Since its founding more than 127 years ago, Allendale Columbia School has been dedicated to the highest standards of teaching and learning in the classroom. More recently, in 1983, the Board of Trustees created the first endowed Chair for teaching excellence. Since then, we have been fortunate to be able to attract, retain, and reward some of the best educators locally and globally.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the Head of School, we are pleased to recognize and celebrate three highly respected, talented teachers who embody the mission of Allendale Columbia School in everything they do.
Each of these teachers is dedicated to preparing students for the world that they will inherit, by creating a trusting and responsive environment for their students to grow in confidence and develop scholastic independence. They pursue the highest standard of excellence and strive to give our students opportunities for them to make a positive impact locally and globally, even at the earliest ages.
Jennifer Truong: Virginia and Fred Gordon Chair in Elementary Education
Please join me in congratulating Jennifer Truong as the new Virginia and Fred Gordon Chair in Elementary Education. Given every five years to a recipient who then holds the Chair for the five subsequent years, this award recognizes excellence in teaching in the elementary grades. It is awarded to a teacher whose merit is appreciated both within and outside the school community and who has earned the respect and recognition of peers.
As Mick Gee, Head of School, shared in the meeting where Jenn was installed as the fifth recipient of this Chair, “Jenn is a teacher’s teacher. Her dedication to helping her students grow academically and socially is extraordinary and she has earned the reputation of being one of the strongest teachers in the school. Jenn creates a student-centered learning environment in her classroom where second grade students feel supported and challenged in equal amounts. She is a pedagogical expert, a detailed planner, and quite simply one of the hardest working people in our community.”
If you spend ten minutes in one of Jenn’s classes, you will witness second grade students creating new knowledge, designing websites, recording podcasts, and honing their ability to think critically and communicate effectively. All of this occurs in an environment that is joyful, challenging, and inspiring; she is constantly encouraging students to produce their best work and be the best version of themselves. Read more about Jennifer Truong and the Virginia and Fred Gordon Chair in Elementary Education here.
Rob Doran: James R. Kolster Chair in Mathematics
Please join me in congratulating Rob Doran as the new James R. Kolster Chair in Mathematics. Given every five years to a recipient who holds the Chair for the five subsequent years, this award recognizes excellence in teaching specifically in the area of mathematics. This year we are pleased to recognize and celebrate Rob’s extraordinary presence in the school for eighteen years as both a Middle and Upper School math instructor.
As Mick said when installing Rob as the sixth recipient of this Chair, “Rob is a consummate professional and dedicated teacher who literally lives and breathes math. Most of us know Rob through his tireless work with his students. He is amongst the first people to arrive in the morning and almost certainly one of the last to leave at night, spending many additional hours helping students individually outside of class. Rob has played a pivotal role in helping students to grow in confidence and find their “math legs” as they move through our program, particularly in our Middle School.” He has the ability to empower his students and shift their mindset from math phobic to math loving; this is a rare gift indeed.
Outside of the classroom, Rob is fully immersed in the life of the school and offers many opportunities for students to be successful. He volunteers every year to coach the MathCounts Team, is one of the Middle School’s strongest advisors, chaperones the annual 8th grade trip to Washington DC, coaches Ultimate Frisbee, and as if all that wasn’t enough, Rob also works tirelessly behind the scenes to provide technical expertise for the Middle School show. Read more about Rob Doran and the James R. Kolster Chairin Mathematics here.
Donna Kwiatkowski: Gleason Chair for Teaching Excellence
Finally, please join me in congratulating Donna Kwiatkowski as the new recipient of the Gleason Chair for Teaching Excellence. Given every five years to a recipient who holds the Chair for the five subsequent years, this award recognizes teaching excellence in any grade level, in any subject field, for the highest standards of excellence in independent school teaching. It is with great pride and pleasure that we honor Donna Kwiatkowski as the new Gleason Chair for Teaching Excellence for her long history of outstanding teaching and service to the school as our loyal, talented, and beloved Nursery teacher.
Donna has been teaching at AC for an amazing 31 years. As many of you know firsthand, she is a master teacher dedicated to her craft. She is and has been responsible for developing the hearts and minds of AC’s youngest students for more than three decades. As Mick said at Donna’s installation, “the impact of Donna’s teaching can be seen every day throughout the school. Not only in her classroom and at her lunch table, but in older students at all grade levels who benefited from their early years with Donna. Many of these older students, and even not-so-young adults, have grown into the people they are today because of the lessons learned during the time they spent with her.”
Together with her Pre-Kindergarten teaching partners, Donna has helped to build one of the strongest programs at AC, and anywhere in this region. Her classes are always full — often with a waiting list — and her reputation amongst elementary educators, and parents in the know, is exemplary. Read more about Donna Kwiatkowski and the Gleason Chair for Teaching Excellence.
For more information about any of our named endowed chairs for teaching excellence, please contact Karyn Vella, Assistant Head for External Affairs.
Posted in: Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, Pre-Primary School, Upper School
Learning occurred on multiple levels at TEDxAllendaleColumbiaSchool on February 3rd. You may already be familiar with TED talks, and TEDx events are local versions of those talks. What makes this TEDx event different from most is that it was planned and produced from start to finish by AC students.
Posted in: Centers for Impact, Eleventh Grade, Entrepreneurship, Global Engagement, Highlights, Invent, Ninth Grade, Partnerships, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School
We are delighted to share that the 32 members of the Class of 2017 will attend colleges and universities in 10 different states, the District of Columbia, Scotland, and England! Our seniors’ academic and artistic achievements were recognized with over $2.4 million in merit-based scholarships and invitations into honors and special programs. Click here to see a list of their plans for next year.
Please join us in congratulating the Class of 2017 and wishing them well in their future endeavors!
Posted in: Alumni News, College Advising News, Highlights, Kid Kudos, Twelfth Grade, Upper School
Posted in: Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Kindergarten, Lower School, Second Grade, Third Grade
As a science teacher, builder, designer, tinkerer and innovator at heart, I make several stops down to the Design & Innovation Lab every day, not because I need to, but because what I have seen go on in this room makes me excited to be an educator here.
I’ve seen chairs and tables pushed aside, marshmallows, spaghetti and 2nd graders strewn all over the floor designing arches; drones flying in and outside the large glass doors, the buzz not coming only from motors, but from the 3D printers with work from the Student Rapid Prototyping Club; students feverishly coding an app to solve a real, local problem as they work through the joys and challenges of the collaboration process; dry erase markers on the glass, mapping out ideas, concepts and strategies.
Design and Innovation doesn’t discriminate. It can happen at any age, any time and takes many shapes and forms. It looks different from day to day here at Allendale Columbia, and although this room may appear to be a tangible four walls, it has broken down the walls of mindsets about what it is to be innovative and forward thinking.
There’s a very powerful thing that happens in a space like this from a teacher’s perspective, and that’s student ownership. Students who can dig in, roll up their sleeves and do real work to actually build, create and design are able to grab hold of concepts and skills more deeply and differently than in a traditional classroom setting.
Sometimes the learning is subtle with students seeing something through to completion because it’s their project or design and they have a vested interest in it. It becomes a journey not an end. Their experience is much more meaningful when the learning comes from struggle and failure, whether it be through a design and build or through differences of opinions and ideas.
Parents have told me that their students used to come home saying, “Guess what I learned today”, now say, “Guess what I want to try to do now!” That’s a powerful difference, and for our students here at Allendale Columbia, this new space, has provided a place that defines innovation but doesn’t confine it.
Written by Tina Duver, Assistant Head of Middle School and Science Teacher
Posted in: Highlights
Our International Summer S.T.E.M. Camp brought American and Chinese students together again for another great summer immersion program for middle and high school students. American and Chinese students were teamed together, one-to-one, to experience a culture different from their own. Throughout their very full week, the student teams were provided opportunities to design, innovate, build, and tinker within collaborative learning spaces. During the morning hours, authentic learning experiences were offered in Allendale Columbia’s S.T.R.E.A.M. Program (science, technology, research, engineering, arts, and mathematics). Throughout the afternoon hours, students were immersed in the internationally recognized Vista Teach Summer S.T.E.M. Programs in Robotics and Engineering Education. This hands-on, unscripted week of innovation and design offered a rare opportunity for students to build collaborative skills across cultural differences while also developing global friendships.
This unique venue continues to offer many enriching benefits not only for our participating students but also for our team of S.T.E.M. educators and, each summer, we always look forward to another amazing week teaching Robotics and Engineering Education to our collaborative teams of Chinese and American students!
Click here to view a video all about this exciting program!
Posted in: Highlights
Most people think of lemurs when they think about Madagascar. After all, who doesn’t love those cute little furry primates? It is true that lemurs are a huge part of Madagascar’s past and present, and hopefully they will remain around to be part of its future as well. However, lemurs are only a small part of the amazing flora and fauna that is endemic to Madagascar and in danger of becoming extinct without intervention.
When I first met Professor Patricia Wright while presenting at the 2014 National Science Teacher’s Association National Conference in Boston, I became more intrigued by Madagascar’s culture and history. We spoke about the struggles that the Malagasy people have to provide for themselves with their limited resources and how this impacts the many animals and plants that share this marvelous country with them. Pat’s work has been key in preserving the rainforests, educating the people about conservation and hygiene, providing them with medical support, and helping them financially by providing them with jobs. She brings college students to her facility in Ranomafana National Park during exchange programs each year, but not younger students. Being globally-minded educators, our heads started to spin with possibilities and my plans for a visit took shape.
On June 8th, I departed Toronto for a journey halfway across the globe to a world that one usually only dreams about. My plane landed in the dark the evening of June 9th at Ivato International Airport, which is just outside the capital city of Antananarivo. I was instantly reminded of the slash and burn technique that is all too common in Madagascar as the smell of smoke was stronger than the lights on the runway. The crowd of people present at the only counter inside the international airport also reinforced the fact that I was in a third world country. The drive to the hotel was filled with new sites: narrow winding roads running up and down the city’s mountainous terrain being shared with carts piled high with goods and being pulled and/or pushed by either the owners or cattle. There were buildings upon buildings but few lights, except those lighting up the large USA Embassy building. When we reached the door to the hotel, I was a bit intrigued as it looked nothing like the photographs on their website. However, once you pass by the security guard and through the door, it is apparent that this is a hidden oasis filled with modern amenities and safety.
As I rode through town and up to the Queen’s Palace the following morning, I noticed an abundance of national flags hung on the buildings and being sold throughout the city. Madagascar’s Independence Day was quickly approaching so everyone was decorating with flags to show their support. The Queen’s Palace sat at the highest point in Antananarivo, so the view was amazing. The palace holds so much history: political struggles, death and imprisonment, and cultural transitions. It was here that I truly began to understand the complex history of this island country.
A bright and early start to the day was essential as I began the drive south from Antananarivo to Ranomafana. As I reached the outskirts of the capital, I noticed rice paddies popping up all over. Rice is an important staple to the people of Madagascar and is served with every meal. The densely populated city gave way to narrow roads between small roadside villages and larger towns interspersed with rice paddies, carts, brick structures, children, chicken, zebu, roadside stands, and an occasional market filled with goods and people from nearby towns. It was amazing to see the difference in towns and houses. Some villages consisted of small one or two room houses while others contained multistory houses and buildings. Occasionally a fire could be seen in the distant forest, usually a burning eucalyptus tree being turned into coal to fuel the stoves so meals could be prepared. Rivers were often filled with people washing their clothes that they would then spread along the banks to dry. The children were abundant: smiling and waving to the foreigners as we drove by.
As the clay banks gave way to more greenery, the rainforest appeared. It was beautiful! The mountains were once again filled with many species of huge trees along with plants and animals that are only seen in Madagascar. On the edge of Ranomafana National Park stands the research facility named Centre ValBio (CVB). It is a huge state of the art facility whose mission is to protect the unique biodiversity in Madagascar through projects and education of the local people. The facility is constantly teaming with researchers from around the world working alongside Malagasy people who know about their land but are also learning about the importance that it holds in the world. Centre ValBio employs many local people who act as educators, liaisons, cooks, administrators, and in other roles to make the facility a destination for scientists and students from around the globe. CVB contains labs, dorm rooms, research areas, conference rooms, work areas, a dining hall, and modern facilities with clean filtered and purified water, hot showers, and three warm meals a day.
While at CVB, I met many scientists conducting research. Herman Nambinintsoa Parfait Rafalinirina, a researcher from the University of Antananarivo, has been studying mouse lemurs in Ranomafana. One night I was able to watch as he took measurements and data from a newly trapped juvenile male mouse lemur that I named Michael before inserting a microchip and releasing him. Peter Houlihan, an assistant professor from the University of Florida in Gainesville, had a very large lab station on the roof where he was collecting moths to research the important role moth pollination has to the survival of wild orchids in Madagascar. Katie Guzzetta, a researcher from Hamilton College, is in Ranomafana studying Milne Edward’s Sifaka Lemur social interactions between males and females as well as colleting RNA samples to look at genetics between groups. Many other student researchers were using CVB as a home base while they went out and gathered data and samples with topics ranging from infectious diseases to the production of children’s conservation movies by a leading Madagascar movie producer and illustrator. Needless to say, there was a lot going on and everyone was eager to share their research with me.
I spent many days in the rainforest with various Malagasy guides. Dina was always with me along with either Theo or Stefan. It was great learning from the local guides as they could speak about the history of the park and the changes that have occurred in their lifetimes. They spoke about the beliefs of the Tanala people and taught me some of the useful phrases, which differ between the eighteen tribes in Madagascar. I was always amazed at how they could find the smallest or most camouflaged animals hiding in the forest. There are about 100 species of lemurs in Madagascar, and I saw six of the twelve species of lemurs that exist in Ranomafana including Milne-Edward’s Sifaka, Greater Bamboo, Golden Bamboo, Mouse, Dwarf, and Brown Bellied lemurs. In addition to these unique primates, I saw some amazing geckos, chameleons, moths, insects, frogs, eucalyptus trees, giant fern, and other flora and fauna. I was able to follow some of the researchers and learn about the ways that they collect data during their observation times and about the research that they are conducting. One of the fun facts that I learned from Professor John Cradle during one of my education lectures is that there are around 300 reptile species in Madagascar with 90% endemic to Madagascar.
Ranomafana was teeming with so many different animals with all different behavior patterns. One night I was able to take a night hike with a couple of my guides. We found tiny chameleons hanging in the trees, stick insects walking along a plant, moth larvae eating leaves, really large chameleons hanging out, and mouse lemurs enjoying bananas. One day I woke up as the sun was rising to go on an early morning bird hike with Dr. Jean Claude Razafimahaimodison, a professor from Fainarantsoa who received his doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and some of his colleagues. We saw many species of birds unique to Madagascar as well as the brown bellied lemur.
CVB is on the top of a long winding road that leads downwards past a few small villages, a school, and enters the village of Ranomafana. The village has a couple of hotels, local goods produced by women in the village, an educational center sponsored by CVB, shops and houses, a small hospital, a soccer field, and a thermal spa. Like many of the villages, one day a week is set aside for the market. People travel from many surrounding villages to set up their stands or purchase goods being sold. You can buy a wide array of goods: clothing, handmade crafts, produce, live animals, and much more. It is a great place to mingle with the locals and buy some great souvenirs. Dr. Jean Claude Razafimahaimodison was kind enough to bring me to the market to explore the excitement of the day’s activities.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Primary Ambat Olahy School, which is just down the road from CVB, with Florant, a CVB education liaison who teaches hygiene and conservation, and Laza, another CVB school liaison with a degree in marine biology. This five-room school educates about 180 students from two local villages. The rooms are very basic with wooden floors, tables, openings for windows, a chalkboard, and a dirt courtyard for recess. Some students travel up or down the hills by foot for over an hour each day to get to school. The students are very proud of the garden that they planted and maintain behind their school. This is part of their reforestation project, which teaches the students about conservation and preservation. Every student was curious about America and wanted to know what it was like. I wish I had pictures to share with them as they were very inquisitive. Later in the week I was able to visit the children’s seedling area in the village of Ambatolahy, just up the road from the school. The excitement of the children was overwhelming as they teamed up to receive their saplings. Together about 100 children and I walked up to the edge of the rainforest, climbed the hill, and planted 38 trees.
In the middle of my visit, I took a road trip west to Anja Reserve to see the ring tailed lemurs. My journey reminded me of the diversity of the villages as we once again traveled through a large town and passed many small villages. The children were everywhere, and they were very happy as they waved to me when I went by. We passed the grape vineyards and finally reached Anja. The ring tailed lemurs were a fun bunch, bouncing from tree to tree. There were so many of them that you did not have to venture far before they found you. The landscape of this area was so different from Ranomafana. There were huge rock boulders and mountains cropping up all over. The vegetation was more desert like with cactus style plants all around. Many types of chameleons were out on the branches, making them easily accessible to curious handlers.
After leaving Anja, we headed east towards Ranomafana. We could not resist stopping for lunch at the paper factory. The food was delicious, but the tour of the factory was the best part of the stop. At the small factory, the workers grow everything they need to make beautiful paper by hand. They use primitive tools to grind the wood to pulp, strain it, and inlay petals and bark to make amazing paper and other products, which were sold in their gift shop.
Ambodiaviavy was a remote village and I had to walk through rice paddies, over primitive little bridge constructions, and up a very long clay road to reach it. Laza and Santatra, who is the CVB village liaison with a law degree, came with me on this journey. I could tell that we were getting close to the village when I began hearing children yelling from the woods to their friends in the village. Upon entering the village we had to go straight to the king’s house to ask for permission to interact with the village people. We entered the two-room house of the king and sat on small wooden stools as he and the village chief spoke with Santatra. We asked permission and had to drink moonshine to toast the spirits of the ancestors in order to gain access. Once accepted we were made cassava roots and coffee to feast on, which was an interesting experience. They boil sugarcane then use that water to make the sweet coffee. We then had a special show by the local musicians and performers who played songs on their homemade instruments, sang, and danced traditional dances. Everyone in the village came to see us, and every child wanted to have their picture taken. There were a lot of children. It was quite the party! On our way out we met with the village natural healer to learn about his methods of treating the people with the plants that they grow in the garden.
During my final days, I traveled back to Antananarivo then east to Andisabe. It was amazing to see the larger houses and nice countryside. My driver, Dave, explained that it is due to the road being the major way that imports and exports travel to the main port of Toamasina on the east coast. The drive brought us through beautiful parks along meandering creeks to Feon Ny Ala, a small hotel consisting of cute bungalows. Our driver quickly found a guide and arranged for us to go on a night hike after dinner. During the hike we saw many types of chameleons, Wooly Lemurs, Mouse Lemurs, and Brown Lemurs. We woke to the songs of the largest lemur: the Indri. It was an interesting sound that carries for about two kilometers. This is the reason that our hotel is named Feon Ny Ala, as it means songs of the forest in Malagasy. We spent some time getting into the forest to see these amazing animals. We walked for a while in search of the Indri and they were well worth the hike. They sat very close to us and started to call to each other. The forest quickly filled with the songs of the Indri. It was amazing! Once we had heard enough, we made our way to another area of the forest and found the Golden Sifaka Lemurs. They were a beautiful golden color and very curious. They jumped from tree to tree next to us as we watched in awe. We walked back towards the entrance and saw Brown Lemurs, Eastern Bamboo Lemurs, and many other unique animals and plants. On the way back to Antananarivo to catch the flight back, I stopped at the Reserve Peyrieras Madagascar Exotica in Marozevo. This was a great stop as the park contained many species of reptiles, amphibians, insects, lemurs, and plants. The animals were all very friendly and seemed to enjoy being held, which made for nice photo opportunities.
From the unique culture and tribal customs to the many endemic species of plants and animals to the amazing geography, this country has what it takes to attract people of all interests. The people are very friendly and love to share their stories and learn about different countries. The many researchers at CVB are eager to share their research with visitors. My two weeks in Madagascar were amazing, and I can’t wait to share this wonderful country with others.
Posted in: Highlights
Allendale Columbia School has recently been featured in a number of news outlets, providing an opportunity to showcase our position as a cure for the Common Core in front of a wide range of audiences! Highlights are included below; we hope you enjoy reading about some of the great things happening at AC! Please note that the clips below will display best on desktop or laptop computers as opposed to mobile devices.
Allendale Columbia School Holds a Red Cross Blood Drive
May 1st, 2015
This television news story highlights how AC students recently gave back to the community by being among the first to participate in the Pint Size Hero Program, designed to teach young people the importance of blood donations. Click here to view the full story, which begins at the 12:05 mark.
Student Trade Fair at Allendale Columbia
April 30th, 2015
This story showcases the recent Entrepreneur Day Fair held by AC third, fourth, and fifth graders. As part of this annual project, students created business plans and products which they sold at table top shops to benefit Golisano Children’s Hospital, which was chosen by the students. Click here to see the full story, which includes comments from AC student Lilah Costanzo.
Local Lunches at Allendale Columbia a Tasty Change
April 27th, 2015
Reporter Sarah Taddeo discusses AC’s efforts to provide more healthy, sustainable, and locally-sourced meals in this Democrat and Chronicle article. The result is a leading-edge food service program that puts AC ahead of the curve. The article includes comments from AC’s Laura Reynolds-Gorsuch as well as our partner from Headwater Food Hub, which collects and distributes items from 30 to 40 local farms year-round. Click here to see the full story and photos!
Scholastic Arts Spotlight: Abigail Lindsey
April 27th, 2015
AC senior Abigail Lindsey is featured in this Scholastic Arts Spotlight from WROC Channel 8. An accomplished photographer and musician, Abigail will head to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland next year. Click here to see the full story!
Rochester Music Hall of Fame Inducts Five
April 26th, 2015
This Democrat and Chronicle article provides a recap of the recent Rochester Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony. At the event, the first Douglas Lowry Music Award, named for the late director of the Eastman School of Music, was presented to AC senior Sage Melcher. Click here to read!
Earth Day at Allendale Columbia School
April 22nd, 2015
Several news stations joined us for our recent Earth Day Fair, during which AC students delivered presentations about a variety of topics, local food vendors provided food samples, each division competed to see which could make the least amount of garbage at lunchtime, students worked to think of ways to conserve our natural resources, and AC collected electronics from the community for recycling. Click here to see 13 WHAM’s coverage (story begins at the 21:58 mark), here to see Time Warner’s coverage (story begins at the 5:34 mark), here to see WROC 8’s coverage (story begins at the 14:14 mark), here to see the coverage from Good Day Rochester (story begins at the 8:40 mark), and here to see a photo printed in the Brighton-Pittsford Post.
Origami Bouquets Win Young Entrepreneurs Contest
April 9th, 2015
Another Young Entrepreneurs Academy business has been selected as a semifinalist to compete at the regional level. AC freshman James Bourtis, was chosen for his idea for Sprouting Paper, a business that specializes in origami bouquets. Each blossom is hand-folded and each bouquet is created entirely out of paper. Click here to read the Democrat and Chronicle article!
“Anything Goes” Musical Opens April 14th
April 9th, 2015
Gabriella Perez, a 2010 AC graduate, is currently making her national Broadway tour debut, playing the role of Purity in “Anything Goes.” Perez, 23, fell in love with theatre growing up in Rochester, where she performed locally at AC, Geva Theatre Center, Webster Theatre Guild, and the Rochester Association of Performing Arts before earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from New York University. Click here to see the full article!
After Months Of Campaigning, 7th Graders Save Rochester Science Congress
April 1st, 2015
After only three students signed up for the 2014 Science Congress and the event was canceled, AC students Liza Cotter and Matthew Duver took action, working to promote this year’s event so that the competition would not be canceled indefinitely. This Time Warner Cable News story details that not only did the students save the science fair, but Liza also won the junior division! Click here to watch!
McQuaid Jesuit, Allendale Columbia Students Score at FLCC Engineering Competition
April 1st, 2015
AC Upper School students won the 9th and 10th grade category of an engineering competition held at the Finger Lakes Community College Victor Campus Center. The event was called TEAMS, which stands for Tests of Engineering Aptitude Mathematics and Science, and it pitted six teams from five schools in a competition to come up with a solution to an engineering problem. Click here to see the Brighton-Pittsford Post article about this competition!
Posted in: AC in the News, Highlights