Our Strategic Vision

From Mérida to Brussels and Siena: BFS Faculty’s Summer Adventures




Summer of 2017 saw our faculty flung far and wide. They trekked, learned, discovered and brought back a trove of gems to share in their classrooms.

Grade 9 Dean and Middle-Upper School Spanish Teacher Vanessa Ehler spent a week in Mérida, Mexico at a workshop on integrating the arts into literature. “We participated in all of the lessons to have the perspective of the students,” she explained.  “We made headdresses, took self-portraits and explored the area including cenotes (natural sinkholes that expose the groundwater flowing underneath), local cuisine and local artesanía.   It was really cool and incredibly practical.  I’ve used many of the activities already.”

Other faculty traveled, or in some cases commuted, to study for personal fulfillment.  Associate Director of College Counseling Tiffany Huggins continued her ongoing studies in culinary management at the Institute for Culinary Education in lower Manhattan.  “It’s not necessarily related to college counseling,” she quipped, “but incredibly enlightening.”

Middle School Science Teacher and Environmental Action Coordinator Janet Villas traveled to the Carolinas to see the full lunar eclipse.  “We flew to Raleigh and then drove to Greensboro,” she said.  “We had an eclipse party in the back yard and family came. My mother-in-law had gone to the Greensboro Science Center and made some pinhole viewers and we had viewing glasses. Clouds did ruin the eclipse but I have pictures. We’ll study this in 8th grade Earth Science.”

Upper School History Teacher Vlad Malukoff was again in Siena, Italy for two weeks, this time taking six BFS students to learn Italian.  “The best news is that they stayed with local families.”  Vlad last traveled to Siena in summer 2015 with an NEH grant to become one of only 16 teachers from across the US to study Dante in Siena for six weeks. “It’s the one city in Italy that maintains its Medieval character more than any other, even though Dante was from Florence,” he explained.  “Besides, Florence is inundated with students and tourists, and,” he quipped, “Dante was expelled from Florence anyway. You get a better sense of Dante’s time from Siena which is an hour southwest of Florence.”

Just making it in under the wire as a summer trip, Middle School Spanish Teacher Kim Allen was one of a handful of teachers from around the world invited to the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Summit in Brussels in September.  The event was sponsored by the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation and was facilitated by Kerry Kennedy.  “Most of the 40 participants were organizational leaders or administrators from across the world,” explained Kim.

She was invited to the conference due to her years of work in human rights education and student advocacy.  “The Speak Truth to Power program, which I hope we’ll one day be able to incorporate into our own BFS curriculum, uses language that comes from the Quakers, and an additional connection,” said Kim, ” is that the program is led by former BFS parent and board member Karen Robinson.”

Head of School Larry Weiss was exuberant about Kim’s trip.  “I had the chance to get to know a bit about the Speak Truth to Power program and the RFK human rights initiative through interactions with Karen,” he said, “who was my first Quaker BFS Board co-chair. A truly inspiring person, Karen is clearly doing great work on this project.”