The College List


Many judge a school based on the list of colleges its graduating seniors will attend. North Shore’s annual list is typically impressive, both in terms of the quality and competitiveness, and the range of colleges and universities represented. We are quick to point out however, that looking at the strength of our college list is only a very small part of the story.

Our College Counseling team focuses on our students – who they are and their individual stories. Our counselors, Kristen Kaczynski and Lizzy Giffen, are experts in their field. They know colleges, understand the application process, advocate of behalf of our students and thoughtfully counsel students and parents. First and foremost, they are teachers. And as teachers they focus on student growth and student outcomes.

Kristen and Lizzy work with our students so that students learn to articulate their individual stories. One might argue, that at 17 years old, how does one know their story? It is clearly still in process of being written. Our counselors are wonderfully adept at helping students look inward, question and examine, and take and retake inventory. Our students, thanks to the confidence, trust and connection they have with our counselors, learn to dig in, invest and work through the various questions that are presented. They learn to weigh options, consider schools that were not on their radar, work methodically and with maturity.

I’m convinced that our students’ stories are more complete, have more texture and are more compelling because of their years in our Upper School and the very real impact of their College Counseling journey.

Over the years, students, parents and alumni have defined the strength of North Shore’s college counselors to be:

  1. They know our students. They know their strengths, interests, personalities, families and really know each and every one as a student and as a person.
  2. They know colleges. They know more than just the size, departments of strength and location, they know the personality of the school, the profile of students who attend and the admissions offices.
  3. They guide students and parents through the process. They listen to the desires and dreams of both, and delicately navigate the application process, all the while advocating on behalf of the students’ best interests.
  4. They prepare students with tools and resources. They have compiled a handbook for North Shore students and parents. They take a group of juniors on a weeklong, spring break Bus O’ Fun trip to expose students to a range of colleges. They hold a College Boot Camp for rising seniors in early June inviting college admissions officers to give students and parents an insider’s view of the application process. And they invite some 150 colleges admissions representatives to campus each fall to meet with interested students.
  5. They are accessible. There is no denying that the college-application process is complicated, challenging and stressful. Students know that they can confide in Kristen and Lizzy with questions, worries, strategies and even tears. But in the end, students also share their excitement of getting into college.       Some even return a year or two or three later to share their accomplishments in college and just to stay connected.

With all that said, we are quite proud of the class of 2014 – who they are as people, how positioned they are to contribute and confident that their journeys will be meaningful. We also think that the colleges they will be attending are very lucky indeed to have them.

For the complete 2014 College Matriculation List, click HERE. 

North Shore Country Day is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.


School’s Not Over Yet!


Last week, we had an opportunity to see teaching and learning happening at North Shore from an outsider’s perspective. A cameraman was on campus filming students and teachers on a “typical day.” His purpose was to record the School in action for our website. Our hope was he would see teaching and learning happening — that there would be visible evidence of problem solving, critical thinking and high levels of involvement and engagement. We didn’t set up the day any differently than any school day in early May. We wanted him to see the real us. The day went very well with the biggest surprise being the day didn’t feel like early May — he didn’t get the sense that there were only four weeks left of school. Throughout all divisions, students were fully immersed in learning – individuals or classes coasting to the finish were not to be found.

In the Lower School, 1st graders were in awe, asking questions and making observations of the progress ants had made in creating tunnels in their new home — an ant farm made by Science Department Head and Lower School Science Teacher Annie Collins’ husband. After studying the ants’ movement and environment, they recorded their findings by drawing the ant tunnels in their lab journals.

In Middle School, the 8th graders were concluding their study of genetics by working in small groups to extract DNA from strawberries. (Who knew that strawberries had DNA?) Following instructions from Science Teacher Lee Block, the students mashed the strawberries, mixed them with common household products like dish soap, salt and rubbing alcohol, strained the mixture and pulled long, thick fibers of DNA out of the test tube — clearly visible to the human eye.

In Upper School, Biology 10 and 15 students were constructing a phylogenetic tree of life based on pictures they took at the Field Museum. On a recent field trip students were asked to take pictures of things that intrigued them and, when combined with their classmates’ photos, created a visual representation of the history of life on Earth. First, the students classified the organisms into Kingdoms and thought about the similarities and differences between the Kingdoms. Next, they designed the layout of their phylogenetic tree, accurately portraying the relationships between species, and predicting what environmental pressures could have caused change over time. Finally, they were challenged to dispel some of the misconceptions of evolution by using a model/representation of data. All this took place not in their Science Center classroom, but in the very public Upper School “V” for all to see.

At the end of the day, the videographer commented it had been a lucky day to catch these three classes, and others, in real and very meaningful learning scenarios. Our response was that he had, in fact, seen a typical day in the life of North Shore. Great kids – curious and able – steered by talented, dynamic teachers “doing school” the way it is done at North Shore.

The video that is being created will be shared on our website in the fall.

North Shore Country Day is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago..

“Mr. Doar…”


Walking next to me in the corridor that leads from the Lower School to the Conant Science Center one day last week was a second grade student who looked up at me and said, “Mr. Doar, Mrs. Whalley will be back on April 28th and once she is back you and I will have a meeting because I am going to be the Lower School Head-for-the-Day.  I can’t do it now because I need Mrs. Whalley.  I think we’ll have fun.”

I was aware that at the recent Benefit Board Party and Auction in April, the traditional “Lower School Head-for-the-Day” had been auctioned off.  But I wasn’t aware who was going to be the lucky recipient.

Clearly, this second grader knew.  He not only knew that a special day was in store, but more importantly, he seemed to know himself.   His sense of confidence, his sense of self and his overall awareness really struck me.

In many respects, it made my day, not because I am looking forward to replacing Mrs. Whalley for a day, but because it reminded me of the great kids we have enrolled at North Shore – whether they are in the Lower, Middle or Upper School – kids who bring their own identity, sense of self and positive engagement.

North Shore Country Day is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.

We All Should Be Proud


Last week, we had three events that showcased our new Auditorium and Arts Center spaces. On April 8, we hosted a presentation by Alice Waters (chef, cookbook author and founder of the Edible Schoolyard) as part of our 2014 Franke Family Fund Program focus on food.  The event was open to the public and was the first time our newly renovated Auditorium welcomed people beyond our School community.  The space couldn’t help but impress visually and technically.

The following day, our 2014 Harold Hines Visiting Fellow Marjorie Agosin (poet and social activist) presented to our Middle and Upper Schools in the Auditorium.  Her life story and her passion served as an inspiration for us all.

Finally, “The Purple Wave” party and auction was held last Saturday night sponsored by the Benefit Board. The primary purpose of the event this year was to come together — parents, faculty, staff, and alumni — to celebrate the completed renovation of our Arts Center and Auditorium.  It delivered on all counts and celebrate we did. (It was almost difficult to remember that we were at North Shore because of the space, the decorations, the lighting.)  The staging of the party in the Arts Center transformed the space and allowed the party to flow from one room to the next and spill out onto the patio.  Many parents commented on the functionality of the space — transitioning from a classroom to a special event.

These three events highlight the thought, planning and creative design that went into transforming these two iconic buildings.  In addition to what is visible, there is more that is unseen.  We organized studios and classrooms by discipline making them adjacent to each other.  We integrated technology into each space.  We increased the amount of teaching-and-learning space for the arts by more than 5,000 square feet.  In addition, we have a new school gathering space that is over 4,000 square feet when glass walls are opened from adjacent studios on the ground floor.

All of us should be extremely proud of what has been accomplished.  Proud of our spaces but also proud knowing that our students — who they are and what they have the potential to become — and our faculty — committed, focused and energized — have spaces that will enable meaningful education.  People. Program. Place.  North Shore’s arts programs are essential to each student’s experience and we now have the spaces to enhance the program even more.

North Shore Country Day is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.

We Need to See North Shore First


Several months ago, I had a call from Paul Barton who is head of The Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, IL.  He and some of his colleagues had visited North Shore a year ago to see our renovated Upper School and campus in anticipation of a renovation project at their school. Paul asked if I would be part of a panel discussion at a Community Forum they were organizing to discuss “Enhancing the Learning Environment of Excellence.”

I agreed under the pretense that I am not a design visionary, but have witnessed how changing the learning environment through a series of construction projects changes the educational experience for students and teachers.  For us, it began with the addition of the Conant Science Center and the modernization of our Lower and Middle Schools. Next was the massive transformation of our Upper School and most recently the renovation of our Auditorium and Arts Center.  In doing so, it is clear that we have come to embrace the philosophy of The Third Teacher that prescribes that beyond the importance of students, teachers and program, environment plays a critically important role in education.

The Avery Coonley Community Forum was held on March 22 with some 50 parents and alumni present.  It was a very well-organized and productive day. I contributed a small part by offering my perspective while showing before-and-after images and impressions.

In some manner, I find it amazing that North Shore Country Day School is now seen as a model of how educational spaces can be transformed to better suit teaching and learning. It is clear we have become known as the independent school in the Chicago area that approached major renovation projects in thoughtful, collaborative and creative ways to transform learning spaces that enhance the curriculum and educational experience.  At an Independent Schools of the Central States meeting in late January, the Head of School at St. Paul Academy in St. Paul, MN (where I am a proud alum) said they have exciting plans for renovation projects, but won’t be doing anything until “they see North Shore first.” Word of our new classrooms and collaborative spaces has spread nationally and even internationally — we continue to welcome teachers, administrators and board members from other schools who come and tour our spaces.

Interestingly, as impressed as these visitors are by our renovated spaces, it is what is being done within our spaces that they find most intriguing — students meaningfully engaged, teachers accessible and connected, and an energy that is positive, upbeat and focused.

North Shore Country Day is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.

Joseph and the Amazing Educational Experience

1403 US Musical Joseph Act I_079

The week of March 10 was a landmark in North Shore history. We celebrated the opening of our completely renovated Auditorium with the Upper School spring musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

I think Upper School Teacher and Musical Director Julia Macholl said it best in her Director’s Note in the musical program.  She spoke of having high hopes for a “Vegas quality” program to debut the new Auditorium, but because the space was finished only days before the opening, had to pare back expectations.  If what we experienced was, in fact, pared back, then we are in for a real treat going forward for what the audience saw was remarkable, if not spectacular.

Julia went on to write in her Director’s Note, “The cast and crew were all stars from the very beginning: coming to rehearsal fully memorized, practicing choreography during their free periods, finding open areas in the School to build set pieces and props. This is what theatre is all about. Building an ensemble. Supporting one another for the good of the production. We will continue on with creating historic productions to take place within the Auditorium’s walls, and hope that our imprints will be just as strong as those that have been left from the past.”

Our Athletic Director Patrick McHugh also offered insights in his March 15 blog post.  I encourage you to read it.  In suggesting that everyone should attend the performance, Patrick thoughtfully framed what the North Shore Arts experience is really all about, providing all of our students the opportunity of being involved, helping all of our students understand and experience what can be accomplished with commitment, hard work and a collective energy. The Musical is, he said, “…an opportunity for kids to see themselves differently. To transform themselves. To not be told that they live in a box, that they are a drama kid or a jock or a nerd. That they are unique and that they have talents they never thought they had. And one day, many years after they leave North Shore, that lesson will serve them well.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Measuring student growth based on tests scores, wins and losses, and awards is extremely narrow and only part of the picture.  Real growth, real accomplishments and real learning are better measured by factoring in the value of the process, the range of experiences and the journey.

North Shore Country Day is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.

How to Get a Job at Google


An op-ed by Thomas L. Friedman published in the New York Times on February 22 has been circulating through educational circles. In the article, “How to Get a Job at Google,” Friedman discusses the company and its criteria for hiring. Curiously, one main point is that Google challenges the value of applicants’ college transcripts and their GPAs.

While all of us who believe in the power of schools recoil at the suggestion that college course work and academic achievement is not a high priority, Google’s conventional thinking is a good wake-up for us all.

Friedman points out that Google focuses on applicants’ attributes involving “leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability, and loving to learn and re-learn.” His theory is that today’s need for innovation relies more and more on group endeavor and these five soft skills.

At North Shore, as we seek to make decisions to enhance our students’ experiences and provide the conditions to develop bright, accomplished, well-rounded individuals, we continue to reference our 2012-2016 Strategic Plan. Interestingly, I am confident Google would endorse our Plan, the energy on campus, and our teaching and learning dynamic that is both ambitious and responsive. We ask our students questions for which we don’t have answers. We challenge all – young and old – to think, debate and collaborate. And we offer a wide range of leadership opportunities while teaching students the important role of being a team player.

Interestingly, I received an email a week ago — A North Shore graduate (and a strong college graduate) has just been hired by Google.

North Shore Country Day is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.