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School News

Renewed Focus on Social and Emotional Needs

Mental health skills and social engagement, longstanding priorities at Friends, will have renewed emphasis in 2022-23. It is widely understood that stressors on students are greater now than 25 years ago. At the same time, a growing body of research shows the critical connection between mental wellness and academic success. Associate Head of School for Teaching and Learning, Will Hopkins comments, “When kids are stressed, struggling to manage emotions, or coping with trauma, they don’t reach their potential. There is solid science behind this. We also know that self awareness of emotional patterns and a grounded sense of identity are the foundations of healthy social and emotional well being.”

The pandemic took its toll on everyone but especially students. Will comments, “We are seeing gaps and deficits in students’ emotional learning and social skills. Routine social interactions are often less harmonious and, in the extreme, we are seeing more anxiety and risky choices.” The results of a community-wide survey, conducted in April to assess wellbeing, validated the need for more social and emotional learning (SEL) resources. It will also serve as a baseline for future assessments of emotional wellness and social connection.

The School has been quick to take action. This year the Friends is partnering with the Institute for Social and Emotional Learning (IFSEL) to create programming around self care, happiness, compassion and resilience. IFSEL will lead a whole-community approach to equity-rooted SEL for adults and students. The divisional SEL curriculum will offer opportunities for teachers to tailor teaching to meet student needs. Parents and caregivers will have the opportunity to participate in programming that will empower them to support student development.

This work, along with initiatives focused on diversity, equity and belonging (DEB), will form the core of professional development for the year. Will comments, “By naming and supporting SEL we create connections and multiply everyone’s knowledge and efforts. It complements DEB work because, when we deepen awareness of our own identities, it helps us appreciate others and increase the sense of belonging. It’s critical that we grow as individuals and as an institution.”

In addition, the number of staff psychologists has been increased from one to three, with one for each division. Head of the Lower School Erin Gordon comments, “Last year our students showed us they needed our support in ways that were new and different, and our faculty showed a deep commitment to support their students. IFSEL professional development and daily access to a dedicated Lower School Psychologist will work in tandem to help students identify and regulate their emotions. This makes them available for academic and content based learning.”


More Teamwork for Athletics Department

In September, Cat Guerriere took up the newly created post of Co-Director of Athletics to work alongside Co-Director David Lieber. Cat comments, “I welcome this challenge to support David and look to increase the visibility of athletics at Friends.” For David, having a partner is a welcomed change. He comments, “I’m working as hard as ever, but it’s great to be able to collaborate and to have an extra set of eyes. Cat and I have worked closely over the years, and like our athletes, we understand the value of teamwork.” Cat joined Friends in 2011 and has served as the PE Department Chair since 2017. She has been involved with the MS and LS Health and Wellness programs as a teacher and in curriculum development.

This new partnership will allow time and space to highlight and celebrate athletic achievements. Cat comments, “It’s important that our athletes feel seen and recognized.” Cat and Dave are actively encouraging all members of the community to show their support at this year’s games, matches and meets. Click here to see the schedule and follow friendsathletics on Instagram for regular sports updates from Friends.


Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month

Upper School students created posters in celebration of Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month. The event, organized by the co-leaders of the Latinx Culture Club with the support of CPEJ and the World Languages Department, is one of several community celebrations in honor of Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month.

Grade12 students and co-leaders of Latinx Culture Club, Paz and Julian also share,

“We are referring to the month as Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month this year in order to be more inclusive of the cultures and counties that we will celebrate and recognize. So far, our events have included: a lunch discussion about Latinx poet Sandra Cisneros, a visit to El Museo Del Barrio to hear Sandra Cisneros read her new collection of poetry, a poster making party, and a kickoff event with a Kahoot! and prizes during MFA with Upper Schoolers.

Our upcoming events are: an assembly with a speaker, a lunch time workshop about Latinx identity, a book sorting party to donate books to Libros Del Mundo (they donate books to low-income charter and public schools that have high populations of Latinx students), a lunchtime discussion with Bo about Latinx art, a partnership with the cafeteria to bring Latinx treats to the Upper School, and class meeting activities. We are reshaping how Friends Seminary sees the Latinx community.”


CPEJ hosts writer and media professional, Kendra James

On Friday, September 23, the Upper School and the Center for Peace, Equity and Justice hosted writer and media professional, Kendra James, for Friends’ first assembly of the academic year. Click here to read more.


Friends Shelter

The Friends Shelter, supported by the 15th Street Monthly Meeting and Friends Seminary, provides shelter and hospitality for 10 people experiencing homelessness four nights a week. The Shelter closed in the pandemic and is now reopening.

Friends Seminary and its community provides meals to the shelter every night that school is in session. On those nights they look for volunteers to make meals for those 10 individuals. Click here to learn more about the Shelter.

The Shelter is also in need of volunteers (must be over 18) in order to get back to running 7 days per week. Click here to learn more about volunteering and how to sign up.


Athletics News

Follow Friends Athletics at for weekly team features and news!

On Wednesday, September 28, VG tennis defeated Packer yesterday for their first victory of the year.


F.L.I.N.G. (Freshmen Lead in National Giving)

On Sunday, September 11 Grade 9 students and their parents participated in F.L.I.N.G. (Freshmen Lead in National Giving). Click here to learn more.


Lower School // Inside The Classroom

Olivia Elliott, Grade 2 Teacher

How many years have you been teaching at Friends?

"This is my fourth academic year, I started working at Friends as an associate first grade teacher."

What do you enjoy most about your work?

“I really enjoy building relationships with the students, having light moments and joking around with them. I also enjoy my connections with colleagues and really enjoy the sense of community at Friends.”

What are you excited about this school year?

“It feels like things are back to normal. I’m excited to see kids’ faces without masks and happy to be back together. It’s also great to have the cafeteria and Meeting For Worship opened to the community again.”

What exciting projects students will be working on during the fall semester?

“We do a lot of community building, identity work, and setting of expectations in the first part of the year. Grade 2 is the first year that students have only one teacher in the classroom, so this work helps them build their independence and confidence.”


Middle School // Inside The Classroom

Dr. Shayri Greenwood, MS Science Teacher and Science Department Chair

How many years have you been teaching at Friends?

"This will be my fourth year and third year as the Chair of the Department."

What do you enjoy most about your work?

“The kids, specifically their excitement around science. Students come to class curious about why the world is the way it is. For example, I love getting them to understand social constructs through the lens of biology and help to break down some of these terms through vocabulary scientists use. I also enjoyed the unit on protein synthesis where I also introduce students to blood typing as well as thinking about the role proteins play in our immune system via antibodies. In this unit students investigate viruses and different bacteria and think through how important having the right protein is in the entire body. ” Dr. Greenwood particularly enjoys the light bulb moments her MS students experience which is endearing. “Students grapple with questions very seriously. Why do we believe the things that we believe? Why is a plant living? Etc. Students take deep dives with their thinking, in ways that are true to the curriculum and their learning.”

What are you excited about this school year?

“Class experiments are something I’m excited about. For example, I do an introduction to the scientific method where students get to design their own experiment around an interesting claim. This year students were asked to design an experiment of their own where they investigate ‘Is Reynolds Wrap the strongest material?’” It is a simple question but having students follow the scientific method to arrive at an answer offers a window on how to think. We are all scientists, and this kind of thinking builds a foundation to know how to pose a query and design one’s own experiment. It gives them a way to think like a scientist but can be applied in everyday life.”

What exciting projects students will be working on during the fall semester?

“MS students love lab activity. They enjoy hands-on work. Learning about the harmful algal blooms or understanding what an atom is.” In Grades 7 and 8 students learn about life sciences where they investigate the reactions underlying photosynthesis and cellular respiration, osmosis, what substances contain macromolecules, or how proteins build life. Grade 7 students will also complete an osmosis lab where they understand how water moves in and out of cells. Grade 8 students complete labs associated with learning about protein synthesis and blood synthesis. There will be an extraction lab for them to learn about DNA. “My favorite thing to teach Grade 8 is protein synthesis, teaching them how this macromolecule works within and beyond the cell to build life. Why do we care about these things? I enjoy getting students to think deeply about the natural world and their own biochemical reactions.”


Upper School // Inside The Classroom

Josh Goren, US English Teacher

How many years have you been teaching at Friends?

"This will be my 12th year."

What do you enjoy most about your work?

“The people! Teaching at Friends means working with and around so many great people. I am continuously enlivened, challenged, amused, provoked, and entertained by my students. And I am deeply grateful for my colleagues, particularly those in the English department. We collaborate, we laugh, we argue, we ask each other tough questions, we encourage each other to be precise and thoughtful.”

The Friends Seminary Teachers Association (FSTA), Friends Seminary’s independent teachers’ union, is another group that Josh values, and he serves as one of the FSTA’s Co-Presidents this year.

“The FSTA creates cohesion and community; it offers a sense of solidarity that is sustaining and helps me be the best teacher I can be. The alumni community is also important to Josh, and he remains in touch with many former students, particularly those from his first set of English 9 classes (the Class of 2015), and the Class of 2020 seniors whose last year was interrupted by Covid. Josh loves to hear from alumni who reach out asking for or offering a book recommendation, or for any reason. “Don’t be a stranger!” he says.

What are you excited about this school year?

For the last few years, the English Department has offered one elective class outside of the required English curriculum, and this year Josh is excited to get to teach two new courses, one in the fall and one in the spring. Josh’s fall course includes Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and aims to lead students to “a series of questions about what makes life meaningful or even… happy.” Josh’s spring elective will be about literary memoir, and he looks forward “to seeing how his students react to Lynda Barry’s strange and wonderful workbook/memoir What It Is.”


Students and Advisors Bond During Annual Senior Retreat

The Class of 2023 and advisors traveled to Prospect Park last Thursday for the annual Senior Retreat.


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