Trial Run of New Upper School Schedule

The much-anticipated trial run of the proposed block schedule for the 2017-18 school year seems to have gone smoothly and the preliminary feedback is that it is being well-received by students and faculty. For those not familiar with the concept, the block schedule gives both students and faculty more free time during the day for study, club meetings, conferencing, and just regular down time. Instead of eight bells of equal length that meet every day, the bells vary in length, there is break time, and not all classes meet every day. 

Administrators are gathering feedback from faculty and students that will help next year's launch to be a seamless transition.

Science teacher Ellen Hughes said, "I love the new schedule. It allows more prep time for classes."

Librarian Ivy Miller noticed more traffic in the library. "Even though the students have an hour for lunch, they eat quickly and then come over to meet in the library. When the weather gets warmer I'm sure the students will spend more time outside."

Math teacher Kathy Rickrode loves the lunch bell. "Instead of a crowded lunch bell, where you only have 30 minutes to wait in line, eat and then rush back to class, the new schedule gives everyone one whole hour for lunch. Lunch hasn’t seemed as crowded even though we all share the same hour. I have found time to eat my lunch and also meet with students for the remaining 20-30 minutes. It’s great."

Hear what the students have to say:


See the schedule below: 

Questions? E-mail Patty DeViva at

Posted by Patty DeViva on Tuesday January 31
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Students gave up their phones for the weekend - and LIVED!

Seriously - would you give up your phone - for not one, but five days? That question was posed by Upper School English teacher Ms. Erin Griffin to her fourth bell 19th Century Lit class. Currently the class is studying transcendentalism and the Walden Pond social experiment of Henry David Thoreau. Griffin thought the best way to teach the students about the concept was to invite them to participate in a mini-experiment by giving up their phones for a few days. Of the 23 students, 10 brave souls offered up their coveted devices. 

"In order to put the theory into practice," Griffin said, "we can’t live in a cabin in the woods, but we can give up necessities that aren’t really necessary - our phones. And in solidarity, I do it too. Every year I'm amazed at how happy the kids are when they do it. It's liberating."

How did they fare? Watch this short video to find out!


Posted by Patty DeViva on Friday January 20 at 08:52PM
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Great teachers mean a great Summer at Sem!


By Gail Smallwood

“My idea of teaching is that it’s an exchange between my students and me, where we both come to appreciate each other’s ideas, cultures and values.”

That is how Tassos Barises, a 2016 Wyoming Seminary English Language Institute teacher, described his teaching experience while serving as a member of the Sem STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) faculty. Tassos taught about 26 students from Nepal, Thailand, Czech Republic, China, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, helping them to improve their English skills while building their abilities to analyze and interpret scientific data, create computer coding, and design and build robots that could carry out a series of tasks in a mock natural disaster recovery.

“I really enjoyed meeting all of the ELI students in class, on weekend trips and at Sem’s family style dinners,” he said. “It was wonderful to visit museums with them and get into these terrific conversations about American culture and their cultures. I was very impressed with their creativity and talent.”

Barises, a graduate of Pitzer College, was one of two Sem ELI teachers who, through his experience as a Fulbright Scholar, brought an international flavor to his teaching at Sem. A native of Stamford, Conn., Barises worked for a year as an English language teacher at the National University of Laos in Vientiane, where he taught English writing, pronunciation and phonetics. He also served at the American Embassy where he taught English to the public.

“My Fulbright experience helped me build confidence, in both lesson planning and in the classroom,” he said.

Joining Barises in teaching English at the National University of Laos was Courtney Vaughn, a Roanoke College graduate who also received a Fulbright Scholarship grant to teach in Laos. Vaughn, who taught the high intermediate English classes in the ELI program, now has an opportunity to serve for two years in the Peace Corps in Armenia, where she will live with a family and teach English in a neighborhood school.

As a counselor and ELI teacher at Sem for two years and as a teacher in Laos, Vaughn says she is looking forward to sharing her talents with her new students in Armenia, and to learn their language and customs.

“My Fulbright year was the most challenging and rewarding year of my life, and I am now looking forward to the next level of challenge,” she said. “I really enjoy teaching students, serving people in need and traveling. I am very excited about this opportunity to live in Armenia and to collaborate with other teachers there.”

Fellow Roanoke College graduate and friend Mathilda Nassar also is taking the skills she honed as a Sem ELI teacher to Ukraine, where she will serve as a Peace Corps English teacher at the secondary school level. At Sem Nassar, who holds dual American and Palestinian citizenship, has served for three years as a senior counselor and high intermediate English teacher. She also has worked as a communication advisor for a peace project in Palestine which her family organizes, called “Tent of Nations.” She said she has long dreamed of serving in the Peace Corps and is excited about going to Ukraine, where she can help students learn English, broaden her own language skills by learning Ukrainian and develop her understanding of Ukrainian-Russian relations.

It’s teachers like these that make Wyoming Seminary’s English Language Institute summer program unique and perfectly suited to helping students from many different countries feel at home while building their English language skills and preparing for further education in the United States. For more information about Sem’s 2017 ELI program, contact Gayle Sekel at

Posted by Gail Smallwood on Tuesday November 1, 2016 at 01:54PM
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