Country School values people – our students and their childhood and our teachers and the ways that they inspire our children. And it values education – learning and growing and enlightenment. I firmly believe that anyone who chooses to work in a school, whether in a classroom teaching students all day or in an office somewhere, is an educator. After all, everything our students feel and experience impacts their future, and everyone who works at a school interacts with students.
Recognizing our educators furthers those core principles, and it is my distinct pleasure and privilege to continue this evening’s festivities by honoring several faculty and staff. Please join me in congratulating those in their 10th year at Country School:
Brooke Arthur, Director of Strategy & Communications
Daley Avery, class of 2012, Early Childhood Assistant teacher
Stefan Borowski, Assistant Athletic Director, Physical Education teacher, and co-director of the Apprentice Teacher Training Program
Abigail Cali, Middle School Spanish teacher
Sue DeOreo, 2nd grade teacher
Kent Findlay, class of 1980, Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications
Isadora Gacel Machado Lecuona, Visual Arts Teacher and Plus Program Assistant as well as Horizons teacher
Julie Porter, 3rd grade teacher
I would like to continue by recognizing Liz Ferran for 20 amazing years at NCCS.
Liz is a true artist. She sees beauty everywhere, whether it be a splattered canvas that protects the tables in the art room and now hangs over the fireplace in Grace House or whether it be in the individual personalities of her students. Liz, who teaches visual arts in the lower, middle, and upper schools, is also the parent to Gabriel, class of 2015.
As they leave lower school, students fondly remember projects such as the glittery creations that adorn the stage for the arts assembly and the dragon for the Lunar New Year parade. Liz‘s classroom feels different. More than simply teaching visual arts, Liz truly connects with students whose voices she always honors and pushes to be further developed. She gives them the space to be more free and open - while she, in turn, allows them to get to know her. The feeling of encouragement and openness students receive in such an environment translates to their art as well, and many Country School students can trace their love of and appreciation for art to Ms. Ferran’s classes.
Liz, thank you for 20 impactful years here.
Next, I would like to recognize Lisa Ingraham for 20 meaningful years at NCCS.
In the classroom, the language we use is always important. Words and tone matter to children and they set a culture of learning. There’s no place for which words are more important than an early childhood classroom.
For many of our students, Lisa is their first formal school teacher. Fortunately, She is a master early childhood educator and her use of language in the classroom accentuates that. And, it goes beyond simply her use of language. At such an impressionable age, in addition to the way school sounds, the way it feels, the way it looks, and even the way it smells makes an indelible mark for a lifetime.
For all of her years here, Lisa has meticulously set up every aspect of her classroom – the aesthetics, the materials, the activities, and the way she interacts with students. Multiply that by 20 years, and it is no exaggeration to say that Lisa has set a generation of Country School students on their paths to success.
In addition to her great work in Thacher, Lisa is also the parent of three Country School graduates, Robert class of 1999, David, class of 2002, and William, class of 2004.
We congratulate Lisa on 20 great years.
Next, I would like to recognize Maria Sette for 20 amazing years of teaching at NCCS.
Alumna, 4th grade teacher, Horizons teacher, and current parent to Michael and Christoper, Maria Sette has been involved with Country School most of her life. Maria is a force in the classroom, and what I would call a quintessential “human” educator. All teachers get to know their students well and use that knowledge to set up classroom routines, activities, and approaches that will help their students succeed.
Maria takes that approach to an extra level. One such example jumps to my mind in particular, from my first weeks here at NCCS. I imagine it is not a simple decision to show up in a new head of school’s office unannounced in the first week of school with your entire class, particularly if you have a big ask. It takes guts and no small amount of faith, but that’s just what Maria did.
Noting that her class included some students who were not yet avid readers, Maria chose to read the book Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind in which the principal makes an agreement with a class that he would dye his hair purple and spend one night sleeping on the roof of the school if the class reads a certain number of books.
So, led by the students but really orchestrated by Maria, her class showed up at my office asking if I would do the same! Thanks a lot, Maria. Well, I was game but I added my own wrinkles to it, and Maria‘s class that year, spurred on by the extra motivation of our agreement, read several hundred books in total. While at the end I did not dye my hair purple nor sleep on the roof of the school, I did uphold my end of the agreement. And most importantly, her class ended up reading more avidly. It is this sort of passion, creativity, and care Maria brings to every aspect of her work.
Along with her fourth grade colleagues, she spearheaded the design of the Native American curricular study I referenced earlier, specifically creating a land acknowledgment statement recognizing that we are on sacred indigenous land. She has been a faculty representative to the Board of Trustees, a leader in our diversity, equity, and inclusion work, notably as an inaugural DEI liaison, and she is currently the coordinator of our third through fifth grade curricular efforts.
Maria, thank you for the ways you make us laugh, make us think, and make us stay on our toes! Congratulations on 20 amazing years of teaching here.
Now I would like to honor Bill Williams for 20 years at NCCS.
Bill Williams is the type of person through whose actions the true community of a place like Country School emerges. Bill was first hired to clean the Thacher building in the days before our custodial services were outsourced. From there, he has been a handyman and support person in the facilities department. In that role, he delivers mail, helps transport people who need it, directs traffic, and makes frequent trips into town to the post office and the bank.
In addition to his work here, Bill is also the parent to two Country School alums, Bill class of 2010 and Drew class of 2015. But, it is not so much what Bill does as it is how he does it that tells the story of his role here. All of the time, no matter the weight of the packages, no matter the weather outside, and frankly no matter who is around, Bill is always there with a smile and a friendly greeting and a willingness to lend a hand.
They say integrity is how someone acts when no one is looking, and Bill demonstrates how strong his is in the busy moments and the quiet ones. Kind, friendly, patient, and helpful: that is who Bill Williams is, and that in many ways is what Country School is. We thank Bill for showing us every day who we aspire to be.
And now, for a fantastic 30 years of service, I would like to recognize Carlos Mendoza.
Carlos came to Country School in 1991 as a member of the cafeteria staff. After 11 years, he joined the facilities team. Through his strong sense of putting others first, Carlos has built lasting relationships with teachers, staff members, students and families. In his nearly 30 years here, Carlos has always stepped in when needed. He genuinely enjoys working in a capacity that supports other people and the institution. As a result, he embodies the spirit and culture of NCCS. For Carlos, Country School is synonymous with family.
His wife, Tatiana, has also worked here - for 13 years, beginning in our Archives and transitioning to a family and program coordinator role with Horizons afterwards. Their children Mateo and Valentina are both here, in 7th and 1st grades, respectively.
Carlos’ work brings to mind words such as; dedication, reliability, caring, excellence and support. Two years ago, I had the honor of presenting Carlos with the O’Herron Family Faculty Award for a faculty or staff member who has shown extraordinary dedication to the school and to the students, which underscores the impact he has had here.
But, I know I do not have to tell most of you about Carlos, because you all know him!
Carlos is one of the most familiar faces on campus because he is everywhere, and he is so personable and friendly. One cannot underestimate the value that someone with this type of character and work ethic brings to the school, and I am proud to honor you, Carlos, for 30 extraordinary years here at NCCS.
Similarly, with an extraordinary 30 years of service, I would like to recognize Kristin Quisgard.
Inside of our Middle School building is a sign that says we all are students and we all are teachers. Well that is certainly true throughout the Middle School as it is all around campus. And there is no place where it is more true than in our fourth grade hall. Even though Kristin has taught here for thirty years, she is always actively learning.
It was Kristin who saw immediately last year the pros and cons of teaching in desks separated from one another and led a conversation challenging some of the assumptions we previously held regarding how to set up the classroom. It was also Kristin who recognized some of the potential distance learning may have for the future of education.
Avid reader, former Horizons teacher, and passionate advocate, Kristin is deeply devoted to her students. She looks beyond the obvious to find learning opportunities to which her students may be able to relate more closely. For example, sparked by an investigation into the life of 19th-century educator Prudence Crandall in an effort to identify Connecticut heroines with her students, Kristin was responsible in 1994 for the recognition and passage of a state bill creating “Prudence Crandall Day” in Connecticut honoring her birthday.
Kristen has also been the chair of our English department and is the person behind the custom NCCS pillows found in the Welles Building. She brings the same sense of care to her classroom, whether in the beautiful, handcrafted decor or in the cozy, fireplace reading nook. Whether in the content or the atmosphere, Kristin knows that every part of a student’s experience impacts their learning, and she pays close attention to each.
Congratulations and thank you, Kristin, for an incredible 30 years of excellence here. You make quite a difference.
Now, for a truly incredible 40 years of service to NCCS, I would like to recognize Dave Stoller
In many ways, Dave Stoller is the ultimate renaissance man. Dave has taught science, math, woodshop, technology, maple sugaring, and even word processing classes here. He has coached basketball, football and lacrosse and chaperoned trips on the Appalachian Trail and to Nantucket. Moreso, he was the school’s Sustainability Coordinator and created the Green Cup Challenge. He was also the school’s first technology coordinator, oversaw the maker space and is currently the Director of Technology. Beyond that, he has been the Health Office & Emergency Services back-up, and he is our resident meteorologist. Yes, he and Josh Ziac are my first group text at 4 a.m. on any potential snow day!
Patient, kind, funny, and enthusiastic, Dave is always willing to lend a hand, whether it is something that is just not working or a new project in most any area, particularly those involving building, design, environmentalism, or technology. Many have a story of how Dave came to their rescue when they lost a file, when their email crashed, or when their computer just stopped “working,” and many know that willingness to lend a hand does not recognize the normal bounds of our campus or of the work week or even the school year.
For example, in the summer of 2020, while I was deeply involved in planning for last school year, and while I was staying 250 miles from here, the keyboard on my laptop stopped working. I was unable to even login, much less join a planning zoom or type an email. Dave, who was about 80 miles and two hours away, drove to me the next day - on the Fourth of July no less - and delivered salvation in the form of an external keyboard he just happened to have at his summer camp retreat. At least I could send him back home to his barbecue with a couple of pies.
It is the commitment of people like Dave who have helped the school evolve and transition and respond to changes in the world and reinvent itself in ways that deepen its impact on our students. Dave, we will feel the impact of your work for a long time to come.
Just as we celebrate four decades of incredible impact tonight, I also share with you that Dave came to me just before the school year to tell me that this year, his 40th at NCCS, would also be his final one. Sue retired last year from Long Ridge School, and Dave will join her next year as they officially move up to the Syracuse area where both of their children - Katie, class of 1999 and Mike class of 2003 – live along with their spouses and Dave and Sue’s two grandsons. It is also a fair amount closer to their beloved Adirondack camp, dock, boat, and fly fishing gear.
Dave, while we will have time to celebrate you some more later this year, I want to thank you tonight for the learner you are, the person you are, and all of the incredible ways that you have made Country School a better place these 40 years.