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
We are excited to introduce a new series called Talk to the Expert Tuesdays! Through this series, once a month we will share insights and information from some of the experts right here on the AC campus.
For our first Talk to the Expert Tuesday, we are delighted to feature AC faculty member Martha Bjorklund. Martha is AC’s Enrichment Specialist and has been at AC for over 14 years with 30 years of teaching experience! If a student or class has a special interest, and they want to investigate more about the subject or dig deeper about what they are studying, Martha is the person to go to! She collaborates with other professionals at AC as well as the outside community to help bring our students real-life learning opportunities. She leads programs like Reading Stars for our pre-kindergarten students and Entrepreneur Day for our third through fifth grade students.
Martha is a graduate of Skidmore College with a B.S. in Education and has her master’s degree in Reading from Fordham University. She’s received the Melissa Mosher Bilodeau Memorial Award for superior performance in both academic achievement and fieldwork in education as well as the honor of the Virginia and Fred Gordon Chair in Elementary Education for excellence in teaching in the elementary grades. In addition, Martha is a speaker at the following conferences: the National Science Teachers Association, Association of Math Teachers of New York State, Association of Math Teachers of the Rochester Area conferences, and New York State Independent School Association Technology Conference.
Martha says the best part about her role at AC is working with students of all ages from nursery through fifth grade at Allendale Columbia and collaborating with faculty and students from all divisions. She said, “With my students I am able to encourage curiosity, as well as promote academic, intellectual, and creative development with a variety of projects. I agree with philosopher John Dewey that ‘Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.’”
Posted in: Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, Pre-Primary School, Upper School
While most schools must follow the Common Core, we don’t teach to state tests. Here, learning goes far beyond books and tests, and it’s differentiated. We have the freedom to dig deeper so students can question more, discuss, debate, and question again. As a result, our students develop critical thinking skills and become effective problem solvers. Our faculty members use their independence and experience to connect knowledge to real life so our students can make more sense of the world – and their place in it. It all adds up to a different school of thought: high expectations and relevant experiences that prepare students to succeed in a global community.
This approach caught the attention of the Huffington Post; click here to read their exploration of AC’s answer to the Common Core!
Posted in: Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Kindergarten, Lower School, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Nursery, Pre-Primary School, PreKindergarten, Second Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Third Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School
The Allendale Columbia School kindergarten is busy practicing addition. We begin our addition unit by discussing the concept of putting groups of things together by having a “bears picnic.” The kids are given a picnic mat with a honey pot that has a number on it. They work in partners to place two colors of bears on the mat to equal the number on the honey pot. Coming up with different combinations of the two colors of bears allows them to see that different numbers can add up to the same answer. For more of a challenge the kids can also work in groups of three.
When we have worked with the bears for a bit, we move on to “Addition Stars.” This game has partners coming up with a number sentence using two addends that equal a sum of twelve or less. The kids use colored blocks for the addends and a number card to show the sum. If the number sentence is built and read correctly, their team gets a star on the board. The teams may earn another star for that round if their sum happens to be the same as the “secret sum” card that the teacher picks and hides before the round begins. The “secret sum” cards are numbered 0-12, like the student cards, but also have a “lowest sum” and “highest sum” card. The game is played for several rounds each day, for several days, until everyone has a strong grasp of the concept. When we are done with the game and have a solid grasp of addition using manipulatives, we move on to paper and pencil addition.
The kids love the game and are eager to earn stars and bonus stars. They even choose to independently use the game in small groups during free time in the classroom. The kids in the Allendale Columbia kindergarten are indeed “Addition Stars!”
Posted in: Highlights, Kindergarten, Lower School
Allendale Columbia School art teacher and Rochester Institute of Technology alumna, Amy Bonner Oliveri received the David M. Pynchon Chair in the Arts. Awarded every five years to a member of the Allendale Columbia School art faculty, the David M. Pynchon Chair in the Arts was established to recognize excellence in teaching, service to the School, commitment to students, respect of colleagues, performance or artistic standards, and scholarship.
In 1989 the Board of Trustees of Allendale Columbia School established the School’s fourth of our current six endowed faculty chairs, the David M. Pynchon Chair in the Arts. In this way, the School honored a recently deceased headmaster whose commitment to quality in the profession of teaching, and leadership in supporting the disciplines of art, theater and music will be an enduring legacy. Pam Vogel was honored with the initial appointment, and subsequent recipients who all still teach full time at AC, have been Lisa Barnes, appointed in 1994, Randy Northrup in 1999, Lori Wun in 2004, and Gabriel Costanzo in 2008.
According to Mick Gee, Head of School, “Amy is a young teacher who has already made an enormous impact on our school since arriving at AC four years ago.”
Amy’s formal qualifications include a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Illustration and a Master of Science for Teachers in Visual Arts Education, both from Rochester Institute of Technology. She also has valuable experience as a graphic designer and she is an avid blogger at: artwitholiveri.com. At the annual faculty dinner hosted by the Board of Trustees, Mick Gee celebrated her commitment to developing “minds that are curious and creative,” one of the four core values of Allendale Columbia. “She draws on her expertise and experience to create courses and projects for her students that challenge and strengthen their ability to create and design. Most importantly, Amy puts students at the center of everything that she does at AC. Amy has boundless energy and enthusiasm for working with students in and out of class. She is committed to developing programs that serve their needs, often at the expense of her own. This is apparent in the quality of her students’ work, which fills the walls, halls, and monitors of the entire school.”
When asked what the award means to her, Amy added, “I was really surprised. Having the opportunity to work with the individuals who have received this in the past is a privilege. The fact that we are such a close-knit community allows us to work collaboratively. Randy’s work on the Lower School play each year is inspirational. The concerts that the music department put on display hours of practice and developed talent. I feel lucky to work with Lori everyday; I get to create a curriculum with her for our students that really reflects current art practices.” Amy added that she likes to make connections for the students, “Right now I am working on a design thinking project with 3-D students. It is a process that Stanford has developed. We are having students use that model and develop a chair prototype made from cardboard. It is important to bring contemporary artwork and art makers together to make connections for our students. . . And, when one of my students took apart a miniature grand piano, it reminded me of an Instragram artist that I had shared with the class, so I showed her more about the artist. Showing students contemporary artwork and making these kind of connections really helps them to understand that they are making real and authentic artwork.”
Mick Gee recently shared this reflection about Amy’s significant contributions to the AC community: “She is forward-thinking, knowledgeable about the great changes that are taking place in education, and very committed to the school’s vision. Amy consistently demonstrates her desire to improve her own teaching and our entire program through positive action. Amy has injected new enthusiasm and purpose into our professional development program. Additionally, her entrepreneurial spirit and design expertise have enabled AC to push ahead in the fields of art, design, social media, and mobile website design. Amy Oliveri is truly a teacher of the future. AC is fortunate to have her here in the present. Please join me again in congratulating Amy.”
Posted in: Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, Upper School
This is short video of Amy working on a self portrait using colored pencils.
When I was first introduced to Amy, she was described as being techy. And she was! We hit it off right away. However, Amy is far more than just a techy, art teacher. She is an excellent planner, facilitator, teacher and artist. I have seen her teach and interact with students. There is a tremendous amount of mutual respect in her classroom. Her students are engaged and well behaved. Students ask questions and work to push themselves to impress her. Amy is the type of teacher that expects her students to work hard and do well. From my perspective as a colleague, I feel the same way when I work with her. I want whatever I am working on to be that much better because I know she has such high expectations. I know that I have learned far more from her than she has learned from me. Amy is in her third year at AC and she has an incredibly bright future. The Allendale Columbia School students, faculty and community are very lucky to have Mrs. Oliveri as a teacher, friend and mentor!
To get a better understanding of Amy’s passion for art and education, please check out her social media links.
Posted in: Middle School