11 Jan

Coming Soon: LS Author Visit featuring Sarah Weeks!

We are delighted to welcome prolific children’s author, Sarah Weeks, to the Lower School on Friday, February 2, 2018!

Sarah has written over 50 picture books and novels for children and young adults, including the best-selling novels, Pie, Save Me a Seat and So B. It, which is now a feature-length film. In addition to writing, Sarah is an adjunct faculty member in the Writing Program at the New School University, in New York City, and teaches a master class at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Sarah’s broad range of books and dynamic presentation style are sure to captivate and inspire our students across all grades.  She will spend time with grades K-1, 2-3 and 4-5, tailoring her program to each age group.

In anticipation of Sarah’s visit, we will share some of Sarah’s books with your children in the library and in their classrooms during the month of January.  We encourage families to visit her website at Sarahweeks.com to find out more about her and her wonderful collection of stories and books.

A book order form, featuring Sarah’s collection of books, will be sent home prior to her visit so families can place an order.  Children will receive the books after they meet with her.  We ask that all book orders be submitted by January 19, 2018 so that we can better ensure that the books are on campus by February 2, 2018.  A portion of the sales will benefit the D-E Parents’ Association. Click here to view and/or download/print the Sarah Weeks Visiting Author Book Order Form.

11 Dec

Bulldog Math Team Update

Contributed by Cecily Gottling, LS Math Specialist

D-E’s Bulldog Math Team is off to a great start again this year!  17 third graders, 17 fourth graders, and all the fifth graders are once again participating in the Continental Math League math contests.

Our 3rd and 4th grade teams meet once a week to learn problem-solving strategies and practice solving really challenging problems. Then once a month, the children try to solve 6 challenging problems in 30 minutes. Coaching sessions are designed to help students develop skills in collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.  Participating in the actual contests builds perseverance and a willingness to take a risk.  Math Team is all about working together and developing grit!

The third graders are currently practicing two important strategies—guess and check and logic—in order to solve challenging problems about sums and differences. Fourth graders are working on algebraic reasoning and understanding the nuances of divisibility.  Our fourth graders just finished their second contest and were cheered to see that everyone improved after a really tough first contest. Problem-solving strategies are a routine component of the fifth graders’ math experiences.  The fifth graders will participate in their second contest next week.

Below is a sample problem the children are working on:

Go Lower School Bulldogs!


“Math team is a bit hard because you have to think a lot. That’s a good thing because it gets your mind going.” – Adesola


“Something surprising happened to me! I was doing my contest, and it was really challenging.
I expected to get a 3 or under except
I surprisingly got a 4. I felt really good
about that.” – Ellie


“I feel good about the answers I got. I don’t feel too badly about the ones I didn’t get because there’s always room for improvement.” – Kiran

17 Nov

D-E’s Got Talent! Lower School Talent Show

Each year Lower School parents have hosted an annual Lower School Talent Show, “D-E’s Got Talent!” Emceed by Lower School teacher Jennifer Koteles and her able assistants Lily and CJ Trentacosta, this event welcomes more than 25 children of all ages and many talents to the stage where they have the opportunity to perform for their families and friends.

On this beautiful evening, the children’s talent, emotion and passion are showcased in one special place.  From those who have just started taking piano lesson and are performing for the very first time to those who have been honing a craft for years, we celebrate them all.  This year the talent show will be a place for traditional Indian dances, classical piano compositions, dance routines and a carefully rehearsed monologue.

A special note of thanks is extended to parents Seth Unger and Fernanda Pimenta, for the hours of hard work that goes into putting this event together, and an enthusiastic “Break a Leg” to all the performers we look forward to seeing Friday night!

30 Oct

Diwali Assembly

The  Lower School experienced a beautiful assembly celebrating the Indian holiday of Diwali, the Festival of Lights!  Lower School students learned that Diwali is the biggest and brightest of festivals celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs all over the world.

Lower School students of all ages taught us that Diwali commemorates the victory of good over evil, and is a time for new beginnings and the Indian New Year.  Many people celebrate by going to the temple and offering sweets to Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity.

During our assembly, students who celebrate Diwali shared their traditions through song, dance and story. After a brief lesson about the significance and origin of Diwali, pre-school through fifth grade boys and girls performed a series of fun Indian dances set to popular Bollywood music.  The energy in the room was incredibly joyful as children in the audience celebrated along with the performers by clapping and waving their arms with tremendous enthusiasm.

The response of the audience showed how much the Lower School students appreciate the opportunity to learn about other cultures and celebrate with one another!  This beautiful assembly helped us learn about a holiday important to so many of our students and their families, and we are most grateful to the families who organized, performed and helped us celebrate! Happy Diwali!

13 Oct



Students new to 4th and 5th grade have been participating in an afterschool workshop run by Ms. Gottling, the Lower School math specialist.  The children have been solving open-ended and challenging math problems as they learn more about what it means to be a Dwight-Englewood Bulldog.  The activities are designed to help students understand what it means to engage, take a risk, persevere, and collaborate.  To solve the problems, students must think critically and creatively.  Of course, being ready and staying organized always help.

Thus far the children have snapped together squares and folded them to find the nets of a cube. They have built block constructions together using clues. Most recently they have used the process of elimination to identify categories of numbers by analyzing the placement in a Venn diagram of only 5 numbers! All in all, this season brings us a bumper crop of new Bulldogs!

08 Sep

Welcome Back from Kim Lewis

Dear Lower School Families,

Welcome to the first edition of Lower School Notes for this 2017-18 academic year.  Bi-monthly, the Lower School community can expect to receive this electronic newsletter that chronicles the children’s learning experiences.

Below is a list of upcoming events that are geared toward bringing families together to learn more about the upcoming school year and to get to know one another better.  Please click on the various tabs to find out the latest information from Just the Facts and to read updates from D-E 360º as well.

I look forward to seeing many of you on Sunday, Sept. 10 between 1:00 – 3:00 PM for the Welcome Back Gathering.  If you have not sent in an RSVP, please still feel free to join us.

Welcome Back!


Upcoming Highlights!

Welcome Back Gathering:

Please join us on Sunday, Sept. 10 from 1-3pm on Leggett Field.  What a great way to make connections!

K-5 Back to School Night:

We look forward to seeing families in Grades K-5 on Thursday, September 14th for Back to School Night.  This year, families will gather in the Lower School Gym, located in Drapkin Hall to launch our evening together.  We will begin promptly at 7pm and for remarks and introductions of the special area teachers and specially invited guests.  We will then move to the classrooms for overviews by the faculty.

A Special Evening with the Special Area Teachers: NEW

The Special Area teachers would like to welcome families from Preschool through Grade 5 back to campus for an evening to hear more about their programs and approaches to the various content areas.  Please join us in the Lower School Gym, located in Drapkin Hall, on Thursday, September 28th.  We will begin promptly at 7pm.

08 Sep

Our New Lower School Faculty and Staff Members

The Lower School is delighted to introduce new faculty joining us this year.

Joining us in the front office is Dorothy Bryan. Dorothy Bryan, our new Lower School Administrative Assistant, has been here since August and is excited to be part of the Dwight-Englewood community.  Prior to beginning her work in August, Dorothy took Lower School yearbooks home to learn the names and faces of our students, and is so happy to finally meet them in person this week!  Before joining D-E, Dorothy worked in the healthcare field as an administrative assistant for many years.  She is excited to be part of the Dwight-Englewood community and looks forward to experiencing the energy and excitement of the children as well as working with the staff and parents of the Lower School.  In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family and friends, yoga, tennis, and participating in any outdoor activities.

Rachel Brainin joins us this year as the Lower School Librarian.  She is very familiar with Dwight-Englewood as she has been a highly regarded guest teacher in the Lower School and has a daughter in the Middle School. Prior to joining us at D-E, Rachel was a teacher for preschool through 5th grade and worked for the early literacy nonprofit, HIPPY USA.  Rachel loves children’s literature, writing, and art.  She is excited to work with our students, sharing with them her love of books and teaching them literacy and library skills. She is also excited to work with faculty sharing the latest releases as well as old favorites. Outside of school, Rachel enjoys reading, painting, sewing and spending time with her family.

Nick Harrison returns to the Lower School as a first through fifth grade recess coach.  Nick is very familiar with Dwight-Englewood.  He has been a long term sub in a variety of positions here at the Lower School and graduated from Dwight-Englewood Upper School before heading off to college at Lake Forest College.  We are excited to welcome back Nick back to Dwight-Englewood!  He brings a great deal of enthusiasm and is excited to support students during this important time of day.  Nick is a huge football and baseball fan and enjoys discussing last night’s game with his friends, colleagues, and students!   He enjoys attending sporting events, concerts, and traveling.

Working alongside Nick Harrison as a recess coach will be Jackie Marshall.  Jackie is a former  Division 1 student athlete who has had successful internships working for The View and the New York Giants. She has worked with young children at summer programs in Westchester, New York.  Jackie has a Masters Degree in sports administration and was one of 40 athletes named to the 2013 MAAC Women’s Basketball All-Academic Team. Jackie is a scholar and an athlete, and we are delighted she will be working at the Lower School as a recess coach for students in first through fifth grades.

Orestes Medina joins us this year as a second-grade teaching assistant. Orestes is very familiar with Dwight-Englewood as he has been coaching varsity football and track for the past four years. As a dual sport NCAA athlete, Orestes learned how to deal with the triumphs, disappointment, sportsmanship, and teamwork of collegiate athletics.  Since college Orestes has been working in the Teaneck School District while coaching Upper School Football and Track at D-E.  He is passionate about wanting to inspire and gain his students’ interest in education while instilling a strong sense of self-worth. Outside of school, Orestes enjoys drawing, and he has also had experience teaching art to elementary aged students through the Teaneck summer recreation program.

09 Jun

Congratulations: New Chapters to be Written…

Erik Swanson joined the Lower School as a fifth-grade science in for 10 years. Since that time he has become well-known throughout the school for his kindness, his gentle humor, and the warmth he exudes. He has influenced fifth-grade science in so many ways – from nurturing his students’ curiosity in science class to mentoring the electricians and historians in the fifth-grade opera, and, of course, taking a genuine interest in their lives outside of school.

During the closing weeks of school, there was a constant stream of former students coming back to visit their Lower School teachers – and Mr. Swanson’s classroom was often the first place they went. Our graduates always enjoy coming back to visit the class pets, Nellie and MJ, check on the progress of the Green Cup Challenge geared to help children understand the value of recycling, and engage in some friendly banter about New England sports teams.

While Mr. Swanson loves Dwight-Englewood and especially the Lower School, New England is home, and that is where he is heading.  We will miss him greatly, but the pull of the ocean, beloved Red Sox, and his loving family is strong. We thank him for his years of service and wish him the best!

After tutoring the elementary-aged child of a friend, Barry Ostrer decided to make a big career transition – from integrative technology work to teaching. The Lower School was very lucky to be able to offer him a position teaching fifth-grade math.  As a first-year teacher, Mr. Ostrer brought incredible content area knowledge and tremendous enthusiasm.

Over the years, he has inspired so many students and taught them to think deeply about mathematical concepts. He was inspired by the Singapore Math curriculum and problem-based math, and displayed techniques in facilitating the learning in his classes.   His students leave with strong skills and confidence in their problem-solving abilities.

As a teacher he became well-known amongst students and colleagues for nurturing students’ participation, risk-taking and willingness to always see a mistake as an opportunity to learn. He has famously categorized mistakes as “beautiful” opportunities for growth – language that his students have carried with them as they move onto sixth grade.

Mr. Ostrer is now taking the next step in his career to work with Middle School students at a school closer to his home in Westchester County.  Though we will miss him, we are grateful for the incredible fifth-grade math program he has helped to build.

Though we have only known her a year, we truly love Vanessa Gomez (in cap, fourth from left in the above photo). “Ms. Vanessa”, as she is known to all,  joined the Lower School in a newly created position during the 2016-17 school – that of Recess Coach. Recess can be a very intense part of the day and requires people who understand and care about the ways in which children play and how they navigate interacting with one another..  In her role as a coach, Ms. Vanessa brought a level of insight and care to this position and connected with the various ages and interests of our students.

She is kind, calm, has great instincts and is beloved by the Lower School students who have come to know her. Our children are safe when they are in her hands, and she takes great care to guide them in fairness, good sportsmanship, and a love of play.

She has an incredible work ethic, which did not go unnoticed by her supervisor at the sports facility where she works as a trainer. She has been offered a promotion and new position, which she simply cannot refuse – and we wouldn’t want her to. Her love is physical fitness and training individuals to be the best they can be, and her new position allows her to concentrate on that love.

We will miss Ms. Vanessa’s humor, athleticism, and work ethic – not to mention her mean fastball.  We thank her for an incredible year and wish her all the best.


09 Jun

Heartfelt Goodbyes to our Retirees

As the 2016-2017 school year ends, we say goodbye to some of our beloved Lower School faculty and staff members.  Their contributions were many and our doors will always be open to them.

Ms. Rullo (center) being honored by Dr. De Jarnett and Ms. Lewis at the annual Faculty, Staff & Trustee Dinner in late May. 

Since joining the Lower School, Lynne Rullo has been the picture of excellence and a pillar of stability.

The Lower School families and children know how well Lynne has taken care of them. We also want to let the community know how well Lynne has taken care of us.  We all know that she is an impeccable administrative assistant – but she is also a counselor, a therapist, a nurse, and of course a wonderful friend.

Although we are saying goodbye, this will not be the last we see of her. She has left a lasting mark on the community and her presence will be felt through her daughter Jessica, who is one of our teachers, and her son-in-law Jordan, a member of our facilities department.  And, of course, the Rullo name will be remembered as long as there are children playing on Mr. Rocky’s Field, the playground named in honor of her late husband.

Lynne, we hope the future is filled with many more celebrations, travel, good books, close friends and, of course, time spent forming happy memories with your grandson!

Ms. Sienicki (center) being honored by Dr. De Jarnett and Ms. Abramson at the annual Faculty, Staff & Trustee Dinner in late May. 

Many years ago Sheila Sienicki spent the summer as a mother’s helper, launching a long and happy career working with young children.

Sheila seems to have done it all. She has braved the wilderness of Frost Valley, our traditional 5th grade camping trip, taught Shakespeare, churned butter at Plimouth Plantation during many 4th grade trips, guided parents, taught every subject area and has made the role of librarian something very special over the past several years. Whether there is a preschool student checking out the newest Mo Willems book or a fifth-grader chasing her down for the latest installment in a series, Sheila opens the door to the world of literature.

Our Lower School writers now have D-Escribe (the Lower School literary journal), her legacy, where their stories can be told and their voices heard. Children seek Sheila out not only for the newest book or to share their writing, but more importantly,  because they know Sheila will always greet them warmly. They know that in the library, they will be with someone who knows and cares about them.

While Sheila will of course miss us all, she is excited to begin the next chapters in her life – golfing, reading, planning her daughter’s wedding, and spending time with her beloved husband Bob.

As a fourth grade teacher Sheila read the E.B. White classic Charlotte’s Web to her class. Like Charlotte, Sheila was a teacher, a mentor, and a friend. Like Charlotte, she is in a class by herself.  Sheila’s retirement is much deserved.

Thank you Sheila, for everything, and congratulations!

19 May

A Day with Dan Gutman

Wednesday was a banner day in the Lower School.  Dan Gutman, award-winning author of 130 children’s books, spent the day visiting with our students.  Mr. Gutman read to our kindergarten and spent a great deal of his time with grades first through fifth, sharing his stories of growing up and learning to love reading, which didn’t always come easily.

Asked what he liked the most about Dan Gutman’s presentation, fourth grader Victor said, “I liked the way he told us never to give up by showing us a big book of all his rejection letters from publishers!”

Perseverance in writing, or anything you set yourself to accomplish, was Dan’s big message for the Lower School! Dan lunched with 10 Lower School students. He listened to all their opinions on characters and plots in his books, and then he asked each one to share hopes and dreams for the future!  “He said important things in a funny way,” reported Ellie, one of the students who shared lunch with Mr. Gutman.

Time flew! It always does when you are having fun!

Contributed by Sheila Sienicki, Lower School Librarian