities. “Parents can have a hard time understanding that a middle schooler is both

ask your teacher?’—helping the student they might be sitting with something hard. This can set them up for the small victories that carry big rewards.” Peck’s K-8 program provides the ideal structure for this model, providing a familiar environment with trusted

a child and on their way to being a

adults so 10-14-year-olds can practice

teen—with childlike maturity but also a

the level of self-advocacy, independence,

craving for independence,” says Upper

and leadership expected in a high school

School Psychologist Dr. Lisa Pithers.


upper school 4 | FALL/W IN T ER 2024

unlocked Peck News


upper school unlocked

“In a lot of middle schools, kids can be completely lost,” says

ant to establish deeper connections to foster a sense of belong-

Pithers. “Here at Peck, how well we know the kids and how well

ing,” says Pithers. “We want our Upper School community to

they feel they know us is unique for a middle school program.”

reflect and embrace their unique and growing personalities,

“We talk to Upper Schoolers like young adults, rather than

and learn to be their authentic selves with those around them.”

children,” continues Pithers, “so they feel they can bounce

To accomplish these weighty goals, Peck creates tangible

ideas off of or brainstorm with adults. They really appreciate

opportunities to encourage personal growth in independence,

the effort we make in respecting their intellect, their identities,

leadership, and self-advocacy.

and what’s happening in their brains.”

For example, the highly-coveted keycard, which allows them

While students bond with their teachers and peers throughout

independent access to classroom buildings, is a symbol of

the Peck experience, it really takes root with the Upper School

autonomy and trust within the community. From fifth through

Advisory Program. During fifth through eighth grades, stu-

eighth grades, students are expected to travel independently

dents are established in small groups at the beginning of each

from class to class, manage their time, and make good choic-

year, by grade level, with a teacher who becomes their cheer-

es. Receiving a keycard as a newly-minted fifth grader is a big

leader, role model, guide, and mentor. Advisors help students


set goals, evaluate and track progress, and serve as a resource throughout the year.

Head of Upper School Virginia Savage shares that in sixth

Essentially, Advisory is the “home base” that cushions Upper

lance, that sense of excitement and wonder. We harness that

Schoolers’ burgeoning independence while they figure out who

energy to deepen skill building and their understanding of not

they are and who they want to be.

only the world, but also themselves.”

“When you transition from the homeroom model of Lower

For example, Upper School Art Teacher Scott Beil’s sixth-grade

School to classes with different peers each period, it’s import-

wire sculpture identity projects prompt students to represent

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grade, “[we] really begin honing that confidence, that jubi-

an interest or hobby through a human-like figure, frozen in the

former Director of Admissions at The Peddie School and

midst of action. The project cultivates self-reflection—not only

currently Admissions Officer for Undergraduate Studies at

in which facet of personality to choose and how to create the

Harvard University.

figure, but also how to represent that aspect of personality.

She continues, “They are prepared and eager to participate;

In seventh grade, leadership becomes evident in all the small,

they do not hold back because they recognize that having a vi-

everyday moments of middle school life. Savage explains,

brant school experience will happen if they go ‘all in’ and take

“Harkness discussion is a good example, as they’re sitting

advantage of the opportunities around them. They understand

around a table intentionally noting that being socially con-

how to engage with supportive adults, they seek friendships

scious and an active participant can move the needle on the

across social circles, and they recognize the importance of a

understanding and depth of content. It’s a tangible practice

strong work ethic.”

that gives students practice in being a leader.”

With Peck’s powerful combination of teachers who challenge

Finally, in eighth grade, as students imminently prepare to

and support, knowing when to step in and when to step back,

move on to high school, they have largely found their com-

combined with the school’s programmatic structures designed

fort zones and are equipped with the skills to thrive in a high

to strategically support each phase of development, students

school environment. They’ve been leaders and role models

confidently and successfully navigate their middle school years.

for younger peers, chosen their academic path in elective arts classes and Capstone Lab, and found a more sure sense of self

“As the oldest students at Peck, eighth graders are at the top

from which to launch their futures.

of the pack: We push them, nurture them, and can catch them

“Peck graduates are ready to take on the world and dive right

figure this out on their own. Here, we give them the chance to

into their experiences in high school,” says Molly Dunne,

find the best versions of themselves.”

when needed,” says Savage. “They know they don’t have to

Peck News


8 | FALL/W IN T ER 2024


EMBRACING THE QUIRK Middle-school grades are the Venn diagram of child and adult, with ping-ponging personalities that can show up all over the map. At Peck, acceptance of self is essential for a community of belonging.


THE TECH Micro:bits! Laser engravers! Robotics kits! Arduino microcontrollers! The idea & design lab and robotics lab are wonderlands for building, coding, and computing.


THE PASTA! Chef Joe Mirra (FLIK Dining) serves a great lunch, and his pasta is the unequivocal student favorite!


ADULTS WHO SEE “THE REAL” Teachers and students are able to talk through actual moments— with care, thought, and levity when needed—to turn a stumble into an empowering learning opportunity.


KEYCARDS! Practicality meets trust: keycards open both literal and metaphorical doors as kids navigate their independence in Upper School.


LEADING THE YOUNGER KIDS Once in the Upper School, students become automatic role models for their Lower School friends. And they take that role to heart.


SAFE SPACES From lunch bunch to advisory to Dr. Pithers’ office, kids can find spaces to connect, share, and process as they navigate the tween years.


OUTDOOR ED TRIPS Insects, dirt, and sweat notwithstanding, tight bonds and lasting memories are made during Peck’s outdoor educational overnights that kick off a new school year.


“TODAY IS A VERY SPECIAL DAY…” Birthdays are still real for Upper School kids. This classic birthday shout-out at lunchtime says ‘hey, we want to celebrate the you that is you today!’


MEETING THE CHALLENGE For a kid, learning that you can take on a challenge (whether in academics, sports, or socialemotionally) makes for a powerful knowing about their infinite potential.


FRIDAY ACTIVITIES Fantasy Football, anyone? Or how about pickleball, painting, or puzzles? Friday Activities are a great way to try something new, explore an interest, and end the week on a high note!

8 Peck News

THE TEACHERS Honestly, they’re the real reason Peck is Peck!


MINI-MESTER For an entire week out of the year, afternoons are dedicated to grade-level design challenges for hands-on DIY fun and learning.


ADVISORY FUN A school schedule that includes time to connect and be silly with your friends? Yes please!


DIRECTING YOUR FUTURE Peck’s secondary school counseling process asks eighth-graders, Who —and where—do you want to be?


YES, WE STILL HAVE RECESS! Upper Schoolers still need time to play and decompress; at Peck, we recognize this time and space is critical to healthy development.











MIDDLE SCHOOL, OFTEN CALLED THE “IN-BETWEEN” phase of youth, is a time of transition and transformation for young adolescents. While it may seem like a period of hormonal chaos and uncertainty, it’s also a crucial time for personal growth. Middle schoolers embark on a journey of self-discovery and exploration, and one significant aspect of this journey is learning to take risks.

through a nurturing relationship with teachers who approach mistakes with kindness and warmth, supporting students to pick themselves up and try again. Students get comfortable with taking risks in the Lower School, through everything from optional enrichment activities like Lower School Chorus and submitting jokes for assemblies to leading the lunch table and assisting younger “buddies” during cross-grade activities.

Risk-taking in middle school plays a pivotal role in shaping a student’s character and development.

“How we talk about risk-taking here at Peck is really important,” explains Head of Lower School Ashley Tabor. “We acknowledge positive risk-taking by talking about courage and awarding Job Well Done Tickets to students for going outside their comfort zone.”

“Learning only happens when you are outside of your comfort zone,” says Chris Weaver, director of curriculum & faculty development. Peck faculty deliberately create spaces for risk-taking opportunities throughout a student’s journey at the school, first in small, private ways and progressing to more significant and public moments. This might mean presenting in front of your homeroom or grade before you speak in front of your division or the entire school. At the root of developing this comfort level with taking risks is the development of trust with faculty. That trust is cultivated

10 | FALL/W IN T ER 2024

Building the courage to take risks is more effective when coupled with student reflection. “One of the things reflection does really well is it gives you a sense of what’s possible,” Weaver says. “You look back on situations and think of different ways you could handle them. As your definition of what’s possible expands, you give yourself permission to take risks.”

In the Upper School, Peck provides a multitude of safe spaces for students to push themselves. One of the many ways the school supports positive risk-taking is when students are empowered to “own” their choice by opting into an activity, project, sport, or performance. None of this would be possible without the nurturing environment and supportive faculty at Peck who allow students to not only thrive in middle school but be ready to volunteer, engage

TAKING A R ISK IS CLOSELY linked to making a choice—and in the Upper School, there are myriad opportunities for students to “choose their own adventures!” Here are a few examples: Friday Activities From Outdoor Adventures to Digital Photography, Pickleball to Horror Stories, Fantasy Football to Improv 101, students choose from a plethora of engaging classes for their semester-based Friday Activity blocks. This time allows students to dive deeper into an area of interest or try out something brand new. Since the classes are created by teacher volunteers, they vary widely based on each teacher’s creative interests. For example, Upper School English Teacher Sarah Chan has been offering Horror Stories during Friday Activities for more than 10 years. Students lucky enough to get into the class (it often has a waitlist!) are enraptured by Chan reading the likes of Neil Gaiman, Anthony Horowitz, Edgar Allen Poe, W.W. Jacobs, and Stephen King—often sending their blood-curdling shrieks echoing throughout the halls. “Who doesn’t love to be scared?” Chan asks, with a mischievous smile. Capstone Lab For most of a student’s academic career, the concepts they learn are pre-defined. In eighth-grade, each student spends time developing a concept and executing an independent

in creative projects, and stand up for others once they reach secondary school. “As we build trust in kids that they can go out on a limb and we’re going to be there to support them, they can take bigger risks and build that trust within themselves,” Weaver says. “Then they can go out into the world and do interesting things that they are unfamiliar with, knowing they have the necessary foundation of character and courage.”

study project of their choosing. Ranging from learning to cook, to building a go-kart, to engineering night vision goggles, to working to support meaningful causes, students must develop their own research, guide their own learning, and execute their own plans. This work hinges on their ability to reflect on their own interests, motivate themselves, and bring their identities into their projects. “These projects represent a huge risk because they are usually very personal for each student, and you never know what hurdles they are going to encounter along the way. Even when the projects don’t go as planned, students learn many new skills, but more importantly, they learn about themselves. This experience is invaluable before they embark on their high school journey,” says Capstone Lab Teacher and Director of Strategic Communications & Marketing Heather Burchfield. Sports Aside from the character traits developed on the field, one of the defining characteristics of Peck’s athletics program is that students are afforded the opportunity to try sports they may otherwise not have a chance to play. Peck offers 10 interscholastic sports to fifth through eighth graders, including cross country, field hockey, and soccer in the fall; ice hockey, wrestling, volleyball, and basketball in the winter; and baseball, softball, and lacrosse in the spring.

Students who have already specialized in a sport outside of school often choose to explore one they have never played before. Lucian Thomases ’24 shares that he discovered a love of running through joining Peck’s cross country team in fifth grade. Thomases, who has been playing ice hockey since he was four years old, says he would never have tried cross country if it wasn’t for Peck, and now he plans to continue running in high school. “Participating in cross country was a great experience because I had never raced before and it’s not just a team sport that you play for a season. Distance running is a skill I now have for life.” Talent Show While many middle and high schools host annual talent shows, there are several aspects to Peck’s show that are unique. Unlike at some schools where the talent show is a competition with winners and losers, Peck’s assembly is a celebration of the participating student’s talent enjoyed by an enthusiastic audience of Peck students, faculty, and staff. “There’s something really beautiful about the fact that when they’re at their most vulnerable, when they feel the most fragile and the least self-assured, they are doing something that exposes that in front of an entire group of people who are in awe of them,” says Head of Upper School Virginia Savage.

Peck News

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Upon Further Reflection

How Peck Bakes in Research-Informed Practices of Reflection to Foster Independence and Lifelong Learning

“You don’t learn from experience. You learn from reflecting on experience.” — John Dewey

their reflection skills and, in so doing,

Research shows that students who

power their pursuit of lifelong learning.

engage in reflection are more likely to


is organic and spontaneous. Reflection

informs Peck’s philosophy of

is an essential executive functioning

student reflection and its practice of

tool that converts raw experience to

“Once someone completes a task, the

incorporating it at every step of the


book shouldn’t be closed,” Head of

learning journey. “Reflection is allowing yourself time to pause and think instead of moving right onto the next thing,” says Head of Upper School Virginia Savage.

For students, most learning occurs through structured experiences. But in life, most of the learning people do

“I think students need to know that their first shot at it doesn’t have to be the perfect, fully formed idea,” says Head of the Upper School Virginia Savage. “We all iterate and test things

retain their learning. This is why it is critically important that adults resist the urge to solve problems for kids. Instead, they should help them reflect and move forward independently.

Lower School Ashley Tabor agrees. The skill of reflection applies to all spheres of life, from academics and athletics to arts and social interactions. Therefore, reflection is baked into the

From their earliest days in kindergarten

out and revise, and reflection is a critical

curriculum in both big and small ways.

to their final moments on campus at

part of prompting them to examine

Peck’s faculty support this practice

Commencement, Peck students hone

their thinking.”

through modeling and asking questions

12 | FALL/W IN T ER 2024

like: How did you approach this? What

on their process with each other is more

Upper School Student-Led Report

was your first step? What could you do

meaningful than where they actually

Cards and Conferences: All Upper

differently next time?

end up.”

School students preview their report

“We explicitly teach how to give and

In fourth grade, faculty teach

receive feedback, listen to it, and use it

multiple strategies for breaking down

to improve work and make revisions,”

complicated multiplication problems.

says Lower School Tech Integrator

Then, students dialogue about which

Jen Garvey.

approach makes the most sense to them

Some of the ways reflection is

Brady guides students to reflect on what

incorporated into the Peck curriculum are:

and why. Similarly, in third grade, their test scores highlight as to which concepts they firmly grasp, and which

card comments ahead of parents and have an opportunity to discuss results with their advisor, reflecting on areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. Then, in fifth and sixth grades, students reflect on what they would say if they were present at their parent-teacher conference and what information they predict the teacher will communicate. In seventh and eighth

Bound Books: A Peck tradition

present an opportunity for growth.

for decades, each student receives

“Having time to reflect on which

a collection of their work at the

teacher conferences, they lead them. In

strategies work and patterns we’re

completion of first through fourth

preparation for the conference, students

noticing helps kids understand that

grades and then a compilation for their

write their own report card comments

math is really about sense-making,”

for Reading Zone and Capstone and

Upper School years.

Brady says. “The more we can teach kids

spend time reflecting on their strengths

to pay attention to how they learn best,

and areas for growth.

Bound books could include an assignment a student aced or one they struggled with. You might also see

the more equipped they’ll be to advocate for themselves when they need to.”

grades, students not only attend parent-

“Students participating in their parentteacher conferences gives them a sense

a piece of original writing, art, or a

Lower School Music: Throughout

photograph of a memory from the year.

the year, and especially during concert

progress,” says Director of Curriculum

The process of determining what is

preparation season, Lower School

and Faculty Development Chris Weaver.

included in the book involves reflection

music students reflect on their progress

and dialogue between students and their

through a visual (and unique!) self-

teachers. Both Savage and Tabor share that students often want to edit out the more challenging moments of a school year. “We encourage them to include


of agency and ownership over their own

Eighth-Grade Personal Narratives: In their English classes, students write seven to 10 personal

A favorite music class activity during

narratives over the course of the year.

concert season is “How Did We Do?” A

Each narrative begins with a guiding

randomizer wheel selects two students

question that helps the student reflect

to serve as judges (a la American Idol)

on who they want to be. One such

while the class rehearses a particular

those growth moments because

personal narrative asks students to

song for the concert. The student judges

reflect on their life story with prompts

acknowledging that they occurred is

are tasked with evaluating their class on

such as, “How did this experience shape

part of the tapestry,” Savage says. “It

specific qualities of the performance.

your perspective or beliefs?” and “How

informs who they are now.”

The judges hold fluffy emoji pillows:

did you change or evolve as a person as a

Lower School Math: One might

one represents positive attributes, and

result of this experience?”

think of reflection as synonymous with the humanities, but Director of Lower School Math Sophie Brady begs to differ. Brady’s approach to teaching math focuses more on the process than the

the other represents opportunities for improvement. Following the rehearsed song, the judges share their feedback: what the class did well, and what could be improved.

Many of these personal narratives go on to inform the content of a student’s Eighth Grade Speech: a milestone moment when each eighth grader shares their narrative before peers

“Students learn to give and

and teachers at an assembly. These

accept feedback, and work toward

impactful speeches often detail stories

“In math, children often focus mainly

strengthening and refining their skills,”

of influential people in the student’s life,

on getting the answer,” she said. “But

shares Lower School Music Teacher

memorable experiences, the importance

we’ve learned that students reflecting

Lisa Wichman.

of family, and tales of perseverance.

final product.

Peck News

| 13


Second Grade Homeroom Teacher


y middle school experience looked very different than the average Peck Upper Schooler’s. At the time, I was living in Ghana while my parents were working and living abroad, and I was basically raising myself. I managed academic and school expectations on my own. I realized quickly to not worry about things out of my control, rather, to apply my best efforts to the things within my control. I believe that every experience—whether positive or negative—was meant to prepare me for the life I live now and the moral character I hold in high esteem. These experiences play a huge role in the way I teach my current students, as I remind them that even on their worst days, someone out there would love to have the life they live. It helps them gain perspective and learn to be grateful for what they have!

ELIZABETH MONKEMEIER Instrumental Program Director


or me, middle school was the time when I fell in love with music. I started playing violin in fourth grade, but once I got to middle school, I signed up for every musical offering my school had. I was enrolled in all three music classes: orchestra, band, and chorus. With an overloaded musical elective schedule, there were times I would have to alternate between which classes I attended because these classes would often take place at the same time. As soon as I was in eighth grade, I jumped at the chance to audition for the marching band, where I was one of only a few eighth graders. I was also heavily involved in music studies outside of school, particularly my church choir. Music always clicked in my brain, and I kept branching out as more musical opportunities would arise, learning new instruments and making lots of friends along the way. These experiences have shaped me into who I am today, and inspired me to become a music teacher in the hopes of giving my students the same opportunities that music has given to me.

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It’s a time of self-discovery, as students navigate the tricky waters of adolescence, face academic challenges, and forge lifelong friendships. These years filled with both curiosity and confusion represent a tremendous period of growth, consisting of ups and downs. Middle school lays the foundation for the person we become with growing pains, lessons learned, and experiences that help shape us for the rest of our lives. Read along as Peck faculty and staff share memories from their own middle school experiences!


Director of Community Connections and Belonging


rowing up in the midwest, football and cheerleading were a big deal. I so badly wanted to go out for the cheer squad, even though I had no prior experience cheering. I worked on my skills and practiced my routine, hoping to impress the coaches and secure my spot on the team. I remember being so nervous and couldn’t help but compare myself to the girls who had been cheering for a while. Knowing that I had less experience than them rattled my confidence. But I tried out anyway, knowing that this was something I really wanted to accomplish. I went in with so much enthusiasm that I couldn’t be denied. What I lacked in skill, I made up for with what was in my control: my positive attitude and effort! At the end of the day, I think that is what earned me a spot on the team. This experience taught me that you don’t always have to be the most skilled or experienced in the room, but as long as you give it your all and dedicate yourself to do the best you can, you can accomplish great things!


Upper School Math Teacher


middle school experience that I will never forget is the time I ran for student government. I was campaigning for the treasurer position against one other student. I had prepared a speech and practiced public speaking leading up to the time of giving my speech to the class to convince them to vote for me. When it was time to open the floor for questions, a boy in the crowd— who happened to be the cousin of my opponent!— raised his hand and asked me the most difficult question I had never prepared for. Needless to say, my answer was incomplete, and in the end it cost me the election.

Peck News

| 15

VIRGINIA SAVAGE ’05 Head of the Upper School


PAT HOULIHAN Director of Athletics


s an accomplished basketball and soccer player during my middle school years, I learned how to become a great leader, teammate, and competitor. My strong work ethic continued to flourish during these formative years. At my eighth grade graduation, I was awarded with one of the top awards: Hardest Worker. I took pride in working diligently both in the classroom and on the playing fields. I was also voted best athlete and most organized in the eighthgrade yearbook superlatives! This photo includes legendary basketball coach, Pete Carril from Princeton University, who invented the ‘Princeton offense.’ Oddly enough, this was the same offense used by my college basketball team, The Northwestern University Wildcats!

n seventh and eighth grade, we would change for our afternoon ice hockey practices at lunch, the thinking being an early change would save valuable ice time later on. After changing, we’d settle in for the hour or so of class before practice. I distinctly remember after-lunch English classes during this time. We were reading and performing Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” as a class, delivering salient scenes and unpacking their meaning in discussion. We all got a kick out of performing these somber scenes with their fancy and archaic-seeming language while wearing a uniform of blazers, collared shirts, shin pads, and hockey pants. I remember these classes as full of laughter and purpose. We laughed a lot — it was hard not to when the outfits were so absurd, the movements so awkward and clumsy, and the smells so ripe — but we also had a clear sense of the task at hand and the desire to understand the works before us. To me, these memories highlight the duality of this time; they’re a reminder that in middle school, you’re many (seemingly contradictory) things all at once. You can deliver an impassioned monologue from Mercutio a mere hour before firing a perfectly executed slap shot from the point. You can struggle through a complex dialogue exchange during an in-class essay and yet, that same afternoon, seamlessly teach a younger skater to use their edges. Duality makes us interesting; middle school offers that first chance to align the many different parts of ourselves into a whole.


Director of the Osborn Idea & Design Lab; Tech Teacher


hen paddling was an accepted way of discipline, we had a substitute teacher, Mrs. Wolk. She was short. One day, I was sitting next to the chalkboard, probably a bit bored, and wrote “micro-Wolk-ology… the study of short substitute teachers”. Needless to say, after getting paddled by the principal (who was also the head football coach!) in front of the class and delivering a pain-induced, tear-filled apology, I never went down that road again.

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Physical Education Teacher, Coach


ANDY DELINSKY Head of School


s I reflect on my middle school experiences, I’m struck by a few things: 1) I don’t remember the social “stuff” I know I navigated; 2) I don’t remember the awkwardness I know I displayed and felt; 3) I don’t remember too many details about my peers; and 4) I vividly remember a few teachers, especially the ones who made a positive impact on me. I specifically remember Mr. Bielski, my sixth-grade teacher. He was charismatic. He was fun. He made every child in the class feel seen and valued. He had great sayings and managed to make learning engaging. He also loved gardening, and I remember well the day he brought in jalapeno peppers from his garden. A few of us felt brave—and perhaps emboldened by middle school bravado—and sampled one. Woah! I literally thought my mouth was on fire, and my confidence quickly switched to panic as the heat overwhelmed me. As my peers got a good laugh, I was frantically chugging water to make it go away. To this day, I stay away from hot peppers, yet I also remember Mr. Bielski for sharing parts of himself with the class and for making his students feel important.

n eighth grade the entire class was issued a “mock” standardized placement test after spending the last two days of real testing. Since this test didn’t count for anything, eighth-grade-me decided it would be funny to answer “C” for every multiple choice question. If that wasn’t bad enough, I then moved onto the essay portion of the test where I wrote the entire essay made up of movie quotes that weren’t necessarily appropriate for school. To really seal the deal, I proudly put my name on the test and handed it in. Once the principal found out that I hadn’t taken the mock test seriously, I was called to his office where he let me know that I was unable to participate in the eighth-grade graduation ceremony. This experience was one that quickly taught me that actions have consequences!


Director of Strategic Communications & Marketing, Capstone Teacher


hen I was in sixth grade, I had a speaking role in an assembly, and I completely blanked on my lines. One of my classmates whispered my lines to me after what felt like a lifetime. I delivered the lines, and the assembly moved on. I was so relieved that no one ever said anything to me about it. It was totally OK to mess up. I have never forgotten how it felt to forget my lines, and as an adult, I love speaking in front of other people even though I still get nervous!

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Commas are Important

PEOPLE! Actually, no. Commas are not people. But they are important, people! JUST ASK SARAH CHAN, sixth-grade English teacher. Or perhaps her sixth-grade students—who have often returned to Peck after graduation, thankful that her infamous “Comma Study Sessions” have set them up for writing success in high school and beyond. Chan is amused by the thought that her simple comma lessons, and the culminating study sessions and test, have made such a large impact. “I’m shocked you’ve even heard of this test, and more than once!” she exclaimed. In reality, Chan’s comma unit is a defining moment of the sixth-grade experience—so much so that a recent lunch table conversation covered nothing else, with sixth graders offering punctuation advice to fifth graders with near-gleeful exultation! We wondered: what’s the story behind the comma?”

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In an English class known for delving deeply into creativity, commas seem entirely contrary. They’re anti-creative. They’re persnickety. They bring an entirely new—and perhaps even unexpected—challenge to a middle schooler’s brain. “I think commas challenge a middle schooler to be detail-oriented,” says Chan. And at this age, speed is the name of the game—they speed from one activity to another, class to class, and they’re multitasking all the time. Being detail-oriented isn’t fully in their nature yet. So this unit forces them to slow down and pay attention.” At the same time, proper comma usage in writing is an abstract concept. Students need to understand different parts of a sentence and their function in order to place commas correctly. While comma usage isn’t new to sixth

graders, Chan dives deeper into the hows and whys of the comma than the younger grades, demonstrating usage in both the creative and the practical. “Addresses really throw them for a loop,” says Chan. “They’re not used to writing letters, and it’s a new way to look at a unit of information.” This is where Chan has often started her comma lessons, equipping students to look for information within written language, beginning with the concrete before moving to the abstract. Chan prepares a list of essential comma rules for her students, covering things like proper usage in dates, appositives, prepositional phrases, clauses, and more. Each rule is a lesson which Chan delivers using creative examples, mnemonic devices, even improv acting! Over the course of about six weeks, students shed the common habit to simply “put commas where they sound right,” and instead begin to see commas as deliberate elements of grammatical construction. “I’m trying to help them see that there actually is no official pause rule,” says Chan. “They have to be able to recognize the units of information; whether it’s a phrase or a clause, that’s where they’re putting a comma. Not because they happen to be pausing there.” At the end of the comma unit and before the test, Chan offers several study sessions—and this is where things get exciting. Students share tips and tricks for remembering the comma rules, catch their errors, share their knowledge, and end up deeply internalizing the huge impact of the humble comma. “I went to the study sessions every day,” said one of the seventh graders at the aforementioned lunch table. “We told the fifth graders, study a LOT and go to the sessions!”

MS. CH AN’S CO M The Pec k News MA TEST Version Did you know pr ope r comma

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| 19

4. If the Re d h e a d s e a rn tickets, more Jo th e b ir W te ell Done a m will c D ow y s n atch up ! to the 5. Amid st th e e x c it ed chatt at a s s e e r m o b f studen ly , Mr. Deli ts handsta n sk y p e nd while r forme d b a a coffe la n c in e , g a a n d plate, cu the Woo p of dpecker B O N U S: Cup. H o w ma ny s to e th n te is n te c e s s t in in c the intr o rrec tly u oduc tio se comm n as? 4

A l u m n i Spo t lig ht :

KOBBY ADU-DIAWUO By Taylor (Worthington) Williams ’03 K WA B E N A ( KO B B Y ) A D U D I AW U O ’ 0 9 I S A L E A D E R in the financial industry who believes in the power of education and, as the recipient of multiple highly selective scholarships, “paying it forward” to empower others’ educations. He aims to systematically increase awareness, education, and enthusiasm around media entertainment finance (and finance at large) for aspiring students in Newark and the Oranges. Kobby joined the sixth grade at Peck in 2006, having received Peck’s selective Ross Scholarship for academic excellence and leadership potential. He is one of only 25 students to have received the scholarship—which fully funds a student’s Upper School experience with potential to fund their high school experience as well—since its inception in 2004. This scholarship paved the way for Kobby to leave his Orange-area public school for an independent education at Peck. As you might imagine, joining a class of mostly Peck lifers can be daunting for any new student, let alone an 11-year-old. However, Kobby took this challenge in stride—facing the awkwardness of being “the new kid” with excitement and positivity. For Kobby, Peck quickly became a haven

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for growth, learning, and boundless opportunity.

This was the first of many strong

He remembers being greeted by warm and friendly faces from the moment he stepped on campus, including that of Pat Dodge, former Director of Admissions, who was the first person he met at Peck. He recalls the “deep personal investment [she] made in me, ensuring my mother and I had everything we needed to feel like part of the Peck community.”

Peck in three years. Additionally,


relationships he would forge at he credits the incredible faculty, including Woodworking Teacher Mark Mortensen and former Spanish teacher Molly Donnelly, who he credits with “transforming [his] view on school and learning.” He flourished at Peck, excelling in academics through the stimulating curriculum—he received the

Foreign Language Prize for Spanish at graduation—and catapulting in personal growth through the school’s character education program. After graduating from Peck, Kobby opted to attend boarding school. He was again awarded the Ross Scholarship and headed to St. Paul’s 2,000 idyllic acres in Concord, New Hampshire for the next four years. While there, he recalls falling in love with Washington, D.C. during an internship he spent working for Senator John Kerry. Kobby ultimately didn’t stray far from Capitol Hill, matriculating at Georgetown University in 2013. Kobby’s commitment to lifelong learning was rooted at Peck, grew at St. Paul’s, and blossomed at Georgetown—but it didn’t stop there. His penchant for challenge and natural talent for numbers set the stage for a stimulating career. “My initial introduction to and interest in finance was primarily influenced by my relationship with Mr. Burke Ross ’65 [founder of the Ross Scholarship program]—I saw how his own path in finance enabled him to care for his family and eliminate the burden of the cost of higher education for so many others,” says Kobby. He continues, “In my early years as a finance professional, I realized the senior colleagues I admired most shared a borderline obsessive level of interest in the industry or product they covered. This made it easier to put in the extra mile of effort required to distinguish themselves in the field. Put differently, they made a career of the work they would do for free. Pursuing a career at the intersection of finance, media, and entertainment allows me to do exactly that.” As an economics major, he secured internships to help bolster his resume and gain valuable experience in the finance world. He credits Ross with introducing him to a man who soon

became his mentor: Mr. Frank Baker, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Siris Capital. In Baker, Kobby found a knowledgeable, successful, and principled leader in the finance industry—and a person of color holding one of the highest roles in company administration. “It is much harder to envision yourself in a position if you don’t see people that look like you in that space,” Kobby shares. “It was beneficial to see someone who looked like [Frank] in a senior leadership position in finance, and I told myself that if it can be done once, it can be done again.” In the few years following his internship at Siris Capital, Kobby interned and held roles in investment banking and private equity with Citi and Ares Management. Then, he learned about OakTree Finance, a NJ-based company that curates a curriculum at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to intentionally equip and recruit students of color for finance roles. Working with OakTree ultimately opened a major new door for Kobby. While traveling for OakTree, he met a fellow Georgetown alumnus who was CEO of the Newark-based HarbourView Equity Partners—a multi-strategy, global investment firm focused on investment opportunities in the entertainment and media space—a connection that led to where he is today. “I’m fortunate to be part of a company where there isn’t a correlation between the number of years you’ve spent working and how many ideas you’re allowed to propose on growing the business,” says Kobby. “Working for an organization I care about so deeply, I sometimes obsess over ways we can continue to improve as quickly as possible. Fortunately, from great mentorship over the years, I’ve learned the value

of perfecting daily tasks and how the accumulation of daily tasks done well ultimately allows you to execute the big picture.” Kobby is currently a Vice President at HarbourView and feels his life has come full circle from his upbringing in Essex County. His journey to Peck in Morristown, internships and college in D.C., finance in New York, and travel throughout the country ultimately led him back home. “Today, I’m allowed to develop the skills most important to me and further apply them to the industries that interest me most, all while working for a Newark-based company ‘down the street’ from my childhood home in Orange. I still have an extensive list of goals I hope to accomplish in my career, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge and appreciate the fullcircle nature of my life currently!” says Kobby. “I credit the many people who have changed my life along the way, and hope to ‘pay it forward’ for other students and people in the same way.”

The Peck School takes great pride in the accomplishments of our alumni, and we are excited to highlight someone who began his journey at Peck in sixth grade—and who has now carved a successful career in the financial industry. Kobby AduDiawuo’s story is a testament to the transformative power of education, dedication, and determination. I am honored to share his story in this issue of Peck News! Best, Taylor (Worthington) Williams ’03

Peck News

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“Every detail of the event was

(PA) second annual Fall Fest at Peck

thoughtfully planned by the amazing

became an oasis of seasonal joy for

chairs and committee, which made

dozens of families and guests. After

for an amazing afternoon for Peck

volunteers impressively pivoted the

students, parents, alumni, and friends.

festivities to the Manzo Gym due

The excitement and joy was palpable

to rain, excited chatter and laughter

everywhere you turned! This event has

echoed as children enjoyed a bouncy

quickly become a Peck tradition that

house, crafts and games, and delicious

families will look forward to for years to

refreshments provided by Flik and Peck

come,” reflects Director of Advancement

E V E N T C H A I R S : Colleen Caden,

alumna and parent Brooke Worthington

Sarah Quinn Clausen.

Daniela Paul, James Heck

’96, P ’32, ’35.


Fall Fest PA Committee:

We are grateful to the entire Fall Fest


Fall Fest pairs the best of the season

Committee, the dozens of parents and

Anar Shah, Sarah Sakr

with the best of Peck: fun activities that

students who volunteered to help with

bring families and friends together for

set-up, activity stations, and clean-up,

celebration and school spirit, with the

and the participants who made the day

F U N D R A I S I N G : Madison Chu,

call to support local non-profits with

so special!

Lucia Shepard

service and philanthropy. This year, funds raised through Fall Fest went to CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for Children in Morris and Sussex Counties. The event raised more than $9,000 for CASA in the form of gloves, hats, and much-needed gift cards for groceries and essentials.

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D E C O R : Melissa Sfarra


Peck News

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Middle-Grade Books

GRADES 5-6 The Smartest Kid in the Universe (Book 1) by Chris Grabenstein


What would happen if you could learn everything just by eating jellybeans?! Meet the Smartest Kid in the Universe and find out in this exciting new series from the bestselling author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and coauthor of the Max Einstein series.

The City of Ember (Book 1) by Jeanne DuPrau


Ember is the only light in a dark world. But when its lamps begin to flicker, two friends must race to escape the dark. This highly acclaimed adventure series is a modern-day classic—with over four million copies sold!

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From the Desk of Zoe Washington (Book 1) by Janae Marks


Three Keys

by Kelly Yang (Book 2 of the Front Desk series; many students read Book 1 in fourth grade)

From debut author Janae Marks comes a captivating story full of heart, as one courageous girl questions assumptions, searches for the truth, and does what she believes is right—even in the face of great opposition.


Gold Rush Girl




Newbery Medalist Avi brings us mudcaked, tent-filled San Francisco in 1848 with a willful heroine who goes on an unintended—and perilous—adventure to save her brother.

For fans of New Kid by Jerry Craft and Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd, this must-have graphic novel tells the story of five very different students who are forced together by their school to complete community service...and they may just have more in common than they thought.

by Avi

Spy School Project X (Book 10) by Stuart Gibbs MYSTERY

In the 10th book in the New York Times bestselling Spy School series, Ben Ripley races against time and across state lines—by car, train, boat, and plane—to avoid his new cyber enemies and track down Murray Hill.

The story of Mia and her family and friends at the Calivista Motel continues in this powerful, hilarious, and resonant sequel to the award-winning novel Front Desk.

by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Whether curled up at home with a hot mug of cocoa, or nestled on a couch in the Peck library during Reading Zone, a good book is just the ticket for the middle-school mind! Librarian & Literacy Specialist Melissa Sorge lists out her top 14 must-reads for grades 5-8.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei


This stunning graphic memoir recounts actor/author/activist George Takei’s childhood imprisonment in American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon—and America itself—in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love.


The Outsiders




Perfect for fans of Hatchet and the I Survived series, this harrowing middle-grade debut novel-in-verse from a Pushcart Prize–nominated poet tells the story of a young girl who wakes up one day to find herself utterly alone in her small Colorado town.

Button Pusher by Tyler Page


In this memoir-driven realistic graphic novel, we meet Tyler, a child who is diagnosed with ADHD and has to discover for himself how to manage it.

by S.E. Hinton

Enjoy an iconic classic of over 50 years! This international bestseller and inspiration for a beloved movie is a heroic story of friendship and belonging.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan REALISTIC FICTION

In the tradition of Out of My Mind, Wonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle-grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

Gathering Blue

by Lois Lowry (Book 2 of The Giver Quartet; students read Book 1 in sixth grade). SCIENCE FICTION

Lois Lowry’s Gathering Blue continues the quartet that began with the quintessential dystopian novel The Giver and was followed by Messenger and Son. Peck News

| 25

Advent u ri n g Classroom B E Y O N D

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IT’S A RITE OF PASSAGE in the Upper School—braving the outdoor adventure trips in each grade (5-8) at the start of a new school year. From whitewater rafting to natural obstacle courses to sleeping in the great outdoors, these trips foster remarkable bonds between students and their teachers. In September 2023, Upper Schoolers made memories to last a lifetime in the Poconos (fifth grade), at the YMCA’s Fairview Lake and Camp Mason (sixth and eighth grades), and at the Princeton-Blairstown Center (seventh grade).

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Meet Dr. Pat Houlihan Former Big Ten Scholar-Athlete and Career Educator Assumes Director of Athletics Role Dr. Pat Houlihan began his tenure as Peck’s Director of Athletics in August 2023. Houlihan has extensive experience in athletics leadership, previously serving as the Director of Athletics and Physical Education Teacher at Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida. Before his time at Oxbridge, he was the Assistant Director of Athletics at Ransom Everglades School and a PE teacher and coach at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, both in Florida. “Pat brings great energy, a passion for athletics, and a track record of success to his role at Peck,” says Head of School Andy Delinsky. Houlihan earned a master’s in Physical Education from Hofstra, as well as a master’s in Educational Leadership and a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Management from St. Thomas University. An accomplished athlete, Houlihan has an undergraduate degree from Northwestern, where he was a four-year member of the basketball team. He was named a Big Ten Scholar Athlete at Northwestern and received the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. We caught up with Houlihan to ask about his move to Peck. Here’s what he had to say: Why did you pursue a career in school athletics? I was surrounded by sports for the majority of my life and always had a love and passion for competition. Sports bring communities together, and there are so many benefits of sport participation. To name a few: developing character, honing the ability to work with a team to achieve a common goal, developing time management, leadership, and communication skills, building relationships with peers and adults, improving academic performance, increasing self-esteem and confidence, reducing stress, and improving mental health.

“I strongly believe there is no greater honor than competing for your school; sports create lasting memories and lifelong friendships.”—Dr. Pat Houlihan

Why did you want to join the Peck community?

What are you most excited about related to your new role?

The Peck School checks a lot of boxes for me: rigorous academics, a commitment to athletics, experienced and supportive leadership, proximity to family, world-class facilities, and a strong sense of community. Surrounding myself daily with ambitious, like-minded, intelligent, dedicated, kind, and passionate educators will help me grow as a professional and person.

I’m most excited about becoming fully immersed in The Peck School community by developing strong, positive, personal relationships with students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni and supporting our students’ various interests outside of athletics. I’m really looking forward to strengthening the visibility, support, and excitement around Peck Athletics. Go Pride!

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Peck Alumna Delights and Inspires Future Authors Laurie Morrison ’95, author of middle-grade contemporary realistic novels including Every Shiny Thing and Up For Air visited Upper Schoolers in late No-

power of persistence. In addition to speaking to the

Peck Lets its Garden Grow

entire Upper School, Morrison taught a fifth-grade

The Peck School is buzzing

English class where she dove into the creative process

with excitement as it unveils its

and led a writer’s workshop.

brand-new community garden, a

vember to discuss her books, her writing process, her journey to becoming a published author, and the

“We are honored to have Ms. Morrison connect with our students,” said Alumni Relations Associate Taylor (Worthington) Williams ‘03. “Alumni visits, especially those where alums work directly with current students, are inspirational, and a testament to the bonds we all share as lifelong members of the Peck community. Thank you to Ms. Morrison for bringing her amazing talents back to our campus!”

vibrant green space that promises to offer unique opportunities for growth—both literal and metaphorical. During the September ribboncutting ceremony at an allschool assembly, Head of School

Peck Receives Reaccreditation from NJAIS During the week of October 24, a visiting team of educators from peer institutions in the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools visited Peck to conduct the final phase of the school’s 10-year reaccreditation process. After submitting a 237-page self-assessment on every aspect of the school’s operations—from curriculum in every discipline to protocols for safety drills—the visiting team confidently verified the information in the report. Peck received numerous commendations in its reaccreditation, most notably the warmth and care the community showed the visiting team while on campus.

Andy Delinksy reflected, “Gardens have the power to teach many lessons. [Our] garden will be more than a collection of plants, flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. It’s a place where the seeds we plant today will grow into a brighter, more sustainable future for generations to come.” The garden boasts diverse plant beds featuring vegetables, herbs, and flowers, all carefully chosen to provide educational value and promote sustainability. What’s more, each grade

Students Take Center Stage at Upper School Assemblies New this year, Upper School students volunteer as emcees at Upper School assemblies. An additional way to practice public speaking and leadership, students introduce various speakers and performances and elicit audience participation. And, students

semblies,” says Head of Upper School Virginia Savage. “This is our weekly time together as a middle school community.”

will have its own garden bed, transforming the garden into an educational resource for students of all ages. The garden’s potential extends beyond the educational realm. It has the capacity to serve as a source of fresh produce and herbs for the school’s dining hall, championing the farm-

nominate songs to be played at the

to-table concept and reducing

beginning and end of each assembly.

the school’s carbon footprint

“It’s important that students feel a

through local sourcing.

sense of ownership over these asPeck News

| 29

Implementation Work Continues for 2022 Strategic Plan, Deeply Rooted

All Eyes Turn to Stewardship as Sixth Core Value Stewardship—the careful and responsible management of something in

Several committees com-

our care—was chosen by the Class of

prised of dedicated faculty

2023 to be this year’s sixth core value.

and staff continued work

Our students demonstrate this year’s

and caring way and shows up in our

begun last year, including

core value, stewardship, by taking

daily lives more often than you would

the Movement Committee,

care of our campus, the members

think,” says Student Council President

the Portrait of a Graduate

of our local community, and the

Sailee Shah ‘23. “We chose it because

Committee, and the Child

Earth. “My grade chose stewardship

it means being conscious of others

Development Committee.

because stewardship means taking

and the environment around you and

The latter is taking the ex-

care of something in a responsible

preserving that.”

pertise they developed last year through professional development and auditing every aspect of the Peck experience through a child development lens. The Service Committee is developing a leadership structure to oversee future service work, identifying both internal and external service opportunities and planning a future international service trip!

Peck Celebrates the Sights, Sounds, and Tastes of the Philippines In celebration of Filipino American Heritage Month, Peck highlighted the Philippines at the fall World Cultures Assembly. Students listened to presentations from members of the Peck community with Filipino heritage and learned about the country’s rich history and culture. The community was also treated to tinikling, a traditional Filipino dance, and a Filipino-inspired lunch of beef pares stew and sinangag (garlic fried rice).

Alumni Take the Hot Seat in Panel Discussion with Class of 2023 At the end of last school year, Peck had the privilege of hosting a panel of esteemed alumni who shared their valuable insights and experiences with the Class of 2023. Gabby Possible ‘19, Lucy Ambrogio ‘21, Ashwin Patel ‘22, and Christopher Fu ‘22 led an energetic and lively open conversation about their high school experiences. The panel discussion was a testament to the enduring connections within our Peck community, as the alumni who had once walked the same halls as their younger peers returned to provide guidance, motivation, and advice. We would like to express our gratitude to the alumni who took the time to visit and share their wisdom with our students, and extend our appreciation to Ms. Savage and Mr. Marshall, who moderated the event!

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Peck Awarded Historic Preservation Grant In July 2023, the Morris County Board of County Commissioners approved $3.6 million in grants from the county’s 2023 Historic Preservation Trust Fund to help preserve, restore, or protect 22 historic sites in 15 towns across Morris County. Peck was awarded $66,765 to assist with the completion of Lindenwold’s restoration, including construction documents for masonry repairs, a slate roof restoration, and interior plaster and woodwork. It doesn’t take expertise in historic preservation to appreciate the finished product; be sure to take a second look the next time you’re on campus!

Book Lovers Rejoice Fifth Graders Expand the Reach of Book Talks Through Podcasting

In a digital world, Peck fifth graders are finding a way to keep a love for literature alive, combining good old-fashioned reading with a new form of storytelling: podcasting! As part of the Upper School curriculum, students participate in Reading Zones—small groups from each grade level that

Peck Girls Play The Beautiful Game Thanks to the persistence of Peck students and the dedication of Peck’s faculty, Upper School students had the opportunity to participate in the first Girl’s Soccer Club. Held as part of Friday Activities, the team practiced once a week for the fall semester and had four interscholastic matchups.

independently read choice books and give a brief, promotional overview of the book to their peers. Reading Zones give students the opportunity to read for pleasure, choose books that most interest them, and share their excitement for reading with peers. “Book Talks have been a great way to promote independent reading and allow students to work on their public speaking skills. When students have the opportunity to share their excitement for pleasure reading with their peers, others are more inclined to check out those books too,” says Librarian and Literacy Specialist Melissa Sorge. Sorge credits the move to podcasting to a few fifth-grade students who were particularly enthusiastic about the books that they read—so much so that they decided to take their book talks to the next level. Britton Wolfe ’27 kicked off Book Talks as she sat down to record an interview with Sorge to discuss The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Urso. A digital platform like a podcast allows students to expand the audience of their Book Talks and inspires them to find innovative ways to share information in today’s digital world! Peck News

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THE ARTS AT PECK: FALL 2023 / WINTER 2024 VISUAL ARTS Kindergarten, mixed media masks (Wesley Trif; cardboard, paint, oil pastels, beads, buttons) First Grade, Matisse-inspired cut-outs (Maya Seroussi; construction paper) Second Grade, symmetrical collage (Gavi Cortese, Bradley Feldman, Ben Sfarra, Summerly Steenberg; construction paper) Third Grade, Yayoi Kusamainspired pumpkins (Valentina Marotta; India ink, watercolor on paper) Fourth Grade, identity portraits (Colton Bruno; colored pencil, marker, watercolor on paper) Sixth Grade, “Actions Speak Louder than Words” wire figure sculptures (L-R: Patrick Machir: New Year’s Day, Scarlett Steenberg: Under the Sea Adventures, Maggie Donnelly: Scorpion Kick; wire, wood, acrylic paint) Eighth Grade Elective, independent projects (Aanya Bhat: Koi; digital painting, Grayson Materne: Icy Scene; acrylic on canvas, Kassidy Wilson: Bowser; colored pencil on paper with cardboard and tissue paper)









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2 3 3



3rd Grade, Creepy Crawlies (Wren Chapple, Bobby McBride, Calvin Yu) Fourth Grade, Ellie Richardsinspired shape studies (L-R: Wyatt Schwartz, Krupa Doshi, Tyler Baker) Seventh Grade, clocks (Back L-R: Luke Kirchner, CC McLean, Vivian Sheppard, Odin Dobesh, Ana Hadjieleftheriou. Front L-R: Bobbi Bruno, Nick Giordano, Logan Lan, Carter McMahon) Eighth Grade Elective, independent projects (Chalkboard, Jane Pagano; Wood Attaché Case [in progress], Lucian Thomases; Longboard Skateboard [in progress], Cliff Field)

THEATER In February 2024, our fifth-through-eighth-grade thespians will stage Disney’s High School Musical, Jr. to the delight of the Peck community! More than 50 Upper School students have signed up to perform and produce this smash hit about high school life—where issues of love, friends, and family compete with classes and extracurricular activities. The show’s infectious, danceable songs are sure to engage performers and captivate audiences! MUSIC From K-8, Peck’s music program reaches deep into the soul to bring forth joyful expression, creativity, and a sense of unity and collaboration.

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sportsmanship | underscored: A T H L E T I C S A T P E C K Our coaches give recaps of the FALL SEASON for our Peck teams. Go Pride!

Girls 5/6 Field Hockey had an exceptional season. We welcomed back nine incredible sixth graders and added four new ones. With thirteen new fifth graders, we were able to pick right up where we left off last season! We scored 20 goals in our five games and allowed just two. Throughout the season, the girls improved their game sense, worked to improve their individual skills, and grew in their understanding of team concepts. Each day, they came to practice enthusiastic and prepared, which allowed us to get the most out of each practice. They were a joy to work with and have a very bright future ahead of them! The Girls 7/8 Field Hockey squad enjoyed an incredible season filled with personal growth and amazing team spirit. Each player showed great sportsmanship toward teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials. Our pod system allowed players to take the field with a wide range of teammates and experience the different strengths that each player brings to the team. The team scored a total of 58 goals and only conceded 17. They qualified as the top seed for both the Greater Morris County Junior School Coaches Association (GMCJSCA) Field Hockey Group 1 Tournament and the Middle School Athletic Conference (MSAC) Tournament. They brought the silverware home in both tournaments. Even more impressive was how everyone encouraged each other, whether on the training field, during a game, or from the bench. The coaches were honored to work with this fantastic group throughout the season.

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The Boys 5/6 Soccer Team had a great season, with a few exceptionally competitive games! Various players contributed to the scoring, and each player pushed themselves to improve during each practice and game. The boys worked extremely hard and never gave up on a play, often running the length of the field to get back on defense. A particularly exciting game against Far Brook included a come-frombehind win with a goal in the last ten seconds! The players focused on and developed their passing, dribbling, and shooting, and the positive attitude and support of one another were especially impressive. Each team member played a role in the group’s cohesiveness, and the boys had a fantastic season!

The 5-8 Cross Country Team was composed of an impressive 62 student-athletes. Each worked diligently throughout the season to achieve personal bests, support one another as teammates, extend their endurance, and compete with Peck Pride. From the first race of the season, it was clear that this awesome group was eager to compete, give it their all, and make 2023 a memorable season for Peck Cross Country. At Pingry’s Ed Scott Invitational Meet, Peck took home an impressive 16 individual awards, in addition to a third-place team finish in the Boys’ Championship Meet and an exciting first-place team finish in the Girls’ Championship Race. The Gill Pumpkin Run/MSAC Championship race was another stellar performance for Peck in a competitive field of 12 teams. Three runners took home individual pumpkin awards for finishing in the top 10. The boys’ team had an exciting third-place finish, and the girls’ team took home the trophy and an MSAC championship with their outstanding first-place finish. In addition to these impressive

The Boys 7/8 Soccer team had a hard fought season, and grew as players and individuals. The highlight of the season was a victory over Oratory Prep, 5-2 in the season opener. In this particular game, the team was able to showcase their ability to score in a multitude of ways; it was an entire team effort. The future is bright for boys soccer as the seventh graders take on leadership roles during the next fall season. Good luck to the eighth grade team members who plan to participate in soccer at the high school level!

accolades, what doesn’t show in the stats are the countless personal bests, challenges overcome, amazing finishes, and genuine care for each other that each Peck runner exhibited on a regular basis throughout the season—not to mention the incredible Peck family cheering squad!

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FACULTY NEWS Wichman Rings in the Emerald Isle In June 2023, Lower School Music teacher Lisa Wichman participated in an annual international handbell festival (held in Ireland) with leading handbell clinician Deborah Rice. As one of the 60 handbell ringers on tour, Wichman performed three concerts at spectacular cathedrals in Galway, Cork, and Dublin. With a lively and colorful musical palette, the tour’s performance repertoire included selections representing the cultures of all participating nations.

Kennedy and Garvey Bring Creativity and Games to International EdTech Conference Science Department Chair Dr. Kathy Kennedy and Lower School Technology Integrator Jen Garvey presented this past summer at the International Society for Technology in Education Conference (ISTE), a global organization dedicated to revolutionizing education through technology. The summer ISTE conference was held in Philadelphia. The duo presented their session, “Creative Computational Thinking in Elementary Science: Standards in Practice,” based on their real-life collaboration for Peck’s Science, Design, and Technology curriculum for grades K-1. Garvey and Kennedy outlined how they blend science, tech, and design lessons to teach students logical reasoning, decomposition of numbers, and problem-solving skills.

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Garvey also presented “Not Just Playing Games: Making Them!” in ISTE’s Early Learning Playground, which is a hands-on space for conference attend-

ees to explore different technologies and learn quick tips and tricks from experts.

Faculty Enhance School Culture by Expanding Expertise in Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging Aligning with the goals of Peck’s 2021 Strategic Plan, Deeply Rooted, faculty and staff participate in ongoing professional development related to diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging (DEIB). Notably, Peck sent four faculty members to the 2023 National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference (PoCC), the flagship conference for equity and justice in teaching, learning, and sustainability for independent schools. This year’s conference theme—Gateways to Freedom: A Confluence of Truth, Knowledge, Joy, and Power— called participants to converge from different paths. “Peck’s representation at PoCC is a commitment to understanding, appreciating, and empowering the unique tapestry of voices that make up our educational community,” says Director of Community Connections and Belonging Cymone Williamson. “For the faculty and staff who attend, it’s a transformative journey where we learn, connect, and bring stories and practices back to our colleagues at Peck. Williamson, along with Associate Director of Visual Brand Strategy Jen Cleary, Upper School English Teacher Alina Dunker-Ware, and Director of Athletics Dr. Pat Houlihan, attended the PoCC conference held in St. Louis, MO in November. Williamson also attended several workshops during the summer, including Restorative Justice Training, Responsive Classroom Training, and the NJAIS Administrators of Color Institute.

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Scott Beil: A Teacher’s Story

that provides time and space for faculty to know each other better as teachers, colleagues, and friends.

This year, Upper School Art Teacher and Art Department Chair Scott Beil was selected to share his story with faculty and staff, and he didn’t disappoint. In a comic book-style narrative, Beil artfully connected the superheroes, small moments of magic, and adventures that shaped him into the multifaceted person he is today.

“Looking back at my journey and my narrative structure, it can only be described as a non-linear, colorful mess of moments,” Beil reflected. “It’s something that all middle school teachers can relate to. But all good middle school teachers know that while students may often fit a description similar to this on a daily basis, with care, guidance, passion, a feeling of value, an investment of time, and room to grow, each colorful mess of moments has the potential to become an impressive individual work of art!”

The Teacher Story, shared annually at opening faculty meetings, is a longstanding community tradition at Peck

Delinsky Serves on Faculty of NJAIS Leadership Institute Head of School Andy Delinsky was selected as a faculty member for the New Jersey Association of Independent School’s Leadership Institute. This professional development opportunity for school employees develops participants’ understanding of leadership in independent education, builds their management skills, and provides broader knowledge of opportunities for professional advancement. Participants convene for five sessions throughout the year, covering topics ranging from school finances, governance and strategic planning, and leadership pathways. The institute will host its final session at Peck in April 2024.

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Chan and Jara Celebrate Two Decades at Peck Two members of the Peck community were honored recently for 20 years of dedicated service to the school: Upper School English Teacher Sarah Chan and Facilities Department member Carlos Jara. Chan has previously served as English Department Chair, was awarded a 2019 Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, has been a recipient of the Ben Alexander Grant for Faculty Enrichment, and was last year’s recipient of the Disciplina Ad Vivendum Award for Teaching Excellence.

Attah Named Scholastic’s Innovator of the Month Second Grade Homeroom Teacher Jane Attah was selected as Scholastic’s Innovator of the Month in October 2023. Scholastic—a leading provider of literacy curriculum, books, and media for children—created its Innovation Lab to invite co-design in educational technology, engaging diverse teams of educators from around the country as equal collaborators in building inclusive educational solutions.

Known as one of Peck’s unsung heroes, Jara works behind the scenes to ensure the school’s physical environment remains conducive to learning and growth. His commitment to

excellence, attention to detail, and unwavering, unmatched work ethic have been the cornerstone of our Facilities Department for the past 20 years.

Sykora Awarded Peck’s Highest Teaching Honor World Language Department Chair Adriana Sykora was awarded the highest faculty honor at the Welcome Back Dinner in September: Peck’s Disciplina ad Vivendum Award for Teaching Excellence. This award is given annually to a faculty member who exemplifies a commitment to lifelong learning. “In addition to being a simply excellent teacher and an incredible community member,” said Head of School Andy Delinsky, “she is an equally amazing person and a wonderful mom to three fantastic children. [She is] selfless. Strong. Caring. Generous. She is always eager to help whenever and wherever she can. She is a model of courage for all of us, and she is equally adored by her students as she is by her peers and community members.”

Attah, who joined the lab this past summer, has been connecting with educators throughout the U.S. and is currently mentoring a second-grade teacher at a Title One school in Olivehurst, CA. “We are collaborating on all things second grade,” says Attah. “I particularly look forward to discussing how [she] incorporates STEM into her daily instruction and how she plans to use a grant she was given to make STEM a school-wide initiative.”

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Taking the Next Step The Associate Teacher Program Molds the Next Generation of Educators

At its core, The Peck School’s Associate Teacher Program is an immersive opportunity designed for emerging teachers who are ready to take the next step toward becoming world-class educators in elementary education. Since 2016, a number of associate teachers have joined Peck to assist in our classrooms— where they learn to refine their technique, collaborate with educational leaders, and develop a portfolio on their teaching practice. This year-long program (with the option to renew for additional years) brings new voices and perspectives to our core teaching body. Peck is thrilled to welcome an incredible cohort of associate teachers for the 2023-24 school year.

CAMRYN BINDRA Kindergarten Associate Teacher Psychology; Elon University

In her third year with the Associate teacher Program, Camryn Bindra is paired with Homeroom Teacher Kristin Young.

Ava Pesante is paired with Homeroom Teacher Maribel Mohr.

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Who inspired you to pursue a career in education? I went to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire for high school. My first dorm parent, also my math teacher, Mrs. Found, inspired me to pursue my career in education. She always went above and beyond connecting with her students and making us feel like our dorm was truly our home. She spent her free time getting to know us and making us all feel a part of the school. I will always remember her as my favorite teacher. Although my kindergartners are much younger, I hope to do the same for them! What’s something unique you bring to the role? During my third year as a kindergarten associate, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to teach in the K.I.D Lab (Peck’s Kindergarten Idea & Design Lab). Each month, I create different design challenges based off of literature or our thematic units. I love watching the kindergartners explore, create, and design in new ways. I enjoy creating a space where the students can think differently than they might usually in our math and reading classes.

AVA PESANTE Kindergarten Associate Teacher English, Early Childhood Education; Saint Elizabeth University Who inspired you to pursue a career in education? Growing up, I was in a Resource Room program (individualized instruction for students with a disability) from preschool to high school graduation. Every teacher I met there was amazing, and took time to really help their students grow. They believed in us in a way that the teachers outside of our program may not have done. In particular, my high school English teachers Mrs. Gencarelli and Ms. Baut made a huge impact on my career trajectory. What’s something unique you bring to the role? I think my height helps kids feel more comfortable with me, and that leads to close connections and better understanding. Even when a student is taller than me, we’re still able to connect and have respectful conversations. Also, I grew up feeling like I was treated differently because I was in a Resource Room program—so I know that feeling, and I want to make sure every student knows they belong, and receives the education they deserve!

CANDICE CIRILO First Grade Associate Teacher Art Studio and Film Studies; Wesleyan University

CAILEIGH FINNEGAN Second Grade Associate Teacher Diplomacy and International Relations; Seton Hall University

Who inspired you to pursue a career in education? My mom: she is a high school math teacher and tutored me in math my whole life. Her patience with her students and her passion for math is truly inspiring!

Who inspired you to pursue a career in education? My eighthgrade Language Arts Teacher Ms. Lauren Parian. She shared her wealth of knowledge with us and no question was left unanswered. Her lessons still live on with me to this day.

What’s something unique you bring to the role? My background is different from many other teachers. I didn’t attend college for teaching; instead, I worked in the decorative design industry before transitioning to education. As a result, I bring a fresh perspective as an educator, enabling me to see things differently and offer new ideas.

BELLA FERRISO First Grade Associate Teacher Early Education Studies; Susquehanna University Who was the person that inspired you to pursue a career in education? My first-grade teacher inspired me because of her teaching style and the way that she got to know all of her students. I was always so excited to go to school and learn! What’s something unique you bring to the role? I enjoy learning new things and am constantly seeking out new opportunities. Because of this, I not only have experience with different ages and grade levels, but also am comfortable with a number of different teaching methods and techniques—allowing me to differentiate my teaching as students need, leading to more positive outcomes.

What’s something unique you bring to the role? I bring a fresh set of eyes (and a non-traditional route into teaching) to the classroom, which I think gives me the advantage to bring a new or different perspective. I studied Diplomacy and International Relations in college and, while I nannied in the past, I never planned on teaching. After graduation, I realized I no longer had the passion for this field; I took time to reflect on my true interests, and realized that I missed working with children. I found a role as a preschool Lead Teacher at The Goddard School, and discovered my love for the classroom!

Candice Cirilo is paired with Homeroom Teacher Christa Nees.

In her second year with the Associate Teacher Program, Bella Ferriso is paired with Homeroom Teacher Cathy Lopez. Prior, she was with Jane Attah in second grade.

GINA RUSSO Second Grade Associate Teacher Liberal Studies (Concentration in Education); University of Scranton Who inspired you to pursue a career in education? My first-grade teacher! To this day, she is still my favorite teacher; she was someone who supported me and always made learning fun. One of my favorite memories is when she would hand out big pixie sticks as prizes! I strive to bring that same energy into my classroom. It’s very important to me to make students feel like they are never alone and that I care about their success.

Caileigh Finnegan is paired with Homeroom Teacher Jane Attah.

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In her second year with the Associate Teacher Program, Gina Russo is paired with Homeroom Teacher Erin Ceder. Prior, she was with Cathy Lopez in first grade.

What’s something unique you bring to the role? Each teacher is different, but nearly every great teacher has some fusion of passion, inspiration, respect, and humor. I am inspired by my students every day. I like to think that my students impact my teaching and influence our time together. I make it a priority to know each student’s personality, learning style, desires, and ambitions to curate my lesson plans. This helps for their creativity to flourish and we all grow and learn each and every day.

Who was the person that inspired you to pursue a career in education? My seventh grade science teacher, because she is someone who supported me in a way no teacher had before, and made me find the happiness towards school. I wanted to be a teacher who made students feel the same way my teacher made me feel. What’s something unique you bring to the role? Something unique I bring to the role of an associate teacher is how deeply I care about each of my students, and understand the importance of support. I find it very important to create a safe environment for my students, and acknowledge how each individual may learn in a different way. So, it is important to incorporate differentiated instruction to ensure each student is learning effectively and comfortably.

JT McMillen is paired with Homeroom Teacher Katie Bruno.

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Who was the person that inspired you to pursue a career in education? My mother, aunt, and grandmother are all teachers! My grandmother taught third grade, my mother taught middle school, and my aunt taught high school. They have such a passion for education. I personally struggled as a student, so being a teacher who can find ways to connect with each student is really important to me.

CARLY BARTON Third Grade Associate Teacher Elementary and Special Education; St. Joseph’s University

Carly Barton is paired with Homeroom Teacher Nichole Bolio.

JT McMILLEN Third Grade Associate Teacher Exercise Science; Springfield College

What’s something unique you bring to the role? I have a few things in mind! I have a diverse background of subbing, tutoring, and coaching for a variety of different age groups. I came to teaching through a different route, having studied the science of exercise, fitness, and wellness. And I’m flexible and adaptable, which means I can be comfortable being uncomfortable—a major capacity for a growth mindset!

LYNN TECZA Fourth Grade Associate Teacher Elementary and Special Education; Seton Hall University Who inspired you to pursue a career in education? My fourth grade teacher is a large influence on my decision to become a teacher. I remember the kindness and support that she showed me and the rest of my classmates, and this stuck with me as I grew older. I wanted to emulate this with my own future students. Her

creativity impacted me as well. She came up with engaging assignments (such as a home-building project using circuits while learning about Thomas Edison), and I want to bring the same level of fun and engagement to my own students.

First Grade Homeroom Teacher Cathy Lopez Mentors Associate Teachers First Grade Homeroom Teacher Cathy Lopez assumed the role of Associate Teacher Coordinator for the 2023-24 school year, playing an essential role in guiding associate teachers through the program.

What’s something unique you bring to the role? My first two years out of college included a lot of traveling as a sorority consultant. During my time on the road, I met people and communities with many different backgrounds and this expanded my own worldview more than I anticipated. I learned how to mitigate conflict, think on my feet, and most importantly go with the flow, as everyday was a bit different! I know that this perspective will undoubtedly help me in my teaching career as every day will bring something new.

Lynn Tecza is paired with Homeroom Teacher Chelsey Carr.

TRACEY KEANE Fourth Grade Associate Teacher Linguistics; Montclair State University Who inspired you to pursue a career in education? My Aunt Peggy taught third grade, and I loved the way she worked with children. She had the ability to connect with everyone around her; I admire that, and want to bring that feeling of connectedness to my own students. What’s something unique you bring to the role? My career history includes working with deaf and hard of hearing students, and I have a background in using and interpreting ASL (American Sign Language). I think this has expanded my perspective on the world, and I want to ensure that all of my students feel they are seen, are heard, and belong.

In her second year with the Associate Teaching Program, Tracey Keane is paired with Homeroom Teacher Cara Regan. Prior, she was with Katie Bruno in third grade.

Why did you want to be the Associate Teacher Coordinator? I was fortunate to have many experienced colleagues throughout my career who became mentors in many capacities. Their knowledge was a way for me to improve as an educator while creating (and recreating) myself to meet the variety of needs of my students. It is my hope that I can do this for the associate teachers as a way to pay it forward for all those who gave of themselves for me. What do you think you bring to the role? As a mentor, I feel I can help the associates become effective educators by offering a sounding board for questions they may have as they navigate their first years in their teaching careers. My 30-plus years of experience give me a wide foundation to provide them with examples and ideas that will fulfill this mentoring role and help them appreciate the long-term difference they can make in the lives of their students. What do you enjoy most about mentoring young teachers? What I enjoy most about young teachers is their ability to evolve. This next generation of teachers had to navigate COVID situations that were unlike any other. They are resilient and bring fresh new ideas that can be married to more traditional ones. This provides the most engaging learning environment for all students.

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CLASS NOTES 1940s C AROLINE PRICE HEMMINGS ʼ4 4 updated us that she “is living at Kendal at Lexington in an apartment with my housemate, a small black poodle, we are growing old together. I have a daughter nearby and two elsewhere.”

1950s N E I L S O N A B E E L ʼ 5 4 recently enjoyed a dinner in New York City with J O H N D E N E U F V I L L E ʼ 5 3 , as they have been friends for over 70 years!


D.C. until recently. A N N “A N N I E ” (S T O C K M A N ) S T O C K T O N ʼ 7 0 and I text back and forth daily, meet to ski, or just for lunch after - we’re connected through our kids who worked in the same business in 2019! Tons of fun when we go down memory lane, all the way back to kindergarten at Peck.” SUSAN GARDINER T R E S PA L A C I O S ʼ 7 0 updated, “It was so wonderful to see everyone at the multiple class reunion held last May at the Kirby’s lovely home. Great to catch up and hope we do this again with many more of you in attendance!”

SUE ( JENSEN) S WEENEY ʼ 7 2 was inducted into the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2023. Coach Sweeney was a teacher and coach at Peck for more than 30 years (1988 - 2021). While at Peck, Coach Sweeney’s field hockey teams won 15 Greater Morris County Junior School Coaching Tournaments, while her lacrosse teams won four Junior School Tournaments. Congratulations to Coach Sweeney!

A N D R E A W E E V E R ʼ 6 9 is writing a mini-bio of Dame Angela Lansbury for the American National Biography. She writes that she “would love to hear from classmates!”


P E T E R C L I F F O R D ʼ 7 0 shared an exciting update that he and his wife sent their triplets off to college (Georgetown, Middlebury, Dartmouth) this fall. They are officially empty nesters except for the four-legged dependent who remains at home. A L L I S O N C U T L E R ʼ 7 0 writes, “I am so sorry to miss the reunion in May! Looking forward to the next one. I am ‘semi retired,’ and am living in Middlebury, Vermont, one mile away from my daughter, son-in-law, and six-year-old grandson. It is such a treat to be so close; a son and another grandson are in the Chicago suburbs, and my youngest son has been in

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country. She regularly sees her two sons, who live on farms in Virginia and Colorado. She enjoyed seeing classmates this year at Reunion and hopes to see others soon.

C L A I R E A B B O T T ʼ 7 2 is enjoying the equestrian country life of Middleburg and Great Falls, Virginia. She recently semi-retired from a career as a Catastrophic Injury and Illness Nurse Specialist. Claire plays in Pro-Am polo tournaments and events on several Virginia Polo teams. In the winter, Claire does hilltop cross

1980s S CO T T M O R R I S S E Y ’ 8 6 updated us that “after living around the world, including China, New Mexico, and California, I made my way back to good ole NJ. My family and I now reside in Cherry Hill, which allows me to go into Philly and see live music and sporting events often. I continue to work with special needs students and started a new job this fall at Moorestown High School, which I’m loving. I have 3 teenagers in high school as well, so life is hectic! I’d love to catch up with any former classmates that live in the area.”

S U S A N B A R B A ʼ 8 9 is the editor of the new illustrated poetry anthology American Wildflowers: A Literary Field Guide (2022), winner of the 2023 American Horticultural Society award. She is the author of the poetry collections Fair Sun (2017) and geode (2020). She is a senior editor for New York Review Books and lives with her family in Cambridge, MA. C H E R I E A L CO F F ʼ 8 9 writes, “I started a new job at Beach Point Capital. It’s been a wonderful year, and this summer, I went to Montana with my son Gregory. We spent a week hiking in Yellowstone. It was a great escape from New York City!”

such an incredible nonprofit to better the community, which is already so warm and supportive. Looking forward to productions of Hay Fever and The Spitfire Grill this year!” A M I E P I E R C E ʼ 9 1 has had the pleasure of welcoming two former Peck faculty members to Ashley Hall School. Tyler Moseley and Antonia Atkins have joined the Ashley Hall Lower School, and Amie writes “We have loved reminiscing about Peck!” Amie lives with her husband of five years, Thomas, and their yellow lab, Dixie, in downtown Charleston.

P E T E R C A R O L A N ʼ 0 0 is a Managing Partner of Stelvio Wealth Partners. Peter lives in Orinda, CA with his wife Katelyn Carolan, and children Mia (5) and Carter (2). CO U R T N E Y B R I L L O N ʼ 0 2 , writes that “this year I obtained tenure as a school counselor/social worker for the Morris School District and I also started a counseling private practice in Morristown specializing in women, children, and adolescents.”

K AT I E O ’ CO N N O R ʼ 0 2 and her husband, Ben Zeidler, welcomed their fourth son, Archie Patrick Zeidler on June 28, 2023. Archie joins his three older brothers, Fitz ‘31, Wellie, and Tate!

1990s S H A N N O N B A R RY O ’ G R A DY ʼ 9 0 updated, “I’m proud to report that after a successful production of D.W. Gregory’s Radium Girls last fall, in my second year as Theatre Director for Salisbury High School in Allentown, PA, I led my department to win the Air Products Education and Community Impact Award at the Freddy Awards last May. With our production of 9 to 5, we studied the history of equal rights and equal pay in the U.S., examined the changes in workplace harassment policies, and brought in representatives from Turning Point Lehigh Valley to lead a workshop in self-love, self-care, and recognizing red flags in relationships. I feel privileged to have worked with such kind, receptive students and with


M A R S H A L L M C L E A N ʼ 9 4 was in Pawleys Island on business and made sure to stop and see former Peck teachers Jim Cross and Sue Sweeney! L AU R E N ( W O R T H I N G T O N ) M O R S E ʼ 9 4 writes, “We’re thrilled that our daughter, Layla ’32, has joined her brother, Harrison ’28, at Peck! Layla loves kindergarten, adores her teachers, is having fun making new friends, and is overjoyed to be an official Redhead! Harrison is enjoying fourth grade and being one of the “Leaders of the Lower School” (as the fourth grade is called!). We can’t believe he’ll be an Upper Schooler next year!”

A N D R E W B R U M M E R ʼ 0 8 and M A G G I E B R U M M E R ʼ 10 met up with former Peck teacher Jim Cross in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. They were joined by their mother, Annie Brummer, also a former Peck teacher.

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S TA R K K I R B Y ʼ 0 9 married Collin Kearby on October 7, 2023 in New York City!

2010s J A CQ U I E J A K I M O W I C Z ʼ 12 is currently in her third and final year at The University of Miami School of Law, from which she will graduate in May 2024. Thereafter, she looks forward to returning to New York, where she will take the New York Bar Examination and pursue a practice in art law.

studying architecture. A hallmark of the program is the critique: each student presents their project to a jury of guest critics and receives live feedback. Jenny says she often found myself remembering tips and tricks that her Peck teachers gave her, such as Mrs. Russel’s insistence to not use “up-speak” and Mr. Taylor’s advice to mark the “pauses” in her speech. She says, “I am so grateful to them and the Peck School for giving me a strong foundation for the rest of my life!” J A C K G R I E R ʼ 15 is living in the District of Columbia at the Hudson Institute as a Research Assistant of Foreign Policy and Defense Research, Interpreter/Translator for French and Vietnamese.

2020s The Alumni Relations Department hosted an Alumni Panel in June for the graduating eighth-grade class. The 2023 Alumni Panel was comprised of: A S H W I N PAT E L ʼ 2 2 , L U C Y A M B R O G I O ʼ 2 1, C H R I S T O P H E R F U ʼ 2 2 , and G A B B Y P O S S I B L E ʼ 19. Each shared their high school experiences and gave advice and encouragement to the Class of 2023. Gabby is a recent graduate of the Emma Willard School and is currently in her first year at Smith College; Lucy is a junior at Pingry; Ashwin is a sophomore at Cate School; and Christopher is a sophomore at Andover Academy.

L I N D S AY M U L L E R ʼ 13 spent the summer building herself a tiny house on wheels from scratch and will continue her wildland firefighting career with the US Forest Service in South Carolina this fall. J E N N Y COY N E ʼ 14 returned to NJ after working as a backpacking guide in Wyoming for Teton Valley Ranch Camp, a sleepaway camp for children ages 11-16. She led nine backpacking trips in Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park, the Gros Ventre, and the Winds. She had a great time working in that landscape, teaching our campers about backcountry safety, environmental history, and group dynamics, and running into old friends. “The best part might have been an unexpected reunion with J O S I E C U M M I N G S ( ‘ 14 ) and H U N T E R M A C Y ( ‘ 14 ) during a weekend off,” she says. Jenny graduated from Yale last May after

46 | FALL/W IN T ER 2024

A N D R E W M U L L E R ʼ 15 now works for the Green Mountain Club, doing a combination of backcountry construction and chainsaw work. L I L A M O R T E N S E N ʼ 17 spent the fall semester furthering her studies in fashion design while attending Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute in Florence, Italy. She traveled to several European countries while studying abroad. Lila is anxious to reflect all she’s learned in Europe when she creates her senior year fashion collection starting next fall.

SEBA STIAN DIBRE ʼ23, WILL VIESER ʼ23, BOWEN HONEKER ʼ 2 3 , E T H A N A N C H I A ʼ 2 3 , and D E A N Z A R R O ʼ 2 3 supported their Peck classmate E T H A N A N C H I A ʼ 2 3 at his soccer game in September when Columbia High School played Delbarton. B O W E N H O N E K E R ʼ 2 3 delivered burlap bags—which he designed—to CASA, which resulted from his eighthgrade capstone project at Peck. CASA volunteers delivered these useful gifts to spark interest in STEM for the children they mentor.

Decades of Connections: Enduring Bonds at the Peck Alumni Happy Hour in NYC Alumni from three decades’ worth of graduates gathered for a Happy Hour at Valerie in New York City on November 2. With a diverse mix of professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, and more, the gathering reflected a broad spectrum of achievements among the alumni community. Also in attendance was Head of School Andy Delinsky, along with members of the faculty and staff:

Sharma, Former Reading Specialist Julie Skinner, Director of Advancement Sarah Quinn-Clausen, Math Teacher Stewart Wilkerson, and Kindergarten Teacher Kristin Young. The Alumni Happy Hour became more than just a social gathering—it was a testament to the enduring connections formed during the journey of education, and a reminder that, no matter where life takes them, these alumni will always have a home among their classmates at Peck! Please continue to check the Alumni Beacon for future Alumni event dates!

Admissions Director Karen Dispenziere, School Nurse Colleen Loughman, Head of Upper School Virginia Savage ‘05, Former Head of Lower School Nina


INSTAGRAM: @thepeckschool Peck News

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IN MEMORIAM Peck extends its sympathies to the families and friends of the following members of our community: F R E D E R I C K “ F R E D ” CO O M B S , October 29, 2021; father of Carolyn Coombs Kowalik, father-in-law to former Head of School John Kowalik (2003-2013); grandfather of Elizabeth “Liza” Kowalik ʼ09, Jack Kowalik ʼ09, Mark Kowalik ʼ12, and Sara Kowalik ʼ14. E D WA R D “ T E D ” B R O M A G E , September 10, 2022; father of Sally Suhr ʼ76 and Stephen Bromage ʼ81; husband of Joan Bromage. J A M E S YA C E N DA , July 2, 2023; grandfather of Stone Steenberg ‘24, Scarlett Steenberg ‘26, and Summerly Steenberg ‘30; father of Jeanine Yacenda-Steenberg and father-in-law of Dr. Matthew Steenberg. M A L CO L M M C A L P I N ʼ 5 9, July 8, 2023; father of Angus McAlpin ʼ86, Jody McAlpin Clarkson ʼ87, and Mollie McAlpin Maughn ʼ92; husband of Judith McAlpin. A R T H U R V. C A R U S O, July 14, 2023; father of Peck Physical Education & Sports Teacher Laura Caruso. R I C H A R D F I E L D, July 28, 2023; grandfather of Clifford “Cliffie” Field ‘24, Frederick “Freddie” Field ‘21, Lucy Field ‘19, Caroline Schuessler ‘16, Jack Schuessler ‘14; father of Devon (Field) Pastor ‘83, Richard (Dickie) Field ‘87, and father-in-law of Beth (Blanchard) Field ‘87; husband of Schuyler Field. W I L L I A M “ B I L L” D. B R U E N , August 2, 2023; grandfather of William “Bill” Bruen ʼ00 and Andrew Bruen ʼ03;

YO L A N DA C R U Z , August 3, 2023; mother of Peck Kindergarten Teacher Maribel Mohr; mother-in-law of Bradley Mohr; grandmother of Sasha Mohr, member of the Class of 2023 and Bailey Mohr, member of the Class of 2024. P E T E R D. B L A N C H A R D, August 16, 2023; grandfather of Clifford “Cliffie” Field ‘24, Frederick “Freddie” Field ‘21, Lucy Field ‘19, Caroline Schuessler ‘16, Jack Schuessler ‘14; father of Stacy (Blanchard) Schuessler ‘81, Beth (Blanchard) Field ‘87, Michael Blanchard ‘92, and Peter Blanchard ‘91; father-in-law to Richard “Dickie” Field ‘87; husband of Carol Blanchard. P E T E R C A R O L A N , September 14, 2023; father of Peter Carolan ’00, Monica Carolan ʼ02, and Sofia Carolan ʼ05; husband of Elena Carolan. F R A N C E S B O W E R S , September 17, 2023; wife of former Upper School Head Steve Bowers (1983-1985); mother of Alyssa Bowers ʼ89. G E N O V E F FA M I R R A , September 22, 2023; mother of Peck Chef Joe Mirra. C A R O L A N N J O H N S O N , September 24, 2023; grandmother of Lorenzo Marotta ʼ27, Valentina Marotta ʼ29, and Leo Marotta ʼ32; mother of Heather Marotta and mother-in-law of Patrick Marotta. R I C H A R D M O R T E N S O N , October 8, 2023; father of Peck Woodworking Teacher Mark Mortensen, father-inlaw of Irene Mortensen; grandfather of Luke Mortensen ʼ16 and Lila Mortensen ʼ17. R AY M O N D R A P P, November 14, 2023; father of Peck Upper School Administrative Assistant Christine Rogan.

father of William “Bill” Bruen Jr. and father-in-law of

J O H N F O GEL, December 1, 2023; father of Peck Upper

Susan Bruen.

School Math Teacher Jess Angelo.

Every effort has been made to include notices for “In Memoriam” through December 2023. We regret any omission; please notify the Advancement Office of any errors by calling (973) 539-8660 or emailing Taylor Williams ‘03 at

48 | FALL/W IN T ER 2024

Shop The Peck School Store!

Now carrying all of your favorite spirit gear and uniform items.

Shop online at

Peck News

| 49





Can you match the doodle to the Peck faculty or staff member?

1 14


Liz Belasic Seventh Grade Science



Chris Weaver


Director of Curriculum


& Faculty Development; Eighth Grade Capstone



Pat Houlihan Director of Athletics



Christine Williams Director of Secondary School Counseling



Molly Donnelly Athletics

11 7


Jason Guss Seventh Grade History



Megan Boyle




Seventh Grade English


Andy Delinsky


Adam Spadafora



Head of School & Sixth

Megan Boyle


Seventh Grade English

Seventh & Eighth Grade Math

Grade Public Speaking 11 9

Karen Dispenziere Director of Admissions

Caroline Sugg

Heather Burchfield


Director of Strategic

Gail McNamee Front Desk


Communications and Marketing; Eighth Grade Capstone

Melissa Webber Digital Marketing



Sue Longenecker Fifth & Sixth Grade History


Gabby Lopez Fifth Grade English

50 | FALL/W IN T ER 2024

I Spy: Mr. Beil’s Edition When asked to doodle for the Peck News magazine, Mr. Beil took

I spy a Downy, a Redhead, the letters RD— PECK in small letters, and 1893;

the challenge to a new level—he created an ornate drawing with

The Lindenwold mansion, six lion eyes,

hidden Peck elements! Can you find everything he hid?

A linden tree trunk—and an Upper School tie!

Peck News

| 51


247 South Street | Morristown, NJ 07960-7381

the right school right now Upper School (Grades 5-8) is a vibrant place where your child will embark on an academic and intellectual adventure, while still preserving and honoring the youthfulness of their middle school years.



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