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!