News

Syndicate content

Tom Tucker '66, the Philosopher in the Woodshop

Send by email

Amid the whine of power tools and the dry scraping of hand tools, Tom Tucker ’66 patiently teaches Catlin Gabel students the art of working with wood, an art he learned as a Catlin-Hillside student. “I learned everything at Hillside: how to be curious and excited about learning,” says Tom.

Creativity, and Catlin Gabel, runs in Tom’s blood. His father, architect Ernest Tucker (designer of the Dant House and the Hillside Lower School), always had a home studio, and creating things was part of the family dynamic. Tom’s parents and many members of his extended family have long connections with Catlin Gabel and its predecessor schools. Tom’s sisters and brother are also alumni. After his time at Catlin-Hillside, Tom transferred to public high school, but he kept his CGS connection alive with summer art classes.

Tom’s woodworking skills expanded at Marlboro College, in Vermont. His studies immersed him in law and philosophy, but he also loved building stringed instruments. Music has continued to be a passion, and Tom has long played Irish and Scottish country music with fellow teacher George Thompson ’64 and CGS parent Craig Stewart.

Tom moved back to Oregon after college, setting up a rural homestead where he repaired and built furniture. He reconnected with Catlin Gabel in 1977, when he substituted for his old woodshop teacher Ed Adamy. A couple of years later Ed retired, and Tom returned to teach woodshop for two more years.

His strong urge to build furniture took him away from teaching, but not for long. To make money Tom worked in construction. That ended the day he stood, hammer in hand, in an ugly bathroom, and realized this was no life for him. That night Tom received a call from Catlin Gabel, inviting him to come back to teach woodshop.

Tom has refined his teaching skills in the many years since then. “I’ve learned to really listen to the children,” he says. “The conversations we have about the options available to them, and how their concepts and mine can come together into a final form, are the most exciting parts of teaching.”

Catlin Gabel continues to be a family tradition for Tom. His wife, Laura Frizzell, taught music at the school for 12 years, and both sons are lifers: Ethan graduated last year, and Sam is a sophomore. “Having Ethan and Sam here at school has been a big plus for me,” says Tom. “I loved seeing my kids in the playground, and having them run up to me when they see me and give hugs.”

Growing Up on Campus: Andrea Darling '90

Send by email

Lifer Andrea Darling ’90, daughter of English teacher Clint Darling, graduated from Dartmouth College and Duke University Law School. She practiced law in a Boston firm, before leaving to raise a family.

I felt indebted to Catlin Gabel for the privilege of attending the school and felt a responsibility to earn my place. I was fortunate to accompany my dad, Clint, on a senior class camping trip to Spirit Lake and on a school trip to the south of France. I remember sitting on the lower soccer field hills watching soccer jamborees while Dad yelled “Go Blue!” long before I ever kicked a ball. I remember belting out “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” with the entire audience as I sat on Dad’s shoulders during a Cabell Center holiday concert. I became quite smitten with Catlin Gabel at a very young age.

For about 14 years, nearly everything I did and nearly all the people I knew had a connection to the school. As a result, I grew up with a strong sense of community, of how important that safety net is to allow people to take risks, learn, grow, recover from adversity, and thrive. From studying at Catlin, Dartmouth, and Duke, to lawyering in Boston, to my life now as a mother in New Jersey, I have made it a priority to recreate that profound security for myself and others by working to create a strong community.

From the top echelons of the administration, it was clear that the Dartmouth family placed a great emphasis on the education of the whole person, a familiar refrain from my life at Catlin Gabel. I credit my teachers for challenging and stimulating me in a supportive environment; nothing could have prepared me more for achieving in college.

As a graduate student in French literature at Duke, I volunteered with the Guardian ad Litem program, representing the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. I began to see that the legal system was the single most powerful motivator to help improve the desperate situations of families in need, and promptly decided to go to law school.

I live just outside of Princeton, New Jersey, with my husband, Todd Brady, and spend my time raising two boys, Alex (4) and Nicholas (2). As simplistic as it may sound, my job as a mom is the most fulfilling—and occasionally the most trying—work I have ever done. Once Nicholas begins school, I would like to practice law again, although not in the corporate world, perhaps in some capacity as a child advocate. While I will not be able to recreate my Catlin Gabel experience for my own kids, I hope to find a school that will offer the same commitment to breadth and quality of learning experiences.

Growing Up on Campus: Sequoia Medley '01

Send by email

Sequoia Medley ’01, daughter of theater teacher Robert Medley and business office staffer Mary Medley, is also a lifer. She works in an art gallery in Philadelphia.

For the first five-odd years of my life, I lived with my family in the caretakers’ residence and loved it. I had access to playgrounds all year long, and my friends could come over to my house before school. My parents were always nearby if I wanted to visit and say hi. Because they were so immersed in the school they were able to relate to my challenges and understand the true goal of the Catlin Gabel environment.

When I entered the real world I was amazed how much more prepared I was for anything, beyond the academic challenges of higher learning. When I first moved to Philadelphia, a city I had previously only visited for a few hours, I took it upon myself to explore the city and seek out volunteer opportunities. When disputes erupted in college over unfair grading practices, I felt empowered to join my fellow students in presenting a logical and persuasive argument to the administration.

My CGS education, especially in writing and the arts, prepared me well for Moore College of Art and Design, where I pursued a double major in art and fashion design. My multitasking and time management skills from Catlin Gabel came into play when I wrote a senior thesis in art history in less than three months while constructing a fashion collection. Because of Catlin Gabel’s interests in developing well rounded, intelligent members of the community, and because I was exposed to that philosophy my whole life, I chose an unorthodox educational path and feel I was successful.

I expected that art history and fashion would go hand in hand, but after graduation realized it no longer felt like the correct path for me. Two years ago, I began an internship at a contemporary art gallery, where I was quickly promoted to associate director. Although I continue to design costumes for fringe theater productions, I am looking into graduate school in contemporary art, art criticism, or arts administration. I am passionate about the vitality of the contemporary art scene and strive to make it more visible. I continue to draw, paint, design, and sew. I hope next to work for a private or corporate collection, preferably back in the Northwest, and in the long-term would like to have my own art gallery.

"So Many Doors Have Opened"

posted in
Send by email

A True Legacy, A Heartfelt Gift

Catlin Gabel recently received a gift that exemplifies legacy. It came from the late George Ettelson ’42, a lifelong donor to Catlin Gabel since graduating from the Gabel Country Day School. He believed strongly in Catlin Gabel’s mission and wanted to show his support for the school both during his lifetime and after.

George believed in supporting financial aid. Although he helped the school in many ways, the biggest effect he and his wife Helene had on Catlin Gabel was the establishment of three endowed scholarship funds. One was founded in his name and two honor his sisters, both Miss Catlin’s School graduates. These scholarships were awarded to many students throughout George’s lifetime, helping numerous families afford a Catlin Gabel education, while enhancing the school’s learning environment.

George also wanted to invest in Catlin Gabel’s future. He set up a bequest gift to further support the scholarships he established. After his death in February 2007, the school received significant funds directed towards the three endowed scholarships the Ettelsons had established.

George laid the foundation for supporting the school and our students during his lifetime, and made plans to ensure the strength of these funds after his passing. Students will continue to attend Catlin Gabel because of George, doing their best to honor George and his family both while they are here and after they graduate. Generations of those students will go on to achieve great success throughout their lives. That is George Ettelson’s legacy at Catlin Gabel.

"I'm lucky to be here"

Dear scholarship donor,

I’m so grateful for all the opportunities Catlin Gabel has given me, and all the great people I’ve met. This community is very special, and I know I’m lucky to be here. Thank you so much for the chance to attend this school. I’m immeasurably thankful for my education, and to the doors it has opened for me. Your scholarship fund is definitely not going to waste.

—Student, class of 2009

Why Does Rummage Matter? Student Captains Answer

I took on the role of Rummage Sale captain because I wanted to actively participate in Catlin Gabel’s effort to raise money for financial aid. As clichéd as that may sound, I’m aware that financial aid is the determining factor in the diverse population at Catlin Gabel and I would like to see it become more diverse in years to come. (By diverse I mean economically, culturally, and geographically.) The students make Catlin Gabel the unique institution it is, and I encourage the growth of a dynamic, well-rounded student body.

—Jordan Bellman '08

I chose to be a captain because I have been at Catlin Gabel for such a long time and I wanted to give back to the school. I value the sense of schoolwide effort during the Rummage Sale. When all the teachers and students come together for the common goal of raising money for financial aid, it creates a very special sense of community. It is not only an important tradition but a bonding experience that produces truly remarkable results. The fact that some of my best friends are on financial aid helps me understand just how important the Rummage Sale is, and I was happy to take on the leadership role.

—Natalie Wilcox '08

Did You Know. . .

Our commitment to socioeconomic diversity began back when Miss Catlin's School offered scholarships to students in need of tuition assistance?

"It wouldn’t be possible without you"

Dear Scholarship Donor,

On the whole, I am more grateful than it is possible to write in a letter for the opportunity to become a student at Catlin Gabel; it wouldn’t be possible without you. I hope you realize how much of an impact you have had on my life. The high school that someone goes to greatly affects how a person lives and who he or she becomes. By giving me this opportunity, so many doors have opened that wouldn’t even have been in sight if I went anywhere else. I believe this is the greatest gift a person can be given, and there is no way to tell someone how much something like that is appreciated. . . . I hope to show my appreciation in actuality with how I use this opportunity and what I make of it.

— Student, Class of 2010

What’s the Legacy Society?

The Ruth Catlin and Priscilla Gabel Legacy Society recognizes people who name Catlin Gabel in their will or in another type of estate plan arrangement, and resulting gifts become a permanent part of the school’s endowment. Currently, we have over 80 members.

"Such a good place for me"

Dear Scholarship Donor,

Catlin Gabel has been such a good place for me, and I know I’ve changed as a student, friend, and person. I owe all my change to you because you have supported me through this experience. Your financial contribution made it so I could take advantage of this education, and I am indebted to you for this.

—Student, Class of 2009

Contributing to Our Community: An Enduring Theme

Send by email

By Lark Palma, Head of School

Lark Palma, right, with Beginning School head Pam McComas

Some form or another of Catlin Gabel School has been part of the Portland community for 149 years. The current school, which merged the Catlin-Hillside School and Gabel Country Day School, has been here on this beautiful Honey Hollow campus for 50 years this year. Happy 50th anniversary, Catlin Gabel School!

That sort of longevity has been reflected in the Portland community in an abiding and subtle way, with most of it deriving from the philosophical pillars of the school—and in turn the many alumni of Catlin Gabel and its predecessor schools who have made their lives in the Portland area. Ruth Catlin and Priscilla Gabel believed that the primary purpose of education was training for civic life and civic engagement. We are fortunate to live in Portland, a city that for the most part values citizen involvement, congruent with the way we encourage our students to participate in public life.

The well-being of a democratic society requires citizens capable of making sound judgments about matters that make up our common life—our government, the education of our children, the books we read, and the culture in which we live. These judgments help shape our society and create its ethos. At Catlin Gabel, we know our students will be prepared to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens, both here and beyond the school.

State representative Ben Cannon ’88 visits with students after speaking at a January assembly

The last decade has seen extraordinary leadership in this community by some of our alumni, a few notable examples being Gil Kelley ’71, director of urban planning for the city of Portland; David Bragdon ’77, president of Metro; Oregon state representative Ben Cannon ’88; and arts patrons Jordan Schnitzer ’69 and Sarah Miller-Miegs ’79. A number of graduates in the last decade are working in nonprofit organizations in the city and around the world, including Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, the Peace Corps, and Mercy Corps. Some have even started their own organizations and supported them with their salaries from other jobs.

Examples of our school’s engagement outside our campus boundaries go back as far as 1923. The late Deborah Anne Smith Snyder ’27 recalled that during that year Miss Catlin brought in news of a Japanese earthquake and asked her students what they could do to help. Even back then Miss Catlin was urging her students to become responsible citizens of the community and the world. Our students are always ready to pitch in to help others: for example, the 1988 earthquake in Mexico City, brought close to us by our Olinca exchange, spurred a massive relief effort, and in 2004 students worked tirelessly to raise money and give aid to victims of the Asia tsunami.

The Rummage Sale, the school’s most visible outreach to the public, is 63 years old. This inspired idea that began in the 1940s has grown to a four-day event where thousands of people from the Portland area and beyond shop for affordable goods, with proceeds going to financial aid. This effort is made possible every year by thousands of volunteer hours contributed by students, teachers, parents, faculty-staff, and friends, all committed to making sure we have tuition assistance available to students who might benefit. Many students get their first taste of their broader communities when they take part in community service projects. Upper School students work toward required hours of service, and Middle Schoolers work once a month off campus in various agencies and schools. The dogged environmental restoration work of our students over many years on the Elana Gold ’93 Memorial Environmental Restoration Project in the Mt. Hood National Forest has brought stunning results, gradually bringing degraded habitats back to vibrant life. Even in Beginning School, students begin to develop a disposition to be of service to others, making snacks and artworks for homeless people and shut-in patients, and getting visits in return. Both the Cascade Aids Project and the Oregon Food Bank have recently honored our students for their contribution of volunteer time, and many other agencies—and the people they serve—directly benefit from their abundant energy and limitless reservoirs of caring and good will. Madison Kaplan ’04 reflects the views of many of her fellow alumni when she said of her experiences reaching out, “When we grow up after high school we are going to be away from sheltered Catlin Gabel. It is important for us to see life outside Catlin Gabel. We can be more prepared and open-minded when we are living in a world of so many possibilities. Service learning is also a good way to give back to the community. Hopefully, giving back will become second nature to everyone.”

Many students and members of the faculty and staff also work to enhance the educational experience for other teachers and students, as one of their forms of public service. Faculty and staff members serve on independent school boards to help keep the “independent” in independent school. Teachers have contributed to national curriculum in mathematics and social studies. The school has been a teacher of teachers by offering science, technology, and mathematics workshops in the summer and maintaining a partnership with Portland State University. Since 1991, the Lower School has partnered with Lewis & Clark College in bringing in students from the masters teaching program for a one-year internship into the classroom for every grade. The Beginning School, Middle School, and Upper School have invited students from Pacific University, Lewis & Clark College, and Portland State, among others, to learn side by side with our master teachers. Several teachers and staffers are adding to the national voice of education through educational journals, blogs, and other forms of publishing and communication. Twelve of our teachers and staff members are currently engaged as teachers of teachers in educational settings around the city. Educators from the Northwest, other parts of the United States, and all over the world come to our campus to see how we teach school here at Catlin Gabel.

Catlin Gabel has always defined itself as an agent of positive change, with a focus on the development of the city of Portland, the preservation of our cherished 54 acres, and the shaping of educational values. It is no accident that improvements in public education cohere around principles that Catlin Gabel School has incorporated since its inception: maintaining a small class size, creating environments where children are known, and meeting the needs of diverse learners. These values have become part of the Chalkboard Project, the Gates Foundation, and other projects that improve the learning environment in all kinds of schools.

This Caller is a celebration of our past 50 years and a harbinger of the next. As you read our histories, take the quiz, read the stories of alumni and the decade-by-decade timeline of what our school has accomplished over many years, I urge you to think about Catlin Gabel’s future, the 21st-century education that we provide, and the continuing civic engagement of anyone who is touched by the values of this institution.

Lark Palma and parent Katrina Pointer, Rummage cashiers

Mexico Climbing Winterim

posted in
Send by email

Mexico Culture and Mountaineering Winterim


Popocatapetl from Iztaccihuatl during the groups ascent on February 20th.

Nine students and three adult leaders travelled to Mexico for ten days in February to experience the culture, learn about the history, and climb the high mountains of our southern neighbor. During the visit students stayed in the heart of Mexico City right next to the Zocalo. A few days were spent seeing the sights of this great city, before heading off to a high camp on the slopes of Iztaccihuatl, the seventh highest peak in North America. Over the next three days students acclimitized and made an attempt on the 17,160 foot summit. Five members of the team made it all the way to the summit. The rest of the students all achieved various altitudes between 14,000 and 17,000 feet.

Following the climb the group spent there days in Tepoztlan intergrating with the people of a small Mexican town. On the last day everyone returned to Mexico City where they were guests at a soccer game in the huge Azteca Stadium.

The trip made a very strong impression on the students. By avoiding the tourist areas, students were able to learn about how Mexicans live their lives, and gain an appreciation for the rich and deep culture of the country.

View of the Zocalo from the Hostel window

Native Aztec performers in Mexico City

On the Summit!

In Azteca Stadium: third largest in the world

Starlight before dawn on Iztaccihuatl

"Catlin Gabel teacher to give school's lecture," about Susan Sowles

posted in
Send by email
Oregonian article, February 08

"Ivy removers work for food," about the school's goats

Send by email
Portland Tribune article, February 08

Tuition and affordability survey results

Send by email
by Lark P. Palma, head of school

The response rate to our online survey about tuition affordability, which we conducted in November and early December, was overwhelming, with 481 people replying. Catlin Gabel has approximately 540 families enrolled, so this census-level return is a significant sampling. Clearly, rising tuition rates and school expenses are topics that matter deeply to parents. Thank you to all of you who completed the survey.

We will study the results, compare with our benchmark schools, and review PNAIS recommendations before taking action. In the meantime, I want to share our findings, which are quite interesting.

Responses were equally divided between families who have been at Catlin Gabel for five or more years and fewer than five years. Slightly more than one-third of respondents have more than one child at Catlin Gabel.

Public perception that Catlin Gabel is a school of the super-rich is off the mark. The data reveals that more than one-quarter of our families earn less than $100,000 per year, and nearly two-thirds earn less than $200,000, with only 19 percent of our families earning more than $300,000. Within our community, there is wider income distribution than we expected. Relative to the Portland metropolitan area, however, where 84 percent of households earn under $100,000 per year, our school community is affluent. While the definition of Catlin Gabel’s middle class may be in the $100,000 to $250,000 range, Portland’s 2007 median household income for a family of four was $42,800 (PDC website).

For those who prefer statistics in visual form, scroll to the bottom of the page.

The survey results disclose the financial challenges of paying tuition, even for people many would consider high-income earners. The upshot is that the majority of Catlin Gabel families – all the way up to the $300,000 income level – say they make financial trade-offs to afford our tuition. While we expect pressure to afford tuition in lower-income families, the level of pressure felt by families in the $200,000 to $300,000 range is a bit surprising.

Nearly 40 percent of respondents indicate that they have considered leaving Catlin Gabel due to the cost. The financial pressures that people feel cannot be minimized. Each respondent’s perception of sacrifice must be heard and considered. Given Portland metropolitan area income demographics, housing prices, the cost of living, our tuition rate, and our current limited ability to award financial aid, we must ask: Who will be able to attend Catlin Gabel in the future?

Even though a considerable majority says paying tuition is a challenge, 86 percent feel Catlin Gabel is worth the expense.

Most – 84 percent – Catlin Gabel families pay tuition out of their annual income. One-quarter of respondents say grandparents or trust funds provide a portion of their tuition payments. In families with income less than $200,000, nearly one-fourth receive assistance from grandparents. Families in the $200,000 to $300,000 range rely most heavily on annual income, with the least amount of support from grandparents and trusts. About 7 percent of respondents rely on debt, such as home equity loans, to pay for tuition.

As a community we value economic diversity: 80 percent of respondents indicated that attending a school with an economically diverse community is important to their family.

Comments about how to cut expenses were interesting and inconclusive. We did not expect conclusive results from the open-ended questions, and there was no consensus about specific ways to decrease tuition. Suggestions ranged from increasing class sizes to decreasing programs and reducing maintenance costs. Our community knows that excellent education is an expensive proposition. But the passion parents showed in their comments indicate a need for us to get serious about cost control.

We constantly seek ways to provide the best teachers and programs for our children, and to ensure that our teachers are paid appropriately. The financial sustainability committee is analyzing data, raising questions, and developing principles of good practice for making financially sustainable decisions. The results of this survey will most certainly inform their work as they assess trends and make recommendations to improve the school’s financial position and to attract and retain students.

Thank you for your thoughtful responses. We will be equally thoughtful in our deliberations about Catlin Gabel’s tuition and affordability.

Fire Lookout Nordic Ski Trip, January 2008

posted in
Send by email

Trip Report By Nick Norge

Greg and I arrived to Catlin at the same time on Thursday morning. As we exchanged manly nods of approval and threw our packs into the back of the bus, Ian, Zanny, Paul, and Rocky pulled up and we were ready to go. We rolled out of the theater parking lot at 8 a.m. The dirty ice that skirted around the parking lot gave us only a small preview of the slippery trails we would ski later that day.

On the way up to the fire lookout, we made the customary stop at Government Camp, where Rocky hid in the snack shop. “Stop!” Ian yelled as the bus started, thinking we were going to leave him. Moments later, Rocky emerged with a couple cans of energy drink, bags of hard candy, and a smile stretched across his face.

At around 10:00 we reached the trail head where we would start our climb up to the lookout. Only with the help of Lily and Drew “John” Derrick’s GPS did we decide which direction to go. Skiing started like a horse race would, with Peter, Paul, and Greg (no, not the 1960s folk band), taking to the front as we started off down the gently sloping trail. After a half-hour of skiing, we were struck with a disheartening sight: The lookout, perched atop a towering slope, distantly peered down at us.

I guess skiing the trails got boring, because soon before I knew it, we slipped off the groomed path into the woods, maneuvering our long skis between tree wells and little icy hills. For most of the way up to camp we hiked through thick woods, balancing and pulling with our poles as we drove our skis through the snow. Walking probably would have been faster, and some “pragmatists” finished the journey by foot.

The lookout stood by itself on a small clearing, making for a 360 degree view that in one part extended all the way out to Mt. Jefferson. After settling in, we skied around the lookout for a couple of hours, falling mostly as we flew on our skis off little jumps and raced between bushes and small trees.

After uncountable wipe-outs, we finally returned to the lookout. It got dark pretty quickly and after dinner we undertook what was possibly the most metaphorically unified game of Caca ever. No, seriously, ever. While Zanny was quick to crack jokes at the other players’ intensity, she soon learned her lesson. Glancing down from his high stool in line with the stove, El Presidente Peter chuckled at Zanny, la caca, crouched in the dark corner between the bed and the wall, far away from the fire.

We woke up the next day only to continue our experiments of physical strength. Rocky took the first medal when he suffered through the prime-rib of all pancakes, a 12 ounce beauty that took up his whole plate. After applauding him and cleaning up, we cruised back down to the bus, taking another “short cut” off the main road. Ian suffered through a couple nasty falls, having to twist and contort his body only to fall down again. Paul silently stole the show, probably showing the best form of any of us.

By the time we returned to the bus, we were all thirsty. Snow water does not taste great when melted in a frying pain full of SPAM grease, and toward the end of our stay the survivalist was definitely beginning to show in some of us: “Nicholas!” Greg shouted as he shook my quarter-full water bottle. “You’ve been holding out on us!” His eyes widened as he took a swig from my now empty bottle.

Peter suggested we stop for water on our way back, but only under one condition: We weren’t allowed to buy drinks from the snack shop. This trip may have helped us learn to navigate skis between trees and holes, but it still couldn’t keep us from getting lost in a convenience store. Darn.

Imagine sleeping in a fire lookout forty feet in the air on top of the highest paek for miles around. To the north Mt. Hood takes up three windows of the 360 degree view of the surrounding wilderness. Mount Jefferson is close enough to touch. Surrounding your hill top pearch are endless slopes of untracked powder and forest. Hard to imagine, yes. But its true - thats where nine Catlin students and leaders spent their semester break. All would have been perfect had we only known how to ski! But that didnt stop us. No. It didnt.

Mount Jefferson

Alumnus David Bragdon a TV star

Send by email
Oregonian article, January 08

Global citizenship is good for business

Send by email
by Lark P. Palma, Ph.D.

Recently, I enjoyed speaking to the Oregon Forum, a group of local entrepreneurs interested in social change. They asked me to reflect on global citizenship.

I considered several questions: What is global citizenship? How do we teach it in schools? How could businesses that must have employees with global understanding partner with us to ensure that students graduate from secondary schools and colleges with these competencies?

In order to move forward we must redefine citizenship beyond our own borders; adopt positive dispositions toward cultural differences; speak, understand, and think in languages other than our native tongues; gain deep knowledge of world history and geography; grasp the global implications of health care, climate change, and economic policies; and understand the process of globalization itself.

How are we doing nationally? Things are changing slowly, but as a nation we fail to foster global citizens. A thorough study from the Committee for Economic Development on Global Leadership cites alarming gaps in children’s learning. The No Child Left Behind Act, adopted in 2002, holds states accountable for student achievement in reading, science, and math. Unfortunately, as schools devote more time to these subjects we see a reduction in foreign language classes and social studies classes where global issues are explored. Only one-third of 7th to 12th grade students, and fewer than one in ten college students, study a foreign language. Seventy percent of students in secondary schools who are enrolled in a language class study Spanish, and only a small percentage go beyond two years of study. Few students in high school or college gain proficiency in any second language, and very few students learn the lan-guages that the State Department believes crucial to national security—Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Farsi, Russian, and Turkish.

State high school graduation requirements call for minimal coursework, if any, in international studies, world history, geography, political science, or area studies. Only one percent of college undergraduates study abroad. Teacher educa-tion programs provide few classes in teaching global topics. The media’s coverage of international affairs, trends, and issues is minimal. During her trial, over fifty minutes daily was devoted to Martha Stewart on most networks, and less than three minutes to the conflict in Darfur. We ought to worry about where students gain information about their world.

From a business and economic perspective, the challenges to our economy are enormous. The international workforce needs language competencies beyond English because most United States growth potential lies in overseas markets. In 2004, 58 percent of our growth earnings were from overseas. For example, 70 percent of Coca Cola’s profits are generated outside the United States. Studying languages and acquiring cultural competency are clearly eco-nomic necessities if Americans hope to compete on the international stage. A European business executive speaks an average of 3.9 languages, and an American executive speaks an average of only 1.5. Business decisions are made quickly, and the number of people involved in making wise business decisions must include teams of people who are multinational and multilingual.

American businesses lose an average of $2 billion per year because their employees are provided with inadequate cross-cultural guidance. For example, Microsoft Windows 95 displayed Kashmir outside the boundaries of India. Mi-crosoft had to recall 200,000 copies of the product. In a software package marketed in Turkey, Kurdistan is listed as a Turkish state, although it is a crime to even talk about Kurdistan in Turkey. An American-made video game mar-keted to Saudis included violent scenes accompanied by chanting from the Koran. Business loss is a direct result of these cultural gaffes. Moreover, America’s reputation is damaged when we are perceived as negligent and indifferent to other cultures.

The Rand Corporation surveyed 16 global corporations, which rated job applicants from American universities as the graduates with the least developed international skills. An executive from a top global corporation told Rand that American graduates are, “Strong technically, but short-changed in cross-cultural experience and linguistically de-prived. If I wanted to recruit people who are both technically skilled and culturally aware, I would not waste time looking for them on U.S. college campuses.”

The statistics about our students’ and work force’s global citizenship are discouraging, but there are many things schools and businesses can do to improve the situation by working together. Here are several suggestions:

  • Harness the expertise of bilingual and non-English speaking employees currently in our work force. Non-English speakers and multinational people hold 48 percent of both management and professional service jobs in the United States. Let’s learn from their experience about how to become competent in other cultures.
  • Business leaders need to pressure school boards to include international content at all levels of curriculum. The No Child Left Behind requirements can be addressed by incorporating cultural topics into reading pro-grams.
  • Press colleges and universities to form partnerships with elementary and secondary schools to provide teacher professional development in global education. Colleges and universities could tap their international students and professors to work in elementary and secondary schools.
  • Business leaders should insist that teacher education programs, as well as college programs, have strong inter-national components.
  • Corporations should play an active role in supporting educational initiatives that will produce graduates with cross-cultural competencies.
  • Expand the training pipeline at every level to increase the number of Americans fluent in foreign languages, especially Arabic and Chinese.

Catlin Gabel is working to foster global citizenship, and we are excited to be part of the local, national, and interna-tional dialogue on creating global citizens.

"History lives at Lelooska," about Mariah Stoll-Smith Reese '93

Send by email
Portland Tribune article, December 07

Bagby Backpacking: Dec. 2007

posted in
Send by email

Bagby Hot Springs Backpacking: December 8-9, 2007

The Catlin gravel parking lot looks different at 6:30am; it’s darker, frostier, more sinister, and I loose my footing on an icy log trying to haul my backpack to the bus. I pray it’s not a premonition of the Bagby backpacking trip that will unfold in the next two days.

Leaving Catlin, the sun rises into the clear blue sky against the Mount Hood-bound backdrop of Targets and car sales lots, a last glimpse at our modern consumerist culture before a weekend in the forest.

As we exit the highway to snake along narrower roads, Aiyana spots a bald eagle perched above the river, and its sharp profile is awe-inspiring. Once we arrive at the trailhead, we set off the two miles to the Hot Springs, following a relatively flat path through old growth trees and across a wooden plank bridge suspended above churning turquoise waters.

On the promise that we will return to the Hot Springs later, we hike another half mile to a beautiful riverside campsite, accessible by scrambling down a steep snow-tinged hill. After setting up camp and eating lunch, we explore the river by inching across ice-covered beaver dams and snowy fallen logs. Murphy, Max, and Luke lead us to their discovered island, home to frozen mossy boulders and branches with ice droplets gleaming in the afternoon sunshine.

Hiking up to the trail again, we travel into the Bull of the Woods Wilderness for about two hours, stopping only to hear stories of Snortle-pigs and Snaffle-hounds and to eat string cheese.

Suddenly we round the corner and a breathtaking vista greets us, a view of snowy mountains and deep valleys, all shrouded in steam with the sunlight and snow. We devour sugar bombs (candy coated peanuts) before heading back to camp for our elaborate feast of stuffing, ramen, macaroni and cheese and hot cocoa.

Finally it’s time for the hot springs, and we crunch through the snow lead by the light of our headlamps and the stars, arriving only to leap too quickly into the near-boiling water. There’s a trail below the wooden half-roofed hot springs building that leads to an icy stream, and we fill buckets to cool the tubs and hollowed logs.

After a few hours, our fingers and toes are pruney and we’re utterly at bliss. Our towels have frozen in wrinkled forms, and we fill our Nalgene’s with the hot water to keep at the foot of our sleeping bags. Back at camp, we make another round of mac n’ cheese and drink lots more hot apple cider, before bundling up for bed.

The next morning we sleep in, awaking to find anything once damp now frozen solid, and we pack up after a quick oatmeal breakfast. Returning to the hot springs, the daylight illuminates the graffiti of tourists across the wooden walls contrasted with the delicately suspended icicles.

During our lunch of semi-frozen pita bread with mustard and canned salmon, I smile at the bonds created between our group in the 30-some hours we’ve been away from Portland. Soaking away the sores of our hike, perfecting the ratio for mass hot-apple-cider (lots and lots of packets), and scooting across ice-covered logs suspended above a freezing river, it’s been the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure, and as we return along the trail, I’m half hoping the bus will have disappeared, and we’ll just have to stay a bit longer at Bagby Hot Springs.

Traditions

posted in
Send by email
by Lark P. Palma, Ph.D.

Traditions connect us to each other in ways that last forever. Common experiences bond our current students to generations of students that came before, and those who will follow. Celebrating our 50th anniversary as Catlin Gabel School invites a look into where some of our school traditions originated.

When the Gabel Country Day and Catlin Hillside Schools became one, many traditions and educational values were preserved. In some ways it was easy to combine the schools because of their many shared qualities. For example, shop class (formerly called manual training) was an important component of both schools. It was unusual to find girls in shop classes in most schools, but both the Gabel and the Catlin Hillside Schools taught shop without regard to gender.

Theater, music, and drama were also prominent programs in both schools. Holiday pageants and tableaux hold important memories for alumni of the Gabel School. Similarly, the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas evoke nostalgia for Catlin Hillside alumni. Community service was an essential aspect of school life on both campuses -- as true today as it was in the war-torn 1940s.

Some traditions unique to each school were brought to the newly merged school and continue today. Pet Day, carried on by the Lower School, and Campus Day are Gabel traditions that are important today. The annual production of St. George and the Dragon, now performed by eighth graders, and the Maypole dance, a first grade rite of passage, are rituals we inherited from Catlin Hillside School. New customs have been added to the old, giving Catlin Gabel School a culture of its own, a culture rich in tradition.

Catlin Gabel people bring alive those traditions as we live them. Alumni tell me that their warmest memories are most often about people – teachers and classmates – and adventures and traditions such as school trips, performances, and Rummage contests. Everyone who has ever worked or shopped at the Rummage Sale, for example, has a favorite story about a kooky customer, a great purchase, or finding a long-lost favorite tie among the bargains.

Mention of the annual 8th grade Gilbert and Sullivan musical provokes comparisons of which Modern Major General in Pirates of Penzance sang the fastest, or which Katisha in The Mikado generated the most revulsion. Likewise, current students look forward to finding out which first grader is Wee Willie Winkie in the winter Revels concert, whose dog will win the funniest prize on Pet Day. It is fun to imagine which first, third, or sixth grader will play St. George in eigth grade, or which of the freshmen will read the school chapter when they graduate.

This time of year makes us think about the people in our lives. When I think about my mom, I’m awed by what a great person she is and what an influential parent she was, organizing softball teams, and Girl Scouts, and many parts of our lives. Now that I’m a grandmother I think about what kind of mother she is, and what kind of grandmother she is, and now about her role as a great-grandmother.

Our school represents that sort of multigenerational resonance. We can still hear stories about how somebody’s mother ran Rummage, or their father helped build the Barn, or they lived in the Dant House before we moved here. These are deep connections. Our school traditions serve as a reminder of the power of a school community that is larger than any one of us. They humble and inspire us with an understanding that Catlin Gabel will continue to be a vibrant part of children’s lives long after we leave.

Blessings

posted in
Send by email
By Pam McComas, beginning school head and associate head of school

The following PamNote appeared in the December 2007 Beginning School Buzz.

Blessings -- that’s what I think about at this time of year. We enjoy so many: healthy children, warm homes, and a school that cares deeply about the well-being of each child. For a long time I have counted Catlin among my blessings.

My connection to Catlin Gabel started long before I came to work here. My son entered kindergarten in 1984, eleven years before I started as Beginning School Head. Like many of you, I was a little rattled by the admissions process. After the visit I remember wincing when he told me that he had drawn the cartoon figure He-Man even though the teacher had asked him to draw a person. Oh dear. Not only did he not follow directions, but now teachers in a fine private school knew that I allowed my son to watch déclassé TV shows! Not the impression I had hoped to make. Happily, he was admitted anyway.

Betsy McCormick was my son’s first teacher and what a great year he had. She helped that rough-and-tumble little boy love school. Later, as an interim kindergarten teacher, I worked alongside Allen Schauffler, a wise colleague. In my professional life, I moved on to do other things. But as a parent, I knew that this school provided something special for children: flexibility and understanding. Peggy McDonnell, lower school music teacher, was stalwart in the face of resistance. My son complained vigorously about having to learn to play the recorder, only to earn a college degree, many years later in – you guessed it – music. (Just goes to show that making predictions about a growing child is iffy at best.) My son Chris was an intense, funny, endearing, hard-to-shift little knucklehead. But he was my little knucklehead. I was crazy about him and yet, even so, I still sometimes felt humbled as a parent. At those times, his teachers offered much needed, much appreciated perspective.

Parenting is challenging and none of us do it perfectly. We all feel confounded and a little guilty from time to time. We start out with idealized images of how we will be as parents, images that bump up against the realities of the children we live with every day -- children who present their own unique personalities, independent ideas, and daily reminders that we are hardly perfect.

One educator put it this way: “We are rescued again and again by love and forgiveness, and by the capacity to laugh at our imperfections, and by the pleasures that come with growth. Thankfully, parents can partner with teachers along the way. Who better to share our parental joy, understand our concerns, and believe wholeheartedly that our children will flourish, each in their unique and surprising ways, and grow into fine people.”

I was buoyed by knowing that teachers saw my son as a delightful, developing person with more than enough plusses to balance out the trickier parts. They saw the best in him and that made all the difference to him and to me. It is my hope that you and your child experience that kind of partnership, care and understanding, just as we did.

I wish the same for every child, everywhere, in the imperfect year ahead.

Smith Rock and Watershed Restoration, Nov. 2007

posted in
Send by email

Catlin Gabel students arrive at an empty Smith Rock State Park for some climbing

MORE PHOTOGRAPHS BELOW

Trip Report

By Abby

My brother drove both of us to meet the bus Saturday morning, me yawning and trying to remember if I’d packed my rain jacket… My father had warned us there might be showers. It drizzled throughout the bus ride to Central Oregon, but had stopped by the time we pulled over to the side of the road to eat our lunch. It was a large group: 18 students and four leaders. We spread a tarp to eat on, and everyone pulled out his or her own sack lunches. I ate my cream cheese bagel, decided I was still hungry, and tried to take some of my brother’s while he wandered behind a tree to commune with nature. He noticed when he got back.

Our next stop was the BLM station, where a friendly woman described our community service duties: cut down junipers. To most of us true Catlin students, the thought of cutting down a tree seemed absurd. Aren’t we the kids who plant trees? Aren’t we worried about global warming? The woman explained the details to us: junipers are a native but encroaching species, meaning although they grow in the desert natively, they are invading new areas because humans and cows have altered the ecological balance. So we thought we might try to alter it back. We followed her to a good spot, divided into two groups, and began chopping junipers. This first day was tough; despite the creative names Chris Potts came up with (example: loptomus prime), most of us were tired from the drive and would’ve rather been sleeping than working. After 4 hours, we were finally allowed to retire.

We camped our first night in a deserted campground along a dry riverbed. It was dark as we set up our tents, and we failed to see the slope we pitched our tents on or the small gullies made by water in the dirt, which I’ll get back to when I discuss bedtime.

Dinner came after camp set-up and ran smoothly after Brian and Peter dumped half of the spaghetti on the ground. Somebody mentioned this happens every time. I wouldn’t know, though the spaghetti was very good.

After a campfire, everyone went to bed. It was only about 8:30, but it had been a long day. The boys in the tent next door blessed us with a rowdy rendition of “JJJJJJJJJ,” and the next thing I knew I was waking up to the same song. It was accompanied by the steady drizzle of rain and an occasional complaint of “Gosh it’s wet in here!” Climbing outside, I saw Michal hanging his down jacket on a tree, where it dripped water and got even wetter in the rain. He looked at me and smiled. “There was a small river running through our tent,” he explained. “And we didn’t secure the rain fly correctly. Everything’s soaked.” Through the laughter coming from their tent I heard that they named the river the Rio San Gervais.

After a soggy breakfast, we packed our tents and climbed back on the bus, headed for another day in the juniper forest. I anticipated another boring day, but it turned out magnificently. We split into two groups again, and decided to work until lunch. It stopped raining after about 20 minutes, and the rest of the day was spent in sunshine. My group ended the day having cut down about 700 junipers, which was many more than we’d imagined possible (we’d predicted about 250). The chopping increased in fun as the day progressed; by the end we would stumble upon an area with a lot of small trees and act like we had arrived at the Promised Land. We were all disappointed to be leaving the junipers, since the next day we would not be coming back, but the tree tied to the front of the bus, named Alfredo, reminded us of our encounter with the “chosen trees.”

Leaving juniper land meant leaving the only sunny part of Central Oregon. As soon as we had arrived in Prineville, a mere 6 miles away, it was raining again.

We drove to a campsite near Smith, where we would stay for the next two nights. We set up the tents lightning fast, hoping to keep as much rain out of the tents as possible. Michal took special care with his rain fly.

Dinner was warm burritos around a crackling campfire. We had a group meeting where we discussed the highs and lows of the day. A man named Joel joined us, who had been at Smith for the last couple of weeks and was planning to stay until his school started in January. He said he’d seen the fire and decided to come over… fires were always welcome. I wanted to say that maybe a house would be more welcome, but decided not to make a comment. The mood around the campfire had been peaceful and alert, and Joel killed it by asking impolite questions like: “Who are you guys,” “Why are you here,” and “Why were you cutting down trees? Isn’t that bad for the environment?”

I was excited to climb, but hadn’t really admitted to myself yet that besides the fact that I had never climbed before, I was afraid of heights. I didn’t want to let it bother me, but as soon as I was on that rock I decided that maybe next time I should consider the lows before signing up for the trip.

I had joined the beginner’s class, so while everyone else went off to climb high, tough routes, a select 6 of us went to learn how to belay, tie knots, and communicate with the climber. They didn’t teach us how to climb. I think maybe that part’s supposed to come naturally.

Each of us 6 climbed 2 routes in the morning, then ate lunch with the larger group and spent the rest of the day climbing with them. Two climbs didn’t seem like enough to be thrown in with the professionals, but I succeeded in one climb in the afternoon. I had someone helping me, pointing out helpful hand holds and such, I was passed by Peter who started at least 10 minutes after me, and multiple times I considered asking to come down, but when I reached the top I felt more accomplished than I ever have before in my life. I don’t know why. I’ve done cool and challenging things before. But the feeling of “Wow I actually climbed that?” was pretty cool.

After dinner out at a Mexican restaurant, as tradition called for, we made another campfire and discussed the high and low points of the day again. Everything people said about climbing I seemed to understand now; the screaming, the mental exhaustion, the triumph. Disappointingly, Joel didn’t join us.

A rousing chorus of “Kum-By-Ah” served as our lullaby, and we fell asleep dreaming of a clean, dry bed.

I heard rain in the middle of the night and thought to myself “oh god, tomorrow is going to suck if it’s wet,” but when we woke the ground wasn’t wet; instead, it was white. The snow set the mood for the day: amazing. It was warm in the sun, good climbing weather, the park was empty, and everyone climbed successfully. My fear rose up again when I was climbing, but I wanted to feel like I had the day before when I reached the top of the route, so I kept going. I am pretty sure rock climbing is a drug if it really made me do that.

Rummage Sale featured on AM NW

Send by email
KATU TV video clip, Novermber 07

"Goats make a meal (or two) out of ivy"

Send by email
Beaverton Valley Times article, November 07

Continual Improvement

posted in
Send by email
by Lark P. Palma, Ph.D.

“Flexible, adaptive, and productive organizations will excel in a rapidly changing world.”

—Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline and senior lecturer at MIT

Building a shared vision for change is an important aspect of Catlin Gabel’s organizational growth and continuing relevance. How do we make decisions about change? How do we inform our practice?

Curriculum

We constantly rethink what it means to be educated because we never believe we have achieved the apex of perfection. It is imperative for us to continue to grow and change and make sure Catlin Gabel provides a 21st century education for every student, every year. Each class, with its different character, depends on our careful scrutiny of what we teach, how we teach, and how we allocate our resources.

As a progressive school, we look for ways to enhance learning for our students. We continually assess how we’re doing based on student and faculty evaluations, and parent feedback. We look to current research, educational innovators, other schools, national standards, and professional councils to guide decisions about changing and improving our curriculum. The independent school accreditation process calls for reflection and requires that we ask ourselves if we are truly serving our students the way we intend. Through these multiple evaluative processes, decisions to change curriculum or add programs are born out of sound philosophical and pedagogical principles.

The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics, for example, has standards of good practice. We made sure we considered those standards when adjusting our math curriculum not long ago. When we examined our program, we recognized that math teaching could be improved to reach a wider span of student interests and abilities. We asked a consultant to work with us on what is termed extensions. The consultant worked specifically with third and fifth grade teachers to help us better reach the wide range of mathematical abilities in a given classroom. The teachers learned techniques for going deeper with students who are grasping mathematical concepts quickly, while serving students who require a slower pace to fully understand complex concepts.

Our global education initiative, born out of the Imagine 2020 conference in 2006, is another area where we are improving on what we do. We determined that to best serve students in the 21st century, Catlin Gabel should expand global experiences for our students through travel, exchange programs, and curriculum. We formed a leadership committee composed of teachers from across divisions, staff members, and trustees, evaluated our current program, researched what other schools do, and invited Peter Tacy to campus to work with us. Peter is an educator and author of Ideals at Work: Education for Stewardship in the Round Square Schools. (Round Square is an international network of high schools that shares values of leadership, environmental stewardship, service and global education.) Currently, we are in the early stages of evolving into a more comprehensive program. The Upper School trip to Turkey last summer is an example of our moving beyond our language-based trips, to a more multidisciplinary exploration of culture, politics, archaeology, and history.

“Organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs.” —Peter Senge

Conferences and workshops provide a steady source of information about current pedagogy and innovations. Teacher growth depends on constant learning and exposure to ideas from breakthroughs in brain research and learning styles to integrating technology. We also gain a great deal from sharing what we do with others. Throughout the year we host visitors from other schools who are interested in seeing Catlin Gabel in action. In mid-October, two school heads visited to explore how we teach math and writing. When we explain how we do what we do, and why, we further our own understanding of teaching and learning. I am delighted that 21 Catlin Gabel teachers and staff members presented at the October All Schools Conference. Sharing ideas sprouts new and better ideas. (Five audio presentations from the All Schools Conference are available on the website's Campus Life section.)

Operating Practices

Decisions about our operating practices such as tuition rates, class sizes, fundraising goals, salaries, and numbers of staff members are made by comparing Catlin Gabel to similar schools.

Catlin Gabel is a member of the Mid-Sized School Benchmark Project along with 26 schools nationwide that enroll approximately 700 students in preschool through high school day programs. Among the member schools are Bush School in Seattle, Wilmington Friends School in Delaware, Friends Academy in New York, and the Wheeler School in Providence.

We look at our peer schools to gain as much information as we can to see how we fit into the big picture. The information is adjusted to the cost of living in each school’s community, and the numbers are calibrated for an accurate comparison. The comparative analyses examine everything from SAT scores, to student grades, admission inquiries, development expenses, faculty workload, and endowment. We look at the results of the Mid-Sized School Benchmark Project as data points that inform our decisions about operations. Beyond our benchmark schools, we look to local public schools for salary benchmarking and to other NAIS and PNAIS schools with national reputations for excellence for additional information.

Our core decisions about managing resources, adjusting curriculum, and introducing change are carefully considered. We hold ourselves accountable through the accreditation process, continually educating ourselves, benchmarking, surveying parents, students, and alumni, and looking to other exceptional educators.

I hope our founder, Ruth Catlin, would have been pleased to know that we maintain her progressive vision 80 years after she described her philosophy: “To maintain a school with the most enlightened ideals of education . . . To contribute to the community and its schools an educational laboratory, free to utilize the knowledge and wisdom of leading educators.” Catlin Gabel will continue to be a leader in progressive education as we change for the better and for the future.