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Our Inspired Teachers: Veronica Ledoux

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Every day Catlin Gabel teachers inspire their students. 16 faculty members talk about how they came to teaching—and what they love about their craft

 From the Autumn 2012 Caller

 Veronica Ledoux, US science

Bachelor’s in biochemistry, Mercyhurst College. Doctorate in neurobiology, Northwestern University. At CGS since 2008. 

When I initially began studying science, I imagined a finish line of sorts, a distant future in which I’d Understand Everything. Naïve, right? Now, I know better. As the years passed and my education continued, I learned a great deal, but each insight uncovered new parts of the scientific puzzle. The more I understood, the more I wondered. This complex spiral can go on forever. I now realize that one of the most exciting parts of studying science is the limitlessness of it.
In my previous life as a science researcher, I used complicated equipment to ask very minute questions in tremendous depth. While I was fascinated by my work, I had only a relatively small community of fellow scientists with whom I could share my discoveries. The taxpayers funding my work didn’t know what I was doing with their money, as my findings were published in expensive scientific journals with limited circulation and dense, jargon-filled text. There was no easy way for me to share my scientific excitement with the public at large.
At times I miss the research lab, but now, as a teacher, I constantly have opportunities to share my curiosity and love of learning with others. Many teachers are the sort of people who would be happy to be eternal students, and our profession lets us get away with this, to a degree. At Catlin Gabel, we have the freedom to innovate, update curriculum, create new courses, and follow the interests of students. This is both exciting and daunting. My colleagues set a high bar for constantly honing their craft, paying attention to individual students, and adapting their approach to better suit the needs of those students. I am privileged to be part of this place, as my own scientific understanding is constantly being challenged, which keeps my enthusiasm high. 


The Consummate Professionals

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 From the Autumn 2012 Caller

By Lark P. Palma, PhD, Head of School


No matter what study you reference about school reform, the most important element of successful schools is the excellence and effectiveness of the teacher. Teaching involves an intricate, complex, and challenging set of skills. Teachers may make as many as a thousand choices within one school day, including making quick and nuanced adaptations of the lesson plan, figuring out how to communicate best with each individual student (verbally? through body language?), when to pause effectively, and how to pace the lesson and shape activities to sustain the students’ attention.
Given the complexity of teaching and the solitary nature of a classroom, where a regular feedback loop is not available daily, teachers need and seek feedback on their teaching from peers and supervisors. I ponder the reluctance of teachers nationally to trust evaluation systems that are designed to improve their practice, not to weed them out. Their reluctance is complex – and there may be reasons to be distrustful – but, like any other respected profession, teachers undergo yearly reviews. I am saddened by the teacher-bashing that is the substance of much political discourse, but how can we gain stature as a profession if we resist constructively critical commentary?
Catlin Gabel’s professional growth system, instituted in the late nineties, adopted the work of Charlotte Danielson, an economist, teacher, curriculum specialist, and supervisor in schools for many years. When she was charged to help develop a system for professional growth, she conducted a study of thousands of teachers to identify characteristics of the most successful teachers. The result was Enhancing Professional Practice (Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development, 1996). The elements of highly effective teaching were divided into planning and preparation, class environment, instruction, and professional responsibility. Under each characteristic are numerous behaviors that the teacher and the supervisor reflect on and observe on a continuum, combined with classroom visits and immediate feedback. We adopted her model because the process was sensitive to the diversity of teaching styles, respectful of the complexity of the teaching-learning process, and easily adapted to the mission of our school and our bedrock belief in student-centered, experiential learning. Our goal is to make sure that every teacher at Catlin Gabel is evaluated using this process. The system empowers teachers, in whatever stage in their career, in whatever subject, to move from good to great; great to greater.
We look for teachers from robust national and international candidate pools who have demonstrated the attributes inherent in our professional model. We observe how they teach classes here to our own students, their recommendations from current employers, and through individual reference phone calls. We watch their interactions with our own students very carefully and ask for written evaluations from a committee of older students. They are the best judges. All candidates we select for daylong interviews are experts in their disciplines or grade levels; they are the ones who we can see are magic with students.
We create a superb faculty by starting with superb employees. We give them instructional materials and technology, fund innovation and new team summer planning, and give them freedom and unbridled support to execute innovative ideas. Most importantly, we give these professionals ongoing support at perfecting the art and the craft of teaching.
This issue presents snapshots of teachers who started at Catlin Gabel in four different decades. They share their career development and why they are teachers. They ARE the consummate professionals.


Photo gallery posted: seniors and 1st graders carve pumpkins

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So fun – and it didn't rain!

 Click on any photo to enlarge image and start the slide show.

Homecoming photo gallery

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What could be better than Friday night under the lights? The Murphy Athletic Complex's Gant-Davis field is a thing of beauty when the sun sets on an autumn evening, our athletes play their hearts out, and fans flock together to cheer. Go Eagles!

Click on any photo to enlarge image and start a slide show. Thanks go to Cody Hoyt '13 for the game photos.

Creative Arts Center groundbreaking photo gallery

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A grand celebration!

On a beautiful afternoon in early October, we broke ground for the Creative Arts Center for Middle and Upper School students. The building will open fall 2013. For more information about the project, please visit www.catlin.edu/artscenter.

Click on any photo below to enlarge image and view pictures as a slide show.

Flaming Chickens robotics team on KGW-TV

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KGW-TV news story, September 2012

Members of our Upper School robotics team, 1540 the Flaming Chickens, spent all weekend at OMSI's Mini Maker Faire September 15-16 talking to people about FIRST Robotics and Catlin Gabel. They also got up for a early 4:30 a.m. video shoot at OMSI to promote the faire.  Check it out.

Daily Journal of Commerce story on the planned Creative Arts Center

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Daily Journal of Commerce, August 2012

Catlin Gabel receives $200,000 grant from M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust

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Funds bolster instructional technology in the planned Creative Arts Center

Catlin Gabel School has received a grant of $200,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. The grant will support instructional technology in the school’s planned Creative Arts Center.

Groundbreaking for the new building will be held October 4. Students in grades 6–12 will experience an innovative use of space for interdisciplinary work in visual and media arts, theater, and music when the Creative Arts Center opens in the fall of 2013. Funds from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust grant will be used for computers and recording equipment for the music laboratory, theater sound systems, and state-of-the-art LED stage lighting that will greatly reduce the building’s energy consumption. Additionally, the grant will support servers, networking, classroom projectors, and advanced theater projection.

The $6.9 million Creative Arts Center was designed by renowned architect Brad Cloepfil, of Allied Works Architecture. Funds for the building’s construction have come primarily from donors to the project, as well as grants. Cloepfil has designed notable museum and creative spaces worldwide, from the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis to the adaptive reuse of Manhattan’s Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle. “Catlin Gabel’s project for the new arts building means a tremendous amount to me,” said Cloepfil. “To build on that beautiful campus, with the legacy of great architecture by John Storrs and Thomas Hacker, is a true gift. We have worked with faculty and students to create a building that will be a beautiful catalyst for creativity, not only in the visual and performing arts, but for the entire curriculum of the school. It truly is a laboratory, one that will encourage the students to develop new ideas and forms of expression.”

“The arts are a core of Catlin Gabel’s philosophy and are key to a well-rounded education. In no other discipline do critical thinking, problem-solving, predicting outcomes, analyzing, re-assessing, and creativity come together as they do in the arts. The intellectual challenges posed by visual art, music, and theater facilitate learning in all other disciplines. These vital pursuits help make our children more thoughtful, interesting, and well-rounded—and create a life of more profundity and beauty for all of us.” –Lark Palma, head of school

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, based in Vancouver, Washington, was created by the will of Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, a co-founder of Tektronix, Inc., and established in 1975. The trust aims to enrich the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest by providing grants and enrichment programs to organizations seeking to strengthen the region’s educational, spiritual, and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways.