Over 300 high school students from regional parochial, public, and independent area schools descended on The Ellis School’s campus––centrally located at the intersection of Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill, Shadyside, Point Breeze, Homewood, Larimer, and East Liberty neighborhoods––on Friday, November 15 for the School’s 16th annual student-led diversity conference, Culture Jam.
Nestled under the bright red barn roof sits a garden full of carrots, onions, and peppers. Next to the plot, a chicken coop stands, holding freshly laid eggs, and a beehive buzzes close by. Just across the way, there’s a farmers market stocked with fruit and vegetables and even bouquets of flowers for sale. The space is abuzz with excited energy as farmers and shoppers mingle and discuss what’s for dinner.
Long before Ellis girls were pulling on their gym uniforms for the first time this year, Amanda Banachoski, Middle and Upper School Health and Physical Education (P.E.) Teacher, was coming up with her own game plan. In her second year at Ellis, Ms. Banachoski wanted to infuse her approach to physical fitness and wellness into her P.E. and health classes, so she started with her students. What were the things affecting Ellis girls’ overall well-being today? What could she integrate into the curriculum that would encourage them to be more active, healthy, and happy?
Like many Ellis women, Patricia GRABLE Burke ’46 and Joan SEAMAN Bradshaw ’47 began their friendship at Ellis. Even though the two women were a year apart in school, the time they spent at Ellis served as the beginning of a friendship that would last a lifetime.
Following the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue, the Class of 1979 wanted to find a way to honor Diane ROSENTHAL ’79 and Michele ROSENTHAL ’87 who lost their brothers, Cecil and David, that day. After seeing the Rosenthal family pay tribute to Cecil and David by launching a “Love Like the Boys” campaign in Pittsburgh, the Class of 1979 decided to honor their memories by creating The Love Like the Boys for the Girls Fund.
Ellis alumnae were welcomed back to campus on October 11–13 for Reunion Weekend 2019. A record number of alumnae joined the festivities, with classes ending in 4’s and 9’s celebrating their milestone years. From a thought-provoking Alumnae Career Panel that had current students pounding the back of the auditorium pews in delight to a fine arts workshop that taught alumnae how to silk screen scarves, a dynamic schedule of events Friday through Sunday kept Ellisians busy throughout the weekend.
Ellis alumnae gathered to recognize and celebrate three outstanding graduates of the School during Reunion Weekend 2019. Sally RIAL Phelps ’58 was honored with the Sara Frazer Ellis Award and Jordan ZAPPALA ’99 and Rebekah HUGHEY ’94 were inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame.
The Ellis School is thrilled to announce the launch of Tailored Tuition, a new and innovative approach to tuition and affordability. The first of its kind in the region, Tailored Tuition aims to make it possible for more families to access an Ellis education for their daughters.
Over the last several years, enrollment in Ellis’ early childhood program has been trending upward. While the School responds creatively to accommodate growing class sizes, the limitations of the existing pre-kindergarten classroom were clear.
From choosing electives to determining what sports teams and clubs to join, Middle School opens many new doors for students in grades 5 through 8. During this transformative time, foundations are laid to foster confidence, courage, and independence in girls—and one of the ways Ellis teachers build that framework is through choice.
It begins to form the moment girls walk into the Lower School for their first day as an Ellis student. It is practiced every time they share a story about their experiences in the classroom and at home. It grows through constant use, encouragement, and collaboration. What else could it be but student voice?
“Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, please share your story.”
The above is just one of seven essay questions that Ellis seniors can respond to in the Common App college application this year. While sharing a personal anecdote or belief in written form may seem simple, as a student, sharing your own story, in your own words, is something that takes skill and practice.
In one room, a group of girls are huddled around their calculators as they quiz each other’s problem-solving prowess. In another, students are discussing the logistics of hosting a mug drive on campus to reduce the need for plastic coffee cups. Just down the hall, girls are pitching story ideas and writing assignments for their very own newspaper. No, it’s not summer camp (though the energy and fun could make you believe otherwise)—it’s Middle School clubs.
The Ellis School is thrilled to unveil our new strategic plan. “Ellis on the Move” will guide the School’s continued evolution with a focus on being a leader in developing the remarkable qualities that not only prepare girls for college, but that transcend academic excellence and shape truly remarkable women.
The Ellis School was thrilled to host Kilolo Luckett for the first Middle and Upper School assembly of the 2019–2020 school year. An art historian and cultural producer, Kilolo spoke about her background, her zig-zagging career path, and her powerful work as a historian and curator at museums and institutions across the country with students.
“Peace begins with me,” the grade 2 class chanted as they sat cross-legged in a circle during their daily team meeting. Led by Grade 2 Teacher Katie CILLO Jordanoff ’95, the Class of 2030 was learning how to regulate their bodies and calm their minds through meditation—just one new thing, out of countless new things, they will learn about as a group this year.
Changemakers. The word hangs on banners adorning Ellis campus buildings and hallways, is more and more frequently used to describe catalysts for change, and holds a lot of gravitas. But what does it mean? How do we cultivate changemakers at Ellis?
In the Middle School, the first milestone of the performing arts program starts with an idea. That one idea, agreed upon after multiple brainstorming sessions by the grade 5 class, then morphs into something tangible (and so very Ellis): a completely original play written, performed, and staged by the Middle School’s youngest students.
The Ellis School was honored to establish the Mary Thibadeau Endowed Faculty Chair in Science in memory of Mary THIBADEAU ’02, a beloved alumna, daughter, sister, wife, and friend. Made possible by funds raised from family and friends in memory of Mary, the honor of professional distinction has been bestowed upon Middle School Science Teacher Diane Reckless.
From learning about developmentally appropriate behavior and resolving healthy social conflict to building resilience and preparing for the next grade level or college, The Ellis School is pleased to offer a diverse series of educational programs to parents for the 2019–2020 school year. These informative and helpful events will serve as opportunities for parents to learn from teachers, administrators, and experts around the strategies for raising girls who are free to be their authentic selves, flex their minds, and use their voices to impact the world around them.
The Ellis School is pleased to announce new faculty members for the 2019–2020 school year. The School is thrilled to add these passionate intellects, scholars, and artists to our team. Please join us in welcoming these accomplished and talented educators to our community.
The Ellis School is pleased to announce the appointment of seven new trustees to the Board. Effective July 2019, these new appointments will work with Board Chair, Mike Haggerty, to guide The Ellis School’s strategic vision for the future.
There was an overwhelming theme to the Class of 2019’s senior projects; a theme that unbeknownst to the seniors, connected all of their disparate ideas and initiatives, and underlied their core commonality. The theme? Using the power of their own voice to affect positive change in their communities and beyond. From the Mayor’s Office to an all-girls school in Guatemala, the Class of 2019 looked outside of themselves and into the local and global community to raise awareness for causes they believe in, spark conversations that influence change, and give notice to issues of importance to them in their final assignment as Ellis girls.
For Middle School students, the school year doesn’t close with final exams, but instead concludes with grade-level interdisciplinary Integrated Studies projects that thrust students’ learning off the page and into real life. This intentional ending builds on the foundational knowledge students have acquired throughout the year and challenges them to put it into practice. From time management to data collection strategies, students utilize the arsenal of skills they’ve honed and apply them with dexterity to grapple with complex, real-world challenges.
Nine faculty members will depart Ellis and move on to new opportunities at the end of the 2018–2019 school year. The School is grateful for the many contributions they made during their time at Ellis and wishes them the best in their future endeavors.
We couldn’t be more excited for the members of the Class of 2019 as they head off to their next adventures. Our 34 students will be attending 28 different colleges and universities in 12 states. Three students will be participating in Division III college athletics, and our graduates plan to study everything from architecture to engineering to English literature.
Whether they were cheering each other on in a swimming relay or playing doubles on the tennis court, Ellis student-athletes practiced lessons they learned in the classroom—like collaboration, confidence, and resilience—every time they pulled on the Ellis uniform this year. Teamwork was at the heart of it all as Upper School girls celebrated each other’s successes, lifted one another up after losses, and recognized their collective strength as one unit through the fall, winter, and spring sports seasons.
Eight Middle and Upper School students took top awards in the statewide Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) Competition at Penn State University on May 20. Under the guidance of Upper School Chemistry Teacher and Faculty Advisor Erica Holtgraver, students tussled with complicated problems, troubleshot possible solutions, and analyzed data to support their conclusions before presenting their final projects at Penn State. In addition to first and second place finishes, several students received perfect scores and earned additional special awards of merit as well.
Ellis Latin students in grades 8 to 12 competed at the 68th annual Pennsylvania Junior Classical League (PAJCL) convention at Penn State University from May 24 to 26. The Pennsylvania Junior Classical League, an organization for junior and senior high school students enrolled in Classical courses, was "formed to promote the study of Latin and Greek and to impart an understanding of the debt which our own culture owes to that of Classical antiquity."
Upper School Chemistry Teacher Erica Holtgraver has been recognized with the Society for Analytical Chemists Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) Region 7 Teacher Award. At Ellis, Ms. Holtgraver leads PJAS initiatives by mentoring and guiding students through their scientific experiments from their initial hypotheses to their final presentations.
Five Ellis musicians will travel to New York City this summer to play at Carnegie Hall as students of Junyi Liu, Ellis Music Academy instructor. Tessa Gumberg, Class of 2025, Anneliese Musahl, Class of 2026, Camilla Musahl, Class of 2028, Sophia Musahl, Class of 2023, and Annika Sandholm, Class of 2026, will play the piano at Weill Hall in Carnegie Hall on Sunday, June 16.
The Muslim Cultural Union hosted an Iftar Dinner at Ellis to celebrate Ramadan and encourage interfaith conversations within the community on Thursday, May 23. Organized by Muslim Cultural Union leaders Aniya Akhtar, Class of 2020, and Alena Lateef, Class of 2020, the Iftar Dinner brought together over 50 students, families, and faculty for a shared potluck meal. A traditional meal held during the holy month of Ramadan, Iftar dinners are celebratory gatherings for Muslims to break their fast after Maghrib (when the sun sets).
The Ellis School will say goodbye and good luck to two beloved educators, Lower School Music Teacher Pat Crosby and Grade 2 Teacher Terri Wilson, upon their retirement at the end of the 2018–2019 school year. Both staples in the Lower School community for over three decades, Ms. Crosby and Ms. Wilson have guided, mentored, and supported Ellis’ youngest students as they learned to use their voices in the classroom and on the stage.
The Ellis community came together on Teacher Appreciation Day to celebrate and honor the School’s extraordinary teachers by making a gift to the Ellis Fund. A grand total of $170,000 was raised, with 316 donors participating, including parents, alumnae, grandparents, past parents, faculty and staff, students, and friends of the School.
Lucia Snyderman, Class of 2019, co-authored a fossil research manuscript titled: “A Campanian age assignment for the Cretaceous fossil-bearing strata of Cape Marsh, Robertson Island, Antarctica.” Lucia has worked with Dr. Matt Lamanna, a world-renowned paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, on the exploration for the last two years.
Lauren Jasper, Class of 2019, has been awarded two scholarships from the ACE (Architecture, Construction, Engineering) Mentor Program of America in honor of her exemplary participation in the program and outstanding future potential. A member of ACE since 2015, Lauren’s artistic ability and eye for architectural design has been recognized in the form of a $5,000 ACE Western Pennsylvania Scholarship and a $10,000 ACE National CMiC Scholarship.
Two Ellis lacrosse players earned postseason honors in recognition of their excellence on the field this season. Leah Ewers, Class of 2019, was named to the WPIAL All-Section Team and Kat Ference, Class of 2019, earned a spot on the All WPIAL team in addition to being named to the All-Section team. A dynamic duo, Kat and Leah ran the Tiger’s offensive unit with Kat scoring a total of 80 goals and Leah scoring 54 goals.
Eleanor Barth-Wu, Class of 2022, was honored with the Senior Division Student Carnegie Science Award for her Pittsburgh Regional Science & Engineering Fair project, “Formaldehyde Production During E-Liquid Degradation.” Curious as to how ‘vaping’ and e-cigarettes impact users, Eleanor explored the chemical effects of the vaporization process and ultimately found that heating e-liquid produces formaldehyde, and that longer heating times produce a higher concentration of the chemical.
Audrey Lyda, Class of 2021, has been selected to attend the exclusive 2019 USRowing U18 High-Performance Camp where she will train, race, and ultimately compete against fellow elite rowers at the 2019 USRowing National Championships on Lake Harsha in Bethel, Ohio.
Forty-two Middle and Upper School students earned high honors on the 2019 national language exams. The French, Spanish, and Latin exams test students’ knowledge and comprehension of both language and culture. Over 70,000 students participate in the National French Contest and over 150,000 students take the National Spanish and Latin Exams.
Ellis junior Mary Almah Davis used her voice to advocate on behalf of East Liberty residents at a Pittsburgh City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 7. Alongside other local students on the 25-member Youth Participatory Budget Council, Mary Almah presented a plan to fight gentrification throughout Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods.
The biennial Fine Arts Festival was a success! From dance performances to paintings and pottery to strings (and more!), Ellis students showed the community all the hard work they have been putting into their art.
Parents, faculty, and staff all gathered in Alumnae Hall for the Spring Her Forward event. Attendees enjoyed craft cocktails and beer, an exciting silent auction and raffle, and entertainment from local artists. All proceeds benefited the Ellis Fund.
On March 29 and 30 four Ellis students from the Middle and Upper Schools competed at the Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair (PRSEF). To prepare for the competition, students had to prepare and execute a project while using the scientific method. At the fair, they presented their research and findings to a panel of judges. All four students placed in at least one category in the competition. Read about their projects, placements, and awards below:
Renowned educator and New York Times bestselling author Rachel Simmons visited The Ellis School on April 24 and 25. Rachel spent her two days on Ellis’ campus leading professional development for faculty and staff and speaking with parents, Middle School students, and Upper School students about her book Enough As She Is, the challenges facing today’s girls, and providing strategies to deal with and overcome those challenges.
Thirteen Upper School students were inducted into the National Honor Societies for world languages this month. Latin, Spanish, and French all have their own honor society that inducts new students each year. Three students were inducted into Société Honoraire de Français, five students were inducted into Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica, and five students were inducted into the National Latin Honor Society.
Five seniors and two juniors were inducted into the Cum Laude Society during an Upper School Assembly this month. This distinction commends students for their impressive scholastic performance, rigorous course of study, and commitment to the highest ideals of scholarship.
Three varsity student-athletes participated in National Signing Day and signed their letters of intent to play college sports. Katharine Ference committed to Haverford College to play lacrosse, Rebecca Rust committed to the University of Rochester to play soccer, and Leah Ewers committed to Wesleyan University to play field hockey.
Ellis senior Katharine Ference and sophomore Natalie Jasper were acknowledged for their athletic achievements as two of the five players nominated to the WPIAL Section II Girls Basketball Team this year. After displaying hard work and dedication on the court, the girls were chosen to be recognized out of hundreds of athletes in the area.
Ellis alumna Lauren DRAKE ’16 was accepted to the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine as one of their Summer Scholars. She was assigned to Dr. Emmanuel Opara to work on his project “Bioengineering a bioartificial pancreas”.
Six Upper School students competed in the Duquesne University Academic Challenge (DUAC) on March 31. Two teams of three students competed in a round robin style trivia showdown against other local high schools. They spent the day going through eight rounds of trivia questions that ranged from math to history to literature. Dory Johnson, Class of 2019, Stephanie Somlo, Class of 2022, and Kay Fleischner, Class of 2020, finished in fourteenth place.
If you're a member of the Ellis community in any capacity, you already know that Ellis teachers are exceptional. They take the time to get to know all of their students, ensuring that each and every girl receives the best possible education in a supportive environment.
Senior Bryn Luedde competed at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Swimming and Diving Championship. She first qualified for the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) Swimming and Diving Championship at the end of February. During WPIALs, Bryn placed fifth in the 100-yard freestyle and eighth in the 50-yard freestyle. She then advanced to the state tournament where the competed in both events.
Dory Johnson, Class of 2019, has been recognized as a finalist in the National Merit Scholarship Program. She is now one of 15,000 students who will be considered to be a National Merit Scholarship winner.
On February 11, two members of the Class of 2019, Payton Ferris and Lauren Jasper, presented to their peers in Ellis’ Upper School about their summer travels thanks to the Marcie WATERMAN Love ’56 International Travel Grant for the Global Empowerment of Women and Girls. Also in attendance were their parents, Marcie WATERMAN Love ’56, and her two daughters. Each girl gave a presentation about their experience abroad and how they are going to take what they learned and integrate it into their senior projects.
Ellis students Nora Brown and Mia Carter, both Class of 2023, entered the 25th Annual Shakespeare Monologue & Scene Contest at the Pittsburgh Public Theater where they performed a scene from Twelfth Night as Viola and Olivia. The scene earned them a place in the finalist showcase. Madeleine Mocker, Class of 2025, also entered through the Hope Academy with a scene from Romeo and Juliet and a monologue from Henry IV. The scene earned her a place in the finalist showcase and the monologue earned her an honorable mention.
Congratulations to the 16 Ellis students who were awarded either first, second, or third place at the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) Regional Competition. Students visited Duquesne University on Saturday, February 2 to present their projects in front of a panel of judges. Both Middle and Upper School students were also awarded special awards such as the STARS Special Award, the Duquesne University Award for Excellence in Chemistry, the Meghan Roe Microbiology Perseverance Award, and others.
Ellis girls in grades 7–12 are encouraged to submit their artwork to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards which is the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious arts recognition program. This year The Ellis School had 30 students take home 39 awards in the categories of Digital Art, Drawing & Illustration, Painting, Mixed Media, Ceramics & Glass, Architecture & Industrial Design, and Photography.
Twelve Ellis students won 16 Scholastic Writing Awards as part of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project (WPWP). Students submitted both personal and work created in class. This year, every Ellis student that submitted work received an award. Students either received an Honorable Mention, Silver Key, or Gold Key, and one student received a nomination for the American Voices Medal.
At its core, Battle of the Books is a book club for Ellis students in grades 5–8. Over the course of a few months, teams of students read three books that were picked from a selection that the girls voted on. During the months of November–March, the teams meet with Grade 5 Teacher Amy Sidari and Ellis Parent Tara McElfresh to review the book they read together as a group.
In November 2018, six students and five faculty members traveled to Nashville to attend the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference and the Student Diversity Leadership Conference. In this video, attendees talk about why they went, what they learned, and in what ways they think Ellis can improve.
In honor of Black History Month, the Black Student Union at The Ellis School has compiled a list of books that honor the Black experience in America. A mix of fiction, non-fiction, young adult novels, and children’s books, there is something for everyone to expand their knowledge.
The Upper School musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee had audiences laughing, cringing, and spelling on February 8, 9, and 10. The show about middle school students participating in a regional spelling contest brought audience members back to moments from their childhood while also conveying an important message: you can create your own path.
Actresses Hannah Cruz (Eliza) and Stephanie Umoh (Angelica) from the national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton visited Ellis to speak with Upper School students about their musical backgrounds, careers, and experiences in the wildly popular show.
Ellis Middle and Upper School Strings Teacher Simon Cummings was involved in a performance of “The Old Man and the Sea” which closed this past February. Recently adapted by A.E. Hotchner, the world premiere of the play used immersive storytelling through video along with the actors and set onstage.
Grade 6 students are fusing together computer science and visual arts in an interdisciplinary robotics project. Tasked with making robotic representations of plants and animals that they have learned about in science class, the Class of 2025 is working with papier-mâché, balloons, paints, and a variety of media in the art studio to bring their robots to physical form.
Diversity educator Rosetta Lee visited The Ellis School on January 17 and 18, 2019 to speak with families, students, board members, and faculty and staff. An Outreach Specialist at Seattle Girls’ School, Rosetta is an expert on a variety of issues, including cross-cultural communication, identity development, prejudice reduction, and coalition building, gender and sexuality diversity, facilitation skills, bullying in schools, and gender bias in the classroom.
Siobhan Vivian, New York Times bestselling author, joined Middle and Upper School English classes to teach creative writing workshops on January 7. Familiar with her books The List, Stay Sweet, and Not That Kind of Girl, Ellis students opened their laptops and notebooks with excitement, eager to hear the well-known young adult author speak about the characters, plot lines, and places they read about in her books.
Grade 11 students in the Survey of American History course are joining high schools nationwide for a multifaceted project on the women’s suffrage movement called Women Leading the Way. Inspired by a painting by Mireille Miller, Women Leading the Way is rooted in historical research on suffragists and integrates the arts, history, and English into one cumulative presentation.
The Ellis School received two overall awards at the 19th annual Future City regional competition at the Carnegie Science Center on January 19. The Middle School team was awarded “Best Computer City Design” and “Most Holistic Approach” for their city, Pierre Jaune. Ellis also received special recognition for their participation in the competition for the last 11 years.
Upper School students viewed an open-heart surgery at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) as part of their anatomy class on January 17. The class sat in a viewing area above the operating room and peered through a glass window to watch the AGH team in action as surgeons performed a thoracotomy, an operation that corrects an aortic coarctation.
Calling all campers—registration is now open for Summer Camp at The Ellis School! Whether your child is a budding artist, passionate performer, determined athlete, or curious learner, Ellis offers a wide range of immersive camps for boys and girls age 2 to grade 12.
Ellis alumna and board member Tomar Pierson-BROWN ’97 joined the Ellis community on January 21, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to deliver the opening remarks at Ellis’ first-ever Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and Celebration. Following her remarks, students, families, faculty, and alumnae went to the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty to support and participate in the “12th Annual East Liberty Celebrates MLK Day” event.
Karen Boyer, School Counselor, speaks to why Ellis prioritizes students’ mental, social, and emotional health. From practicing mindfulness to encouraging students to ask for help, strategies and tools are implemented across divisions to foster self-respect and self-worth.
Why do Lower School students gather once a week to learn in community with each other? Ann Martino, Head of Lower School, shares why Ellis believes in the importance of weekly assemblies and this dedicated time to share, work, and collaborate together as a group.
The Lower School performed the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr. for families, fellow students, faculty, and staff ahead of Winter Break. Grade 4 students led the production, taking audiences on a raucous and riveting ride from start to finish.