Originally published by Hannah Lee ’20 on The MacDuffie Magnet. MacDuffie’s Winter Musical, “Mamma Mia!”, is scheduled to run from Friday, Feb. 28 through Sunday, Mar. 1, 2020.
The theater department held “Mamma Mia!” auditions on Dec. 9 to Dec. 11 in the Little Theater.
“Mamma Mia!” includes pop music from the group ABBA that was not written to be a musical. Art Department Chair and Theater Teacher Becky Beth Benedict, who is both the director and the producer said, “the songs are really catchy, and it would be a really good opportunity for us to make the audience feel easier that way.”
She also highlights that it is the first musical including the bagpipes. Compared to past productions, the musicians are also going to be playing more rock and roll instruments such as electric guitars. She is planning to have interactive activities such as photo zones and games for the audience as well.
“I am obsessed with this show. Just talking about it makes me smile… I am excited to make plans, plan all the props, and to have people in the room with me who are also in love with the productions,” said Benedict. She expects the performers to be excited because the show is all about joy.
The show “Mamma Mia!” is about a mother and daughter that live on an island in Greece. The daughter, Sophie, is going to be married soon, but the mother, Donna, is uncertain about the marriage. At the same time, Sophie wants to find out who her father is. After she coincidentally reads her mom’s old journal, she finds out that she has three possible fathers (Bill, Sam, and Harry) and invites all of them to her wedding. Donna invites her enthusiastic best friends who were in the same band as her when they were younger. The mother soon finds out that the fathers are on the island, worries more about her daughter’s marriage and realizes that she is still in love with one of them.
Benedict wants to point out two things: “One, to the people who are thinking, kind of, sort of, possibly, the show is going to be so fun to get involved whatever roles you get. So be brave.” Since thirty people signed up already, she believes there is going to be some competition for leading roles. She is excited to see who is going to show up and eventually come together.
“Last, to anyone who wants to see the show, get the tickets quickly because it is going to be sold out fast.”
Jessica Sperry recently joined the MacDuffie community as a member of the English Department this fall. With her, she brought fifteen years of classroom experience and a general passion for books. You would expect nothing more from an English teacher, yet, Sperry constantly draws from this union between herself and her job, as she reflects on what it has led her to.
Remembering herself during high school, she says, “School was always a haven for me and I really liked being in school, but I was not really good at school. As I got older it was not until my twenties that I realized I wanted to be a teacher. I think it was because I was not good at school that I can be here teaching.”
As she grows older, this is a feeling that keeps coming back to her, where she likes to involve herself with other people or concepts on a day to day basis.
“I feel inspired by everything I read,” said Sperry. “I am reading Jane Eyre. That is one book I have felt inspired by every day. The Joy Luck Club somewhat inspired me as well…”
According to Sperry, she particularly enjoys her job because of her students. What she has enjoyed the most throughout her fifteen years of teaching is her students’ ability to provide her with new knowledge every day.
“I enjoy learning about language, dance, music, and culture…I learn how to grow and how to adapt every single day from my students,” she said.
According to Sperry, this is one of the best things about her job and she wishes to continue this practice every day.
One of her favorite quotes that she appreciates is “Live at peace with one another as much as you are able.”
Science: Joseph Varney
Joseph Varney, former alumni of The MacDuffie School and a newly established member of the MacDuffie Science Department is proud to be back on campus. Although he came back many times after he graduated, whether it be in spending his summers as a member of MacDuffie’s annual Summer Camp, or even in reaching out to influential faculty such as Mrs. Tomkiel, he still sees much of what left an impression on him when he was a student.
Upon recalling his experience on campus as a student, he says, “Coming from [a] public school, it was a big change. It was not as rigid and as structured, and I liked that. This was because it allowed me to develop independently rather than develop myself in that structured setting. Also, the diversity of the campus is something I enjoyed. I look for diverse everywhere I go and that was sparked here.”
Varney emphasized what is even more apparent to him now: why did he decide to teach and why at MacDuffie. In college, he realized that he had a passion for teaching almost immediately, as he tutored students on concepts in Chemistry and Biology.
As he strives to teach MacDuffie students what he has learned in college, he says one of the general lessons he tries to teach is “a passion for learning, whether it be in learning the fundamentals of soccer with me on and off the field, or the fundamentals of Biology in the classroom.”
In his free time, he “enjoys playing soccer and kickball competitively.” He is also a self-proclaimed “big movie guy.” He enjoys all types of movies, but if he had to pick a favorite it would be horror movies.
Joseph Varney is here to stay at The MacDuffie School, a place that has allowed him to develop into the person that he currently is.
Athletics: Neil Domer-Shank
Neil Domer-Shank was introduced to MacDuffie when he joined the community last Spring as a coach for the new Baseball team. Domer-Shank did not commit to being a full-time coach until this summer.
According to Domer-Shank, Macduffie has “a strong staff community that works together and communicates well, [as well as a] a diverse group of students who are open to new ideas and willing to challenge themselves. An athletic department that builds leaders that are well-rounded on and off the field”.
When asked about his reasons for coming to MacDuffie, he said, “Originally, I came here because it was a great landing point for a group of high school baseball players who were looking to be educated at a high level and play baseball at the collegiate level. This was as a coach. To come here as a full-time staff, I was impressed by the community and wanted to have a bigger part to play in that community. “
You will find he loves talking about the things he loves most, including baseball, coffee, and most importantly, his wife, kids, and his PE classes.
“PE, which combines elements of leadership, social engagement, teamwork, nutrition, athletics, recreation, and a healthy lifestyle, have always been elements that I try to incorporate into my daily life, including as a husband and father,” he said. “Our goals in class don’t just exist for a quarter or semester during a year, but [they are] applicable to the rest of the student’s life.”
Other things he enjoys about the community are the positive energy from dozens of students on an hourly basis, and a staff team that is doing everything in their power to put them in positions where they can be successful; and also great food!
Domer-Shank begins his time at MacDuffie trying out new things and constantly allowing himself to fall freely into the arms of the MacDuffie community, making his PE classes memorable across campus each day.
Science: Roger Moncusi
Roger Moncusi joined the MacDuffie School as a Physics and Chemistry teacher starting for the 2019-2020 school year. He has taught Chemistry, Physics, and Math for over twenty years. Moncusi was born and raised in Barcelona, and he moved to Amherst, MA 6 years ago. His wife is getting her Ph.D., which is why Moncusi and his family came to the states. He misses all the childhood memories in Barcelona, but he is also excited to make new memories in the United States and at MacDuffie.
Moncusi was attracted to MacDuffie because of the relatively small student to teacher ratio. According to Moncusi, “it is easier to get to know students and to remember their names. Therefore, it is easier for me to know [the students at MacDuffie] than [a] big ratio of students.”
At MacDuffie, Moncusi is expecting to help his students learn. He believes there are two ways to learn at MacDuffie. He says, “first is to help students and to self learn since there [is] always something to learn about other people. And I am also ready to learn myself about how school works and how teachers teach in the United States.”
Moncusi loves to watch soccer games, go snowboarding, and especially play human tower. According to Moncusi, “It is a team activity that is traditional in Barcelona. Human Tower involves a lot of different people. 700 people can build one human tower. Once you are in the team, everyone is welcomed. No gender, social, physical condition difference exists. Everyone has places and roles…It helps bonds the whole community and put everyone in the same position and level. Everyone is welcomed when they have something to help build the human tower.”
The most interesting human tower that he ever participated in is 3/10 tower. The 3/10 human tower consists of 3 people in each of the 10 floors. The achievement of the human tower is completing it in one second. He points out that achievement comes from the moment that shows the reward for the hard work.
As Moncusi’s life goal is “to be happy,” and he hopes to find the things and people that make him happy at MacDuffie. He loved his first three weeks of teaching at MacDuffie, and he is excited to make more memories.
History: Sklyar Mead
Sklyar Mead joins our MacDuffie Community as a history teacher who teaches two Modern European History classes and one Global Studies class. She majored in Modern European History which led to her teaching history classes at MacDuffie. Mead was born and raised in the suburbs of Albany, New York. “It is kind of like Springfield, but a little bit nicer with the Hudson River next to my house,” she said.
Mead was looking for a job in a small school that would allow her to work on her Master’s degree online. Previously, she taught two years of middle school Social Studies, along with teaching elementary school when she was in college. She is excited to teach and meet students who are engaged a lot in her classes.
According to Mead, she is already driven by the MacDuffie community. She says she met other faculty members who are really nice and positive students who have helped her a lot to adjust to her new community.
“Although I am still confused [about] getting [the] hang of the buildings, I always got help from others who were willing to help.”
Mead is looking forward to special activities or traditions that only MacDuffie has. She is interested particularly in Mountain Day since she climbed the same mountain with some difficulty. She is curious about how all the other faculty and students will do.
Outside of school, she is interested in baking food, including cakes, spreads, and pastry. She also enjoys hiking and reading, although she is most interested in running. Mead started running since she was 11 because her mom wanted her to. She started to find running enjoyable during high school, and she participated in a couple of 5k runs. She is now preparing for a 10k run. Mead also loves traveling and learning about different parts of the world, including their languages. She is fluent in French, German, and Danish. Her favorite city she visited was Munique, Germany, as she was impressed by the beautiful old buildings and gardens. She is looking forward to going to Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, and France one day.
Director of Recruitment and Enrollment Management: Jeff Quebec
Mr. Jeff Quebec is excited to be the new Director of Enrollment Management at The MacDuffie School this year. He was born in Concord, Massachusetts and grew up in nearby Acton, Massachusetts. He attended Syracuse University and obtained his Master’s Degree from Boston University. Quebec was impressed by a nice and welcoming community on his first day at MacDuffie, which reminded him of a big family. He is excited to meet the students of our school and getting to know them.
Quebec enjoys spending time with his family, reading, traveling internationally, and relaxing at his seasonal cottage. He especially likes hockey and is certified as USA Hockey Master’s Level Ice Hockey Coach. He already visited almost seventy countries in the world. He feels very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel all over the world. Through these experiences, he was able to gain a strong appreciation of many different cultures. Since he worked three decades in independent school education, he is also passionate about having an impact on students’ lives. He has owned a company named Pre-Prep Showcase® for 26 years. During the annual showcase, girls and boys have the opportunity to gain exposure to private schools through the sport of ice hockey.
His favorite quote comes from former Major League Baseball player Carl Yastrzemski; “The race doesn’t always belong to the swift nor the battle to the strong. It belongs rather to those who run the race, stay the course, and fight the good fight.” Quebec is looking forward for students to have a good fight. He is ready to watch talented students grow each day in classrooms, art studios, labs, theater, dormitories, fields and courts, and shine in where they are.
Visual Arts: Jena McNerney
MacDuffie welcomes Jena McNerney back after two years. Many students remember McNerney as the middle school Arts and Perspective Visual Arts teacher. However, this year she is also teaching Visual Art classes for high schoolers. She said that she especially missed the “friendliness and kindness” in the community and the “vigorous” students who have a “drive to success.”
During her time away, McNerney opened her own art studio where she learned about struggle and budget. She thinks that opening her art studio was a special experience in that she learned a lot from it. In fact, one of her mottos in life is “learn from everything.”
Her goals are “bigger than solely being a teacher,” even though teaching is a big part of her life. She wants to start up a cafe near her art studio where she would create every product used there by hand, even the mugs. She aspires to teach her students that “me time is important,” something we forget during the busy academic year.
Her hobbies are creating art, hiking, and playing basketball. She was the girl’s basketball coach before she left MacDuffie. She also attended girls’ basketball games while she was not working at MacDuffie. Although she says that she is not going to take the coaching position, she will cheer and watch the games as the “unofficial coach.”
Spanish: Kevin Saez
MacDuffie welcomes Kevin Saez. Saez has been teaching Spanish classes at MacDuffie since the departure of Gloria Caballero. Aside from teaching Spanish, he wants to teach his students about Latino culture and create opportunities to get his students involved in the community.
He is especially passionate about the Puerto Rican culture that he grew up in. He was born in Naranjito, Puerto Rico. In Naranjito, he likes the happy people, the weather, and the Puerto Rican food. His hobbies include dancing, listening to music, and eating. He dances to a variety of styles anywhere from ballet to salsa.
He says MacDuffie “feels like home” where the students are “accepting.” Being a teacher at MacDuffie is a big step for him because it is his first job experience in the United States. He believes that “if you want something in life you have to go for it.”
Saez, who wanted to be a teacher since his childhood, believes that teaching is a rewarding job. When he was stationed in Spain, some of his students came to him and said that they had a lot of fun and also learned a lot from him. He believes when the students are thankful for his efforts, it is the most special part of teaching. As a community, we are looking forward to seeing Saez practicing his passion for teaching at MacDuffie.
Middle School Head: Tara Robinson
MacDuffie welcomes the new Middle School Coordinator, Tara Robinson. Robinson’s passion for teaching developed from a very young age when her little sister, who is two years younger than her, was born.
“I knew I wanted to be a teacher the minute my little sister was born,” Robinson said. Although she had other interests, she realized that with teaching she can do “[a lot of] things all at once and help the most people.”
Her real teaching experience started relatively early when she was studying at Easthampton High School. She enrolled for a program called Tiny Tots, where high schoolers would run a preschool or daycare. She was also the head of a program in which she created lesson plans and evaluated students. Looking back at her experiences in the program she said, “I learned a lot about child development” and got a chance to become a teacher.
Robinson especially likes teaching middle schoolers because she believes middle school years are the “sweet spot” in which students are old enough to start developing their characters, have opinions, and talk about different things that matter, yet still young enough to be influenced.
“Middle schoolers are impressionable and they need people at this age to give them a voice and to help them to find the right path,” she said.
Robinson wants her students to feel confident and comfortable with both the material they are learning and themselves. She looks forward to seeing that her students are able to advocate for themselves and feel like they have a voice.
Robinson believes influencing her students’ characters is the most rewarding part of teaching. Her goal is not making students “[remember] the facts of a lesson,” but it is hearing them say that she cared about them, helped them, and that they feel better about themselves and what they are doing because of her.
Originally posted on The Magnet by Alison Jackson, Ian Hua and Vincent Buono
This year, senior Savannah Richard created a new club at MacDuffie for learning American Sign Language, or ASL. Richard wanted to introduce ASL to the community because MacDuffie does not offer it as a class, and most people at the school are unfamiliar with the language.
Richard’s goal for the end of the year is to have members be able to “turn to each other and have a conversation… in ASL,” she said.
Richard originally picked up ASL around second or third grade. Recently, she also took an ASL class at the Palmer Public Library. According to Richard, the class focused on “how to begin communicating” rather than accumulating vocabulary, and she will use a similar style when teaching ASL in her club.
“I want to focus on having basic conversational techniques and also helping people to watch and be able to understand signs,” she said.
For the “basic foundation” of ASL, Richard plans to use companies called Signing Savvy and Signing Time, both of which she said she will utilize more for learning vocabulary. To teach more complex skills such as understanding signing at a realistic speed and having conversations, Richard will use other resources including movie clips.
The club will be “relaxed and open,” with meetings once every two weeks at different times to accommodate members’ schedules. Richards added that since much of what she will be teaching can be found online, missing meetings is not a serious issue.
Art teacher Jena McNerney is the club’s advisor.
Senior Hanghe “AC” Cao has built up a reputation as the local barber among the boarding community, and he has recently created a new barbershop club at MacDuffie to spread his expertise even further.
To run the club, Cao partnered with senior Alex Nguyen who will schedule and plan meetings for the club while Cao teaches and demonstrates. Nguyen will also demonstrate how to perm and dye hair.
Because of his experience, Cao hopes he can positively impact the community by making something as common as haircuts more accessible (while helping them save money).
The two have other goals besides cutting hair, however. One of the issues Cao recognized as he cut hair for boarders was communication, and he hopes to solve that.
“They cannot get a good [haircut] not because the barber is bad…they don’t really know how to talk with the barber- they haven’t ever learned that,” Cao said. He gave several examples of instances when he was cutting hair and only received vague instructions like “trim my hair just a little bit shorter” and even “I don’t know what kind of hair I want.” As a result, improving communication with barbers is one of their main goals, though Nguyen specified others.
“We want this to be a thing that carries on to next year when we’re gone… our goal is to maintain this club for as long as possible. We want this to be a part of MacDuffie, where you can get good haircuts here,” he said.
In meetings, Nguyen said his plan will be to start at the basics, including “how to talk to barbers, what are the types of cuts that are the most popular…” and later on the club will move on to “more technical stuff like perming hair making the hair curly and dyeing hair,” he said.
Anyone can join the club, however, the club will focus on cutting men’s hair, since Cao and Nguyen are most experienced in that area.
Cao and Ngyuen will hold meetings in room 1309. Head of School Steve Griffin is the club advisor.
At last week’s Club Fair, a MacDuffie tradition in which all of the school’s clubs hold booths to give students the opportunity to join these clubs, one booth literally stood above the rest—a large tripod with an attached video camera sat atop the table, and several cameras were scattered around it. Curious students would discover that this club was none other than Light Art, which provides students with the opportunity to pursue photography and videography outside of a classroom setting.
When junior Raymond Xia first came to MacDuffie, he was eager to join a photography club, but soon found that there was no such club at MacDuffie. Thus, Xia decided to take matters into his own hands and create one himself, which would become Light Art. Along with senior Pitt Pongpittayapa, who specializes in video editing, and senior Clarke Cui, Xia created a photography and videography club where students could “share ideas about taking pictures” and “have fun,” in the words of Xia.
Students do not need any prior experience with photography and videography in order to join Light Art, as Xia said that he is “thinking of teaching all members basic rules and how to use cameras.” Due to the high volume of sign-ups for Light Art, Xia plans to separate club members into a group of those who have photography experience and a group of those who have never tried photography.
When speaking of his motivations for creating Light Art, Xia said, “There’s a lot of people in the school that have the talent to capture the moments in life. However, they just don’t have the opportunity, so I want to provide it.” Xia also mentioned that he hopes to create a photography exhibition for the projects of Light Art members, considering MacDuffie already has a similar showcase for visual art and dance.
In addition to a possible photography showcase, Xia would like to take Light Art club members on field trips to take photos in nearby towns, as he hopes to make a documentary-style photo series that features pictures of local individuals.
Those interested in joining Light Art can contact Xia, Cui, or Pongpittayapa with any questions.
Unity (Tap Dance) Club
Although different styles of dance classes, such as hip hop and jazz, are being offered for the first time this year at MacDuffie, it seemed that there were no opportunities for those who are interested in tap dance. Yet this is no longer the case, as one of MacDuffie’s newest clubs will offer tap dancers of all abilities the chance to hone their skills.
Unity Club began as an idea of junior Belle Yang, who began tap dancing in the third grade and won a championship for the dance style as a sixth-grader. While she took a break from tap dancing for several years, Yang said that she wanted to resume dancing by creating a tap-dancing club at MacDuffie. Yang began Unity Club with the hopes of helping students “build confidence on the stage,” as she said that “most people didn’t have the opportunity or chance to perform on the stage.”
In addition to building confidence, Yang’s goals for members of the Unity Club include learning a “short amount of tap dancing skills” as well as being able to show their skills to others when asked if they are tap dancers.
Though she may be a champion tap dancer herself, Yang intends to create a laid-back atmosphere in Unity Club and welcomes dancers of all skill levels. Yang believes that clubs at MacDuffie serve as informal opportunities to “develop people’s interests,” and emphasized that the dancers in her club do not have to be “very serious about tap dancing” or have “extensive training.”
“I just want people to relax,” Yang said and mentioned that she will begin her tap dancing instruction with the most basic skills. Specifically, Yang plans to show club members an instructional video and then teach them the tap-dancing techniques herself. Depending on the amount of improvement that club members make, Yang is considering choreographing a dance for club members to perform.
At the moment, Unity Club will meet once or twice a week in MacDuffie’s dance studio, and those interested in joining must purchase their own pair of tap shoes. Those with any questions about Unity Club can contact Yang at email@example.com.
Junior Charlie Nguyen decided to make a new club that would help our environment. “I started this club with the hope to find people that are interested in protecting and creating a positive impact on the environment around us,” Nguyen said. This club is for people who would like to give back to there community. Nguyen’s main goal is getting people together so they can sign up for volunteer projects.
“Together, our club can volunteer in environmental projects such as river cleanups, raise awareness about environmental pollution, and fundraising for nonprofit environmental organizations to create a bigger positive impact on the community,” Nguyen said.
Senior Mike Nguyen decided for his leadership practicum that he was going to start a club on how to play the Ukulele. He also had another reason why he wanted to help teach people to play this instrument.
“Last year, I got to perform Pachelbel’s Canon during the Spring Concert in April. Then, Mr. Kaminski told me that this was the first time the ukulele was performed during the concert. I felt rather shocked because the ukulele is such a popular instrument,” Nguyen said.
Director of Information Technology Ed Gray has experience in playing the Ukulele. Starting a club here at MacDuffie is to teach people about it.
“I created the club to inspire others to play and to appreciate this underrated instrument,” Nguyen said.
Originally published on The Magnet by Megan Jacques
MacDuffie day students were treated with an invitation to Big E and Six Flags boarding trips this year after Assistant Dean of Boarding Lucy Tew shared a form for students to sign up.
In prior years, due to concerns around how the students would pay for the trips, day students were excluded from boarding trips. Since boarding students pay a different activity fee compared to the day students, the big issue with enacting this plan was ensuring that the day students would not break the bank to join their boarder friends, while still having these students pay for the activities they are attending.
The decision to allow day students to join the boarding trips is “something that [the boarding department] had been talking about for a while,” said Tew.
“We opened things up to day students, and we let them choose. It’s like an a la carte menu, you get to pick. We have space on a trip, we let you sign up, and then we give you the information on what you pay, if you pay, and who you give it to,” said Tew.
Dean of Boarding Dina Lyman added that, “Some of it has to do with vehicles. Such as, do we use a five star bus or do we use our own? That is why the sign up is so important. Because that is what tells us what vehicle to use. If we have a lot of students sign up, we have to order a larger bus.”
The new invite is not strictly limited to boarding trips that go off campus. Over the weekend of October 26th, day students were invited to attend the haunted house run by the boarding department on Saturday Evening.
“We haven’t been able to open it up before, which we are really excited about,” Tew said.
The trips that day students are invited to are not strictly local trips that only last only a few hours. Day students are invited to all trips, such as those to New York City. However, day students were not invited to the Salem trip due to overwhelming numbers from the boarding population.
The boarding students this year have shown high interest in the boarding trips, which is unusual for the boarding department to see.
“And it’s awkward because now we have 50 boarders interested in a trip, where that might not have been the case a few years ago, but now we don’t have room to offer for a day student,” said Tew.
There will be more opportunities for day students to join these trips as the year goes on, but as of now the trips have been in high demand by boarders, so having room for day students is slim.
So what should you expect while on a boarding trip?
Regardless of where the trip is going, students are required to stay in a specific area. If the trip is to a bowling alley, the students are expected to stay in the bowling alley, and not wander off.
If the trip is to a larger location like Six Flags, or even a city, the same expectation applies. Although there is more room to roam, you are required to stay inside the location you are in and not leave the area for any reason.
Ms. Tew says that “the big important rule for any free time we give in a city or exploring is don’t be by yourself.” In places like Six Flags, it is less crucial as you cannot go very far without running into someone from the trip. In larger cities, it is important to stay with students who have a cell phone and can contact the duty phone if necessary.
What the boarding department expects from any student on these trips is that everyone will be respectful and continue to uphold the values that the school expects from everyone.
“What I’m really looking forward to is having the day students come in and have the experience of going out be this special thing for the borders because ‘oh, it’s not the same group of people. Now my day friends are here’,” said Tew.
“Boarding interactions is one of my favorite things and I really like seeing that happen on these trips. So I am really looking forward to that kind of community building between the boarding and our day communities, because it’s nice to have more people on campus over the weekend.”
Head of School Steve Griffin of The MacDuffie School announced today that Ian Hua, Madeleine LaChance, and Alison Jackson have been named Commended Students in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program. A Letter of Commendation from the school and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), which conducts the program was presented by the Head of School to these scholastically talented seniors.
About 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation are being recognized for their exceptional academic promise. Although they will not continue in the 2020 competition for National Merit Scholarship awards, Commended Students placed among the top 50,000 scorers of more than 1.5 million students who entered the 2020 competition by taking the 2018 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).
“Those being named Commended Students have demonstrated outstanding potential for academic success,” commented a spokesperson for NMSC. “These students represent a valuable national resource; recognizing their accomplishments, as well as the key role their schools play in their academic development, is vital to the advancement of educational excellence in our nation. We hope that this recognition will help broaden their educational opportunities and encourage them as they continue their pursuit of academic success.”