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THE PEGASUS SCHOOL

ISSUE 8 / WINTER 2014

Gifted, meet

Grit


MISSION STATEMENT The Pegasus School is dedicated to academic excellence and to the development of lifelong learners who are confident, caring, and courageous. COMMUNITY VALUES • Responsibility • Kindness • Teamwork • Generosity • Creativity • Curiosity • Courage • Integrity • Perseverance

PEGASUS STUDENTS love to learn, to be challenged, and to work hard; they are bright and motivated; they are joyful; they grow in both intellect and empathy. PEGASUS TEACHERS love to teach; they are flexible, creative, collaborative, and innovative; they foster each student’s individual gifts and passions; they educate the mind and the heart. PEGASUS PARENTS value education; they work closely with the school in a partnership based on thoughtful communication and mutual respect.

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PORTRAIT OF A GRADUATE • Academically Confident • Well Balanced • Critical Thinker • Exceptional Communicator • Collaborative Leader • Responsible Citizen • Environmentally Conscious • Technologically Adept • Economically Astute • Versed in the Arts • Globally Aware


Winter 2014 www.thepegasusschool.org EDITORIAL BOARD Nancy Conklin, Director of Admission Rick Davitt, Photographer Sue Harrison, Director of Advancement Karla Joyce, Writer Shalini Mattina, Assoc. Director of Advancement, Marketing Nancy Wilder, Middle School English Teacher Jason Lopez, Head of School WRITERS Karla Joyce Benjamin Jenkins Jason Lopez CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Carin Meister Tiare Meegan Eva Polizzi Patty Seyburn Marrie Stone Alene Tchekmedyian ART DIRECTION AND DESIGN Shalini Mattina

Table of Contents FEATURES

18

Gifted, Meet Grit

Rick Davitt

22

The Apocaloptimists

PRINTING

26

Free Fail

5

Head’s Message

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At the Heart of Pegasus

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Faculty Focus: Elaine Sarkin

10

Program: SPARK!

12

Insight: Modern Family

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Student Profile: Shreya Patel

CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Orange County Printing

PEGASUS NOW

Pegasus Magazine is published twice yearly by the Office of Advancement at The Pegasus School. It is archived at thepegasusschool.org/about/publications We welcome your feedback! Please address queries and comments to Shalini Mattina smattina@thepegasusschool.org

36 Calendar

ALUMNI

32

Those Who Soar

34

Alumni Connections

PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

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HEAD’S MESSAGE

embracing

Change

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” - John Wooden, “The Wizard of Westwood”

J

ohn Wooden rocks. To many, he was a great basketball coach. To me, he was a great man, a deep thinker, and one of the few celebrities that I would

consider a role model. In this particular Wooden-ism, I find some of my thinking on the topic of change and growth. How many books, articles and blogs have you read that try to get you to embrace change? In my experience, we tend to favor those changes we bring to others while we shy away from those brought to us. What I like most about Coach Wooden’s words is how he recognizes that we are responsible to take action and make something of ourselves, regardless of our circumstances. However, in this same quotation, we learn that some things just turn out a certain way, and our response can either result in growth, or leave us feeling powerless and put upon. In her article, “Free Fail,” Pegasus teacher Eva Polizzi describes personal resilience in spite of pain, and colleagues’ stories of failures turn into strengths. In addition, in her article, “Apocaloptomists,” Marrie Stone met with long-time Pegasus parents to discuss the upshot of change and, as the school evolves, why they continue to believe Pegasus is the right place for their children.

Since we have moved back to the west coast, my wife Pernille and I have new neighbors and new friends — even the wonderful

familiarity of living near family again is a complete change for us. December marks the sixth month that we have been without our things, since leaving Chicago in early June. Even at this writing, our “stuff,” as George Carlin would describe it, sits in storage somewhere in the Midwest. We have slept in multiple hotel rooms, two temporary apartments, a near empty house/construction site, and even a few nights as guests of our children in their apartment in Culver City. The journey has been daunting, but also very exciting and exhilarating. I won’t even begin to discuss the thrill of a new job or the recent release of Pernille’s new book, both wonderful in their own right, but changes nonetheless. Note that these changes were not only embraced, most were sought out and planned; and still, an adjustment period has been necessary. I think about the life cycle of a school, and I can’t help but marvel at the sheer number of changes that Pegasus faced in recent years, many unplanned, but each providing its own opportunity for growth and learning. In her article, “Modern Family,” Marrie highlights a few of the challenges and changes that my own family has faced in our move home.

One of the things I love about my work is that daily, I get a front-row seat to the teaching and learning that occur at Pegasus.

I have already come to expect thought-provoking questions from teachers and piqued curiosity from engaged students as a matter of course. I love asking students what they are doing and why they are doing it because I know that not only will they answer, but the answers will be inspiring, and demonstrate depth of thinking and an eagerness to learn. Our students and teachers do not spend their days lamenting change, but rather they look for change opportunities — they know that it can be the discomfort of change that brings real growth. In “Gifted, Meet Grit,” Karla Joyce examines parental expectations, meaningful success in spite of challenges, and the importance of grit and tenacity when the going gets tough. We can all take our lessons from Pegasus students, teachers and alumni. As you read about them here you will get a window into their views on change, and maybe a clearer understanding of why our community has embraced change and is better for it.

Jason Lopez Head of School PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

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At the Heart of Pegasus

by Karla Joyce

The Everyday Stories of Exceptional People

Community Service on Steroids (OCKids4Kids: Samuel Abraham, Garret Cogan, Kai Kasserman, Jonathan Lake, Jack Makler, Daniel Min, Holden Rhee)

S

chools everywhere build community service requirements into their curriculum in a valiant effort to teach perspective, encourage civic responsibility, and breed charitable habits. And students everywhere step up, sifting plastic from sand, delivering lovelies and punch to seniors, or stocking food banks with non-perishables. That’s community service, and it’s vital. But ideally, it is a starting point. The urgent needs of society knock daily. According to the Orangewood Foundation, about 3,500 Orange County kids enter foster care, every year. Moved by those alarming statistics, seventh grader, Samuel Abraham, hatched a plan. In his fact-finding interview with Tracy Cooper, senior development director at Orangewood, Abraham learned that the foster population with the highestrisk was teenagers “aging out” of the system. They needed services and goods beyond what Abraham could provide, but they also needed

basic hygiene products. Abraham — with help — could do that. He and six friends — Garret Cogan, Kai Kasserman, Jonathan Lake, Jack Makler, Daniel Min, Holden Rhee — formed a charitable organization, called OCKids4Kids, with the clear-cut mission “to help kids all over the world with things that we take for granted.” First order of business: organize a community hygiene drive to collect enough hygiene items to assemble 150 comprehensive product-packets for emancipating teens. Abraham and his team produced a documentary-style YouTube video to reach a wider audience, outlining the need (basic hygiene for homeless teens) and a solution (donate toiletries today). One month later, OCKids4Kids backed trucks up to the entrance of the Orangewood Foundation and unloaded 160 hygiene packs (at a value of $1,600). They punctuated the

delivery with an additional check in the amount of $4,120, to be used by Orangewood as needed. Before they left, the boys met two emancipated foster kids who shared their personal, heartbreaking yet hopeful stories… making it real. “Service Learning” is the enhanced version of the community service model, adding planning and reflection, like bookends, to the service itself. Abraham and his seven friends understand the difference. Next up: Community Costume Jewelry Drive. (Foster teens attend prom, too.)

Mr. Schubert, Meet Sam Katz (Pegasus Student: Sam Katz)

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t’s so much fun to say: “See that kid on the playground, the one in blue in the tuft of fifth-grade boys diving for the ball? Dude, he’s a concert pianist.” Sam Katz is a “regular Pegasus student” says fourth-grade teacher, Julie King, “who happens to also be a talented musician.” He is currently prepping his first 6

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full-length solo recital of Schubert’s Moments Musicux. There is nothing regular about that. Even his mother admits: “It’s kind of unheard of, for a 10-year-old.” Wunderkind aside, King, who taught Sam last year, can’t see past Katz’ empathy and enthusiasm and “impressive internal motivation” when asked to pinpoint his gifts. “He is creative and energetic,” she says. “Always ready to mix it up.” And, his appetite to try new things is a teacher’s dream. “I had so much fun with him in my class.” Claire Kim sees the same idiosyncrasies in her son’s nature in his approach to music. “A new piece of music exhilarates him,” she admits. “He devours it.” (No mention here of the sheer genius at play if Mozart, say, can be grasped so fast.) “But it is harder for him to fully develop a piece. His problem comes with

perfecting. Polishing takes patience.” Kim and her husband, Michael Katz, wanted Sam to play piano because so many life lessons are wrapped up in it. Most important: perseverance. “In the long run,” Kim says, “with practice, you will always see improvement.” They maintain that his rigorous daily practice schedule and a performance calendar meant to enhance his development as a musician (as opposed to racking-up awards) are just brick and mortar. “We are doing what we need to do if he moves down this path.” But if he doesn’t, this lesson in grit will still serve him well. As a parent, it’s really cool to hear: “I love school. I love that I’m learning so much.” Regular Pegasus student, Sam Katz, says it daily.


Change is Good (Director of Pre-Kindergarten through Third Grade, Jennifer Green)

P

rominent among the moves and swings that peppered Pegasus last year was the repurposing of Jennifer Green. Green spent six years as a fourth grade teacher before she switched her position to serve as the interim director of pre-K through third grade, a role she breezily chalks up to personal calling. “I always knew I would land in administration.” Such self-possession comes from experience. Green’s first job out of graduate school was teaching fourth-graders at a K-4 public school in Compton, California. Her class of 36 had unique needs: 25 students were ESL and 11 had state-mandated IEPs (Individualized Education Programs). There were six equally challenged fourthgrade classes at the school, and she was the lead teacher. So, from the very beginning, Green linked teaching with teamwork and differentiation. Even in Boston, in a brief three-year stint as sixth grade teacher at a charter

school (while her husband completed his degree), Green faced the hurdles associated with learning disparities. It was like her Compton class all over again but, this time, sprinkled with eleven GATE kids. She and her husband returned to California in 2008 at the height of federal cutbacks in public education and options for teachers were limited. Luckily, she found Pegasus. Green says her job interview was memorable. “I visited Pegasus during Shakespeare Week, and I did my ‘teaching interview’ in Julie King’s room the day after the fourth-grade overnight field trip.” (She kept them awake.) Former director, John Sullivan, recognized a curious similarity between Green’s experience and the set of skills required of a Pegasus teacher: flexibility, persistence, and an aptitude for open communication. At a school like Pegasus, Green says, “We have to be an advocate for kids and help parents understand the process.”

Green thinks her colleagues are happy with her in her role this year, because she understands what it is like to be a Pegasus teacher. She may be a new director, but she’s not a new face.

There’s An Equation For That (Sixth Grade Math Teacher: Devin Seifer)

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e applaud filmmakers for their storytelling abilities, accepting that a perfectly rendered narrative can tap emotion and inspire action more than anything else. Meanwhile, when a teacher applies the same skill set: no fanfare. Math, for example, can be ‘the linear delivery of equations and calculations to a fixed end.’ Or, math can be ‘everywhere, equations and calculations the exotic code to unsolved mysteries.’ Devin

Seifer isn’t just a math teacher at The Pegasus School. He is a vivid storyteller who possesses such an authentic, infectious fascination with his subject, it inspires. I sat down with Seifer one day after school to hear his story, expecting a straightforward equation of education and ambition plus or minus opportunity equals present-day career. I wasn’t prepared for the full-length science-fiction novel penned shortly after graduation from UCLA in 1985. And nobody could have foreseen such hectic early years teaching middle school history alongside high school physics, while coaching an eighth-grade basketball team to championship wins three years straight. But a plot twist in year four was the surprise — suddenly Seifer was the head of school at a 600-kid, pre-K–12, private school in the San Fernando Valley, navigating administrative intrigue and a fiery parent population.

We all know the ending. Seifer moved south to marry and refocus and today teaches Algebra to sixth-grade students at Pegasus. He instills in them a reflexive tendency to show their work, an ownership of math, and the sense to recognize that speed can hurt. But, I still wanted to know, why did he go from there to here? There’s an equation for that, of course: P (power) = V (voltage) x I (current). “In electricity, the power going in,” he said, “should match what comes out. But it doesn’t because friction, from a conductor, disperses it.” H = I2 x R (resistance) measures that loss. “The amount of effort and creative energy that I have expended has been the same all along, like P. But as an administrator H was high, so my energy didn’t fully make it to kids. As a teacher, H is lower. That means all of my effort and creativity goes directly to students, with almost no loss.” (CUE Applause.)

Karla Joyce is a Pegasus parent and contributing writer for the Pegasus Magazine. Contact: karlajoyce@cox.net PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

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FACULTY FOCUS

Life and Lessons:

laine Sarkin

reflects on 27 Years of Teaching by Tiare Meegan The ability to conquer her nemesis — the crossword in the Friday edition of the Wall Street Journal — will earn you the utmost respect. In her free moments, away from school, Elaine Sarkin fearlessly tackles the challenge, determined to master it.

Twenty-seven years ago, Dr. Laura Hathaway

hired Sarkin to teach the first second-third grade combination class — a total of only 7 children — at The Pegasus School. During her tenure, Sarkin has earned tremendous respect and admiration of the entire Pegasus community. Since her first meeting with Hathaway, she continues to support the development of the children and the vision of The Pegasus School. And, in the process, the experiences she has had at Pegasus have molded her life in America.

Growing up in South Africa, Sarkin attended an

all-girls’ school that spanned Kindergarten through grade twelve. The 1960s, a period when the world was changing drastically, were an exciting time for her to be in high school and college. In high school, Sarkin competed on the tennis and swim teams. She graduated with a degree in geography, with no 8

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intention to teach for any length of time. In fact, she went from

The boys would work at Pegasus during summers and in-

“college graduation gown” to “wedding gown” within the same

between jobs. One of her sons still serves as a mentor to Pegasus

month: Elaine and Russell married 40 years ago this December.

alumni.

But her teaching career “stuck.” She taught for thirteen years in

South Africa while she raised her sons, Michael and Clifford.

having that connection with the children. It is like being the

teacher of the year, every year, all the time.” Her passion for

“We say it was either the bravest or stupidest thing we

“Being a teacher at Pegasus,” Sarkin explains, “is about

have ever done,” Sarkin explains. In 1986, the Sarkin family

teaching has evolved over her long career, but it is Pegasus that

immigrated to the United States because of the political tensions

has delivered her greatest memories. She was given the freedom

in South Africa. The family landed briefly in Los Angeles,

to write and then teach the second grade curriculum, a challenge

where they had a few South African friends. But with private

which Sarkin says helped her become a better teacher. And, she

school beyond the means of a newly

had the opportunity to work with

immigrated family, and the public

great colleagues who set the bar high

school system in L.A. in flux with

in teaching. “It was humbling at times,”

bussing, the Sarkins looked south. They

she says.

were drawn to the outstanding public

schools in the Irvine Unified School

Hathaway’s dream and inspired Sarkin,

District. Twenty-seven years later, they

became her best friends. They went

are still Irvine residents.

through life together, sharing births,

She needed to work. At the

weddings, bar mitzvahs, divorces and

recommendation of another South

death, and everything else in between.

African expat, Sarkin navigated the

They became an influential part of her

teacher credentialing process at the

world. Sarkin keeps their pictures on

University of California, Irvine. Two

her desk, each teacher with a megawatt

nights a week for seven months, with

smile and sparkling eyes to match the

two young boys at home, she took

personalities...though the most recent

courses to complete the requirements.

photos miss the familiar smile of

Those colleagues, who shared in

When it came time to turn in her credential paperwork, Sarkin

Hathaway herself.

noticed a bulletin board advertisement for substitute teachers at

The Pegasus School. Immediately, she contacted Laura Hathaway

Sarkin says, “so, of course, it’s going to mold and change.” One

to interview for the job.

of the many instances where Mrs. Sarkin has seen conspicuous

change is the Pegasus Library. At first, the room contained

It is easy to envision the scene, as Sarkin describes it. The

The Pegasus School is “a living and breathing entity,”

interview with Dr. Hathaway took place “in a rinky-dink

only furniture; there were no books. The teachers felt strongly

classroom/office with one telephone and a kitchen table, and the

that an actual library was needed. They each donated the books

dream of a school for gifted children.” In her excitement —

from their classroom collections, which, in Sarkin’s case, were

for the prospect of writing her own curriculum, and for teaching

from her own children’s bookshelves, and three Pegasus moms

bright students — they never even discussed salary; Sarkin had

volunteered to oversee the operation. Today, the Pegasus library

to call back the next day.

has over 20,000 books.

That first combination class was located in the same

Through the years, Sarkin is still inspired by the children in

building as a day-care facility for Alzheimer patients. Patients

her classes. She enjoys the continued contact, the emails and the

would wander into Sarkin’s classroom and her “sweet students

phone calls from her former students. But, when away from her

would take them by the hand and walk them back to the day

Pegasus world, she continues to pursue her most obstinate foe:

care center,” Sarkin remembers.

that weekly crossword!

Her family played a part in the Pegasus story, as well; her

boys helped move furniture into the current Pegasus location.

Tiare Meegan is a Pegasus parent to Isabelle (‘15) and is the creator, writer, and photographer for the blogs Basil1 and Wahine Wednesdays. Contact: tiaremeegan@me.com PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

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PROGRAM

UNDER

CONSTRUCTION

Harnessing Pegasus Students’ SPARK in a Single Day by Carin Meister

F

ive years ago, fourth-grade student Ryan Mitchell came into the library and began rummaging through the recycling bin. After briefly sifting through its contents, he settled on a cardboard box and asked if he might use it along with masking tape, scissors, pens and, finally, rubberbands. As the responsible adult in this exchange, I asked Ryan how he would be using the supplies. He answered cooly, as if it were evident: “I’m going to make a set of robotic hands.” Had it been anyplace else, I would have been dubious. But, this was Pegasus. I watched Ryan and a friend cut, mold, fold, and rework the cardboard. By the end of lunch, he had created a set of hands so well constructed they were able to grasp an object. It was impressive, but also somewhat emblematic of what happens at Pegasus on a daily basis. So, when lower school teachers Keri Gorsage, Shannon Vermeeren, and Chressa Fancher returned home from the Fall 2013 Computer Use in Education (CUE) Conference with the idea of harnessing creativity and innovation in a day of student-directed projects, it seemed a natural fit for our school. If one student could create robotic hands in twenty

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minutes, we wondered, what could be accomplished in a day? How SPARK Day was born is a testament to the trust and loyalty of our faculty and staff. At the conference, Gorsage had attended a workshop called “The Best Day of School Ever,” in which a consortium of northern California public school teachers had shared their experiences establishing innovation days at their own schools. They spoke of students generating ideas, conceiving plans, providing required materials, and executing projects in a single day. Inspired, Gorsage found her colleagues after the session and told them, point blank, “We are doing this!” “I’m in!” Vermeeren shot back. “But, what are we doing?” As a faculty, we had been discussing the importance of creativity in education for years. Whether through our community reads or the discussion of Sir Kenneth Robinson’s TED talk about a school’s role in killing creativity, we have uniformly conceded the importance of fostering ingenuity, innovation, and creativity in our students. So when Gorsage and team pitched the idea of bringing Innovation Day to a single Pegasus grade on a trial basis, director Dan Rosenberg took it


further; he wanted grades three through five to participate. The lower school teachers jumped at the opportunity to enhance the student learning experience, in a single day...with failure as an option. Because the time constraint and scope of work were so exacting, Gorsage explained, “The goal wasn’t just about being successful. It was also about being okay with failing and being able to reflect on what you could do differently.” SPARK Day represented the way that small ideas can ignite big learning — lit a fire from the second it was suggested. Throughout the planning process, Fancher felt the students’ energy in their fixation with planning. Concepts, implementation strategies, and supply lists were revised daily. “Students were excited because they were going to get to do what they wanted,” Fancher explains, “all day long.” Finally, on March 27, the inaugural SPARK Day arrived. It was magic. The kids came to school with a different energy, an excitement that would sustain them throughout the day. The sheer variety of projects attempted was astonishing. Two students researched Coco Chanel, then designed and sewed Chanel-inspired ensembles. Students built models of historic landmarks, wrote gluten-free cookbooks, programmed video games, composed and performed original music, built a skate ramp, and staged a Chopped-style culinary challenge, to name a few. And, while these projects varied greatly in terms of topic, the common thread throughout the day was the students’ engagement, unwavering and enduring for hours on end. Most students opted to skip recess in favor of working on their projects and returned early from lunch, lining up at classroom doors across campus to get back to work. It was a Pegasus School version of Black Friday, with learning as the lure. The indicators of success were many, but it was the resounding chorus of four recurring words — the best day ever — that meant the most to Gorsage, Vermeeren, and Fancher. “Seeing how engaged students were in what they were doing

was a highlight for me,” said Fancher. “Because they chose their own projects,” Gorsage explained, “they didn’t want to stop.” Even students who had difficulty in execution managed to find creative ways to complete projects that hit snags. The group of boys, who had underestimated the amount of supplies needed to replicate the Leaning Tower of Pisa, crafted an “Under Construction” sign as the day wound down. But perhaps the most impressive sign of success came in the program’s aftermath. Gorsage and Vermeeren both noticed an increase in interest in every subject, and Gorsage says, “students were amped-up to be at school.” Because that inaugural day was such a winner, Pegasus is planning to take SPARK Day schoolwide. Vermeeren is optimistic about the idea of collaboration across grade levels and sees the next go-around as potentially even more innovative, because the entire campus — with its variety of learning spaces — will be available to students. On a personal level, SPARK Day exceeded my expectations as an educator and a parent. My daughter’s Lego roller coaster fell apart ten times, but she and her team persisted. The lessons in physics, creative thinking, and teamwork were invaluable. Max, her classmate, built a Star Wars city with balsa wood, paint, and the verve of a true Star Wars fan. Unlike many school projects left to languish in a garage collecting dust, his remained on display in the library until summer. He visited it weekly, proudly explaining to any passerby how he’d made it. I admired it as well, but for altogether different reasons. Every time I looked at it I couldn’t help but wonder: what will these kids do next? Stay tuned…

Carin Meister is the School’s librarian and proud mother of Cate (’18), Reese (’20), and Sloane (age 3). She is always in search of the next best read and a reason to wear a costume. Contact: cmeister@thepegasusschool.org

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INSIGHT

modernfamily At Home With Jason and Pernille Lopez

J

by Marrie Stone

ason and Pernille Lopez know something about tackling

outside, Pernille perches her coffee mug on the arm of her plastic

tough projects. The same month Jason took over as the

chair. Jason rescues it, holding the cup until she reaches for it,

head of Pegasus, they purchased a stylish Mediterranean

and then taking it back when she’s done.

bungalow in the heart of Belmont Shore. Although it may look

ideal to the untrained eye, Jason and Pernille can see further

to happen, and he acts without fanfare. “Some would say our

potential. They are embarking on an extensive remodel—

gender roles are reversed. Pernille is the corporate executive,”

knocking out walls, upgrading the kitchen, and chemically

says Jason of his wife, the former President and CEO of IKEA

polishing their Spanish tile floor. Their home, and their vision for

North America. “For years, I played Mr. Mom, carrying our son

it, is an apt metaphor for some of the tasks that lie ahead of Jason

in a backpack while I delivered our daughter to pre-school.

at Pegasus.

I knew where to buy the best sippy cups.”

As the Lopezes prepare to undertake the project, their only

Jason has been described as a “doer.” He sees what needs

Despite their high-powered positions and prestige, Jason

furniture includes four lawn chairs, two beach chairs,

and Pernille still embody the humble, down-to-earth values

a mattress, and a 17th century chest inherited from Pernille’s

that brought them together. “We come from culturally diverse

Danish mother. I join them for Sunday brunch and, as we sit

backgrounds, geographically opposite countries, but what

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brought us together is a shared value system.” They did such an

an instruction manual. “I want parents to know I’m not just

effective job at blending cultures that their son, Sebastian (21),

the head of school. I’m a father first. I relate to all their fears,

didn’t realize there were two separate sides to his family when he

anxieties, protective instincts, and pride,” he says. “I remember

was young. “They were all just cousins and grandparents to me,”

freely dispensing advice to middle school parents when my kids

he says. “It took me a while to figure out who was on my mom’s

were small. Then, when I had teenagers of my own, I just shook

side and who was on my dad’s.”

my head at my hubris.”

Jason and Pernille not only teach their children respect,

diversity, and multiculturalism, they live it. When they moved to

We head to brunch at Simmzy’s, a quaint local pub where

Jason loves to eat. We sit on benches at a long communal table,

Pittsburgh in 1993, Jason says he

and all four of them order the

was the only Mexican in town.

same meal. “I’m a creature of

“They thought I was exotic,” he

routine,” Jason says. “A little

laughs. Culturally, they identify

OCD. I could eat at the same

more with Pernille’s Danish

four restaurants all the time.”

heritage, celebrating Christmas

Jason describes himself as an

with stars and candelabras in

outgoing introvert. “I can turn

the windows, eating frikadeller,

it on for events and public

and singing Danish drinking

speaking, but I’m happy to go

songs. “People would look in our

for a few days without talking

windows during the holidays

or socializing.” Pernille says this

and not know what was going on. A Mexican father, a Danish

makes Jason a very good listener and observer. “Jason can be at a

mother, things that looked like the Star of David hanging in our

party and not say anything, but he takes everything in.”

windows. But that’s just normal for us.”

music—all activities that give him ample time to be in his own

“People make assumptions,” Pernille says. “Like what our

He enjoys running, fly-fishing, and an eclectic array of

life must be like because I was the CEO of IKEA. At IKEA, you

head. When asked about favorite books, they were all quick

know what flying first class means?” The kids smile. “I make sure

to say The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. “We talk a lot about our

I’m always last to board. Then I scan coach for a few empty seats

Personal Legend,” says Pernille. “What one’s personal destiny is,

together. That’s IKEA first class. They don’t give executives cars

and how to reach it. For me, it’s a struggle to define. For ‘J,’ it’s

or offices or first-class tickets. What you get instead is freedom to

easy. To impact the lives of children—his own and others.”

try different things, a lot of trust and latitude.”

the same rich soil, but their branches flow off in four different

Does that philosophy extend to their home life? They all

The Lopez family’s root structure is deeply entwined in

laugh at once. “What does it look like?” says their daughter

directions. Their home life represents a microcosm of the ‘Pegasus

Sine (23), pointing to the plastic chairs.

Way.’ As we part ways after brunch, Jason says, “Coming to

Pegasus feels like coming home.” I can see why.

Jason keeps photos of Sine and Sebastian in their younger

years around his office as a reminder that no child comes with

Marrie Stone is the Director of Public Affairs and co-host of “Writers on Writing” at KUCI, 88.9 FM and the mother of Haley Rovner (’15). Contact: marriestone@gmail.com

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STUDENT SPOTLIGHT

Shreya Patel ’15 All the way from England, new student Shreya Patel brings a spate of unique experience and talents to the Pegasus community. by Patty Seyburn

T

hough there may be nothing average about any Pegasus student, Shreya Patel, one of the eighth grade’s new denizens, brings new meaning to the word,

“exceptional.” Joyful, sweet and talkative, Patel conveyed the many differences between her life in London and here, including the challenges of moving from a considerably more traditional educational approach and environment at the James Allen’s Girls’ School.

The most obvious difference is going to school with boys.

“They are a little crazy,” she admits. Thus far, Patel gives Pegasus glowing reviews and comments on the different level of formality between educators in the U.S. and the U.K. “I love it. It’s amazing. A strict teacher here would be mild at home. Here, the teachers are not only people you look up to, but friends, as well. It was extremely formal back in the U.K. We would stand up when the teacher entered the room. We wrote everything in fountain pen. I think it was meant to make everything more deliberate; in general, once you’ve written something down, you can’t go back and change it. Actually, writing in pencil is one of the biggest difficulties I’m having!”

Her fellow students, however, are also praiseworthy. “People

are lovely. A week before school started, I was so worried. I thought people wouldn’t like me, or my accent might be a big

14 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL

turnoff. But it is no problem. People who have never seen me before ask me to walk to class.” Patel’s favorite subjects are mathematics and science. “In the U.K., I would take all three sciences at one time: physics, biology and chemistry. We had a generic science class until sixth grade, and then it split into three. There, it was a fixed curriculum, and you were working toward a set of exams. Here things are more flexible. Here, the teachers are going beyond what I did before, but I like a challenge.” Coming from the home of Shakespeare, though, Patel also has a love for reading and theater. “I read almost everything. I’m one of those strange kids who will read Shakespeare out of choice. I performed in The Tempest as Ariel. She praises the local libraries — “I got my


library card within a week” — but, like a good Californian, is

which sounds considerably more elegant than the American

also learning to surf and body-board.

pronunciation. “My sister can make anything,” she adds. “She

knits like a professional. She tried teaching me, and it did not

Patel’s younger sister, Saffron, is in Mrs. Gorsage’s fifth

grade class, and Patel feels she’s making the transition even more

work. We had a typical brawl and that was the end of it. But we

quickly and seamlessly. “She’s quite at home here, already. She’s

get along.”

picking up an accent and saying little words different. Like ‘caramel’.” Patel repeats the word, stressing the final syllable,

Patty Seyburn is the Pegasus parent of Sydney (’15) and Will (’17). She is a poet and associate professor in the Department of English at California State University, Long Beach. Contact: patty.seyburn@csulb.edu

PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

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GETTIN’ GRITTY Pop by the Pegasus School’s Outdoor Classroom on a sunny day and watch kids digging in. There’s a big box of messy materials, a climbing tree, a stage (of course), a quiet place to sit and write…and so much more. It may look like kids-at-play, but don’t be fooled. These kids are learning.

16 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL


PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

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Gifted,

FEATURE

meet

Grit

A Look at the Latest Findings on Failure, Character, and Meaningful Success by Karla Joyce

Seven-plus years at Pegasus have validated many of my assumptions about education, but three things — curiously analogous — stand out: 1) every parent has a gifted child, 2) personal responsibility starts in third grade, and 3) change is good.

academically-gifted students, to the development of a teaching body dedicated to the grasp and application of gifted education, to its embodied motto: it’s a safe place to be smart. Gifted or not, we wanted all that.

2) As a mother-of-multiples who started late, turning tasks

over to anybody willing was my method of healthy parenting. Ironically, it was the twins themselves who stepped up. A three-year-old can dress herself, a five-year-old can pack a healthy lunch, and an eight-year-old will remember her homework eventually. The third-grade personal responsibility program at Pegasus provided those things we know in our gut are good for a

Let’s break it down.

child — like, challenge and deprivation. (If a little hardship is

the ticket to breakthrough, this parent prefers it orchestrated,

1) We didn’t start out seeking private education. We

simply responded to our twins, who felt more observant, more

thank you.)

focused, and — frankly — quirkier than every other kid on the

planet. Without the brass fact of testing, we were free to call it

of it during our Primary and Lower School stints has been

gifted. The Pegasus School offered us a rich history in giftedness,

noteworthy. But even in the midst of difficulties, my girls

beginning with its summer programs in 1984 for seven

skipped and whistled through their years convinced that school

18 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL

3) Change isn’t unique to Pegasus, but the sheer volume


was all-play-no-work, and ended every day with the same

students need to perform well in school and life. It is one thing

ringing mantra: I can’t wait for tomorrow.

to identify those kids with the kind of skills and strengths that

scream, “Watch out world, I’m coming!” The more pressing issue

It feels bold to connect identity labeling, purposeful

character training, and unwelcome change in a single sentence,

is what to do with the capable students — from both ends of

but I’m not the first to do so. In fact, the subject of how-kids-

the socioeconomic spectrum — with just as much potential to

learn and which-kids-succeed is kind of a rage, lately. That the

thrive.

word ‘gifted’ contributed to the lure of Pegasus for us belies an

attachment to a dated assumption: that innate cognitive skills,

those whose pervasive obstacles (from inadequate nutrition

those conveniently measured on tests, are the key indicators of

to dysfunctional schools and neighborhoods) are, too often,

success. And, watching our twins spot patterns and handily

insurmountable. But some do develop resilience and find

perform at the standard pace of Pegasus-acceleration for the first

success and he tells those stories, each buoyed by the support

few years, it was easy to cling to that conviction.

of a mentor, usually a teacher or principal dedicated to the

development of character in the face of terrific odds. He

But differing strengths and learning-traits surfaced early

Tough takes on the plight of disadvantaged children first,

and that one-size gifted identity neither matched the facts

then turns his attention to the offspring of affluent parents,

nor mattered, certainly by middle school. Test scores rise and

specifically students at the academically-charged Riverdale

fall, and rise again which, as it turns out, has more to do with character, or non-cognitive skills, such as: persistence, selfcontrol, curiosity, and grit. According to psychologists and neuroscientists and decades of research, not only is character more crucial than sheer brainpower to achieving success, it is created by encountering and overcoming failure. (Parents, everywhere, cringe.)

SUMMER READING

...not only is character more crucial than sheer brainpower to achieving success, it is created by encountering and overcoming failure.

Long ago, Pegasus founder Laura Hathaway established the ritual of a “Faculty Summer Read.” Each June, Hathaway assigned teachers a title to complete during summer to be discussed, at a faculty retreat, before classes resumed. The summer before Jennifer Green’s teaching debut at Pegasus, Hathaway selected Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future.

During administrative transition, the tradition was

temporarily suspended.

This past June, new Head of School Jason Lopez set up

shop in the front office, and Jennifer Green doffed her fourthgrade teacher’s hat to become our Primary School Director. Her first order of business: bring back the Read. “It is more than a faculty-bonding exercise,” she explained. “The summer selection is a barometer of how we are evolving as a faculty — and a community — and what we are thinking about education. It’s a conversation starter.”

As such, this year’s selection was telling.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of

Character, by Paul Tough, is a research-rich, absorbing guide to educating and parenting that focuses on the non-cognitive skills

PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

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Country School in New York City which — rolling greens and

the Traits for Success had been too heavily weighted toward

Greek portico aside — sounds a little like Pegasus.

performance. Sure, our kids might become very successful with

those skills. But will they be good people?”

There is no shortage of printed opinion on how we raise and

educate well-off children, and a sizable group of psychologists

and educators argue that the system now in place — a practice

success traits had been an effort to indicate academic-rigor

that has given birth to AP overload, GPA inflation and Olympic-

while eschewing the gifted label, Green shrugged. “Academics—

level extracurricular commitments — are, in fact, hurting them.

we simply have it here, and at a high level. What teachers felt we

Add to that a growing number of parents who, while pushing

needed to restore was that safe place: safe to be smart, safe to try,

their kids to excel, inadvertently shield them from exactly the

safe to fail.” That’s about re-building community, re-connecting

kind of experience that can lead to character growth (like: child

divisions, and re-visiting the values represented by the Be Kind

writes a “C” essay; Dad fights for an “A-”).

Committee, she explained.

“Grit still matters,” said Green. “But only in conjunction

“Although they would almost certainly not express it

When asked whether the predominance of performance-

this way,” says Tough, “wealthy parents choose a school

with ethical grounding can it help a child negotiate her way to a

like Riverdale for their children, at least in part, as a risk-

thriving and autonomous adulthood, within society.”

management strategy. What it offers parents is a high

probability of non-failure.”

Success were amended to reflect more accurately the core

values of the greater Pegasus community. These newly named

And yet, according to Tough, and Riverdale Head of School

By the end of the summer, The Pegasus School Traits for

Dominic Randolph, and parents everywhere (on some level, at

Community Values may appear on placards, from time to time. But,

least), the best way for a person to build character is for him

more importantly, they will be on display in every teachable

or her to attempt something where there is a real and serious

moment, in sensitive decisions such as class placement, and in

possibility of failure.

the long-established and new Pegasus programs designed to

CHANGING BACK

challenge kids to fail – as they have been for 30-plus years.

So, studies verify a connection between character-building

THE MEANING OF MEANINGFUL

failures and disappointments and success in school and life,

There is no doubt that my daughters will leave Pegasus

and character-education programs pop-up everywhere. Banners

academically qualified for high school. Though I can’t predict

extolling virtues like persistence and integrity flutter in school

future GPAs, college acceptance rates, or professional salaries,

hallways to the point of ubiquity (and, if eighth-grade eyes

I am certain that each will be successful in aspects that we

glazing over is any indication, futility). In recent years, educators

value: responsible, honest, dogged, and kind, to name a few. We

everywhere have been guilty of character-ed slogan overload.

picked Pegasus to do more than simply help accompany the girls

If the genuine act of trial and failure and trial-again builds

where they were going already. We picked the school because it

the grit and self-confidence that begets success, isn’t the mere

reflected our values and our inexact ideas on parenting which,

articulation of these values another shortcut?

frankly, has been a hit-or-miss mix of lecturing, modeling, and

letting-go.

Character is one of those words that muddy many

conversations because it means different things to different

people. In 2008, an organization called the Character Education

said, translates to teaching. “We can’t protect a student from

Partnership published a paper that divided character instruction

every problem — nor would we want to. But we can shape

into two categories. One was based on “moral” character and

thinking so that students (and parents) understand failures or

stressed ethical values like fairness and integrity. The other

setbacks to be teachable moments, as opposed to the worst thing

emphasized “performance” and pointed to qualities like zest and

that has ever happened.”

perseverance.

community has been reflecting on its identity so dynamically in

According to Green, the selection of Paul Tough’s bestseller

Green chuckled, clearly relating to my technique that, she

The modeling-part starts with all of us, said Green. “Our

invited teachers to reflect on who-we-are and what-we-value as

response to setbacks. We will be stronger because of it.”

a school. For seasoned second-grade teacher, Sharon Goldhamer,

the dialogue was cathartic. “I wasn’t alone in thinking that

20 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL

Some people call that grit.


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FEATURE

THE

APOCALOPTIMISTS Long-Time Pegasus Parents Ponder the Upshot of Change by Marrie Stone

“The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe In an earthquake, it’s understood the most dangerous place to

text the word to each other now and then, or bandy it about at

be is in a tall, unyielding structure. Yet one of the safest places is

birthday parties as a proxy for dwelling on their frustrations.

inside a tall building that has been stressed for earthquakes – in

Administrative turnover, a financial scandal, and the departure

other words, one that has a deep foundation and is flexible. So,

of a few beloved teachers last spring all contributed to a

too, institutions that remain rigid will crumble, while those that

generalized fear that Pegasus might be losing its way.

succeed in adding flexibility, teamwork, and creativity to their

organizations will thrive.

Pegasus has weathered many changes since Hathaway’s

death. For the past five years, The Pegasus School has faced

Change and growth are oftentimes products of

No school is immune from change, nor should be, but

uncomfortable challenges.

the challenges associated with leadership loss, most notably a

shaking-up of its comfort zone. In spite of it, the vast majority of

A few years ago, Pegasus parent Malinda Bryant came across

the term ‘apocaloptimism’ on Facebook. Essentially, it means

Pegasus families have decided to stay the course.

the ability to maintain a hopeful and positive attitude in the

Why?

face of difficult circumstances. It struck her, and a few of her

parent-friends, as the perfect way to describe their feelings about

Ann and Thomas Lydon, and Amy and Matt Weiss sat down to

Pegasus since Dr. Laura Hathaway’s passing in 2009. They would

discuss some of the challenges they’ve uniquely endured during

22 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL

Chitra and Hitesh Bhakta, Malinda and Rob Bryant, Lisa


their Pegasus school experience, and why they are still strongly

her children. “I was a public school teacher, my mother a public

here. The perspective is significant given the duration of their

school principal,” she said. “Private school wasn’t consistent

commitment; they all arrived at Pegasus during the Hathaway

with our philosophy.” But when a friend urged her to look at

administration, have kids spanning multiple grades, and remain

Pegasus for potential employment, she immediately enrolled her

at the school today. Together, they embody the belief that change

son. (Amy didn’t join the faculty for another seven years.)

is uncomfortable, but true growth can’t happen without it.

husband, Matt, “the decision was straightforward.”

Discomfort clarified for them our school’s direction.

IF SHE BUILDS IT, THEY WILL COME

“Once we saw what Dr. Hathaway was doing,” said her Hathaway had a way of making enthusiasts out of non-

believers, Amy explained. By affording her faculty freedom to be

The Bryant family arrived at Pegasus under the leadership of

creative, establishing an innovative environment, attracting a

Hathaway, but they were reluctant converts to private education.

gifted student body, and nurturing a caring and supportive staff,

Both parents believed in public teaching. They were educated

she created a school where it was not only safe to be smart, but

in public schools. “We bought our house because it was in a

exciting to learn. The energy, she remembered, was palpable.

neighborhood with an excellent, highly-regarded public school,”

said Malinda Bryant. Their eldest daughter, Rachel, happily

would have sold our home to pay for this kind of education,”

attended first grade at this local elementary school. But when

Lisa Ann said. “There was never a question that this was where

she and her husband, Rob, saw what her best friend was doing

our children needed to be. I cried when Creagan’s acceptance

and achieving at Pegasus, they knew there was no comparison.

letter arrived.”

“For as good as our public school was,” Malinda explained, “the class sizes were large and there was a wide range of abilities.

Lisa Ann and Tom Lydon were also early believers. “We

CHANGE IS NOT OPTIONAL

Rachel was frequently left alone to read books at the back of the

Hathaway’s death marked a significant shift for Pegasus and was

room, while the other kids were sounding out words.”

typical of an organization whose founder, one integrally involved

in all aspects of operation, passes away. In business jargon, an

The Bryant’s story is one with which many Pegasus families

will identify. Amy Weiss, sixth grade Social Studies teacher and

organization so heavily shaped by a single individual

three-time Pegasus parent, never envisioned private school for

can sometimes suffer from Founder’s Syndrome.

PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

23


This condition occurs when the mission, the vision, the story,

some parents felt that gap began to be filled by board members

the administration, the fundraising, the programs – the whole

and other parents. More than one interviewee believed that

organization — is embodied in the founder. It is a set-up

because the board was already forced into additional action

reminiscent of The Pegasus School and, when Hathaway died,

after Hathaway’s passing and the interim head, it was natural

it was understood that the transition would be more significant

it would have a larger share of influence on how the school was

than a simple exchange of leadership.

run. Parents then, too, began exerting influence.

The Lydons knew change was inevitable, and perhaps

Parents aren’t educators,” Hitesh Bhakta said. “If they

potentially positive, but they weren’t prepared for some of the

were, our children would be home schooled. But parents began

reforms that followed. “We wondered what would happen when

making decisions about all sorts of things, including the amount

Hathaway died, but had full confidence that her vision would

of homework children should be given.” (Robert Bryant was

endure,” said Lisa Ann.

quick to agree. “My child’s workload shouldn’t be dictated by

another student’s sports’ schedule,” he insisted.)

The transition started hopefully. Jacqueline Smethurst,

Interim Head, was respected and lauded as doing a terrific job

Both Bhaktas continued to believe in the strength of the

during a difficult time, when the loss was raw. But she was

faculty, while identifying the leadership vacuity as the source of

recognized as transitional.

concern. “We chose the school

A year later, the community

for its rigorous academics, and

placed high hopes in the first

Pegasus delivered on those

official Head of School following

values. But once the leadership

Hathaway, John Zurn. But to

floundered, and parents

the parents interviewed for this

began complaining about

article, something felt off. While

the established curriculum,

they collectively acknowledged

we couldn’t help but feel the

that he was a capable and

standards were starting to

educated director, the match

slide,” said Chitra. “There is always a risk

between leader and institution didn’t feel right to them.

that education will be viewed

Jack Jennings, president of the

like a consumer product,” said

Center of Educational Policy in

former board member and

Washington, D.C. says, “Leadership only succeeds if the leader

alumni parent, Rick Davitt. “Parents begin viewing themselves

brings other people along into the same vision, and they are all

as customers, and demand customer satisfaction, as opposed

able to work together and trust one another.” Zurn’s strategies

to looking to educators for their expertise. This makes it very

felt at odds with Hathaway’s vision for the school, and he was

difficult for a school to do its job.”

unable to pull momentum in his direction.

he said. “I trust the school to make appropriate educational

The disproportionate turnover in administration didn’t

Hitesh concurred. “Pegasus isn’t a democracy. It’s a school,”

help. The Middle School had four directors in five years. “Our

decisions for my child based on their years of training and

daughter had a different director for each of her three years in

experience.”

middle school,” Dr. Chitra Bhakta said. Bhakta’s daughter, Alisa,

received the Hathaway Award for the 2011-2012 school year. But

fallout from bad decisions. And parents can readily articulate

the tribute that punctuated her nine-year Pegasus experience

the areas in which transitional decisions didn’t match Pegasus

was muted by the fact of a fleeting leadership. The Middle School

ideals. It is exactly at this point, wallowing in what wasn’t

director that year didn’t know anything about Alisa, Chitra

working, that one must ask: what works now? Specifically, what

lamented. “I’m not even sure he knew her name.”

makes these parents continue to believe Pegasus is the right

place for their children?

When there is a lack of leadership, there is a natural

inclination for people to step in to fill the gap. In this case,

24 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL

It is easy — and powerfully therapeutic — to vent the

The universal answer: the faculty.


THE WHOLE IS GREATER THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS The earthquake analogy applies perfectly to Pegasus. Dr. Hathaway laid a solid foundation that has been continuously stress-tested since her passing. But each of those tests has taught something and, arguably, made the institution more resilient in the process.

It was difficult, at times, to determine who was driving the

bus,” said Tom Lydon. “But when you look at that core group of teachers — what they stand for, what they believe in, what they teach the kids — that message and theme has been consistent all along.” Indeed, the one constant that has endured the transition of the past several years is the bedrock of Pegasus – its faculty.

Many parents agree a lot of positives came out of the past

five years. “In some sense,” said Matt Weiss, “you have to know what you don’t want in order to give definition to what you do. That’s what the past five years have brought. A concrete understanding of what Pegasus is, what it values, what the Pegasus way looks like and what it doesn’t.”

It comes down to trust,” explained Tom Lydon. “If you trust

the right thing is being done and you trust the people doing it, you let them do their jobs and don’t get emotionally involved.”

“Of course, there were administrative bumps in the road,” he

continued. “I’m including the financial turmoil, here. But there is a silver lining to that, too. The administration now recognizes that it can’t relax or take things for granted. They have to look three steps ahead, and they’re more aware of it than ever before.

Lydon summed up the current station of The Pegasus School,

from its visionary founding through transition to now: “We’re no longer a brand-new school,” he said. “But now we have the right people in the right seats. I think the course has been established.”

NEW HOPE FOR A BRIGHT FUTURE Having the right people in the right seats seems to be the critical change for all of the families interviewed. Hope has been renewed, enthusiasm restored, and nerves calmed. There is universal enthusiasm for new Head of School, Jason Lopez. The excitement, both amongst faculty and parents, is palpable. Already, many parents said Jason knows their children. He has taken time to learn their stories, observe their activities, and listen. And he’s a man of action, taking the reins and reestablishing the course. Talking with Lopez, it’s clear he is committed to Hathaway’s original vision, and committed to moving beyond the pitfalls of the past few years.

“I joined Pegasus knowing the red flags were waving their

own red flags,” Jason said. “But I wasn’t daunted. The foundation of this school is so strong, the core values so innovative. It’s a challenge I happily accept.”

Andrew Simms, writing for the UK Guardian, points out

there are very good reasons for being an apocaloptimist. In the face of extreme challenges, incredible opportunities arise to make things much better.

Pegasus stands in a powerful position to do that.

There are solid people lifting every stone to see if there’s rust and mold, and asking: what needs to be fixed?” PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

25


FEATURE

FREE FAIL FA I L U R E H A P P E N S

MAKE IT MATTER

by Eva Polizzi

What makes someone a failure? Am I a failure? I wonder that sometimes. After years of private education, infinite opportunities, and unconditional support, am I really living up to my potential? The word fail is used so colloquially— epic fails, for example— that it’s easy to list all the things I’ve failed at trying. I’m definitely a failed concert pianist (sorry, Dad), a failed ballerina, and a failed princess pirate. But once we set our goals and decide to define ourselves, how do we judge ourselves? There is comedy in those childhood failures, but it’s those things that we jump into with both feet, and that we swing at with all our might, that knock us over when we miss the mark. And when we’re knocked over like that, it can feel like we’ll never get back up. We feel as if we’ll be wandering failures forever, with shame and humiliation written across our faces. And frankly, some people are like that. Some people never seem to recover. At Pegasus, we are a resilient community, which means we have plenty of role models for raising resilient children. So often failure— in its many forms—seems so heartbreaking and debilitating in the moment, but over time, it often turns out to be the best thing that could’ve happened to us.

I asked members of our community to share with me those choices

that they faced, and how missing a prized goal turned out to be a wonderful, life-changing decision.

26 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL


S

tephanie Rinker, Pegasus first grade teacher, is a

hindsight, Rinker sees this as a turning point in her life.

champion of what can be called delayed gratification.

Working as a TA, she was able to learn firsthand from

Since she was a child, Rinker knew she wanted to be

some of the best teachers around, as well as earn a masters

a teacher. When she enrolled at Cal State Long Beach, she

degree. She explains, “Once I realized just how amazing

chose her major on orientation day! While in college, Rinker

this community was and how much I loved being with the

was told that she would find a teaching job right after

students, I knew the rerouting of my career path happened

graduation. As the new school year drew closer, and Rinker

for a reason.” Now that she’s a first grade homeroom teacher,

didn’t have a contract, she started to fear that she would

she has the opportunity to put into practice all of the

not have a classroom of her own. She says, “When I realized

strategies she learned over the years working closely with

that all I had worked for in school had not led to a success, I

some of our school’s most admired teachers. And she is a role

didn’t know what to do. I was confused and asked the world

model for our students. “One of the main things I learned

if this is really what I am supposed to do in life?” There were

about myself is that I can persevere,” she says. “Life may

signs, she says, pointing her in other directions, but she just

try to get you down, but I remain positive with each new

couldn’t believe that her career in education had finished

day, and I know that those harder times will always give us

before it had started.

something to learn from, even if in the moment it’s hard

to see.”

Rinker accepted a job as a teacher assistant in the first

grade at Pegasus. It was not what she had planned. But in

PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

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S

ometimes, failure can mean letting go of one dream,

compete alone.” It was a an important decision to make,

while focusing on another. Julie Warren, seventh

especially since it would be her last year of competing.

grade science teacher, spent her childhood and

She ultimately decided to join the team and continue to

adolescence as a competitive baton twirler. Warren explains

work on her individual routine, and compete in both at the

that, as the youngest of six sisters, she was very competitive

national competition.

and always wanted to do her own thing, and therefore

competed as an individual in contests and competitions.

the national competition that year: she placed fourth and

When she was 14, she joined a team, which was a big change

seventh. Her new team, however, won the title, advanced

in dynamic for her. She explains that “this particular team

to the world competition in Italy, and they won! Warren

was a lot of fun to be on, because although we almost

says she still looks back and wonders if she made the right

always took first place, we were all friends and did not

decision, and she wonders how things may have been

aspire to go to the world competition.” This team’s casual

different if she hadn’t made the choices she made. She is

attitude did not take too much time away from Warren’s

certain that her experience taught her some invaluable

individual training schedule: her utmost priority was to win

lessons. She learned the value and importance of teamwork

individually at the national competition, so her personal

and collaboration; she found that working as a group and

practice time was very important to her.

achieving a goal together can be just as satisfying— maybe

When she was sixteen, Warren was invited to join a

even more satisfying—than achieving it alone. You can see

more focused team. That team’s goal was to win the national

how dearly Warren holds these lessons when you enter her

competition and go on to compete in the world competition.

classroom: she teaches her students to function well as a

Warren explains the dilemma she found herself in: “I knew

team and to use individual strengths to bring success to

this would take away so much time from my individual

the group.

routines, I almost declined. Plus, I preferred to perform and

28 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL

As an individual, Warren missed her goal of winning


W

hile my class discussed a novel last month, I

and they were usually together and therefore felt inclined

asked my seventh graders to come up with

to torment me.” She recalls one low-point when a girl told

their best piece of advice for a new middle

her that her mom felt bad for the way the other girls were

school student. About half of them said, almost without

treating her. Failing to accomplish simple tasks like turning

even taking a breath, “make good friends.” As if it were

in her work or walking safely to the restroom left Krell-

that easy. But middle school friendships are tricky, and

Coyle feeling powerless and alone. No one would champion

they can change in a flash. When she was in sixth grade,

her in front of the “mean girls,” and she had no control over

theater arts teacher Janice Krell-Coyle had plenty of friends,

the situation.

until one day, someone started a rumor, and she was left

friendless and tormented. She explains, “I remember back

whose fists were in the air, poised to attack, Krell-Coyle

then constantly racking my brain, trying to think what I

screamed at her offenders, startling them, and fled.

had done to make them so mad. I never came up with an

Eventually, the bullying died down, but Krell-Coyle has

answer. I think I was just their chosen victim, with no real

never forgotten it, nor has she forgotten those four mean

reasoning behind it at all.”

girls. “It made me tough and strong,” she asserts, “and a

champion for the underdog.” This compassion is evident in

For the majority of that year, a group of girls bullied

Finally, surrounded by other students, facing a girl

Krell-Coyle. They would push or trip her when she went

Krell-Coyle’s performances: she knows just how to coax the

to turn in her work, call her names, prank-call her house,

beauty and the grace out of all her students. “I try to teach

and lock her in the bathroom. “I was afraid to go into

them to look out for others, as well as for themselves,” she

the bathroom because I didn’t want to be caught there

says. “I also try to teach them that when you get to a point

alone with the ‘mean girls,’” she says. “I was always scared

where you think you ‘can’t take it anymore,’ dig deeper.”

walking down the hallways because I was usually alone,

PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

29


Like Krell-Coyle, my own biggest failure was not my fault. I don’t mean that as an excuse: I simply had nothing to do with it. Less than a year after getting married, my husband was killed. It was a plane crash in the Congo, where he worked as a remote paramedic. We had dated for a long time before getting married, and we both knew the risks he took every time he deployed. He was on a small plane traveling from one site in Cameroon through the jungle to a site across the Congolese border. It was days before the plane was found, months before the cause of the crash was determined. It was bad weather, poor visibility. The jungle, they told me, can create its own weather patterns. It happened quickly, they assured me, he wasn’t scared or suffering. But shouldn’t I have known? I talked to him on the phone moments before boarding the plane. And then, because of the time difference, I went to bed. Shouldn’t I have warned him? Shouldn’t my wifely intuition have prevented it? Instead, I slept through it. Rationally, I know that this tragedy happened to me, through no action of mine, but that didn’t prevent me from feeling like I’d failed. I’d had my entire life planned out beautifully and, in a blink, everything was broken and ruined. In those first dark days, I struggled to get out of bed; I didn’t think I would ever be a whole person again, anything other than broken. And yet. The poet Mary Oliver reminds us that to be human we must “love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing that your own life depends on it,” which, if you think about it, is what children do every day. In my new life, I try to keep that sentiment at the forefront of my mind, especially when I’m teaching. I do so because my students will need my help when it comes time for the third part of Oliver’s mandate: letting go. Turning your failures into passions and strengths doesn’t mean that the failure doesn’t hurt. These teachers who shared their stories still recognize and feel the pain that that these difficulties and disappointments caused them. Resilience doesn’t necessarily mean that the pain is gone, or that a painful memory has been replaced by a pleasant one. Resilience means that in spite of the pain — often in the face of it — a person has been able to fight on, to find another path to success and happiness. Eva Polizzi ’97 is a Pegasus seventh grade English teacher. Contact: epolizzi@thepegasusschool.org

30 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL


PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

31


THOSE WHO SOAR

Talent, Fine Tuned: Two Pegasus Alumni Give RANDON DAVITT ’12 knows he’s onto

Davitt has an impressive history

something when he’s watching TV

in entertainment, which all started

on the couch, mindlessly fiddling

when he played Willy Wonka at

with his guitar, and a cool riff grabs

Pegasus in fifth grade. He subsequently braved 46

his attention.

auditions before he snagged his first

He’ll whip out his phone and record the improvisation to save in

gig in 2008, a Sara Lee commercial

his pocket for later, because it just

for bread. His stint in acting

may be unique enough to turn into

included an appearance on the

a song.

CBS series Criminal Minds, as well as a role in the Lifetime movie, The

“As long as it pulls my attention

Cheating Pact.

away from whatever thought

But most recently, he’s funneled

I’m thinking, and back to the instrument I’m playing, that’s a very

his creative energy toward his

good sign,” says the 16-year-old

musical pursuits. “It’s really fun to play up the

Pegasus alumnus and junior at the Orange County School of the Arts. As a bassist and vocalist for the Chase Walker Band, a three-piece blues band, Davitt has more than 100

energy,” he says. “It’s really great to be able to play and have a lot of people embrace it.” In the last couple years, the Chase Walker Band

gigs under his belt, including opening for Kenny Loggins,

has traveled from Memphis to Seattle to take the stage,

headlining at the Orange County Blues Festival, and two

graced the cover of a German magazine, and has aired

dates on the Vans Warped Tour.

on 70 radio stations. Randon has also performed as a

Drawing musical inspiration from Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters and John Mayall, the trio in September released

back-up singer for Carol Channing and Jo Anne Worley. “None of this comes easy — he’s put in his 10,000

a 13-song record, on which all but five songs are original.

hours,” says his dad, Rick Davitt, who’s usually behind the

Davitt wrote three of them.

wheel driving Randon to rehearsals, auditions and shows.

“It feels really good to be hands-on in the creation of the music as well as part of the performance,” he says. With Davitt in Huntington Beach, the vocalist and guitarist in Riverside, and their drummer in Anaheim, the

“When he’s forty years old, I’m going to look back at that time we had together in the car talking about whatever as the best days of my life.” While balancing studies with band rehearsals leaves

band rehearses every two weeks, about five hours at

him with little free time, Randon says, “It’s definitely

a time.

worth it.”

32 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL


New Meaning to...ART

by Alene Tchekmedyian

Darius realized the power of

Many people may think of technology and art as vastly

technology around six years old,

different concepts, but for

fascinated by the game Lego Star

DARIUS LAM ’13, the most

Wars. In fifth grade, he started

powerful ideas come from a

animating Legos to create stop-

juxtaposition of the two.

motion movies.

The sophomore at

“It really sparked an interest

Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, pointed to James

for me in terms of technology and

Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi blockbuster

art,” he said. “I really wanted to

Avatar.

create movies which is art, but I used technology to make the special

“It is an art that you can

effects and really enhance it.”

create these snippets of text and

When he’s not advancing his

make it do something on the computer,” Darius says, while

technological skills, Darius stays

sitting on a bench at his school’s

active. He joined the rowing

on-campus wildlife sanctuary, a

team at Andover and also swims

large plot of land filled with ponds, trees and wild flowers. It’s where he goes to think and envisions using the space for a film project one day. A self-taught computer programmer, Darius is proficient in multiple programming languages and can name a number of projects for which he has used his skills. Prior to attending boarding school, he conducted

competitively and practices Taekwondo. He’s also making friends from “every corner of the globe,” as his school draws students everywhere from France and Ireland to Japan and Kenya. As far as how he wants to use his skills in the future, he’s still working that out. “I’m still thinking about what I can do that will make

research at University of California, Irvine, during which he

a really big impact — something that will make people’s

developed software to visualize the inside of cancerous

lives better,” he says. “But I’m just using all these tools right

tumors.

now, so when that time comes, when that idea comes, I’ll

He also has a patent pending on an interactive

be ready.”

projection system, an idea born while he was at Pegasus after seeing teachers struggle with the clunky Smart Board. The system would have the similar functionalities as

Alene Tchekmedyian ’02 is a news reporter for Times Community News. Contact: alene.tchekmedyian@gmail.com

the Smart Board, without the physical board.

PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

33


ALUMNI CONNECTIONS by Benjamin Jenkins

Chad Bailey ’95, CMO for Robeks smoothie franchise, has been a featured speaker at several venues.

Christine Shepard ’03 visits her former teacher, Ms. Vicki Olivadoti.

Alex Rios ’05 visits with his third grade teacher, Elaine Sarkin.

Carissa Cummings made big moves in the

the team to get them going. It is the best job

Chad Bailey has continued his work as Chief

travel industry. She works for Coastline Travel

in the world, and I could not imagine a more

Marketing Officer of Robeks Corporation.

as an agent and has been highlighted in Travel

perfect job for me.” He keeps in contact with

He has recently been a featured speaker at a

Agents Central: 30 under 30, and was nominated

fellow classmates Michael Epstein, JB Green,

variety of high-level speaking engagements on

for Virtuoso’s 2014 Rising Star Award. She

Daniel Dichiro, Dan Guthorn and Blake

topics such as Marketing Excellence, Digital

specialized in travel through Europe and has

Peterson.

Media, Social Media, and New (Restaurant)

recently expanded to South Asia and South

Concept Design. Some of the biggest events

America.

1995

include Variety magazine’s MASSIVE Conference in Beverly Hills, Fast Casual Executive Summit in Denver, and Digital Marketing Strategies Summit in San Diego, as well as a contributing author on CMO.

JB Green graduated from USC, where he played football under the training of the

Taylor Moore graduated from Pepperdine

current Seattle Seahawks coach, Pete Carroll.

University and is now an advertising

He also played volleyball in the national

executive in Orange County.

championships at the Galen Center with an

2004

audience of 10,000 fans. Green works at CBRE as a real estate broker.

com and many other restaurant industry

Joseph Puishys graduated from the

publications.

University of Maryland in mechanical

Blake Peterson graduated from NYU in 2013

engineering after earning his undergraduate

and works on Wall Street.

1998 Danielle Schulman is the director of operations at Kerlan-Jobe Surgery Center. Her outpatient orthopedic surgery center specializes in sports medicine.

2003 Christine Shepard recently visited her former teacher, Vicki Olivadoti. Shepard served as the Media and Virtual Learning Manager for the University of Miami’s Shark Research Program. She recently moved to the Big Island of Hawaii to pursue her passion as a wildlife and underwater fine art photographer.

degree at the U.S. Naval Academy. He is an officer in the U.S. Navy.

2005

from NYU. She is now working in Hollywood

Alex Rios visited with his third grade

while she writes and records a solo album

teacher, Elaine Sarkin in September. Rios is a

that she plans to release in January.

recruiting analyst for USC football. He began two years ago as a student manager and was thrilled to be offered his dream job full time in July. “My job is to help find the best players in the country and get them to commit, sign and play for USC. I manage social media accounts, send personalized mail, and manage all of the student workers in the office. I also run the music at practice and play music for

34 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL

2006 Melody Hernandez graduated last spring

Ryan Hueston graduated in the spring with honors from Dartmouth College with a Bachelor of Arts in studio arts and a minor in film studies. His art is displayed throughout the Dartmouth campus. His senior thesis was a series of paintings exploring themes of bipolar disorder.


Third grade teacher, Elaine Sarkin, joined Pegasus alumni James Mather ’08, Melanie Arnold ’08 and Nicolas Jaber ’08 at the Stanford/Cal game in September. Mather and Arnold attend Stanford and Jaber attends UC Berkeley.

Class of 2010 reunion: (L-R, front to back): Terrin Morris, Shelby Williamson, Sarah Groux, Kelsie Swift, Audry Rimland, Ian Fries, Anthony Jusuf, Wyatt Robertson, Alexander Asdourian, Matthew Hurst, Ryan Sung, Garret Byers, Colby Bock, Liam Stimpson, Nathaniel Pozin, Riley Dix, Grant Kang, Brett Dunlavey. Robertson was presented with the 2014 Wings of Honor Award during the 2010 class reunion.

2007 Colt Peterson is a senior at University of Colorado. He is currently training for competitive cycling.

2009 Jack Harris is in his sophomore year at USC. He is studying journalism.

2010 Matthew Hurst ’10, a freshman at Harvard University, set an indoor track and field

Adam ’14 and Blake ’12 Meyer enjoyed a visit from Coach Tyler at an Ocean View High School football game.

record in Harvard’s season opener earlier this

As part of his Eagle Scout project, Nicholas Bost ’14 built and delivered two benches for the new primary Outdoor Classroom. Mrs. Mary Karaba guided him during the process.

month at Boston University. Matthew ran the

Michael Rouleau and Hawken Miller

300 dash in 35:16. Crimson caoch Saretsky

joined a service learning group called Kairos

remarked that his freshman class brings “a lot

Nicholas Bost returned to campus in

Technologies, which refurbishes and donates

of accomplishments, accolades and talent…

November to help deliver two hand-built

old, used computers to local elementary

they really want to make their impact.”

benches to the new primary school Outdoor

schools like El Sol in Santa Ana. Their interest

Hurst already is. Congratulations!

Classroom. This opportunity allowed

and skills in technology and computers makes

Nicholas to complete an Eagle Scout project.

them a great fit for Kairos.

Thanks to his coordination, leadership, and

2011 Clair Goul has been a busy senior at Sage

2012

Hill School. She was mentioned in the Orange

Griffin Vrabeck is a junior at Sage Hill

County Business Journal for her lab work with Dr.

School. One of his many hobbies and talents

Susanne Rafelski at the Center for Complex

includes writing and performing spoken

Biological Systems at UCI. “Goul might sound

word poetry. He performed his poetry

young for the role, but she’s already been in

opening for Sarah Kays and Phil Kaye at Sage.

the lab for two years, with a stint at the Koch

He was also honored by having one of his

Institute for Cancer Research and MIT under

poems showcased at back to school night and

her belt.”

published on the evening program.

2014

a little assistance from Mrs. Mary Karaba and Mr. Bruce Duncan, the task was a huge success. Bost is a freshman at Sage Hill School and is on track to become the youngest Eagle Scout in the Pegasus troop, Troop 911. Bost has also been playing in his band, Thermite, which evolved at Pegasus. The band has played at the House of Blues, LA Battle of the Bands, and Sage Hill School.

Hawken Miller has been working hard on

Robert Leigh is doing well academically as a

college applications while simultaneously

freshman at Sage Hill School. He also plays on

completing his final requirements to become

the varsity and junior varsity football teams.

an Eagle Scout. PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014

35


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December 22 – January 2, 2015 Winter Break February 16-20 Intersession Week March 21 Pegasus Film Fest Spring Benefit March 30 – April 3 Spirit Week April 20 – 24 Shakespeare Week

Pegasus Magazine - Winter 2014  
Pegasus Magazine - Winter 2014