CA Curious

Innovation on Vacation

August 24, 2023

Have you ever wondered what our teachers are up to during their summer breaks? Each year, many CA faculty spend their well-deserved summer vacation on professional development opportunities that translate their interests into incredible learning opportunities for our students—in the classroom and beyond. 

Cary Academy offers two major grant programs to support the professional development of our faculty during the summer months: the Friday Fellowship and the Innovative Curriculum Grant.

So, what exactly did our tireless teachers work on this summer through these grant programs?

Kendall Bell, Heidi Maloy, and Charlotte Kelly, Upper School science teachers, received a collaborative fellowship to interweave DEI work into the chemistry curriculum, incorporating a broader range of scientific, cultural, and professional examples of who contributes to our understanding of chemical concepts, with the goal of giving all students the opportunity to see themselves doing chemistry.

Lauren Bullock, Middle School language arts and social studies teacher, received fellowship funding to participate in the Kundiman summer retreat for Asian American writers.   Participation in the retreat not only helped to sharpen Lauren’s own skills as a writer, but also enabled Lauren to foster connections to the writing world as the language arts team searches for more diverse voices to add to the Cary Academy literary canon and even invite onto campus.

Tamara Friend and Danae Shipp, Middle School science teachers, received a collaborative fellowship to research and develop a plan for creating a dedicated STEM space in the Middle School building.  Tamara and Danae attended the 2023 ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference with a focus on sessions and exhibitions related to Makerspace development, and also conducted site visits to local schools and public libraries with Makerspaces. They used the information they gathered to produce a layout and equipment acquisition plan for a pilot STEM space to be housed in a first-floor science classroom, with the goal of having the space outfitted and ready to use late in the first semester or early in the second semester of the 2023-24 school year.

David Kaufmann, Middle School math teacher, received a fellowship to participate in the 2023 ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference to learn more about supporting student learning through gamification, coding, and technology-enhanced projects that encourage both application and creative expression. David used the conference experience to design three new digital projects for his math classes.

Ty van de Zande, digital arts and coding teacher, received fellowship funding to undertake a visualization project using hand-made glass objects to model fundamental concepts and principles of computer science. Ty produced a set of models built from glass, photos of the glass models, photo documentation of the building process, and a write-up describing the models and how they represent the fundamental processes. Through the photography process, the glass models can be combined and arranged with other glass models to represent a real computer code program. 

Crystal Bozeman, Middle School learning specialist, and Katie Taylor, Middle School language arts teacher, received a collaborative grant to create a “Leaders in Literacy” program to support Middle School students in developing their literacy skills, especially reading and writing. The new program focuses on teaching the science of reading and writing and strategies that will work across texts, emphasizing hands-on activities that give students active and engaging ways to build their literacy skills.

Kara Caccuitto, Upper School English teacher, received grant funding to develop a new English elective for juniors and seniors on Magical Realism. The majority of anchor texts in the new course are of Latin American origin, giving students a chance to explore the art, history, and culture of this part of the world.  Students also have ample opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of the characteristics of magical realism through a variety of creative self-expression activities, including producing a podcast, compiling an electronic cookbook, and developing a poetry or song anthology.

Sam Krieg, Upper School Spanish teacher, received a grant to develop a new Spanish elective focused on Spanish for business use. The course provides opportunities for students to communicate with professionals from throughout the Spanish-speaking world representing a range of commercial endeavors, including hospitality, banking, agriculture, and education. Students also have the chance to learn about, and reflect on, the (in)equalities of business relationships at different levels and to explore the essential roles of immigrants in different commercial contexts.

Kristi Ramey, Upper School math teacher, received grant funding to create a new model for Calculus 1 that expands access to the course content by creating both a regular and an advanced pathway within the same class. Kristi’s work focused on creating appropriately differentiated assignments and assessments to meet the needs of both groups of students, as well as appropriate supplemental materials for those students opting to pursue the AP exam.

Erick Crepsac, Middle School math teacher, was selected to participate in the Teachers Across Borders Program in Southern Africa (TAB-SA). Erick was part of a team of American math and science teachers who traveled to South Africa during the summer to conduct curriculum-specific workshops with their South African colleagues from rural schools, sharing methodology, techniques, and pedagogy in STEM content areas.

Written by Martina Greene, Dean of Faculty

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Building Bridges: How One Conference Creates Community at CA and Beyond

March 16, 2023

“You can make what you’re passionate about become a reality […] You can always have a role!”

These rousing words, uttered by keynote speaker Dr. Ya Liu, could not have been truer to the Building Bridges Across Communities conference story. The first of its kind in Cary Academy history, the conference brought together Asian-identifying students and faculty from across multiple Triangle schools in a day of fellowship, fun, and future-oriented enthusiasm. 

It all began one year ago after Leya Tseng Jones, Isa Oon, and I returned from the Asian Educators Alliance (AsEA)conference in California. Invigorated and inspired by the work of Asian diaspora educators from across the country, we immediately began plans to bring a similar necessary experience to our community through connections at other local schools. As Leya explained,  “Collaborating and building strong working partnerships with our counterparts at Durham Academy and Ravenscroft was so rewarding; witnessing the initiative, organization, and collaboration of our student leaders with their counterparts was truly inspiring. Each group took the lead on one component of our morning and thoughtfully managed every detail. I couldn’t be more impressed with what they accomplished together over just a few Zoom meetings of face-to-face time.” 

From the beginning, it was clear to this union, known as the Asian American Alliance, that the conference should not only be student-focused, but student-led. Three student leaders and members of the Upper School Asian American Pacific Islander Affinity Group, senior EJ Jo, junior Eric Xie, and junior Angela Zhang, each took a large role in organizing with other student leaders as well as fellow affinity group students. When asked about how close the first vision was to the final result, the answers were positive. 

“Initially, we wanted to invite a keynote and have a few sessions for discussion,” Angela said. “The result was just that; it was very similar to what we originally thought.” Eric added, “Our turnout was great, especially on such short notice, and every participant definitely seemed to want to be there and actively participated in the group activities and asked insightful questions to our keynote speaker, Dr. Liu. Looking back, there’s very little I would change, if anything at all.”

On Wednesday, March 8, Cary Academy students were joined by members of Durham Academy, Ravenscroft, St. Mary’s School, and the Montessori School of Raleigh. First on the agenda was the keynote address by Dr. Ya Liu, highlighting the connection between the personal and the political.

“I didn’t intend to be a leader,” Dr. Liu told the audience after outlining her impressive experience in community organizing. “It’s precisely because of the work I did. You may think, ‘I’m just a middle schooler, I’m just a high schooler, what can I do?’ […] A lot of these experiences will become part of who you are.” Dr. Liu went on to encourage students to seek out resources from beyond their schools and to “find the friends who will support you. Find the teachers who will support you.” 

Following the speaker, all participants were separated into randomized groups to experience a spectrum activity in which members were asked to discuss the intersections of their identity and what effects this had on their relationship with themselves and others. Students then attended one of several student-only workshops while adults exchanged encouragement and visions for the future in a different affinity group. 

“In both discussion sessions, I heard from many students about their experiences with their ethnicity and race,” Angela recalled of the student portion. “Even though I had never met these students before, it seemed that we had experienced the variation of a common struggle: our adolescent urge to be ‘white.’ So it surprised me how isolated everyone felt compared to how everyone was going through the same thing. Therefore, my biggest takeaway is that we were and are never alone.”

On the adult side, Leya observed that “There are so few Asian-identifying faculty/staff in our schools. We – the adults – need to find time to gather, even if virtually, to connect and support each other. Our brief time together was affirming and empowering.” 

When I looked around the Discovery Studio at the fellowship lunch, it was clear that every person present felt fulfilled and connected. In a world where being Asian American can often lead to so much stress and pressure from many sources, the beauty of Asian diasporic joy becomes not only a delight but a necessity. Looking forward, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we all intend to keep building this reality we’re so passionate about.

Written by Lauren Bullock, Language Arts and World Cultures Teacher

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Wisdom from the Senior Corner

October 18, 2018

On Monday of this week, I broke an unwritten rule of the Upper School: I traipsed upstairs, and rather than follow the well-trod path toward the teacher lounge and the coffee machine, I turned right, threaded my way between the book bags, and plopped myself onto a couch in the Senior Corner.

The seniors politely tried to ignore me.  An adult—an administrator, no less—had intruded into their sanctum sanctorum, their happy land overseen by cheerful painted mountains and the cardboard cut-out of Bob Ross.

I cleared my throat and said, “I’m writing a blog, and I would like your thoughts.  Would you mind?”

They paused, and after a brief moment of internal debate, they all declared, “Of course not.”  Even if I was an intruder, they would be polite.

“As you think about the classes that you’ve taken at CA,” I asked, pen in hand, “what jumps out at you?”

“10th grade English,” one student stated almost immediately.  “That was the first time that we had to analyze the literature really deeply and write a long essay about it.  That was such an important learning experience.”

Other students added their thoughts.

“Turbo-Calc.  It was flexible.  It was my first blended class, and I chose whether to do the homework—if I didn’t need the practice, I didn’t have to do it.  But it was my choice.”

“Advanced Chemistry.  It was practical.  I started to see how it related to every day.  We talked about the forces that held my water in my water bottle.  And I learned why my car works better in the morning in the summer than in the winter.”

“Advanced Biology.  I learned about myself.  There was no place to hide in the class, so I had to be on top of the material.”

“Advanced Environmental Science.  I loved the homework, just because it was so different.  Sometimes it was a blog post.  Sometimes, a tweet.  But we had so many different activities.”

The next period, after lunch, I ambushed three more unsuspecting seniors in the Collabo-lounge.  I repeated my story—blog, student thoughts, help—and then asked them, “Looking back, what classes or experiences stand out to you, and why?”

They also answered, almost before I had finished asking the question.

“The exchange trips were transformative.  We were immersed in a culture, and we had to speak the language—there was no other choice.”

“When I was on the exchange trip, it was the first time I thought in a different language.  I was starting to write a text to my mom, and then I realized, ‘wait, I should write this in English.’”

“Critical thinking—that’s what I’ve gotten from my CA classes.  We apply it to our learning and the work that we create.”

“I love the change in the schedule—it’s allowed me to pursue an internship in art during my long block!”

Another student added, “I actually don’t like the change in schedule.  But you’re not going to put that in the blog, are you?”


Several years ago, members of Cary Academy’s Strategic Planning Committee reinvigorated our mission by crafting a guiding statement: “Cary Academy will create learning opportunities that are flexible, personalized, and relevant.  We will cultivate self-directed and bold life-long learners who make meaningful contributions to the world.”

That statement has guided the changes to the Upper School schedule, which allowed us to provide more flexibility in several departments.  We opened the science curriculum, offering more choice for all students.  We also expanded the times for art classes, allowing students to take multiple arts classes in a day.

That statement has guided the development of the Center for Math and Science, which will allow us to engage our students in deeper collaborative experiences.

Courtesy of the space provided by the CSM, that statement will guide us as we re-envision the Upper School building to match the needs of our students taking their humanities classes.

And that statement, in small and large ways, has filtered into the experiences and language of the students.  I did not share this statement with any of the students, yet—unbidden—they all referenced some aspect of the goal in their responses, much to my joy.


On Tuesday of this week, I had the chance to listen to two different student panels: one answered questions of prospective parents, the other spoke to underclassmen.  Both of those groups of students emphasized the idea of curiosity, even if they didn’t use that word.  They spoke of the joy when discovering a passion, of the need to focus on the personal journey, of the gift of flexibility.

In other conversations with students over the past few weeks, I have heard the joy derived from classes across all departments and grade levels.

So as a community, we have revised our schedule and rebuilt our buildings in order to facilitate that curiosity—and the students have embraced all of those opportunities.

And we will do more, nurturing that curiosity by creating additional opportunities for students to develop their paths, delving into the experiences that hold meaning and relevancy for them, and—ultimately–for the world outside of Cary Academy.

Even if not all the students are completely in favor of the schedule changes.


P.S.  Thanks again to the seniors who willingly put up with my questions during their free periods.



Written by Robin Follet, Head of Upper School


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2018 Innovative Curriculum and Friday Fellowship Grants

September 6, 2018

The William C. Friday Summer Fellowship Program

The William C. Friday Summer Fellowship Program provides financial assistance for faculty to pursue professional development projects during the summer that will directly strengthen them as teaching professionals in their field(s) of expertise.

Summer 2018

Betsy MacDonald, Upper School Design and Programming Teacher, received a fellowship to hone her skills in 3D modeling and gaming and to use that learning to redesign the curricula for the electives she teaches in this domain.  Betsy plans to write a set of mini-units with step-by-step examples to teach the various techniques she has targeted and to create a buffet of project options for students to choose from.

Jasmine Powell, Dance Teacher, received a fellowship to begin an intensive year-long training program leading to certification as a Pilates teacher.  This training will help Jasmine to more confidently teach Pilates in a variety of contexts, from the upper school Movement for Athletes class to the middle school Yogalates Club to optional classes for employees.

Gray Rushin, Upper School Chemistry Teacher and Outdoors Club Advisor, received funding to support his participation in a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Participation in the hike will help Gray expand the outdoor education opportunities at Cary Academy to include longer, more advanced treks.  Gray also plans to use the experience to design a training course for students in leading wilderness adventure trips.

Katie Taylor, Middle School Language Arts Teacher and Department Leader, received funding to attend the Writing Institute at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University.  Katie will apply this experience to creation of a set of materials to support writing instruction throughout the content areas in the 6th grade, in accordance with the writing checklist developed collaboratively by the 6th grade team.

Innovative Curriculum Grants

The Innovative Curriculum Grant provides financial assistance for individual faculty members or teams of faculty to work over the summer to create new courses, substantial new course modules or other significant new programs that embody the school’s strategic vision.

Summer 2018

Rachel Atay and Matt Greenwolfe, upper school physics teachers, received a grant to develop a new introductory physics course in Waves, Light and Electricity, which will explore the physics of everyday phenomena in a hands-on, collaborative environment.  Rachel and Matt will employ a “standards-enhanced” grading system to encourage work toward mastery, and the course will include an applied project at the end of each trimester, such as building a practical electrical circuit for a specific purpose or making an optical device like a telescope, microscope or camera.

MaLi Burnett, upper school biology teacher, received a grant to develop a framework for implementing mastery learning in a new introductory biology course (Biology:  Ecological Focus).  MaLi will create a framework for assessment and feedback in the course rooted in mastery of scientific literacy skills, meaning the demonstrated ability to apply scientific knowledge in real-world contexts.

Robert Coven and Conrad Hall, upper school history teachers, received a grant to create a new conceptual modeling unit on the U.S. Constitution for the United States History course.  The new unit will be designed to extend conceptual modeling from the classroom into the community by engaging students in current state and national issues related to the Constitution and by expanding research from electronic sources to person-to-person contacts with community leaders, governmental representatives, and Constitutional scholars.

Fred Haas and Allison McCoppin, middle school science teachers, received a grant to redesign the 7th grade science curriculum to reflect the overarching theme of “Spaceship Earth.”  More and more scientists talk about Earth as a complex system–one that humans must aggressively monitor, manage, and sometimes re-engineer, like a spaceship.  The goal of the curriculum redesign is to provide students with an understanding of the needs of our planet and the STEM practices and concepts required to effectively measure and manage real-world environmental problems.   Students will explore how our planetary life-support system works and what they can do as citizen scientists to promote sustainability.

Craig Lazarski and Kristi Ramey, upper school math teachers, received a grant to develop a new course in Advanced Statistical Theory and Applications.  This course will extend the curriculum of the current Advanced Statistics course by going into more depth on current topics and exploring topics at a Calculus level.  Craig and Kristi plan to work with students in this course to create a statistics consulting group that anyone on campus can use, and they also hope to give students a choice of taking either the AP exam or an Actuary exam, the latter being more of a real-world experience.

Trish Yu, upper school Chinese teacher, received a grant to develop a new advanced-level trimester elective course in Business Communication in Chinese.  The goal of this course is to improve students’ proficiency in the use of Chinese for business purposes, with an emphasis on logistical and cultural hurdles to be overcome, etiquette, and the art of subtle communication.  Students will explore authentic case studies and produce written letters and email messages for real world audiences.

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