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Finding a Place to Stand

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Actor and playwright Vicente Guzmán-Orozco ’92 got through life’s tough spots with the help of a great teacher

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Fall 2010 Caller

Twelve-year-old Vicente Guzmán-Orozco loved growing up in Colima, a small and pretty city on Mexico’s southwest coast. Although his parents had moved to Oregon to work in the fields of Washington County, his strong, vibrant grandmother provided a haven for him. He had an innate talent for performance, nurtured in theater and dance classes. Vicente’s world was safe and comfortable, and then it burst apart.

It was time to rejoin his family, said his mother and father. Vicente came north and moved in with them—into a trailer in the middle of a berry field outside of Hillsboro. That reversal of fortune shook him and his sense of who he was, and it took years to overcome. He did finally succeed. The story of that success winds from rural Oregon through Catlin Gabel, to Portland’s stages and beyond as Vicente rediscovered himself and learned to take pride in his life.
 
Vicente came to Catlin Gabel in 9th grade, introduced by Spanish teacher and admissions staffer Ron Sobel. Vicente had been attending junior high school in Hillsboro and working summers in the district’s migrant education office, mostly translating letters for those who spoke only Spanish. He loved Catlin Gabel when he toured the school and was eager to attend: “My parents were always good at encouraging me to think for myself. After the tour Ron looked at them, and they looked at me, and I said yes right away.”
 
But when Vicente started going to classes, he felt like he really didn’t belong. “As far as I knew, everyone led a different life from mine. They didn’t live in a trailer,” he says. “It took me one to two hours to go to school and come back. I wrote a piece my freshman year, an uncomfortable conversation between the two different people I had to be: Vinnie at Catlin Gabel, and Vicente at home.” As a young gay man, he hid behind a façade of flamboyance that was not just about sexual identity: it was about the freakishness of feeling like an outsider, mostly in terms of class and color.
 
Vicente knew he was dealing badly with his situation. He finally confided in teacher Pru Twohy, who had often spoken up for him and expressed confidence in him. That conversation still resonates for Vicente. “Pru asked me to think about whether Catlin Gabel was a good opportunity for me or not. I admired her and Clint Darling, my English teachers, most of all. So I took her seriously and decided to deal with it,” he says. “Academics weren’t the hardest part of Catlin Gabel for me: it was getting a better understanding of certain forms of privilege. But I told myself that this is a good opportunity, and that Catlin Gabel will open doors for me.”
 
“I finally did get through it,” he says. “I love the school and am proud to be a Catlinite. Pru was right: it was not the torture I thought it was then. It was my own inner turmoil about moving quickly to a disadvantaged position in the States, and moving in a world that was not my own. That experience—finding a place to stand— this is where I am, this is who I am, this is who I need to be—and finding my strength taught me that I am as worthy of a Catlin Gabel education as those around me. And I learned to say why that was.”
 
One thing about Catlin Gabel that always connected for Vicente was the ethos of service, as expressed by the school chapter, 1 Corinthians 13 (“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”). Back in Mexico, Vicente’s grandmother had found her unique place in the world through serving others. She was the center of her community: if people needed flowers for a funeral, she’d cut them from her garden. If people needed letters written or advice on life’s thorny issues, she was there for them. “She taught by example,” says Vicente. “The whole thread that runs through my family is dedication to the world around you. Enjoy yourself, but serve! The contents of the Corinthians verse spoke to me then, and they speak to me now. It’s why I do the things I do. I constantly use that angle in my projects.”
 
Vicente’s pursuits at Catlin Gabel built on his talents and prepared him for his eventual career as actor and writer. He wrote his first play in Pru Twohy’s “Hell in Literature” class, a takeoff of Dante’s Divine Comedy. He loved his theater classes, where Robert and Mary Medley provided great support for him. He eventually got his first shot at professional theatre when Portland’s Miracle Theatre asked him to join BRIDGES, its anti-racist teen theater group. Vicente’s skills were a perfect match, and he fell right in with Miracle. He started directing a year later, while still in high school, then after graduation worked in the office and wrote grants. “For commissioned plays I used a bilingual style so that you could understand the whole thing if you only spoke English or Spanish, but were not bored with repetitive dialogue if you understood both,” he says. Finally he was named resident playwright and guest performer in the dance ensemble.
 
In the three years he was resident playwright, Miracle Theatre produced eight of Vicente’s plays, including an HIV educational piece they performed in migrant camps. One of his plays opened in Mexico City, toured the West Coast, and was performed in Festival Cervantino, Mexico’s biggest performance event. He left Miracle to join CITE, a theater company that put on educational plays in schools on topics such as water conservation and energy efficiency. In the evenings Vicente would rehearse and perform for Artists Repertory Theater and other companies.
 
As an actor, Vicente has worked mostly with Miracle Theatre, appearing in about 25 of their productions over 20 years—twice as Pancho Villa. He has performed for many local companies, including Do Jump!, Stark Raving Theatre, and Theatre Vertigo. Between shows, he’s found time to present workshops in acting and improvisation, playwrighting, cultural sensitivity, environmental issues, and more. And he’s spent 20 years as an activist and counselor about sexually transmitted infections, to both English and Spanish-speaking people.
 
Since his time in Hillboro’s migrant education program, Vicente has been serving others through his knack for language and translation. That skill had an emotional cost for him when he translated for asylum hearings. “I had to speak in their words, in the first person, and say things like, ‘The soldiers came at midnight and took my wife away.’ But it was important that the person’s statement be totally clear to me,” he said. He’s translated three books, one of which is used to train seasonal agricultural workers to care for senior citizens. He’s spot-on when he mimics various Latin American accents in his acting roles; once when he played an Argentine radio announcer an audience member said to him, “I know you’re Mexican, but listening to you I was back on the streets of Buenos Aires.”
 
Today Vicente is back in Colima, Mexico, with his partner, Eric Widing. He moved there recently to concentrate on writing and researching a novel based on four generations of women in his family. He doesn’t see himself living in Colima forever, but while he’s there he hopes to connect with the local arts scene, and he enjoys the slow pace of life in the beautiful city of his childhood.
 
In looking back on his busy life, Vicente says, “My satisfaction has come from the hopeful messages of most of the work I’ve been able do. If you can do good work, you can lead by example.” And in a nod to his teachers at Catlin Gabel who helped him when he needed it most, he says that working with children and youth is deeply important to him. “If other people hadn’t taken the time with me when I was growing up,” he says, “I wouldn’t be this inspired.”
 
Nadine Fiedler is editor of the Caller and Catlin Gabel’s publications and public relations director.

Production photo at left: Vicente in "The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa." Production photo at right: Vicente in "Te Llevo en la Sangre." Photo by Russell Young.

 

Catlin Gabel family's independent service in New Mexico

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Los Niños International volunteer opportunities

By Carrie Gotkowitz
Los Niños/Via International is a community development organization headquartered in San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico. Our family has been involved with Los Niños for many years – my son Daniel's grandfather, Joseph Gotkowitz, started the microcredit program in the early 1990s. I was familiar with the Los Niños programs through contacts in San Diego, but had never visited any of the program sites. 

During spring break 2010, Daniel and I spent two days at the Los Niños program in Mexicali, Mexico. We visited a cactus farm, a beehive cooperative, a ladrillera (brickmaking business), and a preschool, which is the site of a xeroscape landscaping and playground installation project. We ate meals and slept at the Los Niños dormitory in Mexicali.

Los Niños Mexicali volunteers have helped with sustainable farming development projects, bridge building, xeroscape landscape installation, and playground construction. Volunteer work is directed by agronomists or construction supervisors. Los Niños provides Spanish language interpreters. Voluntourism trips include discussion and education on community health and nutrition, local and global economic forces driving migration, and U.S.-Mexico border relations. Volunteer and community contributions are used to fund projects.

Los Niños/Via International has a 37-year history in community development work. The organization focuses on family health and food security, nutrition, and ecology training, microenterprise and microcredit, community leadership education, and voluntourism programs. Los Niños offers voluntourism programs in San Diego, New Mexico, Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico, and Guatemala.

Los Niños International

"This school opened up the world for me"

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A personal story of the importance of financial aid from Dr. Derrick Butler '86
From the Spring 2010 Caller

After hearing the news that the Rummage Sale would retire, Derrick Butler ’86 M.D. shared his story on how financial aid changed his life. Inspired by his life story, we invited him to speak at the Gambol and help the school raise funds for student financial aid. Here are some excerpts from his speech.

I am confident that my life’s work is changing lives and inspiring others. My work is challenging and, many times, fatiguing, but I can wake up every day and possibly make a small positive difference in someone’s life. That is the essence of what Catlin Gabel has given me, and must continue to instill in its students.
 
My journey at Catlin Gabel began with me as a shy, fat kid from the ‘other side of the tracks’ (or in this case, the Willamette River). I was black, not wealthy, from a single-parent household, but hungry for knowledge. Six years later I emerged as a confident, curious, inspired young adult with a desire to explore every corner of the planet. Catlin Gabel allowed me to navigate the world outside of my inner city neighborhood and to realize my own potential for achievement. This school opened up the world for me and gave me the skills and courage to go out and savor it.
 
Financial aid at Catlin is what made all of this possible.
 
Catlin Gabel exposed me to a diversity of races, cultures, religions, and ideas that made a difference in my life by broadening my world view. I believe that my tenure there equally exposed my peers to someone like me, which helped them understand racial and socioeconomic differences—but also realize our sameness as human beings. I think the need for a wide diversity of students is even greater in our world today, a world of global cooperation and increased complexity.
 
I graduated from Catlin Gabel in 1986 to continue my journey of self discovery. I was first on full scholarship at Morehouse College, where Catlin Gabel’s academic rigor gave me the discipline and study skills to graduate second in my class. Then with the Peace Corps to Africa, where I taught science and math, traveled extensively, mastered French (which I first encountered at Catlin Gabel), and truly became a world citizen.
 
Led by my desire for service, my love of people in general, and passion for science, I then pursued my medical degree at the University of California–San Francisco and a public health degree at the University of California–Berkeley. During this period I also first experienced the devastation of the HIV epidemic, which would influence my later career path.
 
Now as a family physician I treat all types of patients, especially underserved populations of color in South Central LA and those who are even more disenfranchised: people living with HIV. I consider myself a doctor, master of public health, HIV specialist, breaker of stereotypes, lifelong seeker of knowledge, student of the world, and servant to humanity. Upon reflection, I see that Catlin Gabel was the foundation for these accomplishments.
 
I hope my humble story will help convince you that Catlin Gabel’s investment in people is what makes this school such a special institution. Greater than any investment on Wall Street, the support you can give for Catlin Gabel’s students will reap so much more in terms of human impact.
 
We must continue to give talented and motivated students the support they need to realize their potential at Catlin Gabel. Please help Catlin Gabel continue to change the world with its amazing graduates. So please, give cheerfully, give heartily, and give with inspiration. Thank you.
 
Derrick helped Catlin Gabel raise the crowd to its feet—and raise $150,000 for student financial aid. We thank him and all those who were moved by his story.
 
Photo: Reversed Lens Photography

 

A Leader in Progressive Education

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Amani Reed '93 is one of the youngest division heads in the nation
From the Spring 2010 Caller
Amani Reed ’93 was an unproven quantity when he came to Catlin Gabel in 8th grade, a self-described “extra kid in the class” who was admitted although the class was full and his admission test didn’t go so well. “The lesson I learned was that it’s important to give kids a chance,” he says. As principal of the middle school at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Amani daily applies lessons like this one, learned from his many years following his heart toward a place he’s perfectly suited to inhabit—one of the youngest independent school leaders in the nation.
 
Leaders at Catlin Gabel noticed Amani’s rapport with students when he was just a sophomore. Ali Barnett Covell ’65, then the Beginning School head, and Roy Parker, then head of the Middle School, both asked Amani to act as mentor to their students, so he worked with the youngest children and accompanied 8th graders on their Gilbert & Sullivan tours.
 
Working with kids resonated for him. “I didn’t know I was teaching, really,” he says. “But I woke up one day and found that I was a teacher.”
 
Amani attended Howard University and the University of Portland, where he studied secondary education and played soccer. He became involved again at Catlin Gabel working with Speed-Ujima, the diversity group that he had cofounded as a student.
 
“I’m blessed to be in this work. But we never do it alone, and I had really strong mentors,” says Amani. His first job in education came through Roy Parker, who had moved from CGS to become head of the middle school for Pittsburgh’s Sewickley Academy. He hired Amani as Summerbridge director, and Amani ended up working at Sewickley for six years, teaching 6th grade humanities, coaching soccer, working in admissions, and serving as diversity director.
 
Amani assumed more responsibility when he moved back to the Northwest in 2002 to serve as assistant middle school head at Lakeside School in Seattle, where he continued to teach and coach soccer. Amani connected with kids, but this experience for him was learning about adult leadership and what makes a school run. It made him want to take the next step: to become a principal, and lead adults and children.
 
Amani spent two busy years between 2005 and 2007, working at Lakeside, pursuing a master’s degree during a summer intensive at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, becoming a new father (of son Taye, now 6), and exploring independent school leadership as part of Columbia’s Klingenstein Leadership Academy. “It all worked because my wife, Jules, is incredibly supportive,” he says.
 
Amani then landed his job as middle school principal at the huge University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, a place completely in sync with his educational philosophy. Founded by progressive education pioneer John Dewey, its tenets are similar to Catlin Gabel’s: experiential education, higher values, critical thinking, and individual responsibility for the collective community. Son Taye is in kindergarten just down the hall from Amani’s office, which delights him.
 
The work absorbs and satisfies Amani. “Figuring out the right way to support people, both adults and kids, to be their best is my goal.” He loves working with middle school kids, finding that to be the best part of his job. “The challenge of middle school is to create a sense of belonging. I help kids find themselves, feel connected to the community, and belong to something bigger and greater. I give them a sense of support so they feel that they can accomplish anything.”  

 

Redefining Community: Linking the Global & the Local

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By Spencer White

From the Spring 2010 Caller

Our heads fill these days with reports of environmental degradation, the unraveling of indigenous communities, and the harsh realities of human conflict on our globe. I find this overwhelming and sometimes downright scary. I can only imagine how these problems make my 11-year-old students feel as they move through school, becoming more aware every year of the issues we, or they, will live through. Regardless of the life paths our students choose when they leave Catlin Gabel, they will face a world characterized by ever-increasing communication and collaboration with international communities. Technology has brought us the ability to maintain relationships and conduct business with people just about anywhere on the globe, at any time of the day. How our students engage in these relationships— in essence, their diplomacy—is of great importance to our world.

 
Our global education program seeks to foster global competencies in our students. Among these is the ability to work and communicate effectively across national, cultural, and linguistic boundaries. So how do we do this? Besides teaching world languages, or providing travel opportunities, how do we help our students build cross-cultural communication skills? The answer is, we practice. We practice by taking advantage of every opportunity we can to get kids to collaborate with their international peers.
 
Teaching students to be literate in cross-cultural communication requires two intentional activities. The first is creating meaningful relationships with people around the world—initially through email exchanges and interactive Skype conversations, and eventually through global travel.
 
The second act is linking these relationships to local peer groups. Our students must practice communicating about a specific issue, problem, or goal not only with local peers, but with peers of other cultures, languages, and nationalities. In this way we redefine the idea of community for our students, explicitly teaching that our actions and decisions affect not only our local community, but also those far away.
“Looking back in my journal I see how I have really never felt a connection with someone that far away from home before.” —Catlin Gabel student traveler
For example, Carter Latendresse’s 6th grade unit on food teaches students to critically examine how food is produced in the U.S. and compare our levels of consumption with that of other global communities. Making this tangible, the Garden Club’s new vegetable beds allow students to grow their own organic produce, as well as understand the influence the global food industry has on how we produce, transport, and learn about the norms of global food consumption.
 
Teachers David Ellenberg, Becky Wynne, and Laurie Carlyon-Ward, chaperones on this spring’s trip to Nepal, prepared 13 high school students by viewing Food Inc., a documentary on the U.S. food industry. Nepali students at the Sattya Media Arts Collective screened the film for our students’ visit, and together they talked about the arrival of fast-food restaurants in Katmandu. This spring, the students who traveled to Nepal will visit Carter’s 6th graders to talk about the perspectives of their Nepali peers.
 
Our community’s response to the Haitian earthquake in January most tangibly collected a sizeable sum of money to support Mercy Corps’s disaster relief work. But more notable was the fact that our Lower School students created pastel drawings with messages in French and Haitian Creole that were delivered personally by parents who traveled to Haiti to assist in the recovery. Our community grows stronger and more unified by working together to affect change in a distant place. From these collective efforts our students learn about the disparity between resources and power structures in our world—but they also see that they are not powerless in the face of all the world’s daunting problems, and that when we reach out to communities far away, we in turn strengthen our own.
“I really care about conserving water. I mean I did it before, but not nearly as much as I do now.” —Catlin Gabel student traveler
The Viewfinder Global Film Series is another example of how we challenge our community to unite around global issues, in the interest of educating our students. In its inaugural year, the series has hosted 23 films over 8 months of the school year—attended by more than 600 parents, students, and teachers. Far more impressive than the numbers, though, are the post-screening conversations that ignite passionate debate and reflection about how our school sees its place in our local and global communities.
“I was really surprised when I got back at the sheer amount of resources we use every day, how easy it is for us to have a hot shower, and how we take so much for granted.” —Catlin Gabel student traveler
As our students move into Upper School, their opportunities for local and global collaboration increase. Model United Nations challenges students’ diplomatic skills, while twice a week students board a bus to Aloha to help Latino children with homework. Many of these same students recently returned from Cuba. Apart from the humanitarian nature of the trip, the travelers learned the power of creating relationships with their Cuban counterparts and the life-changing nature of convening with a community so vastly different than their own. Leah Weitz ’10 saw this in action in Cuba, and she’ll never forget it: when she told their Cuban cabdriver about the humanitarian nature of their visit, he gratefully told her their ride would be free.
 
As an 18-year-old at Lewis & Clark College, I traveled to Argentina and Chile as part of my Hispanic studies degree. Six months in Mendoza living with modest third-generation immigrants of Italian descent taught me the power and potential of creating emotional connections with people outside my own community. Shy of the cliché of calling them my Argentine family, especially when talking with my “real” mother on the phone, I was shocked at how close I felt to them and how utterly dependent I was on their parenting and care. Perhaps I was an independent, self-sufficient young adult in the U.S., but in Argentina I was vulnerable and far from home. Here was my new community developing before my eyes.
“There is no real way to explain what has changed about me. What I can say is that the way I see things is as if I am seeing it on two planes, two perspectives. I see things the way I see it from Costa Rica and from the U.S.” —Catlin Gabel student traveler
We are fortunate at Catlin Gabel to have the opportunities and the means to develop international relationships through travel, technology, and the study of language. We are in the business of redefining for our students what community means, what it means to become a global citizen, and what it means to consider the global effects of daily decisions. In my mind, this fortune comes with a commensurate degree of responsibility. We have the responsibility not only to purposefully seek and create relationships in international communities, but we must always make an effort to connect these relationships to our daily curriculum, our school initiatives, and our local service work. These collaborations linking local action with global realties serve as important reminders of our need to change the way we think about community.  
 
Spencer White is Catlin Gabel's global education coordinator. He also teaches Middle School Spanish.

 

When Homework is More than Homework

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By Leah Weitz '10

From the Spring 2010 Caller

I’ll admit it—when I found out that my Spanish V Honors class had required community service hours, I was miffed. I had essays to write, classes to teach, tests to take—and geez, now this? But our teacher, Lauren Reggero-Toledano, insisted that to supplement our class focus on the Hispanic presence in Oregon, each student should go out into the larger community and engage in community service with an organization catering to Hispanics.

 
The only Hispanic community service opportunity of which I had any awareness at all was Homework Club. Here’s what I knew: Catlin Gabel students went somewhere and helped Hispanic kids with their homework, and staffer Mark Lawton plugged it in assembly a lot. With no more information than that, and slightly resentful of the fact that I could be preparing for my next history test instead, I hopped on a bus after school one Thursday bound for this mysterious and elusive Homework Club.
 
What I found was wonderful.
 
Homework Club, which is run by Bienestar, a Hispanic farm worker housing service, meets twice a week after school. Five to 10 Catlin Gabel students go to the community center at Reedville Apartments, where we meet up with 20 to 30 kids ranging from 1st through 6th grade. First we help them with their homework, which may consist of writing short stories, completing work sheets, or studying vocabulary. After their homework is done, the students practice reading to us. After a heartily nostalgic dose of Dr. Seuss or Maurice Sendak, it’s play time. Catlin Gabel tutors and their students mix while completing puzzles, playing hide and seek, or coloring with crayons.
 
I work with the 3rd graders. Note that I say work, not worked—for all of my moaning and groaning that first afternoon about the hassle of spending three hours helping kids with their homework instead of completing my own, I somehow found the time to come back . . . every week. It’s worth it to watch the kids improve, knowing that you’re the one who taught them how. Take Brenda, whose shy smile hides a spunky and charismatic attitude. When I first met her, her reading skills were excellent—but sometimes she would suddenly halt, staring at a word with blank eyes, before struggling through it and resuming her regular flawless read. I soon learned that Brenda, to whom English is a second language, had never seen or heard a lot of these words before. Now we sit with a dictionary next to us when we read, with the frequency of pauses always decreasing.
 
It’s not just Brenda’s vocabulary that has grown during the months I’ve been working with her. After a few months she hugged me goodbye for the first time, melting my heart like butter, before skipping off like it was no big deal. The next week she showed me a story she had written for school, featuring a character she’d named Leah. Her eyes sparkled as she laughed at my stunned expression. I’m not the only one fortunate enough to have blossoming relationships with these kids: take junior Lily Ellenberg, another Homework Club regular, who finds herself greeted by a cheering cluster of 1st graders every time she arrives.
 
Over the past months at Homework Club I’ve come to realize that the relationships we have with these kids isn’t just serving them alone. While my 3rd graders have been learning how to multiply, I’ve been learning how to teach—and realizing how much I love it. I can safely say that I have Homework Club to blame for my projected career choice, and I deeply thank Lauren for pushing me to get involved—because at Homework Club, teaching can be a learning experience too.
Leah Weitz ’10 chose to intern at Bienestar for her senior project. She will attend the University of Puget Sound this fall.   

 

Teachers & Students: The Heart of the Community--Aline Garcia-Rubio '93

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Upper School science

"Sometimes all it takes is just reaching out"

From the Spring 2010 Caller
I respect students and listen to them. I listen to whatever they want to talk about: their dogs, their assignment. Spending time and looking each other in the eye shows that I care about them. And I really do care. I really get to know them in those after-class moments.
 
Sometimes it’s very natural and things just click with a student, and there’s an easy interaction. It’s harder when there’s friction. If there is, I make sure that I go and sit with those students. When students are active in the lab, I’ll stand next to them and interact with them as humans, beyond the content of the class. It doesn’t take much, and the students appreciate it.
 
I tell students little stories about who I am. They get a sense of me as a human being with a family, so I’m not a distant figure. I make myself vulnerable in appropriate ways. In my advanced class, in genetics and environment, we were talking about skin color. I showed them photos of my two children—one is blond, and the other is Mexicanlooking. We can talk about my kids in terms of biology, and it helps them explore who I am. Once we had some crickets escape, and we all chased them together. I wasn’t the all-knowing leader, but someone who could share in the humor of the situation.
 
I’m very deliberate. My students’ success depends on it. If we don’t have a connection, they won’t do well. If there’s not a connection, I ask my colleagues about the student. I continually watch my students’ affect. If I see changes, I tell them, I see you’re motivated, or tired, or angry, or sad, and ask what’s going on. In science their lives don’t come out as much as they might in other kinds of classes. But I do watch them, even if they don’t know I’m watching them in that way.
 
I try to be a part of whatever’s meaningful to students. I go on the senior trip, which is our last chance to cement those relationships. During Campus Day, or on trips or Winterim, we make the best connections. Together we have enriching experiences that invite conversation. Outside of class we let our guards down in different ways.
 
I feel proud to have a class that has six minority students in it. I take ownership of that. I tell them it’s cool. We create emotional connections and become part of each others’ lives. I think those are the common, invisible threads that strengthen the sense of community and identity. Teachers work deliberately to create those invisible threads. Sometimes all it takes is just reaching out to someone.
 
When he was first at Catlin Gabel my son felt anxious about walking to the curb alone. But he soon felt safe in the knowledge that people are watching out for him. His 1st grade class did a poetry unit, and he wrote a poem, “I Am From.” He wrote, “I am from Mexico, I am from Hawaii, I am from Portland, I am from I love you, I am from Catlin Gabel.”
Aline Garcia-Rubio ’93 spent her junior year at Catlin Gabel as an exchange student from Mexico City. She holds a medical degree from the Facultad Mexicana de Medicina, Universidad La Salle. She has been at Catlin Gabel for three years and previously taught at an international school in Mexico City and at Punahou School in Hawaii, under former Catlin Gabel head Jim Scott.

 

Paul Monheimer reflects on Israel Fulbright research

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Last year I applied for a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching.  Much to my amazement, I was awarded a grant to study for a little over three months in Israel. On the application, I wrote a proposal for connecting students using graphic arts software to help overcome language barriers. How naïve I was. The first issue my mentor, Jay Hurvitz, pointed out was that I had hardly proposed a topic which could be researched. No problem, I countered. Being a mentor teacher in the United States, I was more than willing to look at how student teachers were being trained to teach with modern technological tools. In my mentoring, I had discovered that student teachers were proficient at using technology, but had little training in how to teach with technology.  I told Jay I was also interested in how veteran teachers were acquiring the new skills necessary to teach with emerging technology. 

I was not a researcher prior to this Fulbright Award. I teach children. I have done so successfully by most measures for nearly thirty years. Teaching is about building relationships. My students learn because of the relationship I have with them.  In order to learn about the state of technology in Israeli education, I began developing a personal learning network (PLN.) I created a blog that, according to Google Analytics, has received more than 700 visits.  Each visit lasted an average of 2:36. Clearly, people are reading what I have written. 

Actually doing research was my problem.  I was going to be in Israel for 102 days.  I spent a week getting acclimated.  95 days left.  Israeli universities have a semester break in February. Down to 80 days left.  K-12 students have a spring (Passover) break. That left 70 days for me to complete my research.  I learned a great deal while in Israel. Yet I am just now beginning to understand how little I know, and I will be teaching Catlin Gabel seventh graders in 14 days. As a wise Israeli fifth grade teacher reminds her students, “When you travel, you learn a lot about other cultures.  But, you learn more about yourself.”  What did I learn about the Israeli education system?  What did I learn about myself?

I was eager to begin my research into the Israeli school system, but I don’t read, speak, or write Hebrew very well. I needed to talk to people who spoke English, read articles in English, etc. But Hebrew is an important part of Israeli culture. It is one of the ties that bind people. Speak Hebrew and one is seen as an Israeli or at least trying to be part of the culture. Speak English and people might be tolerant or even translate, but I was still an outsider. Fortunately, I met many people who talked to me in English, newspapers such as Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post have online English editions, and both Google and Microsoft have passable translators. Technology became my lifeline. It kept me afloat, yet did not quite allow me to swim. I could translate Hebrew into English, verify my understanding with Israeli colleagues, and e-mail people on my laptop. I had a cell phone for person-to-person conversations and interviews. I learned that Israeli educators deal with many of the same issues facing American educators. Finding similarities eased my language anxiety a bit and allowed me to focus more on some of the differences.

Education in Israel is a complex enterprise. I divided my study between higher education folks and K-12 schools. Beyond this basic divide, there also are secular schools, religious schools, ultra-religious schools, and Arab schools. Funding and political power are unequal. While much funding is federal, schools are administered by municipalities, which means wealthier neighborhoods have schools with more resources, parental involvement, etc. There are areas where the school is the only building in a village with electricity. I visited one Bedouin school, near Be’er Sheva, where a generator the size of a camping trailer was providing the school with electricity. Residents, by contrast, relied on solar power, if they had electricity at all.
Israeli schools are faced with a wide spectrum of issues. Often, technology isn't a high priority. I wanted to talk about technology and how teachers were being trained in its use and using it with kids. But I kept reading about violence in schools, poorly paid teachers, high teacher turnover, lack of qualified teachers, curricular differences between religious, ultra-religious, and secular schools, and schools refusing to teach certain students.  Perhaps most importantly, education in Israel has to deal with security measures unlike any I have ever experienced as a teacher in America.  Every school in Israel is not only fenced, it has an armed guard at the gate. The guard won’t actually admit anybody, but will allow visitors to contact the office. Even when I visited schools as part of a team of Israeli educators, we still had to be admitted by someone who worked at the school, not the guard. Schoolchildren on field trips are accompanied by at least two armed guards the entire time. While no one mentioned the effect of security on kids and most Israelis take security precautions in stride, it has to affect the kids and the adults.   Learning about Israeli schools is, as the ogre, Shrek, says, “Like an onion.  Peel it back one layer at a time.”

A good mentor tries to develop independence in his charge, and Jay was an excellent mentor. He accomplished four major tasks with me. Jay helped me become independent as a traveler. Israel has a terrific bus system, but it took a number of trips before I felt comfortable. I am now able to travel to any part of Israel to meet educators, visit schools and colleges, and return to Jerusalem safely. Jay introduced me to a few educators who are doing unbelievable work in the field of education technology.  Sometimes he attended these meetings, other times I met with people on my own. I joined Israeli educator forums, which required more Google/Bing translation work, and I have been a contributor to these forums since my arrival. One of my suggestions is currently being tried out on Edureshet, a Ning group of technology-using educators. Jay also introduced me to a group of college instructors who were learning how to use technology in their courses. My skills as a technology director and technology-using teacher came in handy, as I was able to participate in class even though my Hebrew was not up to the level it needed to be to participate fully. More than once, after I made a comment, someone would remark, “Oh, so you understand Hebrew.” I didn’t and still don’t, but I understand what is on a screen and have been a presenter often enough to correctly guess what was going on. Lastly, under Jay’s guidance, I attended conferences at Mofet, a unique Israeli institution. Meeting colleagues of all stripes at these conferences was a highlight of my time in Israel, and I look forward to keeping in touch with many of the fine educators I met. While I know Jay did his best to broaden the circle of people with whom I met, and even though he knows, in one way or another, many educators active in the education technology field, my exposure to these people was inevitably influenced by his circle of friends and acquaintances.

More than anything else, I treasured the time I had to read, think, and write. I have followed a few blogs for a number of years, but my blogroll has now grown substantially. Speaking with Israeli colleagues and observing teachers in their classrooms piqued my interest in areas of technology to which I had not previously paid much attention, including ways to incorporate Facebook, Diigo, and other social networking sites, Google forms, and submitting assignments via Moodle. School visits caused me to reflect on my own teaching methods and curriculum. Reading what others wrote on the subject and commenting on posts connected me to educators not just in Israel, but the entire world. I’m not sure where I will find the time to continue all of the reading, but I suspect I will find ways to keep up, or I will join the legions of tech folks who have way too much to read. Thinking about my own teaching, how I approach learning, how I incorporate programs such as All Kinds of Minds, how I utilize the rich resources available to today’s students and teachers, and which skills I want kids to have when they leave my class are all areas I have been lucky enough to explore during my Israel Fulbright.  I have shared some of these thoughts in my 33 blog posts. 

Now that I am preparing to return to the US, what have I learned about the topics I wanted to explore?  There are some Israeli schools engaged in global sharing projects. Perhaps Catlin Gabel will join the growing list of schools participating in global sharing when I return. Some of the software I wanted to share does not “accept” Hebrew input. I have an ongoing correspondence with three software companies encouraging them to tweak their programs to accept Hebrew characters. According to the Israelis, it should be no problem. 

There is an ongoing program in Israel, the Athena Fund, whose stated goal is to address the current poor state of the education system, wherein a gap of digital understanding exists between teachers and students, teachers showing fear of computers and not using them for the purpose of teaching and communicating, and their general status in the eyes of their students is at its lowest. The Fund's main project is "a laptop for every teacher."

The Athena Fund aims to complete its work by 2012. From my limited observations, most Israeli schools have a long way to go. Israeli student teachers are not part of the Athena Fund program. This is unfortunate because, if they were, they might be ready to teach with technology when they began their own teaching careers. Instead, they become part of the program only after completion of their training. If I could make one recommendation it would be to give every teaching candidate a laptop at the beginning of their training. Teacher training is stuttering. Early adopting teachers are moving ahead, but many teachers are simply hoping, “this, too, shall pass." What few in the education community are talking about is that Israeli kids already bring cell phones to school and the phones are creating the same problems as cell phones in schools do in the US – distraction of peers through inappropriate use, ringing during school time, class distinctions between students who have “cool” phones and those who do not, etc. There are so many “turf battles” being waged in the education sector that it is difficult for all the folks involved to move in the same direction. 

Cutting-edge teaching is always inspiring! I visited schools where creative teachers were involved in innovative programs. I observed students in middle schools where each family had purchased a laptop for their child to use, conduct research, create tables in a word processor and upload the document to Moodle, all in a 45-minute period. I met teachers whose students were creating audio files to go with their stories, which they then used as part of an English lesson.  I brainstormed with teachers who were setting up a program to get parents more involved in their local school by having parents and children learn together about using computers. I learned more about the importance of social networking in education than I can possibly recount. This is, of course, a two-edged sword. Students enjoy social networking because they use the tools all the time, they are familiar with them, and they don’t seem like “real work.” But teachers need to help students understand the responsibilities involved in using social networking sites in classes. This includes focusing on school projects, not just updating status, checking on friends, etc. The issues surrounding “proper use” of social networking are not limited to Israeli or American schools/students.  Increasingly, corporations are either filtering or intensively monitoring what employees are doing/viewing/ while connected to the corporate network. 

Teaching is about making connections. I have done that during the past three months in Israel. Current technology will allow me to stay in touch with the educators and students I have met here. As a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher, I have learned new ways of looking at my teaching, improved my teaching, and I have been fortunate enough to have begun working with others to collectively improve education in both the United States and Israel. As Brian Jones stated after he and his partner had just completed the first around-the-world balloon flight, “I am an ordinary person to whom something extraordinary has happened.”

 

Viola Vaughn from Sénégal to speak at Catlin Gabel on April 7

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Vaughn, a CNN "Hero," is founder & director of 10,000 Girls, dedicated to the education of girls

Viola Vaughn, founder and executive director of the nonprofit 10,000 Girls (http://10000girls.org) in Kaolack, Sénégal, West Africa, will speak at Catlin Gabel on Wednesday, April 7, at 12:45 p.m. in the Middle School Commons during her tour of the United States.

Dr. Viola Vaughn

Vaughn is an American with an Ed.D. from Columbia University who received a CNN “Hero” award in 2008. She is a social entrepreneur who has built 10,000 Girls from an idea to a vibrant program currently serving 2,567 girls in 10 towns and villages in rural Sénégal. She periodically tours the U.S., speaking and participating in conferences to raise awareness of her organization's success in helping West African girls succeed as students and entrepreneurs. During her time in Portland Vaughn will also speak at Portland State University.

Video of Viola Vaughn #1          

Video of Viola Vaughn #2            

Video of Viola Vaughn #3

Viola Vaughn and the 10,000 Girls Project from Memory Box Productions on Vimeo.

10,000 Girls has two primary programs: after-school education and skill-building, helping girls stay in school and complete their educations; and entrepreneurship, teaching a craft or trade and business basics to older girls who have already left school and need life skills to become self-reliant. The educational component provides tutoring and resources to help girls succeed in school. Older girls, who are no longer in school, learn sewing, baking, and other marketable skills, creating products such as dolls and table linens, which they sell locally and online. The girls also grow, harvest, and produce hibiscus, which they transform into tea and hope to export to the U.S. as Certified Organic. The girls in the entrepreneurial program have decided to donate nearly 50% of their earnings to the program, making 10,000 Girls entirely self-sustainable. In Sénégal – where 54% of the citizens live below poverty and 48% are unemployed  – 10,000 Girls transforms the lives of  participating girls and their families.

The dynamic Viola Vaughn, a long-time resident of Sénégal, dramatically describes the challenges and joys of running 10,000 Girls and speaks with passion about her organization's mission. She can relay fascinating stories, including how she convinced banks to open accounts for young girls, a first in Sénégal; why the girls chose to bake and sell cookies to raise money (like America's Girl Scouts); and the what poignant questions the girls pose at summer Democracy Camps in  Sénégal. 
 
In Portland, Violla Vaughn hopes to connect with individuals and organizations interested in the education of girls, as well as with businesses that might want to sell 10,000 Girls' products. She will also encourage individuals intending to volunteer for 10,000 Girls in Senegal.

 

Catlin Gabel Middle Schoolers featured in Martinique press

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Sainte Marie Journal, France-Antilles, March 2010

Translation of the article in France-Antilles
 
Sainte-Marie. Young Americans hosted by Saldès middle schoolers
HAND IN HAND, TO PROTECT THE COAST
 
Photo captions:
Photo 1: Young middle schoolers did not hold back their efforts in spite of the overwhelming heat.
Photo 2: At the end, the Saldès middle schoolers and their American counterparts displayed their satisfaction.
 
Young middle schoolers from the Emmanuel Saldès Middle School and young American middle schoolers took part in a beach clean-up at Anse Charpentier and at the beach of Sainte-Marie last week. Glass bottles, plastics, used tires, an old fridge … the concerted efforts of these youngsters of very different backgrounds allowed them to pick up several bags of garbage.
 
The young Americans, from Portland, Oregon, came to Martinique through a cultural and linguistic exchange program. Various families of Sainte-Marie have been hosting them since last week. 
 
Next year, the young Samaritans (inhabitants of Sainte-Marie) will in turn be hosted by their friends from Catlin Gabel School. In preparation for this big trip, the students registered in the European section of Saldès, have been making various fund-raising efforts since last September. They organized a raffle, sold cakes, and have already spent several Saturdays bagging groceries in the town’s supermarket.
 
Facilitating the turtle’s arrival on the beaches
The clean-up on the commune’s beaches was part of a series of efforts to further sustainability. The ONF (National Forest Bureau), Sainte-Marie’s city hall, and Kawan, a turtle protection association, joined forces with the middle schoolers whose objective was to make it easier for the Leatherback turtles to get on the beach during this egg-laying period. 
 
In small groups, under a scorching sun, the adolescents screened the area to take away as much as possible the garbage soiling these beaches. At the end, they displayed their satisfaction, happy to have filled several garbage-bags full, together.
 
PHOTO CAPTIONS: 
They said:
 
Picture 3
Josué and Sarah, 8th graders from the Middle School Emmanuel Saldès           
"We’re proud to host our American correspondents. Everything’s going well. We’ve been learning English since 5th grade. Today, with the arrival of our American friends, we’re trying to make an extra effort to live this exchange at its best and share as much as possible."
 
Picture 4
Students from the Catlin Gabel Middle School, 12 to 14 years old
"We’re happy to have been able to join our Martiniquan correspondents. Since we’ve been here, we’ve spent time with a lot of young people. This trip has allowed us to discover your culture, and some music through dance. It’s an unforgettable stay and we’ll remember it for a long time to come. We’ll remember when night time falls with the song of crickets and frogs, and especially the roosters crowing the wake up call in the morning! It’s very different from what we’re used to. We look forward to host our correspondents next year.
 
Picture 5
Gwenn Le Reste, project coordinator and English teacher at Emmanuel Saldès
"In the last few years, the team of teachers has organized several projects of the sort. Unfortunately, these teachers are extremely challenged by the possibility of having three classes cancelled in our building. Several of our students come from underprivileged families. Our building has the RAR rating (Ambition-Success Network), which has allowed us to have, up until now, a reasonable number of students in our classes. But if, for strictly financial reasons, the rectory persists and cancels these 3 classes, we won’t be able to pursue these sorts of projects that are very motivating for students."
 
Picture 6
Monique Bessette and Mark Pritchard, French and music teachers at Catlin Gabel School in Portland
"Since the beginning of this project, the Americans were eager to come to Martinique. In spite of the heat, they didn't feel out of place. On the contrary, they took to the exchange right away. Both groups are living pretty intense moments. Our students became familiar with the school's schedule, life in the countryside, and cultural traditions. We're sharing the life of the families who are hosting us, and it's very enriching."

 

Interests, Passions, Magnificent Obsessions: Photographer & scientist, senior

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From the Winter 2010 Caller

Passions: science, photography
Interests: diversity, dance, writing, languages

“Since elementary school I’ve dreamed of becoming a pediatrician and working in other countries. I’ve volunteered at a cancer rehabilitation center in India, and I’ve worked with kids as a volunteer. I love kids, and I love science.
 
Two years ago I started experimenting with the camera and Photoshop, and I started doing a lot of portraiture. I posted my work online, and I began getting outside referrals. I’ve done one wedding, and I do portfolios for models and family portraits. I like to shoot in the city or in nature with no fake lighting and no backdrops.
 
I love portraiture. It’s satisfying to take pictures of people and see them in different ways. It’s great to make them feel beautiful and capture their emotional qualities and their uniqueness.
 
I plan to go to medical school. It’s hard to find colleges with strong programs in both medicine and art. I want to be a doctor, but I also love travel and would like to document it in photographs.
 
I’m co-leader of Speed-Ujima, the diversity club. It’s really important to me because I’m part of a minority group in the Upper School. It’s important to let people know that being different is okay and that they shouldn’t hide it. We get the word out that we won’t tolerate racism.

Rahee means traveler in Urdu and Hindi. It’s a piece of fate, from the time I was little, and it’s come true.”

Self-portrait: Rahee Nerurkar

Interests, Passions, Magnificent Obsessions: Dedicated to community service, 10th grade

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From the Winter 2010 Caller

Passion: community service
Interests: basketball, health care

“I’m really into community service. My mom believes that you should give as much as you can to others who don’t have as much as you do. She’s instilled that into me. Lots of people have more than me, but I have something I can give back to others.
 
I do a lot of different projects, often with my church. As part of the Extreme Makeover Schools program in north and northeast Portland, I helped build a community garden at an elementary school. I volunteer at the library for summer reading. I help kids get signed up, give them prizes, and read to them. I like working with kids. I also volunteer at the Food Bank.
 
Last year I went with a group of African American and Jewish students to New Orleans to rebuild. We went down and did hard physical work in the Ninth Ward, the poorest section of New Orleans. There are almost no houses, and there’s debris everywhere, compared to the wealthier areas, which are almost completely redone. It was hard to see.
 
My godsister and I have done a lot of service work together, and it’s fun to work with someone else. You don’t think about how long it’s taking you.

I’d like to be a physician’s assistant. You don’t have to go to medical school, and there are a lot of programs. I want to work in an inner-city hospital and clinic where there’s less access to health care and fewer doctors."

Interests, Passions, Magnificent Obsessions: Soccer player & scientist, 5th grade

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From the Winter 2010 Caller

Passions: soccer, science

“Soccer’s great because you can socialize and make new friends. It relieves stress and helps you to not burn out and get tired in the rest of your life. I started playing classic soccer late this summer. It’s a more competitive form of soccer that’s played mostly year round, and all outdoors in all seasons. We do two practices a week after school. We have a game on Saturday, and sometimes on Sunday. I really, really love it.
 
Two friends and I were playing recreational soccer and we switched to classic soccer. It’s more physical and more demanding. The coaches train us hard on all the skills, like shooting, passing, and defense.
 
I also love science. When I grow up, I want to be a brain surgeon and fix things when people have problems. I’m interested in the brain because it uses up the most energy in the body, and it controls everything.
 
At home my mom is teaching me Japanese, and it’s hard. I’ve also been taking Chinese for four years. Learning Japanese makes Chinese easier because the characters came from Chinese, and the sounds are similar. We visit Japan most summers, and it’s fun. I speak Japanese with my relatives, and I’m pretty comfortable with it. By being with relatives I get to see the whole culture.

Having something you like is good for you. It makes life easier and more enjoyable.”