Stella Schola Middle School is excited to share honors, events, and public recognition with you!

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  • Teaching Channel: Introduction to Trigonometry



Honor Society Partners With Make A Wish Foundation

Having a cold is a nuisance. Having a strep throat hurts. Having leukemia is a battle. Children with leukemia sometimes feel too weak to do normal teenage things, they are sick a lot, their bones and joints ache, they have stomach aches, and they can have chest pains resulting in difficulty breathing. Leukemia patients often spend lots of time in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy treatments, all the while determined to fight this cancerous disease which is affecting their red blood cells. Fourteen year-old Chuka has been fighting leukemia for one very long year.

Since its inception in 1986, the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation - the non-profit organization that grants wishes to children like Chuka with life-threatening medical conditions - has granted wishes to more than 3,750 children. With a network of nearly 25,000 volunteers nationwide, the Foundation has reached more that 167,000 around the world. Volunteers serve as wish granters, fundraisers, and special events assistants.

Chuka’s wish was to feel like a celebrity for a day. Through a Make-A-Wish Foundation volunteer, Honor Society students at Stella Schola Middle School in Redmond heard about Chuka’s wish. Students overwhelmingly voted to participate as ‘paparazzi’ as Chuka’s celebrity-for-a-day wish was granted last weekend. Headmistress and Honor Society Advisor Brigitte Tennis said, “It’s important for our youth to empathize with others and this is a great way to make a memory for a young man who has had many challenges in his life.”

Chuka traveled to various locations in a black limousine, and thirteen Stella Schola Honor Society students spent their Saturday afternoon and evening snapping flash pictures, asking for autographs, and holding up home-made signs which read, “You rock”, “We love you, Chuka,” “You are a star”, and “Chuka is cool”. At Macy’s in downtown Seattle, Chuka, wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, got the ‘red carpet’ treatment as fans clamored for his attention. “I feel really good to be helping a kid my age feel better,” commented 7th grader Pavel Titov. Later in the evening, middle school ‘paparazzi’ showed up again, as the popular Chuka went to the Space Needle. At the end of the day, Chuka stepped out of his celebrity role to thank supporters, after which everyone clapped and cheered for him. 7th grader Julie Tramp said, “Helping Chuka by making his wish come true was really fun and I liked it” as she donated her flash camera with its pictures from the day to Chuka. “I hope he can think about his day and how much people support him when he is sick the next time,” said 8th grader Alexa Dickinson. “Chuka is really cool and I am glad I was able to be part of this,” said 8th grader Cody Duoos.


Alumni Scholarship Winners

The Stella Schola PTO is proud to announce the third annual gift of scholarship funds to Stella Schola alumni who are graduating from high school with plans to continue their education. Parents, teachers, alumni, and community members donate into a fund for these scholarships.

This year’s $1000 winner is Laura Yackley who is graduating from Holy Names Academy with plans to attend a Catholic university in Washington DC and major in music education.

Two $500 scholarships were also awarded to; Jason Wang who will attend UCLA, and Ian Story who will attend the University of Washington in the Architecture program.

Alumnus Honored Through P-SAT Performance

Recently, National Merit Scholarship announced the names of some 16,000 students nationwide who were among the top scorers on the 2006 Preliminary SAT. As semifinalists, these students may become finalists eligible for scholarships from National Merit Scholarship, colleges and universities and corporate sponsors. Among those achieving top honors was Stella Schola alumnus, David V. Ulrich, who now attends Lake Washington High School in Kirkland.


Alumnus Accepted to Summer Math Institute

Stella Schola Middle School alumnus Ian Story (2004) has been accepted into the Summer Institute of Mathematics at the University of Washington (SIMUW)! This is a 6 week, all expense paid opportunity to explore "the nature of mathematics: its wide-ranging content, the intrinsic beauty of its ideas, the nature of mathematical argument and proof, the surprising power of mathematics within the sciences and beyond." The program is taught by UW faculty. The 25 participants live on campus and work together and individually on real-life mathematical problems.

Alumnus Named to National Scholar Society

Redmond High School student and Stella Schola alumnus, Reid E. Tennis has been selected for membership in the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS).

The announcement was made by NSHSS founder and chairman Claes Nobel, a senior member of the Swedish Nobel family.

“On behalf of NSHSS, I am honored to recognize the hard work, sacrifice and commitment that Reid has demonstrated to achieve this exceptional level of academic excellence,” said Nobel in a press release.

“Reid is now a member of a unique community of scholars – a community that represents our very best hope for the future.”

Membership in NSHSS entitles qualified students to enjoy a wide range of benefits, including scholarship opportunities, academic competitions, free events, member-only resources, publications, participation in programs offered by educational partners, online forums, personalized recognition items and publicity honors.

For more information, visit


Stella students participate in a geocaching day covered by news media.

Ninety students trekked around in Discovery Park on Thursday armed with handheld GPS units, pocket PCs and cameras in search of small two-inch caches (treasures). The day was gifted to Stella Schola Middle School through a grant from the Lake Washington Schools Foundation and a generous donation from Playtime, Inc.

A GPS (Global Positioning System) unit is an electronic device that can determine a person’s approximate location (within around 6-20 feet) anywhere on the planet. Coordinates are normally given in longitude and latitude. A person can use the unit to navigate from your current location to another location. Some units have their own maps, built-in electronic compasses, and voice navigation, depending on the complexity of the device.

Geocaching is an entertaining adventure game for GPS users. Participating in a ‘cache hunt’ is a good way to take advantage of the wonderful features and capability of a GPS unit. The basic idea is to for students to use their GPS unit through location coordinates to find the caches (small trinket treasures or pre-planted information/clues to solve a bigger puzzle). "In today’s high-tech world, it’s important that students are able to use new tools to assist them in their studies. By integrating the use of GPS (Global Positioning System) with Science, Language Arts, Logical Thinking, Mathematics, and Problem Solving, we can motivate our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders by using technology to enhance skills in many areas and create unique opportunities for them to problem solve and work as teams," said Head Mistress, Brigitte Tennis.

Students were grouped in multi-age teams to navigate a 3.5 mile course designed just for Stella Schola Middle School at Discovery Park in Seattle by Playtime, Inc. Students got training on how to use a hand-held GPS unit and each student had their own for the day! "Be on the lookout!" student Christopher Moore advised as his team slogged through the blackberry bushes. As sixth grade teacher Liz Warren looked on, she commented, "They don't even realize they are learning! That's the beauty of integration!" Another group used teamwork to hoist 7th grader, Lyle Rudnicki, up into the crux of a tree where he triumphantly held up the cache, while eighth grade teacher Mark Gorchels snapped a digital picture to prove they had found the cache. Where will the next cache be? It could be anywhere!

Stella Schola staff plan to extend the GPS experience to practice skills including orienteering (Science), finding locations using latitude and longitude (Social Studies), and group problem solving in the future.

Spelling Bee

Last Thursday evening, six students sat nervously in the front of a crowded room in anticipation of the Stella Schola school spelling bee. Classroom winners and runners up Zein Charania (6th grade), Taylor Zann (6th grade), Franklin Shih (7th grade), Max Gardafee (7th grade), Alessandro Leporace (8th grade), and Lauren Lees (8th grade) spelled confidently as they vied for the title of school bee winner.

Serving as judges were Lake Washington School Board member Nancy Bernard and hydroplane racer Chip Hanauer. Nancy Bernard is not only a school board member, but also a Public Health Advisor with the Washington State Department of Health and she manages the Indoor Air Quality and School Environmental Health and Safety Program. Mrs. Bernard was honored to be invited to participate as a judge. Chip Hanauer is a local and national celebrity for winning his first Unlimited Hydroplane race in 1979, eleven prestigious Gold Cup races, and seven national titles at the Unlimited National and World Championship Hyrdoplane races. His win total of 61 ranks second only to the legendary Bill Muncey. Mr. Hanauer spends much of his free time helping children with behavioral disorders due to abuse.

After an intense hour of spelling, the winner of the spelling bee was determined as seventh grader Max Gardafee who correctly spelled “cartilage” (pronounced ‘kard-lij’) and then “osmosis” (pronounced ‘az-moses’), with the runner up being Alessandro Leporace, an 8th grader. Max will represent Stella Schola at the 2007 Regional Bee for King and Snohomish counties on March 25th. Both of the boys reside in Redmond.

Alumni Scholarship Winners

Jason Norman of Redmond High School will be receiving $500.00 toward his tuition at the University of Michigan.

Alexander Ly of Lake Washington High School will be receiving $1000.00 toward his tuition at the University of Washington.

Nick Duncan of Lake Washington High School will be receiving $1000.00 toward his tuition at Western Washington University.

Stella Wins Technology Grant

Stella Schola Middle School has received a $3000 grant from Lake Washington School Foundation, and a $5000 corporate grant from Playtime, Inc. for a project titled "Integrated Learning Through GPS in Middle Schools"! Students were immersed a day of GPS experiences integrated with logical thinking, geography, problem-solving, and science! The mission of the LWSF is to enhance educational opportunities for all LWSD students by acquiring supplemental funding and developing community resources. Their website is: Playtime, Inc. infuses team and leadership skills through technology and adventure. They specialize in corporate team building, executive retreats, eLearning, leadership development, organizational development and consulting. Their website is: Congratulations Stella Schola Middle School!


Senior Scholarship Awards

We are proud to announce the first annual Stella Schola Scholarship for graduating seniors! This scholarship provides recognition of overall academic achievement and community service of a Stella Schola alumnus. It consists of a one-time monetary scholarship to be used for further education at a vocational, two-year or four-year academic institution. The scholarship committee is proud to announce the 2006 scholarship recipients:

  • Mitchell Amsler - $1,000 (Pomona College)
  • Rachel Warnick - $ 500 (Willamette)
  • Lainey Howard - $ 500 (Portland University)

What's Old is New Again

By Mary Stevens Decker of the Redmond Reporter

Everything old is new again at Stella Schola Middle School in Redmond. A choice school in the Lake Washington School District, it serves sixth, seventh, and eighth grades and is housed in three portable classrooms behind Rose Hill Junior High School.

It's by no means a glamorous setting, but within those walls, history comes alive with astonishing color and clarity. Students soak up the culture of bygone civilizations and emulate the ways people learned, worked, celebrated, and meditated- discovering that in many ways "people are people" and we're not so different from those who came centuries before us.

Carpe diem
"Carpe diem"- Latin for "seize the day"- is the motto of Brigitte Tennis, head mistress and award-winning seventh-grade teacher at Stella Schola. Among many honors, she was chosen as a Disney Land American Teacher in 2004.

It's not just about wise use of time; it's grabbing every chance to link ancient truths and tools to principles or resources that are useful today, she explained.

Virtually all of the learning is based on historical themes, yet the curriculum is aligned with Washington state standards and Lake Washington School District graduation requirements.

Reading and writing, social studies, science, math, the humanities and even physical education and practice in the context of the past.

In sixth grade, Stella Schola students cover Pangaea, which means "all lands" in Greek and refers to the super continent that broke off into the continents as we know them today. Studies of early man, Greece and Egypt round out that year's curriculum.

In seventh grade, the focus is on Rome and Europe in the Middle Ages. Eighth grade begins with the Renaissance and concludes with early America.

"Remember, all curriculum is tied to historical themes," Tennis said. "Astronomy, studies of the planets and stars goes back to ancient Rome. Alchemy, or chemistry, goes back o the Renaissance."

It's challenging for a Stella Schola teacher to integrate all subjects in a seamless way, Tennis admitted. "Math is the hardest (to relate to history), but we come up with ways, such as studying the surface area of a castle," she said.

Words like "matter" relate both to alchemy and chivalry. In science, students analyze matter. In social studies and language arts, they discuss the question, "Chivalry: Does it matter?"\

After examining the code of chivalry upheld by Sir Lancelot and the Knights of Round Table, they talk about people who are like knights in the modern world. They practice fencing, as well.

Studies of Christianity and Islam are incorporated, "not as religious education, but because of their relevance to the Crusades, and as a way to teach diversity, and tolerance," said Tennis.

Clearly, these issues are as complicated today as they were thousands of years ago.

Greek root words are studied in sixth grade, Latin is learned in seventh grade, and in eighth grade, tackle Spanish, tying in with Spain's exploration of the New World.

Students also learn through craft. "To appreciate the handicrafts of cooking, sewing, or carpentry, you need to do it yourself, get a sense patience and the attention to details needed," said Tennis. Building small models of castles, brick by tiny brick, takes about 30 hours as opposed to 20 to 30 years building a real European castle without modern machinery.

While studying monastic life, students listen to Gregorian chants, "take a vow of silence" and copy "Ave Maria," in Latin, by candlelight, using quill pens. And, no one balks, Tennis marveled. "They like it so much, they want to do it again," she said.

At first, it's difficult for the uninitiated to wrap their brains around this concept. That's why this program exists in a choice school with just three classes-rooms of 30 students each and just one teacher each grade level. It's not for everyone. "Stella Schola is not designated as a gifted program. Some students have special needs, some just prefer a more personal learning environment. The common thread is that all the kids in this program really want to be here," said Tennis.

Living in the past
On May 10, Stella Schola seventh-graders threw themselves into a recreation of a Medieval Faire. Some eighth-graders also participated, because they had so much fun last year, they said.

The full group processed in costumes to the commons of Rose Hill and sang an opening hymn, "Dona Nobis Pacem" ("Our Lady of Peace"), before heading off to a mock battle area or other activity stations.

Seventh-grader Mitra Malek played a duke's daughter and explained, "She'd have her dad's servants help her do things, even waking her up in the morning. But she wouldn't get to choose who she would marry, and she'd be married by about the age of 12 because people didn't live long then."

Ray Still, a eighth-grader dressed as a monk, said his character "lived in solitude most of the time, but we were very educated, we learned to read and write when most people didn't know how."

"Art thou named after a saint? I offer free knowledge!" he called out to visitors. He read aloud from a book of saints, to explain the origins of their names.

A baron played by eighth-grader Patrick Manickam offered, "I'm of royal blood, almost like a king. I rule over a land. Lord of Bostivich is my title. It's from a real country that once existed; it later became spilt into other lands." Students demonstrated juggling and traditional circle dances.

The king and queen, portrayed by seventh-graders Alessandro Leporace and Shannon Ong, explained that the songs and dances were intended to ward off the Black Plague.

"In one (European) village, they believed God didn't think they were having enough fun. So they sang and danced all day. No one in that village got the Plague. It's a true story," said Ong.

Leporace added the song "Ring Around the Rosey" originated because a pocket full of poises was thought to be protective; and that the lyrics were "Achoo, achoo, we all fall down," to symbolize the twitching of nervous system before unfortunate collapsed and died. Linda Lippincott, the mother of seventh-grade twins Savannah and Victoria Varyu, chatted as she looked at homemade tin lanterns.

"I'm so glad my daughters are in this program. Initially, one got in and the other was on the waiting list. I felt like we were waiting for a collage-acceptance letter," Lippincott said.

Why study Chaucer?
Days after the faire, the seventh-graders were back to their normal classroom routine. Sprawled out un a circle on the floor of their portable classroom, they read passages from Geoffery Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" and pondered aloud as to evidence of the characters' motivation.

Why is the Wife of Bath so loud? She might be a little bit deaf, some thought. But she’s also a widow and wears a really big hat. Cassidy Kaufman posed a theory: "Maybe she wants to be noticed. Noticed by guys." His group snickered and nodded in agreement.

The miller, meanwhile, sees to have mood swings, anger management issues, maybe a alcohol problem, students noticed: "When the miller describes another character as miserly and crusty, does that say it's true? Or does the miller bear a grudge? What does that say about his self-esteem?" Tennis asked the students. And what might all of these characters' quirks’' tell us about our own friends and neighbors?

"Literature is a reflection of society, so by reading this classic work, we can better understand their views on love, death, humor and faith," read the introduction to the students' Chaucer unit. "From people's lives, we can learn about joy and suffering and about success and failure. These help give us insights into the medieval period and also help us to analyze our lives in the present.

Keeping it Real
How do Stella Schola students fare when they eventually venture "out of the box?" That is, to more conventional school environments with larger student bodies and as assortment of teachers?

"I think they develop great study habits here, which gives them an advantage," said sixth-grade teacher Sarah Rustin.

"And socially," said eighth-grade teacher Mark Gorchels, "they become very relaxed and develop solid friendships that carry on."

Group projects- such as building a replica of Stonehenge in sixth grade and constructing guillotines in eighth grade, while studying the French Revolution- incorporate laws of physics and tenets of teamwork, too.

The students' Stonehenge "is built to scale," said Rustin. "They have to measure and haul pieces of stone from a quarry and figure out how to move things on log rollers. They take on different roles, such as foremen, and make basic tools."

Because of such projects, and because they're together all day-every day for three-year period- students in each class "find out who does what well, and step up to do what still needs to be done," said Gorchels.

"Even at socials (featuring ice cream, music and dancing), embarrassment doesn't exist. Everyone dances with everyone. There isn't the usual middle-school awkwardness. They're like brothers and sisters," said Rustin.

Erica Mallin, mom of seventh-grader Zara Sedore-Mallin, has liked what she's seen at the Stella Schola Heritage Fair. "Students looked at their own cultural backgrounds and presented the foods and customs to the community," she said.

Another highlight was witnessing her daughter's rapt attention to Tchaikovsky's ballet, "The Nutcracker." Sedore-Mallin said she "wasn't a great student" before entering Stella Schola, but the hands-on learning style has changed her attitude about school.

A favorite example was an aqueduct project related to ancient Rome. "We used PVC piping and duct tape, ad all teams were given an area to construct. We were the first class to get the whole aqueduct to run about 300 feet. Once one small team finished its part, we moved on to help someone else," she said.

Mallin, who is a counselor at Garfield High School in Seattle, said she's confident her daughter will thrive in high school "because at Stella Schola, the bar has been set high."

-Story by: Mary Stevens Decker


Homecoming Royalty

In October, three Stella Schola Middle School alumnae were chosen as royalty at the Lake Washington homecoming. Mitchell Amsler was crowned king and Rachel Warnick was crowned queen. Jessica Cryder was honored as a homecoming princess. Congratulations to all three students! We are so proud of you!

Miss Pre-Teen Seattle

Stella Schola 8th grader, Rebecca Ly, won the title of Miss Pre-Teen Seattle 2005 on October 15, 2005. Miss Ly will progressed in December on by competing for the title of Miss Pre-Teen USA 2005 in Orlando, Florida. We think you are beautiful and wish you lots of 'Stella Luck'! Congratulations, Rebecca!


DisneyHand Teacher Award

The Disney Teacher Award was created to give extraordinary teachers the recognition they truly deserve, but rarely receive. These teachers find creative ways to stimulate curiosity, engage the imagination and pass the joy of learning on to each and every one of their students. Congratulations, Mrs. Tennis!

Heroes in the Classroom Book Cover

Mrs.Tennis with President Obama