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Carter Latendresse named an NAIS Teacher of the Future

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Carter Latendresse, 6th grade English teacher at Catlin Gabel, was selected by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) as part of the 2013-14 Teachers of the Future program. The NAIS Teachers of the Future were selected from a large pool of nominees who inspire academic excellence in students and serve as opinion leaders among their colleagues and peers. The Teachers of the Future were also chosen for their expertise in particular areas—environmental sustainability, globalism, equity and justice, or the use of technology in their teaching—that NAIS believes are hallmarks of a high-quality education for the 21st century. As one of only 25 teachers nationwide chosen for the program, Latendresse will lead an online discussion forum designed to share innovative ideas and teaching techniques, and he will create a demonstration video to inspire others.
Latendresse earned an MA and a BA in English at the University of Washington. He has been teaching at Catlin Gabel since 2007, and he is also the school’s garden coordinator. His classes explore themes of empathy and social responsibility through ancient and contemporary literature that is chosen with an eye toward gender, ethnicity, and cultural diversity. He was nominated as a Teacher of the Future by Catlin Gabel Middle School head Barbara Ostos, who had this to say about him:
“Carter’s presence in our school community embodies a teacher leader working collaboratively towards educating conscientious, critically thinking students whose responsibilities will be to mold a more equitable and sustainable world through creativity and innovation. Through his classroom instruction Carter challenges 6th grade students to see the world beyond themselves. . . .
“I see his teaching and community membership as innovative because he is not only willing to try new techniques in the classroom, but is constantly re-evaluating and thinking about content and delivery, and most importantly how he and his purpose help student connect to deeper meaning. To my mind, truly innovative teachers are the ones who continually look to improve what they do, and especially how they do it. . . . .His thinking is vast and deep, and his potential to share this in a leadership role through Teachers of the Future Program would benefit his own professional development, and certainly others.”
The National Association of Independent Schools, based in Washington, DC, is a voluntary membership organization for over 1,400 independent schools and associations in the United States and abroad. Click here for more information about the Teachers of the Future program.

»Read the Oregonian article about Carter's honor

Tucker Garden photo gallery

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The community gathered on a beautiful September morning to dedicate the Tucker Garden in honor of woodshop teacher Tom Tucker ’66. Every corner of the campus has been touched by Tom’s creativity and appreciation for craftsmanship. The garden is one more thing of beauty that could not have happened without Tom. 

Tom's response in song. 

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

Why Garden in School?

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From the Summer 2012 Caller

By Carter Latendresse

During the fall months in our 6th grade classes, my colleagues and I teach gardening, ancient flood stories, contemporary dystopian literature, and ancient Mesopotamia. We ask our students to look backward to identify essential characteristics of the first human civilizations, so that they might look forward and imagine remaking Western civilization in the 21st century.
During these lessons, my history teacher partner, Ann Fyfield, focuses on the development of agriculture in the Neolithic Age (8000 BCE to 3000 BCE), the rise of Sumerian city-states, the four empires of Mesopotamia, and the characteristics of ancient civilizations. In my English class, the curriculum parallels and interweaves with that of my colleague at crucial points, especially around issues of soil, water, food, climate, environmental justice, and the stories we tell ourselves as humans to orient ourselves to Earth, to one another, to other animals, and to the cosmos. We can often be found outside during September and October, harvesting apples, grinding wheat, learning about bee keeping, planting overwintering lettuce, or baking pita bread in the garden cob oven. Several people have asked, “What does the garden have to do with English or history class?”
Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, in their seminal curriculum design text, Understanding by Design, show that while the best teaching prepares students for college, it is also rooted in solving today’s problems and celebrating today’s wisdom. The garden is our place of intersection for the teaching of ancient history, the novel, writing, economics, politics, anthropology, religion, myth, and science.
We have many reasons for teaching the Sumerian empire in our organic garden behind the Middle School building. These reasons grow out of the four enduring understandings we want our students to chew on for the rest of their lives.
The first enduring idea or understanding is that the aims and desires of most people on Earth have been fundamentally similar since hunter-gatherers first domesticated crops and animals in Iraq 10,000 years ago, and we can empathize with those people because we too desire, at bottom, the same things, which are connection and belonging. Focusing on new research involving empathy, mirror neurons, the lives of women, the colonized, and ordinary people throughout history, we unearth, as historians such as Howard Zinn, Winthrop Jordan, and Riane Eisler have done, representative stories of everyday people that could stand for the great silent majority of human history. We also presuppose, along with Jeremy Rifkin in The Empathic Civilization, that the deepest unconscious desires of Homo sapiens include companionship in towns that provide nutritious food, clean water, and safe homes for our children. By studying Mesopotamia, we get a snapshot of people putting these desires into action when they created the world’s first cities.
At the same time, I try to show that balanced relationships pervade, indeed define, naturally occurring ecosystems and gardens that are intelligently designed with permaculture principles. We try to dispel centuries of fearing dirt and insects. No topsoil, no life, we tell students, and No honeybees, very boring food. We teach them about life cycles, collecting seeds, planting and transplanting from the greenhouse, companion planting, pollination, mulching, rain gardens, bioswales, native plant diversity, harvesting, cooking, eating, flower arranging, good table manners, composting, and the symbiotic relationships that pervade the cosmos. Reconnecting to the first civilization in ancient Iraq, with their reading, writing, gardening, food preparation, and eating, our students embody the oldest desires of civilized humans striving for community.
Our second enduring idea that we want our students to return to throughout their lives is that a phalanx of interrelated environmental problems faces the human species today, each of which is exacerbated by overpopulation. While these global issues may feel both overwhelming and unapproachable, during the autumn of the 6th grade year, we teach that these problems are linked, while several are causal, one giving way to the other, and all have their roots in practices found in Mesopotamia.
First, I share excerpts from both J.F. Rischard’s book High Noon and Jared Diamond’s history Collapse. These texts detail mutually supporting environmental troubles (Rischard lists 20; Diamond 11) that work today in a kind of grim synergy: global warming, deforestation, biodiversity loss, fisheries depletion, and water shortages, among them. Then I share excerpts from Clive Ponting’s A New Green History of the World, in which he argues that each empire, whether Sumerian, Egyptian, Roman, or Mayan, follows the same paradigm during its downfall: first they clear the land of trees, then erect massive irrigation systems, then they farm monocultures, which leads to erosion and overwatering of inadequate soils, then desertification follows, and eventually the empire collapses.
Another issue we want our students to investigate, as part of this second enduring understanding, is that these difficulties are mutually supporting spokes of a wheel that continue today to roll over the backs of billions, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. “It is wrong to grow temperate-zone vegetables [as monocrops for export, such as bananas] in the tropics and fly them back to rich consumers,” Vandana Shiva writes in Soil Not Oil, articulating some of the sometimes hidden interplay between injustice and ecology. “This uproots local peasants, creates hunger and poverty, and destroys local agrobiodiversity. . . . Since vegetables and fruits are perishable, transporting them long distances is highly energy-intensive, contributing to climate change.” When lands are cleared for these exports, pesticides and inorganic nitrate fertilizers are typically poured into the diminishing soil, which then invites pests and disease—as monocultures have easier genetic codes to crack than biodiverse fields—which in turn increases the need to clear and deforest more land for cultivation. Healthy economies and ecosystems overseas are compromised, even ruined, by the industrialized global food system.
Instead of simply cataloging wrongdoing across the world and assigning blame, though—which in the end is counterproductive to the empathic civilization that we hope to create—we 6th grade teachers like to move quickly to our third enduring understanding, which seeks to empower the students with problem-solving strategies.
The third enduring understanding we unpack for our students is that just as the current global crises are interwoven, multiple solutions will be employed this century on an international scale, but we, paradoxically, might most easily help on campus by studying local, organic food, responsible water use, and enlightened community engagement. If we grow organic vegetables at school in raised beds using low-evaporation drip irrigation, using seed we’ve collected from the previous year, and then we later harvest and eat that produce at lunch in our salad bar, we show the students how to support healthy, local, biodiverse economies—and overseas farming economies, by extension, who might convert their fields back to feeding their own people—while also reducing the use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, as well as diminishing global warming that follows energy-intensive global packaging, refrigeration, and shipping.
It’s our job as educators to resist dichotomous, simplistic, silver-bullet thinking; rather, we strive to admit the complex truths and to problem-solve collaboratively across coalitions and issues. We resist cynicism, hopelessness, and paralyzing guilt as we explore these topics with our students. When we look to the past with our students, we can see the choices our ancestors made when they settled around reliable food sources in the Middle East at the end of the last ice age, building the world’s first cities, and we can imagine remaking our future cities this century with smaller carbon footprints.
Our fourth enduring understanding is that the stories a culture tells itself about its origins, its purpose, and its future will determine to a large extent that culture’s ability to survive the tests of time. I find that I am able to present both the intersecting predicaments of our contemporary world and the possible solutions by retelling the oldest stories humanity has told itself about its creation, its place in the cosmos, its meaning and purpose. I therefore teach Gilgamesh, the first of all written stories, from Mesopotamia, as well as Genesis, perhaps the world’s most influential narrative, plus a host of Greek myths, from the beginnings with Gaea and Uranus, through Cronos to Zeus, Prometheus, and Pandora, ending with Deucalion and Pyrrha. Similarities jump out when the three narrative strands are laid side by side: gods create the world, including humanity; humans either lose or try to gain eternal life and fail; gods become displeased with humans and send a flood, killing all except for a favored few, who survive in a boat and then go on to repopulate the world with the gods’ blessings. The fact that the oldest stories all focus on an ecological catastrophe similar to the ones featured on our contemporary nightly news is not lost on our students. They see, for example, that global warming is melting the polar ice caps today, threatening coastal civilizations with flooding. If the ice caps melt, our students know, hundreds of millions worldwide will become ecological refugees. Studying the ancient stories in the contexts of both the founding of human civilization and our current ecological predicaments makes sense, then, as we want the students, ultimately, to imagine new narratives for the coming century that will help them create a just global village.
In addition to studying the world’s oldest stories, I also teach contemporary dystopian literature (titles include Shipbreaker, Hunger Games, and The House of the Scorpion) to explore a number of possible reactions to our numerous ecological predicaments. Further, I pair the dystopian novels with nonfiction reading of four National Geographic articles on the first civilizations, food insecurity, topsoil loss, and water scarcity. We direct students to identify reasons for civilization collapse in their novels and articles and to imagine resurrections based on sustainable principles involving soil, water, food, housing, and energy production. In groups they create their own civilizations in this century, given certain definitions for advanced civilization, while also not ignoring the ecological challenges we are facing right now.
Taken together, these four enduring understandings undergird our reasons for teaching in the garden. We want to provide students with the backstory for how we got to 2012 as a human species, emphasizing that the study of human history should elicit our empathy rather than condemnation. We also want to provide our students with interpretive lenses through which they can analyze both our current human impact and utter reliance on Earth. Last, we want to offer students the schemata to remake a more sustainable, just, and enjoyable civilization for the world’s citizens in the 21st century.
Carter Latendresse has been teaching 6th grade English at Catlin Gabel since 2006. He is also a husband, the father of two including Emma ’20, and the garden coordinator on campus.
You may also like to read the full text of this essay.


How does your garden grow?

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by Carter Latendresse, 6th grade English teacher

With each passing week, the garden behind the Middle School expands and improves thanks to the efforts of many community members. From shed doors created by the Upper School shop class to pavers laid by Upper School students, to the latest addition – a cob pizza oven – there are many wondrous elements to discover.

Last spring, Lower and Middle School students submitted 75 drawings for the phase 3 expansion of the garden. The Garden Club selected six winning drawings, all of which included a pizza oven and several new pizza-slice-shaped raised beds for growing pizza ingredients including wheat, tomatoes, basil, onions, garlic, and oregano.

Alumni Kai Yonezawa ’02 and Owen Gabbert ‘02 adapted the six winning drawings and drew up a landscape design and construction plans for garden structures with green roofs and a cob oven with tin roof.

At that same time last spring, then-junior Andrea Michalowsky worked on a design for the phase 3 expansion in her PLACE urban studies class. She designed a ten-by-ten foot chessboard that was completed this fall after a summer crew dug trenches, hauled stone, poured gravel and river rock, and created the area that is now two decks with the chessboard between them.

This fall, the pizza oven became the focus of our attention. Under the guidance of natural builder Eva Edleson, a team of students, teachers, staff, alumni, and parents came together several times in September and October to build the pizza cob oven and its foundation, posts, and tin roof. » Check out photos and a short video of our process.

In 6th grade art class students learned a Matisse stenciling technique and made clay paint to decorate the cob oven. Students and teachers all had a hand in the embellishments. And every year the new 6th grade class can repaint over the previous year's design.

The icing on the cake for this project is green roofs to protect our community garden. Parents of 6th graders are donating sedum and grasses to create this living legacy.

Stay tuned for information about the first annual chess tournament in the garden and for the inaugural firing of the cob oven. Pizza time!

At this time of new beginnings, it is important to look back and acknowledge the countless hours of volunteer time and professional expertise that have gone into the garden. Many hands and generous hearts have contributed, which makes this garden so very organic and special. Thank you to the more than 45 people who have helped to create this beautiful, growing space with artistry, dedication, and hard work.

Volunteers of note include staff members, parents, alumni, students, and friends: Paul Andrichuk, Zoe Edelen-O'Brien, David Ellenberg, Ema Elredge, Ann Fyfield, Herb Fyfield, Meghan Galaher, Peter Green, Larry Hurst, Henry Latendresse, Emma Latendresse, Theresa Long, Matt Maynard, Adam Maynard, Chenoa Ohlson, Barbara Ostos, Tchassanty Ouro-Gbeleou, Carol Ponganis, Dale Rawls, David Reich, Simon Schiller, Jason Stevens, Kellie Takahashi, Hen Truong, Katie Truong, Tom Tucker, Spencer White, David Zonana, and the students in the outdoor leadership and adventure class.

Discovery Days Photo Gallery

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Sixth grade

Thanks go to photographer Brendan Gill for documenting everything the 6th graders did from gardening to cooking, bee keeping to trust exercises, reflecting to square dancing.

Teachers & Students: The Heart of the Community--Carter Latendresse

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Middle School language arts

"Everything I ask them to do, I do"

From the Spring 2010 Caller

In my classroom I think about the kids a lot. I like and understand the middle school-aged kid. I’m excited to be part of early adolescents’ transition from concrete to abstract thinking. They’re able to say, “I come from here, and my parents come from there, and maybe this affects the way I see things.”

Self-consciousness peaks in 8th grade. It’s really painful to watch. I try to protect them from an invasion of “I want to be cool, I don’t look good, I don’t say the right things.” I help them see that body image is a product of the media, and we work to analyze the media to give them tools that will help them accept themselves and accept diversity in others. We learn how “normal” is a fallacy. What’s important for middle school teachers is understanding the role of hormones and the way the kids are changing, and liking them and being their ally.
Middle school teaching is not an accident. We become middle school teachers because we understand and love the kids we’re working with. We want them to grow, accept themselves, and become great community members who have integrity and honesty.
I come to my class with the idea that the kids and I are in a community of readers and writers. I share my reading and writing with my students. They see that it’s not just something we do for the curriculum, but that it’s a real part of life.
I try to create other situations where we grow as a community. I include everyone’s voice in writing examples. I share my own life and talk about my own bad decisions in middle school. I talk about my relationship with my son, who is developmentally disabled. I want them to see me as a person who struggles, like they do. I have firm convictions, but I have good and bad days, just like them. None of us is perfect, but it’s important we try to improve ourselves every day.
My relationship with kids out of the classroom is also important. I love being a coach in cross country and running with them. Everything I ask them to do, I do. Every writing assignment I give them, I’ve done first. If I ask them to run a mile and a half at full speed, I do it with them. If I work hard alongside them, they’re more willing to push themselves. I also work right beside them in the garden, and I have the blisters on my hands to prove it. They see that I do everything with them.
I can be a goofball in class, and make faces and noises. I’m part actor, part comedian, part strict rule-setter, and part editor. You just have to be really flexible.
Teachers at Catlin Gabel try to see themselves in the kids’ places, and we want students to experience what others are experiencing. Teachers here are artists, scientists, athletes, parents, and writers. We have passions outside of school that we bring to school, just like our students do. We want our students to see that their teachers are growing, learning, and changing. We also see that our students are engaged in the making of their lives in a way that is dramatic and inspiring. The people here are therefore evolving together, in community.
Carter Latendresse has taught 6th grade language arts and coached middle school cross country at Catlin Gabel for three years. He previously taught at Seabury Hall in Hawaii. He’s a graduate of the University of Washington with a master’s in English.