Introducing Amy Rasner Clulow, Director of People and Culture

Just over halfway through her first year at Athenian, we sat down with Amy Rasner Clulow, Director of People and Culture, to learn more about her role and how it was created to support the school’s strategic priorities. The idea for a dedicated People and Culture position grew from the multi-year work on our strategic vision, Boldly Athenian and was formalized in parallel with a cultural assessment conducted last year. Amy joined the community in July to support the school’s culture work, namely the support, growth and continued development of our adult community. When asked about her priorities in this first year, Amy says, “I’ve been listening and seeking to understand the historical context and underpinnings of current employee experiences and organizational structures through an equity lens. My focus also includes supporting the retention and professional growth of our adult community and outreach and hiring efforts.” Amy has spent countless hours in listening sessions with faculty and staff and evaluating current systems and practices in both hiring and retention. She adds, “the path forward will require a combination of introspection and collective effort to dismantle systemic barriers to building and sustaining an authentically equitable and inclusive community.” 

While Amy’s role is focused on how our campus adults – faculty and staff – contribute to our school culture and sense of community, many stakeholders contribute to the culture of Athenian. “While my initial efforts focus on culture and community building for our campus adults, this extends readily to the broader Athenian community of parents and guardians, alumni trustees and former employees.”
As we begin hiring season, Athenian welcomes alumni partnerships in sharing job postings and referring candidates to our job board. Please join our Alumni LinkedIn group and watch for job postings in the coming weeks. 

More About Amy

Amy joined the Athenian community in July 2021 as the inaugural Director of People & Culture. She joins us most recently from The Hotchkiss School, a boarding and day high school in Connecticut, where she served as the Director of Multicultural Outreach for the admission office. In addition to her enrollment responsibilities, Amy served as a faculty mentor and student advisor and contributed to several working groups and committees, including Student Support, All Gender Housing, DEI Curriculum Review and Mission Review. Amy also served as the project manager on an institutional research partnership to reveal market position, utilizing the data to improve admission outreach and brand positioning efforts. She went on to lead the development and launch of the Hotchkiss Bridge program which provides transitional support for historically underrepresented students. 

Amy spent her early career working in human resources, specializing in recruitment and organizational development. She has carried her HR experience forward into each of her various roles since. Amy’s commitment to equity and inclusion has been a constant, anchored by her own interest in continued growth. Among her DEIS commitments, Amy launched and co-facilitated SEED for Hotchkiss and extended the program to neighboring public and private school educators. She also initiated and co-facilitated a white antiracist affinity space for Hotchkiss adults and serves as an affinity group leader for NAIS. Her past non profit engagement has included support for low cost K-8 enrichment programming (SOAR) and awareness building and support for victims of relationship violence (Women’s Support Services). Amy also serves as a mentor for families of transgender youth.

Amy received her BA from University of California, San Diego and her M.S.Ed. in School Leadership from University of Pennsylvania. She presently lives on campus with her partner, Mike, their youngest daughter, Frankie ‘25, and their older children, Hudson and Charlotte, when they are on break from college. 

Leaving the Nest: Seven Faculty Members and Staffers Retiring in 2020

As three iconic faculty members and four trailblazing staffers leave the nest this year, their combined 172 years of service deserve a moment in the spotlight. They have taught and nurtured our students, helped build our community and culture, and their legacies will carry on.

Tina Nott, retiring Math teacher, was a founding member of the Middle School faculty, a co-founder of Middle School Focus Days, and the second woman to teach Math at Athenian. Joining Eleanor Dase, Munzer Afifi and Lester Henderson in a combined Middle School/Upper School Math department, she joined Athenian in 1982 and helped realize a vision to have more women teach STEM. 

Retiring French teacher Elisabeth Bertschi, who joined Athenian in 1986, brought with her “whole child” approaches to learning. Her rubrics for refreshing her curriculum were decades ahead of their time. Though she came to Athenian straight out of graduate school, she had a natural ability to connect with students. 

Retiring staffer Debbie Schafgans joined Athenian in 1987, initially in the Development (now Advancement) department. She was also a pioneer: the first staffer to use a personal computer for core elements of her role and one of the first to manage the digital integration of her department. 

As with Debbie Schafgans, retiring staffer Debra Ataman’s role evolved. She joined Athenian in 1997, working in Reception before becoming the Assistant to the Director of Special Programs in 2001. In the years following, Debra became heavily involved in community outreach and ultimately went on to be a key member of our Summer Programs, contributing to its significant growth over the years.

When asked about why Athenian staff and faculty are so well-equipped to play a variety of roles, former Head of School Eleanor Dase pointed to the many opportunities for faculty and staff to show leadership, such as chaperoning trips, organizing fundraisers, providing leadership in Round Square, Interim/March Term, and much more. If self-determination and grassroots organizing are part of Athenian’s DNA, it’s clear why retiring employees Lydia Guzman, Elise Jan and Barbara Carlino were so effective.

Lydia Guzman began her career at Athenian in 2000, serving for 20 years as the Attendance Officer. She also co-advised the Latino Club, raised more than $17,000 for the Monument Crisis Center over the years after co-founding the Tuesday Nacho Sale, organized the annual Athenian Pink Day to benefit breast cancer and served a run as Dean of Staff. Along with Debbie, she was an early regular attendee of the National Association of Independent Schools’ People of Color Conference (POCC) and an early champion of equity and inclusion at Athenian.

Barbara Carlino, who joined in 2007 as Upper School Counselor, founded longstanding programs as well. She co-created ASAP (the Athenian Sexual Assault Prevention Program), started the school’s peer counseling program, and shaped curriculum and culture by carrying out Athenian’s health education program for many years.

Mandarin teacher Elise Jan, who came to Athenian in 2009, is yet another lauded language teacher. She developed an innovative method of instruction that helped students achieve a level of fluency that wasn’t obtainable through classic approaches. Along the lines of holistic participation, she also chaperoned several trips abroad. 

Beyond what these outgoing women contributed as trailblazers from a curriculum and culture perspective, they contributed greatly to our enjoyment of the school. They gave hugs. They played pranks (we’re looking at you, Tina). They performed in countless Staff and Faculty Talent Shows. They were treasured friends. We will miss them all. 

Beloved Teacher Trainer Helps New Faculty

Bonnie Mennell has offered confidential training to new teachers for the last eight years.

Beloved teacher trainer Bonnie Mennell completed her final weeklong visit to campus last week, following eight years of meaningful work with new teachers at Athenian. The Vermont-based coach has helped faculty members hone their skills and find their paths, ultimately strengthening the student experience.

Bonnie Mennell exudes peacefulness, and teachers greet her with smiles or hugs as she makes her way across the Athenian campus. 

Over the last eight years, Bonnie has provided confidential training for new faculty. She works on a cycle of meeting the teacher, attending a class, and meeting again to discuss any observations. She focuses on the positive, asking “Who is this teacher, where are their skills? Where are they alive?”

Bonnie finds that most teachers know exactly what is happening in their classrooms, but still benefit from discussing it with a supportive person. 

“98 percent of what’s going on the teacher is already aware of so my work is to really validate their self awareness, their self reflections, and to continue that process,” she says.

Born in Topeka Kansas, Bonnie grew up in a military family, moving to different US cities and later living in England and Germany. Since 1975 she has worked at the SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont. Over the years she has visited California to work with teachers at Athenian and Sonoma Academy, but this week marked the end of her work with both schools as she moves onto other endeavors, including consulting for Snapchat. 

Even as she leaves our campus, Bonnie hopes the teachers she has worked with will be a source of support to their peers and bring into the culture any positive aspects of the work they have done together.  

“My wish would be that teachers who I’ve had the fortune to work with can think about carrying those ways of being with other teachers,” she says. “They can be an inquiring supportive peer to their peers, so can they observe each other and offer inquiring support.”

When My Teachers See Me as a Whole Person

Originally published in the spring 2017 edition of The Pillar, Athenian’s student newspaper by Jenna H. ’19


Ginger and Jenna

As I embark on the second semester of my sophomore year at Athenian, I have had time to reflect on my educational experiences. At my public middle school, although I was successful academically, something left me feeling unfulfilled and, frankly, upset from time to time. To my surprise, I couldn’t pinpoint a moment in which I was honestly excited to go to school or felt as though I was part of a larger community. It was an environment in which no efforts were made to know me on a personal level. No teacher went out of their way to talk to me; if I wasn’t getting into trouble, why bother?

Amongst the 1,200 students in the whole school, I was not seen as anything more than a grade, simply a student you didn’t need to worry about because you knew I’d graduate. For three years, I simply went through the motions, becoming more accustomed to the lack of communication and genuine connection.

At Athenian, I feel as though I have come to be appreciated as a whole person. I think students at our school might not always realize it, but the kinAmanda.5d rapport between teachers and students on our campus is a remarkable blessing. Meeting with a teacher to receive extra help on an assignment, or simply having a teacher check in with me about my well-being was something I had previously never experienced from an adult at school. Here, I feel that teachers not only celebrate their students’ successes but help them navigate challenges and overcome their failures. Occasionally, I am still surprised when I see a student being treated as an equal, even a friend by an adult on campus.

From my experiences, thus far, the relationships I am able to have wPhoebe_1576ith my teachers has positively impacted my communication skills, further contributing to my academic success and overall enjoyment of learning. In a way, I think this is an homage to the wonderful faculty and staff on our campus, the heroes who aren’t always recognized for everything that they do, as well as their efforts to foster a community of mutual respect and well-being.

Faculty Love Stories

Originally published in the winter 2015 edition of The Pillar, Athenian’s student newspaper

by Priya Canzius ’16

You may not know it, but there are currently eight untold faculty love stories just waiting to be revealed!

Lisa Haney and Mark Friedman (P= Priya, M= Mark, L= Lisa):


P: How did you meet?

L: We were both working at an international youth program in Virginia; he was the world’s global studies programmer, and I was the English as a second language teacher. One of the things about this camp and this program is that there were kids there from all over the world, and everybody had to sign a statement that said ‘I will not seek exclusive relationships with anyone.’ And, that’s so that the parents from more conservative countries can feel comfortable sending their kids to these [places] where American kids [are]. So both of us signed that, too; all of the adults had to sign it. You know how at camps sometimes there are summer romances? We couldn’t have a summer romance because of [what we had signed]. But we were kind of watching each other, looking at each other at the corner of our eye… At the end of camp we were all leaving in a van, and Mark said to me ‘Lisa, do you want to drive down with me in my car?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I kind of do… But I already paid money and should go with the guys in the van.’ Then about ten minutes later, he drove up his car and he looked at me and said, ‘Lisa, what do I have to say to have you drive in the car with me?’ And I said, ‘Ok, that’s good enough! I’ll drive with you!’ So we fell in love in Washington DC and then we had a long distance relationship [for a year] because I was coming back to the Bay Area and he was living in Boston, but we got together after that! He moved out to the Bay Area, and we’ve been together ever since!

P: Was it love at first sight?

M: I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight; Lisa came mid-summer and when she arrived, I was actually in DC taking four students from around the world to explore DC. So I came back to the program, and the evening program was late. So, everyone was standing, milling around- I think for about an hour- waiting for this program to start. And, most of us had been there for a month, but Lisa had only been there for a couple of days; she was new. And what struck me was how Lisa seemed to be the most connected person there even though she was the most recent arrival. That seemed remarkable; I noticed her right away.

P: Where was your first date?

M: Our relationship developed in the context of living together in this program, so there was a little lounge where the adult employees could eat popcorn and hang out after the participants went to bed and things like that. It was an interesting way to have our relationship develop because we were sort of living and working together, and it sort of developed in that context as opposed to one of us asking the other out on a date.

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

L: I could not even tell you, because I’ve been on so many amazing, fun, dates with Mark. He’s such a good planner and he’s so thoughtful that we get along so well and like so many of the same things. Every time we go out it’s just really fun. [However, for Mark’s] birthday, I planned a trip to Alcatraz Island to see the artwork of Ai Wei Wei, a wonderful Chinese artist.  We walked from the Ferry to Green’s Restaurant- a great Vegetarian restaurant-also overlooking the water.  We met a dear friend there who also had a birthday around the same time, and had a great evening.

P: Favorite couple memory?

L: Honestly, the birth of our child; I wasn’t drugged out or anything, so I was very present and he was very present; it was a beautiful moment for the two of us.

P: Most embarrassing couple story?

M: I’ll share an embarrassing story from [the beginning of our relationship]. We were up in DC, and we were sitting on the front steps of the house of this person. And we were talking about the summer and we were talking about ‘well, if you were going to be involved with anyone at camp, who would it be?’ And so I asked Lisa, and she gave the name of some other guy. Then Lisa asked me, and I said, ‘well, it would’ve been you!’ And she said, ‘I meant to say you! I was going to say you!’

P: How did you get engaged?

It’s kind of interesting because a lot of people get engaged and get married and then decide to have children together, and that was a big discussion for us, whether we wanted to have children or not. Once we made that decision, we decided to get married. There wasn’t one of those moments of Mark on his knee with an engagement ring; it was very practical, in some ways. We knew we loved each other, we knew we wanted to be together. Interestingly, at the time, gay marriage still wasn’t legal, and we decided that we would have just a commitment ceremony to be in solidarity with our gay and lesbian friends who couldn’t get married. But then, all of our friends said, ‘you’re crazy! Get married; you can, so do it!’ So we actually had a wedding ceremony.

P: What’s the best thing about working together and what’s the worst thing about working together?

M: We don’t really work together; if we worked together we would drive each other batty. Or, at least I would drive her batty; she’s more graceful than I am. There are lots of advantages to working at the same place: [commuting] takes a half an hour each direction, so there’s time to talk or reflect about the day, our vacation schedules are identical, there’s lots of shared information and experience. And, we even get to lead international trips together.

L: The hardest thing is that sometimes it’s just all work all the time. We don’t shut off the spigot in terms of talking about work… It doesn’t really bother him, talking about work, but for me, I need a little bit of more down time… I think it’s just because work sort of encroaches into our whole life. But because for [both of us, our jobs are] not just a job- it’s connected to our values and to who we are as human beings- that it seems natural, in some ways.

P: How did you both start working at Athenian?

L: I started working here before him; I heard about the job… And he was working in San Francisco at the volunteer center. I took a year off when my daughter was four, and a [community service position opened up]. I decided to come back to Athenian, and [Mark became] a community service director, and he took over the parenting position because he was part time… I had already been working here about seven years before he started. I started in 1991 and he started working in 200 or 2001.

Amy Wintermeyer and Bobby Henshel:


P: How did you meet?

We met teaching at The Archer School for Girls, a 6-12 independent girls’ school in Los Angeles.

P: Was it love at first sight?

Hard to say… we were friends first and started dating after we had known each other for 3 ½ years. But we both admitted to liking each other at various points before we officially started dating.

P: Where was your first date?

Divino’s, a nice Italian restaurant in Los Angeles

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

When we were spotted by some of our students while we were out for frozen yogurt. We had been trying to keep it quiet at school and our secret was out after that!

P: Favorite couple memory?

Cheering on Stephen Curry in Las Vegas during March Madness back when he was playing for Davidson.

P: Most embarrassing couple story?

We try to stay away from those kinds of things.

P: How did you get engaged?

Bobby proposed when we were in Palm Springs visiting his family for Thanksgiving.

P: What’s the best thing about working together? The worst thing?

It’s great to have the same schedule and work calendar and to see your spouse in a professional atmosphere. The challenge is that it’s easy to talk about work all of the time, but we’ve learned to work around that. It helps that we started out as work colleagues!

Nancy Nagramada and Charlie Raymond: (P= Priya, N= Nancy, C= Charlie)


P: How did you meet?

N: Here at Athenian, [as] teachers. When we “met”, met was when I started working here back in 2003, but we weren’t going out.

P: Was it love at first sight?

N: Ha! No.

P: Where was your first date?

N: You could argue that we started dating [when] we were teaching 8th grade; but it wasn’t really dating, we were just working a lot together.

C: We started dating in Rome!

N: Sure, Rome. But then you have to be like-

P: -Why were you in Rome?

N: See? (laughs) And then you have more questions!

N: Why were we in Rome? We both were teaching seventh grade, and neither of us had been to Rome and there was an opportunity to do some study there.

C: I wanted to do professional development (PD) in the Mediterranean, and I learned that she wanted to do PD in the Mediterranean somewhere else. So we said, ‘lets try to find a class that we can take together somewhere because we’re both teaching the same group’.

N: For the record, the school did not pay for us to go to Rome, they paid for the class!

C: … Nobody knew after that for a long time; It was not public [knowledge].

P: What did you do on your first date?

N: I don’t even consider that; I consider the mundane; …He’d be working and I’d come over with coffee, and then [we’d be] hanging out. And that’s not an official date, but-

C: Actually, as Middle School faculty, we all supported each other like that, so it’s not separate from our collegial group. A lot of us worked together very strongly in those years: we were starting new programs, we were pushing [new curriculum]-

N: …And we were communicating all summer; deciding what texts [the students should read] and while we were apart, we were communicating… A lot of our stories are centered around work.

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

N: Relatively recently, [we went on the] the catamaran that went under the Golden Gate; we’ve both lived here our whole lives and had never been under the Golden Gate… It was actually in honor of our anniversary. It was really cool, being out on the Bay.

C: For the longest time we’d go to hear Bulgarian music in Berkeley, which is not funny, but really cool.

N: That was our routine on New Year’s Eve; go to dinner and then go hear a crazy band. [But] a lot of our regular dates [involve] going to the theater.

P: Favorite couple memory?

N: Oh, I think it has to be around the kids.

C: I mean, any moment from Milo’s first year beats everything else-

N: As a couple; we had our families come together and that was really good, and the kids handled that really well. But I think that when you add Milo into the mix, it was such a clear link for Sidney, Sam, and Sebastian. And Milo was so pleasant from the get-go; pretty much anything that kid does is hilarious.

P: Most embarrassing couple story?

C: We have so many because we’ve both been Middle School teachers for so long; by definition to be a Middle School teacher you have to set aside your sense of dignity!

N: [My most embarrassing story] is being Popeye and Olive Oyl [while being] pregnant with Milo. Halloween couple costumes are hilarious to us.

C: The best one was Jack and Jill! …We had already fallen down the hill.

N: We’d walk around yelling, ‘you pushed me!’ ‘I did not!’ Anytime we walked out we had to act like [we were mad at each other].

C: We were dragging a bucket at our ankles [from the well].

P: How did you get engaged?

N: He proposed on my birthday! My birthday is in January, so there was no school. It was nothing associated with school.

P: What’s the best thing about working together? The worst thing?

N: (laughs) The best thing is that you get to see each other all the time and the worst thing is you get to see each other all the time! No, you have to ask ‘what is the best thing about working together and living together.

C: And the answer to both questions is togetherness! (laughs)

N: Obviously, it’s so easy to have family life flow into school life and it’s really positive for our family, but because we teach similar things, and we can cover for each other- well, I can cover for him- really well. Being a family here, it’s just like, different generations of things; when alum come back, they’re like oh my god, is that Sebastian?’ because they knew him when he was Milo’s age. I think that the hard part about being together and being on campus is you can’t have an argument and then walk out and go to class. It’s very difficult and you have to compartmentalize your brain.

C: And to add to that, you have kids on campus and kids in the classroom. It adds to the totalizing feeling of being a married couple with family embedded into the community.

Leah Webb and Ted Webb (L= Leah, T= Ted, P= Priya)


P: How did you meet?

L: We met because [Ted] was already teaching at Athenian and had been for a year, and I got hired. But when we first worked together with the Middle School, almost all teachers were full-time; there were a lot less teachers… But he taught eighth grade and I taught sixth and seventh grade. So I never saw him-

T: Until-

L: Until I asked you if I could do your interim and you said no. I had never talked to him, and I said, ‘I heard you have a surf interim, could I do that with you?’ and he said, ‘I already have a partner.’

P: Was it Sven?

T: In my defense, she was so beautiful that I had to play it cool. All of the other guys wanted to ask her out; I had to be aloof. I couldn’t be overly eager.

L: That’s how we met. Well, the real way it happened was that I was living over on the peninsula, and it took an hour to commute and get here. I’d be worried that I’d get caught in traffic, so I’d always leave very early and I would get here at 7 or 7:15 and sit in the faculty room and do work. Ted showed up one day and said ‘I work out every morning,’ so then he started coming in every morning, and it was probably October or November when every morning we would talk for an hour before class. Before we even went on a date, we talked for like three months for an hour every morning.

P: Where was your first date?

T: Well, we were supposed to go on a date after Open House, and Leah stood me up.

L: Actually, [Ted] stood me up, but we won’t [go into that]. But, I did not stand you up. Not one human being agrees with you on this. He said, ‘let’s go out this weekend,’ so wouldn’t you assume–since he asked me–that he would call or leave a note or something. So at that point, I checked my work voicemail, checked my email, I checked my mailbox, and mycell phone and there were no messages. So I’m like, ‘obviously he asked me out, but it’s just casual.’

T: But our real first date happened after a faculty meeting; we went to dinner and went to see a movie.

P: What movie?

L: Beautiful Mind.

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

L: [Ted] took me to the beach to look at the tidal pools, and I thought [he] wanted to hold my hand or look at the sunset, but he kept going, ‘look at the sea urchin!’ or ‘look at the sea cucumber!’ He was not paying attention to me at all! He was all into looking at the tidal pools; as a science teacher, I appreciate it and I should be excited, but this was the guy I liked; I thought he was going to be like, ‘look at the beautiful sunset in your eyes’. But no.

T: We ran into April Smock’s husband one time [when we were on a date]. We thought that our cover was blown, but he seemed fine with it.

L: We would do all of our dates down in Palo Alto, Menlo Park or in Fremont because we didn’t want to run into anybody.

P: Favorite couple memory?

T: So many!

L: We do have so many; how do we limit it?

T: What about when you broke your arm when you were eight months pregnant?

L: That’s not your favorite; that’s the worst! Going to South Africa, that was awesome-

T: -Or the time when we told the school we were engaged and they didn’t believe us.

L: That’s true, they didn’t. They thought it was a fake diamond ring, and they wanted me to cut glass with it to prove that it was real.

T: And then in Morning Meeting, I went in and said, ‘we’re getting engaged!’ and I thought that there would be applause; dead silence.

L: No one said a word! It was super awkward. We thought it was going to be cute, and it was super awkward.

P: How did you get engaged?

L: It was before school started, so it was [during] faculty meetings in August. I was in a super grumpy mood, and Ted [was] in his classroom, which [was] classroom L. I was in a grumpy mood because [he] wasn’t around; I was moving around, I was moving apartments, and I would call him and he wouldn’t answer. I was just super frustrated with him. And I came in the classroom and he was there sitting on his desk, and I was just really annoyed. And he walks over, and he gets on his knee and says ‘will you marry me?’ I say, ‘stop kidding!’ and he goes, ‘look down’, and I look down and he has the ring. And then I start crying so hard stuff comes out of my nose, it was super embarrassing… And so he gives me the ring, and he let’s me wear it, and then he goes, ‘wait, we can’t tell any of the teachers yet because we haven’t told our families. So you have to take the ring off’. So I got to wear it for like 10 seconds. All the students say that he proposed in classroom L because it stands for love, but the reason that it was cute was that he had bought the ring that morning, and he was supposed to have a big dinner kind of thing, but he said that he saw me, and couldn’t wait another minute to ask me to marry him, so he just asked me right then.

T: Another good Athenian connection is that Sven married us.

L: He was our officiant.

P: What’s the best thing about working together and the worst thing?

T: First off, there is no worst thing in my mind. I think that the best thing

L: The worst thing is because we’ve worked together for so long, everywhere he goes he runs into people he knows so it always takes him an hour to get anywhere.

T: Another thing is that our entire relationship has been in the time that we’ve worked here; we’ve never not been together or not taught together. [When you tell people that you work with your spouse,] a lot of people say ‘oh, that’s just too much! I couldn’t do that’. It makes me sad; working here without working with Leah would be less-

L: It’s fun, because we know teachers here, we know students. It’s cool when we hear good things about y’all, and we both know who we’re talking about. Because of our grades, we almost always teach every kid…

T: Teaching … with Leah is so much more rewarding, because it is all encompassing.

Phoebe Dameron and Jason Hamm (Ph= Phoebe, J=Jason, P= Priya)


P: How did you meet?

Ph: I was running adult programs for UC Berkeley and his friend Jennifer was running youth programs [for UC Berkeley]. I wanted to run a program for our guides, but I couldn’t anyone qualified to run it with me, and so Jennifer recommended Jason. Jason came out and I told him my vision for what [the program] would look like, and he left and came back the next day with the vision complete, basically. He did all the legwork for creating a curriculum our reader for the course and plans, which we then filled the details of. I think he brought bread and yogurt to eat, which I’d never had in combination before, so it was interesting to me. We ran this course together and we had a person who attended the course who was very ill right from the beginning of the course. So we got as far as San Jose leaving from Berkeley, and had to deposit her to a brother that lived down there because she was too sick to continue. Subsequently, Jason got violently ill in the same way and I got violently ill during this three-day backpacking Wilderness First Aid program we were running. But, the cool thing this [was that it was a] Wilderness First Aid field-based course, so everyone had gotten their Wilderness First Aid certifications… We were giving them scenarios to do in the wilderness to properly educate people, and at the very end, I was in the way back because I was sick and this person came running back saying ‘Phoebe, Phoebe, there’s been an incident!’ and Jason and I had said we were done with all of our scenarios, so I was really [annoyed] with him and was thinking, ‘why is he doing another scenario? I’m not in the mood to do another scenario. I’m sick, I don’t want to hear this right now!’[However,] it turns out that there was a real incident involving other people- not from our course- of a woman rolling a long ways down a very steep hill and being wrapped around a tree with broken ribs and possible spinal concerns. All of our 10 participants were there assisting and doing all the right things and helping the paramedics extricate her. It was really sad for this woman, but really perfect for the end of our course!

P: Was it love at first sight?

J: I think that it was interest at first sight, because I still lived in Texas full-time, and she lived in California full-time. It took a while to really pursue a relationship; I moved to California and worked temporarily over a summer, and that’s when we started dating. Then, I moved back to Texas because I had a contract that I needed to fill, and that year Phoebe moved to Texas, and that’s when we really started dating.

P: Where was your first date?

J: I would say Donner Pass-

Ph: That’s what I was going to say! We went on a climbing trip together to Donner Pass.

P: Favorite couple memory?

J: For me, an old time memory is when I proposed to Phoebe…

Ph: We had just finished this ice climb-

J: And it was something that we had seen kind of far away, and thought ‘oh, that looks really beautiful we should go there’! It took us about half a day to get there, and it was just really nice. I was pretty excited that Phoebe would do all of the things that it took to get there, and… It was a good day.

P: Did you have the ring with you the entire time?

J: No… It was a matter of asking the question.

P: Most embarrassing couple story?

J: Maybe when people are on campus and don’t know that we’re married or think that we’re brother and sister…

P: What’s the best thing about working together? The worst thing?

J: The best thing about working together is the worst thing: forgetting not to talk about work, stressing each other out lying in bed at night at talking about work. Also, getting to spend time outside, we had to spend an extra week in DV scouting new routes and that was very fun. We’re lucky to have a job where we can work together and spend time together; it doesn’t feel like work.

Emily Shinkle and Andy Shinkle (E= Emily, A= Andy, P= Priya) 


P: How did you meet?

A: We met in New York.

E: Andy’s twin brother is married to one of my close friends from grad school [who is also a music teacher], and at the time they were dating, I was student-teaching with her. Andy was interested in teaching and he came to visit her classroom and met there, at a high school in New York.

A: I was living in TX, and so I flew up to hang out with my brother in New York, and I had just gotten into grad school and I was going to start that semester. I just wanted to go observe classes before I started school again and I went to go watch her class, and [Emily] was playing piano there. We went out for lunch after that. I was also there because some friends of mine were going to do a video art piece in an apartment there, and so Emily came to that.

P: Was it love at first sight?

A: No, but it was definitely like at first sight.

E: That’s true. I’ll tell you what, though; we had lunch at the diner- he was observing us when it was lunchtime- and I [saw that] he had ordered a cheesecake for lunch and that just got me. He ordered a cheesecake for lunch; what guy does that? That made me go, ‘hmm, interesting! I like him!’

A: I liked her because she would come to this weird art project thing that we videotaped, and she was just like, jumping around everywhere and was very high energy and cute.

P: Where was your first date?

A: Our first date was supposed to be to Mexico.

E: We were supposed to take a road trip to Mexico right after the New Year after we met- early December of ’04-

A: And I was only in New York for one more day. I flew home back to Texas.

E: We were corresponding by email and text after that. Then, we thought we would be crazy and I would fly to Texas and drive to Mexico. We just got as far as Corpus Christi… The Gulf of Texas.

A: Our first date was probably like San Antonio.

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

E: We had a long-distance relationship from the get-go, so we would meet and travel. We met in Puerto Rico, in Texas, out here in the West Coast. We didn’t really date; we just had these very long periods of time together.

P: Favorite couple memory?

E: I loved living in Austin; when we lived in Austin we had a little house and rode our bikes everywhere. It was really fun and nice.

A: Emily would throw really good parties. One time we had a Bollywood cover band play at my surprise birthday party. There are all of the ‘children’ moments-

E: Which are all awesome, but a blur. I’m so tired, I can’t remember.

A: And all of the births were pretty amazing.

P: How did you get engaged?

E: I got pregnant with Scarlett.

A: I was really sick and I was lying on the couch, and Emily grabbed me by my robe and said ‘I’m pregnant!’

E: It was a shock-

A: But then we kind of stared at each other for a couple days-

E: But a couple of weeks later, we got engaged!

P: What’s the best thing about working together? The worst thing?

A: I like knowing that we can relate on all things that [Emily] talks about. We can totally connect over students and we can relate to that kind of stuff.

E: That’s kind of the worst thing, because sometimes that’s all we talk about, so we have to really turn that off and talk about other things. It’s like a blessing and a curse.

A: Also, I’m not allowed to put my arm around her anywhere on campus, so I’ve had to adjust to that!

E: Oh my gosh (laughs)

A: I’m more affectionate to Matt; Coach Z gets more hugs than my wife!

Lydia Aguilar and Miguel Aguilar: (L= Lydia, P= Priya) 


P: How did you meet?

L: Miguel and I met at a restaurant we worked at together, called The Pleasanton Hotel (named so because it used to be a hotel in the 1800’s).We worked in the kitchen preparing and cooking food for the weekend crowd.

P: Was it love at first sight?

L: I thought he was a cutie pie and so I waited patiently for him to ask me out. Finally, he asked me to go to a concert with him to see his favorite Mexican band, Los Bukis. We dressed up and had a really nice time dancing the night away.

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

I can’t think of the funniest date, but one of our funnest dates was a trip to Disneyland together.

P: Favorite couple memory?

L: A favorite couple memory of mine- pre kids- is spending a weekend in Napa together. Another of one of our best dates was when we dined at The French Laundry restaurant; probably the best meal we will ever eat in our lifetime! And of course, experiencing the births of our kids together were the most blessed moments of our life together!

P: Most embarrassing couple story?

L: The most embarrassing time that I’m almost too embarrassed to tell you about is when, on our wedding night, my mother stayed the night in the same condo in an effort to save her money on a room of her own.

P: How did you get engaged?

L: It wasn’t very romantic – we decided we wanted to start a family and we weren’t engaged yet. I ended up getting pregnant before we became engaged and so after we decided to officially become engaged. There was no bended knee or fairy tale proposal, but that’s okay! We were so excited to have our first child, the proposal was unimportant.

P: What’s the best thing about working together? The worst thing?

L: The best thing about working together is that we can always be here for each other, usually immediately, when one of us needs extra support from the other.The worst thing about working together is: there really aren’t any disadvantages. Miguel is my soulmate and he keeps me sane and happy! He truly is my rock.

Jim Sternberg and Kathleen Huntington:


P: How did you meet?

A Whitewater rafting trip on the American River.  Kathleen was the river guide and Jim was in charge of an inner city youth group.

P: Was it love at first sight?”

Sparks flew…

P: Where was your first date?

La Mediteranee on College Ave in Berkeley- a nice intimate setting where Jim bared his soul.

P: What’s the funniest date you’ve ever been on?

Rafting the Rogue River for one week with a small group of goofy friends, eating gourmet meals, and laughing ourselves silly every day.

P: Favorite couple memory?

Traveling around the world for one year after we got married.

P: Most embarrassing couple story?

Can’t think of anything at the moment….

P: How did you get engaged?

We proposed to each other at the summit of Wildcat Peak… watching the sunset and the moonrise.

P: What’s the best thing about working together? The worst thing?

[The worst thing is that it’s] hard to get away from work or talking about work-related issues, [and the] best thing [is that] we get to share our passion for living and working together in an amazing progressive school environment with smart and creative adults and students.

Cultivating Screen Awareness

by Mark Lukach, Ninth Grade Dean

Once I was walking through San Francisco with my family, and I walked right into a pole. I was texting-while-walking.

It really hurt.

It was also embarrassing. My wife and son laughed at me for the rest of the day about it, and I deserved it. My crash jolted me into momentary self-awareness about my phone use. My head throbbing, I was suddenly convinced that I was never going to text and walk again. I was going to keep my head up, shoulders back, and engage in the world, from here on out.

This all happened about six months ago. I couldn’t keep track of how many times I’ve reverted to old habits and broken that pledge.

More problematic for me are the Friday evenings when we all pile into the family room to watch a movie, and my four-year-old picks the same Disney movie to watch for the hundredth time, and within a few minutes, I take out my phone to read the news, and my wife takes out her phone to do whatever it is she’s doing, and there we are, all in the same room, but all engaged with different screens. “Alone together,” as Sherry Tuckle calls it.

I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has caught themselves in these behaviors. In fact, with my office in the Commons and my windows looking out at the activity of the Quad, I know for certain that I’m not the only one. I’ve seen all of us walking while texting or spending time in a group while isolating in our phones: students, faculty, parents, admin…all of us.

As Ninth Grade Dean, I spent the summer reading two books about technology use: Mindful Tech by David Levy and Alone Together by Sherry Turckle. After our visit by Catherine Steiner-Adair, I’m planning to check out The Big Disconnect as well. I also read a lot of articles about tech use—ironically, on my phone, in bed, before going to sleep, all of which I probably shouldn’t be doing—like Andrew Sullivan’s essay “I Used To Be A Human Being”.

Many of the books and articles in this genre sound the alarm of tech addiction throughout 80% of their subject matter, and it’s a dizzying Siren song to hear, but they don’t get into solutions until the last 20%, if at all. I think we all already know there’s something going on. I recently asked ninth graders if they think we have a problem with tech overuse here at Athenian, and the overwhelming majority agreed that we do.

The book I resonated with most was David Levy’s Mindful Tech. His masterful little book is pretty much entirely about solutions. Not necessarily big picture, society-wide solutions, but intensely personal solutions, for how to become more aware of our tech use, to empower us to make changes if we want them.

I especially like his emphasis on mindfulness as a lens for examining technology, because mindfulness deliberately distances itself from guilt. I don’t want my approach to tech to be about shaming. Not for myself, my family, or my students. (Although people who walk into poles while texting are sometimes caught on security cameras, and are definitely shamed!) This is instead about becoming more aware and empowered so that we can all make decisions that better our experiences and enhance our relationships.

So what’s that looked like for me?

For starters, I’ve made a lot of personal changes. I really do try and avoid texting and walking, especially on campus. If I need to text, I stop walking, and then when I finish the text, I put my phone away and keep moving. Another change has been if I’m in a group of people and I need my phone for something, I announce to them why I’m going to be using my phone (“let me check MyAthenian to see what we’re doing during today’s Morning Meeting”), and then I put it away when I’m done. I’ve also scheduled tech-free times during my day, especially in the evening during family time, so that I’m not always available via email or text.

Of course, I don’t do these things perfectly all of the time. But I’m trying, and I have to say, I’m already noticing a difference in how I engage with my phone and the people around me.

As for my job as Ninth Grade Dean, I’ve been experimenting with this in our ninth grade advisory program, and most recently on PSAT Wednesday, when the ninth grade has a half-day with an open agenda that I get to shape around current needs. I took some of Levy’s exercises and applied them to our ninth grade, not to shame them or mandate any change, but instead to help the students realize their own behaviors. Students were asked to pay attention to which app they use the most on their phones, and how frequently they check the app. In that exercise alone, without any mandates to enact changes, several students opted to restrict their use of the app.

Even cooler, on PSAT Wednesday, students brainstormed a few Town Meeting proposals to bring before the School to vote upon, such as creating tech “blackout” days during the school year, or places on campus where no technology is allowed (like designated rooms in the library, or the Main Hall during lunch). Very cool ideas. We’ll see where those ideas go.

I know that this is just the beginning, but I’m glad Athenian is getting more involved in this conversation. I am only one voice of many here who want us to be more active about addressing our tech use, and I’m excited to see where it’s going to take us. I’ve always admired this school for being at the forefront of the most advanced educational thinking practices, and I suspect that more thoughtfulness around tech is going to be a big part of that going forth.

If you’re interested in observing or changing your own practices with technology, I strongly encourage you to check out Daniel Levy’s book Mindful Tech. Just do yourself a favor and get the real book, rather than download it your phone. I don’t think we could handle the irony of reading that book on your phone while walking across campus.

Athenian Teachers Are Learners, Too: Working with Master Teacher Bonnie Mennell

By Lisa Haney, Dean of Upper School Faculty and Humanities Teacher

img_6083Bonnie Mennell, in the midst of her fourth visit to Athenian as a teacher coach, had just observed an 85- minute period of Applied Calculus. As they walked across campus together, Lalitha Kameswaran, the Applied Calculus teacher asked: “Wasn’t that boring?  All that math?” Bonnie laughed, explaining: “The math is not what I am paying attention to. I don’t understand the complexities of calculus. What I am watching is the presentation of the material, students’ engagement with the material, how questions are asked about the material and how they are responded to by the teacher. I am watching the learning.”

Bonnie and Lalitha later sat down to go over the notes she had taken, focusing first on Lalitha’s own assessment of how the class had gone; then Bonnie offered her perspective on what had gone well, and what could have gone better.

img_6077In talking with Lalitha about the experience later, she reported being grateful for the opportunity to see her work through the eyes of another and exclaimed: “Bonnie is awesome!”

Indeed. Bonne Mennell has been a teacher, teacher coach, and educational consultant for over 40 years: she brings a wealth of wisdom and expertise about teaching and learning to her work with our faculty, staying on campus for a full week, and in the last two years has come in the fall and the spring.  While she spends the bulk of her time with first-year Athenian teachers, she also visits other teachers’ classes as time allows.  She is also happy to simply meet with individuals to talk over teaching conundrums or share her knowledge of practices in other schools. Her work with teachers is outside of the more formal professional development and evaluation process; her observations and conversations with teachers are completely confidential.

img_6068As one faculty member put it, “having someone from outside of Athenian with Bonnie’s experience is an amazing way to get valuable feedback. Bonnie’s awareness of the big picture and the concept that less is more is really refreshing. She is ultimately concerned with what serves the students but her feedback is so well tailored to the individual teacher.”


College Admissions 2016

The Class of 2016 was a class known for their intellectual prowess, kindness towards underclassmen, leadership, and community spirit. This year’s class of 72 students were accepted to the following list of colleges and universities. Here are some highlights from this year’s matriculation: 

  • Three students are pursuing conservatory programs (one for instrumental, one for voice and one for dance).
  • Five students are pursuing studio art in college.
  • Two students are matriculating to service academies (both to West Point).
  • Eight students are pursuing engineering/computer science programs.
  • One student is attending Deep Springs, a highly selective two-year college that is free but requires students to live at and run a ranch while in school full-time.

Class of 2016 Colleges

Colleges students are attending as of September 8, 2016 are marked with an asterisk per student. 
American University of Paris*
American University of Rome
Arizona State University
Babson College
Bard College
Barnard College*
Barry University
Bennington College
Berklee College of Music*
Binghamton University
Biola University
Boston College
Boston Conservatory*
Boston University***
Bryn Mawr College*
California College of the Arts
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo*
California State University, Chico
California State University, East Bay
California State University, Fresno
California State University, Los Angeles
California State University, Northridge
Carleton College*
Carnegie Mellon University
Case Western Reserve University
Chapman University
Claremont McKenna College*
Colgate University
College of William and Mary*
Colorado College
Columbia University
Connecticut College*
Davidson College*
Deep Springs College*
Denison University
Diablo Valley College*
Drexel University*
Elon University
Emory University
Fairfield University
Fordham University**
Georgia Institute of Technology
Gonzaga University
Goucher College
Hamilton College
Hampshire College*
Harvard University
Harvey Mudd College
High Point University*
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Hofstra University
Howard University
Humboldt State University
Indiana University at Bloomington
Ithaca College
John Cabot University
Johns Hopkins University*
Kenyon College*
Knox College
Lafayette College*
Lawrence University*
Lehigh University
Lewis & Clark College
Louisiana State University*
Loyola Marymount University
Macalester College
Marist College
Marymount California University
Michigan State University*
Montana State University, Bozeman
Muhlenberg College
New York University***
Northeastern University**
Oberlin College
Occidental College
Ohio University
Oregon State University
Otis College of Art and Design
Pace University, New York City
Parsons/The New School*
Pennsylvania State University**
Philadelphia State University
Philadelphia University
Pitzer College
Pomona College*
Pratt Institute
Prescott College*
Purdue University
Quinnipiac University
Reed College*
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rhode Island School of Design*
Robert Morris University
Rochester Institute of Technology
Rosemont College
Rutgers University, New Brunswick
Saint Mary’s College of California*
Santa Barbara City College
Santa Clara University*
Sarah Lawrence College*
Savannah College of Art and Design
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
School of Visual Arts
Scripps College*
Seattle University
Seton Hall University
Simmons College
Skidmore College
Southern Methodist University
Spelman College
St. Olaf College
Stanford University*
SUNY College at Oneonta
Syracuse University
Texas Christian University
The American University of Paris
The Art Institute of California, San Francisco
The College of Wooster
The George Washington University
The New School
The University of Alabama
The University of Arizona
The University of Iowa
Trinity College
Tufts University
Tulane University
Union College**
United States Military Academy at West Point**
University at Buffalo
University of California, Berkeley**
University of California, Davis
University of California, Irvine
University of California, Los Angeles***
University of California, Merced
University of California, Riverside
University of California, San Diego*
University of California, Santa Barbara*
University of California, Santa Cruz*
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Delaware
University of Denver
University of Florida
University of Glasgow
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign*
University of Massachusetts, Amherst*
University of Miami
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota*
University of New England
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
University of North Carolina at Wilmington
University of North Carolina School of the Arts
University of Oregon*
University of Pennsylvania
University of Portland*
University of Puget Sound
University of Redlands
University of Rochester
University of San Diego
University of San Francisco
University of Southern California*****
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
University of Vermont
University of Washington
Vassar College
Villanova University
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Military Institute
Wagner College*
Wake Forest University
Washington State University
Washington University in St. Louis***
Wellesley College
West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Western New England University
Western Washington University
Whitman College
Whittier College
Willamette University
Yale University

Linda, Meg, and Bev: We Will Miss You!

We wish a fond farewell to Bev Gomer, Linda May, and Meg Freedman, who are retiring at the end of the school year.  Bev Gomer has served the Admission Office for 1 years, Linda May has been the Middle School Office Coordinator for 16 years, and Meg Freedman has taught Middle School English for 10 years.  These women have contributed in so many ways to Athenian, from serving as Dean to running Homework Club to performing in the Faculty/Staff Show, they will be missed as pillars of the community.

Meg Freedman

by Chris McCulloch

Unknown-2We in the Middle School would like to let the Athenian community know that beloved English teacher Meg Freedman will be retiring at the end of this school year.

Meg has been instrumental in facilitating the academic and social growth of our middle school students. As an encouraging teacher, she has helped our sixth graders begin the journey toward finding their voices. As a trusted advisor, Meg has been there for her advisees and their families to help tackle problems and celebrate successes.

Our faculty will miss Meg’s calm, steady demeanor and sage advice pertaining to our programs and our students. I had the good fortune to share the English 6 classes with Meg for several years. Meg has been an eager collaborator and patient listener. I thoroughly enjoyed working with her.

While we will miss Meg greatly, we are also very excited for her as she begins this new chapter in her life. She has given much to Athenian, and we are so grateful that she has personally touched so many of us.

Here’s to many exciting adventures, Meg! You are always welcome at Athenian.

Beverly Gomer

by Chris Beeson

DSC07632I want to acknowledge and thank Bev for her more than ten years of significant service to Athenian and the Admission Office.  

Many families have told me how helpful and warm their interaction with Bev has been. Her work with families and students has allowed them to understand and feel comfortable with Athenian’s mission and programs, as well as what the Athenian experience could do for them.  Her help and counsel has been invaluable to many.

In addition, Bev has supported the Admission program during a period of amazing growth. Nearly everything we do today in Admission is happening at a higher level than when Bev joined the office. From online registration and open houses  to visit programs and application systems, Bev has been a key player in the evolution of what we do.

Bev has also served as Dean of Staff and has been a warm and supportive colleague during her tenure at Athenian.

Bev will be missed.

Linda May

by Vicki Fleming

IMG_1521Linda, my partner in crime in the Middle School office, will be retiring at the end of the school year. I cannot begin to express my gratitude and appreciation for all that Linda has done during her 16 years at Athenian. For me personally, she has been a co-worker, a confidant, a mentor, and a true friend. I am deeply saddened to see her go and cannot begin to imagine how boring the office will be without her quick wit and cheerful personality. That being said, this is an exciting time in her life and I wish her nothing but the best in retirement! After 16 years at Athenian, she has earned it!

I cannot count the times that I have heard parents, students, and teachers comment on what a fabulous person she is and what an asset she is to the Middle School. Linda is the kind of person who immediately makes everyone feel welcome and at ease. She can crack a joke to make you smile when you’re sad or hurt, she can take charge in an emergency, and she can make sure you get your yellow sheets in on time!  Linda embodies what it means to be a part of the Athenian community through and through and the entire school will be forever better because of her contributions.

Athenian Alum Creates Open Dialogue Platform at Westpoint

Originally published in The Pillar, Athenian’s student newspaper

by Priya Canzius ’16

This past fall, Athenian alum Cadet David Weinmann ’14 helped to develop a social media platform called Let’s Talk Jihad with 15 other classmates at The United States Military Academy at West Point.

“The idea was essentially to provide an unbiased forum where people could come and discuss Jihad, Islam, current events, the Islamic state, [and more],” Weinman said. “We moderated discussions and invited vetted experts to join the forum to provide their opinion.”

Athenian teacher Kal Balaven was one of the experts contacted.

“I contacted [Balaven] because I knew that he was aware of the history behind some of the origins of these radical groups; and because he is an educator and knows how to reach youth,” Weinmann said.

According to NPR, “a big part of the U.S. fight against ISIS is happening online, [and] the U.S. government is looking for ideas from all corners to try to figure out how to get better at countering the ISIS propaganda that is so central to the group’s recruiting strategy.”

Rather than using social media as a recruitment tool, Let’s Talk Jihad uses its platform to reach out to youth around the world.

“Our group also reached out to Imams and community leaders in the US as well as the UK and we are still trying to get leaders and other nations on-board,” Weinmann said. “We also worked with instructors in the Arabic and Middle Eastern history departments as well as Muslim cadets here at the academy. We sought out people we were confident would be able to provide advice to troubled youth.”

Because ISIS uses its extensive social media network to appeal to the younger generation, Let’s Talk Jihad’s goal is to redirect youth to less radical solutions.

“Most people do not know the presence that the Islamic State has online,” Weinmann said. “The internet is powerful. It is far more powerful than most of us think and the Islamic State uses it better than any other terror group… There is no single profile that people who join ISIS fit; anyone is susceptible to their propaganda.”

To combat this influence, the U.S. Department of State created the Peer to Peer: Challenging Extremism (P2P) initiative. The goal of P2P, according to its website, is for “university students from around the world [to] develop and execute campaigns and social media strategies against extremism.”

Photo taken by EdVetnture Partners

Photo taken by EdVetnture Partners

Weinmann and his fellow cadets won second prize in this competition for their Let’s Talk Jihad page.

“We knew about the [P2P] initiative being put on by the State Department (DOS) when we started,” Weinmann said. “We looked at previous campaigns and wanted to build something that was different, something that would specifically target the audience we were reaching out for, which we called fence-sitters.”

Fence-sitters, according to Weinmann, are people who are “having thoughts about joining the radical group [ISIS].”

“These fence-sitters are what ultimately fuels ISIS’ ranks and are part of what makes them such a force,” Weinmann said. “We wanted to talk to these individuals before they became radical and traveled to join ISIS.”

On the page itself, the cadets chose to remain anonymous.

“We tried not to make assertions in our social media posts,” Weinmann said. “We just asked questions, and as a result we hid our biases. We used articles, stories and pictures from a number of sources, and some of our posts were in Arabic in order to keep things ambiguous.”

Furthermore, according to Weinmann, in order to “gain legitimacy among fence-sitters… [Weinman and his classmates] were careful to try and distance the campaign from the military academy and DOS.”

“By leaving our site anonymous we were able to talk with people without having them immediately discredit anything that we said,” Weinmann said. “Teenagers in Cairo won’t take advice from the US Army! [The goal is to help] people come to an understanding that what ISIS is talking about is really a bastardized version of Islam in order to further their political goals.”

However, the cadets’ identities were publicized in many online news outlets in early February.

“We had asked the DOS keep our identities a secret, but that didn’t work out once the media got involved; we did not intend to have the project go public,” Weinmann said.

According to Weinmann, “it’s still too early to tell the effect that [the media attention] will have on the campaign. [Moreover, the cadets] still update the page, but less frequently.”

Let’s Talk Jihad has made an impact on social media.

“We knew that we were making an impact when ISIS members started telling members of their group not to come to our page or listen to what we were saying,” Weinmann said. “They also- may or may not – have tried to shut down our Twitter. We aren’t entirely sure since it was anonymous, but we believe it was them.

Although Weinmann and his fellow cadets currently maintain the Let’s Talk Jihad page, according to Weinmann, they “are looking to turn the campaign over to a group that would be able to run it full-time and provide even better support than we can.”

“With our limited time and resources, we don’t see ourselves maintaining it forever,” Weinmann said.

Balaven believes that the use of social media is important to redirect fence-sitters and supports the cadets’ mission.

“It was a pretty phenomenal thing that [David and his classmates] did,” Balaven said. “He tried to find a non-violent way of trying to use social media to try to get those that would sympathize or empathize with ISIS into a place where they can dialogue and get their frustration out outside of those venues.”