Olympian and Award-winning Filmmaker Mary Mazzio Visits APH

Recently, The Academy was honored to welcome Mary Mazzio as the second guest in our Women in Leadership Speaker Series. Ms. Mazzio’s inspiring body of work extends from athletics (an Olympic rower) to the arts (an accomplished documentary filmmaker). Her films have become agents of social change, leading to increased awareness of vital issues and legislation to address them. 

Prior to her visit, students had the opportunity to watch Ms. Mazzio’s film, A Hero for Daisy, a documentary that chronicles two-time Olympic rower Chris Ernst and her strong stand for women’s rights under Title IX during her time at Yale University. At the beginning of Ms. Mazzio’s talk, she played a short video greeting from her daughter Daisy (the film’s namesake) who is a rower at Yale. Her advice for students was to recognize the women who came before us and to make the world a better place for the young women who will follow you. This set the perfect tone for Ms. Mazzio’s talk about her career and the lessons she has learned.

3 Life Lessons from Ms. Mazzio

Life Lesson #1: Rules are not always meant to be followed.

Ms. Mazzio shared how important it is to be vigilant that as women, we are walking into a world with certain norms and barriers that often need to be challenged in order for us to get ahead. “Sometimes, in a man’s world, you have to rewrite the rules,” she said. When assessing which rules to follow and which ones to break, she encouraged the audience to think about what their rationale would be for each course of action and decide where to go from there.

Life Lesson #2: We all have talents but until we start believing in them, nothing will happen.

Ms. Mazzio shared her journey to becoming an Olympic athlete, which started when she watched the Games for the first time when she was twelve. After cheerleading in high school, she was eager to find a sport where she could directly “be part of the action rather than on the sidelines.” During her first semester at Mount Holyoke College, Ms. Mazzio was invited by the Rowing Coach to attend the first practice. Over 100 women turned up for less than 25 spots and she was initially cut. She was persistent and was eventually able to get on the rowing team throughout her time in college. After graduating, she began attending rowing camps to try to make the national team. Again, she kept getting cut year after year but every year, she made it further along. A coach even told her that she should just move on. Rather than give up, Ms. Mazzio was determined to make her Olympic dream come true. She began working with Chris Ernst, who challenged her to stop making excuses and to believe in her talent. “I put sticky notes up everywhere with my goals and what I wanted to be and that year, everything I wrote came true,” she said. With this new attitude and resolve, Ms. Mazzio was able to move up from the 15th ranked rower in sculling to the third spot in the country and earned a spot on the Olympic team.

Life Lesson #3: Commit fully.

Ms. Mazzio shared that she had a lightbulb moment when she was sitting and watching television while nine months pregnant with her daughter Daisy. She saw a Victoria’s Secret commercial and thought how none of the models in the ad resembled any women she knew in real life. As she changed the channels, she saw more and more of the same image of what society felt young women should aspire to become. At that moment, she decided her daughter Daisy needed to have role models who were strong, tenacious, and not always just another willowy blond model. Ms. Mazzio immediately thought of Chris Ernst and the idea for A Hero for Daisy was born. She had never directed or produced a film but connected with a friend in the ad business and was able to pitch the idea with such conviction that the friend called everyone she knew in the film industry to get Ms. Mazzio the resources needed to make the film. It debuted in 2000 and has been monumental for raising awareness about Title IX and giving women of all ages an inspiring role model.

Students asked great questions and Ms. Mazzio even gave the first brave few a hat featuring the logo of her production company, 50 Eggs. Kaitlyn F. ‘20, asked: “How did you keep going and not get defeated?” and Ms. Mazzio answered: “I’m very stubborn. People are going to tell you discouraging messages but you can’t let that stop you. My mother said that you can cry for a day but then get back up and try again and that’s what I do.”

Phoebe T. ‘22, asked: “Other than your daughter, what inspires you in your work?” Ms. Mazzio answered: “Getting to amplify the voices of those who don’t have a voice” is what is meaningful to her. Ellie B. ‘19 shared that she wants to have a career just like Ms. Mazzio’s and they connected after the talk to discuss ways they could stay in touch.

Ms. Mazzio’s inspiring words remind all of us how important it is to lift others up and to work hard to make a difference in the world both for ourselves and for those who come after us.

To learn more about Ms. Mazzio and her films, visit the website for 50 Eggs, her film production company. 

Exchange Student from Guatemala Reflects on Her Time at APH

Each fall, an APH family hosts an exchange student from Guatemala and this year, we were delighted to welcome Claudia G. While she was with us during the past two months, Claudia did an excellent job of immersing herself in all elements of school life. On Friday, December 7th, her final day at APH, Claudia gave a presentation to the entire school during Morning Meeting. She shared family photos and described what her school and social life are like back home. We are all grateful to have gotten to know Claudia and wish her all the best for her very bright future!

Claudia shared the following reflection about her time at APH:

At first I wasn’t sure about coming here because I’m really close to my family, but at the same time I knew it will be a big step in my life. The first couple of days were a really big challenge. New family, new school, and not so many friends as I’m used to having. Days felt like an eternity since I was trying so hard to fit into a completely different culture. I used to count the days to see how many I had left before going home, but now I don’t want to leave. I have mixed feelings; I’m excited to see my family and friends because I miss them so much, but I got to meet such good people here and now I’m worried I may never see them again. Sometimes I wish I could be in two places at once; that way I won’t miss anyone, but life doesn’t work like that.

Coming here was probably the best experience I’ve had in my entire life. I had went to my first USA concert, a charity event, and I met some amazing people there, a high school football game with a really good friend I met here, and I even tried my first salad. If you ask, I’m not just proud of myself for having the courage to come here, I’m really thankful for the amazing opportunity I had. I am 100% sure I won’t forget every single one of you and you will always have a very important place in my heart.

The feeling is mutual, Claudia. We will never forget you and you always have a family here at APH!

Junior Class Service Project: Beach Clean-up Day

Article by Juliette Chait ’20

On Thursday, November 15, the junior class was invited to eat at first lunch and then was excused from classes for the remainder of the afternoon. We all bundled up and took the vans to Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester for our team-building class service project. When we arrived at our destination at noon, we received rubber gloves, empty trash bags, a data collection sheet, and a pencil. Our mission was to collect all the trash we could find on the beach and keep track of everything on the paper for an organization called COASTSWEEP. COASTSWEEP collects the compiled trash from the beach and analyzes the data to identify sources of debris and prevent beach littering to keep our oceans clean. Thousands of volunteers initiate beach clean-ups each year in Massachusetts from September to November.

We were thrilled when we heard we were going to be a part of this wonderful project. We walked along the beach and climbed the Wingaersheek rocks. We ventured into the woods behind the rocks to sadly find piles and piles of garbage. Amongst the many cans, bottles, and food wrappers lying around in the woods, our girls found some pretty stunning objects: a pool ladder, a few shoes, a Littlest Pet Shop toy, and even a Ken doll. This was an eye-opening experience and we’re so glad to have made a difference in our community.

Bringing Women’s Lives Out of the Shadows of History

Students listen as Charlotte Lyons, Historian of the South Church in Andover, speaks about the cemetery

In a unique class called Out of the Shadows, students are learning about the lives of enslaved women in New England and the South. Many of their stories have remained hidden in the background of history and their lives have not been studied until now. Under the guidance of faculty member Dr. Linda Meditz, the students are learning about several “hidden” women in Massachusetts. They started the course by exploring the life of Phillis, an enslaved woman who served in the home of Rev. Stephen Williams of Longmeadow, Massachusetts for over fifty years. In the process of learning about her, Caroline B. ‘19 mentioned that she and her family had some contacts in Andover who were aware of a woman with a similar history and who had been buried in an unmarked grave. The students and Dr. Meditz sprang into action and submitted a proposal to design and install a headstone honoring the woman, whose name was Lucy Foster. The project has been approved by the Board of the South Church at Andover and is now moving forward.

Part of the process of choosing an appropriate headstone for Lucy is to learn about her life. To do that, Dr. Meditz has brought in several guest speakers, including Charlotte Lyons, the Historian of the South Church in Andover, and Elaine Clements, the Executive Director of the Andover Center for History & Culture, to visit the class and provide more details about Lucy’s fascinating history. Born in Boston in 1767, Lucy was given to Hannah Foster as a wedding gift when she was just four years old. Thus began an ongoing connection with Mrs. Foster that extended beyond Massachusetts Emancipation in 1783. When Mrs. Foster aged, Lucy returned to care for her. Upon her death, Mrs. Foster bequeathed about an acre of land to Lucy who was able to have a house built and host community gatherings there. She died when she was seventy eight years old.

Studying the lives of Phillis and Lucy is helping students learn how to interpret material culture and cultivate other skills related to working with primary sources and archival materials. Much of what is known about Lucy was the result of items found during a 1945 excavation of the site where her home once stood. While there are no known artifacts connected to Phillis, she is referenced at times in Rev. Williams’ journal. Being able to piece together people’s lives through these different clues has been a meaningful experience for the girls.

Out of the Shadows students

Out of the Shadows students

The students and Dr. Meditz recently traveled to the Andover graveyard to see the site where the headstone will go. They have started a campaign to raise funds to support this case, with the goal of being able to have the headstone installed in May. Anyone interested in learning more about this project or supporting it can contact Dean Tsouvalas, Director of Advancement and Communication at 978-468-6200 or by email at dtsouvalas@penguinhall.org.

Creating a gravestone for Lucy Foster is a powerful way for the girls to have an impact that extends well beyond this class. The hope is that through this project, many more people will gain an awareness of women like her, who have long been in the shadows of history. For example, it took more than twenty five years of ongoing debates and campaigns to finally have an exhibit at Monticello dedicated to Sally Hemings, a woman enslaved by founding father Thomas Jefferson. These women’s stories greatly enrich our understanding of history and they deserve to be heard and recognized. Students are making sure that the lives and stories of women like Lucy Foster are finally brought into the light.


Fall 2018 Sports Season Recap

The Academy at Penguin Hall Athletics teams had a strong Fall 2018 season. All four programs made great strides throughout the season, with each team improving their skills and ability to play well together. For the first time, we also had a student-athlete compete in cheerleading as part of a co-op with Hamilton-Wenham. Coaches and athletes from other schools frequently commented on how our student-athletes are both competitive and kind and that they bring a sense of humor and joy to their sport. They are excellent ambassadors for our school’s culture of kindness, displaying teamwork and sportsmanship on and off the field, court, and trail.


The soccer team had several dominant games, including two big wins over Malden Catholic. They also played an excellent game against Salem Academy, which was their best of the season. Since there were not a lot of subs, everyone had to dig deep and support each other. Carling Berglund ‘20, Elise Welch ‘20, and Bea Mendez ‘21 will serve as Team Captains next year.

Coach’s Award: Addie Martins ‘22
Most Improved: Grace Gardella ‘22

Learn more about The Academy at Penguin Hall; Apply Now for Fall!


Cross Country
The Cross Country team continues to have runners who excel both on our home course and during away meets. During meets at APH, our runners finished in three of the top four spots. In September, Abby Picciano, ’19, traveled to Rhode Island to compete in the Ocean State Invitational cross country race. She was in a field of nearly 150 division 1 runners and finished 81st overall. Team Captains for next year are Sophie Chabot ‘20 and Bella Carroll ‘20.

Coach’s Award: Abby Picciano ‘19
Most Improved: Sophie Chabot ‘20


As the season progressed, both the Varsity and JV Volleyball teams continued to raise their level of play. They played very strong matches against tough opponents, especially during the end of the season. Notable wins for the Varsity team include defeating Salem Academy and Newburyport. JV also defeated Newburyport and pushed Landmark and Malden Catholic to three sets. Abby Bettencourt ‘20, Adriana Kotler ‘21, and Cat Sanders ‘20 were voted as Team Captains for next year.

Coach’s Award: Michelle Sohegian ‘19 (Varsity); Izzy Grenier ‘22 (JV)
Most Improved: Cat Sanders ‘20 (Varsity); Morgan Comito ‘21 (JV)

field hockey

Field Hockey
The entire team of both returning and new players significantly strengthened their skills over the course of the season. A tangible example of this is that by the end of the season, every single girl had improved her time during the weekly challenge of running two laps of the field. The team worked hard and also gained experience shooting on a goalie.

Coach’s Award: Caitlin Robinson ‘21
Most Improved: Caroline Healy ‘22

Learn more about The Academy at Penguin Hall; Apply Now for Fall!


Through a co-op with Hamilton-Wenham, Norah Como ’21 competed as a member of the cheerleading team.

The team benefited greatly from her outstanding tumbling skills and solid support as a backer for stunts.

Nora also brought leadership and kindness to the team and they were the recipients of a Sportsmanship Award at a regional cheerleading competition.



Congratulations to all of our student-athletes, coaches, and families who support our teams!







Writing Class Field Trip to “Peculiar Patriot” Play

Molly Geaney ’19

On October 24th, Mr. Williams’ 12th grade Writing to Change the World class attended The Peculiar Patriot, a one-woman show playing at the Paramount Theatre in Boston. The play, starring and written by Liza Jessie Peterson, explores the impacts of mass incarceration on the lives and communities that it disrupts.

In The Peculiar Patriot, protagonist Betsy LaQuanda Ross undertakes a series of visits to her best friend, a mother who is serving a sentence in a faraway upstate prison. LaQuanda also researches mass incarceration in preparation for political discussions with her boyfriend and discovers that incarceration in the U.S. is big business. She describes America in terms of “hustlers,” and while everyone is running some kind of scheme, black people are the ones paying the heaviest price. Money (and not justice or public safety) is the driving incentive to build prisons and fill them up and to exploit the labor of those imprisoned. LaQuanda finds that comparisons between prison and slavery are not metaphorical, but very much real. With their basic rights stripped away, often for life, long after they have served their time, the incarcerated are not just prisoners; they are modern day slaves.

Throughout the play, Betsy LaQuanda Ross works on a quilt that represents each member of her family and community who has been incarcerated. In the final moments of the play, LaQuanda holds the finished quilt to her heart while the quilt squares of other incarcerated people fill the walls of the room. Her quilt is meant to be a new kind of American flag: one that represents the ugly side of a transactional country and the human cost of American greed.

The Peculiar Patriot does an incredible job of humanizing mass incarceration. As we saw in a classroom reading called the “Collapse of Compassion,” numbers tend to numb us. Not only is mass incarceration so separated from mainstream society, but it is also hard to visualize when most of us do not know what a prison even looks like or personally know a prisoner. The play allows those who do not experience this injustice to step inside the broken yet beautiful lives of the people who are affected by this devastating institution and to feel some of their pain.

Classmates later remarked on how much energy and life that Peterson brought to her performance. The play was beautiful and gave us a lot to think about as we examine our own privilege and the roles that we play in a nation driven by profit.

Expressing Creativity through Choreography

L to R: Eve P. ’20, Ashley S. ’21, Emily O. ’19, Norah C. ’21, Nachelle D. ’21, Saorsie C. ’19; Front: Madi C. ’19

When you see a dancer performing with passion, it is truly mesmerizing. Each movement, gesture, and facial expression can convey so much. In Taunia Soderquist’s Choreography class, seven students are learning the power and grace of dancing individually and as a group. Her focus is on teaching
“a solid foundation in the basics of music, movement, and skills in dancing, teaching, and executing and teaching choreography.”

Each class starts with a student-led warm-up designed to help the dancers stretch and prepare for practicing the day’s choreographies. Following the warm-up, students watch and discuss an inspirational dance video. By viewing and critiquing many different types of dance, students are gaining exposure beyond the usual styles they see.

Since Ms. Soderquist teaches both the Choreography and Introduction to Music Theory (as well as Chorus), she created a unique way for the two classes to complete an interdisciplinary project. First, the dancers improvised a one minute piece and then the Music Theory students were tasked with composing a piece that was a good match for the movements. This gave them a glimpse into what it is like to compose a film score and the challenges and creative opportunities that presents.

Students are hard at work on their final project, which involves developing and practicing the choreography for two songs that they will perform at the Winter Concert on Friday, December 14th at Gordon College. Ms. Soderquist explained: “Both songs will be incorporating other musicians from the music department. “Santa’s Coming For Us,” a fun and Latin-infused song by Sia, features the APH Chorus class and a fully choreographed dance by the Choreography class, created entirely on their own. “Cool Yule,” features jazz vocalist Lily S. ‘19, and the music has more of a swing and big band feel to it.  They’ll be incorporating east coast swing, lindy hop, and tap dancing into this number that they’ll also be choreographing and performing while Lily sings.”

One goal of the class is to create opportunities for students to learn from each other. Many of the girls have formal dance training but in very different styles. Two are Irish dancers, one competes in modern and contemporary dance categories, and others have learned styles involving hoops and other props. Ms. Soderquist finds it gratifying to help the girls work together to create unique pieces that draw on their strengths or let them try something new. It is clear that the students truly enjoy collaborating with each other and have a shared love of dance.

We look forward to seeing this talented group of young women perform at the Winter Concert!


Programming Dancing Robots?!?

According to girlswhocode.org, 74% of middle school girls express an interest in engineering, science, and math but only 0.3% choose computer science as a major when they get to college. One explanation for this is that between middle school and the end of high school, interest in STEM declines, especially for girls attending co-ed schools. At The Academy, we work hard to give our students opportunities to study multiple STEM fields and they thrive here.

In Craig Gorton’s Robotics class, six students are hard at work writing code using a program called Arduino to control robots. Each robot has a name and an elaborate backstory. The oldest is Seamus Patrick O’Mally (piloted by Ellie P. ‘21 and Michelle S. ‘19), who was the best robot but has been eclipsed by overlooked middle child Sean Connor O’Mally (piloted by Una M. ‘20 and Kelly G. ‘21). Maeve Margaret O’Mally (piloted by Fiona K. ‘19 and Addie M. ‘22) is the youngest and is described by the girls as a “bad egg.” This robot family might be complicated but the girls love all of them.

Robotics class

Fiona K. ’19 inspects the code while Mr. Gorton helps Michelle S. ’19 and Ellie P. ’21

Working in pairs, the students have been given increasingly harder challenges. They started by learning the basics of coding and robotic circuitry. Then, Mr. Gorton asked the students to program their robot to move in a straight line, turn, and then come back. This is not as simple as putting in a few lines of code but rather, it involves careful and continuous tinkering and tweaking. An additional challenge the girls are wrestling with is that each robot has a right and left motor and they don’t always go at the same speed. The three conditions they face are that the right could be faster than the left, the left could be faster than the right, or they could be working equally. Recalibrating to account for these conditions is a challenge but the students are up for it and are able to power through together.

Robotics Class

Una M. ’20 makes code adjustments and tests the robot’s wheel speed

After moving from simple tasks to more complicated maneuvers such as completing a maze, the girls completed their greatest challenge yet: programming the robots to perform a choreographed dance together. Not only does this take creating the right code for their robot but it also means helping their robot have spacial awareness of the other robots. The girls were extremely excited when they successfully got their robots to dance with each other. Up next for the girls and the robots will be a performance in front of the whole school. We are all looking forward to seeing their dance moves!

Celebrating the Life of a Poet Who Defied Convention

On an early, cool fall morning, eighteen students gathered to embark on a field trip to Steepletop, the home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Each girl had her own unique reasons for wanting to spend a whole Saturday traveling 163 miles each way to Austerlitz, New York to visit Millay’s home and grounds but the common thread they all shared was an eagerness to learn more about the Pulitzer Prize winning poet and thoroughly modern woman. Ms. Katherine Horgan, an APH Humanities faculty member who organized the trip, gave all of the students a packet with a brief biography of Millay as well as a selection of her poetry. Students also had the option of attending a prep session on Friday afternoon and ten students took advantage of this opportunity. During the nearly three hour drive to Steepletop, the students’ energy was palpable and with each passing mile, they became even more excited about the day ahead.


Edna St. Vincent Millay’s home, Steepletop

Upon arrival, the students split into two groups and with a guide, they set off to explore the grounds and Millay’s house. Although Millay died in 1950, her home has been preserved as if she just stepped away for the day. The tissues she blotted her lipstick with are still on her makeup vanity, her boots are still by the front door, and everywhere you look, you see items she collected from her travels both in the U.S. and abroad. The students all agreed that they could feel Millay’s presence there and that it was inspiring but also haunting.

Millay's Pool

Ms. Horgan and students view the pool

The tour guides from the Millay Society shared the many ways in which Millay defied convention both in her work and in her life. The girls learned about Millay’s activism, including her arrest for protesting the execution of several Italian immigrants. The tour guides also pointed out the little details around the house and property that showed Millay’s keen sense of humor. For example, in her private library, Millay had hung a sign she created that said “Silence” since she said every library had one. She and her husband Eugen also held legendary parties at their outdoor bar and pool. Standing in the area between the bar and pool, the girls felt like they could imagine those parties and hear the guests’ laughter.

Millay's writing cabin

Millay’s writing cabin

A few steps up the hill, the girls got to peer in the windows of Millay’s writing cabin. They smiled when they heard about how if Millay wanted anything while she was writing, she would put a white handkerchief in the window and her husband Eugen would see it from his window in the main house and come out. Some students ventured on in the rain to walk on the Poetry Trail, which has signs that display Millay’s poems. The trail ends in an area where Millay and her husband are buried, along with her mother Cora, and her sister Norma. Molly G. ‘19 said that just as she and some of her friends walked up to Millay’s grave, the rain stopped and the sun pierced through the clouds. It was a deeply emotional moment in an already moving day.

Learning more about Millay’s work and life through reading her poetry, seeing her home, and feeling that she was there with them resonated with the girls. When the tour guides told them that Steepletop may close to the public due to financial issues, several of girls began brainstorming fundraising events. Molly G. ‘19 is collecting donations at the Open Mic Night on Friday, October 26th from 5-8 pm.

Poetry discussion

Students discuss Millay’s poems with Ms. Horgan

Gathering in the visitor center, the students and Ms. Horgan discussed Millay’s poetry and which one(s) they liked best. Students had differing opinions about which poem was their favorite but agreed that knowing more about Millay made them appreciate her poetry and life even more. Many girls left the gift shop having purchased their own collection of Millay’s poems and several spent the ride home reading their new books. Ultimately, what made the trip to Steepletop very special for the girls was sharing the experience with each other. The students’ intellectual curiosity, leadership, and activism would make Millay proud.

Discussing Whales with a Smithsonian Paleobiologist & Author

In an elective course called Whaling in America: An Interdisciplinary Exploration, students are learning about whales’ scientific, economic, artistic, and cultural significance. The class is exploring how whales have been perceived in many ways by different people across history. Scientists see whales as an important link to both the past and future and a profound example of evolutionary biology. For those engaged in the whaling trade, whales represented economic opportunity and were worth risking both life and property to kill them for their oil.

Writers, artists, and filmmakers have depicted whales as a symbol of the mysteries found in the ocean’s depths and an example of nature’s awe-inspiring beauty and terrifying power. Herman Melville wrote in Moby Dick, which students are reading: “Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure.” Native Americans saw whales as an important natural resource and used as many parts of the whale as possible, from eating whale meat to using baleen to build clothing and other goods.

Recently, students and their teacher Emily Hewitt had the unique chance to speak with a leading expert on whales. Nick Pyenson, PhD, a paleobiologist who serves as Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals at the Smithsonian, is the author of Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Most Awesome Creatures. He generously took time out of his busy schedule to join us remotely for an hour and to discuss his passion for studying whales and the insights he has gained.

Dr. Pyenson shared remarkable images and stories about the evolution of whales, the work scientists like him have done to study them, and how the history of whales helps us learn about numerous aspects of our world. He also described how science is team-based, happens in a social context, and often requires a high level of diplomacy. When giving us his prediction of the future of whales, he gave examples of several species on the brink of extinction and how even apex predators like killer whales are being found to have high levels of human pollutants in their systems. Dr. Pyenson’s fascination with whales and his reverence for them was palpable and inspiring.

Ms. Hewitt asked the students to have some questions for Dr. Pyenson and they came prepared. Emily O. ‘19 asked: “Why is studying whales important?” Dr. Pyenson replied that whales are a way for us to gain the proper context in which to see the scale of geologic time and history. He also shared that the decline in whale populations shows us the consequences of how humans are shaping the environment. The World Wildlife Foundation paints a bleak picture: “Unfortunately their large size and mythical aura does not protect them; six out of the 13 great whale species are classified as endangered, even after decades of protection.” Dr. Pyenson emphasized how the loss of whales is a loss for all of us.

Emma F. ‘19 asked: “What is your next step?” Dr. Pyenson answered that he “wants to explore the evolution of other marine mammals and to continue examining connections between modern whales and their historic ancestors.” He also wants to keep traveling to different parts of the world to excavate whale fossils and dive with and observe current whale species.

Dr. Pyenson also gave the students several key takeaways about how to take an interdisciplinary approach in their professional and personal lives. These included learning how to write, doing as many kinds of science as possible to discover what you are and aren’t good at, listening to your gut, and how being social often leads to finding mentors, research collaborators, and friends. He ended by highlighting the great rewards a career in science can bring and the personal connections it often fosters.

Given that the class has spent the past few weeks learning about whale evolution and physiology and are switching gears and study the history of whaling and its depiction in literature, the conversation with Dr. Pyenson was a perfect transition. Students are now reading Moby Dick and will be going on a whale watching trip in the next few weeks. Being able to learn about whales in multiple contexts is exciting for students and the knowledge they are gaining stays with them because of the memorable experiences they are having in this class.


Meeting Peter the Great in His Own Language

Taking Russian as a high school student while also getting to learn about the country’s fascinating culture and history is rare. At The Academy, Introduction to Russian Language and History is an elective course taught by Mary Richards. It is open to students of all class years and eight students are currently enrolled. 

When you see a Russian word such as Здравствуйте (hello), you begin to understand that an important part of learning the language is to master the connection between the alphabet and the sounds. “When you first see the alphabet, it looks foreign and a bit incomprehensible but once students get acquainted with the letters, it’s the first step to unlocking the language. There are many Russian words that come from Greek, Latin, or English words – and are very familiar to us, once we get past the alphabet. Some aspects of the language are simpler than English. It’s also really fun!” Ms. Richards said. Students have been working on vocabulary you would encounter in daily life and feel it has been fascinating to learn how to say the names for places and objects.

Students have also been practicing how to introduce themselves to each other. This has enabled students to become comfortable with the Russian terms for the different parts of names: first name (имя), patronymic or father’s first name (имя отчество), and last name (фамилия). Being able to practice such basics frequently is important for students’ success in speaking Russian comfortably. Ms. Richards connected this exercise to the upcoming history lesson, telling students: “We need to know how to introduce ourselves before we meet Peter the Great.”


The concept of introductions was an excellent transition into talking about Peter the Great and his important role in Russian history. By viewing paintings of Peter (on the right in the image above) and his father side by side, students discussed, in simple Russian phrases, the differences in how they were portrayed and what that said about how Peter changed the role of the tsar. Through both conversation and a brief video, students began to see how complex Peter was and that, while he is viewed as a modernizer in many ways, he also had a dark side.

Now the students in Ms. Richards’ are embarking on a biography project. They will each be researching the life of a Russian historical figure of their choice (for example, Catherine the Great, Nicholas – the last Tsar and his family, Anna Pavlovna – a famous prima ballerina of the early twentieth century). Their first step is to create a bookmark that presents a snapshot of the person. Then students will research their subject and make a presentation to the class, giving a detailed view of the individual within the context of their times in both Russian and world history. By putting these famous Russian figures on a timeline (pre-Peter or post-Peter), the girls will gain a foundation for conceptualizing Russian history as a whole. The girls will also be learning new vocabulary and expressions along the way and continue to practice their pronunciation as they strive to master the unique and beautiful Russian language.

Being able to teach a Russian class to young women in high school is very meaningful to Ms. Richards. She started her own study of Russian in tenth grade. She went on to complete her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Russian and Slavic Languages, earning a B.A. in Russian from Indiana University and then an M.A. and Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from The University of California, Berkeley, CA. She studied on exchange at Harvard while writing her dissertation and spent time living and studying in different Russian cities, including St. Petersburg. She also studied in Poland. Through her class at APH, Ms. Richards hopes to inspire the next generation of students to develop an interest in Russian language, history, and culture.

До свидания! (Goodbye!)


Upside Down Project in Ms. Lake’s Portfolio Art Class

Part of The Academy’s approach for preparing students for college involves classes that directly parallel the types of projects and expectations they will experience as undergraduates. A perfect example of this is Gail Lake’s Portfolio Art class. Her description of the class demonstrates her strong commitment to helping her students get ready for what lies ahead: “Portfolio is an advanced course that invites students to creatively explore art while maximizing their potential within and outside the classroom. This course is designed to support and encourage students who are interested in pursuing Art at a higher level and require documentation of their high school art experience.”

Each week in Ms. Lake’s Portfolio class, students get to put down their books, put on music, and pick up a shading pencil or paintbrush. “This is my favorite class!” said Angela M. ‘20 as she entered the room. Classmate Madi C. ‘19 strongly agreed and shared: “I am always excited to work on my projects.” This is exactly the type of environment Ms. Lake is trying to cultivate in her classroom. “This is a no stress zone,” she said. “When you come here, we get to work and chat.”

While the students and Ms. Lake have a good time, everyone is also very serious about creating art. Knowing that these students are interested in studying art in college, Ms. Lake has structured her Portfolio Art class to include college-level projects. Her advanced students are working on several pieces right now, including two observational drawings from life and a painting based on the concept of upside down drawing. Inspired by Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards, Ms. Lake gave each student a line version (essentially a black and white outline) of a famous work of art upside down on the page. She only revealed about an inch of the image at a time and asked the students to draw what they saw without trying to name it or compare it.

Angela   Emma   Madi   Molly

Left to Right: Angela M. ‘20, Emma F. ‘19, Madi C. ‘19, and Molly G. ‘19

When Ms. Lake revealed the full image and turned it right side up, she said it was “like Christmas.” Her students agreed. Molly G.‘19 said, “The suspense was killing me! I had a hard time not saying “these are leaves” or labeling anything I saw.” Angela M.‘20 noted that she “felt very happy” when she finally got to see the full image. Madi C.‘19 “hated her first one” but then really loves the second one she is working on, which is one of Frida Kahlo’s self portraits. Ms. Lake also challenged the students to do this project on a large scale. Emma F.‘19, whose upside down image was a Modigliani piece, said, “I like working smaller and in watercolor so this is challenging and so different.” Finished pieces from this class and others will be displayed around the school.

Ms. Lake greatly appreciates working with students at The Academy. “I find the atmosphere and ambience here very inspiring,” she said. “I enjoy coming to class since the girls have so much enthusiasm about what they are doing.” She also finds the small, intimate class sizes helpful.

The Portfolio Art students have an exciting rest of the semester including more high-level projects, guest speakers, and field trips. A representative from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University is coming to class on October 11th to give a presentation. Then in early November, the class will be taking a field trip to Montserrat College of Art. Ms. Lake shared: “The goal of field trip is for students to experience college art classes and immerse themselves into what daily life as a student at an art college is like.” These young women and Ms. Lake are a great team who support each other in the artistic process.


Adventures in Geometry with Mr. Borzi

From the moment you enter Mr. Borzi’s classroom, you can tell you are in for an adventure instead of a typical math class. The walls are lined with memes, quotes, and motivational words that echo the values of The Academy. As students entered, they got right to work on the “Do Now” problem of the day. The students asked Mr. Borzi questions and he often asked a question right back that got the students to keep solving the problem instead of looking to him for the answer. 


Borzi Meme

After discussing the “Do Now” problem, Mr. Borzi set up the day’s activity. “I’m always trying to come up with real world problems based on what we’re covering in class,” he said. “It’s nice when you can be teaching something and then the next day, bam!, we are doing a real world activity. They have to figure it out and get to work together.” The students in his Geometry classes got to apply their understanding of the Segment Addition Postulate through an unusual, hands-on activity. Students acted as “building inspectors” and needed to determine the distance to the exit door from three different 4th floor classrooms. Each class was split into two groups and each group was only given three or four pieces of twine of varying length that were measured and labeled. Students had to make a diagram of the hallway, determine what distances each piece of twine represents, and by using the Segment Addition Postulate, determine each of the distances to the exit door.

One of Mr. Borzi’s core values is getting students to communicate and explain math rather than simply arriving at an answer. For the activity, each student created a report with all the data, calculations, and processes used. In their individual reports, they were given the chance to draw the map of the hallway and exits and present the information in whatever way they wanted as long as the key concepts and data was there.

Borzi Quote

In speaking with Mr. Borzi, he acknowledged that the idea of emphasizing communication in a Math class is a foreign concept to many students. When he returned the reports, he showed them examples of reports that earned the full amount of points. “I want these reports to stand alone so that someone could just pick this up, read it, and know exactly what the project was about without any prior information. They are getting into the habit of doing lab reports in science class or writing papers in English class but they don’t usually have to write about math in this way.” He is continuing to build these real-world activities from scratch for each topic he is teaching. “It is so rewarding to see these students in action applying what they are learning. That’s what excites me…the process of the learning and the life skills they are developing.”

Designer, Founder, and CEO Sara Campbell Visits APH

Sara Campbell, the designer, founder, and CEO of Sara Campbell Ltd., started this year’s Women in Leadership Speaker Series on a high note. In addition to over 30 years of designing timeless fashion for women, she has been dedicated to philanthropy throughout her career. During her time speaking with students, faculty, and staff, Ms. Campbell was candid and genuine about how she got started in the design industry, the challenges she has had along the way, and what gets her excited to go to work every day.

Ms. Campbell’s journey to becoming a dress designer started during childhood. As one of six children raised by an oncologist father and stay-at-home mother, Ms. Campbell learned early on that she needed a creative outlet. She borrowed her older sister’s sewing machine and started making dresses. This passion led a summer job where she taught people sewing lessons and also babysat to earn money to buy fabric. She went on to college and then completed a graduate degree in Art Education at Lesley University. Ms. Campbell shared that to her, success meant being able “to support myself by being creative.” A pivotal moment was when Ms. Campbell met and befriended the artist Corita Kent. Ms. Kent went on to serve as a private tutor and mentor for Ms. Campbell, especially while she completed her Masters in Fine Art from Mass Art. Ms. Campbell designed her first line of clothing in 1985, making her first sale to Pappagallo on Newbury Street. A chance meeting during a plane trip led to Ms. Campbell selling a large order to Talbots and she has grown Sara Campbell Ltd. into a 20 million dollar business with 24 retail stores.

5 Keys to Success from Ms. Campbell:

1.) Believe in and support each other.

Her motto within her company is “it takes a village” and that she and her team need to believe in each other, customers, and community.

2.) Kindness is everything.

Having seen a bumper sticker said, “Make kindness cool again,” Ms. Campbell emphasized how much she believes in kindness. When interacting with others, she said, “we need to ask, “Is this my best self?” and if not, change it.” At The Academy, we strongly agree with Ms. Campbell and all work hard to create a culture of kindness.

3.) Be persistent and tenacious.

Ms. Campbell told the audience how she has weathered some tough times. She was very frank about the challenges she faced, including embezzlement by a family member working in the business, a lawsuit brought by an investor, and not taking a salary for two years in order to make payroll. Even in those dark moments, Ms. Campbell said that she drew strength from her family and faith. “We still had each other and we got through it,” she said, “I believe in the power of spirit, visualization, and prayer.”

4.) Give back.

Ms. Campbell encouraged students to see giving back as an important way to make a difference. “You each have a responsibility to yourselves and the world,” she said. Throughout her career, Ms. Campbell has held numerous fundraising events at her stores and has donated a substantial amount to local organizations including Rosie’s House.

5.) Be a sponge and never stop learning.

Looking around the room and the young women in front of her, Ms. Campbell issued a call to action. “You’re here to be empowered and you have an incredible opportunity to soak it up,” she said, “Education is important above anything else and don’t take it for granted.” She also added, “Every day is a learning day and I love that part of my life.”

In her closing remarks, Ms. Campbell invited the audience to picture their lives in a unique way. “You are building a sentence for your lifetime and every experience is more vocabulary.”

Students asked Ms. Campbell a number of insightful questions. Ellie Beriau ‘19, who has an interest in fashion design and hopes to launch her own company in the future, asked Ms. Campbell: “What advice do you have for students wanting to build a fashion empire?” Ms. Campbell’s answer focused on the importance of hard work and knowing it won’t be an easy road. Emily Osborn ‘19 asked if Ms. Campbell could go back and do anything differently, what would she choose? Ms. Campbell replied that she wished she had spent time working in a fashion design company before launching her line. Her candor and positivity were palpable and many students came up to speak with her after the event.

The Academy community is deeply grateful for the time Ms. Campbell spent with us and for her uplifting, impactful advice.


8 Ways to Make the Most of Your Summer Break

By Mary DeLorenzo, School Psychologist

Now that summer is in full swing, what will the rest of the summer break hold for you? Take time to relax, travel, create memories, and make an impact.

  • Reclaim your joy. Things that often get placed on the back burner during the busy academic year can regenerate your spirit. Read for enjoyment, take a photography class, journal/blog, start playing the guitar. Let your interests be your guide.
  • Get active: Plan activities that you can do with friends like swimming, biking, hiking, or walks on the beach. Summer days are longer, the sun feels warmer, so get outdoors.
  • Unplug and engage with people.
  • Reconnect with friends, family and important people in your life. Face-to-face connections are important.
  • Get a summer job or create your own small business like lawn-cutting, dog walking, or babysitting. Be empowered by managing your own schedule and save money.
  • Apply for an internship to obtain real-world experience, network, and learn.
  • Give Back by volunteering this summer within an organization you are passionate about.
  • Build life skills. Learn to cook, do laundry, practice money management and budgeting.
  • Plan college visits and make time for adventures while traveling and prepare for standardized tests. But remember balance is key

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to enjoy with the people, places, and things that matter most. Make time for good old-fashioned fun!

Contact Mary DeLorenzo