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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Musical hope for those with busted brackets

DA Music and Drama Teacher Elizabeth South (far right above) has advanced once more in the Ryan Seacrest "Let it Go" cover contest. To join the hundreds of Pre and Lower Schoolers and thousands of music fans across the country voting for Elizabeth's version, click here and vote up to once per day until Friday, when the seven finalists will be announced.

On Thursday WNCN TV anchor Phil Sanchez came to campus and caught Elizabeth singing with her Kindergarten Music students. Click here to see the 45-second segment from the WNCN's Today Show (It's the third in the playlist: "Time Running Out for Durham Academy Teacher in Singing Contest.")
Posted by in Other on Monday March 31, 2014
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How to succeed in business? Follow Socrates' advice

Aneil Mishra (DA parent and NCCU School of Business's Associate Dean for Academic Affairs) tweeted an interesting article  - one that refers explicitly to MBA programs but may have something to say to us K-12 educators as well.

The article, published by Poets and Quants, describes emergent themes from 90 interviews with executives in North America and Asia. Many execs expressed frustration with the lack of contextual knowledge and collaborative skill they see in recent MBA graduates. A few examples:

  • “I’m amazed at the lack of sophistication that so many MBAs show about globalization and dealing in an increasingly global economy…They have no concept about the changes that are underway with a billion people here or there consuming and investing in ways that …

Posted by in Other on Sunday March 30, 2014
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March, stand, and deliver

As are our students, I am often inspired by the quality of our language teachers. Click here to see the ice-storm-transcending dedication of our Chinese Teacher Joanne Shang. Or check out these two short videos:

  1. Middle School Spanish students, led by their Sergeant Marianne Greene, reciting irregular preterite congugations as they march around the school.
  2. Upper School Latin students, reciting the introduction of Virgil's Aeneid at 8:15, with morning sun streaming into the classroom of Edith Keene (apologies for the filmmaker's thumb).

Eager to recite Virgil's famed "arms and the man" stanza along with our students? Here's the cheat sheet:

ARMA virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
Italiam, fato profugus, Laviniaque venit
litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto
vi …
Posted by in Middle School, Upper School on Saturday March 29, 2014
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Who builds Triangles?

Congratulations to DA Grandparent Robert Teer, honored by the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce with the Civic Honor Award. Given annually since 1933, the award is given to people who have made “extraordinary contributions” to the community.

Teer is the third generation of his family involved in contracting, building and development. Through the company founded by his grandfather he was involved in early Research Triangle Park construction. Since 1986, he’s been president of his own company, Durham-based Teer Associates, which has been involved in building projects including offices for IBM Corp, GlaxoSmithKline, United Therapeutics Corp. and Biogen Idec.

Click here to see the full article in this morning's Durham Herald. Click here to see a good bio of Mr. Teer from …
Posted by in Other on Friday March 28, 2014
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Google Glass ambivalence

While I'm not sure whether to be inspired or alarmed about the implications, I feel lucky to know a Google Glass Explorer in person. DA 11th Grader Mark Cohen is one of the planet's few product testers for Google's bold optical head-mounted display project.

Mark and I recently chatted about Glass and its utility on and off campus. He loves the product - finding new uses for it every day. Click here to see a short video demonstration (with Mark showing on his iPhone what he sees in his right eye).

Click here to read more about Google Glass from the company's perspective.

Or here for thirty five arguments against Google Glass.

Or find Mark on campus. He's always ready for a good debate - and now well-stocked with supportive evidence.

Posted by in Upper School, Other on Thursday March 27, 2014
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Tag: Mark Cohen
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The toughest job you'll ever love

Upper School Physics Teacher Lou Parry copied me on this message yesterday - yet more evidence of our faculty pulling students toward "happy, moral, productive lives." Click "read more" below to see a close-up picture of Mr. Parry in Fiji.

To my Students and Advisees,

53 years ago this month, in 1961, President Kennedy signed the Peace Corps into existence. He had no idea he was going to change my life forever that day. But he did.

It was an honor and a privilege to have had the opportunity to be a Peace Corps volunteer. Attached is a picture of Tovata Dorm from Queen Victoria School. I was the dorm supervisor with two other teachers. Tovata was one of four dormitories at QVS. Queen Victoria School is located in a very rural area of the main island of Viti Levu in Fiji (no electricity, hot…
Posted by in Upper School on Friday March 21, 2014
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Tag: Lou Parry
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Can't beat meeting an astronaut

This picture came from Howard Lineberger, who teaches AP Environmental Science, Chemistry, Robotics, Geosciences and Engineering in the Upper School.

Among the students pictured are Cavaliers Samantha Baker, Abby Breitfeld and Vibha Puri. In the center: Dr. David Scott, Commander of the Apollo 15 mission. They met this week at the 45th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas, where the DA students have been building on their work with the MONS program.

Mars Outreach to North Carolina (MONS) is an initiative funded originally through the Student Science Enrichment Program (SSEP) and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF). MONS is a collaboration between Durham Academy (DA), Durham Public Schools (DPS), and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UT-K). The project is led by …

Posted by in Upper School on Thursday March 20, 2014
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How can we keep our promise?

On Tuesday March 25, 2014 at 6:30 in Kenan Auditorium, we screened 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 prestigious 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.

Posted by in Other on Thursday March 20, 2014
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We are being tested

The following note arrived in my inbox this afternoon from our Athletic Director Steve Engebretsen. I feel his pain and love his resilience. Thanks to everyone for patience and flexibility of late. The forecast for tomorrow afternoon: 65 degrees and sunny.

Sometimes you just have to laugh.


After shoveling snow from the sidewalks around Kirby Gym with help from the maintenance guys and basketball coaches Tim McKenna and Andy Pogach, so that DA could host the TISAC basketball tournament two days later than planned, and braving the roads like some of you to get to school, or home from school in February, I was actually looking forward to the hectic spring athletic season.


Well the athletic season is here, but not the spring part! I painted lines on Moylan Field while a still…

Posted by in Other on Wednesday March 19, 2014
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Franklin, Marshall, Porterfield, and lunch

A half-dozen sophomores, a few of their teachers and I had lunch with Dr. Dan Porterfield, President of Franklin and Marshall University.

Not every day can we have such immediate and relaxed access to university presidents. But Elizabeth Everett (DA's Co-Director of College Counseling) made Dr. Porterfield and our students feel right at home. Over lasagna, they talked about the distinctions of a liberal arts education, the contemporary lives of university students, and the ways in which today's teenagers can most energtically "catapault" (a favorite word of Dr. Porterfield) themselves into leadership roles in the world.

As Dr. Porterfield puts it, "Liberal arts education is the single finest form of cultivating emerging human talent and character that this world has ever known."

Click here…

Posted by in Upper School on Wednesday March 19, 2014
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