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Middle School robotics teams take 1st and 2nd place at regionals, qualify for state

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Way to go!

Congratulations to the RoboSNAILS for their 1st place win in a tough competition against 20 teams. The team members are 8th graders Robin Attey, Matt Maynard, Grace Wong, Liam Wynne, and Sage Yamamoto. They are coached by senior Tucker Gordon. The RoboSNAILS’ research project was designing a website and iOS app to help senior citizens prepare nutritious meals and build community.

Team Sigma came in 2nd with 8th grade members Adolfo Apolloni, Ian Hoyt, Ryan Selden, and 7th grader Roy Stracovsky. Team Sigma had an over-the-top research project with a working model of a walker that senses the user’s location helps guide them. Junior Elyssa Kiva is their coach for the second year in a row.

Our two rookie teams also competed at regionals. Starstruck won the rising star award for the new team with the most promise. They are 6th graders Sujala Chittor, Natalie Dodson, and Amber Merrill. Their research project featured a puppet show presentation of a device that changes light bulbs. Senior Martina Dimitrov was their coach.

Sophomore Rushdi Abualhaija coached team Delta with 6th graders Avi Gupta, Tyler Nguyen, Quinn Okabayashi, Kian Palmer, and Spencer Shoemaker. Their research project was a working model of an Internet-programmed medication dispenser.

The state competition is on January 20. Good luck to the RoboSNAILS and Team Sigma!

So What Happens When a Child is “Sent to See Vicki?”

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From time to time a child – or two or three – are sent to chat with either Genevieve or me. We have a “Conflict Resolution” plan that all of our teachers use with children that has been extremely effective in helping to resolve most of the day-to-day conflicts that arise when you have children learning to live and work cooperatively with one another. Conflict is normal and healthy when it is leveraged as a tool to help children as they internalize the skills needed to cooperate with, and respect, one another. We know that the better our children are at this, the more successful they will be throughout the rest of their education and lives.

Sometimes there are situations that need adult intervention. And occasionally the incident involves a child who physically hurt another. In these situations their teacher will ask the child/children involved to come and chat with me. Stealing or cheating might also result in a talk with Vicki. Interestingly enough, sometimes I have students come straight to see me when they know they’ve done something wrong. I find these “self-referrals” to be a tribute to the honesty we have in our school community.

Each situation is handled differently, based on what happened, the age of the children involved, and their perception of what happened. For example, repeated behaviors are dealt with differently than “first time offenses”. But always Genevieve or I ask the children involved to tell their parents what happened before I phone them. (They usually aren’t very excited about this part.) Yes, as parents, you always get an e-mail contact from one of us.

We always start by listening to each person as to what happened. Everyone has a unique “perception” and it is often an eye-opener for children to see that their actions or words can often be misinterpreted as hurtful or offensive. Know that your children are wonderfully honest – but again, there can be many different perspectives about the same incident. Because of this reality, we try not to make judgments ourselves. I thank you parents for being careful to suspend certainty when you hear “one of many” perspectives as well.

Often we coach the students to use “I messages” as a way to communicate how they are feeling directly with the other child, and to ask for what they want – i.e. “It hurts when you stomp on my foot and I want you to stop.” Although we will not force an insincere apology, usually apologies are given. Sometimes I write up an “agreement” with a child that includes what happened, and their plan for a change of behavior. The child, their parent, and I might sign it. Sometimes the child writes up his/her own plan for a change of behavior. A younger child may draw a picture of how they will behave. Always we go over several options of “what they might have done differently” – and we might even role-play a “do over” of the whole incident. Occasionally we’ll have a student follow-up by “giving back to the community” since they have “taken away from the community.” This may be in the form of picking up trash, shelving books in the library, etc. And yes, sometimes a child is sent home in order to have a fresh start the next day.

Whenever I chat with other principal colleagues in other schools, I am grateful to be reminded that being a disciplinarian takes up only a small percentage of my work time. In fact, I can go for days without anything being sent my way. People have asked me why I think this is so. I give credit to your fabulous parenting and to our teachers’ amazing teaching. It is difficult for children to misbehave when they are deeply engaged in learning!

Welcome, grandparents and special friends!

Catlin Gabel News, Autumn 2012

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From the Autumn 2012 Caller


The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust granted Catlin Gabel $200,000 for the Campaign for Arts and Minds. The funds will support instructional technology in the Creative Arts Center, including innovations such as energy-saving LED stage lighting. . . . The school completed a comprehensive self-study in preparation for an October visit from a volunteer team from the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools. Visiting team members, including school heads from Lakeside and University Prep in Seattle, Duke School in Durham, North Carolina, and Marin Country Day in Corte Madera, California, will write a report with recommendations for improvement that Catlin Gabel must implement for continued accreditation. . . . The Middle School organic garden is now known as the Tucker Garden, in honor of wood shop teacher Tom Tucker ’66. Tom contributed much to the garden’s utility and beauty, including sheds, gazebos, and artworks. . . . After the April announcement that Catlin Gabel was named a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, the Oregon Department of Education announced the school’s 2nd place award for Oregon Sustainable Schools, as well as the Pillar Award  for minimizing environmental impact.. . . US science teacher Veronica Ledoux spent three weeks with Teachers Across Borders South Africa, helping math and science teachers from rural schools update their skills. The project director praised her for her personableness, professionalism, and passion for her work. . . .  MS Chinese teacher Li-Ling Cheng participated in a summer residential workshop for master teachers in Worcester, Massachusetts, sponsored by the Chinese Language Teachers Association.


Catlin Gabel’s FIRST Robotics Team 1540, The Flaming Chickens, demonstrated their robot on KGW-TV’s early morning newscast in September to promote the OMSI Mini Maker Faire in September. They also showed off the program at a summer technology camp hosted by IBM Beaverton. . . .  Associate IT director Daisy Steele spoke on a KATU-TV newscast about internet safety for children.  .  . The school’s Creative Arts Center, now under construction between the Dant House and  Middle School, was featured in articles in the Oregonian and the Daily Journal of Commerce. . . . Julien Leitner ’15 was featured in the Oregonian for sitting in at Portland’s Pickathon with Abigail Washburn and  her band. Julien’s Archimedes Alliance raises funds for charities and nonprofits, asking $2 from each person, from as many people as he can reach.


Freshman Anna Dodson won a Nook tablet as a semifinalist in the America the Beautiful writing contest, sponsored by Rand McNally and USA Today. . . . Senior Marina Dimitrov was an intern this summer in Seattle at the University of Washington’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering. As part of their inaugural Young Scholars Program, she received a stipend from the National Science Foundation for her work on a small quadrotor helicopter for autonomous flight.


Doug Heymann ’18 represented Oregon at the Western zone age-group swimming championships in Grand Junction, Colorado. . . . USA Synchronized Swimming named Elli Wiita ’15 to the 13–15 national team and duet team for 2012. She competed this summer in the Pan American Age Group Championships in Colombia, where she placed 1st in the figure competition and won gold medals in duet and team competitions. During the summer, she trained with Team USA at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and in New Canaan, Connecticut.    

Our Inspired Teachers: Jennifer Marcus '73

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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

Jennifer Marcus '73, BS & 1st grade woodshop

Bachelor's in art, Mills College. At CGS since 2004.

Twenty-two years ago, when my oldest daughter was attending preschool in Los Angeles, I responded to a flyer to open up the woodworking shed. I had a degree in fine arts, built my own looms, and had taken child psychology at Mills College. I’d even entertained the idea of becoming a teacher. So, some simple woodworking with a bunch of four-year-olds sounded like fun. It was.

Through those students and all the ones who have come after I have learned to use woodshop as a way to help children build not just wheelbarrows, sailing ships, and airports but pathways for how to think, plan, and empower.
Opening that first shed was like discovering a magician’s closet. The tools and materials had great power and had to be used properly. The children and I questioned, tinkered, and embraced the process of investigating wood and what it could do, what it could become. I learned the benefits of patience with their processing as well as patience with myself. I encouraged them to think out loud: “I wonder what would happen if. . . . ”
The following year I became the official woodworking teacher at the school. I conducted workshops for teachers and established woodworking programs to share my teaching philosophy: greet every child respectfully with an open mind for their way of thinking, their interpretations, and their strengths, and have confidence in their ability to solve problems in ways that are creative and astonishing.
After moving back to Portland, I created “Woodworking with Children,” providing meaningful woodworking experiences to as many children as possible. I am always honored to participate in their journey of invention and resourceful thinking. I feel so fortunate to be a part of the faculty at Catlin Gabel, a place that still values a hands-on, tactile learning-enriched program for young students. 

Our Inspired Teachers: Rachel Brown

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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

Rachel Brown, 1st grade

Bachelor's in Spanish literature, Washington University. Master's in childhood general & special education, Bank Street College of Education. At CGS since 2011.


Teaching has had a magnetic pull for me since before I can remember. I was drawn to the idea that, as a teacher, my one small life could garner the power to positively impact the lives of many. One summer when I was in college I found my way to a camp, specifically designed for meeting the needs of children with emotional and behavioral difficulties. That summer I learned to appreciate the inner lives of children and the complicated ways in which they come to understand themselves and their relationship to the world around them. I discovered my own passion for valuing the uniqueness of every child with whom I worked. I loved that I could help them to feel that they were okay, just being themselves, while also empowering them with the belief that they had a capacity to grow and change.
Today these experiences remain foundational to my teaching. Working with children, for me, is an entirely hopeful act. It means saying “yes,” each and every day, to the surprising and unique gifts that children offer as they share their experiences and find confidence in being themselves. I am both humbled and invigorated by my interactions with students. Whether I am cheerleading for a student who is on the brink of making a profound mathematical connection or I am encouraging a quiet student to speak in front of her peers, I strive to value students’ individuality and help them feel safe taking risks. As I teacher I am challenged to be my best self, and I laugh more with children then I ever thought possible. At the end of the day I think there is nothing better. 


Our Inspired Teachers: Lisa Ellenberg

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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

Lisa Ellenberg, BS & LS librarian

Bachelor's and master's in education, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. At CGS since 1991.

During storytime at the library, the satisfying language and structure of folktales can create an enchanting bond between the children and me, lingering deliciously in the air at a story’s close. During such a moment, a kindergartener once remarked, “You’re really old, aren’t you.” At that point, I was actually a relatively young teacher. Curious, I responded, “Well, I’m a lot older than you are. How old do you think I am?” After a studied pause, she ventured a guess, “Seven?” This would be one of many opportunities over the years for the words of a child to swiftly transmit unexpected perspective, surprise, and delight.
Teaching requires grappling with questions, both crafting and responding thoughtfully to them. The process keeps me fascinated with my work. Every day children come to the library with questions that require me to listen and interview to discover what is really being asked. “Lisa, where is the robbing section?” I say, “Tell me more about that.” Response: “You know, like a sneak-around book, that would help you find things.” Further investigation revealed some possibilities, including that the child has an interest in techniques of espionage, or is looking to design a recess game involving capture.
Back to the folktales. The text of one traditional tale includes the refrain, “and the dog leaped that hedge in a single bound!” A 2nd grader with wrinkled brow quipped dryly, “Well, how else could you do it?,” instantly illuminating the truth that either you get over the hedge in a single bound or crash into it. For me, it was impossible to not add that question to the refrain as we completed the story. As their fresh eyes and minds absorb experiences, children’s questions fill me with wonder about their potential for invention. I recently heard it said, “Creation is evolution.” I am grateful to witness this every day.  



Our Inspired Teachers: Herb Jahncke

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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

Herb Jahncke, 3rd grade

Bachelor's in biology, Rollins College. Master's in teaching, Lewis & Clark College. At CGS since 2007.

 A course at the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in Maine, during the summer of my junior year of college, inspired me to work with kids in experiential education. One of the challenge course elements at my first job was a zip-line across a ravine. My role was to encourage and support the kids, sit them down on the edge of the platform with feet dangling in the open space above the ravine, and strap them safely to the zip-line. When they were ready to slide across the ravine, they would scoot closer to the edge of the platform, grip the line with both hands, drop off the edge and careen down the wire to the other side. One day, a camp director said to me, “Do you feel that sudden lurch in your stomach when they drop off the edge?” I replied that I certainly did. He said, “When you don’t have that feeling anymore, it’s time to find a different job.”

His main focus was on students’ physical safety, but I recognize that this simple rule still applies today. In outdoor education, the perceived and actual risks are what make the experiences so powerful. In indoor education, the risks are just as real and the stakes higher. We, as teachers, expect the students to take risks every day by sharing their thoughts, ideas, strengths, challenges, hopes, and dreams. We encourage them to seek out their developmental “edge” and reach a safe level of discomfort to learn and grow. As they do, I am right beside them, providing a safety line, and watching them take the risks and reap the rewards. If it ever comes to be that I don’t feel that visceral concern for each student as he or she pushes off on their own, it’ll be time to get another job. 


Our Inspired Teachers: Mariam Higgins

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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

Mariam Higgins, 4th grade

Bachelor’s in medical illustration, Ohio State University School of Medicine. Master’s in teaching, Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling. At CGS since 2006.


They call it an “encore career.”
After 15 years as a medical illustrator, I discovered another, consuming, passion: education. While finishing the illustrations for a textbook on managing fractures for primary care providers, I volunteered in my children’s classrooms. I was going to bed every night thinking about the students whose learning I was a small part of every week. I coached soccer, taught art, chaperoned, tutored, and eventually, after an exciting campaign, was elected to the school board.
So approaching 40, I went back to school, earning an MA in teaching with an emphasis in math, science, and technology. I embraced the constructivist, progressive approach, which valued differentiating and problem solving. I’ve had the good fortune to teach in rural, urban, and suburban communities, ages four to adult, from open-air math classes in an impoverished country, to integrating the arts in teaching at a beautiful graduate school.
This is my seventh year teaching 4th grade at Catlin Gabel. What I’ve found is a place where creating curriculum and teaching children is the most fulfilling and creative endeavor possible.
What truly thrills is being part of constant discovery and curiosity. Fourth graders are wide-eyed, empathetic, and very flexible thinkers. Sparks really fly when our particular fascinations cross: biology, art, being active outdoors, and environmental stewardship. I am so thankful to be a part of constant change, positive energy, commitment to intellectual rigor, and a balanced approach to lifelong learning and well being.
My job as an educator keeps me young, gives me grey hair, makes me laugh, scratch my head, try harder, figure it out, and connect. Coming into my classroom each day I feel a sense of peace, purpose, and joy. Teaching fills me up while giving back. What could be better? 


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.