By Jessica Hutt (IV)
One of the most timeless and treasured traditions at Pingry is the annual Convocation ceremony, during which every member of the student body makes a formal commitment to the Honor Code. This event serves as the official opening to the upcoming school year, beginning with the procession of faculty and trustees attired in their collegiate gowns.
Senior Faculty Member Miller Bugliari ‘52 opened the ceremony by delivering his Invocation, in which he addressed the Class of 2018 and reminded them of their responsibility to act as role models to the rest of the student body. He was followed by Student Body President Michael Weber ‘18, who paid homage to Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” by using the metaphorical “open road” as a model for the upcoming school year. Acknowledging that students may encounter challenges and obstacles along their “open road,” Weber said that students would also experience joy and passion greater than they could even imagine. The only flaw in this metaphor, Weber conceded, is that the man described in Whitman’s poem was alone, whereas Pingry students are surrounded by a number of people who will provide guidance along their journey to success. The next speaker was Honor Board Chair Ally Pyne ‘18, who suggested that students should “buy in” to the Honor Code and make an effort to avoid being the “weak link” in the upstanding behavior of the community.
Following Pyne’s address, representatives from each advisory came to the stage to present to Pyne and Weber a copy of the Honor Code that had been signed within each advisory. “The Honor Code is the most fundamental part of our value system at Pingry. This ceremony demonstrates student ownership of the Honor Code, and we hope that you will always remember this day and your promise to each other,” Ally said.
Board of Trustees Chair Jeff Edwards ’78, P ’12, ’14, ’18 then delivered a speech in which he determined that the most success is found when individual talents are combined. He encouraged students to “develop your talents, but don’t lose sight of helping the larger community.”
After recognizing the twenty-five Magistri (faculty members who have served the school for at least twenty-five years), Headmaster Nat Conard P ’09, ’11 reflected upon the fact that the Honor Code unites the community by encouraging each student to ask himself, “Would this choice be consistent with the attitude and spirit of the Honor Code?” Martha Lewand (IV) especially admired “how Mr. Conard cleverly connected free throws and cookies to make a fair point.”
Following Mr. Conard’s thought-provoking remarks, all those in attendance joined together for a rousing rendition of “Old John Pingry,” setting the tone for the new school year ahead. Isabelle Sheyfer (IV) summarized the day’s events by saying, “Convocation is the time for us to come together as a community and celebrate the love of learning and the Honor Code that unites us.”
By Vicky Chen
This fall, the start of the school year unfortunately coincided with the start of hurricane season. First came Hurricane Harvey, which destroyed over 100,000 homes in Texas and Louisiana. Then came Irma, which displaced thousands after hitting Florida and the Caribbean Islands.
As community servants, Pingry students were faced with the task of helping the victims who were struggling in the wake of these massive disasters. To begin the relief efforts, a school-wide Dress Down Day was planned for September 14. The cost to “dress down” was raised to two dollars (instead of the typical one-dollar fee), as this was a joint Dress Down Day that supported two separate causes: the victims of both Harvey and Irma. After hearing about the Dress Down Day, a student quickly approached Mrs. Shelley Hartz, the Director of Community Service, about organizing a bake sale on September 14 as well.
The fundraising efforts on September 14 were a great success. After an entire day of collecting donations, Mrs. Hartz said, “This was Pingry’s largest Dress Down Day monetarily. We collected over $4,000! The joint effort of both the Upper School and the Middle School made it an especially successful day.”
The money that was collected will go directly to two nonprofit organizations: The American Red Cross and the ASPCA. “The money that Pingry students donated will go a long way,” Mrs. Hartz said. “I also am hoping to take the check over to Walmart, where they will match it three to one. This means that whatever funds we raised will be multiplied by three.”
Ms. Barbara Chilmonik, Pingry’s Bookstore Manager, notified Mrs. Hartz that there were a number of organizations in New Jersey that were collecting physical donations and distributing them to hurricane victims. Immediately, a donation drive was also organized, and bins with lists of items that were much needed were posted around the school. As the week progressed, the bins around the school filled up with donations from students. They were later collected and distributed by Ms. Chilmonik to an organization in Holland Township, New Jersey.
Unfortunately, another natural disaster devastated a U.S. territory just weeks later–Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Again, students immediately rose to help the victims dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Many students and teachers approached Ms. Hartz to devise a plan to help tackle the destruction that took place, and a Dress Down Day and bake sale were quickly planned.
In these tough times following natural disasters, Pingry students have proved able to unite and respond in a powerful and positive way. Impressed by the enthusiastic efforts of the community, Mrs. Hartz said, “I think that when a natural disaster occurs, whether it be locally, nationally, or globally, we recognize that we have a responsibility to step up and help our neighbors, wherever we are.”
By Rhea Kapur ’21
Pingry Athletics is a key element in the lives of many students. Last year was notable in the school’s history because of the addition of the Miller A. Bugliari ‘52 Athletics Center (BAC). This past summer, existing athletics facilities were further improved. Ranging from upgrades to the softball fields to a completely new track and field area, the new state-of-the-art facilities are amazing resources for student-athletes.
The plan to strengthen Big Blue Athletics through advanced facilities encompasses not only indoor facilities like the BAC, but also new tennis courts and other renovated fields. Pingry Tennis continues to enjoy a successful program. Last year, the Girls’ Varsity team was the Non-Public “A” South Sectional Champions and the Non-Public “A” Group Champions after qualifying for the Tournament of Champions. The Boys’ Varsity team finished second in the Somerset County Tournament and third in the Non-Public “B” Group rankings. This success must be attributed in part to amazing tennis facilities, which have been completely redone this summer with 12 new tennis courts to set the stage for many seasons to come.
“They are really great courts; it’s such an amazing opportunity to become proficient at tennis and learn the game in a competitive environment, along with great coaching,” says Eva Schiller (III), a new student and player on the Junior Varsity girls’ tennis team.
A complete makeover of the Parsons Track and Field area was also an exciting, long-awaited project that was completed just before the start of school. The updates include a new scoreboard, a dual-sport artificial turf playing surface, goalposts, and a completely new, advanced track. The facility is becoming an indispensable part for the football, track, soccer, and lacrosse programs. Football coach Mr. Chris Shilts reflects that in the past, “We spent half our practice time moving to different areas to avoid trampling the grass field into a mud bowl. With this upgrade, we’ll have turf. We’ll have a first-rate facility that draws athletes in.”
Director of Athletics and Lacrosse Coach Carter Abbott said that before the renovation, during the lacrosse season, “Boys and girls [were] getting an hour of practice time each, while competitors [got] way more.” By removing previous disadvantages, this new track and turf field presents another opportunity for Pingry Athletics to thrive.
The last improvement to the exterior athletics grounds includes the construction of a new Junior Varsity softball field near the tennis courts and renovations on the Varsity softball field.
By Noah Bergam (III)
When students returned to Pingry this fall, they saw significant changes in Pingry’s technology use. Although Pingry has been using technology to advance its educational environment for years, the one-to-one policy was introduced three years ago, requiring students to have a laptop for all classes. Since then, Evernote, Papercut, Moodle, Membean, and Google Drive, among other internet applications, have all been major, sometimes required, parts of class curriculum. There are also numerous other projects, like the Pingry Website Portal and the student-made Pingry Today App, that currently play a big part in the everyday lives of Pingry students.
The most notable technological change this year was the shift from Moodle to Schoology. In the past, teachers have mainly used Moodle to send students homework and course updates. This year, all teachers are using Schoology for these purposes.
When asked why the change was made, Mr. Brian Burkhart, head of the Technology Department, explained, “Moodle didn’t have the same level of collaboration.” By switching to Schoology, Mr. Burkhart added, “The biggest thing was improved communication, and having one place to go.”
Back when Moodle was the main class distribution tool, many teachers chose not to utilize it and instead used Google Classroom, or, in some cases, no online tool at all. Now that all classes are required to use Schoology, accessing materials is much easier for students. Pingry students can log into their Schoology accounts with their Pingry login information at pingry.schoology.org.
Schoology was not the only change made over the summer. ID Cards are finally more than mini-portraits; they now hold an additional functionality for building security. All students are now able to access the building’s Dining Hall Entrance and Main Entrance by swiping their ID from 7 AM to 7 PM, a privilege only faculty had last year. Seniors are also able to access the Athletics Entrance within the same hours.
In addition, ID Cards are now the keys for students to use printers. Students can link their Pingry accounts by scanning their cards to any of the school printers and logging in. Next, students can email an attached project to firstname.lastname@example.org, scan their card, select on the printer, and print. The reasoning behind these changes was, according to Mr. Burkhart, “a strong desire to get rid of PaperCut,” the more outdated software previously used for school printing.
There were also a host of changes made behind the scenes that most students may not even know about. There is a whole new student information system, Veracross, used to take attendance and record grades. According to Mr. Burkhart, “If you’ve ever been associated with the Pingry School, you’re in this system.”
By Jonathan Chen
Over the summer, Pingry underwent construction of the main building on the Basking Ridge campus to further improve the school.
The interior renovation created offices for new faculty members. Starting in the Upper School Office, the construction crew created a wall for Dr. Reid Cottingham’s new office, which is now where Mrs. Karen Peake’s office was last year. As the new Upper School Academic Dean, Dr. Cottingham has been enjoying her new office. “It is really convenient to be centrally located,” she said. “I can see more students, and this office enables them to find me more easily.” Ms. Audrey Enriquez is now located in Dr. Cottingham’s old office in the English wing.
Dean Ross, the Dean of Student Life for Form V and VI, and Mrs. Peake, Pingry’s registrar, have relocated to the old admissions office, now known as the “Admin Office.” Dean Ross has moved into the office that used to belong to the Director of Admissions. The office has been reconstructed with a newly installed door. Dean Ross appreciates the shift: “It is a lot brighter, I can see more people, and more students and faculty stop in to say hi.” Mrs. Peake’s office is directly next to Dean Ross’s office. The office of Dr. Delvin Dinkins, Pingry’s new Assistant Headmaster, is in Dr. Diana Artis’ old office, and Mr. Nathaniel Conard, Pingry’s Headmaster, is still located in his original office.
The admissions department has relocated to the Multi-purpose Room. The area has been completely renovated with brand new carpeting, desks, and rooms. Dr. Artis, Mrs. Brunhouse, and the rest of the admissions department have new offices in this newly renovated space. Two-thirds of the old Multi-purpose Room is now the “admissions suite,” since wrestling is now held in the Bugliari Athletic Center.
Finally, part of the mail room was changed into the office of Ms. Carol Mahida, the new Dean of Student Life for Form III and IV. The construction team installed a wall between the mail room and Dean Mahida’s office. The mail room is still in its original location, but it has been reduced in size.
All in all, the faculty looks forward to a great year in their new offices and positions. Dean Ross said, “It’s not that different, just a lot of internal shuffling.” Now, it will be easier to find the teachers and advisors, as their offices are located towards the main entrance of the school. Dr. Cottingham says, “I am very lucky to have such a nice office and to be surrounded by people whom I love to work with every day. This is going to be a great year!”
Biology and Chemistry
This fall, Ms. Stephanie Mygas joined the Pingry faculty to teach both Biology I/II and Chemistry I/II. Additionally, she is working closely with Journal Club and will be coaching fencing during the winter. She is also a co-advisor with Mr. Steve Benoit for Form V students. Ms. Mygas originally hails from Randolph, New Jersey and attended Rowan University, graduating with a B.S. in Science and Biology. She then went on to earn her Master’s in Marine Biology from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Prior to starting at Pingry, she worked as a substitute teacher in the District of Philadelphia and as a science teacher at Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School.
When asked about her decision to become a teacher, Ms. Mygas cited her experiences in lab research and her time as a T.A in college. “I enjoyed conducting research and teaching others about my research,” she said. After working as a T.A., Ms. Mygas’ passion for education and science led her to become a science teacher. She also stated that she likes Pingry so far because the “students are often really involved in research” and because the science facilities at Pingry are great for teaching all levels of classes.
This year, Ms. Mygas wishes to stay involved with the Pingry community by working closely with students. She hopes to bond with the students by learning more about them and being an active member of the community.
During her free time, Ms. Mygas enjoys a variety of hobbies, including playing softball, knitting, and weaving. She also loves reading sci-fi books and is a big fan of Jurassic Park and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
On her thoughts about Pingry thus far, Ms. Mygas said that she is definitely enjoying teaching at Pingry and is looking forward to a great first year. She also said, “Students should definitely come out to Journal Club, it’s really cool and the topics are interesting.”
This fall, Ms. Anne Sher joins the Upper School Mathematics Department to teach Geometry and Intermediate Algebra. She will also help coach the Girls’ JV Basketball Team in the winter and is co-advising seniors with Ms. Judy Lebowitz.
Ms. Sher attended Williams College, where she received a B.A. in mathematics and history and graduated this past June. Taking courses in both math and history “was a good balance,” she recalls. “I enjoy both subjects.”
Prior to arriving at Pingry, Ms. Sher worked as camp counselor at a sleep-away camp for five years, and this was one of the experiences that inspired her to become a teacher. “I love being around kids and being a part of their lives,” she says, smiling. “Teaching seemed like the perfect match for me.”
At Williams, she was employed by the Math and Science Resource Center and tutored fellow college students in chemistry and multivariate calculus. She also worked for the local elementary school to tutor students after the school day. These experiences strengthened her resolution to become a teacher, and she now arrives at Pingry to pursue her first full-time teaching position after college.
When asked about her time at Pingry thus far, Ms. Sher “can’t imagine it being better.” She notes how motivated and kind the students are and how she already “feels so welcomed into the community.”
Speaking about her goals for the year, Ms. Sher hopes to “improve myself as a teacher and see my own personal growth” as she eases into this new teaching experience. “I also hope to become a part of the Pingry community and connect with my students,” she adds.
When she is not teaching, Ms. Sher loves to visit her friends in New York City, as she lives in the nearby city of Hoboken. She has many dogs at home and is a dedicated animal lover. “I really like music as well,” she adds, “and I like going to concerts. They are great experiences.”
This year, Dr. Danielle Mirliss joins Pingry as an advisor on the technology committee. Among several technology-related roles, she will be helping the faculty integrate Schoology into their classes.
Dr. Mirliss received her B.A. from Rutgers University, her M.A. from New York University, and her M.Ed. and Ed.D. from Columbia University.
Having studied psychology and instructional technology, Dr. Mirliss decided to pursue teaching technology at Seton Hall University.
There, she worked on various technology projects such as developing creative spaces for new technology as well as online courses. When asked about her experience there, Dr. Mirliss said, “The environment of helping the faculty and students showed me the benefits of teaching.”
At Pingry, Dr. Mirliss looks forward to being involved with computer science, robotics, and other new technology projects.
One idea that she is currently working with is using virtual reality (VR) headsets to display art in a new way. She is working to have VR available for the whole school to use.
In her free time, Dr. Mirliss enjoys spending time with her family. With her son starting fourth grade at Pingry this year, she is very excited to be both an administrator and parent with Pingry. She enjoys attending her son’s sporting events and working on robotics projects with him.
This year, Dr. Mirliss hopes to build connections with the faculty and learn about the student culture. When asked what her goals are for the year, she responded, “Not only do I want to support the community, but I also want push innovation at Pingry.”
Mr. Alan Van Antwerp joined the Pingry drama department to teach Drama and Public Speaking in both the Middle and Upper Schools. He will be teaching Drama 8 in the Middle School, Drama 2 for sophomores, and Public Speaking, an elective open to all Upper School students. Additionally, he is the club advisor for the Podcast Club and will be taking the role of Technical Theatre Director, overseeing lights for the upcoming plays and musicals this year.
Mr. Van Antwerp attended Montclair State University in New Jersey where he received a Bachelor of the Arts. He is also pursuing his masters in Theatre Studies. When asked what made him want to become a drama teacher, he said, “I had an amazing theatre director in high school and I took a lot from how he taught and directed shows.”
Mr. Van Antwerp has had many professional experiences in theater. He was the stage manager and event coordinator for Broadway Sings, a company that takes Broadway actors on their off days and has them perform a ninety-minute original musical cabaret act. Also, for almost nine summers, he taught Performing Arts at the Passaic Valley High School in New Jersey.
Regarding his experience at Pingry so far, he said enthusiastically, “I love Pingry! The students have been very welcoming and the Drama Department has been very supportive. Pingry values the arts and I really appreciate that.” His goals for the school year are “to ask good questions and to be a fair and balanced evaluator. My funniest goal might be to not get lost.”
In his free time, Mr. Van Antwerp likes to take part in community theatre. He has a number of other hobbies as well. He commented, “I love golf and I love tennis. I love dogs and in my spare time I often play with my best friend’s dog.” He added, “I love food. So having lunch here has been extraordinary.” When asked what advice he can give to aspiring actors, he replied, “To be your toughest critic and to continue to think about the process of getting better, not the end result.”
To the community, Mr. Van Antwerp would like to say, “Theatre sometimes might get a bad rap in school. I think that theatre is something that teaches you life skills in a non-classroom way. Theatre teaches empathy.” Mr. Van Antwerp is very excited to be a part of the Pingry community, and he is ready to spread his passion for theater throughout the school.
Dr. Marie-Pierre Jolly joined the ranks of the Computer Science department in Pingry this year, teaching Survey of Computer Science, Intro to Computer Science, and Advanced Placement Computer Science. She has not yet decided on how to join the Pingry community (for example, as a coach or club advisor) but is interested in advising the research team and the Girl Code club.
Dr. Jolly, who is originally from France, received her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Technology of Compiègne in northern France. She then moved to the United States and received a Master’s and a PhD in Computer Science from Michigan State University.
After graduating, she started working in Princeton, New Jersey, at Siemens AG, a leading automation company. When asked what she worked on, Dr. Jolly said, “I was a research scientist working on image analysis for cardiac MRI [Magnetic Resonance Imaging].” She was at Siemens for twenty-two years before coming to teach at Pingry. When asked why she made the switch from Siemens to Pingry, she said, “I’ve done a lot of programming, and I wanted to instill all this knowledge into the new generation while helping students make the right choices with their programming ability.”
Dr. Jolly nurtured her love of teaching long before her stint at Siemens, when she was a Teaching Assistant (TA) at Michigan State. As a mother, she says, “I really enjoyed tutoring my kids and their friends, and I tutored my kids in French and helped them with their math and computer science and physics and chemistry and you name it.” She also says that her children, now in high school, really inspired her to become a teacher.
When asked how she likes Pingry so far, Dr. Jolly responded, “Oh, I love it. It’s a great school with great kids.”
In her free time, Dr. Jolly likes to cook and read, specifically fiction. When she has the time, she also enjoys arts and crafts.
Dr. Jolly grew up in Compiègne, which is about an hour north of Paris. “My dad was a university professor, and he’s the one who kind of inspired me to be a computer scientist. He brought computers into the household really early, back in the eighties.” She said that her upbringing taught her to be very organized, which she still is.
“Things were very scheduled when I grew up,” she explained.
Dr. Jolly really appreciates the sense of community at Pingry, calling it her favorite aspect of the Pingry experience. “It’s like a family here, it seems. I like that,” she said. She believes the students are more conscientious and responsible because of the Honor Code, saying that students are “serious in trying to do well and trying to do good in life, not only in academics but in everything they do.”
On a less serious note, she appreciates the quality of the food in the Pingry cafeteria. “The food is better than what you would expect from a school cafeteria…and I like all the choices,” she said.
Middle School Director
This fall, Ms. Laurie Piette joined the Pingry community as the new Middle School Director. In addition, she will be playing many other roles, such as teaching the new Form II Leadership course with Mr. Gerry Vanasse.
Ms. Piette attended Wellesley College where she received degrees in English and classical civilization. She has an M.A. in creative writing from The City College of New York as well as an M.Ed. in private school leadership from Columbia University. When asked if her interests were limited to humanities, she responded, “I wouldn’t say I am a scientist, but I can help a science teacher and plan out science lessons and concepts.”
She went on, “I’m very interested in brain research and mental cognition. I just finished my M.Ed. at Columbia and we did a lot of work on the various ways you can produce deeper learning in students, and that fascinates me.”
Regarding her other interests, Ms. Piette said, “I love to read, I love history, I love the story of history, and I love the fact that you can interpret history from your own perspective, while acknowledging there can be multiple perspectives on one part of history—in fact, there have to be.”
Ms. Piette has vast experience in the field of education. When asked about her background in teaching, she said, “I’ve taught English, history, creative writing, and Latin for grades four through twelve.” Her position at Pingry is not her first as a director for middle school students. She commented, “In my last position, I was in charge of the curriculum for a nursery-to-eighth-grade school, so I really learned how curriculum is put together there.”
In terms of her goals for the year, Ms. Piette said, “My goals for the year are to fully implement the schedule and to tweak it so that it’s even more effective moving forward.” She also looks to encourage risk-taking in the classroom.
When asked about her thoughts on Pingry so far, she said, “I absolutely love it. Pingry has such a talented group of faculty, administration, and parents who are really invested in their children doing well.” She finds Pingry students to be “amazing, intelligent, and articulate. They walk the walk: they really represent the honor code and take it seriously.”
Ms. Piette is ecstatic to be Pingry’s new Middle School Director. She would like the community to know, “I’m just so excited to be here. I hit the ground running in July first, and it’s been just a wonderful experience so far and I’m looking forward to the rest of the year.”
This fall, Ms. Audrey Enriquez joined the Upper School English Department, teaching both the eighth and ninth grades. She is also serving as co-advisor for an eleventh grade advisory and the Quiz Bowl Team.
A citizen of the Philippines, Ms. Enriquez described herself as a “third culture kid.” She grew up in Indonesia, attending international schools that made her a native speaker of English. She studied at the University of Asia and the Pacific, majoring in humanities.
During her first two years in college, Ms. Enriquez did not make any decisions about her occupation. In her junior year, however, she had a special dream in which she stood in front of a class and taught kindergarten kids. She took this as a sign and went on to pursue a career in education. Ms. Enriquez attended Bard College and earned her M.A.T. in English.
She also graduated from the Teacher Training Center for International Educators, FL with a Certificate in Advanced International Teaching, a preferred credential by international schools all over the world.
After graduation, she taught at multiple high schools in New York, including Dwight School in Manhattan, Harlem Children’s Zone, and Kew Forest in Queens. She then decided to leave New York for Europe, aiming to work in Vienna. However, at a job fair, she met a group of teachers from Pingry and changed her mind. She interviewed and joined the school.
As an English teacher, Ms. Enriquez aims to teach diverse literature from all five continents, and all major religions – not just specifically Asian, Jewish, and Muslim.
She wants to include elements from different cultures, religions, and races to make her class truly a “world literature course.”
In her free time, Ms. Enriquez enjoys watching Broadway musicals. Her favorite ones include The Book of Mormon and Miss Saigon. She is also a foodie and loves traveling.
“When there’s a three-day weekend, I’m out. When there’s a longer holiday, I’m out of the country,” she said.
Ms. Enriquez appreciates different kinds of literature, especially books by authors who share similar experiences teaching overseas. She also listens to different genres of music and goes to concerts frequently. “My next concert is reggae,” she added.
She greatly values the diversity present in Pingry. She said, “I have never taught in a more diverse school than here, even in all of New York.” She also spoke highly of the way Pingry takes care of its teachers, and she believed that this would not only help the development of her skills but also her personality.
Regarding her goals this year, Ms. Enriquez mentioned that she would like to get to know more of her students. She also wants to take advantage of all the opportunities given to teachers including various arts exhibits, conferences, and even the Taiko Drumming Club.
After stepping in for Ms. Jennifer Mack-Watkins during her leave of absence last year, Ms. Nancy Ring joined the Pingry Arts Department permanently this fall. She now teaches Art Fundamentals in the Upper School as well as two eighth grade electives, Drawing & Painting and Art & Nature. Eager to immerse herself in the community, Ms. Ring has taken on roles beyond the art studio; she co-directs the Hostetter Gallery along with Ms. Rebecca Sullivan, hosts the Middle School Art Club, co-advises Form III students with Mr. Freiwald, and serves on the Diversity Committee and the Multicultural Team.
Outside of Pingry, Ms. Ring works as a professional artist and occupies a studio space in East Orange. In her free time, she enjoys writing poetry, baking, and going for runs. She recently picked up a new hobby: “I play the violin––badly. I started taking lessons in May, so I play like a kindergartener, but I love it.” Her “pride and joy” is her 20-year-old son, a music major at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.
As an undergraduate student, Ms. Ring attended the Syracuse University College of Visual and Performing Arts and earned her B.F.A. (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in Studio Art. Of the experience, she said, “[It was] a large university and I loved the diversity. It’s a passion of mine. The fact that there were not only artists there but also people studying every single kind of subject you can imagine––I found that exciting.” She went on to graduate from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with her M.F.A. (Masters of Fine Art).
Ms. Ring’s passion for the visual arts has been integral to her life for nearly as long as she can imagine. “I knew I was an artist when I was eight years old,” she said. “It’s who I am. I have a very visual experience of the world…As a little, little girl, I told everyone who would listen that I was going to be an artist. I just knew.”
In this coming year, she hopes to infuse that same passion in the hearts of her students, Upper and Middle Schoolers alike. Ms. Ring’s goal “is to make sure that my students feel they own their work, that it’s not me giving out projects that matter to me but rather finding ways to relate the projects to the students’ lives in as many ways as I possibly can.” With a laugh, she added, “If I can manage it.”
If there’s anything she loves particularly about the Pingry community thus far, Ms. Ring said it’s the school’s attention to the arts. “Pingry honors art,” she explained. “In a lot of schools, art is just something on the side––you know how it is. At Pingry, there’s an arts building, there’s a professional gallery…there are a lot of talented artists. The enthusiasm for the arts here is very rare and special.” Joining an environment as conducive to artistic exploration and experimentation as Pingry has brought her nothing short of joy.
“I love Pingry. Pingry’s amazing,” she remarked. Ms. Ring added, “I knew it when I worked here as a leave replacement. I really wanted to come back, so I feel as though this is a gift. It’s wonderful!”
This fall, Dr. Brandyn Fisher joined the Pingry community as a new teacher in the Psychology Department. Dr. Fisher is teaching four sections of AP Psychology. He will also be co-advising a Form V advisory with Mr. Douglass Scott and hopes to assist in coaching Pingry’s tennis programs.
Initially inspired by his high school teacher, Dr. Fisher set out on becoming a psychology teacher himself. He attended West Virginia University, where he enjoyed being around passionate people who motivated him to pursue his passion in psychology. Regarding his academic pursuits in college, Dr. Fisher said, “I liked that college allows you to be who you want to be.”
Dr. Fisher graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a PhD in Sports Psychology, and two master’s degrees, one in Community Counseling and one in Sports Psychology. In order to get his multiple degrees, Dr. Fisher attended a rigorous concurrent-study five-year program.
In graduate school, Dr. Fisher taught undergrad classes, as he wanted to “hopefully lead other people into what they are passionate about.” After college, Dr. Fisher coached and consulted for sports psychology, specializing in tennis. He worked with several Division I college athletic programs, such as NCAA All-Americans, USTA National Champions, ITF players, and ATP/WTA players.
Dr. Fisher was drawn to Pingry because of its high emphasis on education and achievement. He wants to teach in an engaging way and “inspire a passion for psychology” in the same way that his high school psychology teacher inspired him. He predicts that his toughest challenge this year will be teaching “the tougher subjects in psychology in a way that students can learn effectively.”
Dr. Fisher also hopes to use his background in psychology to start a new mental performance program at Pingry. The program would offer mental performance training in order to have students working at their best and most confident levels. Explaining his motivation behind the program, Dr. Fisher said, “I want to learn more about the culture at Pingry and then add to that culture in some way.”
In his free time, Dr. Fisher enjoys a multitude of outdoor activities, including mountain biking, skiing, hiking, and tennis. He is a parent to two sons, aged two and three.
Dr. Fisher is very excited to teach at Pingry and is ready to inspire students to pursue their passions.
Academic Support Coordinator and Learning Specialist
This year, Ms. Susan Conklin joins the Pingry Upper School as the new Academic Support Coordinator and Learning Specialist. In describing her role, Ms. Conklin said, “When an aspect of academic rigor poses a challenge to learning, a learning specialist problem solves strategies for students to achieve at a higher academic level.”
Ms. Conklin received her B.A. from the City College of New York, her M.S.W. from the Hunter College School of Social Work, and her Ed.S. in Language and Literacy from Simmons College.
Prior to joining Pingry, Ms. Conklin worked as a Learning Specialist in several different schools, both public and private, and was a psychotherapist in private practice.
When asked about her first impressions of Pingry, Ms. Conklin commented, “I loved it from the second I got a phone call asking me to interview for this position. I love the students and faculty, and am energized by the four pillars of education the school holds: diversity and inclusion, intellectual engagement, sustainability, and honor. When people live by these four pillars, we sculpt ourselves into the finest human beings on the planet.”
In her free time, Ms. Conklin enjoys reading, sailing, traveling, socializing with her friends, and going to the Bugliari Athletic Center. In October, she will be attending the teacher workshops at Comic Con in New York because she knows “some students enjoy reading graphic novels for pleasure, but there are also many themes represented in this growing genre which include significant academic material.”
Ms. Conklin is most excited to live the Pingry life. “I love that students and faculty are intensely involved in all aspects of whatever they are learning and teaching as we grow together,” she said. “People here are prompt, engaged, respectful, kind, and happy, so who wouldn’t want to work at a place like that?”
When asked about her goals for the school year, Ms. Conklin replied, “To get to know the specific learning challenges of the students at Pingry. All pathways to learning are valid.”
When asked what obstacles she might encounter, Ms. Conklin said, “Keeping up with the pace of all of the wonderful ways to contribute to this community. But I’m encouraged; I’m just going to ‘drive’ like a New Jersey driver—with speed, agility, and presence of mind!”
Ms. Conklin is delighted to be a part of the Pingry community. “I am happy to be here everyday, and I hope everyone else is too!” she said.