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Thursday, August 06, 2020


News from Keri Gelenian, Head of Schools/RA Principal

May 2016

Dear Rivendell Families,

Events in May move us in many directions. We say goodbye to our seniors and introduce ourselves to our new seventh graders.

It is a time for reflection on the past year as we also begin planning for future. Here are some highlights.

Student Accomplishments

  • Trillium Cserr, a graduating junior, has been awarded a National Merit Scholarship Nomination as a result of receiving a qualifying score on her PSAT examination. Her score has placed her somewhere in the top 3% of PSAT scores nationwide. Trillium has also been awarded a writing award from the National Council of Teachers of English, thanks to a submission of her work by Eric Reichert.
  • Good luck to our seniors! They have made their plans for next year—work, military, and college. We have 26 seniors moving on to college.
  • Thank you Megan Langraff for taking on the yearbook as your senior project. We look forward to it. Hopefully someone or some people can fill your shoes next year!
  • Ms. Robison’s Women’s Literature class is creating a syllabus for restructuring the health curriculum to include such issues such as reproductive rights; consent; physical, sexual and emotional partner violence; and gender expectations and gender roles. Women’s Lit is also hosting a night of spoken work on May 26th from 6:30-7:30 in the multi.
  • On May 11th we received a phone call from a woman praising Will Ussler, Max Haehnel, and Isaac Martel. The caller and her husband were heading to Thetford Academy for an event featuring one of their grandkids, when they got a flat tire in front of Rivendell. The three boys rushed out of class and changed the tire. They also refused payment for work. The woman said she and her husband would have never made it to Thetford in time if it weren’t for the quick
    help from our students.
  • The front page of the Valley News http://www.vnews.com/A-Tree-Grows-in-Fairlee-Along-with-Student-Knowledge-1880893 showed Rivendell taking advantage of the unique opportunity to plant, nurture and record the growth of chestnut trees developed
    over decades of work by the American Chestnut Foundation http://www.acf.org/index.php. Doc Browne seized this opportunity when Rivendell parent Marcus Bradley secured saplings from the foundation.
  • As a result of years of work by Michael Galli, Nancy Hall and Cindy McLaren, we will have approximately ten tuition students joining our 9th grade class next year. These students will come from Warren, Piermont, and Waits River.
  • Brenda Gray has done the impossible! She secured a driver’s education teacher for a summer New Hampshire class. Rod Hull will be returning to teach the class. It is nearly impossible to find a certified NH drivers education teacher. We would love to have a local person get certified to teach the course! Anyone interested?
  • Nancy Hall and the Leo’s club combined forces with their sponsoring Lion’s Club Chapter to give eye tests to Rivendell stu-dents using a hand-held digital scanning devise.
    Jack Winxxx practicing as xxx Gray looks on.
  • Nancy Hall organized a comprehensive, experienced-based approach to introducing our students to Dual Enrollment and Early College opportunities. At the Norwich campus, CCV faculty gave our 9th and 10th students an overview of their classes. An excellent panel of CCV students, including our own Erin Lapine, gave a great overview of the rewards and challenges of community college.

The Past is Prologue

  • Mary Rizos and Jenny Ellis picked up the work started by former English teacher, Silas St. James in refocusing our advisory program. Mary and Jenny also broke the ice with the Rowland Foundation by submitting a very competitive application last year.
  • Following Jen and Mary’s example, Lazlo Bardos and Rachel Sanders submitted a Rowland Fellow application and received $100,000 to continue our work with Critical Exploration. Critical Exploration is an approach to fostering deep learning by engaging learners with materials that allow learners to naturally develop and further their own ideas. http://www.criticalexplorers.org/about/origins-inspiration/.
  • In two weeks Kirsten Surprenant, Jen Bottom and Story Graves will travel to San Diego to visit a very innovative set of pub lic charter schools known as High Tech High http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_innovation/2015/03/ most_likely_to_succeed_a_film_about_what_school_could_be.html.
    These schools are unique in their singular focus on projects. As in Critical Exploration, the projects give students owner-ship over their learning. With scaffolding from the teacher, these unique projects develop creativity, a capacity to work in teams, problem solving and confidence. A real problem or question drives the best projects.

Where are we headed?

  • Build on and improve our advisory program including morning meeting.
  • We need to continuously improve our advisory curriculum. To do so we have rearranged some grade level advisors who will stay with their advisory group for two years. This gives advisors an opportunity to focus on two years of curriculum rather than four. The downside is that advisors need to get to know another set of 10-12 students every two years. We have reestablished our student advisory council and given them specific leadership responsibilities.
  • Deepen our expertise using Critical Exploration as an approach to learning. This work will continue to be supported by the district’s Committee on Learning through professional development activities and the work of Lazlo Bardos and Rachel Sanders with the support of their Rowland Foundation funding. We hope to create a deeper relationship with the staff of Critical Explor-ers, a group based in Cambridge, MA.
  • Develop projects leading to public exhibitions.
  • Next fall, at the end of the first trimester, the 7/8 students and the 9th grade humanities students will present a public exhibi-tion. Developing the projects and exhibitions will begin with a problem or question. We will judge our success by the impact that these projects have on the audience when students present their final work.
  • Continue to develop our curriculum documents.
  • RA’s thematic framework for curriculum (Truth, Choice, Systems and Change) and our learning expectations will continue to drive course development at RA. Our goal is to develop critical, pragmatic thinkers. We want Rivendell students to be well versed in considering these questions: What “truths” need to be brought to bear in understanding a significant problem or question? How are choices impacted by those truths? What systems are created or maintained by those choices? What choices impact those systems?

The Rationale

  • These goals put student learning in the center of what we do. Advisory is an about personal relationships, with specific purposes in mind-- becoming reflective learners able to develop a strong community and individual character. Critical Exploration puts students’ ideas at the center of the learning process. Projects and public exhibitions unify understanding and action with the purpose of having an impact in the world. Curriculum that rests on a framework of truth, choice, systems and change supports complex thinking, relevance, and impact. No amount of testing, standards, textbooks, or lectures compare to the virtues these ideas and practices can bring forth in our students.
  • These ideas and practices require patience and practice. We have produced examples of these ideas. We have experimented and reflected on those experiments. We are slowly gaining control based on what we have learned. We are novices. Yet, I am confident that with continued freedom to experiment, we will have a lot more to say and show for our efforts at this time next year.


I wish everyone a safe and happy summer.
Keri Geleian