Gettysburg & D.C. Excursion Humbling, Insightful for 8th-Graders

Posted on May 17th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Allendale Columbia’s 8th-graders traveled to Gettysburg and Washington, D.C. in early May as the culmination of their Middle School experience, with many tie-ins to their Capstone Project. First, they visited the Gettysburg Civil War battlefield where more than 50,000 Americans lost their lives. The visit dovetailed perfectly with the class’s studies, and, as one 8th-grader said, “Being there really helped me comprehend what happened.” Mr. Seth Hopkins, a Civil War buff, guided our bus tour, providing colorful commentary on Gettysburg’s significance and on the considerable sacrifices made by Upstate New York regiments.

In D.C., the 8th-graders spent two days exploring museums on the National Mall, including the National Gallery of Art, National Museum of American History, National Air & Space Museum, National Museum of the American Indian, and the National Museum of Natural History.

A first for AC was a visit to the new National Museum of African American History & Culture. Students connected to their studies of slavery’s origins in the Americas, Abolitionism, and the Civil War, as well as to the African American experience during both World Wars. “I learned about how the African slave trade was started. Seeing actual slave shackles helped me gain a  better understanding of how badly they were treated,” noted one student. Another explained, “At Gettysburg, we learned how African Americans took up arms to fight for their freedom. When we visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture, I was surprised to learn that African American soldiers did the same thing during the Revolutionary War.”

Another highlight was the new “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibit at the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, introduced by Jeffrey Parker, a Rochesterian who now heads the museum’s education program. Finally, students were awed and inspired by night visits to the Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Martin Luther King, Jr., Vietnam, Korean, and WWII memorials. “When we saw all of the small names listed on the Vietnam Memorial,” said a student, “we found it both sad and shocking, especially as we thought about the fact that most soldiers were only a few years older than we are now.”

Another important facet of this trip was the bonding among students encouraged by both the long bus ride and our overnight facilities. By limiting electronic device usage to only photos and calls home, students conversed, played games, and got to know each other better. “I actually liked that rule in the end,” said one of the students. “It forced us to talk to each other!” Students also benefited from staying at a Boy Scout camp. They played outside, hung out and made s’mores around a campfire, cooked breakfast, packed their own lunches, and then cleaned up after themselves before we left. The trip was an action-packed three days that our 8th-graders will remember for a lifetime!


Kristin Cocquyt

Andrew Ragan

Andrew came to teach Middle School History at Allendale Columbia School after 20 years in educational publishing and living in Pittsburgh, New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, and the Adirondacks. He began writing for young people at Junior Scholastic magazine and has since published hundreds of articles in such magazines as JS, Scholastic News, Disney Adventures, Creative Classroom, and more. After teaching freshman composition at the University of Southern California for several years, Andrew served as the Senior Editor for Disney Adventures Magazine. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and Communications, with honors, from Carnegie Mellon University and his master's degree in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.
Kristin Cocquyt

Deanna Interlicchia

Deanna graduated from St. John Fisher College with a bachelor's degree in Adolescent English Education and went on to get her master's degree from SUNY Brockport in English Literature. She joined Allendale Columbia in 2007 from Freddie Thomas Learning Center where she student taught, and Canandaigua Middle School before that.
Kristin Cocquyt

Teresa Parsons

Teresa joined the Allendale Columbia team as a Middle School STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) teacher after spending 15 years in the engineering industry. She was a product engineer, then she transitioned into marketing and business development. As a business development manager, she created and provided product training, and it was in that role that she discovered her passion for teaching. Teresa earned a Master of Science Degree in Education from Nazareth College, and also holds two bachelor's degrees in Interdisciplinary Engineering/Management from Clarkson University and in Physics from the State University of New York College at Geneseo.
Kristin Cocquyt

Seth Hopkins

Seth brings 22 years of teaching experience at the Middle and High School level from Wellsville Central School District, The Charter School for Science and Technology, and most recently, The Norman Howard School. Seth holds a CAS in Educational Administration from The State University of New York College at Brockport, an MS in Adolescent Education in English from The State University of New York College at Geneseo, and a BA in History from The State University of New York at Stony Brook. Seth also holds New York State Certifications in Social Studies (Grades 7-12), English (Grades 7-12), Students with Disabilities (Grades 7-12), School Building Leader, and School District Leader. Additionally, Seth has been involved with grant writing efforts and curriculum development, and has served on a variety of professional committees.
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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Eighth Grade, Highlights, Middle School

Capstone Exhibition Shows Grade 8 Interdisciplinary Learning

Posted on May 17th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

8th-grade students showcased their learning at the 2019 8th Grade Exhibition Day. This was the fourth year that 8th-graders have spent their second semester immersed in an interdisciplinary capstone experience related to World War II that combined concepts from their history, English, and science courses.

The capstone experience began after reading Most Likely to Succeed by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith, furthering the emphasis on 21st century skills such as research, collaboration, and communication versus traditional classroom learning as students prepare to transition to Upper School and the world beyond. (more…)

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Posted in: Eighth Grade, Highlights, Middle School

Produce a Play in Just 3 Days!

Posted on May 16th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Calling all Upper School writers, performers, and designers (or anyone who has ever wanted to try…)!

Allendale Columbia Upper School students are invited to participate in an innovative Three-Day experimental theatre experience where they will work with AC faculty and community experts to write, design, stage, and perform an original play, complete with a set and costumes…in one weekend!

  • Friday, May 31st, 3 – 11 p.m.: Writing, editing, casting, read through
  • Saturday, June 1st, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.: Staging, rehearsing, designing, building
  • *Sunday, June 2nd, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.: Rehearsal and PERFORMANCE!
    NOTE: *Sunday times may change due to HAC Varsity Year End Awards

Register to participate by Monday, May 22nd.

Return to this page for updates throughout the production.

Please direct any questions to Amanda Meldrum at


Amanda Meldrum (Event Manager/Director)
A native of Rochester, NY, Amanda has been on stage since she can remember, either in musicals, bands, orchestras, or choirs. Amanda holds a Bachelor of Science in Music Therapy from SUNY Fredonia, has studied Vocal Performance and Music Education at Eastman School of Music, and has completed her master’s coursework in Creative Arts Therapy at Nazareth College. Her work as a music therapist took her to Detroit and Southern California, where she worked with children and adults in schools, hospitals, and community centers. After returning to Rochester in 2009, Amanda decided to pursue another passion and soon found herself immersed in the city’s vibrant world of youth theatre. She spent 6 years as a music director and vocal coach at Spotlight Theatre Arts and A Magical Journey Thru Stages before joining the faculty at Allendale Columbia School as a full-time music and theatre instructor. Amanda is so happy to be a part of the Allendale Columbia community, and loves watching our students grow from the rich, diverse experiences an education in the arts provides.
Chris Henning (Technical Theatre Expert)
Chris has been providing technical theatre education for nearly 20 years and has been with Allendale Columbia for 6 years. Chris also provides support for other special events on campus like Holiday Breakfast, Graduation, and TEDxAllendaleColumbiaSchoo l. Over the years, Chris has worked with many local organizations and schools such as Nazareth College, JCC, and Blackfrairs. When Chris is not working in the theatre, he can be found touring the country providing production support for CMI Communications.
Amanda Gianniny (Writing Expert)
Ms. G. has been a writer since Kindergarten when she published her first book, Little Duck Hatches, a book so memorable her father still quotes it to this day. She went on to write more stories and poems and eventually combined her passion for writing and her love of live music and became a music journalist in Austin, TX. She covered concerts and music festivals and even interviewed several bands. In her day job, Ms. G. brought her enthusiasm for writing to the classroom and worked with students from Kindergarten through 12th grade as a tutor and classroom teacher. She was the leader of a summer writing program in Texas and has founded several writing clubs, including one here at AC! She currently spends part of her summers as an artist/writer in residence at a summer camp. Ms. G. is the literacy advocate for the Lower School. She is partial to poetry, creative nonfiction, and writing silly song parodies. “Everyone has a story to tell, and I love the process of helping writers to play with words and bring those stories to life.”
Nicole Carson (Design Expert)
Nicole has worked on scenic design, sets, props, and costumes for nearly every Allendale Columbia production over the past several years, including The Sound of Music, Through the Looking Glass, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Into the Woods JR, and Peter Pan JR. In real life, she’s a baker at the Red Fern restaurant in Rochester.
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Posted in: Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Lower School Reads for 100 Minutes at Camp Read-A-Lot

Posted on May 10th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Students camped out at school with some good books as Allendale Columbia’s Lower School students completed their 100 minutes of reading at Camp Read-A-Lot on May 10th. (Read the preview, Wolfie Stirs Students to Read and Help for May 10 Read-A-Thon.)

With Wolfie and Ranger Feiss (Head of Lower School Michelle Feiss) kicking things off in a fun assembly, students returned to their classrooms where they staked out comfy spots to read in tents, under desks, in comfy chairs, on rugs, and other places.Head of School Mick Gee announced, “Ready, Set, Read!”, and they began their 100 minutes. Some read alone, some read together, fourth graders read to Kindergarteners, and some first-graders even read to their newly-hatched chicks!

Overall, camping out to read was not only fun, but beneficial: the money pledged to student readers goes to benefit AC’s Summer LEAP program.

Go to our Google Photos album to see all the photos from Camp Read-A-Lot.


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Posted in: Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Kindergarten, Lower School, Second Grade, Third Grade

Rereading the Same Books? 3rd-Graders Rock Reading Challenge

Posted on May 10th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

by Arielle Gillman and Shari Ellmaker, 3rd Grade Teachers

Do you ever find yourself or your child(ren) stuck re-reading the same few books, over and over again?

This past winter, AC third-graders were tasked with completing a challenge to expand their reading stamina and book choice. Similar to the book tasting they did early on in the year (see “Expand the Menu to Enrich Your Child’s Reading”), students were exposed to six different genres of text: poetry, nonfiction, realistic fiction, fantasy, graphic novel, and biography. From here, the third-graders had about six weeks to read at least one book from each genre and complete a short form highlighting key details and their personal reflections about each book they read.

Right away, we noticed that students were motivated to get out of their comfort zone and try books that they have never considered before! Instead of reading the same old books from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series or rereading the entire Harry Potter saga for the umpteenth time, students branched out and read everything from biographies about Frederick Douglass, nonfiction articles about deep sea diving, poetry from Shel Silverstein, and classic fantasy novels such as Matilda. Each week during the Genre Reading Challenge, students kept track of their progress by filling out a bar graph and with more and more books being completed, motivation only kept growing.

Students completed the challenge right before break, with the whole class having read a total of 126 books! At this point, we told the class,”Congratulations, you’ve unlocked a surprise reward…you will find out about the reward soon, during the month of May!”

Fast forward to May 9th, the day of the reward. Parents were invited to secretly come in and read their child’s favorite book with them outside to celebrate the completion of their Genre Reading Challenge. We all managed to keep the surprise, and students were thoroughly shocked to see their family members at school in the middle of the school day. Outside, students enjoyed an impromptu reading session with their families in the warm spring breeze. As teachers, we were so happy to see the smiles on our students’ faces while they read and relaxed. What a rewarding way to celebrate reading!


Kristin Cocquyt

Arielle Gillman

Arielle has been involved in the field of education, either through volunteering, as a college student, or as a teacher, since she was 14 years old. She has taught students in multiple grades in Penfield, Fairport, Webster, and Newark and has also worked at the Mary Cariola Children's Center and The Community Place of Greater Rochester. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Childhood Education from SUNY Fredonia and her Master of Science Degree in Literacy Education from SUNY Geneseo.
Kristin Cocquyt

Sharon Ellmaker

Shari has been an educator for over 26 years, and teaching at Allendale Columbia for 19. She has taught second, third, and fourth grade with experience in public school, suburban, inner-city, independent, and college-level settings. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education from Bluffton University.
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Posted in: Highlights, Lower School, Third Grade

AC Class of 2019 Celebrates Decision Day

Posted on May 3rd, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Allendale Columbia’s Class of 2019 celebrated the May 1st Decision Day by wearing apparel from their future schools. They plan to attend colleges in all corners of the United States, including the University of Southern California, the University of Texas at Austin, Middlebury College, Berklee College of Music and 15 different colleges and universities in New York state. (more…)

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Posted in: College Advising News, Highlights, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Wolfie Stirs Students to Read and Help for May 10 Read-A-Thon

Posted on May 3rd, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

by Randy Northrup, 5th Grade Teacher

Students from Nursery through Grade 5 gathered in the Curtis Performance Center (CPC) for a Read-A-Thon Kick-off. Mrs. Michelle Feiss, Head of Lower School, noticed all sorts of camping equipment on the stage and, along with the students, figured that AC mascot, Wolfie, was up to something.

Sure enough, Wolfie shared that he was missing all the fun he had at Camp Howl-A-Lot last summer and was trying to recreate the experience. After talking about all of the fun activities he enjoyed at camp, Wolfie asked what students at AC like to do.

Mrs. Feiss explained that two of the things AC Lower School students like to do, READ and HELP OTHERS, were why they were gathered. She explained that our students can read for 100 minutes on May 10th to raise money to support literacy activities at AC Summer LEAP. Ms. Lindsey Brown, Director of Summer LEAP, shared information about Summer LEAP, a six-week academic and character education initiative that provides students in grades K-5 from School No. 17 in the Rochester City School District with an opportunity to continue to strengthen their reading and math skills during the summer months.

Wolfie returned with a great idea. Why don’t we call this Camp Read-A-Lot and read together in camping fashion because reading is “in tents!”? Wolfie signed Mrs. Feiss up as Camp Director with her own ranger hat.

Just as Wolfie wondered whether the students would be able to find enough books to read, the AC Reading Fairy, Ms. Amanda Gianinny, showed up via video to share an inspiring song.

With everyone in the mood to sing, Ms. Lynn Grossman and Ms. Linsay Alexander taught the students a “Camp Read-A-Lot Song” in a rousing sing-along. Wolfie will be sending messages to students at lunch to keep up the enthusiasm.

Families and friends are invited to sponsor students per minute, as the Lower School children will read and participate in reading activities for ONE HUNDRED MINUTES. Pledging is not required for students to participate in this fun activity. Pledge forms must be returned to your child’s homeroom teacher by Monday, April 8th.

Read-a-thon Pledge Sheet

Kristin Cocquyt

Richard Northrup

Randy, a fifth-grade teacher currently, always knew that he would teach. He has been in the field of education for 40 years and at Allendale Columbia School for 36 years. Randy holds both a Bachelor of Science Degree and a Master of Science Degree in Education from the College at Brockport. He is the father of four AC “Lifers” (Kaitlin ’99, Zachary ’01, Gus ’03, and Hannah ’05). He was the David M. Pynchon Chair in the Visual and Performing Arts in 1999.
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Posted in: Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Kindergarten, Lower School, Nursery, Pre-Primary School, PreKindergarten, Second Grade, Summer LEAP, Third Grade

Students Celebrate Earth Day with More Than 100 Brown Trout

Posted on April 25th, 2019 by cnickels

As News 8 Anchor Adam Chodak said, “You can add that to the list of things I never did in school.” Allendale Columbia’s 7th-grade scientists got out of the classroom and into knee-high water boots to survey a portion of Irondequoit Creek in the hopes of returning more than 160 trout back to nature. Just another Earth Day at AC.

It was all part of a Trout in the Classroom project that AC Science and Math Teacher Beth Guzzetta initiated back in September. She received brown trout eggs from the Bath Fish Hatchery and guided the students through the lifecycle stages of caring for the eggs, watching them hatch, and keeping the fish strong and healthy in a classroom aquarium. Students helped to set up the 60-gallon aquarium and monitored the water quality daily (even over breaks!) to make sure it was safe for the fish. If the students weren’t sure about something, they had to do the research and then make adjustments based on what they learned. Regular water changes were a must, so students learned how to safely complete 25-gallon water changes. (more…)

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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Highlights, Invent, Middle School, Seventh Grade