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This blog explores, from multiple perspectives, gifted education in general and The Avery Coonley School experience in particular. Welcome to the conversation!

 

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Notes from the Head of School: Changes to the 2018-2019 School Year

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 22, 2018

The 2018-2019 school calendar is now posted. I want to highlight one particular change that is made with the best interests of our students, families, and teaching faculty in mind: We are moving the start of classes for groups 1-8 two days earlier than what has been our typical start date. Classes will begin on Thursday, August 23rd. As many of you know, local school districts have moved their start dates even earlier than ours, which makes it challenging at the end of the summer for families with children in public schools. By moving up the start date we also add more quality class teaching time for students, which is invaluable.

 We hope that 6 months’ notice will allow for enough planning for the vast majority of ACS families. However, we know that some families make summer plans far in advance, so if you are a family that has already made a commitment precluding your child’s presence for the opening of school, please let us know. We will be happy to work with you!  

 Warm regards,

Paul Druzinsky
Head of School

Tags:  first day of school  school year  start date 

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Notes from the Head of School: In the Wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 15, 2018

After sitting through the pain of hearing about the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida yesterday, I thought about whether or not to send a message to our community. How many messages can one send about these kinds of tragedies, and what can I or anyone add that hasn’t already been said? But upon reflection I realized that not saying something, not acknowledging that it happened, would be the absolute worst decision. Only time will tell whether school shootings have already or will become “the new normal.” What should never be normal, however, is parents and teachers closing doors of communication with our children. These events are tragic and terrifying and anxiety-causing—for adults and children. Even if your own child says nothing, or an adult says nothing, with the possible exception of really young children, you can be sure they are thinking about it, talking among themselves, and/or are worried about themselves, their friends, their school, their communities.

We cannot allow the “new normal” to be one of numbness or passive acceptance. It is critical that we open the conversations amongst each other, and talk directly and openly about what happened. We cannot remain silent. We need to do more, as parents and as a school, to acknowledge that kids today feel pressures from home, school, social media, and their lives that is taking a toll on our pre- adolescent and adolescent population. High schools and colleges are dealing with unprecedented numbers of students who show up on their campuses with anxiety and depression before they are even 18 years old. Yesterday’s event only magnifies the pressures our children face, not to mention the horrendous loss those families and the Florida community experienced. Hearts are breaking across the country for them, as individual fears rise.

Below you will see a link to a speaker next week who I encourage you to consider hearing. I have not heard him speak directly, but the topic is critical and we need to become a part of the conversation and a part of the solutions. Typical advice after a tragedy is to say, “Never pass up a chance to hug your children or tell them how much you love them.” Right now, I would say it is more important to never pass up, and in fact, actively find ways to converse with your children. By converse, I mean listening to your children now is probably the 90% that matters even more than what you say.

There are lots of reassuring things to say to children and each other, while acknowledging the fear and sadness and uncertainty of life. The statistics are scary—but the odds of it actually happening to any one individual or school remain infinitely small. We are continuing to address the physical safety of our community and will continue our safety drills and improve, where possible, our security measures. But the emotional safety of our children and community is equally important. By acknowledging and addressing the underlying stress we and our children feel, we can provide a measure of mutual care and support that is essential for us all.

Sincerely,

Paul Druzinsky
Head of School

Event: Dr. Michael Bradley presents Crazy Stressed: Saving Today's Overwhelmed Children
Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 7-8:30pm
Location: The Community House, 415 W. Eighth Street, Hinsdale, IL, 60521
Description: 
Peel back the cheerful facade that many parents present, and you'll find that many are worried about their children. New research tells us our kids are not all right. Too many are struggling with excessive academic loads, extracurricular demands, sleep deprivation, and 24/7 connectivity, causing epidemic rates of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicide.

While teen brains are hardwired for risk-taking and overactive emotions, their coping abilities are at all-time lows. Dr. Michael Bradley first explains what's driving today's adolescent anxiety, depression, and negative behaviors and what the latest brain development research is telling us. Then, with proven strategies from his three decades of practice and his own years as a father, Dr. Bradley provides practical advice on how to connect with your children to build their life-saving resiliency and what to do when you're facing a major mental health issue.

Tags:  safety  shooting  stress  support 

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Notes from the Head of School: Thoughts for Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 12, 2018

As we arrive at Martin Luther King Jr. weekend 2018, I think now, more than ever, it is important to recognize and honor all he stood for, and to have conversations with your children about the vision he articulated for America. ACS is a microcosm of what makes our country so wonderful, and a beacon of hope and light for the world. Our students learn throughout their time at ACS, and in particular in areas of our curriculum that explore the roots of our family cultures and traditions like Heritage Fest, that we are a country built by the hard work and sweat of our brethren across the globe. Sadly, some of this sweat was forced through the ugly institution of slavery, but Martin Luther King Jr asked us all to rise above this evil, and envisioned an America of equal opportunity, equal rights, and equal justice.

From the great farms and agricultural success across America, to the railroads built in the 19th century, to the start-ups in Silicon Valley, the success of America is because of and not despite the contributions and sacrifices that all of the families from all of the countries represented here at ACS have made to our nation.

The number one charge of a school is to keep its community members safe. The second most important charge is to live its mission and vision in support of the next generation. At ACS “ we strive to build a community where understanding and mutual respect are encouraged and where appreciation of the individual, civility, gratitude, honesty, kindness and consideration, responsibility and volunteerism are nurtured as the child’s moral development progresses.” This is a critical part of the ACS vision, and the adults in our community are committed to keeping these values at the forefront of the everyday experiences of our children. 

This weekend should be more than just three days away from school. Homework can wait, but finding time for opportunities to have the conversations with your children that matter the most should never be missed. Social media messages are not (yet) doing enough to emphasize the true reasons why America is and must remain the country where dreams and hopes apply to all of our citizens, here and across the seas.  Martin Luther King Jr. weekend is the perfect reminder of this, and can help open the doors to your children’s hearts.

Warm regards,

Paul Druzinsky
Head of School

Tags:  Martin Luther King Jr Day  Notes from the Head of School 

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ACS Alumni Abroad: Danila Kurganov

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Our ACS Alumni are always doing interesting things and making their mark on the world. Here is one alum's story about moving and studying abroad:

 Hi everyone. It's Danila Kurganov, Class of 2014, writing from England!

 What made your family decide to move abroad?
My dad was given the chance to work in London for his firm, and as a family we decided to take this unique opportunity and live with him in London.

How is school in England different from school in the United States?
In the last two years of British High School students choose to study three subjects that they’re really passionate about (although they can technically take as many subjects as they’d like), and these subjects are then taught at AP/college level for two years. As students are genuinely interested in their subjects (or at least don’t dislike them), most of their extra time goes into learning their subjects deeply (what they’re supposed to do at least). For this reason, it only take three years at university to get a BA degree (as opposed to four in America).

Tell us all about your life – What are some favorite hobbies? Is there anything you really enjoy doing? Do you have any news about your family you would like to share?
Living in England is fantastic, I’ve met some of my closest and best friends here. In my free time I enjoy playing saxophone, guitar, and teaching myself how to code. Most of my time though is spent on helping younger years at my school; this includes helping them prepare for the UK Maths Challenge (British version of AMC), as well as running a STEM club where students are now working on making catapults. I enjoy seeing students get very passionate on something they previously thought was dull. My family is also quite happy living here, and my little brother is the first in the family to talk with a British accent!

 Thinking back, what is one of your favorite memories from your time at ACS?
The thing that immediately pops into my head was making movies for Drama. Weeks of writing scripts, acting, and filming was a hard but enjoyable task. Everything seemed to work on paper, but when we tried to film a scene either someone had too much makeup on, or clothing changed mid-scene, or the massive camera decided to quit working. All this quirkiness was then recorded onto a CD for the school to watch during assembly. Quite fun this was!

 What advice would you give to any student who wants to study abroad?
My advice for anyone deciding to study abroad is to think about how your decision affects your future. Once you move to another country, it’ll be harder for you to go back to America and study at College or University. Does moving provide you with a new opportunity? If you want to study abroad "just because", really think about your decision some more.

 Do you have any news to share? Be sure to fill out a class note!

Tags:  abroad  Alumni 

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ACS Alumni Council Profile: Maddie Flynn

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Meet Maddie Flynn, the youngest member of the ACS Alumni Council. Read more about Maddie and why she stays involved in ACS below. 

What was your class year?
2016

Tell us about your life:
My twin brother, Jacob, and I were born in Minneapolis and moved to Clarendon Hills when we were one year old. I began my ACS journey in Early Childhood, so ACS has been a part of ¾ of my life! Outside of school, I always enjoyed sports, art, and playing the piano. When I started high school last year, I had to narrow my extracurricular activities down to include mostly soccer, Model UN, and service opportunities, but still always make time for my family and friends.

What are some of the things you enjoy doing? 
I started playing soccer when I was 4 and I have loved it ever since. In addition to playing on the varsity girls soccer team at Ignatius, I am also on the top team for the 2001 girls on FC United. Soccer is a huge commitment in my life and after school three days a week I drive straight from the city to Glenview for practice. It’s quite the trek, but definitely worth it. The girls on my soccer teams are some of my closest friends and I know soccer will always be a part of my life.

What is one of your proudest accomplishments? Many of my proudest accomplishments are soccer-related. Last year, I was one of the four freshmen chosen to be on the Ignatius varsity girls soccer team and really enjoyed working with upperclassmen and playing with girls from different grades. In addition, last year I was one of the few nominees for  the Fr. Florian Zimecki S.J. Freshman Achievement Award.

Do you have any family news to share? My brother, Michael, graduated from ACS in 2013 and St. Ignatius College Prep in 2017. He now attends Northwestern University and loves it! My twin brother Jacob enjoys running (I’m not quite sure how he runs for fun, but he’s good at it!). Who would have thought that coming in first at the ACS Fun Run in 7th grade would start his running career? He now runs on the varsity cross country and track teams, has set school records, and holds a 4:39 mile time. Our dog, Jemma, was recently highlighted in the local Daisy Fields Magazine giving us the a chance to continue spreading the word about Black Dog Syndrome, the topic of my 7th grade science fair project.

What have you done since graduating from ACS? Last year, I started high school at St. Ignatius College Prep. While the daily train rides are a bit taxing, I love to take advantage of all the things Chicago has to offer! Like ACS, St. Ignatius is very culturally and geographically diverse. It is like a slice of the real world (with a healthy dose of Catholicism attached). I really enjoy the service aspect, especially being part of Circle of Friends, an organization which helps mentally handicapped and developmentally challenged young adults lead meaningful and happy lives with dignity and respect. Locally, I volunteer at the Wellness House and am on the Junior Board of the Community House in Hinsdale.I am also an active member of our school’s Model United Nations team.

What is your fondest memory from ACS? My fondest ACS memory would probably have to be the Eighth Grade Play. I loved seeing my classmates all come together and really enjoyed my role. It was so nice to be able to spend time with all my peers at after school rehearsals and practices before our graduation and I really treasure these memories.

How did going to ACS impact your life? The research, study, and communication skills I learned and practiced at ACS have made the transition to high school much less stressful. I have so much less time to do homework in high school that the time management skills I learned at ACS are critical to my high school success. Because of the classroom environment at ACS, I am never hesitant to respectfully and constructively share my opinion, ask questions, and listen to other’s comments non-judgmentally. 

Who was favorite teacher and why? Mrs. Schaub was my favorite teacher. She made even the drier subjects like grammar fun and interesting. I had always enjoyed writing, but she made me feel extra special about it. She always gave me great feedback and inspired me to continue writing, especially creatively. In high school, writing skills aren’t really a big part of the curriculum and I am thankful that I already have solid writing skills.

What was your favorite ACS tradition? 
While I enjoyed all the traditions at ACS, it is some of the smaller things that make up my fondest memories. I loved racing to be the first one outside during recess, occasionally having to spend recess in the gym on a rainy day, and serenading classes with our newly developed guitar skills. I think one of my favorite memories will always be playing predator-prey during P.E. – being able to run in the forest preserve was definitely a wonderful luxury that I appreciate even more now that I am on an urban campus.

Why should more alums be involved in ACS? 
I feel fortunate that my parents have always viewed education as such an important part of my childhood. It’s probably an overused analogy, but to me, my educational journey is like a tree. ACS is the roots where it all begins, high school is the trunk which grows  stronger, and then, like branches, we all reach for the sun on our own paths. I am thankful to have had such a healthy and sturdy foundation. I think ACS is a bond which unites all alums and I think most of us have had that realization that we probably wouldn’t be where we are today without our ACS experience. I always know I can go back to my ACS home and feel welcome there and I feel like it’s important that alums continue to preserve that sense of community so that this feeling remains for decades to come.

Tags:  Alumni  alumni council 

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ACS Alumni Council Profile: Carissa Means

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, October 25, 2017
If you are currently on campus, you will likely recognize Carissa Means, an ACS parent and member of the ACS Alumni Council. Read more about Carissa and why she stays involved in ACS below. 
 
What was your class year? 
1989

Tell us all about your life – What are some favorite hobbies? Is there anything you really enjoy doing? Do you have any news about your family you would like to share?  
I enjoy gardening, beekeeping, volunteering with my church, and showing my horse. Just this summer, we purchased our new horse Prada N Pearls. My children, Lucas (8) and Lindley (4), have taken her to their first horse show. It is fun to get to share my love of horse showing with my children. My husband Jeff and my brother Peter Angerhofer ‘83 continue to grow the healthcare consulting firm they started two years ago.
 
What have you done since graduating from ACS?  
Since graduation, I have worked in the education, technology, and beauty industries. It has been fun to thread my love of education through my various interests. I have lived on the East coast twice, run for state office, served on the school board, hosted Presidential candidates, and started a wonderful little family.
 
What do you do now?  
Currently, I am blessed to be able to stay home with my kids, volunteer at church and at Avery Coonley, travel with my husband, and indulge in my love of chickens, bees, and horses. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to have two children at Avery Coonley. Staying home with them, I have the ability to volunteer as much as needed. I get to watch them experience the same things I remember from my childhood. 
 
What is one of your proudest accomplishments?  
My proudest accomplishment definitely involves my husband and kids. I am so thankful for the environment my husband and I have created in which our children get to learn and grow. Our house is definitely the “Madhouse on Madison,” but our kids are experiencing things most city kids miss. I think everyone is happy when they come to our house. 
 
Thinking back, what is one of your fondest memories from your time at ACS?  
This question is impossible to answer. There are just too many. Instead of going with the obvious ones, I am going to name one from 4th group. At a time when we were now expected to be self-sufficient and prepared for middle school, Mrs. Grussing let us lie on the floor while she read us the most magical book. It was called The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. If you haven’t read it find yourself a nice used copy. 
 
How did going to ACS impact your life?  
ACS influenced me in so many ways. My eyes were opened to art, music, cultures around the world, and beautiful traditions. I left through the gate prepared to present myself with confidence and sensitivity. 
 
Who was your favorite teacher and why?  
I definitely had several favorites. My greatest thrill was to be in Mrs. Ward’s first 1st Group class and have my son in her last 1st group class. It was wonderful to get to spend so much time with her again. 
 
What was your favorite tradition? 
My favorite tradition was sneaking on stage to run up and down the spiral staircases before cheerleading practice. Wait! Did I say that out loud? I really meant having the spaces in 3rd Group. 
 
Why do you think more alums should be involved with ACS?  
I definitely think more alums should be more involved. It is so important for current families, teachers, and administrators to understand what has made this school great throughout the years. Yes, the academics are great and important, but Avery Coonley is so much more than great curriculum. Coming back as an alum, you are able to pass along that heritage. We are raising children. Let’s give them magical childhoods. Whenever I drive through those gates, it is as if I am a child again. I am at rest. I am creative. I am at play. I am home.

Tags:  Alumni  alumni council 

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ACS Alumni Council Profile: R.J. Lopez

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Welcome to our series of profiles on the ACS Alumni Council members. R.J. Lopez is a graduate of the ACS Class of 1995. He's been an active member of the ACS Alumni Council for several years.

1. What was your class year?  
1995

 2.  Tell us all about your life – What are some favorite hobbies? Is there anything you really enjoy doing? Do you have any news about your family you would like to share?
These days my life really revolves around my family and my financial advising business.  I met my wife, Brianne, our freshman year in college, and got married in 2008.  We have two young children. Braden is two years old, and will be three in November.  Tyler just turned one in May.  I enjoy taking them to their music and swimming lessons and watching them develop.  Now that the kids are a bit older, we can travel more with them.  We're looking forward to going on our first big family vacation to Hawaii next year!

3.  What have you done since graduating from ACS?
I attended high school at Benet Academy, then the University of Illinois at Chicago for college.  Right after graduating, I took the Series 7, Series 66, and the life and health license exams, and started my financial advising practice. 

4. What do you do now? 
I'm a financial advisor with Edward Jones. I have my own practice in Park Ridge.  I have enjoyed seeing my clients reach big milestones in their lives

5. What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
My proudest accomplishment so far is learning how to be a good dad.  A personal goal of mine was to run a half marathon, and I accomplished that in 2015.

6. Thinking back, what is one of your fondest memories from your time at ACS?
The best memories of my time at ACS are the ones where we were together as a group.  The 8th group play where we performed "Our Town" was definitely something that was a fond memory for me.  The 8th group class trip to Paris, the 7th group trip to Washington DC, and 6th group trip Pretty Lake were all fond memories of mine. 

7. How did going to ACS impact your life? 
I think a lot ACS alumni will tell you they have a wide variety of interests, and a lot of that originates from going to school at Avery Coonley, the variety of classes, the exposure to different cultures, and the great teachers we had.   

8.  Who was your favorite teacher and why?
I learned so much from every teacher, so I don't think I can pick one favorite.  I've always appreciated that Mrs. Murphy used to have us read different historical fiction books in 7th group, and I really enjoyed that.  I still love reading literature on history and biographies.  Thanks, Mrs. Murphy!

9. What was your favorite tradition? 
I always looked forward to Spring Fair.  There was always a special energy around that tradition. 

10. Why do you think more alums should be involved with ACS
It's a way for us to connect with the school that we all loved. 

(This interview originally appeared in the ACS Alumni Newsletter, September 22, 2017)

Tags:  Alumni  council  profile 

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Revisited: A Profile of Arsalan Iftikhar

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, September 6, 2017

In anticipation of Class of '91 alumnus Arsalan Iftikhar's upcoming September 13, 2017 visit and presentation, the Avery Coonley School is proud to share this interview with Arsalan from 2014, in which he shares some of his favorite experiences as an ACS student and talks about his work as a social justice and human rights advocate. 

Arsalan Iftikhar
ACS Class of 1991
High School: Downers Grove North
College: Washington University in St. Louis (A.B.)
Grad School: Washington University in St. Louis (J.D.)

Could you describe your work?
I am an author, journalist, and global media commentator as well as an international human rights lawyer. I also recently started as an adjunct professor at DePaul University teaching a class called the “Islamic Experience” in the Religious Studies department. Although I am a licensed attorney, almost all of my work involves writing and providing analysis and commentary in a variety of media outlets. I am a weekly contributor for National Public Radio (NPR) and serve as Senior Editor for The Islamic Monthly magazine. I am also the founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and wrote a book called Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era. Over the last twelve-plus years, I have been interviewed by and contributed pieces to a wide variety of national and global newspapers, magazines, and news programs around the world.

How did your career begin?
Well, I was a second-year law student when 9/11 happened in 2001. As soon as the evidence began to show that the perpetrators were Muslims, I recognized the importance of condemning their actions and communicating the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. I wanted to make it known that Islam is inherently a religion of tolerance and peace, that the killing of innocents is never condoned, and that the actions of the terrorists could not and should not be labeled “Islamic.” I wrote an editorial right after the attacks and sent it off to all the major newspapers in the country, and within a very short time many responded, saying that they would be running the piece the next day. Since then, I have done hundreds of television, radio and newspaper interviews and my career has evolved from there.

Is your work fulfilling?
It is certainly a labor of love since I have probably received over 700 death threats in my life. I am definitely not doing it for the money or the security, but being a part of our global marketplace of ideas is something that I truly love and hopefully is my contribution to my humanity.

What are some of the things about which you are passionate?
Social justice and human rights for everyone. I am engaged in the global media and sociopolitical discourse because I want to represent the disenfranchised and those without a voice. It is a great privilege to be a part of the public arena and to be able to discuss issues that are important to people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Were any of your career interests or passions formed while you were at Avery Coonley?
Sure. From a very early age, the strong sense of community at ACS was very important to me and the diversity of the student body helped to ingrain a sense of equality in me since my childhood. We knew each other so well – we knew each other’s parents and siblings – it was more than a community; it was a family. My parents immigrated to this country over 35 years ago and they wanted to send their children to a warm and nurturing educational environment. To this day, my dad still says that sending his kids to Avery Coonley was the best investment he has ever made for his children.

What are some of your favorite Avery Coonley memories?
Of course, the teachers and other extracurricular activities, like math team and the basketball team; Mr. Mickel was our basketball coach. The Thanksgiving program was always an annual highlight and looking back, I realize how important it was that we all knew that the food that we collected went to those who were less fortunate than us. I also really enjoyed the Third Group trip to Lake Geneva, and I remember finishing third overall in the Spelling Bee when I was in Fourth Grade. I misspelled the word “intolerant”, which seems pretty ironic now!

Also, my whole family were “ACS Lifers” since both my younger sister and brother also attended ACS since preschool. Our shared experiences – the teachers, projects, special events – formed much of our family experiences, both then and now.

What aspects of your ACS experience were most important for you?
The focused importance on forming well-rounded individuals, rather than obsessing about test scores and trophies, was very important. It was great that we had so many opportunities to explore our interests and try new things from a very early age.

Similarly, I also think that learning French from such an early age was also a very valuable experience. Being bilingual expanded my horizons from an early age and I have even done some work for the French Foreign Ministry since that time. But beyond that, this in-depth exposure to another culture really expands children’s worldviews and helps them to realize that there is a big world out there, with many different languages, cultures, and traditions.

Do you stay in touch with your ACS friends?
Yes, many of us are connected on Facebook – social media definitely makes it easier to stay in touch with people.

What advice do you have for today’s ACS students?
Follow your passions in whatever you do in your lives. Please do not do anything because of money or because other people tell you to follow a career path; do what you love! Try to contribute to the world and help as many other people as possible, in whatever way you see fit. Plus, don’t ever think you’re not good enough. We all go through struggles and tough times during our adolescence – try to remember that everything will be just fine. Don’t ever give up on yourself or on other people.


This profile of Class of '91 alumnus Arsalan Iftikhar originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of The Avery Coonley School Magazine

Creating the Future Lecture Series Presents: Arsalan Iftikhar takes place on Wednesday evening, September 13, 2017, 6:30-8:30pm (doors at 6pm) in the Avery Coonley School Performing Arts Center. The presentation will include time for an audience Q&A and will be followed by a book-signing. The event is all-ages welcome and open to the general public to attend. Registration is required and tickets are $10; attendees will also have the option to pre-order Arsalan's books, Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms, and Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era.

 

 

Tags:  alumni  Arsalan Iftikhar  Creating the Future  diversity  inclusion 

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Notes from the Head of School: On Supporting vs Micromanaging

Posted By Administration, Friday, September 1, 2017

As we begin the year I want to share some thoughts and offer further insights into my vision for ACS, and my hopes and dreams for our community. My goals for all aspects of our program is simple and clear: ACS stands as a premier school for gifted students, and my aim is to not only to ensure we deliver on our missionto provide a learning environment that is appropriate both for academically bright and gifted children,” but that we lead the way towards an even stronger and better understanding of what our students need as well. We want and have excellence—in our curriculum, our teachers, our facilities. We strive to be at the forefront of educational innovation, ensuring that everything from our language arts to our math programs represent the most current and creative thinking in education. We should be a beacon and magnet for gifted education, gifted students, and gifted educators who want to be at our institution. Our strategic planning process will help shape the next few years and give us a road map for building on what we do well, and making greater improvements to the ACS experience. We are an excellent school—but we can and must do more to ensure the needs of our students are met!

I have another vision that I want to share that is focused more on the social-emotional needs of all students, but in this case, particularly relevant to our gifted students; it is one I share both as a fellow parent and as a head of school. I know you have heard some of this before, but one of the greatest gifts we can teach our children is resiliency and independence, which is part of ACS’s greater philosophy: not only do we “assist our students in realizing their intellectual, emotional, social, creative, and physical potential,” we must also “recognize and [be] sensitive to the unique needs of gifted children.” In the pressurized world of schools and academics, it can be difficult to know how to help our children when not everything is perfect. Children will have teachers they don’t like, disappointing grades, friends who fight, lost athletic contests, not placing as highly as hoped in math or science competitions, and times when life truly does treat them unfairly. The best possible approach parents can take is to “tone down the temperature” rather than try to fix the problem immediately, and instead talk to them about how to handle life when something is not perfect. Particularly as many of our students have perfectionist tendencies, feeding into those tendencies, even unintentionally, can create even more anxiety and inner turmoil. We tend to measure life these days on a minute-by-minute basis. Life in general—specifically life at ACS—is the sum total of a child’s elementary school experience. Children need ups and downs, good things and struggles.

With rare exception, checking the parent portal every day for grades and assignments is simply unhealthy. I am sure you have read about the struggles current college students are having now in part because of parental micromanaging. These 18-year-olds are struggling when they leave home, in great part due to growing up without having to learn anything about disappointment or resiliency.

My dream for our community is that we allow our children the space and room to grow up, and not try to protect them from every possible struggle. My promise to you is that we will continue to improve, and address and respond to legitimate concerns. My hope is that we can partner together so that a disappointment does not become a problem, and a bad grade doesn’t become a crisis. This article in The New York Times about parent portals, especially the last couple of paragraphs, gives some excellent advice, and while no article is perfect, I hope you will all take the time to read it. Let’s all look through the portal of life, which is large and vast, and not the nano-second portal snapshot!

Here’s to another great year on Maple Avenue!

Warm regards,

Paul Druzinksy
Head of School

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A Statement from the ACS Head of School on Charlottesville

Posted By Melissa (Michi) A. Trota (Trota), Thursday, August 17, 2017

As Avery Coonley School prepares to welcome students, new and returning, to another school year of growth, learning, and community, our excitement is tempered by the recent riots in Charlottesville, VA. Various groups embracing the toxic ideologies of white supremacy, the KKK, neo-Nazism, and anti-Semitism initiated violence fueled by hatred and bigotry that claimed a brave woman’s life, injured many others, and left sadness, pain, and fear in their wake. These horrific ideologies stand in direct opposition to everything ACS represents: devotion to education and understanding, commitment to civic responsibility, and our embrace of diverse and inclusive communities.

Our first and foremost priority is the safety, both physical and emotional, and well-being of every member of our community; as an institution of education, we also have a responsibility to speak truthfully about the harm wrought by hatred and bigotry, and the need to condemn it swiftly and loudly. History has shown us the human toll exacted when such ugliness makes itself known, and who often pays the terrible cost when it’s allowed to run rampant and unchallenged. It has also taught us what can be achieved through principled resolve, resistance, and inspiration. We choose to follow the brave examples of those who have worked and fought for the progression of justice and equality.

Taking a direct stance against hate speech and bigoted violence is a moral and ethical imperative, one that should not be defined by partisan politics. Only by doing so can we truly contribute to creating a safe and bright future, not just for our students, but for the world they will inherit. To our students, to our staff, to all members of the ACS community: You are all welcome and wanted in our ever-expanding family, and your human rights are sacrosanct. We join in solidarity with our sibling institutions and communities in their unequivocal condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and discrimination, and we reaffirm our dedication to creating a culture that is just and inclusive of all, regardless of ethnicity, race, ancestry, age, interests, sexual orientation, LGBTQIA status, religion, disability status, national origin, immigration status, or gender.

On behalf of the ACS community, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Charlottesville, and with all those who have been victimized by bigotry, fear, and hatred.

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In light of these recent events, we feel it is even more important to highlight the necessity of understanding, critical thinking, and empathy as part of education. We have been excited about the return of ACS alumnus Arsalan Iftikhar (Class of ‘91), a noted international human rights lawyer, author, and Senior Research Fellow at Georgetown University, who will be speaking at ACS about Islamophobia and the need to build inclusive communities. Unfortunately, we recently received a hateful, Islamophobic message about Arsalan’s upcoming visit from someone outside of our community, but we stand firm in our dedication to ACS’s principles of inclusion and diversity, as well as our commitment to our community’s safety and well-being. Below is the message I recently sent to ACS parents addressing this issue:

Dear Parents:

As most of you know, we are very excited to host human rights attorney, author and speaker, ACS alum Arsalan Iftikhar on September 13th. Arsalan will spend the day with our students and present to the parents in the evening. Sadly, last night we and some members of the ACS community received what can only be described as a hateful and repulsive email from someone pretending (trolling) to be an ACS parent. This individual railed against our hosting Arsalan, and stated extremely negative and ugly views about our hosting the upcoming visit, Islam, and our community.

I want to take the moment to state unequivocally that ACS will never back away from standing up for human rights, and being a community that welcomes, embraces and supports all backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and genders. The only speech or views we will denounce are those of hate and those that seek to harm or hurt others. The email we received just reinforces, especially as our nation is dealing with the events such as Charlottesville, why bringing Arsalan to ACS is so valuable and so important to our students and to all members of our community.

I firmly believe in my heart that what ACS stands for, and my message, transcend political parties or labeling as liberal or conservative. ACS stands for inclusion, and for celebrating our deeply diverse community members. We will not be intimidated by hate or fear. All students who attend ACS and all who are members of our community must continue to feel safe, secure and supported, and we will welcome Arsalan with open arms and hearts.

Although the email we received was a hateful message, let us all turn this into an opportunity to recommit together to the core values of ACS and celebrate the opening of school in unity!


We are proud of our community's overwhelmingly positive response and eagerness to welcome Arsalan back to ACS. His thoughtful, passionate, and dedicated work reflects the best of the ACS tradition, and we hope you’ll join us in continuing to build inclusive, welcoming communities, both here at ACS and beyond.


Sincerely,

Paul Druzinsky, Head of School

on behalf of the ACS Faculty & Staff


Arsalan’s evening presentation at the Avery Coonley School on Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 6:30-8:30pm, is open to the public and all-ages welcome. Ticket registration is required to attend. For more information, visit averycoonley.org/event/arsalan.


For more information or any inquiries, please contact Associate Director of Communications and Marketing Michi Trota, mtrota@averycoonley.org.


Tags:  Charlottesville  diversity  inclusion  multiculturalism 

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