Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 

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Some decisions are easy

To battle my frustration with wintry weather, I recorded a short message with the the decision regarding school on Thursday. You may view it here. Thanks to Mr. Hark for his consultation as Assistant Head.

Now and any time our students miss school (whether for illness, family travel, or inclement weather), they are encouraged to remain connected with their teachers and assignments. Technological tools can help. This week, I asked faculty in all divisions to make plans with their students for missing one or two days. Many gave multi-day assignments. Many use Evernote, Moodle, or Veracross to move homework back and forth. Some teachers are being even more innovative. Joanne Shang's Chinese classes, for example, will be meeting in real time tomorrow using Google Hangout and Voicethread. …

Posted by in Middle School, Upper School on Wednesday February 12, 2014
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Goals, girls, and new eyes

From DA's news feed: Durham Academy senior Tara Nagar has played soccer for as long as she can remember. So when presented with the opportunity to empower young girls halfway around the world through the game she loved, she jumped at the chance. Now back in the States after a two-week service trip to India, Nagar says she has a new perspective.

Nagar and five other students from Triangle-area schools — including sixth-grade language arts teacher Patti Donnelly's daughter Jordan — joined with several other service-minded soccer enthusiasts from the West Coast on the trip, organized through the nonprofit Goals for Girls.

"There are so many moments from the trip that I will never forget because all of the people and girls we met were so inspiring," Nagar said.

One particularly …

Posted by in Upper School, Other on Tuesday February 11, 2014
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American Promise and Skinned Knees

Today I invited our parents to two events designed to strengthen our resolve and expand our toolboxes as parents:

American Promise – On Tuesday, March 25 at 6:30, we will screen the documentary film that launched the year for our faculty and stirred good conversations about marriage, parenting, race, education, and the American Dream. American Promise follows two middle-class African-American boys from home to New York’s Dalton School and back for thirteen years. Click here to learn more and see the trailer. Or see page 18 of the new Durham Academy Record for more about how our faculty used the film. American Promise is suitable for all ages – a compelling story and powerful conversation starter. Admission is free.

Dr. Wendy Mogel – On Wednesday, March 5 at 7:30, we …

Posted by in Other on Monday February 10, 2014
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Live, learn, teach, thrive

Thanks to a gift from The Devonwood Foundation in respect for the teaching profession and in honor of the teachers of DA, a Durham Academy Honored Educator Scholar is chosen each year to attend a seminar of choice from the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT).

The scholarship covers all costs associated with these week-long seminars, including program materials, instruction, food and lodging, travel to and from the campus, as well as substitute costs during the seminar. Moreover, each teacher receives $250 for use in his or her classroom.

Congratulations to Upper School Spanish teacher Lorena Ochoa, who just completed the seminar titled "Success from the Start: How to Survive and Thrive in Your First Three Years." at the NCCAT campus in Cullowhee.

Writes Lorena: "…
Posted by in Upper School, Alumni on Monday February 10, 2014
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Jabberwock and congeniality

Last weekend Senior Joia Freeman was a finalist in the highly competitive Jabberwock competition hosted by the Durham Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. From the Jabberwock website: "During this competition, the participants engage in social, cultural, and service activities. In the tradition of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, these activities are focused on building the mind, body, spirit and social awareness of youth as well as fostering positive relationships."

Joia was awarded a scholarship for over $16,000. In addition to the scholarship, she also received the award for Ms. Congeniality. Joia was escorted by one of her best friends and fellow DA lifers, Kelly Moore. Pictured above: Sterling Freeman, Joia, Michelle Graham-Freeman (DA Preschool Spanish Teacher), and Kelly.

Posted by in Other on Saturday February 8, 2014
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Choosing wisely - students, teachers, and DA as a whole

What does "an innovative liberal arts education" look like? Those are the words DA used in our last Strategic Plan, a phrase that could adequately discribe much of what happens in our classrooms every day.

But wait. There's more.

This spring we'll begin the process of planning our next Durham Academy Strategic Plan - one that will require input from all our constituents (via online surveys, live focus groups, a two-day retreat and 6-9 months of research, ideation, and reflection).

Our teachers need not wait for that plan to innovate in their classrooms. Every day they are free to experiment with new ways of teaching old truths (and with old ways of discovering new truths).

Yesterday I read an interesting article from John Chubb (President of the National Association of Independent Schools)…

Posted by in Other on Friday February 7, 2014
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Hill continues climbing

The Hill Center Names New Executive Director

Durham, NC: Beth Battle Anderson, a national leader in education strategy and entrepreneurial programs and administration, has been named Executive Director of The Hill Center, effective July 1, 2014. Since 1977, the Durham, North Carolina-based Hill Center has been a nationwide leader in helping transform thousands of students with learning differences into confident, independent learners.

Anderson’s appointment, following a year-long national search, was announced January 31 by Hill Center Board of Directors Chair Allison Haltom McClay. Anderson succeeds Dr. Shary Maskel who announced her decision to step down in February 2013 after thirty years as

The Hill Center’s Executive Director.

“The Search Committee was captivated…

Posted by in Other on Thursday February 6, 2014
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To serve and instruct

Upper School parent Diane Lanevi shared a rousing article from Momastery about a masterful teacher. An excerpt:

TEACH ON, WARRIORS. You are the first responders, the front line, the disconnection detectives, and the best and ONLY hope we’ve got for a better world. What you do in those classrooms when no one is watching- it’s our best hope.

Teachers- you’ve got a million parents behind you whispering together: “We don’t care about the damn standardized tests. We only care that you teach our children to be Brave and Kind. And we thank you. We thank you for saving lives.”

Click here to see the full piece - a more memorable way of conveying the ideas in the opening paragraphs of my recent Campus Security Updates.
Posted by in Preschool, Middle School on Wednesday February 5, 2014
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Tune in for BIGG news

WRAL news anchor and reporter Sloane Heffernan was at DA interviewing DA alumnus Chris Rosati '89 this morning. The interview aired today on WRAL’s 5 p.m. newscast. Click here to see it and read more.

Chris talked about the BIGG Student Challenge (Big Ideas for the Greater Good). He’s inviting Triangle-area students to dream up the most creative, bold and uncommon way to enrich the lives of others. Which DA student or group has the BIGGest idea in town?

Posted by in Other, Alumni on Monday February 3, 2014
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Shelving and shushing? Think again.

Middle School Librarian Jennifer Longee recently returned from the American Library Association annual conference, where she tested Google Glass (see above), attended a variety of training workshops, and began her service on the 2015 Theodore Seuss Geisel Award committee.

The Geisel Award is given annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year. Parents and friends of beginning readers might want to check out the 2014 winners here. Congratulations to Jen for this honor and responsibility.

If you haven't been in a school library in a while, come see any of our three libraries on any school day. You'll be impressed. Until then, check out the websites for our:
Posted by in Lower School, Middle School, Upper School on Saturday February 1, 2014
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