CA Curious

Game On!

August 17, 2023

Welcome, everybody, to the 2023-2024 school year.

Don’t get me wrong; I love summer. I love the change of pace in the offices at Cary Academy, and the opportunity for time to both disconnect and reflect, away from the bang-bang pace of the school year. And, while I wish my physiology let me sleep in, I do enjoy the extra cup of coffee and “slower start” to a summer day.

So, while I think summer is great—and I hope that all of you found time for rest and reflection, too—I am thrilled to start the school year and welcome to campus our 789 Chargers.

Yesterday definitely brought the energy. It was great to see so many people reconnecting, swapping stories, and welcoming our 130 new students into the fold. For the past several weeks, our employees have been working together to prepare for this year – and there is always a markedly positive uplift when we welcome the students back to campus. Practice is over. Game on!

Collectively, we are focused this year on strengthening our sense of community as part of the Charger Family. Last year, we were overjoyed to see the tremendous turnout at our joint CA/PTAA community events—parents and students alike. We felt how nice it was to be “getting back to normal” and joining face-to-face in fellowship.

At the same time, we recognize that much has changed – including “normal.” This year we will continue to re-establish what it means to “do school”—as an employee, as a parent, and as a student. During yesterday’s Upper School Convocation, I was pleased to hear these same themes echoed by this year’s student leaders – a sign, if you will, that we are all rowing in the same direction in the desire to make the charger community a source of pride and positive energy.

I look forward to seeing many of you during the first PTAA Coffee of the school year at 9am on Thursday, September 7, on the second floor of the Library (A203). At that time, I will share a bit more about what we are working on this year and how these plans fit into the larger strategic goals of the school.

In the meantime, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to two important new members of the Cary Academy team – our Campus Safety Director, Cedric Herring, and Campus Safety Officer, Malika Lucas. Both joined us in the early summer and will be a visible, supportive presence during school days.

Mr. Herring was most recently a police officer at the US Department of Veterans Affairs but has had a varied and distinguished law enforcement career, including as a Sergeant in the NC State Highway Patrol, Deputy Sheriff in the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, and Cary PD Officer. Prior to his police work, Mr. Herring served as a Specialist in the US Army and did a 13-month tour of duty in Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Storm. An avid sports fan, particularly baseball, you can be sure to catch him on CA’s sidelines this year.

Ms. Lucas has served as a Wake County Deputy Sheriff and School Resource Officer in Wake County Public Schools. Outside of police work, Ms. Lucas has served in operational management roles that have given her the problem-solving and public-facing skills needed to be successful at Cary Academy.

Students will see both Mr. Herring and Ms. Lucas throughout the school day, interacting in the hallways and across the campus. The security office remains in the lobby of the CMS building, and our security phone numbers are unchanged (and are posted in our handbooks and on various doors around campus). In the evenings and on weekends, other members of the Cary Academy Office of Campus Safety will be on duty and available to support students, parents, and visitors. All our safety officers will be easily recognizable by their blue shirts and warm smiles.

Please join me in welcoming Mr. Herring and Ms. Lucas, and Game On for 2023-2024!

Written by Dr. Mike Ehrhardt, Head of School


Chargers Wrap Spring Season


Taking PPE to the Next Level

Looking back, charging ahead: Celebrating 25 years

CA Curious

Where PomPoms Meet Professional Development

November 17, 2022

I certainly didn’t expect organizers waving pompoms enthusiastically in welcome or debating the merits of jellybeans versus chocolate with a complete stranger (shout out to Houston Kraft for this icebreaker) when Kevin Rokuskie first described the Association of Middle Level Educators Conference (AMLE).

As it turns out, there may have been nothing that could have prepared me for the sheer explosive energy of thousands of middle school teachers and faculty combined into one convention room, ready to connect and share their passion for educating the world’s preteens.

Held November 3 to November 5 at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando, AMLE featured a weekend jam-packed with moving keynote speakers, rotating “speed session” workshops, and illuminating presentations on everything from social emotional learning to community engagement to the very tools helping to keep our classrooms running.

Prior to our arrival Kevin and I had spent weeks preparing our presentation on last year’s brand-new virtual reality in Egypt activity, “History Made Real: Learning Ancient Civilizations and World Religions in Virtual Reality.” For 15 minutes at a time, we would explain to other educators and administrators how the collaboration between a sixth-grade Language Arts and World Cultures teacher and an Education and Technology Support Specialist resulted in a week of some of the highest student engagement all year using a combination of Z-Space, VR headsets, and MERGE Cube technology. To our delight, our table ended up becoming one of the most popular attractions during the speed sessions, resulting in meeting a university professor who was excited to learn from us how to implement VR into her post-secondary curriculum.

Our strategy for the rest of the conference was to divide and conquer, so while Kevin engaged in meaningful conversations with various vendors as well as attended sessions on advisory and social emotional learning, I found myself learning about social studies frameworks, how to better support our gender expansive students, techniques for total classroom participation, self-paced learning, how to support children with ADHD challenges (from a teacher who had been successfully navigating his own ADHD for decades), empowering youth with restorative justice practices, and many sessions on community partnerships.

Every day it continued to amaze me to see the degree of knowledge, care, and expertise with which these presenters talked about their curriculum and student support, and I left the conference filled to the brim with a desire to challenge myself in my teaching to new professional heights. Kevin describes professional development as a “vital tool at Cary Academy” that “only makes the community better.” I know that I speak for both of us when I say that I cannot wait to find ways to share my new knowledge with my colleagues and look forward to returning, maybe with my own pompoms this time!

Written by Lauren Bullock, Language Arts and World Cultures Teacher, Sixth Grade


Taking PPE to the Next Level


A message of support of our Asian and Asian-American community

CA Curious

Giving Tuesday: Celebrating 25 years of community partnership

Library from quad

CA Curious

Meet the New Faces of CA

November 10, 2022

This fall, CA welcomed many new faces to campus! New faculty and staff have joined us in nearly every corner of campus, and we are so pleased to introduce them to you. Below you will find some fun facts about each unique individual, and we hope you get the chance to say hello if you run into them in your daily lives.

Maria Arias
Operations Technician

If your life was a book, what would the title be?
The Happiest Woman Alive

What is your secret superpower?
I am hard working!

Gavin Barrentine
Education & Technology Support Specialist

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I grew up in Delaware and have only been in North Carolina for about 5 months.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
My favorite hobby is watching movies. I spend most weekends watching at least a movie or two.

Nancy Barrientos
US Admin Assistant

What’s something that most people don’t know about you? 
Most people don’t know how much I actually love the fall because with all its beauty. It also means the return of Football! Sundays are a full-family event of fantasy football, snacking, and cheering for my SF 49ers!

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud? 
I have held many titles in my roles in education, but by far my favorite was having the ability to give back to my community by going into the classroom during the pandemic – when we experienced one of the biggest teacher shortages to date. The privilege to support the special services department, co-teach grades 6-8, but most importantly serve as an advocate for my students and their families is an experience that I will always hold dear to my heart. Saying goodbye to my team and students was probably one of the hardest things to do when leaving NJ. 

Margaret Chidwick
US English Teacher

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
My favorite hobby is cooking. I especially like any recipe that requires chopping vegetables, as I find the whole process quite meditative. I lean toward simple recipes to let the food speak for itself. My favorite vegetable recipe is sauteed broccoli rabe, which requires just several ingredients. Some people say bacon makes everything better; and while I agree with them, I also believe that broccoli rabe compliments many food favorites of mine and even put it on fried eggs. Vegetables aside, I love making a good cheesecake and strawberry pie too.

If your life was a book, what would the title be and why?
The title would be Dig In because I am never more content than when I am actively committed and focused upon whatever is happening in the present moment.

Caroline Damitog
Athletic Trainer

If your life was a book, what would the title be?
Murphy’s Law

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud?
I have climbed two 14ers in Colorado (Mt. Antero and Pikes Peak). One of them I sprained my ankle at the very top then had to hike down 7 miles on it to my car.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
I like to crochet. But my favorite hobby is starting a new hobby/project and then never finishing it.

April Ellerbe
Special Events and Engagement Coordinator

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I am an introvert and extrovert.

If your life was a book, what would the title be and why?
I Don’t Look Like What I Am Going Through 

Treston Ellerbe
Logistics Coordinator

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I used to want to be a puppeteer.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
I love to produce and make music.

Lou Farone
Operations Technician

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud?
I’ve helped elderly people in my neighborhood.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
My favorite is working around the house and yard creating different things.

Rickie Hashagen Operations Technician

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I’m originally from Charlotte, NC.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
I like playing pool and watching TV, especially kickboxing and professional wrestling.

Becca Haque
Admin Assistant, College Counseling

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud?
Running a 5K and also the Tarheel 4 miler!

What is your secret superpower?
I can recognize really obscure/random actors. And I’m a pantry-organizing queen!

Kevin Hogue
Lead Operations Technician

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud?
Donated blood to help others.

What is your secret superpower?

Ahnie Ingram:
US ScienceTeacher

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I’m from Louisiana. I lived there all my life and all my extended family still lives there. My husband and our kids relocated to North Carolina in 2015.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
My favorite hobby is cooking! I love to cook comfort foods for my family, especially Cajun dishes like red beans and rice and jambalaya on Saturdays in the fall when my LSU Tigers are playing!

Soo Mee Kaas
MS Math Teacher

If your life was a book, what would the title be and why? 
Corny Jokes…WHY?!!  My family loves to tell these tremendously corny jokes that they find hilarious.  I am the only sane one.

Tell us about your favorite hobby. 
I love to read and play volleyball.  I could spend all day playing grass doubles volleyball while hanging out with friends and family.

David Kaufmann
MS Math Teacher

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
I love to run! I have been running ever since middle school and have run one marathon and numerous half-marathons. Running is a great way to explore new places and enjoy some fresh air – especially in this amazing fall weather!

Nazim Pasha
Lead Operations Tech

If your life was a book, what would the title be and why?
Lead By Example! At the end of life we either fail or succeed because of leadership.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
Reading and writing anything thought-provoking and universal in its application.

Kristen Thompson
Technical Assistant

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
At home, I have a cream-colored tabby named Remus – a reference to my favorite character from the Harry Potter series. Unfortunately, I realized much too late how ironic it was to name a cat after a character who *spoiler alert* turns into a glorified dog.

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
Although I was unable to partake in this activity throughout the pandemic, I’ve been regularly attending concerts since I was in the 6th grade. I constantly listen to music – to the point that I feel uncomfortable in its absence.

Fernando Valera
Operations Supervisor

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud?
I am about to get my associate’s degree in applied science with a specialty in H.V.A.C.

What is your secret superpower?
I don’t shy away from hard work.

Alexa Velez
MS Dance Teacher

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I enjoy playing the piano and composing my own music. 

What is something you have done in the last couple of years that makes you proud?
This year, I was a recipient of the Frankenthaler Climate Art Award for my video work addressing climate change.

Willie Warren
Speech & Debate Teacher

What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I played the piano, cello, trumpet, trombone, snare and bass drum

If your life was a book, what would the title be and why?
Woah!!! What was that?: A diary of a man who believes too much in hyperbole and onomatopoeia

Tell us about your favorite hobby.
During the holidays, I work on Lego architecture sets to keep.

Written by Ellie Sammons


Campaign for Cary Academy

Alumni News

Feeding Frontline Workers, One Shirt at a Time

CA Curious

Moving forward, United

CA Curious

Gravel Road Lessons: The Serendipity of an X Day

September 29, 2022

I swear I’m not making this up. Just ask Max, or Coach Hall, or any of the students who were on the bike trip—they can corroborate the details.

Here’s a bit of the backstory. Several weeks ago, Max had asked me if I was willing to help with an X Day centered around biking—specifically, gravel biking through Umstead State Park. I cheerfully agreed for two reasons, even before he really finished asking the question: first, I knew that Max would put together a great experience for his peers and the adults who happened to tag along, as he has led previous X Day and Flex Day activities. And second, I love to bike.

True to expectations, Max crafted a lovely day. We gathered in front of the CMS on Wednesday morning, helmeted and biked and watered. Max reminded us of some necessary details. We discussed the route. Maps were shown, tire pressures double checked, roll taken.

At 9:20, nine of us—two adults, seven Upper School students–pedaled past the Upper School, the Admin Building, the Middle School, and then out to Research Drive. A quick jaunt across North Harrison, a zip through the neighborhoods, and we found ourselves on the greenway, which led us to the Old Reedy Creek Road parking area by Lake Crabtree.

Max stopped us again, making sure we were all good before starting up the gravel road. We gulped some water and chatted a moment about the downhill through the neighborhood (which meant a crazy climb through the neighborhood when we returned), and then we pedaled up Old Reedy Creek Road. Over the course of the next twelve miles or so, we huffed and puffed up hills, roared down downhills (all while staying true to our comfort zones), and watched out for each other. Naturally, we stopped periodically to catch our breath and keep the group together.

At one of those moments, late in the ride, we were paused on the edge of the gravel road when a white-haired gentleman came over the hill, striding toward us. He stopped when he saw us on our bikes.

“Hello,” he said, looking at the students. “Is this a class?”

We explained that we were a school group, that on this day we were taking the learning outside the school walls.

“Oh,” he said. “Tell me what you are learning!”

Max explained not only the activities that we were doing, but also a number of the associated skills.

The gentleman smiled. “That’s wonderful,” he said. “And it’s so important to keep learning! I’m 85 years old, and I’m still learning and still moving! That’s why I hike these trails every day. If you limit yourself to the rocking chair, you won’t get up again!”

He told us about working hard, starting in his late teens, and finding success in his roles. He talked about retiring once in his fifties, getting bored and starting his own business and retiring in his 70s, and then volunteering—now well into his 80s. “I probably volunteer about 50 hours per week,” he confided. “And that’s what’s really important,” he added. “Helping others—that’s when you are really successful, when you can add to your community.”

We thanked him, wished him well, and then started our way back to campus. At one of our final stops, Adi said, “So what did you think of what the gentleman said?” A number of us marveled at his age—he may have been 85, but he looked much younger. Several of us reflected on his message: we are truly successful when we help others. Those thoughts stayed with us as we cycled back to school, retracing our earlier path.

That afternoon, under Max’s guidance, we shifted to other aspects of the day: how to plan bike routes, how to develop one’s biking skills. But most of us reflected, individually or in small groups, on the chance encounter, on yet another lesson outside the classroom, one that none of us were expecting.

By its very nature, we can’t plan for serendipity. But we can make sure that the conditions are ripe (yay X Days!), that we welcome learning and lessons and joy not only inside the classroom walls, but outside as well—even if it’s on the dusty gravel road in the middle of a state park where we hear a gentle reminder about what’s really important in our world.

Written by Robin Follet, Head of Upper School

CA Curious

Community Vignettes

Alumni News

CA Alumnae in healthcare opens up, shares what she’s learned

CA Curious

Beyond the Walls

mission accomplished

Magazine of CA

Mission Accomplished

September 14, 2020

When reflecting on events of the last academic year, many well-worn phrases spring to mind. Unprecedented challenges. Uncharted territories. Unpredictable futures. Amidst so much uncertainty, however, an unwavering absolute: CA’s enduring resiliency, creativity, and commitment to our mission—to discovery, innovation, collaboration, and excellence—to each other, and our broader community.


At CA, we teach our students to lean into discomfort. To look for the learning opportunities. To own and leverage their strengths. And to embrace challenge and adversity as an opportunity for further discovery, growth, and positive change. It is through this same introspective lens that we—as an institution and community—have approached the challenges presented by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Success in the face of the crisis—with its requisite shift to virtual teaching, learning, and working; a decrease in face-to-face instructional time; loss of in-person social interactions; and a heightened focus on wellness in all its forms—demanded new perspectives and insights into our traditional programming and curriculum. It led us more quickly down the path to creating the competency-based learning environment envisioned in our strategic plan.

“The need to pare down our curriculum to essential learning goals jump-started the process of establishing core competencies for our students in each content area. And the challenge of securely testing in a virtual environment led many teachers to experiment with more project-oriented ways for students to apply their learning and demonstrate their mastery,” points out Dean of Faculty Martina Greene. “Both represent major strides toward our strategic goal of transitioning from a content-driven to a skills-based approach, and that makes room for a lot more student voice and choice.”

Sheer necessity helped to cultivate an increased sense of flexibility, openness, and tolerance of change that would prove remarkably productive. Guided by our mission, we made fruitful discoveries—uncovering unique opportunities to advance our strategic plan further and benefit our students and community. What could have been a stagnant period became, instead, one of creative and lucrative experimentation, showing us new—perhaps even better—ways that we could teach, work and learn together.

“Change is only as difficult as you want it to be,” offers math department chair Craig Lazarski, reflecting on one of his key takeaways from the last year. “Often, we are paralyzed when thinking about what possible changes may do to our existing paradigm. This has taught us that we can try new things, to not be afraid of the unknown.”

Unfettered by conventional constraints and open to change, a laser-focused discovery process lent momentum and new urgency to a host of forward-thinking ideas—many of which had been long under consideration as part of our larger strategic plan. The later start times and new hybrid schedule that will debut in the fall are just two such examples of pivotal and promising changes on the horizon.

Designed to maximize student wellness, the new schedule reflects lessons learned from our pandemic experience and is informed by research around stress reduction and student wellness—including the importance of sleep and the need to ease cognitive load by reducing transitions and task switching throughout the day. Blending synchronous on-campus learning with asynchronous and synchronous off-campus virtual and experiential learning opportunities, the new schedule also offers a full “flex day” to provide students and teachers alike unscripted, dedicated time to pursue various projects.

“Our new weekly schedules in both divisions actually improve on our prior schedule and enhance opportunities for experiential learning,” enthuses Experiential Learning Director Michael McElreath. “The flex day and what it can do for teaching and learning at CA is huge—I can’t wait to see how we use it!”

zoom classroom

Innovation and collaboration

Innovation has always been at the heart of CA, denoting the vital role that technology plays in our learning community. Without question, our existing technological infrastructure and fluency played an integral part in our successful virtual pivot.

Information Services agilely launched a new institutional platform for teleconferencing—Zoom—that would be instrumental in our virtual learning efforts, while simultaneously grappling with heightened demands around online security and access. Students and faculty alike experimented with transformative new digital tools like Flipgrid. And faculty delved into the advanced features of OneNote and Microsoft Teams to find the best ways to engage students, foster personal interaction and connection, and provide feedback online.

While crucial, CA’s pandemic innovation did not start and end with technological implementation, however. Rather, it was the driving force behind a highly collaborative effort to create an engaging curriculum that sought to translate all aspects of a well-rounded CA experience into an engaging virtual one.

Recreating advisory programming and student club experiences. Organizing virtual field trips, guest speakers, and online cultural exchanges with students from across the world. Improvising makeshift sporting equipment to create agility and obstacle courses at home for PE classes. Figuring out how to design art projects around the unconventional and natural materials students might have at home. Devising socially-distant ways to support student emotional and physical health (Zoom yoga, anyone?). Honoring important milestones with meaningful and heartfelt digital celebrations. And countless other examples—far too many to list here—illustrate the many ways our community rose to the occasion with bold, outside-of-the-box thinking and adjusted on the fly with remarkable resilience and good humor.

Despite these numerous virtual “wins,” we developed a more profound appreciation of the in-person relationships that form the heart of our community—and which ultimately grounded and facilitated our virtual efforts. However, the crisis also demonstrated that our bonds are strong enough to sustain us while we are physically apart.

“The bonds we formed with our students allow us not just to persevere, but to flourish when we are only together on computer screens,” offers Upper School science department chair, Heidi Maloy.

innovation and collaboration

Whether Zooming in for community lunches with leadership, participating in a virtual alumni meetup, getting the family out for the first-ever virtual 5K, or donning Charger gear for online Spirit Week, innovative virtual community-building efforts helped to nurture that important sense of connection.

And, as is the CA way, our innovative and collaborative energies did not end at our virtual campus. They were also channeled into helping others, particularly as the virus lay bare the stark inequities, heightened needs, and challenges facing our broader community.

Prohibited from in-person service-learning opportunities, Delta Service Club—the Upper School’s service-learning club—collaborated to compile a list of socially-distant ways to make a difference (https://bit.ly/DeltaServiceClub). Using CA’s 3D printers, Middle School math teacher Leslie Williams partnered with North Carolina State University to print much-needed, FDA-approved personal protective equipment (with many others in the CA community following suit). And stories shared by alums highlighted the many ways Chargers collaborate and innovate for the greater good even after they leave campus—from working on the frontlines of the crisis to launching fundraising campaigns to support their community to developing new technologies that address COVID-related challenges.


While we can say that our experimental virtual pivot was a success, our enduring commitment to excellence demands that we not rest on our laurels. Instead, we continue to push the envelope, to strive for improvement and growth, and to flex further to meet our students’ needs.

That’s why, this summer, our hard-working faculty dedicated three weeks of their well-deserved vacation to intensively redesign their curricula for a hybrid approach to course delivery, building a strong digital core that serves as a virtual home base for learning, whether students are on-campus or off. Developed using the same design thinking approach we teach our students, the digital core incorporates lessons learned and newly-discovered best practices gleaned from recent months. It is designed to offer all CA students a high-quality virtual learning environment that complements our physical learning environment and reflects the academic rigor, innovation, and holistic, personalized, relevant learning for which CA is known.

Earth Day Week art project

Our commitment to excellence also demands ongoing efforts to evolve into the best versions of ourselves individually, as well as the best version of our community. In the face of adversity and undeniable evidence of the division and inequities within our broader community—it demands we find ways to work across differences, to work for equity, and to support each other and our broader community with inclusivity, empathy, and kindness.

To that end, over the next year, we will also be actively engaging in ongoing anti-racist and equity work as a community. Together, we will work to ensure all members of our community feel valued and known for who they are, and can fully participate, lend their voice, and be heard with respect and compassion.

As we prepare to welcome students back to campus and attempt to plan for the unknowns of the next year, we rest assured not only in the lessons learned from recent months, but in those reaped from a twenty-four-year tradition of discovery, innovation, collaboration, and excellence. We are well-prepared for the challenging opportunities that lie ahead. And, with clarity of vision, mission, and values, we will continue to learn, grow, persevere, and thrive, together, no matter what 2020-2021 brings.


Our commitment to discovery, innovation, and collaboration in the pursuit of excellence never wavered during the spring trimester. Our ability to lean productively into our mission and find success was made possible, in large part, by the generosity of our community and the unrestricted resources of the CA Fund.

Flexible CA Fund dollars granted us the freedom to think creatively and outside of the box while still preserving CA’s fiscal health during these unforeseen circumstances. It allowed us to seek out, unhindered, the most innovative and student-centric solutions to challenges wrought by the pandemic.

As a result, we were able to seek out the best technological and digital tools to foster secure, easy collaboration—whether advancing group projects, sketching out curriculum, hearing from the Head of School, or participating in a virtual variety show. And support a technological upgrade for Berger Hall that allowed us to better live stream events, such as Baccalaureate and the Upper School End-of-Year Awards, to your phones, laptops, and tablets.

The CA Fund supported our community by protecting our faculty and staff’s job security, alleviating stress, and allowing for unwavering focus. It allowed us to launch a new program—the CA Emergency Tuition Assistance Program— to provide financial support to those families that were negatively impacted by the crisis.

Written by Mandy Dailey, Director of Communications

Magazine of CA

Equity Matters

CA Curious

From hallways to homes: Re-imagining community-building at CA

Magazine of CA

Leading the Way

Students on stage photo

CA Curious

Raising a community

February 27, 2020

Tuesday was Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and it has been on my mind. Fat Tuesday marks the culmination of weeks of parades featuring festive krewes, flambeau carriers, toe-tapping drum and brass bands, parties and balls, and generally lots of revelry for the city and its visitors. For seven years, I lived, studied, and taught in New Orleans, an experience I cherish. I loved learning about the city’s unique and tumultuous history and the French, Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences that shape the culture, food, music, architecture, and traditions that we see today.  

As Mardi Gras coincides closely with the wrap of our second trimester, I have been making connections. Mardi Gras builds community and contributes to the identity of New Orleans (and it’s a fun time for participants and observers). Similarly, in our Middle School classrooms, on the fields, and on the stage, students participate in and enjoy experiences that bring them together and build team, club, grade -level, Middle School, and CA identities.   

As evident in the creative production of unforgetting, our student performers and tech crew delivered poignant and uplifting stories of life’s moments. They worked together for weeks and developed closely as an ensemble – an experience and connection that will stay with them for years. 

Another example is the unique cross-grade level language arts project that developed from work with longtime CA partner, Burning Coal Theater Company. Sixth graders wrote poems expressing their ideas about the theme of Ubuntu. Seventh graders worked together in small groups and combined the 6th-grade poems with movement, shadow work, and props to create a new work of art. Eighth graders then took these poetic vignettes and added a layer of digital projection. Integral to the process was the thoughtful and constructive student feedback given to peers and teachers who worked alongside in the design of the project. Final pieces of this comprehensive and connected student-inspired project will be performed for the entire middle school as a part of the larger Ubuntu Celebration on Friday. 

These two curricular and co-curricular collaborative projects are illustrative of many amazing community-building activities our middle schoolers experienced over the past twelve weeks and will continue to enjoy during their time at Cary Academy. Facilitated and inspired by creative and supportive faculty in an environment that cultivates collaboration, out-of-the-box thinking, and relevant real-life connections, our students are challenged to think, work, and play hard all trimester. Our students and faculty are ready for a break. 

Now that Mardi Gras has passed, the city is noticeably quiet in contrast to the busy, activity-filled weeks leading up it. I am hopeful that our trimester break provides students and faculty a change in pace and time to relax, reflect, and refresh!

Written by Marti Jenkins, Head of Middle School


CA celebrates the Year of the Dragon

CA Curious

Let talk lunch….

Middle School

MS celebrates Earth Day in a big way

CA Curious

Entering the homestretch with the Collaborative for Innovative Education

February 6, 2020


You may not immediately recognize the name of this pleasant German town northwest of Frankfurt, but it is very familiar to our German learners as the location of the Feldbergschule, our partner school for the 10th-grade German exchange program. This past October, however, I had the chance to experience Oberursel in a completely different context: as part of a team of Cary Academy faculty and administrators attending a professional development event hosted by Frankfurt International School.

Despite what the name implies, Frankfurt International School (FIS) is not located directly in Frankfurt, but rather, outside the city in neighboring Oberursel.  So, in a bit of a curious coincidence, Cary Academy has not just one, but two educational partnerships in the same small German community of 47,000 residents.

The relationship between Cary Academy and FIS is tied to the Collaborative for Innovative Education (CIE), a coalition of six forward-thinking schools around the world that also includes Singapore American School, the American International School of Johannesburg, Nueva School, and the American School of Bombay. The heads of these schools each agreed to send a team of teacher-leaders and an accompanying administrator to a series of six four-day collaborative forums to be held twice a year over the course of three years, with each school slated to host one of the forums on its campus. The October forum at FIS was the fifth in the series, and Cary Academy will be hosting the culminating forum at the end of March.

Head of Middle School Marti Jenkins and I had the privilege of accompanying academic department leaders Craig Lazarski, Heidi Maloy, Meredith Stewart, and Katie Taylor, along with ed tech leaders Leslie Williams and Betsy MacDonald, to the CIE event in Oberursel, where we all had the opportunity to see first-hand what FIS is doing to make learning more flexible and relevant for students.

(Fun fact:  Mrs. Jenkins actually attended FIS in first grade!)


We also had the chance to collaborate with the other participating school teams to share ideas, practices, and resources related to personalized learning, as well as hear a presentation by George Couros, author of The Innovator’s Mindset and Innovate Inside the Box.


To get a better feel for the collaborative work of the CIE, check out the 5-minute video from the FIS event.

The CIE has evolved considerably since the initial forums in the Bay Area and Singapore and the second-year forums in Mumbai and Johannesburg.  The Collaborative recently welcomed the International School of Zug and Lucerne (ISZL) as a seventh member school, a connection that led to the opportunity for a group of Cary Academy students to travel to Switzerland in January to participate in the 2020 Global Youth Summit hosted by ISZL.  In another effort to involve students in the CIE, Cary Academy will be piloting a student forum in March that will run concurrently with the teacher forum on our campus.  The CIE is also considering development of a teacher exchange program among member schools–an exciting idea for the future that we hope to flesh out during the upcoming event at CA.

The fall forum at FIS certainly proved to be a great way for Cary Academy colleagues outside of the German program to discover the half-timber charms of Oberursel, and so, too, we hope that the spring forum at Cary Academy will help us to put Cary on the map for our CIE partners as another wonderful place to live and learn.

As for me personally, I have the good fortune to be returning to Oberursel at the end of May, when our 10th-grade German students will visit their friends at the Feldbergschule.  But that’s a topic for another day–and another blog!

Written by Martina Greene, Dean of Faculty

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Going West

March 22, 2018

Going West with the Collaborative for Innovative Education

It is part of American tradition to look West for opportunity, and over the course of this year a group of department leaders from Cary Academy has been doing just that, traveling first to California and then across the Pacific to Singapore to join a group of fellow teacher-pioneers in a global think tank known as the Collaborative for Innovative Education, or CIE.

Nueva School
Nueva School

The CIE is a partnership between Cary Academy and five other schools around the world that are like-minded in vision, thought process, quality of program, and ambition to share ideas, practices and resources.     The heads of these six schools aspired to create a network of forward-thinking teachers who could engage in meaningful conversation and reflection around the future of education and commit to action to make a lasting impact on student experiences and outcomes.   To that end, each head agreed to send a team of five teachers and one administrator to a series of six four-day forums focused on the subject of personalized learning.  The forums would be held twice a year over the course of three years, with each collaborating school slated to host one of the forums on its campus.

The Nueva School was first in line to host in October 2017, and I had the honor of accompanying CA teachers Andrew Chiaraviglio, Michael Hayes, Craig Lazarski, Heidi Maloy, and Katie Taylor to California for the inaugural event.   Our team was definitely excited to meet the groups from the other schools and to see first-hand how Nueva engages students in learning by doing (design thinking) and learning by caring (social-emotional learning).  We also had the opportunity to visit several other innovative schools and organizations in the Bay Area, including the Khan Lab School, Lick-Wilmerding High School, Alt-School, Brightworks, and the CK-12 Foundation.  Another major highlight was a tour of the Stanford d.school with founder David Kelley as our guide.  The goal of this first forum was to develop a shared understanding of the key dimensions of personalized learning and to find inspiration in schools and other institutions that are doing cutting-edge work in one or more of those dimensions.

Singapore American School
Singapore American School

The second forum took place at the end of February and was hosted by Singapore American School.  This time, the school teams took a deeper dive into four key questions related to personalized learning:

  1. Learner Profiles: How might we better understand the strengths, motivations and needs of our students and help them better understand themselves in these areas?
  2. Competency-Based Learning Progressions: How might we better communicate learning goals and learning progress to students in ways that promote student agency and self-efficacy?
  3. Personalized Learning Pathways: How might we provide students with more choice in what they learn and how they demonstrate their learning?
  4. Flexible Learning Environments: How might we rethink time, space, teacher roles and instructional modes to better respond to student needs?

Singapore Collaboration
Singapore Collaboration

Singapore American showcased a number of innovative programs it has developed to personalize learning in these ways, and we were also able to share some of CA’s efforts in these areas.   The event ended with a brainstorming session within and across our school teams about how we could bring elements of what we learned back to our home schools.

So far, the CIE has lived up to its promise to create connections, to nurture and develop teacher- leaders, and to drive high-impact teaching and learning practices.  In looking to the West for opportunity, we have found much educational gold!

We look forward to bringing some new faculty members onto the Cary Academy team as we prepare for the next two CIE forums to be held at the American School of Bombay in Fall 2018 and the American International School of Johannesburg in Spring 2019.  Frankfurt International School and Cary Academy will host the final two forums during the 2019-20 academic year.   Stay tuned for updates as we begin to implement some of the ideas coming out of the Collaborative, all in support of our strategic vision to create learning opportunities that are flexible, personalized and relevant and to cultivate self-directed and bold life-long learners who make meaningful contributions to the world.

Written by Martina Greene, Dean of Faculty

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