Time Away: How Blair Faculty Spent Their Summer
Brittany Rockenfeller

As students departed campus following Commencement for their summer break, many faculty took time away from Blairstown to rest and recharge for the next school year. Some used the opportunity to catch up on developments in their fields and revise their courses, while others volunteered for service organizations and broadened their experience through travel. Read on to see how a number of Blair faculty members spent their summer!

 Meiyi Cheng, math teacher:

This summer Ms. Cheng moved from California to New Jersey to start her time teaching at Blair. She also adopted a cat named Taffy (pictured,) who is two-years-old and very friendly. Ms. Cheng is excited to be at Blair Academy and is looking forward to meeting everyone!

Tyson Trish, fine arts teacher:

Mr. Trish and his sons (Weston ’25 and Cameron, 12) joined his father for two days of backpacking in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Mr. Trish’s father is halfway through his pursuit of peaking all 46 4,000-footers in the state. He noted that it was great to have three generations on top of Zealand Mountain.

Mr. Trish also spent a week learning from AP Art and Design teachers from all over the country at an Advanced Placement Institute run by The Savannah College of Art and Design. He looks forward to using the tools as he teaches his first-ever AP-only photo class!

Craig Evans, English teacher:

English teacher Craig Evans and Brian Kathenes, who assists lighting and sound for Academy Players shows, showcased their singer/songwriter skills at Project Self-Sufficiency's Back to School Fair on Thursday, August 12.

The newly-named duo, “Exit 12,” has played locally for a number of years and welcomed the opportunity to provide music for such a good cause.

Joyce Lang, language department chair:

Mrs. Lang completed the first summer of a master’s program at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Due to the pandemic, Columbia held the five weeks of courses remotely, but that didn’t stop the program participants from developing strong, caring relationships as a cohort.

“I am looking forward to the research and practicum work I will complete during this coming school year, as well as the five weeks of coursework that will happen in the summer of 2022,” she said. “Hopefully, that will be on Columbia’s campus in Manhattan!”

She also spent a month at her home in Honolulu with her husband, which they had not been able to visit since the pandemic began in early 2020. While in Honolulu they ate brunch with Dean of Admission Teddy Wenner ’96 and his family who happened to be there at the same time.

“Paul and I were fortunate to have lots of family time with both of our daughters at different points over the summer,” Mrs Lang said. “We also spent a week or so with all of my siblings and nieces and nephews in June at my sister’s place in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.”

Tim Devaney, Spanish teacher:

Mr. Devaney and his family spent time working and playing at a camp in Maine. They then took some family time and went on a sea kayak trip off the coast of Maine, which included camping on an island for a few nights!

 

 

Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79, Dean of Campus Life, Director of Leadership Programs:

Ms. Conforti-Browse and her husband, Blair math teacher Latta Browse, reconnected with Blair alums this summer. Stops included visiting Shamila Kohestani ’08, Zach Weisberg ’03, Zaynah Karem ’16, Winnie (Adrien) Lizardo Orbe ’06, among others. 

 

Quint Clarke, history teacher:

Quint, Dr. Jane Ferry and his brother spent nine days in Kenya in early June as a part of the Blair in Kenya program. Blair in Kenya is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of Kenya's poor through educational, medical, and economic opportunities. The organization runs two Kenyan elementary schools, conducts an annual medical clinic with American physicians and operates a microfinance lender. This summer, Mr. Clark and his team spent time checking in on sponsored children, meeting with the administrators and teachers at the schools, and making sure that goals were being met.

“It was a tough year, both because donations were down due to the pandemic but also because of the effect COVID-19 had on schools there,” Mr. Clarke said. “While the disease hasn't yet swept through, government requirements on de-densifying classes cost a lot of money and the local economy took quite a hit. That said, the people seem to be weathering it well and both schools have made significant progress. We are now educating over 900 students (53 percent females) and our medical program has greatly expanded.”

 

Caroline Queally, English teacher:

This summer Ms. Queally worked with former Blair history teacher Glenn Whitman in a professional development program offered by the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning.

“The program offered many ways to best set students up for feeling a sense of belonging in the classroom and maintaining long-lasting memory beyond the classroom,” she noted. “I’m very excited to employ several strategies in my English classes this year!”

 

Andrew Sykes, history teacher and Kate Sykes, fine arts department chair:

Mr. and Mrs. Sykes traveled to Colorado and hiked in both Boulder and Breckenridge.

 

David Naysmith, math teacher:

Mr. Naysmith completed his Adirondack quest in 1993, taking 14 years to hike each and every of the mountain range’s 46 high peaks with his son. He inspired his grandson to complete this challenge in 2012, and a granddaughter who just completed hers this past summer.

“She had two mountains left to climb at the start of summer 2021, so she asked her husband, siblings, parents, uncle and myself to climb those two with her,” he said. “So on July 10, a hiking party of 11 climbed Whiteface and Esther Mountains and celebrated, with her, on the summit.”

 

Rod Gerdsen, Associate Dean of Students:

Mr. Gerdsen has always been a lover of learning. This summer, he earned a M.Ed., his second master’s degree, completing the Urban Principals and Leadership Program through Lehigh University. For his capstone project, he  designed a fictional public boarding school that focused on providing a Blair-type experience for underserved, underrepresented, inner-city children whose families fall below the poverty line. He noted that the incredible program focused on inequities in education and how proper leadership can help ameliorate this discrepancy.

 

Allie Solms, Associate Dean of Admission:

Ms. Solms hiked in the Adirondacks and traveled to Vail, Colorado, and Taos, New Mexico, in June and San Francisco, California, later in July with friends from college and high school. She also spent a week in Rangeley, Maine.

News Headlines

Society of Skeptics

Blair Academy is pleased to welcome Dr. Thomas G. Crabtree to the Society of Skeptics on October 19 at 7 p.m. With over 39 years of experience working in the medical field as a surgeon and as director of AMI Expeditionary Healthcare (AMI), Dr. Crabtree will speak to Blair students about his current work, “A Tale of Two Pandemics: A Personal and Viral Journey.”

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