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WINTER 2014 NEWSLETTER

 

Greetings from the Board | Danielle Loevy, Board President
manyMindwallGreetings! It is with pleasure and excitement that we write this newsletter and update everyone on the many items related to opening Beacon Academy next Fall.

 

For starters, we welcomed over 400 people to our first Open House in November.  Families toured the downtown Evanston location, met with faculty, listened to and interacted with members of our panel, community partners, and sampled some of the furniture and equipment we expect to purchase to outfit the site.   Special thanks to our panel participants, especially the Montessori alumni who shared their personal perspectives of high school.

 

We are also pleased to report that once permits are granted, the location at 622 Davis Street will undergo some modest build out.  We are looking forward to continuing our work with Cannon Design on the interior spaces this spring.  All work should be completed by June when we move in.  In addition to classrooms of various sizes, our unique layout has an impressive community hub for school gatherings, presentations, and speakers; smaller independent and small group nooks; a kitchen; and a 4th floor STEAMD lab that incorporates science, art, technology, and design into one large space.

 

On another note, Beacon continues to pull together an impressive team of top-notch, seasoned faculty for our inaugural year.  We are pleased to announce our newly completed team of core instructors and administrators. Please see below for Jeff’s further introduction of these key faculty at Beacon.

 

Lastly, we are incredibly grateful to, and appreciative of, the many people who have donated their time and resources to help make Beacon’s opening a reality.  We are still welcoming founding families and would love to involve additional people in the excitement of starting an innovative school.

 

On that note, please join us on Sunday, April 27th at Flaco’s Tacos in Wrigleyville from 1:00-4:00, as we celebrate Beacon in a casual, fun environment, show appreciation for those who have helped get us to this incredible place, and raise additional funds for tuition assistance, furniture, and equipment.  Many thanks to Jim and Beth Masterson for hosting the venue, delicious food, and drink.  This is an adults only event and admission is free.  We hope to see you there!

 

Please feel free to contact Danielle Loevy with any questions about the event.

 

On Human Flourishing | Jeff Bell, Head of School

Aristotle investigates the concept of eudaimonia in his writings. The English translation of this word is “human flourishing.” When I think about Beacon’s culture and program, “human flourishing” is an aspirational goal. We are flooded with educational buzzwords in our culture, “grit,” “21st century skills,” and “collaboration” to name a few. These are all components of our program, of course, but at Beacon we will also focus on the central question: What does it mean to live a good and meaningful life? This question crosses disciplines and can be addressed in countless ways, but it must intentionally inform the pedagogy and culture of a classroom for it to truly take hold in students.

 

Beacon will measure its process and development in multiple ways. We are currently investigating a number of different instruments that will aid us in providing metrics so that we are continually improving our teaching methods. However, we will hold ourselves to a different standard as well, admittedly one that it less quantitative: Are we preparing for our students to flourish, not just during their time at Beacon and in college, but for the rest of their lives? When I was named one of the captains for the football team in high school, I remember my mother worrying that I might “peak” at the age of 17. While that remains a topic of debate, at Beacon, we see it as one of our responsibilities to help our students to become good human beings. This is one of the reasons that you won’t see the words “college prep” much on our website. It’s not that we don’t take that responsibility seriously. Rather, it is a given. It’s much more important to us that our students are prepared for life after college, which is why we value the interactions that they will have with adults outside the school, the learning that will happen off campus, and the emphasis on self-direction. When we check in on our grads when they are 25 and 35, we will be seeking the answer to whether they are flourishing in their lives, not just in the learning institution that follows ours in their development. To me, that is a key longitudinal measurement.

 

This journey will start in a few short months when our inaugural class begins their work in August. Our extremely busy Open House (400 attendees) has been followed by a successful admissions season that has yielded some truly impressive prospective students and families. We couldn’t be more pleased by the interest in Beacon; it suggests that we are serving a need in the Chicago area. We plan to announce our first class of 9th and 10th graders by mid-March. While the application deadline has passed, we will continue to accept applications on a rolling basis subject to availability.

 

Please join us as we continue to reimagine what high school can be in America!

 

Introducing the Beacon Faculty!

Rick Mosher, Humanities Instructor

Rick Mosher has been teaching in the upper school at Near North Montessori School since 2000. He is an accomplished musician and naturalist. Rick will be teaching American History and American Literature next fall. He will also coordinate a student rock band and serve as Montessori Coordinator. Rick earned his BA in American History from the University of Illinois-Chicago and his MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago, and he completed the AMI Adolescent Orientation in 2004. Rick’s wife is a journalist, and his two sons currently attend Whitney Young and Hampshire College, respectively.

 

Heather Howard, Math Instructor

Heather Howard has 19 years of teaching experience, including 13 years at the American International School of Budapest, and IB school. She is a trained Ashtanga yoga instructor and a lover of the outdoors. Heather will teach Mathematics next fall. Heather earned her BA in Pure Mathematics from Northwestern University and her MS in Mathematics Education from the University of Illinois. She has teaching certificates in both Illinois and Wisconsin. Heather’s husband is a humanities teacher, and her two sons attend his school in Kuala Lumpur.

 

Jen Terry, Science Instructor

Jen Terry has 13 years of teaching in both in the US and abroad (Romania). She has IB experience at both the middle and high school level. She is native Canadian, a dedicated triathlete, and an experienced backcountry guide. Jen will teach Science next fall. She earned her BS in Chemistry from St. Lawrence University and her MA in Science Education from the University of Western Ontario. Jen recently moved to Evanston with her husband, an IT professional, and her two children, who attend Chiaravalle Montessori School.

 

Daniela Sloan, Spanish Instructor

Daniela Sloan is currently completing her AMI Elementary Certification at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee. Previously, she served for three years as the Spanish director at the Montessori School of Lake Forest. She earned her BA in Cultural Studies from Columbia College. She has also worked in the corporate world and as the education director of a theatre in Lake Forest. Finally, Daniela is a professional musician and speaks Portuguese and Turkish as well as Spanish (and English too!).

 

Bob Hoagland, Chief Operating Officer and IT Director

Bob Hoagland has been the Director of Technology at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School in Sewanee, Tennessee for the past 12 years. He is also an accomplished musician and photographer. Bob will serve as Beacon’s Chief Operating Officer and IT Director. Before his time in education, Bob ran a number of successful start-up technology companies. He earned his BS from Purdue University and his MS from Iowa State University. Bob’s wife is a soil scientist, his son is a recent graduate of Alfred College, and his daughter currently attends Bennington College.

 

Jeff Bell, Head of School and English Instructor

Jeff Bell grew up in St. Louis and completed his undergraduate degrees from the University of Missouri. After earning his Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago, Jeff spent eight years at Lake Forest Academy, serving as English Department Chair and Assistant Academic Dean. He was most recently the Academic Dean at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School in Sewanee, Tennessee. His work there was marked by a progressive approach to education. During his tenure, he launched the upper school Winterim program, crafted a daily schedule emphasizing extended class periods for self-directed learning, and enhanced the depth and rigor of the academic program. Jeff’s wife teaches English at Lake Forest Country Day School, and their daughters attend Chiaravalle Montessori School.

 

mindMapTechnology at Beacon | Bob Hoagland, IT Director

We will ask our students to employ technology as a tool for learning. There are many ways to learn, and technology can sometimes be a very effective way to facilitate the learning process. Beacon students will use computers and mobile devices for a variety of purposes, including writing papers, graphing data, science simulations, Internet research, and digital arts projects. We are a BYOD (bring your own device) school. To supplement the BYOD program, students will have access to computers available for use during the school day.  For your BYOD decision, note that Apple products (Macbooks and iPads) integrate best with campus equipment, which includes Macbooks, Apple TVs, and iPad tablets.  The appropriate and aggressive use of technology is important to us at Beacon, but we understand that it is only valuable to the extent that it enhances the quality of the connection between our faculty and the student.

 

Classroom technology will include interactive whiteboards, large flat screen HD monitors with Apple TV units for wireless projection of student and faculty screens, a mobile laptop/tablet cart with a wireless laser printer, and a color laser printer.  Students use word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and graphics software as well as class-specific applications such as Geometer’s Sketchpad (math), Logger Pro, and Fathom.  The science department’s curriculum includes data acquisition equipment (Vernier) for real-time monitoring of experimental data.

 

All Beacon students will be encouraged to have a basic skill level with programmable controllers (Arduino), computer programming (Python), Mobile App Development, 3D Modeling and 3D printing, music and video production (Final Cut or Adobe Premier), and DLSR cameras with Adobe Lightroom.  For students who wish to “dive deeper,” all of these technologies provide excellent launching points for advanced study and entrepreneurial ventures.

 

We have a fiber optic connection to the Internet providing consistent and high speed wireless access for research and collaboration via Google Drive and the Google Apps for Education suite.  A firewall provides appropriate filtering of web content, viruses, and junk e-mail. We partner with other organizations (such as http://www.tfa.edu/) to provide additional depth and breadth of study in the field of technology.  Students are encouraged to use multiple hardware devices in order to become adept at Windows, Mac OS, iPad, Chrome, and Android devices. Because our e-mail system is Google based, students also become proficient at using Google Drive, Calendar, Sites, and Contacts. It is common for students to collaborate on a shared Google document using Google Drive.

 

The school’s Student Information System allows students and families ready access, including mobile access, to homework assignments, class schedules, directories, and other information. As IT Director, I will help coordinate the classroom technology and provide technical support to students and faculty.  Both Apple and Windows-based computers and devices will be fully supported. I am very excited to be a part of Beacon’s team. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read about Beacon’s progress! Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or comments.