Visiting Artist at Rutgers Prep

Written by Storyteller. Posted in Middle School

Chic Streetman
Guitarist and singer Chic Streetman spent several days on the Rutgers Prep campus recently as an artist-in-residence, working primarily with our Middle School students. Streetman expressed his message of positivity and connection through both word and song, and noted that in his experience, the Rutgers Prep community is graced with an unusual degree of diversity and openness.

“A lot of my work,” he explained, “ is about trying to look at who you are, working towards learning about who you are, and then feeling good about who you are. Nobody can be ‘you’ as good as you can be you! As we get older, we become more concerned about what other people think. I love working with students, because they’re open to connecting and participating; part of what I try to do is help students re-focus on who they are.”

He was fun. — Gabriel F. ‘21

I liked his unusual ways of getting us involved. He really pulled us in. — Krithvi K. ‘22

It’s cool how a lot of kids sometimes think stuff that is supposed to be inspirational is boring, but he was really fun… and he remembered kid’s names! — Harrison S. ‘22

I liked how he wouldn’t explain things ahead of time, we would just jump in and start doing things… and then later he would go back tell us what we had done. He took things we already knew and then changed it up and made it new. — Siddhi P. ‘22

His speaking voice doesn’t sound all that strong, but when he sings and plays the guitar, it is beautiful. You can tell that he loves music. And he really understands how we learn, and the connections between music and rhythm and learning! — Jamie S. ’22

On his final day on campus, Streetman performed at the Upper School’s morning meeting; much to the delight of the assembled students and faculty, he welcomed Student Council President Gita Ganti ‘17 to join him for one song. Before heading back to the west coast – Streetman makes his home in Seattle – he shared one more thought about his work. “I understand that there are always going to be positive and negative forces at work. That’s just the way life is; there has to be a balance. It’s a little bit like a seesaw. And given that… I’ve taken it as my work to try to come down as heavily on the side of positivity as possible.”

Rutgers Prep is well-known for its culture of appreciative inclusion; as a learning community, we understand that everyone learns best when they feel able to bring their complete and unique selves to the challenges ahead. Visits from artists like Chic Streetman help reinforce and reinvigorate our core values; we hope that the students and staff with whom he connected during this recent visit will continue to resonate with the powerful perspective he so eloquently shared.
Chic Streetman crowd

Singapore Math at Rutgers Prep

Written by Storyteller. Posted in Lower School

16-09-20_rps_singapore_math                                     Third graders Aedan & AJ (Class of 2026) and fellow classmates working on math

Singapore Math is a math education program which is centered on problem-solving and critical thinking. As part of their continuing professional development this summer, six of our Lower School teachers were able to attend the SDE National Conference on Singapore Math. While there, they explored best teaching practices with some of the developers and master teachers of the program. Lower School Math Coordinator Gail Moskowitz shared, “We have such a collaborative orientation as a faculty; we’re constantly sharing ideas and strategies with each other. Going to this conference as a group was a phenomenal experience. And this program, with its focus on developing collaboration and the critical thinking skills so necessary for future success, just seems like a great fit for us.”

Math Department Chair Jalaj Desai added, “Our Math curriculum in Middle and Upper Schools has changed significantly over the past few years and many students are now taking advanced classes in their junior and senior years. This school year we have 75 students enrolled in AP Calculus, 40 in AP Statistics, and 25 in Differential Equations classes. All our students in 6th grade take Pre-Algebra, giving them an opportunity to advance early on. To better prepare our lower school students for these successive classes, I strongly believe in utilizing the Singapore Math program. Not only does Singapore Math teach our students to work on math skills but its unique approach helps students retain what they learned.”

Rutgers Prep is now in the process implementing Singapore Math (Math in Focus) as the core of our program throughout our Lower School. Singapore Math builds mathematical understanding through concrete (manipulatives), pictorial (visual models), and abstract (symbolic) representation. It emphasizes the “why” before the “how,” which leads to a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. Problem solving is central to the program. Students are encouraged to think of several alternative ways to solve each problem, sometimes individually and other times with a partner or in small groups. Reading strategies and comprehension skills are also sharpened as students analyze word problems in a logical manner. This, in turn, helps develop metacognition (the ability to monitor one’s own thought processes). All of these skills are of paramount importance for our young students as they prepare for a future filled with jobs that may not even exist yet.

Artistic Inspiration Builds Bridges

Written by Storyteller. Posted in Middle School, Upper School


Sepehr Gharavi ‘16 wasn’t expecting to be asked to help with a Middle School art class. But when the call came, he was ready.

RPS Middle School Art Teacher Susan McCloskey took in an exhibit at the Met a few years ago that included some incredibly beautiful bowls from ancient Persia, dating all the way back to the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries.

Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The bowls were primarily white, and in many cases the decorative element on each was created through a calligraphic inscription. After seeing the exhibit, Ms. McCloskey wanted to find a way to invite her students into that spirit of inspiration. And she remembered having a conversation with one of her students whose family origins were Persian.

When she reached out to Setareh Gharavi ‘22, the RPS sixth grader in turn recommended that the teacher reach out to her older brother, Sepehr (“Seps”) Gharavi ‘16. When Seps learned of the possible project he was immediately interested in helping. “I know how to write in Farsi, so I thought I could maybe help students develop their own designs.” Seps went to the eighth grade class and essentially took over, teaching them about Farsi, serving as a scribe, transcribing students’ names for them, and helping to translate quotes into Persian. The students then studied examples from history and created their own pieces of pottery, which were carefully kiln-fired here on campus.

“This was a cool opportunity to express part of my culture to other people, and it also gave me a chance to realize how long its been since I really used my “Persian” muscle,” Seps reflected. “In some ways it was a warning for me that I need to look for more ways to keep my Persian up to date! And then of course it was great to see the finished products and feel like I was a part of making them possible.”

Art gives us a window into lives long since past, and transports us to parts of the world that we may never visit in person. Throughout our own history, art has been a vital part of the Rutgers Prep curriculum, and sometimes, art becomes a bridge within our own community… in this case, between a classroom full of eighth-graders on the cusp of becoming Upper Schoolers, and an Upper Schooler who is himself about to move on to the next stage of his journey as a life-long learner.


Highly Selective Universities Share Their Insight

Written by Storyteller. Posted in Upper School, Worth Sharing

What do admissions officers really look for in a letter of recommendation?

Recommendation Insights
Rutgers Prep Upper School faculty members have an even clearer idea of how to help our students stand out in the competitive college admissions landscape thanks to a presentation which featured Admissions Officers from The George Washington University, the University of Pennsylvania, & Princeton University. The Admissions Officers “pulled back the curtain” from their long years of experience, and candidly shared with faculty members in an on campus workshop. The program included analysis of anonymized letters from past admissions cycles – of both the very helpful and less helpful varieties – which were distributed and discussed.

After the workshop, our Dean of Faculty shared, “I loved the session! I have been a teacher long enough that I think knew many of the things that they talked about, but I still liked being reminded. I really appreciated the advice that the counselors had to give, and just being face-to-face with the very people who read every word (apparently) of what we so painstakingly write was a very helpful thing. So this big bad thing called college admissions that we always talk about became more humane, more plausible, and ultimately more do-able. It was also empowering to know how much the admissions people rely on our knowledge of our students in making their decisions. I think I will see the face of each one of those people in my mind the next time I start writing a recommendation letter.“

The members of the Rutgers Prep faculty are proud to support and facilitate the development of our students as life-long learners, and welcome the opportunity to share their insight as a part of the college process. Workshops like this one provide our faculty with powerful and specific tools to compose compelling communications. These tools also help us ensure that admissions representatives are able to translate our unique perspectives into an appreciation of what each of our students will bring to their next learning community.

Rutgers Prep Math Students Star in Video

Written by Storyteller. Posted in Upper School, Worth Sharing

The Rutgers Prep community has a well-deserved reputation for being one which honors and celebrates the promise and possibilities of mathematics. This comes through in our Lower School in a consistent focus on problem solving and math in daily life, and in our Middle School through a curriculum which takes the students from Pre-algebra to Algebra and on to Geometry. By the time students have moved up to our Upper School, they are well-prepared to try their hand at the Moody’s Mega Math (or M3) Challenge, an annual applied math contest in which high school students throughout the US use mathematical modeling to devise solutions to relevant everyday issues.

According to the M3’s website, this year’s students “used publicly available information and data on consumer driving habits and emerging automotive industry technologies to build mathematical models categorizing the car usage habits of drivers in the US. They then used their models to evaluate car-sharing business options, taking into account new technologies that are close to entering the mainstream including self-driving cars and vehicles that run entirely on alternative fuel or renewable energy, and then predicted which option would garner the most participation in a given city.”

Students who commit to participating in the M3 Challenge have often heard stories from teams that have gone before. “Moody’s Mega Math Challenge was perfect to bring us as students into the world of Applied Math. We used all the skills we’ve learned in school to solve problems in the real physical world,” said Ty Gardner ‘16 (Princeton ‘20). Rithvik Kondai ‘16 (WashU ‘20) added, “Yes, I was finally able to use a lot of the knowledge that I have gained through my years in high school math and apply it to a real world example!” Janvi Shukla ‘17 shared, “It was really interesting to have to create our own functions in this challenge.”

Math Department Chair Jalaj Desai believes that students should definitely seize opportunities to apply their knowledge in preparation for real life. “I have observed that students who are exposed to the interesting and practical applications of mathematics used in the M3 challenge often find a new interest in a subject that they may previously have seen as more abstract,” Desai shared.

Moody’s Mega Math challenge is the brainchild of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), which serves and advances the disciplines of applied mathematics and computational science by publishing a variety of books and peer-reviewed research journals, by conducting conferences, and by hosting activity groups in various areas of mathematics.

This summer SIAM and the Moody’s Foundation plan to launch a mathematical modeling video series on the seven steps to modeling, an instructional treatment of their math modeling handbook. When Math Department Chair Jalaj Desai spoke with Moody’s representatives about his goal of opening up these opportunities to more and more students, they were immediately interested. When 97 Rutgers Prep students signed up for a Saturday morning math modeling pilot, Moody’s Problem Development Committee decided to put Rutgers Prep students at the heart of their planned video series.

The RPS Mathematics Department’s vision is to see more students taking interest in applied mathematics; similarly, M3 Challenge’s mission is also to increase the presence of mathematical modeling in education. So a joint effort between the two programs is integral to actualizing both communities’ goals. The first tangible outcome of this planning is a trailer for the video series; we think that the video producers and our students did a terrific job.

We look forward to continuing to partner with the Moody’s Foundation and SIAM as we work towards the common goal of greater access to these exciting and applicable math opportunities.

New Schedule to Provide Greater Flexibility

Written by Storyteller. Posted in Middle School, Upper School

Rutgers Prep is in a state of constant innovation. One example of our commitment to continual improvement can be found in our plan to roll out a new daily schedule in our Middle and Upper Schools in the coming academic year.

After reviewing the current schedule and talking about what we would ideally want from a new schedule, we drafted three different possible models and established a goal of having a new schedule in place for the 2016-17 school year. The schedule that was ultimately chosen was approved by a committee of faculty members from both the Middle School and Upper School faculty. Schedule Committee Chair Mark Nastus reports going into the process with a sense of confidence, “I thought that the faculty would do a good job of working through the pros and cons of each model, and I trusted that they would pick the model that would best serve our community. And I think it will be great to have the Middle and Upper schools more closely connected!”

Because this will be the first time that Rutgers Prep’s Middle and Upper School schedules have been completely aligned, some of the most obvious benefits of the new schedule will be greater opportunities for cross-divisional collaboration on the part of our faculty. There will also be more opportunities for student-to-student connection and mentoring across the divisions, which we are very much looking forward to taking advantage of. And we expect that as a result of their immersion in the shared schedule, Middle School students will have an increased level of comfort when making the transition of becoming Upper School students.

The Middle School will in turn be able to offer some supplemental opportunities beyond their traditional academic program, including STEAM-focused programming and opportunities for community service. The new schedule maintains the Middle School PE and sports block at the end of the day. Robert Marotto, Middle School Principal, shared, “The new schedule gives us time to try new activities while preserving academic classes that the students already value and enjoy. We’re excited to plan our school days in the new schedule.”

Band, Madrigals, and Orchestra will not conflict with the Upper School academic program, which means that students who were unable to continue with music due to scheduling constraints will now no longer be faced with having to choose between music and another desired subject.

Upper School Principal Joe Chodl says, “The new schedule is a rotating schedule with some longer class bands, which we hope will help moderate the pace of the school day and give students and faculty an opportunity to engage subjects in greater depth and breadth. In some ways, the time management skills that students will be encouraged to develop as a result of the new schedule are similar to the time management skills they’ll need to be successful in college.”

In the Upper School, we’re going from seven periods to eight, but every student will have at least one study hall period… again as a way to protect against stress. Students in the Upper School will have daily unscheduled community time which we are confident they’ll make good use of in true Argonaut fashion.

“Our schedule design is driven largely by student choice, so while we cannot anticipate fully how this will play out until our students have made their course selections, I am confident that this schedule will help us reduce conflicts in students’ course rosters, which of course would be a great thing. Because we offer such a rich diversity of classes, there will likely always be some conflicts, but even if we’re just looking at the dedicated time for music it’s clear that students will be able to access more of the wonderful classes our faculty offer,” said Mr. Domanski, the Academic Dean in charge of Upper School scheduling and registration.

We are looking forward to what we think will be a positive change for the Rutgers Prep community.

Cupid Had Helpers

Written by Storyteller. Posted in Lower School

As you might expect from New Jersey’s first independent school, Rutgers Prep has its share of traditions.

A visitor to Rutgers Prep on February 11th could have witnessed an unusual sight as a small parade of well-bundled children from Mrs. Papa’s Pre-K class made their way to the school’s Upper School Office from our Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC). The children were completing the final step in a long-standing Rutgers Prep tradition – sending hand-made surprise Valentines home through the United States Postal Service.

This project provides the students with an opportunity to be creative, to see a complicated piece of postal equipment at work, to connect to the wider Rutgers Prep community, and to learn a little bit about how the world beyond Rutgers Prep works. (There were some interesting conversations about “sorting” going on.) The children were also encouraged to keep their Valentines a secret, so that they could arrive at their homes as a surprise. (We wonder how many of them managed it!)

The main goal of the project, though, was of course to give the children an opportunity to express their love to their families. They were so pleased and proud!


Celebrating Fitness

Written by Storyteller. Posted in Worth Sharing

As we headed into celebrating Rutgers Prep’s 250th year, our Physical Education department member and Fitness Center supervisor Susan Gleason got inspired. Current and former faculty members had designed a series of backpacking/ hiking/ biking / kayaking opportunities in connection with the anniversary. A call for stories had gone out to our alumni. Why not add a fitness challenge into the mix?

Thinking about a month-long time frame, Susan put together a “ladder” plan for completing squats that would get progressively more challenging for participants throughout the month. Members our faculty and staff all received an email inviting them to participate, and about twelve to fifteen people told Susan that they were going to give it a try. Finishers – at the end of the month there were six left standing – all had their name entered in a drawing for a 250th anniversary-themed prize, and winning finisher Alicia Conroy reported that she had even successfully invited her son to join in the fun:

Alicia shared, “Susan’s challenge came just at the right time. It has helped motivate me to get back to exercising and eating better. My older son also joined me in the challenges which made them more fun. The challenges can be tough (especially on certain days, when you can’t walk..haha), but rewarding. I think the Fitness Challenge is a great way to help people get into shape while allowing them to participate in the school’s 250th celebration in their own way.”

Going forward, Susan plans on offering a new challenge every month. This month, push-ups!

Vera Richa ’06: Working for Diversity and Inclusion

Written by Storyteller. Posted in Alumni

16-1_RPS_VeraRicha Q: Thanks for talking with us today, Vera! You’re working as a Diversity and Inclusion Analyst, which sounds fascinating, and you graduated from RPS almost ten years ago now… could you tell us a little about your journey?

A: I don’t feel like it’s been 10 years… I’m still trying to wrap my head around that! I have been back to campus a few times recently. My brothers Tony Richa ‘07 and Georges Richa ’10 graduated a few years after me, so that helped me stay in touch. And now I have a cousin, Jamie Chedid ‘17, who’s a junior there.

Ten years later, I still really miss Rutgers Prep. I started there as a sophomore after having been a student at a school that was focused on the health field. I knew that I wanted to consider a wider range of possibilities and be exposed to a diverse student body, and so I came to Rutgers Prep. The school is on a mission to make sure that it reflects the full range of human diversity in as many ways as possible, and I never once felt like that I didn’t fit in or belong. No matter what I cared about, I knew that Rutgers Prep would support me in that.

For me, the diversity of Rutgers University was a big part of the draw to attend there. Once I arrived, I knew that I wanted to challenge myself, and I guess RPS set me up for that, too… at Rutgers Prep I’d been surrounded by smart people who really valued education, so I knew that I wanted to keep those values. When I started college, I had a goal of being “successful,” but I wasn’t really clear about what that meant for me. I was interested in marketing because it dealt with the psychology of the consumer, which I think actually started with my favorite class at Rutgers Prep – psychology! Ultimately, I chose to pursue a degree in Finance in order to challenge myself and learn more about the financial industry.

Immediately after graduating from Rutgers University, I worked at Goldman Sachs for almost two years, specifically focusing on foreign exchange deals, where I did well, but ultimately felt like it wasn’t really me.

When a family friend, who ran a small consulting firm, needed help with recruitment and marketing, I tried my hand at that, which was interesting, but not entirely challenging enough for me. I enjoyed the work, but I realized I missed the structure of a large firm, particularly an investment bank.

Meanwhile, my twin (Eva Richa ‘06) was in a rotational program at Barclays that offered more structure and some interesting opportunities, so I then came back into the corporate environment, still seeking my ideal fit. For almost three years, I worked in change management supporting finance. I led projects that enhanced reports and systems used by all finance teams at Barclays. While the team and stakeholders I worked with were great, I found little fulfillment in the content of the work.  I ultimately decided that my next move was going to need to be more in the arena of people-skills, towards an area where I could really feel like I was making a difference.

Thankfully, Barclays encourages internal mobility and with the support of my manager, I was able to transition into a role in Human Resources. Since June 1, I have assumed the role of Diversity & Inclusion analyst supporting the global firm. I spend my time thinking about how to support employee network groups in their work, and working to help make sure everyone can be their full selves at work. I still get to use the mathematical and analytical skills I developed in my previous work, which I realize now that I love to do. I help make sure that our Diversity Dashboard is reflective of our current reality, and that we’re on target to meet our goals with regards to recruitment, retention and development of women, particularly in senior roles.

Some of my work includes connecting new military veteran hires with senior military veteran employees already at the firm in a mentoring program, revitalizing a campaign to show folks how they can be allies to the LGBTQ community, and this year we’re also rolling out our “He-for-She” campaign to align with the UN’s campaign.

What draws me most to this role is being able to feel that I’m helping people move towards a work environment in which they can truly be themselves.

Q: That sounds so great; it’s wonderful to see people find work that really aligns with their values. Do you have any advice you’d like to share with current Argonauts?

Trust your instincts. Advice only goes so far… no one else truly knows your heart and your dreams. Don’t worry too much about other people’s expectations or about making money; if you do something you really love, you’ll excel at it, and the money will follow. Know who you are and you’ll be successful on your terms! And if you don’t know what your dreams are yet, that’s totally fine… just expose yourself to as many possible career paths as you can, and you’ll figure it out. If it takes you a little longer, so be it; we are all on our own timelines. And finally? Don’t sweat the small stuff!

Rutgers Prep Hosts Eleventh Annual Dougherty Tournament

Written by Storyteller. Posted in Worth Sharing

Rutgers Prep has had a wrestling team since the early 1960’s, and the program has welcomed grapplers of all sizes and experiences levels throughout its history.

In 2016, Rutgers Prep hosts the 11th annual Bob Dougherty Wrestling Tournament; this year seven invited teams will join the Argonauts on their new mat in the Rutgers Prep Field House.

Current Head Coach Mike Lamb and Assistant Coaches Derrick Laurion, Kurt Epps, and Kacy Epps look forward each year to introducing their wrestlers to what will likely be the biggest crowd they’ll see all season, as the memorial tournament draws fans from throughout the Central New Jersey Region.

Bob Dougherty was a teacher and coach at Rutgers Preparatory School for more than twenty years before his death in January of 2002. He succumbed to cancer at the age of 46. He was an inspiration to many students and to his colleagues as well. There was something special about his easy-going manner; he cared deeply for his students, his athletes, and the school. In the classroom Bob Dougherty taught Biology and Psychology. He urged his students to think and to challenge themselves. He tried to convey to them the same excitement for the subject matter that he felt. One of his former wrestlters shared, “Coach Dougherty taught us the meaning of the words dedication, honor, courage, and sacrifice. He showed us how to strengthen our bodies and our minds and taught us how to overcome our fears. He taught us how to persist in the face of adversity and in so doing, he built our character and self-esteem, and made us confident and proud of ourselves.”

The schools that have been invited to participated in this year’s Bob Dougherty Tournament include:

Blair Academy
Boonton High School
Kinnelon High School
Manville High School
Montclair High School
Newark Academy
Pingry School

Both Coach Lamb and Coach Laurion were accomplished high school wrestlers in their own right, and both have commented on the ways in which the sport has evolved for the better in the intervening years. “There are much better safeguards in place for the wrestlers now than there were when I was wrestling. We test wrestlers for hydration levels now, and the weight classes actually have a built-in expectation that students are going to continue to grow, so wrestlers are wrestling at weights that are more in line with where they are naturally,” explains Coach Laurion. “The sport also welcomes girls in a way that wasn’t historically the case,” adds Coach Lamb. (This year’s varsity squad at Rutgers Prep includes Haley Prusa ‘17, who is in her third season as a wrestler.)

Rutgers Prep boasts a middle school wrestling program, and also sees a significant number of wrestlers who give wrestling a try for the first time as ninth graders. As a result, we have students whose learning curve over the course of their time at Rutgers Prep is truly impressive. Ajeet Seenivasan ‘15, who was a star of last year’s varsity squad and competed at the state level as a senior, didn’t win a single match in his freshman year!

Rutgers Prep students who were wrestlers or managers when they were students will stream back onto campus during the Dougherty Tournament to offer logistical support, and the event is an inevitable crowd-pleaser, with lots of opportunities for upsets and matches that go into double overtime. Rutgers Prep was the overall victor in the tournament during its inaugural year, and every year the current team is seeking to achieve that level of glory once again. Win or lose, our Argonauts do themselves and Rutgers Prep proud as they honor the memory of a beloved teacher and coach whose lessons continue to resonate down the years.

Rutgers Prep is large enough to offer a wide range of challenging college prep programs and valuable leadership opportunities in a modern, real world setting – yet since 1766 RPS has been small enough for students to be known, nurtured and involved.