Upper School News

Syndicate content

Robotics program director Dale Yocum named technology educator of the year

Send by email
Congratulations, Dale!

The TechStart Education Foundation named Dale Yocum Oregon's technology educator of the year. The award honors a teacher who is:

An effective, engaging instructor who inspires passion and commitment from her or his students while advancing their critical thinking ability, skills, and knowledge in challenging, meaningful ways.

An advocate for the study of information technology, making technology accessible to all students and building an inclusive culture.

A role model for colleagues, who is committed to ongoing personal and peer professional development and establishes, evolves and communicates best practices and pedagogy.

In addition to prestige and recognition, the award comes with a $1,000 donation to Catlin Gabel's robotics program.

McKenzie River Backpacking And Rafting

Send by email

McKenzie River Backpacking And Rafting

A group of nine students and two adult leaders went on an incredible adventure during what may be the last weekend of summer 2010.

We met at 8 a.m. at the school parking lot and loaded our gear into an activity bus and a trailer. We drove through Springfield, stopping for a quick tutorial on high-level frisbee skills. The frisbee only ended up on the roof of the building twice!

We continued up the McKenzie river, pushing the stereo to the max, up to the Paradise put-in, where we stashed Sunday's lunch and got a feel for the terrain.

After some trailhead-finding hijinks, we parked the bus and packed our bags. The rest of the trip was downstream, in a good way. The McKenzie River trail stretched out before us as we made our way through the lush forest. Nobody could believe how clear the water was. We stopped for some competitive stick-racing and snacks, and finally made our way to a riverside campsite, where we enjoyed a fine culinary creation.

Sunday morning was a traditional Spam breakfast, and we high-tailed it back down to Paradise. Funny thing, though, the well-stashed lunch had vanished. So we went on. Maybe we were a little hungry. After a safety and paddling talk we hopped into the rafts and headed downstream. The McKenzie did not disappoint. Plenty of whitewater mixed with some downtime and sunshine was just what the doctor ordered.  

At lunch, we all threw together bits and pieces of what we had remaining from the backpacking portion of the trip. An orange. An apple. A handfull of dried pomegranate. Some trail mix. A little bread. Before we knew it, we were staring at an veritable FEAST!!! One of the most satisfying meals in the history of the outdoor program.

After our time of sustainance, we piled back into the rafts and floated down to the bus. Below is a slideshow of our experience.

Caveat Emptor:One of the students accidentally erased all of the pictures on the primary camera. He did this when he fell overboard. When I say "fell," I mean "was pushed." But his life jacket worked!

Science teacher Becky Wynne wins high school teacher award

Send by email

Upper School science teacher Becky Wynne has been selected for the University of Oregon High School Teacher Award. The award is given during convocation, in appreciation of the fine teaching that has prepared students for the university.

Every year, UO asks the nearly 3,700 incoming freshmen to nominate high school teachers who have influenced them in a particular subject area. Catlin Gabel graduate Becky Coulterpark ’10 nominated Becky Wynne. The subject area varies with the theme of their common reading and convocation. This year, they honor a science teacher because UO’s common reading is Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains. The book is about doctor Paul Farmer’s heroic effort – begun when he was a medical student – to tackle the human and medical challenges created by drug-resistant tuberculosis in Haiti. Paul Farmer’s understanding of science, coupled with his enormous sensitivity to human suffering, enabled him to accomplish the impossible. Coincidentally, Mountains Beyond Mountains was Catlin Gabel’s common reading book last year.

“I am delighted by Becky Wynne’s dedication to excellent teaching,” said UO biology professor Karen Sprague. “As a UO faculty member, I always feel indebted to the teachers in all subjects who have worked with my students before they enter my classroom. As someone who teaches cell biology and biochemistry, I’m especially grateful to those who’ve introduced students to the chemical and physical underpinnings of biology.”

Congratulations, Becky!

Upper School soccer, volleyball, and cross-country practices begin August 22

Send by email

Join an Upper School Athletic Team!

We encourage all students to join Catlin Gabel teams. Our no-cut policy allows everyone to participate, and we provide great opportunities for students to give new sports a try. We hope to see you on August 22, when preseason practice begins for soccer, volleyball, and cross-country.
If you have questions about Catlin Gabel athletics, please contact Sandy Luu, athletic director, at 971-404-7253 or luus@catlin.edu.

Upper School Athletics 2011-12 Preseason Schedule

Soccer, volleyball, and cross-country preseason practice begins on Monday, August 22. For conditioning, skill development, and team organization, athletes planning to participate in the first fall contests are required to attend preseason practices. Athletes missing prac­tices or arriving after the starting date will be withheld from competitions until they have completed nine practices.
Once classes begin on September 2, practices are after school from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. There is no practice on Labor Day.

Boys' Soccer
Monday, August 22 – Friday, August 26, 9:30 am – noon
Monday, August 29 – Thursday, September 1, 4 – 6:30 pm
Head Coach: Roger Gantz, 503-780-3312

Girls' Soccer
Monday, August 22 – Thursday, September 1, 5 – 7:30 pm
Head Coach: Mark Lawton, 503-860-5164

Soccer Finishing Camp (optional through Catlin Gabel Summer Programs)
Monday, August 15 – Friday, August 19, 5:30 – 8 pm; $175
Instructor: Lisa Unsworth, with Catlin Gabel soccer coaching staff
Enrollment: Contact Chris Bell at bellc@catlin.edu or 503-297-1894, ext. 403

Girls' Volleyball
Monday, August 15 – Friday, August 19, 4 – 8 pm (optional)
Monday, August 22 – Friday, August 26, 4 – 8 pm
Monday, August 29 – Wednesday, August 31, 4 – 8 pm
Head Coach: Chris Snelling, 503-841-8956

August 22 – August 26
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 9:30 –11 am
Head Coach: John Hamilton, 503-645-7198

Students should have their own footwear properly bro­ken in by the opening day of practice to avoid blisters, and should wear athletic clothes suitable for the weather. Soccer players should bring water bottles to carry with them to the field. It is wise to start some conditioning well before August 22 in order to build fitness gradually. This will help avoid muscle soreness and injuries.
Family medical and emergency contact forms must be submitted online before the first day of practice. Click here to update or approve your forms. Also, all 9th- and 11th-graders must have a pre-participation physical examination and turn in the required paperwork before the first day of practice. State law requires the school to have the forms on file before students may practice or compete. The forms were emailed in May and are available in PDF format in the documents for download on the Upper School web page.  Please call the Upper School office at ext. 316 if you have any questions about the forms. 

8th Graders Climb St. Helens

Send by email

WE DID IT (all of us!)

This climb of Mt. St. Helens was open to graduating 8th graders.  The students and their parents came to a pre-trip meeting to discuss the trip, training and equipment—from the beginning, everyone seemed engaged. 

For training, the students joined some upper schoolers on a training hike up Dog Mountain in the Columbia Gorge—students were slowed down by conversation, but it was a good opportunity to talk about appropriate clothing and fitness for the climb.

On June 17 we met at Catlin at 10am, packed the bus, and drove up to the trailhead on St. Helens, stopping in Woodland for an adventure in Safeway (team game to find high-quality trash bags).  The weather was great and we hiked 1.5 miles to a snowy slope to do “snow school” (kicking steps, self arrest, glissading).

We woke early the morning of June 11 for our summit attempt, hiking over compacted snow before proceeding to treeline. 

The climb alternated between open snow slopes and the rocky, gravely ridgeline.  The group moved quickly through intermittent clouds and sun.  The wind began to pick up at about 6,000 feet and we ascended into a veritable whiteout.  We dropped packs about 1000 feet below the summit, and celebrated reaching the top by eating “Summit Tarts.”  Visibility at the summit was about 30 feet, which was somewhat disappointing, but everybody was in a great mood. 

We had the most incredible glissade ever!!!  We were back to our packs and down the slope in an hour!  Everybody was giddy with enjoyment.

We left camp at 7:30 pm, reached the summit around 12:30 pm and returned to camp around 3pm.  We were back on campus at 6:30.  ~SPEED RECORD~!!!



Senior Hood Climb

Send by email


After they'd readujsted to post-graduation time, a group of eight seniors, accompanied by some of the finest leaders that money can buy, went up for a couple of days on "la montana." 

What this trip was about:

--Bonding as a group of newly-graduated students.

--Learning about snow dynamics and snow stability.

--Incredible food!

--A lodge to ourselves

--A little bit of maybe sneaking into the kitchen for Rice Krispy Treats. 

Unfortunately, this trip was also about forty mile per hour winds and sub-freezing temperatures.  That can kind of slow you down when you're trying to walk up a mountain. 

Once again we planned a climb for June (rather than May) as a way to take advantage of the longer days and better weather.  Our group left Portland on Monday June 14th at 11:30 am and drove up toe Timberline Lodge where we got geared up for snow school.  We began the school about 1:15 and ran until a bit after 5:30 pm.  We began with a short course on snow stability testing and moved on to digging pits, a discussion on various methods of snow travel, self arrest, and then ropework.  The weather was quite nice and we had incredible views of the mountain.

We drove down to the Mazamas Lodge and were able to park right in front, making loading and unloading a breeze.   The lodge personnel were very kind and we were the only guests present.  We reviewed the forecasts and looked at the telemetry from 6000’ and 7000’.  Indications were that it was to be cold and breezy in the morning.  Very breezy.

We woke up to even breezier forecasts and telemetry.

From the beginning, our pace was slow.  The wind was strong and increased as we gained elevation.  Combined with sub-freezing temperatures, the atmospheric conditions were pretty difficult.  We had a long break about 500 vertical feet below the top of the Palmer, where we had a good look at the rising clouds.  Conditions were deteriorating fairly quickly as wind gusts were sometimes making us unstable on our feet!  We pushed onto the top of the Palmer where we were able to find respite from the wind behind the snowcut.

The leaders decided to give students an opportunity to turn around.

6 of us went up, 6 went down. 

The go-downs called our amazing limosuine driver on the cell phone and went back to Mazama lodge and had a nap.

The 6 remaining climbers proceeded up through the wind.  We went as high as 500 feet below the hogsback, the sunlight chasing us as we rose.  The weather, boots banging shins, and the lack of psych on the potential for a summit finally go to everybody and we took a long break, listening to music and watching the clouds roll by before we decided to come down. 

The descent went well (glissading galore!) after some icy moments up high.  We were back at the bus in time for the afternoon snowstorm.

Farewell to George Thompson '64 & Bob Kindley

Send by email
Two longtime educators retire
From the Spring 2010 Caller

George Thompson ’64 has launched into retirement after spending 25 years at Catlin Gabel—first as a student, then as a teacher and counselor. He’s become a familiar presence on campus, with his service dog, Cairo, receiving almost as much daily love and attention as George gets.

George’s career has centered on education. After earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees in history at Colorado College and the University of Washington, he first taught at Middlesex School, the school he attended after Catlin Gabel. “But I was bitten by the bug and wanted to start a school of my own,” he says. When he was 26 he and his wife, Margot Voorhies Thompson ’66, created Neskowin Valley School out of an old dairy barn in south Tillamook County. “It worked. The gods were with me. It was a wonderful, exciting project,” says George. They ran the preschool-8th grade school for 14 years, until they moved back to Portland to enroll their son, Geordie, in Catlin Gabel’s high school.
George worked for a year as the head of Vision Northwest, an agency supporting people new to blindness. He returned to Catlin Gabel in 1989 to teach 8th grade English. Six years later he embarked on a new job as counselor in training, spending four years at night school at Lewis & Clark for his master’s in counseling psychology and the credentials to become a full-fledged Upper School counselor. “This was an opportunity for me to delve deeper into the personal challenges of young people and help them become emotionally more literate and learn to help each other,” he says.
George is proud of the work he’s done on the Peer Helpers program, which trains students to help their friends solve their problems. He’s also enjoyed teaming with coach John Hamilton to teach the sophomore health class, which focuses on citizenship, ethics, choices, and self-knowledge. “I can’t see myself being idle and probably have a career left in me. I don’t know what or when it’ll be, but it’ll probably involve music. I will miss having kids around every day, but I feel like it’s a good time to say goodbye,” says George.
Bob Kindley retires this summer after 42 years of teaching math at Catlin Gabel. A graduate of Reed College with a master’s in mathematics from the University of Oregon, Bob always wanted to be a high school teacher—especially after attending five high schools around the country and seeing the best and worst of teaching.
Bob’s teaching philosophy echoes that of Catlin Gabel. “I want kids to ask their own questions and pursue the answers—not just give back what the text or teacher says. What they find doesn’t have to be profound or new, but it’s a sign that they’re thinking about the topic and getting a perspective on it,” he says.
“Math is the hardest thing to teach,” he says. “Some students have the gift to see to the heart of the problem. We tend to shortchange those students—it’s often a case of ‘show your work’—but we want to cultivate that rare gift of intuition.”
Bob fondly remembers his first year at Catlin Gabel, when he taught Tom Killian ’69 and Dan Bump ’70 (who’s now a mathematician). “I learned more from them about mathematical creativity and insight than ever before. I had many other fun classes, especially the class of 1971, with Mike Radow, Ilan Caron, and Bill Rempfer. It was a time when ideas were flying around, and we all got in on the thinking process.”
Bob has no big plans for retirement, but he expects to garden, travel, camp, hike, and fish. “I’m not done with math,” he says, and he plans to work on math projects and perhaps return to the school to tutor or substitute. “Catlin Gabel is a good school,” he says. “I’ve liked working with the faculty: there are good people here.”  


The Catlin Gabel Student Association: An Anatomical Analogy

Send by email

By Eddie Friedman '10

From the Spring 2010 Caller

There are bad days and good days in and for the Catlin Gabel Student Association, the CGSA, of which I am president this year. On bad days the CGSA seems to me like an appendix. It started when the school needed a group to process and carry out the tasks of the community that other student or faculty organizations could not. On bad days, the CGSA feels a little vestigial, and like a sharp abdominal pain above the right hip of the (student) body.

I wouldn’t enjoy working with and leading the CGSA nearly as much if every day were a bad day, and the vast majority aren’t. To continue the anatomical analogy, on good days the CGSA is the hind brain of the Catlin Gabel high school’s community. This utterly invaluable cranial region consists of three parts.
The pons is the bridge between the brain and the central nervous system. All information traveling to the brain from the body passes through this little patch of tissue. At the beginning of my time as CGSA president, Michael Heath, the head of the Upper School, told me: “Your job in the CGSA is not really to serve as the student liaison and petitioner to the faculty.” Coincidentally, many students told me: “Your job is not to represent the opinions of the faculty to us!” From what I’ve experienced so far, they were both wrong. The CGSA sends information both ways.
The medulla oblongata at the base of the brain, beneath the pons, regulates autonomic functions within the body. These functions are not conscious, so if the medulla oblongata were not there to carry them out they would not happen, and death would probably ensue. While maybe not quite so vital, allotting funding for clubs, planning kidnap day, and managing class elections are jobs that the CGSA does that bear great importance to the Catlin Gabel community.
And finally we have the cerebellum, that beautiful striped body of folded neural tissue, tucked back underneath the occipital lobes, attached to the brain stem at the pons. This region plays an absolutely essential role in the functioning of the body. Like the cerebellum, the CGSA receives information from all parts of the community and uses this information to modify and fine-tune the actions of the body as a whole. Not only does the CGSA represent the faculty’s feelings to the students and vice versa, we take into account those feelings and opinions and desires and synthesize them in order to do what we think is best for the Catlin Gabel community.
Earlier this year the CGSA dealt with the issue of cell phones in the high school community. The faculty thought something had to be done, while most students didn’t. We debated it thoroughly, observed cell phone use in the community, and conducted six weeks of experiments. We considered that while it might be easy to simply abandon the issue, if we did the faculty might take more drastic measures than we thought appropriate. Eventually we arrived at a middle ground that emphasized respect and responsible action, pillars of this educational body. (You may read the policy online at http://www.catlin.edu/upper/cgsa/cellphone-policy.) So far, everyone seems pretty happy.
The work of the CGSA is not always easy or straightforward, hence that uncomfortable appendix-like feeling. But when we toil to complete important, significant work for the community, despite many challenges, we’re the brain stem, and it all seems worth it.
Eddie Friedman will attend Brown University this fall. He admits that he may have taken a few liberties with the facts of the actual functions of the various organs he mentions, for the sake of beauty and aesthetic unity.   


Redefining Community: Linking the Global & the Local

Send by email

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.


Urban Planning is Really Quite Fetching

Send by email

By Alma Siulagi '10

From the Spring 2010 Caller

As my childhood years faded into the past, the conviction that I would one day change the world dissipated. With the slow creep of reality reducing my options, I resorted to crossing my fingers in hope of stumbling upon another fabulous passion.

The wait was a long one. Throughout the first half of high school, I couldn’t even pick a specific subject that particularly captivated me. I was perfectly decent in most classes, and good grades were within reach if I worked hard (which I did). But nothing came naturally. I was restless about my future, and in a fit of aimlessness, I signed up for PLACE, at the time OULP (Oregon Urban Leadership Program). The vague course name matched my fuzzy understanding of the course, which, as far as I knew, was something my mom wanted me to do.
George Zaninovich, the current head of PLACE, often tells me that “urban planning isn’t sexy.” But I disagree—it completely seduced me with what I had passed off as the impossible. Changing the world may be forever beyond my reach, but changing lives materialized as a real option with PLACE.
What is urban planning? Most of my peers don’t know, and ask me to define it. I usually ramble on about “public spaces” and end sentences with “you know,” but what I really want to say is: It’s where we are standing right now, you and me. It’s everything around us—the buildings, businesses, the flowers on the side of the road, stoplights, your next door neighbor’s house, the way that road curves in a certain way, that tree you like to sit under in the park. It’s something that changes every step you make, provides the backdrop of every memory good and bad, and it’s what I want to do. It’s changed my world, and one day, I will change yours.
Until then, I’ll be here. I’ve chosen to stay in Portland, an urban design and planning hotspot, and study at Reed College. I’ll be downtown starting in May, working with Walker Macy, the firm that designed parts of Catlin Gabel’s breathtaking campus. I plan to spend the next few years learning urban planning inside and out (well, as much as one ever can with such a fluid subject), and then get started on changing the world.  


PLACE Creates Engaged Citizens

Send by email

By George Zaninovich

From the Spring 2010 Caller

Often, during one of the first classes of a semester, after the chatter subsides and the room quiets, I grab a piece of chalk, turn towards the students and ask: What is community?

This is an important question. In the program I lead, PLACE (Planning and Leadership Across City Environments), students work to complete a plan that addresses a community need of a local nonprofit organization, school, or government agency. As the semester progresses, they use what they learn about civics, sustainability, public involvement, and social equity to walk in the shoes of a project client and understand the interests of the many different stakeholders in the project.
Five years ago, during Catlin Gabel’s Imagine 2020 visioning process for the future of the school, members of the community brainstormed PLACE (formerly the Oregon Urban Leadership Program) as a way to use Portland as a living urban laboratory. Portland is not only Catlin Gabel’s home, it is the perfect place for students to learn how to work with diverse communities. Portland is an engaged city. People participate. Citizens are involved. Communities care. In fact, public meetings in Portland are attended at a rate of three times the national average.
Engaged citizenship for youth is more than registering to vote at the age of 18. Engagement means participating, taking action to enhance communities, becoming a vital member instead of a passive spectator. Urban planning is a dynamic tool that empowers youth by creating real-life situations where they see communities as living entities. This includes spending time in the community in which they work, indentifying stakeholders, talking with them, and creating a plan to work with government officials as well as community members from diverse backgrounds. Engagement in this case is about identifying and strengthening community.

I hear “school” from one side of the room, and I write it down. I hear “neighborhood” from another, and I make a note. Sometimes a voice will mutter “family” and another “friends.” I add both to the list. I ask, can someone be part of many different communities? If so, how does one feel part of a community? And, by the way, what makes a community anyway? As I prepare to write at the board, student stares drift beyond the collection of communities on the chalkboard and out the windows toward different visions of the world around them.

Catlin Gabel students in the current PLACE class have teamed up with master’s students from Portland State University’s School of Urban Studies and Planning and the city of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services. Together they are working on a community needs analysis and site design for Zenger Farm, a nonprofit urban farm in outer southeast Portland. This educational experience is unique in the partnership of high school students with graduate students and a public agency.
Zenger Farm is in outer southeast Portland’s Powellhurst- Gilbert and Lents neighborhoods, two culturally and economically diverse areas. This project requires immense coordination among all of the entities and an understanding of a wide array of complex urban issues, including farming in an urban setting, food insecurity and how to address it using local food production, community involvement with non-English speakers, and how to motivate and involve youth of different ages and backgrounds.
As part of the project, Catlin Gabel students have had to figure out, in conjunction with their partners, how to engage the community in the Zenger Farm planning process. They created surveys for adults and youth. They went door-to-door in the area surrounding the farm to administer the surveys, and then planned and implemented a design workshop for community members. Our students created activities for youth of all ages, networked with teachers and principals of area schools to get youth input, led focus groups, and worked with the neighborhood association to get youth involved in the process.

After a few moments of window-gazing and silent contemplation, I sit down at a table near the students. The chatter picks up again. One student uses her hands to sketch a giant circle in front of her eyes as she explains her definition of a community and all of the different groups of people in it. Another student raises his hand and talks enthusiastically about the different communities he feels a part of as his arm continues to point upward. He finishes, and with a deep breath puts his arm back on the desk. One of the quieter students in the room mentions that familiarity and commonalities are the keys to feeling part of a community. I get excited and rush to the chalkboard. I write her comments down and ask one more question before class ends. Is it possible to understand a community just by talking about it?

To prepare for the Zenger project, Catlin Gabel students did a lot of reading and discussing. They read articles on Portland’s emphasis on density, the effects of Metro and the urban growth boundary on the region, the challenges facing growing communities, issues facing rural areas in transition, and the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood plan. The reading sparked lively discussion—but PLACE is about getting outside the four walls of a classroom. So that’s what we did.
This current project is a perfect example of what PLACE aims to do: empower youth to be engaged citizens by working on real-world urban planning projects in different communities throughout the Portland region. Catlin Gabel students learn from the world around them while doing important work that benefits the region—the acts of truly engaged youth who have seen their definitions of community expand.
George Zaninovich has been at Catlin Gabel since 2008.  


The Little Things and the Big Thing About Baseball

Send by email

By Chris Potts

From the Spring 2010 Caller

The argument that “baseball is a game of little things” is, to me, unassailable, as is the philosophy that high school sports should be used as vehicles to teach students lessons that can carry them through the rest of their lives. Holding these truths in tandem, you quickly realize that the avenue to reach these larger lessons is to build a cohesive team, a community of ballplayers. Unfortunately, there’s no handbook for this, there’s no one way to do it. Just like baseball, it’s putting all of the little things together in the right way.

When I interviewed for this job, I was told, “Baseball at Catlin Gabel is on life support.” But when I first met the team, I realized that they were a great group of young players who needed somebody to give them some discipline, some foundation.

We’re not a winning program. In my five years at Catlin Gabel, we’ve lost many more games than we’ve won. It’s not even close. I would argue, however, that we’re an extremely successful program. Each year, this group of students comes together. We’ve grown in numbers every year. Our baseball team is an inclusive and incredible, albeit unique, community.

What follows isn’t that elusive handbook for team-building. It’s a look at a few of the little things that we’ve done together.

Each year I choose a theme around which to build our team mentality. The theme for our first year was “Building Something We Can Be Proud Of.”
 When we won our first game, I worried that our players were so excited that they’d offend the other team. Then again, when you haven’t won a baseball game your entire high school career, wouldn’t you jump up and down and scream when you got your first “W?”
February 26—Manhood—Outside the gym, after practice, I pull one of the new players aside. He’s been struggling this week. He’s a good player (we’d say, “he’s got a lot of upside”), but we need to rebuild some of his fundamentals. He’s also never had to work this hard, physically, ever.
There’s a big transition between middle school sports and high school varsity athletics. We’ll be playing against 200-pound gorillas looking to play in college. Wrestlers. Linebackers. The kid I’m talking to is 14 and could probably make the scale hit 140 if I handed him a 20-pound dumbbell.
We do a lot of physical conditioning. The younger players typically take some time to adjust. During this physical adjustment period, the boy I’m talking with has lost all accuracy with his throwing. We’d say “he couldn’t hit the ground if he dropped the ball.” I’ve been playing catch with him during warm-ups to protect the other players. I’ve seen tears well up in his eyes during three of these first four practices. Time for a chat.
At one point in the conversation, I say, “This is why I love baseball, because you can learn lessons through the sport that you can apply to the rest of your life. Right now you need to learn to make the adjustment from 8th grade baseball to high school baseball. Just like how you’re making the transition from 8th grade academics to high school academics. In both things you’re going to have to get tough, you’re going to have to work harder than you’ve ever had to before and you’re going to have to learn to control your emotions. I think you can do it.”
I do think he can do it. I need a #3 starter.
During my second year, the theme was “Playing the Game with Class.”
March 1—Playing in the Mud—It’s still a little wet to be using the whole field, but we need to put in defense and relays as soon as possible. The first game is two weeks away. The field is still holding too much water.
The players circle around the third base cutout, and we talk about the geography of our field. There are three layers. First, there’s the soil underneath everything. That’s what the grass grows out of. Surrounding the bases, there’s a layer of clay that builds the foundation for the cutouts. On top of that is a top-dressing. I explain to the players that this stuff is baked at like 5,000 degrees so that it becomes porous and can absorb three times its weight in water. This, I believe, is the science portion of baseball.
We squat around the perimeter of the cutout, grabbing chunks of clay that we’ve churned up during defense and conditioning, and rolling them into balls. When we’ve grabbed the biggest chucks, I have the players throw them so that I can lay them out for one of my captains to tamp back into the clay foundation.
One of the sophomores says, “I get to throw mud at my baseball coach.” I’m not too fond of how this sounds, but I don’t think I can argue with him.
The theme of my third year was “Learning to be Competitive.”
We drive a long way to get to some of the games. To the Pacific Ocean, literally. The team was shocked when I instituted the no-headphones, noelectronics, human-interaction-only rule. “Why can’t we listen to our iPods?” The answer was no.
In deference to my totalitarianism, a group of students began singing on the bus rides home. They got very into it, going so far as to print out lyrics.
It was awful: adolescent boys screeching the lyrics to Britney Spears, NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys. It was an assault on human musical aesthetics. It was the sound of my group of boys coming together. It was music to my ears.
The dynamics always change after our first road trip.
During my fourth year, our theme was “Working as a Team.”
Close to the deadline for this article, I get an email from a former player. He’s hoping to be in town and catch the end of a Friday double-header. I want him to come to the game, to cheer us on, and for the younger players to realize that they’re a part of something bigger than the second game of a double-header.
This year’s theme is “Respect for the Game.”
April 26—Heart—An unusually large wet-weather system has rolled in. We’re in the gym, hitting practice balls, tennis balls, softies, and whiffles. We’re looking ahead at the season: 8 tough games in 11 days. The arms are ready. Though we’re having difficulty getting on base, I’m fielding the best defense in my time at Catlin Gabel. We’ve seen each of the teams in our league. We know we’re the underdogs, but there’s a palpable sense that we can put it all together and make a run at the playoffs. I’d say our biggest asset is our cohesiveness. This team is all heart.
Chris Potts is an outdoor education teacher at Catlin Gabel and is in his fifth year as the head baseball coach.


When Homework is More than Homework

Send by email

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--Dave Tash

Send by email
Upper School math

"I treat my students like people"

From the Spring 2010 Caller

I don’t really know what I do that creates good relationships with my students, but I’ll make some observations. When I have a good relationship with kids, it’s not because I decide to get close to them. They choose if they want you to be close and what they’ll share. You can fool little kids into thinking you care when you really don’t—you can do the same with adults. But teens seem to know if you like them or not. If you like someone, they like you back.

There’s a tendency for teachers to like good students, but that’s not a good test for what kind of person they are. If they’re strong in your area, that doesn’t make them a good person; if they are weak in your area, that doesn’t make them bad.
I kid around a lot in class, and my students love it. I like high schoolers’ sense of humor. I went on stage at a coffeehouse after a student asked me, “How do you feel about public ridicule?” If I pass it out, then I need to take it as well. I teach with a sense of humor, but I don’t think I hurt any feelings—I hope not. Their honesty is also a very good thing. If they don’t like something, they’ll tell you. I just go out and have fun and be who I am, and kids respond to it and like it. As long as we’re learning math together, we might as well have fun. I like these kids and want them to go on and do well in life. I wouldn’t teach if I didn’t care.
I’m a former Navy SEAL. I was injured on a night jump from 20,000 feet. It broke my back, and I was already blind in one eye, so the Navy retired me. The kids know that I was a SEAL. It’s a big deal to some of them. They probably give me more slack than I’d have otherwise. I’m seen as different from most teachers because I had a whole life in the military before I taught.
I didn’t get into teaching to teach. When I got out of the Navy I went to Idaho and thought I wanted to coach. I helped coach a football team, but I had to be a teacher to be a head coach. So I earned my degree in math and my teaching credentials. I then started teaching in Alaska, where I didn’t coach football, but became much more interested in education. I was actually the principal of a little school in Alaska.
I want to motivate kids. Kids sometimes say that they’ve learned a lot in my class, and that’s because of their attitude; if they like you, they don’t want to let you down.
At Catlin Gabel, all the kids care about their education. I’ve told them, “I won’t care more about your grade than you do, but if you want to work on it, I’ll work with you.” I’ll never turn down a kid who needs help. I’ll always find time.
Students here are just good people. I respect them. I trust them to play fair. I expect them to be honest. I’d rather be that way than assume they’ll cheat. I occasionally get to teach about integrity. I treat my students like people. They are people.
Dave Tash began teaching at Catlin Gabel in 2004. He graduated from Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, with a BS in math, and from the University of Utah with a BS in computer science. He has pursued graduate studies at the University of Alaska–Anchorage.  


Teachers & Students: The Heart of the Community--Pat Walsh

Send by email
Upper School history

"Students know I'm on their side"

From the Spring 2010 Caller

What makes teaching young people so special is that they give back so much. We cover subjects, but I’m willing to let there be serendipity. They know that if something occurs to them, they can raise their hands, and we’ll kick it around. They learn American history, but they also learn that what they know is valued. That’s what learning is: constantly applied knowledge.

I talk about my own experiences, and my family’s ancestors. I talk about my father, and why he voted for Eisenhower, or signed a loyalty oath to teach at the University of California. History is about stories and trends, but it operates on a human level. When we talk about immigration, I talk about when my family got here from Ireland, and I ask if they know when their families came here. When we talk about the growth of labor unions, I talk about my grandfather, who joined the United Auto Workers. I use his story as color in terms of big trends, like the explosion of union membership.
What happens before and after class is important. We talk about our families, and I tell them about taking my mother, who has Alzheimer’s, out to lunch. I’m trying to show them there’s no boundary here. Our lives are saturated with history, and an educated person brings that to bear on daily life. I find that pleasurable. I model behavior for my students: this is how someone who is curious about the world lives his life.
I was more professorial when I started teaching at Catlin Gabel. I’ve become more informal: I walk in, say hello, ask what’s for lunch today. The feeling is that we’re all in it together and having a good time. If I act naturally, it seems to match what students are looking to find in a teacher. I never have to dumb it down for them. Students are respectful, kind, and polite to me. No one needs to prove who’s in charge.
I try to create bonds with students during extracurricular activities. Besides coaching Mock Trial, I play basketball at lunch with sophomore boys. It’s great when a student comes in his first day of history and we know each other from playing basketball. He’s already seen me in this vulnerable place, since I’m old and slow, and has come to see me as a person.
At C&C you get to know students on a completely different level, more as a mentor than a teacher. Students are free to argue or disagree, and my opinion doesn’t matter more than theirs. It’s not social or academic, it’s community-building. We talk about assemblies or special schedules, or admire someone’s clothes. Sometimes kids bring things they’ve baked. It mixes up different social groups and ages, and that sloshes out into the rest of their school experience.
Students know I’m on their side. They’ve learned that their success has nothing to do with how I feel about them. I don’t like a student better because he or she does better in class. It’s all about them as people. If they’re struggling in my class, I get to know them best and have the best relationship, because we get to meet and chat. I try to give them a taste of success so they don’t feel like a bad student or a loser. Sometimes life makes it hard to be successful. I have yet to meet a bad kid at Catlin Gabel, just kids having a hard time.
Pat Walsh came to Catlin Gabel in 2006 from teaching at Minnesota State University, Concordia College in Minnesota, and the University of Texas–Austin. He was also a Fulbright lecturer in Germany. He is a graduate of the University of Texas–Austin and California State University–Chico, and he holds a PhD from the University of California–Berkeley.  


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

Send by email
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.


A Dream Playground We Built Together

Send by email

By Karen Katz '74

From the Spring 2010 Caller
What lifts spirits more than watching children run, swing, jump, and bounce on the playground adjacent to the Fir Grove? Answer: Watching them and knowing that my family, colleagues, and friends—my community—had a hand in building the structure that provides a magical venue for boundless, expressive play.
With little prodding, I can recapture 15-yearold memories of Lark and Schauff (former headmaster) drilling bolts into place and chatting about the state of education while the playground underpinnings took shape around them. I picture volunteer co-chairs Leah Kemper and Jennifer Sammons cheerfully gathering the troops, with the aid of bullhorns, to announce the next task requiring attention. And I remember tiny preschool hands sanding the boards that hold the playground together. Those once-tiny hands typed college application essays this year.
For five days in October 1995, the campus was a flurry of activity when hundreds of school families busied themselves from dawn until past dark building the playground. Torrential rains early in the week triggered complications but did not dampen our spirits as we mucked about in ankle-deep mud chatting, laughing, working, learning, working more, and scooping out buckets of standing water.
The work was hard and the mood was festive as the community came together with a common purpose. Everyone had a job—moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, trustees, alumni, friends, and kids of all ages. First graders rubbed bolts with bars of soap to make it easier to screw them in. Middle Schoolers shoveled gravel into wheelbarrows and put their muscle into urging their heavy loads across rugged terrain to lay the drainage. Upper School students, now raising families of their own, toiled alongside adults sawing, routing, and sanding miles and miles of railings.
Before the building process even began, students and teachers had worked together to plan how our playground would reflect the campus aesthetic and our children’s imaginations. Excitement intensified as students worked together to come up with drawings and ideas. When a design group requested a castle tower, the plans were adjusted to include majestic spires. The children insisted on multiple tire swings, hidey-holes, and a spiral slide, and incorporating the beloved wooden boat. Community members suggested every feature of our grand playground.
Tremendous volunteer effort went into organizing work crews, each with a crew boss to direct traffic, assign tasks, and make sure people were properly trained. Skilled carpenters took novice builders under their wings. The mother of a newborn baby took charge of volunteer check-in. The cooks among us, and parents with restaurant connections, labored tirelessly to feed the hungry crews. The food was fantastic, and meals in the Barn were raucous breaks from physical exertion. Occasionally, someone would break into song. “If I had a hammer. . . ”
Dappled sun filtered through the Fir Grove when everyone came together at the end of the week to christen our beautiful new playground. Gathered there, we got that goose-bumpy sense that we were part of something bigger than ourselves. With a new pair of Catlin Gabel-blue scissors Lark cut a ribbon made from paper cutout hands: tiny preschool hands and great big grown-up hands. Children exploded onto the playground in a whirl of arms, legs, flying hair, and whoops of joy. We looked around at our enormous accomplishment, the children’s smiling faces, and each other, consumed by a powerful feeling of community.
How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it is the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Robert Louis Stevenson
Karen Katz ’74 is Catlin Gabel School’s communications director. She has been at the school since 1986. Photos of 1995 playground construction by Karen Katz ’74 and Steve Bonini.