THE PEGASUS SCHOOL
ISSUE 8 / WINTER 2014
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.
THE PEGASUS SCHOOL
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
Gifted, Meet Grit
At the Heart of Pegasus
Faculty Focus: Elaine Sarkin
Insight: Modern Family
Student Profile: Shreya Patel
Orange County Printing
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 email@example.com
Those Who Soar
PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014
THE PEGASUS SCHOOL
“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” - John Wooden, “The Wizard of Westwood”
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
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)
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)
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
THE PEGASUS SCHOOL
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)
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)
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: firstname.lastname@example.org PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014
Life and Lessons:
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
THE PEGASUS SCHOOL
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.
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
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
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: email@example.com PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014
Harnessing Pegasus Students’ SPARK in a Single Day by Carin Meister
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
10 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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modernfamily At Home With Jason and Pernille Lopez
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.
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
12 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL
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: email@example.com
PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014
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
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014
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
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
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
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.)
...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
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
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
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
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.”
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.
PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014
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
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
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.
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
routines, I almost declined. Plus, I preferred to perform and
28 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL
As an individual, Warren missed her goal of winning
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,
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
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: email@example.com
30 THE PEGASUS SCHOOL
PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014
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
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
CBS series Criminal Minds, as well as a role in the Lifetime movie, The
“As long as it pulls my attention
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
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.
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
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
now, so when that time comes, when that idea comes, I’ll
He also has a patent pending on an interactive
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
the Smart Board, without the physical board.
PEGASUS MAGAZINE WINTER 2014
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
Media, Social Media, and New (Restaurant)
recently expanded to South Asia and South
Concept Design. Some of the biggest events
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
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
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.
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
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
published on the evening program.
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
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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