Upper School News

Syndicate content

Our Inspired Teachers: Bob Sauer

Send by email
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

Bob Sauer, US science

Bachelor's in physics, Whitman College. At CGS since 2001.

I didn’t set out to be a teacher. I couldn’t see my shy and retiring self standing up in front of a room full of students, and the thought of speaking for a full class period filled me with anxiety and dread. But after starting out in an engineering job in San Diego, my interest waned, and I missed the opportunity to work with young people, which I had done for years as swimming instructor, lifeguard, and summer camp counselor. I went back to school to get my teaching certificate and moved back to the Northwest, which I had quite missed while living in Southern California. I started teaching at Portland’s Cleveland High School and eventually became the diving coach for the entire Portland league. After yearlong teaching exchanges to Cyprus and to Poland and 17 years at Cleveland, I moved to Catlin Gabel.
 

At Catlin Gabel I love the enthusiasm and interest of the students. I am continually amazed and impressed at their commitment and abilities—they’re studying at levels far above where I was working in high school, and pick up even the complex ideas and applications of calculus in advanced physics quickly. That inspires me to carry on even with four different classes to prepare each semester, and to stay actively involved in the myriad other fascinating things that occur at Catlin Gabel—international trips (to Turkey and Peru), the ski bus to Mt Hood, class trips, far-flung Winterim adventures, and as many outdoor program trips as I can talk my way on to. Those initial concerns that kept me from teaching from the outset? I am energized being in front of a classroom of involved students, liberally dispensing puns and other physics humor along with the scientific concepts to a receptive (albeit groaning) audience. And class periods are not long enough!   

Our Inspired Teachers: Nichole Tassoni

Send by email
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

Nichole Tassoni, US English

Bachelor's in English, Wesleyan University. Master's in English education, Columbia University Teachers College. At CGS since 2007.

Once upon a time I was a math whiz. Throughout elementary school, I sat sequestered in the corner of the classroom, working on killer math problems with my math pal Kevin. By 8th grade our advanced math group had grown to eight, so we took a bus to Wilson High School every day for geometry. And on every standardized test I took from 1st grade through 12th, I scored higher on math than on reading comprehension.
 
But even though everyone had me pegged for an engineer, by 10th grade I was convinced I wanted to teach high school English, thanks to Mr. Basaraba, my sophomore English teacher. Although math had always come more easily to me, I loved English class. I loved to read, I loved to write, and most of all, I loved to talk about books. So I majored in English, took a few side turns in my early twenties, and eventually made it to where I am now: working at the best job in the world.
 
There are few things I like more in the world than talking about books. As I discovered when I started teaching, however, one of them is teenagers. It’s true: teenagers are among my favorite people to hang out with. Granted, I have a pretty teenagy sense of humor, so I fit right in. Still, there’s something about the adolescent world that fascinates me. No, I don’t want to head back to high school myself; I’m quite happy being an adult, thank you very much. But I suppose one of the main reasons I’m happy as an adult is that I have the best job in the world, one that keeps me from ever getting bored. Talking about books every day, and with teenagers? What could be better?   

Our Inspired Teachers: Ron Sobel

Send by email
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

Ron Sobel, US Spanish

Bachelor's in political science, San Jose State University. Master's in Spanish, Middlebury College. At CGS since 1977.

 

There was something about schools that caught my eye. It may have been the Merry-Go-Round Pre-School that my parents owned, where I was the oldest child enrolled and considered myself a staff member at 6. Or perhaps it was Thomas Edison Elementary School, located virtually in my backyard, where I would spend 12 months a year in the buildings or on the playground. It could have been my brother’s junior and senior high, places I dreamed about attending one day in order to bustle through the long halls and go to big football games on Friday night. I suspect my keen early interest in schools involved being around many people doing many things in an atmosphere that looked and felt like a beehive. Some years later I figured out that it was the buzzing of everyone involved intensely engaged in work and play that drew me to schools as a career. It did surprise my parents, though, when I announced in 8th grade that I wanted to be a Spanish teacher. And now I teach the language that I had grown up speaking and studying in a school that actually has a Beehive!
 
In my early years at Catlin Gabel, I observed my experienced colleagues carefully, trying to develop the qualities that held them in such high esteem with their students and the community. Many were reminiscent of the fine teachers I had known growing up. I think about those people frequently, and hope that young teachers today have the abundance of positive role models as we did in those days. From them I learned that my teaching subject was simply the vehicle to get to know kids and to help guide them in meaningful and ethically correct directions. What we teach is not nearly as important as the relationships we form.  

 

Our Inspired Teachers: Dave Whitson

Send by email
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

Dave Whitson, US history

Bachelor's in history and comparative literature, master's in curriculum and instruction, University of Washington. At CGS since 2011.

 

My senior year of high school, we were required to teach a session of our English class. I really enjoyed it. I became a teacher. People like windy paths with trees and hills; that’s a flat, paved road.
 
Of course, the real ascent began soon after. The first classes I taught at the University of Washington were disasters. I hadn’t experienced much academic failure in my life, but now I failed spectacularly. Ten minutes into my first hour-long class, I was out of material and had lost the students; paper airplanes whizzed through the air when I turned my back. I couldn’t understand how the formula that had worked so masterfully in high school was DOA in university.
 
Fortunately, I got better. My fifth class was not a crippling embarrassment. My eighth class aspired towards mediocrity—an event worthy of celebration at the time.
 
I had thought it would be easy. I had thought I would walk into the classroom and immediately fill the space with my brilliance and wit. Instead, it was the most difficult thing I had ever taken on. In the midst of those setbacks, I remember a student emailing for help with a paper, at 9 p.m. Over the next few hours, we workshopped the paper, taking some good ideas and fashioning them into an argument. At 12:15 a.m., I received a very excited email; the student had been worried about the essay, but now was really proud of it.
 
I confess that, when I decided to become a teacher, I did so thinking about the life devoted to learning. The thrill of the classroom environment. The summers off. Only after I first helped a student create something she was proud of, though, did I actually experience success as a teacher.
 
My next class went much better.  

 

Our Inspired Teachers: Nance Leonhardt

Send by email
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

Nance Leonhardt, US art

Bachelor's in fine arts, radio, TV, and film, Evergreen State College. Master's in teaching, Seattle University. At CGS since 2007.

 

I became a teacher because of my classmate Steve Parkey. I must have spent more than 75% of my young life with Steve, and the only thing I could say about him was that he wore a lot of brown.
 
Everything changed during my sophomore year when I enrolled in a graphic design class. My teacher was a working artist (known by her last name, Hall), the epitome of cool, who wore chic French clothing and oversized tribal jewelry. One day in class I heard her shriek, “Oh, Mr. Parkey, how MARVELOUS!” She pulled us around to see his illustration—a Boeing commuter heading for work in a series of panels where the vehicle shifted from a pogo stick to a 747. Hall pointed out the clever mutation of lines, the way the drawing seemed to accelerate across the page and come to life. In that moment, she was able to tease out the rare and beautiful in Steve Parkey. He morphed from brown to golden and glittered in our eyes.
 
Under Hall’s tutelage I learned how to silkscreen, solder, and edit video. She fed us a steady diet of new techniques and mind-contorting design prompts. Each person’s solution was cause for celebration in Hall’s studio, and I saw her greatest creative work in those moments.
 
When I reflect on my years in the profession, everything links back to my days with Hall. I teach the same topics, I occasionally wear chic French clothes, etc.—but her imprint is most evident in my relationships with students. I’ve been proud to send students to USC Film School or see them launch creative careers. However, it’s those whose artistic brilliance may be less evident, those who land in careers far afield of what they’ve done in my classes that call me to teach each day. They keep in touch, reminding me that I’ve glimpsed the golden in them, and that is divine. 
 

 

Our Inspired Teachers: Brian Gant

Send by email
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

Brian Gant, MS health and PE

Bachelor's in geography, Simon Fraser University. At CGS since 1984.

 

I am very fortunate, as every morning that I venture out the door I don’t see myself going to work, but instead pursuing my passion.
 
I was raised in Burnaby, British Columbia. My teachers were outstanding, and I formed a strong bond with many of them. I was always excited when my social studies teacher would appear on the sidelines of my club soccer games or ask me on a Monday how the game went. They were far more than just teachers and knew me well beyond the classroom. It was around 7th or 8th grade that I started to see teaching as a potential career, and I began my academic preparation.
 
After receiving my teaching degree from Simon Fraser University, my career was diverted for 10 years as I played professional soccer in Portland. We trained at Catlin Gabel, and I met students, teachers, and thenheadmaster Schauff. When my soccer career came to an end, the school asked me to coach and fill in for a teacher for a year. I saw this as an opportunity to see if this was what I still wanted to pursue as a career.
 
Twenty-eight years later, I am still here. What I have come to believe is that it is very much like my experiences as a youth. I came from a strong, tightly knit community where teachers and parents cared and looked out for the well being of each kid. Teachers, coaches, administrators, volunteers, interns, office staff, food staff, maintenance staff, alumni, and parents all play a role in the daily education of the students. It is most definitely a community that is raising the child.
 
Years ago former headmaster Jim Scott would constantly remind the student body “that you are receiving a gift with your education at Catlin Gabel.” I have found that this also applies to teaching in this community. 

 

Our Inspired Teachers: Tom Tucker '66

Send by email
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

Tom Tucker '66, US and MS woodshop

 Bachelor’s in design, Marlboro College. At CGS since 1979.

 What really informed my practice as a teacher was “Faculty Flip Day,” an event invented by then-head of school Schauff (Manvel Schauffler). Each teacher spent that day teaching in an entirely different grade level and discipline. I found myself in Bob Kindley’s Upper School math classes. The idea was not so much to take Bob’s place as it was to see what it was like to be in another teacher’s shoes. I tried to add what little knowledge I had about higher math in the form of an explanation of Pythagoras’s Rule of the 18th (fret positions for stringed instruments) and the trigometric functions that might describe the angles of a podium I had recently built. Mostly what I did was experience Bob’s life as a US math teacher through his students and his room. And the same could be said for whoever replaced me in the shop. What I learned from the experience was simple, and for me, profound.

 
All of us engaged in the profession of teaching, it seemed to me, are really bent on the same task: engaging students to notice the details and aesthetics of their lives and environments, and the cultures that surround them. I do it through woodworking and the application of tools, wood, and considered thought. Bob did it through the wonders, magic, and discipline of math, and all my colleagues do it through their individual passions and exquisite knowledge of their fields of expertise. But what it basically boiled down to, for me, was that we are all educating our students to be thoughtful, respectful, caring, and aware of this society and planet that we inhabit. Each age will have its challenges in the tools of its time. The important elements are the reasoning, skills, sense of responsibility, and heart that underlie the use and purpose of those tools. 

 

 

Our Inspired Teachers: Veronica Ledoux

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

 From the Autumn 2012 Caller

 Veronica Ledoux, US science

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

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

 

Photo gallery posted: seniors and 1st graders carve pumpkins

Send by email
So fun – and it didn't rain!

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

Athletics history video

Send by email
Celebrating our athletes on the pitch, in the field, and around the gym

Homecoming photo gallery

Send by email
Community!

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

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

Creative Arts Center groundbreaking photo gallery

Send by email
A grand celebration!

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

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