Friends of Wingra Newsletter

Fall 2009
Volume 2 Issue 1
Erica Colmenares, Editor

Thank You for Giving Wingra Wings!

It's always gratifying each year, when current and former families and Wingra alumni contribute to our annual campaign. Because of your donations, Wingra School has survived and flourished for over 37 years. Thanks so very much.

We've made donating easier this year by adding an online donation page. So, now you can donate to Wingra School, 24-7.

Let's Keep in Touch! 

Wingra's a tight community. And when families move on, we miss you! We're making a concerted effort to keep in touch, and reestablish connections. And if you know someone who might enjoy our news, forward this along to them!

If you thought online donations were fancy, get this! You can now update your address, phone, or email with us, just by clicking here.

You can also find us on facebook, or follow us on Twitter! And if you want to shout out your Wingra connection to the world, be sure to scroll down for info on Wingra Wear!

Can Progressive Education Thrive Under Arne Duncan?

Alana Price (1987-1996) asked this question this past week on, including memories from Wingra School in her response. Alana highlighted the strengths of schools like Wingra, with integrated curricula, and in true Wingra School fashion, she also pointed out the possible failings of the model she experienced.

Read Alana's blog here:

Alana ends her blog with a call to action. You can join Alana by writing to Arne Duncan and talking with local school boards about how to help progressive education thrive.

Wingra Wayback Machine

We'll give a Wingra School
bumper sticker to anyone
who can tell us who is pictured
in this photo.

If you can tell us the story behind
the photo, we'll send you two stickers.
(I know!)

Email us with your guess!

2009 Progressive Education Network Conference

In October, 25 of Wingra's 31 staff members travelled to D.C. for the 2009 Progressive Education Network Conference. Yep, fairly impressive! Teams of Wingra School staff participated in seven presentations and did us proud (you can find out who talked about what by clicking here).

It's near-impossible to describe the worth of such an experience, but the list below covers some of the highlights:

We visited other progressive schools and spoke to educators from across the U.S., getting ideas from their programs and practices, and taking pride in the exemplary model that we have created at Wingra.

We listened, mouths agape, to the inspirational messages of progressive educators like Marian Wright Edelman, Francisco Guajardo, Linda Darling-Hammond, Jonathan Kozol and Deborah Meier. Wow!

We had time as a staff, away from the day-to-day school demands, to strengthen and deepen our relationships. Who knew, for instance, that Dawn was such a good dancer? Or that Angie was such a fan of Nepalese food? And oh, yeah, we talked about pedagogy too. :-)

We were a large presence at the conference, and offered an impressive array of workshops. It created quite a buzz. Paul Brahce, Wingra's Head of School, said, "Every time I turned around, someone commented, 'Oh, you're from Wingra! I attended a workshop led by staff from your school that was fantastic!'"

Thanks so much to all the parents, current and former alike, whose donations made this wonderful experience possible. Its value to the staff was, and continues to be, immeasurable.

Sky students enjoyed a snowy romp in front of the school last winter.
Wingra School students are now grouped in four levels: Nest (ages 5-7), Pond (7-9), Lake (9-11) and Sky (11-14).

It's Tradition

Anyone who's had even brief contact with Wingra School knows how much we value traditions. While we've been known to tweak, and even occasionally change (gasp!), our ways, we do cherish what is rich and valuable from our past.

We still have Friday Follies, and Fun Day (could you imagine the revolt if we got rid of Fun Day?). The Wingra Family Dance is alive and well, as is Kids' Night Out. Independent projects? Of course! But what's Duck Day?

If you're interested in catching up on the current state of tradition at Wingra, read the It's Tradition article on our website.

Do you have a favorite Wingra School tradition? Share it with us, and we'll pass along your memories in the Winter Friends of Wingra.

In Praise of Wingra School

Sometimes we get a note from someone in the Wingra family that is too good not to share. Here's an abridged version of a letter that came to us following graduation this past June.

While the graduating seniors have the opportunity to make a statement about their Wingra experience, the parents don't have the same moment. (That's probably a good thing, because we'd go on and on.) Still, as we've been reflecting on our three years at Wingra, I wanted to express our appreciation for this unique and remarkable learning environment, and share some thoughts on its value in our son's life and ours.

As you probably know, our son really disliked (hated?) school in his K-5 years. He felt disempowered by the layers of rules and an inability to address what he felt were issues of respect, fairness and justice between children and adults. These were exemplified by broad-brush disciplinary actions (e.g., "All kids in X class are making too much noise and you have all lost recess privileges").

His fifth-grade teacher counseled us that the middle school he was headed to was a fine school, but their focus was on "desk and test learning." The teacher explained that although our son could learn that way, he did best by questioning, argument, and interaction. We were then counseled,"If you have the resources to offer an alternative, the middle school years are the time to make that investment."

And so, we took the plunge.

To find out how that plunge went, and to read all the complimentary words about Wingra (we're blushing here), click this link.

Haunted House, 2009
Speaking of tradition ... a couple shots from this year, and one, far right, from the mid-90s (thanks for sharing, Alana!)

Progressive Education:
We Live It, We Breathe It, We Love It, But Can We Describe It?

We're often asked, and ask ourselves, "What exactly is Progressive Education?" So here, by popular demand, are five simple talking points that may help you and yours both better understand and describe some of the signature features of our progressive program.

MULTI-AGE CLASSROOMS: We acknowledge and value a range of learners working together. Teachers create our curriculum based on their knowledge of child development and on the actual interests, strengths and needs of the cast of characters in any given classroom. The better a teacher knows the children, the more engaging and tailored the program can be. Students benefit from the cycle of being "youngers" in a group one year and "olders" the next.

INTEGRATED CURRICULUM: When we say "integrated curriculum" we mean that teachers design (that's right, they create it themselves) studies around units or themes that integrate a range of subject areas. Brain research shows that the more connections students make in their learning, the better able they are to understand, process and retain information. Our school is unique in this aspect, especially the fact that we have an integrated curriculum through middle school.

NO GRADES OR TESTS: At Wingra each child is honored, and recognized as important, for being who they are. Our goal is to academically engage and stretch children in meaningful ways while always treating them as whole people. We expect every student to interact with curriculum in a unique way. We do not feel that a grade gives students or parents enough information or insight into a child's learning to help them make meaningful changes or experience real growth. Nor do we see benefit in regarding one child's success as an impediment to another's. We want our students to be able to consider ambiguities and consider possibilities, and tests do not necessarily measure this well.

PARTICIPATION AND ENGAGEMENT: By this we mean we're hands-on, 3-D, interactive, inclusive and designed around and relevant to the specific needs, strengths and interests of each student.

COMMUNITY: People know each other well and are well known. We actively work to be supportive, compassionate and inclusive and to teach children to advocate for themselves and others. An important aspect of our program is an intentional social curriculum.

What signature feature would you add to this list?

Mary Campbell
Education Director

Alumni 411
with some former staff and a parent thrown in!

Judy Campbell (a staff member thrice over between 1978-2003, right) stopped in this spring. When at Wingra School, she worked with the Sky-level middle schoolers, so we got her picture in Room 202, where she still felt right at home.

Clark Chism (1999-2005, left) and family ran into Angie Sparks this summer. Angie reported that Clark graduated last year and now has a full scholarship in the UW Engineering Program. Nice! Tell us more, Clark!

Rachel Faynik Marbell (1990-1996) emailed her news, "After I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007 with a B.A. in French Studies, I worked for the University Language Center for a little over a year before I moved to France in September 08. The job that brought me to France was an au pair position, which was not my ideal job, but the easiest way to move abroad. I struggled with immigration issues (I wanted to find a side job that pertained to my professional interests, but kept hitting walls) and a living situation that was far from ideal. I dealt with cultural differences and the complicated and unorganized bureaucracy of France. As a result, I discovered my passion for helping young people work through similar obstacles to accomplish their live-abroad goals, which has now become my career goal. When I was let go in February , I launched a job search and found my current job in Brussels. I work as a sort of advisor/coordinator for a private study abroad agency and I help clients and potential clients embark on language immersion programs around the world. I love the job and I love the fact that I can continue my own international education at the same time; I am now learning the Dutch language and becoming more familiar with the Flemish culture, while still holding onto my love of French. I never would have made it to where I am without my hard determination, creativity and positive attitude - traits which I believe began in and were fostered by Wingra's atmosphere. So thanks!"

Aliya Finman Palmer (1994-2003, right) visited and caught up with Holly Reif and Barbara Westfall. Aliya is studying at Beloit College. Her sister, Maya, is currently a student at Wingra School.

Anne Fraioli (teacher, 1990-1998, left, with Mary Campbell) visited Wingra last spring, and gave us an update. She was on sabbatical from the Milwaukee public schools, and was starting a field-research project with the Wisconsin Arts Board and UW Folklore Program, interviewing folk artists and "culture-bearers" representing different ethnic communities throughout the state. Anne is enjoying being back at school, where she's a doctoral candidate in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the UW.

David Hoffert (1991-1999) sent us the YouTube video below, which pretty much sums up his work as a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at Stanford, making cars drive themselves. In the video, David first appears about 20 seconds in (he's the guy on the left, facing the screen). The middle schoolers here wonder when the field trip is planned to test drive these babies with you, David.

Bob Kann (dad to Shayle, 1991-1998) entertained all of Wingra School at last June's Fun Day. Bob knew exactly what the Wingra kids would think was funny (as well as the adults). Bob is pictured left in photo taken by Jeff Bartig, current Wingra parent. You can find out more about Bob as entertainer on his website,

Multiple staff members (former and current) gathered this August in the Commons to celebrate the life of John Sveum, long-time custodian at Wingra School. In the photo, left to right, are current teacher Lisa Kass, former teachers Amy Kaster and Jennifer Geisler, current teacher Allen Cross, former director Ann Jarvella Wilson, and current Education Director, Mary Campbell.

Kyle Quagliana (1994-2003, left) came by to visit last spring, and caught up on old times with Allen Cross.

Mara Rosenbloom (1990-1999), pictured, right, with her band) just released her debut album, School of Fish. Currently, the CD is on sale at, and digitally on iTunes. The photography and graphic design on the album cover were done by Ariel Coberly-Horrall (1989-1998) and parent Frances Stanton (father to Katy Stanton, 1990-1997). Madisonian Brit Lucas did the artwork (shown below, left).

Benjamin Seeger's (2002-2004) father contacted us with an update on Ben. He graduated from Memorial High School and is attending UW Madison this fall. He'll major in violin performance (studying with Prof. Felicia Moye) and also go for a major in another subject, likely computer science or math.

Ilana Rosen (1991-1998) is in her second year of Teach For America. She teaches 7th and 8th grade Spanish in Prince George's County, Maryland.

Sophie Rosen (1994-2000) is a junior at the University of Denver and is currently studying in Haifa, Israel.

Lydia Wilson (1986-1995, photo right with Tara Converse, Sonja Wilson Tatro, Lydia, and Deneb Woods) was married this past April to Adam Marshall, in Osaka, Japan. She and Adam celebrated with U.S. receptions in Goochland, Virginia and in Madison. Lydia graduated from Bryn Mawr College and is now completing a Ph.D. in archeology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Liila Woods (1990-1992) lives in Seattle and was married August 29 in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, to Ted Wayland. A number of former Wingra students were in attendance including sister Deneb Woods (with her husband, David Paquette, who's not a Wingra grad, poor guy), Shana Faulkner, Julie Bannerman, and Sonja Wilson Tatro.

We'd love to hear from you. Let us know what you're up to, and if you can send along a current photo, all the better! Just email us here (

Summer Fun at Wingra School

Austin Cotant (1996-2005) joined the Wingra School building staff this summer. Rick Stulgaitis, Building Director, wrote, "Austin worked very hard at Wingra School this summer — so hard, in fact, that it gave him extra incentive heading off to college to pursue a degree not involved with building maintenance."

Austin is now off at Wesleyan, studying physics and education. If that doesn't work out for you, Austin, you know where we are.

Hot off the Presses:
Wingra Wear!

Thanks to the hard work of current Wingra parent Rita Marnauz, your holiday gift purchases can all be made with one click to our new Wingra Wear offerings.

Items can be ordered at any time, and you can choose to get them delivered to Wingra School for free, or they can be shipped UPS to the address of your choosing.

Questions? Just send us an email.

In Memoriam: Alma Taeuber

Alma Taeuber, one of the original women who started Wingra School back in 1972, died this past spring at the age of 75.

Alma was a driving force in the Madison community. In addition to her work with Wingra School, she founded the Regent Soccer Club in 1972 and ran that organization for 20 years. She also served on the board of the Madison Area Youth Soccer Association.  

Alma is survived by her husband, Karl, and daughters, Stacy and Wendy. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Mary's Adult Day Health Center, 2440 Atwood Ave., Madison, 53704.

Help Wingra Win $100,000

U.S. Cellular just launched the Calling All Communities campaign that will award $100,000 to each of ten schools across the nation. The ten schools with the most votes will receive $100,000 to use however they choose. Voting is simple — from November 13, 2009, through January 15, 2010, individuals 18 years or older can visit any U.S. Cellular store to get a code to vote online for Wingra School. There is no purchase necessary and you don’t have to be a U.S. Cellular customer to vote. So vote today (and tell your friends) to help Wingra win $100,000.

For more information, visit

Come Join Us!

Family and Friends Day - Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Next week, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we open our doors to the full Wingra community. Come join the festivities, from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Alumni Night - Thursday, February 18, 2010
While we specifically target our most recent round of grads for this event, we'd love to have you join us too, as we talk to current students and families about the transition to high school. If you'd like to participate, shoot us off an email.

Wingra Community Celebration - Saturday, May 22, 2010
The Wingra School front lawn will be alive with picnics and games, as we celebrate another year of building ownership. Don’t miss the cake auction, and the Book Walk.

Let us know when we'll have the pleasure of your company (, 608-238-2525).

One way to judge the quality of a classroom is by the extent to which students participate in making choices about their learning. The best teachers know that children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions. - Alfie Kohn



2010 Wingra School