We Bid Farewell to Michael Heath and Our Retiring Teachers

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From the Summer 2012 Caller

Michael Heath

After five years at the helm of the Upper School and as assistant head for co-curriculars, Michael Heath has accepted the position of head of Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, South Carolina.
During his time at Catlin Gabel, Michael was the thoughtful overseer of many changes in the academic program. Advances made under Michael’s leadership include the realignment of the grading structure, the adjustment of the homework load, and greater emphasis on cross-disciplinary teaching.
Michael drew upon his background in philosophy, and his great sense of personal and community ethics, to insist that the moral and ethical lives of students are central to the school’s mission. He was a key figure in the establishment of the Knight Family Scholars Program, and in the growth to prominence of the PLACE and Global Online Academy programs.
With his move to South Carolina, Michael and wife Dido, and children Harry, Annie, and Sophie, will be closer to their families in Virginia and in England. Michael has been succeeded as Upper School head by Daniel Griffiths, who has served as assistant head of the Upper School, science teacher, and head of the science department.
Michael spoke at the Upper School year-end assembly about leaving Catlin Gabel, and his remarks are excerpted below.
I came to Catlin Gabel and found this community that fought for the underlying meaning of knowledge and goodness in a way that decried reputation and the flashiness of plastic accolades.
Because of you I know what the real pursuit of knowledge and virtue can look like. I know what it looks like to have students carried away with an idea, and how different that looks from a 5 on an AP exam.
So I guess I’m saying that I’m going to miss this and I’m going to miss you. I really am. But I’m also imploring you NOT to lose sight of these ideals. Guard them because there will be those who will challenge them. There will be those reputation-mongers who think that getting into this or that college, becoming a doctor or lawyer or whatever, is an intrinsically valuable thing simply because of appearances.
Two final pleas—be KIND to these people. Don’t be mean. Love them but convince them of their folly. And secondly, don’t be fooled. We all know what lasts, we all know that being an idealist isn’t easy, but we also know how much this world needs idealists!
For you, my beloved students, I would say, I’m so proud of you. I will miss you. Thanks very much. It’s been an honor to be a part of this school.


Monique Bessette

Monique Bessette has been Middle and Upper School French teacher at Catlin Gabel since 1997. She’s embarking upon the “Umpqua chapter” of her life, setting up a water turbine and learning to use a chainsaw lumber mill, and plans to travel spontaneously and be more of an activist.
This community has been a great model for me: I felt supported in whatever endeavors I attempted and challenged intellectually. I felt at home with my colleagues who take their profession seriously, but who don’t take themselves too seriously. I have truly enjoyed all my years here at Catlin Gabel!

Laurie Carlyon-Ward

Upper School art teacher Laurie Carlyon-Ward has taught Draw/ Paint, Honors Art Seminar, 3D Design, and Ceramics since 1985. After retirement, Laurie plans to spend more time doing her art work, traveling, volunteering with nonprofits, and enjoying her family. She will invoke two rules about time during retirement: no meetings before 10 a.m. and no firm commitments for one year.
I hope I gave students the opportunity to explore ways to express themselves visually, yet in a safe environment. Our society is so left brained, and I hoped the curriculum in the art department gave the school a place for the right brain to flourish.

Véronique de la Poterie

Véronique de la Poterie has been teaching French at Catlin Gabel for 25 years. Her plans for her retirement include an 800 km bike challenge trip through Europe, world travel, kayaking, nurturing relationships, and getting involved in the political scene.
I am grateful to this community for having helped me raise my two wonderful daughters with both a heart and a mind, for its academic freedom that allowed me to unleash my creativity and show all of my passions, and for the devotion of its teachers and the commitment of its students. Most of all I will miss the intellectual dialogs I have had (in French) with my amazing honors students, who have been such a source of sustenance and inspiration.

Joanne Dreier

Joanne Dreier was part of the Beginning School for the past 25 years. She is inspired in retirement to become as involved with her family as she has been with her work at school.
Being a part of this place has been more than a career to me. As I accepted a position as kindergarten teacher, then-head Jim Scott said, ‘Welcome to Catlin Gabel. May you stay forever.’ I was profoundly touched. I still want to experience ‘forever’ at Catlin Gabel. It will just be in a new way. Thank you to everyone for everything.

Susan Lazareck

A Catlin Gabel teacher since 1994, Susan Lazareck taught 1st grade for “11 joyful and creative years” before moving to 3rd grade. She is looking forward to a mountain of books, travels to Hawaii and back East, and volunteering for CASA (court appointed special advocates) and the new Randall Children’s Hospital.
I will miss the Fir Grove, Experiential Days, digging deeply into topics with kids and working with my amazing colleagues. And I look forward to finding good things to do in the future.

Karen Talus

Upper School history teacher Karen Talus came to Catlin Gabel in 2008 after teaching since 1968. She taught 9th grade Early World History and 10th grade Modern Europe and the World. In retirement she’s interested in serving as a docent at the art museum and volunteering in adult literacy.
I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to teach just a few more years, and I think it’s great to be ‘graduating’ with the class I came in with!

Dave Tash

Dave Tash has taught Upper School math, from Algebra One to Calculus One, for eight years.
I have enjoyed teaching at Catlin Gabel more than anything I’ve done since I left the Navy. I’ll miss Catlin Gabel, but I believe I will enjoy retirement and traveling with my wife, Karen, a great deal.

Wally Wilson

Wally Wilson has retired after 32 years teaching Spanish in Middle and Upper School. He hopes to travel and read many books in retirement.

Like Middle Schoolers, I prefer to be actively engaged with something real, something I like. And that’s why I have thrived at Catlin Gabel and why I can’t help but think back with fondness on the 22 trips and some 300 students who have traipsed through the pyramids of Mexico and the cloud forests of Costa Rica with me.