KnightLife: Viva Firenze!

View of Florence from San Miniato al MonteWhen breaks from school approach, most of us look forward to time away from the classroom. Maybe I am just a nerd, but I love learning! For the past six years, I have eagerly sought and found some amazing professional development opportunities that rejuvenate, recharge, and refresh my attitude, my teaching methods, and my desire to be a lifelong learner.

For two weeks last summer, I ventured to every museum, church, restaurant, and Gelato stand in Florence, Italy. As a student with Mercer University’s Florentine Freedoms, I immersed myself in the culture, the history, the beauty, and of course, the FOOD of this unbelievable city. Walking the narrow brick streets, listening to the concerts in the piazzas, gazing on some of the most important art in the world, connecting the past with my present, and standing in places once inhabited by Michelangelo, Donatello, Dante, and Brunelleschi – I became a part of the Renaissance that changed the world.

Venturing out from my apartment on the Piazza della Signoria, I climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa and hiked to San Miniato atop Michelangelo Square; I marched and cheered with the Santo Spirito soccer team and fans after their championship win; I observed the blessing of the horses in the Palio in Sienna; I cried upon seeing Brunelleschi’s Wooden Crucifix; I stood in awe when I turned the corner in the Academia and saw Michelangelo’s David; and my taste buds exploded the first time I ate pear glazed gnocchi. Florence – the city of art, religion, politics, diversity, acceptance, and love. The city of pizza, gelato, street musicians, selfie sticks, and fizzy water!

The courses I teach at DWS have been influenced but this experience as I learned the Harkness Method of class discussion and now implement that practice with my students. That said, I came away with more than just a recharged battery and volumes of new knowledge. My faith grows stronger; my passion for great books burns brighter; my desire to learn continues; and yes, my weight is weightier.

I am forever a part of Florence, as she is forever a part of me.

Viva Firenze!

Debbie Newsome Allen, Upper School Humanities






KnightLife: Trading Places

Middle. School. Whenever I utter those two words in succession while describing my job, I almost always get the same reaction – “UGH! That’s a tough age,” and I always come back with “Oh, it’s really not that bad.”

But it’s true: Middle School is not easy. Not in any sense. I experienced IMG_0725some of the hardships of Middle School first hand while a student, and I work with Middle School students daily, so I assumed my understanding of the trials and tribulations of students was quite strong. However, I was recently given the opportunity to revisit this experience as a student. I shadowed eighth-grader Emilee Foy on a November Thursday for an entire school day (lunch, break, P.E., etc) and was reminded of just how trying these days can be.

Now, I’m not by any means saying the day was miserable – Emilee could not have been a kinder, more patient hostess to me. Attending and participating in each of her classes was really enlightening (our teachers are ROCKSTARS!), and having the opportunity to go outside and get active during the day was really refreshing for me (can faculty have P.E.??).

That said, I felt like a complete mess all day. Usually, I consider myself to be a pretty organized person, but keeping up with my materials and belongings through more than ten locations during the day was really challenging, and I didn’t even have any textbooks. What materials I did have kept falling off those tiny, slanted surfaces our students work on. Also, our 45-minute classes seemed to go by so quickly that by the time I got settled and on task in each one, it was time to pack up and leave again. By the end of the day, I left feeling more exhausted than normal, and more compassionate towards our students and their obstacles that, as a teacher, can seem largely trivial.

Of course, our students indeed must learn the skills of organization, time management, and problem solving. The earlier they have functional use of these abilities, the better. But as I rediscovered, being a Middle Schooler, even for a day, is not a breeze. So if you are an educator or a parent, as frustrating as these little humans can be, remember we’ve all been there!

Katie Sullivan, Middle School Spanish Teacher

KnightLife: Stepping Back in Time

Time travel.

Deerfield-Windsor School
Why America is Free – 2014

It’s fascinating and captures our imaginations – just look at the popularity of movies like “Back to the Future” and TV shows such as “Outlander.”  Wouldn’t it be fun to go back in time for just a day to find out what life was really like in the past?! Armed with an adopted persona and an authentic costume, our fifth graders are doing just that – stepping back to the 1700’s to experience Why America is Free.

What does it take to be a colonist?

Deerfield-Windsor School
Why America is Free – 2015

Through hands-on study, this period comes alive for our students. These “colonial” children churn butter, punch tin, and create candles. They march as a military unit, prime and fire muskets, pour tea, and write calligraphy. But these types of activities are only the beginning for our would-be colonists.  As the sun sets, the candlelit evening activities promise to be full of excitement and drama.  Rumors of a Continental soldier hiding in the house circulate through the colonists. Is it true?  Has this soldier traveled for days, risking life and limb, to deliver information that could be of use to the local militia?   What about the rumors that Redcoats might be lurking about?  What can mere school aged children do to help bring about the birth of a whole new nation?

Through the experiences of Patriots Day and thanks to the help of many, many volunteers, our children will find out firsthand what the pages of a textbook cannot possibly explain.   I hope it will be a highlight of their Lower School years and will create memories lasting a lifetime!

Cary Stoudenmire, Lower School Director

Cary Stoudenmire

KnightLife: Finding My Voice

Hi, my name is Lindsey Stewart, and I am socially awkward.

If I know you well, you might not see that side of me. However, meeting new people, having to make small talk and coming up with interesting things to say so I don’t sound like a major dork is actually very hard for me – it always has been.

Fortunately, I discovered one place I feel completely at home: the stage. In seventh grade, I discovered how easily I could find my voice when I was standing in the spotlight. It seems ironic that I would finally break out of my semi-shy, awkward shell by being the center of attention, but it worked. I could be whatever the playwright’s words asked me to be while creating a character, and I found a piece of myself within each different one.

Lindsey Stewart in AnnieActing captivated me. For years, I had wandered my backyard singing songs from Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera, and when my parents finally took me to the Fox Theatre to see them, I knew from the overture I was hooked. For six years at DWS, I acted, sang, painted sets, and poured my heart and soul into every production I could.

Then I graduated and it was all over, or so I thought. Much to my surprise I ended up back at DWS in 2007 to teach English, my second passion. I became an assistant director to the spring musical, took over the one-act play my second year, and just last year took over the spring musical. DWS helped me get a second master’s in Theatre Education, and just like that, I returned to the theatrical world where I truly belong.

In order to feed the work I do with the students, I take to the stage myself. In Albany, the only opportunity that works with my teaching schedule is Theatre Albany. I enjoy getting to be an actor myself while working under a fellow director. This allows me to remind myself what it’s like to be the actor and also to appreciate and learn from the methods of a seasoned director. I get to spend time with a different network of friends who share one of my interests, and most importantly, I have fun!

Many people ask me, “How do you manage to do it all? Teach? One-Act? Theatre Albany?” I simply tell them, that is my relaxation. When I’m on the stage myself, I get to take a step back from my world and be someone completely different, even if it’s only for two and a half hours. Some people run, some people read, some people nap. I act. I sing. It’s what brings me peace and rejuvenation.

So why is theatre so important?

It’s the place I exude confidence, the place I don’t think so much about what I’m saying, the place I inject my feelings into the moment. For students, the benefits are seemingly endless. Studies show students involved in theatre score nearly 100 points higher on the SAT, while strengthening speaking skills and confidence levels, physical development and kinesthetic skills, mental development and higher order thinking, personal and intra-personal development, ability to work towards a goal and work collaboratively, and a concept of self-discipline and awareness. With so much going on behind the scenes, there is a place for even the shyest of student, whether it’s moving sets, building props, or helping with makeup.

Theatre is so much more than play time. It’s a place of self-discovery unlike any other. I am proud to say my whole world’s a stage, but I’m willing to share my spotlight with anyone who wants to join me.

Lindsey Stewart, Alum/Teacher/Actor

Lindsey Stewart

KnightLife: Why do we love Giving on Game Day?

“It makes us feel like we are making a big change in our community.”

Who gets excited to see the Knights compete under the lights on Friday night? Everyone, right?! Well, in the 5th Grade, we thought it would be a brilliant idea to take advantage of the excitement on Friday nights and inspire our community to give back every time the Knights tee it up for a home football game. Through these efforts, we have engaged our community and begun to form relationships with socially responsible organizations like the Humane Society, Phoebe Liberty House, and The Lord’s Pantry. Our goal is to not only support these organizations through charitable donations, but to follow their lead by being invested in the Albany community. Our commitment this fall was recognized by the Albany Advocacy Resource Center, who honored us with a Community Service award at their recent banquet. Below are some of our 5th grade Knights and what they love about our Giving on Game Day initiative:

“If you ask us what our favorite donation has been we would not be able to pick one.”

“People go to DWS football games to have a good time, but they are really helping the community when they get involved in Giving on Game Day!”

FotorCreated“A lot of people donate to be seen doing something good. We do this to represent our school. We want to help our community because it is important and we care about it.”

“It makes us feel like we are making a big change in our community.”

Deerfield-Windsor 5th Grade

KnightLife: Are You a Tourist in Your Home?

Several weeks ago, I joined my colleagues in the Leadership Albany ’16 class for a full day of discovery and exploration in our city. During this excursion, we toured Procter & Gamble and learned they will soon open a biomass plant to Imagegenerate 100% of the steam necessary to run operations; we visited the Albany Civil Rights Institute and realized the impact of the Albany Movement and Dr. King’s role within it; at the Flint RiverQuarium, we discovered the importance of water and the fragility of our supply, while learning Antoine Predock’s design for the facility was inspired by the Kolomoki Mounds. I could go on, but you get the point: we learned volumes about the immense vitality of the community in which we live!

So, why am I blogging about this?

This experience got me thinking about ways DWS can explore partnerships with the vibrant organizations in our community. Businesses in our community are conducting inspirational work, museums highlight and preserve our rich history, and socially responsible organizations are finding ways in which we will create a better environment for all to thrive.

Our school seeks to join that work and develop partnerships with organizations in an effort to have our students and teachers actively working alongside our neighbors to stretch our students while learning about our home and continually making Albany a dynamic place to learn, live, partner and work. We are not interested in being tourists in our own home; rather, we desire to become active citizens by establishing relationships that impact the daily curriculum at DWS, and ultimately, inspire a passion for life and civic engagement in all Knights.

Many thanks to Leadership Albany, ADEDC, P&G, Flint RiverQuarium, Thronateeska, ACRI, CVB and all of your wonderful employees, colleagues and partners who worked to make this an amazing day that has helped shine a light on the path ahead for DWS!

Geoffrey Sudderth, Director of Middle and Upper School


KnightLife: Tybee Travels with a 6th Grader

What do muddy rain boots, crawling fiddler crabs, sea creature personification writings, netting on a tidal creek dock, and sea island economics all have in common? These are all things experienced by DWS sixth graders as they participated in the island ecology field experience on Tybee Island.

5:45 a.m. came bright and early as we loaded up the new, white DWS bus to head to Tybee Island. My buddies and I quickly started a fierce competition of Uno and War. The trip seemed short, but a few hours later when the bus pulled into the Tybee 4-H center, we were ready to get out and stretch our legs! It was a rainy, overcast sky, but we smelled the salty water and knew we had finally reached the beach.

Our twenty boy dorm room was full of bunk beds and sometimes very loud and rambunctious – but not as loud as the other room of boys!

IMG_2979Peanut butter and jelly … not the kind you eat.

Two of us waded into the surf and sleuthed for sea creatures. One person (the “peanut butter”) held the end of a net and stood in one place and another person (the “jelly”) circled around holding the other end of the net. We collected shrimp, anchovies, and puffer-like fish. We learned about these creatures in the classroom, but actually got to experience them on Tybee.

Most important thing I learned?

Don’t stick your hand in the Test Tank! A human pinch uses 20-pounds of pressure, but the crabs in this tank pinch with 500-pounds of pressure and can pull your finger off!

Hunter, 6th grader