Grants Spotlight ’16 – ’17

Concert Choir Performs at The Kennedy Center

“Our students grew from working with an outstanding conductor in Jefferson Johnson and from socializing and learning from chorus members from other communities. Watching their faces as they came off the stage after the performance was one I’ll remember for a long time. One mixed with pride, awe and inspiration.”
– David Ladd, Music Department Chair


This past April, Concert Choir sang with an elite mass choir of adult musicians at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.  The major work performed was Messe Solennelle by French composer, Louis Vierne.  The Foundation was pleased to provide funding support to help offset travel expenses.

A powerful highlight of the trip was attending a performance of Ragtime at Ford’s Theatre. Students were profoundly moved by the story and spoke for some time after the performance of the symbolic relevance of the themes found in the production. It was not lost on the students that they were viewing this production in such an important place, a living and breathing theatre and memorial to Abraham Lincoln.


The students also visited several memorials and monuments including the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, Air Force & Iwo Jima Marine Memorials, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the World War II, Korean and Vietnam Memorials, the Martin Luther King and Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorials, the Udvar/Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institute, the Capitol Building and the Library of Congress.

Naturally, the rehearsals and performance at The Kennedy Center was the focal point of the trip. For many weeks following the conclusion of the trip, all participants continued to reflect passionately about their experiences and how these events provided them with opportunities for growth and memories that they will treasure for a lifetime.



Immersion in Glass Studies & Practice: A Trip to the Corning Museum of Glass

“I am overwhelmed and so grateful for the support that the New Trier Educational Foundation and the community have for the arts. This project will result in expanding the depth and breath of the esthetic experience the students have with glass.”
– Monique Boyd, New Trier Art Faculty

In late spring, New Trier Glass Art teacher Monique Boyd accompanied a group of her students to the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY where they viewed galleries that focus on the technology and aesthetics of glass. To help offset the cost of the trip, students sold many of their glass projects throughout the year including jewelry and decorative objects. Boyd also pursued a grant from the Foundation to help offset the travel expenses. The Foundation was pleased to provide $3,000 for this experience.

The students immersed themselves in the research library and hands-on studio for blowing glass in hot shops, torch studios for working and kiln formed fusing areas. The students experienced all of these during the 3-day trip, dividing their time between hands on work, research and appreciation. Susie Silbert ‘99, once a student of Boyd’s art history class, is in charge of the Contemporary Gallery wing at the museum. Silbert invited Boyd and her class to visit the museum which has the most extensive collection of historical and contemporary glass in the world.

Boyd first stepped into the world of glass art when she acquired a small glass kiln from a ceramics teacher. When a student came into the classroom one day and said he wanted to make some small glass beads, Boyd thought about teaching glass arts. With great support from the school board, she held the first glass arts class at New Trier in 2005. The club became popular and has grown from about 10 to 30 students. With so much interest, it has now become a part of the art department’s curriculum with over 200 students enrolled in classes.



New Trier Science Olympiad Team, 2017 State Champion, Wins Bid for National


With funding support from the Foundation, the Science Olympiad Team was able to travel to the National Tournament in Dayton and to another at MIT after winning the State Championship held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign! The Trevians were among 50 Illinois high school teams competing for a bid to the Science Olympiad National Tournament in Dayton, Ohio. They took home 18 medals and the championship trophy.

New Trier’s Science Olympiad Team has won many State Championships, and has placed in the top 20 teams in the nation for the past ten years in a row. These out-of-state competitions provide high level experiences which motivate students to realize their full potential. They also have the opportunity to meet their peers from other parts of the country and learn from the experience of others.



Art Students Gain Visibility
and Engagement for Their Work

“It has made a huge difference in being able to put work up for critiques throughout the year as well as to show what the classes are doing. Students get pretty excited when their work goes up. I often see students stop outside of class with friends to point out their work.”
– Kat O’Reilly, Art Faculty

The Foundation provided funding for the installation of cork display strips outside Northfield’s Painting and Drawing classroom. This provides enough hanging space to accommodate a class set of work so students can critique during the class periods and view the art work of their peers. Hanging space is useful for sharing projects and helps students gain exposure to new ideas and concepts.







Teachers Train to Help Students Socially Thrive

“As long as a teacher comes from a genuine place of caring and concern, it sets them
on the right track for communicating with the student and the parent.”
– Julie Smith, New Trier Speech-Language Pathologist

The New Trier Educational Foundation has provided funding support for teams of New Trier speech-language pathologists (SLP’s), psychologists, and social workers to attend multiple trainings in the area of Social Thinking® throughout the past four years.  Most recently, two faculty members were invited to speak at the Social Thinking Global Providers Conference in June 2016 about how they have applied their knowledge to develop programs at New Trier. Social Work Department Chair Tiffany Myers, and Speech-Language Pathologist Julie Ann Smith gave a presentation on how they have successfully developed a workshop to train general education teachers on social and emotional thinking.

Many young individuals develop social thinking and social skills without explicit teaching; however, there are a number of students who struggle to develop these skills through observation, and therefore run into challenges across social and academic situations.  “What might be perceived as a behavior problem may be caused by missing or undeveloped root skills such as reading another person’s body language, understanding the consequences of one’s actions and looking at things from someone else’s perspective,” says Smith. These foundation skills are necessary for sharing space effectively with others, learning to work as part of a team, and developing relationships.

In the past, the Foundation provided funding for social workers, SLP’s, and psychologists to attend a number of highly specialized conferences and workshops. “The training clinic we attended in May 2015 inspired us to submit a workshop proposal for the conference in San Francisco,” recalls Smith. “We were thrilled when it was approved last March!”

Kate Lakowski, school psychologist, Myers and Smith have been conducting two-day training workshops for New Trier teachers since 2013. Classes fill up quickly as they keep each workshop small with only 15-25 participants, primarily consisting of general education teachers. The workshops also attract special education teachers, social workers, psychologists and instructional assistants.

The training focuses on classroom implementation where teachers learn how to communicate with students using a framework of giving feedback that is concrete, specific and kind. Teachers help students connect their intention with the right actions so they can get the impact they want.

Myers and Smith taught over 100 professionals at the Social Thinking Global Provider’s Conference how to develop a successful teacher training program to support Social Thinking skills in the classroom. At the June conference, Pamela J. Crooke, Chief Strategy Officer and Director of Social Thinking Training & Speakers Collaborative, gave our New Trier faculty team positive feedback during their presentation when she commented to conference attendees: “This group is doing it right.”

Some teachers begin the program thinking they cannot communicate with a student at such a deep level. They also express concerns about how to talk to the parents of the students. “A teacher can create a good starting point for these interactions by coming from a genuine place of caring and concern,” says Smith. “It is fundamental to fostering a supportive and nurturing environment for learning.”


Young Filmmakers Expand their Horizons

“For our students, this trip was like being out in the field and learning how people actually do this for a living. Seeing the depth and sophistication of filmmaking and storytelling by their peers was an eye-opening experience.”
– Ms. Iwona Awlasewicz, Media Production Faculty

New York City became the backdrop for New Trier media students and their chaperones this past fall at the All American High School Film Festival, the largest high school festival in the country. The event exposed them to the work of other young, talented and hardworking filmmakers from around the world. The festival included workshops, panel discussions, a technology showcase as well as networking opportunities with professionals in the industry. The Educational Foundation provided funding support for this experience. .

Participation in the festival provided students with a large international audience for their work and the opportunity to earn recognition and receive feedback from peers and respected industry judges. Each student submitted a review of his or her favorite film project from the festival that included detailed analysis of the story structure, cinematography, production design, dialogue, lighting, editing and other technical aspects. They concluded with how to improve on their own projects in future.

Video by Kelly Zabors ’17

“This was a tangible experience that breathed new and deeper meaning for what they learned in the classroom,” points out Awlasewicz. “They came back inspired to develop specific, concrete goals while setting their sights for next year’s festival. Now I have to pry them from the computer lab because they work on their videos for hours on end.”

“It became clear that goal setting needed to be formally added to the curriculum,” adds Awlasewicz. “This is what support from the Foundation did for me and my students.”

On the last day of the festival, awards were given for best in various categories including composing, screenwriting, cinematography, special effects and makeup, to name a few. Awlasewicz sees this as an opportunity for a New Trier interdepartmental collaborative film project down the road.

“Can you imagine New Trier being nominated for an Oscar,” asks Awlasewicz enthusiastically. “I can!”


Igniting Curiosity and Passion for Learning through Science

“I become a better teacher for my students when I can bring the passion and excitement in the real world back to them. It was a great opportunity and I couldn’t have done it without the Foundation’s help.”
– Brittany Neptun

ntef_nasa_scientistsWhen New Trier Geoscience teacher Brittany Neptun received word about an exclusive opportunity to participate in a 5-day field experience with NASA scientists in June 2016, she jumped at the chance and submitted an application. Soon after, Neptun approached New Trier Educational Foundation Executive Director Marianne Breen to see if the Foundation would consider providing funding support for her travel and lodging.

ntef_nasa_crater“Marianne suggested that I go ahead and submit my proposal while she contacted members of the Foundation’s Grant Committee who were preparing for the review process,” recalls Neptun, who has been teaching for 17 years. “I’m so thankful that they were willing to find merit in the project and support me to participate in it.”

ntef_nasa_telescopeThe Search for Habitable Environments: Instilling Curiosity into Student Learning Symposium and Field Trip was limited to only 30 participants. It was part of a collaborative educational outreach by NASA and Arizona State University to ignite curiosity, excitement and passion within students by bringing real world science into the classroom. Participants came from all over the country and comprised mostly elementary, middle school and high school teachers. Other participants worked in museums and libraries.

NASA’s Curiosity Rover had been exploring Gale Crater on Mars for the past 4 years to investigate the planet’s history including habitability. Mars Rover scientists led the field experience in areas on Earth similar to environments on Mars. “We visited regions in Arizona that the NASA scientists have explored and showed us how the surface had changed over time,” says Neptun. “Sedimentary rocks found on Mars that were identical to those in Arizona suggest a wet history on the planet.”

“We learned activities that explored the intersections of biology, geology and chemistry using data and images that the scientists have been looking at and analyzing in their search for life elsewhere,” says Neptun. “When the students realize that they are going through the same process as the scientists, it brings more depth and meaning to their learning.”

NASA scientists shared how to create other dimensions for describing the subject matter to students beyond textbook learning. “Being in the field gave me something tangible to share with my students–whether it’s a picture of me in my hiking gear or a video I took,” points out Neptun. “Upon returning, I immediately dove into the summer school Environmental Geoscience and Physics classrooms and shared my experience with the students using the Mars Image Analysis activity. Their level of enthusiasm, collaboration and critical thinking that developed from the activity has been amazing to witness.”


Special Ed Students Gain Life Skills Producing School Pride

Have you ever wondered who prints the t-shirts you see students and teachers wearing at choir competitions, dance rehearsals, science fairs and other student club activities? There is a unique story behind these and the t-shirts worn at New Trier athletic games that help the crowd cheer for our favorite teams.

ntef_tshirt_francescamaddock14michaelpalmer12Many of the club and intramural t-shirts you see around campus have been printed by our students in the Special Education program with guidance from their teachers. The New Trier Transition Program’s curriculum focuses on life and vocational skills. It provides a safe environment where students can practice and develop a variety of job skills within the New Trier community beginning in the classroom.

Having received a grant from the Educational Foundation in 2011, the Transition Program purchased its first t-shirt printing machine and launched the business. According to Kari Nakayama, Life Skills Program faculty, their first customers were New Trier student clubs, intramural sports and advisories. Eventually, they were approached by outside groups including schools and community organizations.

ntef_tshirt_-janemcdonald16jackcroley16ntef_tshirt_christianboyd16“We’ve printed t-shirts for Family Service of Lake County, a community organization located in Highland Park providing counseling and caregiver services for children, families and seniors,” says Nakayama. “I’m glad that we were able to work for and support a non-profit in the area.”

Students learn valuable work skills from various tasks including invoicing, counting shirts and folding. They receive training for creating ads, flyers and making presentations about the t-shirt business to groups interested in their services. In addition to t-shirts, they also fulfill orders for sweatshirts and sweatpants.

“For the 2015-2016 school year, we had 22 orders and made 1,045 t-shirts!” recalls Nakayama. “From October to December was our busiest time last year, although we stay busy throughout the year.”

So the next time you put on your favorite NT club or team shirt, think about the students in our Transition program who created it with pride, then pat yourself on the back and know you’re cheering for them as well. And, if your club or organization has a t-shirt need, contact Kari Nakayama at or and support the T-Shirt Printing Business in our Transition Program.


Read more impact stories:

Grants Spotlight 2018-2019

Grants Spotlight 2017-2018

Grants Spotlight 2016-2017

Grants Spotlight 2015-2016